Best Washington Wines: The 2012 List

By Sean P. Sullivan August 23, 2012 Published in the September 2012 issue of Seattle Met

Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how lucky we are. Over the last 15 years the state’s wine industry has blossomed. Washington is now home to more than 700 wineries, and more with each passing month. Quality has never been better, and the wines being produced—many of which never make it out of our state—are increasingly diverse. 

Submissions for this year’s top 100 list included more than 500 wines—white, red, and rosé—and spanned more than 30 grape varieties. We’re not simply growing a lot of different grapes, our state is growing a lot of different grapes well. It’s not every day that you get to watch a premier wine region being born, let alone see it happen in your backyard. So let’s raise a glass to the wines of Washington–our annual list gives you more than 100 ways to celebrate.

1 / 97 points
Cayuse Vineyards Syrah Cailloux Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2009
Fruit for this sublime, perfumed wine comes from winemaker Christophe Baron’s first vineyard, planted on an ancient cobblestone riverbed in the southern section of the Walla Walla Valley in 1997. The 2008 vintage was our top wine last year, and the winery is once again in fine form, displaying all of the mineral, earth, and savory notes it is (deservedly) famous for. $75

2 / 96 points
Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
When Quilceda Creek founder Alex Golitzin started the winery in 1978, finding locally produced fine wines meant a drive to Portland. While times have changed, Quilceda Creek continues to lead the way in the state, crafting wines densely packed with fruit and tannins that boast tremendous cellar potential—if you can keep your hands off them. $135

3 / 95 points
Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2009
More than 30 years after Gary and Nancy Figgins founded the winery—the first in the Walla Walla Valley—Leonetti Cellar continues to make lay-down-worthy wines that stand among the state’s best. Here second-generation winemaker Chris Figgins crafts a cabernet sauvignon for the ages, loaded with opulent fruit, earth, and barrel flavors. $88 


4 / 95 points
Betz Family Winery Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Brace yourself for loads of aromatic appeal in the form of coffee, dark cherry, and floral notes. On the palate, this is a complete “Wow!” wine, exploding with earth and cherry flavors and enough tannins to go the distance. It’s just a baby now; give this wine a good two years in the cellar to grow up. $65


5 / 95 points
Cayuse Vineyards God Only Knows Grenache Armada Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2008
This wine sings from the mountaintops with a burst of mineral, black olive juice, floral, iron, and red fruit aromas that lead to shimmering, intense, savory flavors and an endless finish. $80


6 / 95 points
Reynvaan Family Vineyards The Unnamed Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009
Hailing from the Rocks region of the Walla Walla Valley that Cayuse vigneron Christophe Baron made famous, this wine displays smoke, light game, ash, umami, and abundant mineral notes that draw you instantly into the glass. The palate is perfumed with savory, meaty flavors and crushed stone. $55


7 / 94 points
Maison Bleue Gravière Red Wine Upland Vineyard Snipes Mountain 2010
When winemaker Jon Martinez left a promising career as a dentist in Kansas City to come to Washington, it was with the goal of making wines like this. Three-quarters mourvedre, this southern Rhone-style blend has compelling aromas of white pepper, mineral, herbal notes, and red fruit. The palate has an ethereal lightness and fruit flavors come through with astonishing purity. $45 

8 / 94 points
Gramercy Cellars Lagniappe Syrah Columbia Valley 2009
The name derives from the Cajun term for “something extra,” and this syrah from master sommelier and winemaker Greg Harrington delivers on that promise. This wine is all about elegance and subtlety, overflowing with smoked meat, floral notes, and savory aromas and flavors, with a hyperextended finish—a little extra something to linger over. $45


9 / 94 points
Force Majeure Vineyards Collaboration Series VI Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2009
The winery’s Collaboration Series pairs top Washington winemakers with fruit from Red Mountain’s sought-after Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. The inaugural release of this mourvedre, grenache, and syrah blend from winemaker James Mantone calls out to the wines of France’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape region with rich, pure fruit flavors. $50


10 / 94 points
Reynvaan Family Vineyards The Contender Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009
This syrah from winemaker Matt Reynvaan is cofermented with marsanne grapes, which provide extra weight and volume to match the wine’s intense flavors. The palate is loaded with floral notes, smoked meat, and black olive juice. $65 

11 / 94 points

Efeste Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Fruit for this 100 percent cabernet sauvignon comes from four of Washington’s oldest vineyards—Klipsun, Sagemoor, Bacchus, and Kiona—with the vines used here averaging 31 years of age. The palate is simultaneously bold and refined with dark cherry and chocolate flavors that persist on the finish. $49 


  12 / 93 points
Cadence Camerata Red Wine Cara Mia Vineyard Red Mountain 2009
Winemaker Ben Smith spent 14 years as a mechanical engineer at Boeing before turning his attention to winemaking full time. Here, notes of scorched earth, red currant, mineral, and floral elements lead to rich but restrained fruit flavors on this cabernet sauvignon–dominant blend that will age gracefully in the cellar as long as you care to hold it. $55

13 / 93 points
Soos Creek Wine Cellars Red Wine Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2009
Over the years Soos Creek has made its mark with wines that consistently over-deliver for their price, and this 2009 vintage is no exception. This red mixes compelling aromas of currant, floral, and herbal notes with elegant fruit flavors and firmly structured tannins. $40 



14 / 93 points
Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot Columbia Valley 2008
French vintner and flying winemaker Michel Rolland has consulted for wineries all over the world. Here he uses Washington fruit to craft a wine that is definitely not your mother’s merlot, with a big, bold blast of dark fruit flavors and a firm grip of tannins. Put this one in the cellar and forget about it for a few years. $55 


15 / 93 points
Figgins Estate Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2009
Leonetti Cellar winemaker Chris Figgins launched this single-vineyard wine project last year with a stunning 2008 vintage release. The follow up is another beautiful mixture of grace and power, full of scorched earth, incense, and floral notes. $85 


16 / 93 points
Avennia Arnaut Syrah Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010
This inaugural release from Woodinville’s Avennia—a project from Marty Taucher and former DeLille Cellars assistant winemaker Chris Peterson—is a dark, glass-staining wine with compelling aromas of white pepper, bacon fat, mineral, and blue and black fruit. The palate is silky and plush with soft fruit flavors heightened by this particular vintage’s crisp acidity. $45

17 / 93 points
Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2009
Former NFL star quarterback Drew Bledsoe returned to his native Walla Walla to team up with Chris Figgins, the winemaking equivalent of an NFL star quarterback, to craft one of the state’s most memorable cabernets, marrying dark cherry flavors and firm tannins. $89 

18 / 93 points
Rotie Cellars Southern Blend Red Wine Washington State 2010
Winemaker Sean Boyd is dedicated to making “Old World wines from New World vines.” This southern Rhone–style blend—three-quarters grenache with the balance syrah and mourvedre—offers vibrant white pepper, red fruit, and herbal aromas and flavors accented by the vintage’s bright acidity. $40


19 / 93 points
Corliss Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007
Walla Walla’s Corliss Estates gives its wines extended time in the barrel and bottle prior to release, making them more immediately approachable than many wines of this caliber. The first allure here is an aroma of ground coffee, black cherry, herbal notes, and spice. The palate is both bold and refined, full of cherry flavors and barrel accents with well--integrated tannins. $75 

20 / 93 points
J. Bookwalter Winery Protagonist Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
Winemaker John Bookwalter called in Frenchman and wine consultant Claude Gros to fine-tune a number of his winemaking practices in 2009. The results speak for themselves via dark fruit, dusty chocolate, char, and floral notes on this delicious blend of cabernet sauvignon (75 percent) and cabernet franc. $55


21 / 93 points
Baer Winery Arctos Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
Woodinville’s Baer Winery has made its mark over the years with two Bordeaux-style blends, this cabernet sauvignon–dominant wine, and the cabernet franc–dominant Ursa (45). Arctos is aromatic with dark raspberries, floral notes, bittersweet chocolate, and oak spices. The palate lowers the boom with rich dark fruit flavors and a firm scaffolding of tannins. $55



22 / 93 points
Bergevin Lane Vineyards The Princess Syrah Francisca’s Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2009
The Princess, a classically Washington creation, draws you into the glass with blueberries, chocolate, smoked meat, and violets. The palate is lithe and perfumed with blue fruit, savory flavors, and a light, minerally funk—all hallmarks of syrah from the Walla Walla Valley. $52


23 / 92 points
Cadence Bel Canto Red Wine Cara Mia Vineyard Red Mountain 2009
“It’s early! Why did you wake me up!” this lay-me-down-in-the-cellar wine seems to say. For now it’s locked up tightly with intriguing aromas of red currant, floral notes, mineral, and earth. The palate is restrained and structured with a firm framework of tannins over light fruit flavors. Like all Cadence wines, this one is built to last—give at least two additional years in the bottle or extended time in a decanter. $55

24 / 92 points
Dowsett Family Winery Gewurztraminer Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2011
Last year was one of the coolest vintages on record in Washington and Celilo Vineyard is one of the cooler sites in the Columbia Gorge. And yet winemaker Chris Dowsett says the gewurztraminer grapes that came in that year were the most uniform color he had ever seen. It shows on this stunning white wine, loaded with spice, citrus, and floral notes. $22

25 / 92 points
Sparkman Cellars Preposterous Malbec Red Mountain 2010
The color may be pitch black, but the fruit absolutely sings in this hallmark malbec, which is all plum and peppery spice, accented by Klipsun Vineyard’s distinct minerality and firm tannins. Eat your heart out, Argentina. $38 



26 / 92 points
Mark Ryan Winery Long Haul Red Wine Red Mountain 2009
Mostly merlot and cabernet franc along with a dash of malbec and petit verdot, Long Haul is wound up like a spring right now with cherry, raspberry, mineral notes, chocolate, and spice. The palate has silky cherry flavors backed by well-integrated but firm tannins and has a long finish. Take a cue from the name and give at least two years or a long decant. $48

27 / 92 points
Maison Bleue Jaja Red Wine Yakima Valley 2010
Opening this bottle—almost equal parts grenache, syrah, and mourvedre—unleashes an aromatic tour de force with aromas of white pepper, dark fruit, and herbal notes. The palate is light-bodied, tart, and fresh with vibrant black raspberry flavors. Wine doesn’t get much better at this price. $25 



28 / 92 points
Kerloo Cellars Syrah Les Collines Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2009
Winemaker Ryan Crane says his goal at Kerloo Cellars is to create “palate--challenging” wines, and this single--vineyard syrah certainly fits that -description with a diverse range of aromas and flavors including orange peel, violets, smoked meat, and spice, accented by tart, lip-smacking cranberry notes. $34


29 / 92 points
Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling Columbia Valley 2010
The Eroica project brings together Chateau Ste. Michelle and famed winemaker Ernst Loosen of Germany’s Mosel Valley. This off-dry wine is a riot of lime zest, white peaches, and green apple flavors, accented by tart, crisp acidity. $20 


30 / 92 points
Betz Winery Clos de Betz Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
Bob Betz is one of the few individuals in the U.S. to hold a master of wine qualification and also serve as a winemaker. His expertise shows on this merlot-dominant Bordeaux-style blend that is loaded with chocolate and red fruit flavors with soft, velvety tannins. $52


31 / 92 points
Syzygy Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2008
Syzygy—pronounced “SIZ-uh-jee”—is a term for the alignment of three celestial bodies. And, yes, the stars aligned perfectly to produce this fruit-filled syrah loaded with game, smoke, lavender, and blueberry. $33

32 / 92 points
Leonetti Cellar Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2010
This winery helped establish Washington as a premier region for merlot. So when winemaker Chris Figgins says, “This may be the finest merlot in Leonetti’s history,” it’s time to take notice. One sip of the wine, packed tightly with red fruit, coffee, spice, and earth, explains his sentiment. Hold on to it for at least two years. $70 

33 / 92 points
àMaurice Cellars Artist Series The Cummings Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
Each wine in this series is named for an artist, this one for Northwest School painter William Cumming. The Bordeaux-style blend of 47 percent cabernet sauvignon, 33 percent merlot, and 20 percent cabernet franc creates a wine with earth, abundant dark raspberries, and spice. The palate is fresh and loaded with red fruit flavors with enough structure to lay down in the cellar. $35 

34 / 92 points
Mark Ryan Winery Dead Horse Red Wine Red Mountain 2009
Tightly wound when first opened, this cabernet sauvignon–dominant blend gradually uncoils to reveal a jumble of cherries and raspberries along with mineral and floral notes. The palate is lush and full with sweet, dark fruit flavors and chocolate. Have a decanter at the ready when uncorking this—or give it at least two years. $52 


35 / 92 points
Fall Line Winery Red Wine Artz Vineyard Red Mountain 2009
Seattle-based Fall Line Winery excels at delivering high-quality single-vineyard blends that don’t break the budget. This cabernet franc–heavy blend has floral and mineral notes and tar, as well as the structure to last in the cellar for years to come. $30



36 / 92 points
Rotie Cellars Northern Blend Red Wine Washington State 2010
The northern yin to the southern blend’s yang (18) this syrah-viognier co-ferment boasts arresting aromas of mineral, pepper, and black olive juice. On the palate, it’s a light, lively wine that features savory flavors and floral notes with refreshing acidity. $40

37 / 92 points
Tulpen Cellars Coalescence Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008
Tulpen winemaker Ken Hart says that the best way to sell 1,000 cases of wine is to make 500. Offering his small-batch wines at can’t-be-beat prices helps, too. This fruit-forward Bordeaux-style blend is full of raspberries, currants, and chocolate and brings a level of seriousness seldom found at this price. $26 



38 / 92 points
Mackey Vineyards Merlot Columbia Valley 2009
This compelling but restrained wine—a riot of red fruit, cocoa, and spices—is guaranteed to change more than a few people’s minds about this oft-disparaged grape. $36 


  39 / 92 points
Woodward Canyon Artist Series #18 Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State 2009
Whereas the majority of Washington wineries have set up shop in the last 10 years, Woodward Canyon is in its 18th vintage of its Artist Series cabernet, which boasts luscious cherry and coffee flavors and moderate tannins. This wine is high in alcohol but holds it well. $54 



40 / 92 points
Adams Bench The V Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
So dark it’s almost opaque, the V cab sauv’s rich, polished, dry chocolate and dark fruit flavors and a distinctive floral accent are wound up tightly at present. Like all of the Adams Bench wines, this is one for the cellar. $49

41 / 92 points
Force Majeure Vineyards Collaboration Series II Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2009
While a trademark dispute forced a name change from Grand Reve last year, the quality from this budding cult winery remains the same. Mostly syrah with a splash of viognier and roussanne, this dark, glass-staining wine from winemaker Ross Mickel is loaded with red and black fruit, mineral notes, and violets. Give at least two years or decant extensively. $55 


42 / 92 points
Kerloo Cellars Chelle den Millie Malbec Yakima Valley 2009
Winemakers often blend across several vineyard sites when making malbec in Washington, so this single-vineyard offering is a rarity. Dark and redolent with plum, cranberries, and spice, the pure fruit flavors linger on the palate. $40

43 / 92 points
Pepper Bridge Winery Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2009
Hailing from renowned Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards, this beautiful interpretation of merlot is equal parts grace and power with coffee, cherries, boysenberries, and spice backed by firm tannins. Lay it down for two years and your patience will be rewarded. $50 

44 / 92 points
Tero Estates Windrow Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2008
Tero Estates Windrow Red wine is a field blend, an extreme rarity for Washington: All four grape varieties—cabernet, merlot, cabernet franc, and malbec—are picked at the same time in proportion to their plantings at Windrow Vineyard and subsequently cofermented. No wimpy wines here, this is bold and brawny with exceptionally well-integrated tannins. $45 


45 / 92 points
Baer Winery Ursa Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
A sibling to the Arctos earlier on this list (21) this cabernet franc–-dominant blend is loaded with high-toned herbal notes, spice, dark fruit, and chocolate, with enough tannins to earn it a place in the cellar. Like all of Baer’s wines, this one is 100 percent Stillwater Creek Vineyard. $39


46 / 92 points
DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Red Wine Red Mountain 2009
The cabernet sauvignon–based blend hails from two of Washington’s finest vineyards—Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun—and shows all of their grace and power. The palate delivers a big boom of dark fruit flavors, spices, and mineral notes with the structure to age in the cellar for decades to come. $70 


47 / 92 points
Sleight of Hand Cellars The Funkadelic Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2010
The name is a double entendre for Richard Funk’s vineyard, which provides the fruit and outrageously funky aromatics of the Rocks region of the Walla Walla Valley. The wine pops with ash, black olive juice, white pepper, floral notes, and earthy funk. The palate is light and perfumed with savory and umami flavors. $60

48 / 92 points

JM Cellars Founder’s Reserve Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
Red Mountain is known for bold fruit flavors and firm tannins, and this blend of three-quarters cabernet sauvignon lives up to that tradition. This wine will go up against your biggest steak and live to tell the tale. Well, the empty bottle will. $45 

49 / 92 points
Fidélitas Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2009
Champoux Vineyard creates some of Washington’s most coveted cabernet sauvignons, and this 100 percent varietal wine is certainly one to seek out. It’s aromatic with high-toned herbal notes, floral notes, dark fruit, and bittersweet chocolate. The palate is filled with sweet, luscious dark fruit and chocolate flavors with well-integrated tannins. Cellar it for two years. $65 

50 / 92 points
Hestia Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
The winery is named for the Greek goddess of the hearth, and its cabernet sauvignon brings together fruit from two of the state's warmer growing regions, Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope. The palate is big, broad, and expressive with dark cherry flavors, cola, medicinal notes, and chocolate accented by soft tannins. $35 


51 / 92 points
DeLille Cellars D2 Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
Named after the famed D2 highway in Bordeaux, this predominantly merlot and cabernet sauvignon blend explodes with chocolate and cherry flavors accented by aromas of coffee, floral notes, and dark fruit. $38





52 / 92 points
Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Ste. Michelle’s Ethos series is designed to show the best traits of each vintage. This 2009 cabernet sauvignon is all that and more, rich with ripe fruit flavors in a big, bold style. $38 




53 / 92 points
L’Ecole No. 41 Estate Perigee Red Wine Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2009
L’Ecole has more than 20 years of experience making wines from Seven Hills Vineyard, experience which shines through on this blend, where flavors from both the fruit and the barrel share the spotlight; it also features all five Bordeaux varieties. $50


54 / 92 points
Spring Valley Vineyard Uriah Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2009
Born in Walla Walla in 1866, Uriah Corkrum purchased the land now known as Spring Valley in 1897. Flash forward 100 some odd years to the 2009 wine that bears his name and boasts all the floral notes, herbal tones, and luscious red fruit flavors that have made this merlot and cabernet franc–centric blend a consistent standout. $50 



55 / 92 points
Bergevin Lane Winery Intuition Reserve Red Wine Stone Tree Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2008
Though labeled simply as a red wine, this could just as easily be called a cabernet sauvignon; the grape makes up 83 percent of this rich, hedonistic blend with the balance made up of brawny petit verdot. $59

56 / 91 points

Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
An aromatic wine with roasted coffee bean, spice, chocolate, herbal notes, and dark cherries. The palate is rich with soft, plump cherry flavors and well-integrated tannins. Winemaker John Abbott recommends music pairings of Danzig’s “Mother” and the Deftones’ “Change”—both as gripping and ageworthy as this wine. $44

57 / 91 points
Woodinville Wine Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2011
Be prepared, for this wine leaps up from the glass with herbal notes, lime zest, and citrus. The palate is medium bodied with a creamy feel and lime flavors that draw out across the finish. $18


58 / 91 points
Syncline Wine Syrah McKinley Springs Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2010
Two thousand ten was the first vintage when winemaker James Mantone began fermenting some of his wines in concrete, which he says brought greater clarity and purity to the fruit. It shows on this deep purple wine, which is full of blackberry, cranberry, pepper, and espresso aromas and flavors. $30

  59 / 91 points
Januik Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Winemaker Mike Januik spent 10 years as head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle before starting his eponymous winery in 1999. This is cabernet sauvignon at its most aromatic and rich with vanilla, cocoa, and dark cherry. $30


60 / 91 points
Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Riesling Columbia Valley 2011
Acclaimed German winemaker Armin Diel’s riesling is consistently among the state’s finest, with the 2011 vintage bringing concentrated stone fruit and citrus flavors that linger on the finish. $20

61 / 91 points
Fjellene Cellars Reserve Proprietary Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2009
This blend from winemaker Matthew Erlandson is half cabernet, half syrah, all hailing from Yellow Jacket Vineyard in the Rocks region of the Walla Walla Valley. Aged in a mere 25 percent new French oak—the rest in older barrels—the focus here is clearly on the fruit. $50 


62 / 91 points
Fall Line Winery Red Wine Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2009
Fall Line’s blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc is full of earth, tar, violets, and herbal notes and comes at a fraction of what many bottles from this premier cru, or first growth, vineyard typically cost. Give this one some time to open up, or a couple years in the cellar, to see it at its best. $30


63 / 91 points
Guardian Cellars Chalk Line Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
A hedonistic delight from policeman by day, winemaker by night Jerry Riener, Chalk Line is 34 percent cabernet sauvignon with the rest near-equal parts merlot, syrah, and cabernet franc. It shows aromas of espresso, dark berries, and toasty oak spices complemented by luscious cherry and chocolate flavors. $25 

  64 / 91 points
Novelty Hill Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Winemaker Mike Januik has a knack for making top-quality cabernet sauvignon at affordable prices. This appealing wine’s sweet cherry flavors are accented by vanilla, spice, and other oak notes. It’s a steal at this price. $25 

65 / 91 points
Efeste Riesling Evergreen Vineyard Columbia Valley 2011
Evergreen Vineyard has established itself as one of Washington’s premier riesling sites, creating a lively combination of mineral notes and steely acids. A rarity, this green-apple-filled delight from longtime winemaker Brennon Leighton (now working with Charles Smith) all comes from a single block within the vineyard. $18 


66 / 91 points
Owen Roe Chapel Block Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010
Red Willow is the site of Washington’s first syrah plantings, and here Owen Roe expertly captures all this vineyard has to offer, resulting in a wine full of blue-berries, cranberries, mineral notes, and black pepper. $55

67 / 91 points
Tulpen Cellars Merlot Columbia Valley 2008
This is a very pretty, classically Washington version of merlot, showcasing all the raspberry, milk chocolate, and coffee tones that make the varietal so appealing here. The palate is soft with rich chocolate and cherry flavors with ripe tannins. $28 



68 / 91 points
Avennia Parapine Syrah Yakima Valley 2010
The Parapine syrah is named after a ghost that winemaker Chris Peterson says inhabits his house. This haunting wine from the 2010 vintage calls out to the Old World with its mineral, white pepper, earthy funk, and savory notes. $35

69 / 91 points
Abeja Chardonnay Washington State 2011
Year after year, winemaker John Abbott creates some of the state’s best chardonnay. This wine is lightly aromatic with spice, straw, yellow apple, and light tropical fruit. The palate is soft and silky with a creamy feel and tart acidity. $36

70 / 91 points
Fielding Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Riverbend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009
Named after a turn in the Columbia River near Priest Dam, Fielding Hills’ Riverbend Vineyard provides the fruit for this brightly aromatic wine. You’ll know it by its dark fruit, sweet oak spices, floral and high-toned herbal notes. $42


71 / 91 points
Amavi Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009
The aroma is a force of violets, chocolate, earth, dark fruit, and mineral notes. The palate is perfumed with blue and black fruit flavors, simultaneously bold and restrained. $29



  72 / 91 points
Andrew Will Winery Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2009
Winemaker Chris Camarda uses only 35 percent new French oak on this merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon blend, allowing the storied Ciel du Cheval vineyard’s currant, cherry, and mineral aromas and flavors to shine. $55


73 / 91 points
Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon Sagemoor Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009
Year after year, Walla Walla Vintners produces one of the finest expressions of Columbia Valley elder statesman Sagemoor Vineyards. Fruit for this wine dates back to the vineyard’s original 1972 plantings. $40

74 / 91 points
Five Star Cellars Malbec Walla Walla Valley 2009
Cherries, plum, and spice fill this perfumed, classically Washington malbec. The palate is soft and plush with dark fruit flavors, leading to a long, persistent finish. $38 

  75 / 91 points
Fielding Hills Winery Cabernet Franc Riverbend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009
While Fielding Hills excels with cabernet sauvignon and merlot, its cabernet franc continues to be a cult favorite. This 2009 vintage wine leaps up from the glass with sweet oak spices, cherry, and floral notes. The palate of cherry and chocolate flavors is especially rich and hedonistic. $30 


76 / 91 points
Pepper Bridge Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2009
Though labeled cabernet sauvignon, this wine boasts all five Bordeaux varieties, giving it layers of complexity. Like all of the wines from Pepper Bridge, a few years of cellaring will bring out its best. $60

77 / 91 points
Januik Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2009
This rare 100 percent cabernet sauvignon from one of the state’s top vineyard sites is as structured as a drill team, with chalky tannins and restrained fruit flavors. It should last in the cellar as long as you care to hold it. $55


78 / 91 points
Dowsett Family Winery Devotion Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
Winemaker Chris Dowsett makes only two wines at his winery–both of which appear on this list. This syrah, mourvedre, and grenache blend from vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain, and Horse Heaven Hills is brightly aromatic and full of soft, pure fruit flavors. $30  


79 / 91 points
Forgeron Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008
Aromas of blackberry, cherry, cedar, and spice lead to a palate of dark fruit flavors and tightly wound tannins. It’s delicious on its own, even better when paired with food. $30 


80 / 91 points
Rasa Vineyards In Order to Form a More Perfect Union Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
A lightly aromatic Bordeaux-style blend with coffee, dark berries, earth, and spice. The palate is soft and restrained with light cherry flavors gliding along to a pleasantly prolonged finish. $95

81 / 91 points
J. Bookwalter Winery Foreshadow Merlot Columbia Valley 2009
This tasty merlot exemplifies Book-walter’s style of bold fruit flavors and generous barrel accents. Barrel notes of coffee and toasty oak spices are followed by raspberries and maraschino cherries on a sweet, succulent wine. $40

82 / 91 points
Tempus Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Old-vine Sagemoor fruit gives this wine grace; Klipsun fruit gives it power. Together, the two deliver notes of licorice, earth, graphite, and red fruit, complemented by a firm structure. $32

83 / 91 points
Northstar Winery Merlot Columbia Valley 2008
Merlot specialist Northstar hits a high note with a moderately aromatic wine filled with coffee, raspberry, vanilla, and spice. The palate has silky red and black fruit flavors accented by milk chocolate. $41



84 / 91 points
Barnard Griffin Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008
While Barnard Griffin is known for its high-quality value wines, the winery is at its best with limited-production reserve releases. Here winemaker Rob Griffin uses fruit from Sagemoor and Caroway vineyards in the Columbia Valley to create a rich cabernet loaded with cherry flavors and chewy tannins. $40

85 / 91 points
Rasa Vineyards QED Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
In a nod to winemaker Billo Naravane’s background in mathematics, this wine is named after the expression quod erat demonstrandum, which is often abbreviated at the end of mathematical proofs. This aromatic blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre, and viognier boasts red fruit, mineral notes, white pepper, and herbal tones. $50

86 / 91 points
Dusted Valley Vintners Petite Sirah Columbia Valley 2009
The Dusted Valley boys drop the hammer with this seldom-seen varietal bottling of petite sirah, which features dark fruit, toffee, and coconut shavings. The palate is gigantic, exploding with fruit and barrel flavors. $42

87 / 91 points
Sparkman Cellars Kingpin Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2009
Like their creator, Chris Sparkman, Sparkman wines are never shy, and this cabernet from Red Mountain’s famed Klipsun Vineyard announces itself with bold red and black fruit flavors and chalky tannins. $62 



88 / 91 points
Pamplin Family Winery Proprietary Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
Owner Robert Pamplin Jr. has a business background that spans mining, milling, media, and farming. He also happens to own one of the Northwest’s more exciting new wineries, producer of this beautiful cabernet sauvignon–dominated blend. $55 

89 / 91 points
Matthews Estate Claret Columbia Valley 2009
Named for the British term for a Bordeaux-style wine, this merlotcentric blend is filled with cranberries and cherries backed by firm tannins. Give it a little extra bottle age or some time in the decanter. $38


90 / 91 points
Chateau Ste. Michelle Artist Series Meritage Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008
This is the first year that Chateau Ste. Michelle’s meritage (i.e., a Bordeaux-style red) contains all five Bordeaux varieties, giving this wine a nice bit of added complexity. A touch over half cabernet sauvignon, it has abundant cherry, coffee bean, licorice, and herbal notes. $55 



91 / 91 points
Tenor Wines Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2010
Winemaker Aryn Morrell says that, with this wine, he threw out everything he knew about making sauvignon blanc and started over—giving the wine extended skin contact during fermentation and aging it in 100 percent new French oak. The result is a bold, aromatic wine that sings with herbal notes, spice, mango, and kiwi. The palate is rich and full bodied with bold tropical fruit on top of some spicy oak flavors. $48

92 / 91 points
Sleight of Hand Cellars The Illusionist Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009
The blend is the creation of winemaker and audiophile Trey Busch, who named the winery after a favorite Pearl Jam song. No magic tricks here, just cabernet sauvignon to provide the cherry flavors and structure, and syrah and cabernet franc adding raspberries, cola, and leafy spices. $45

93 / 91 points
Den Hoed Wine Estates Andreas Cabernet Sauvignon Wallula Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2008
Winemaker Gilles Nicault’s cabernet is all about holding variables constant: one vineyard, one grape, and one cooper for the oak barrels. The result is a heavily structured, restrained wine with a long life ahead of it. $80




94 / 91 points
Dusted Valley Vintners Tall Tales Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009
The addition of 9 percent viognier makes the aromas explode on this wine, redolent with boysenberry, floral notes, and milk chocolate, and sweet and perfumed on the palate, which is loaded with blueberry and chocolate flavors. It’s aged in tight-grained Wisconsin oak in a tribute to the cheesehead roots of winemakers Chad Johnson and Corey Braunel. $53

95 / 91 points
Tamarack Cellars Sagemoor Vineyard Reserve Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008
Half cabernet sauvignon and a quarter each of merlot and cabernet franc, this aromatic blend from one of Washington’s older vineyard sites is packed with spice, high-toned herbal notes, incense, and cherries. The palate is soft and supple with understated cherry flavors and soft tannins. $50 


96 / 91 points 
Col Solare Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008
Aromatically closed up right now, this wine shows promises of spice, chocolate, licorice, and dark cherries. The palate has abundant dark cherry and dry chocolate flavors. Let it get acquainted with your cellar; there’s enough structure to lay this bottle down for years to come. $75 


97 / 91 points
Long Shadows Chester Kidder Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007
Long Shadows owner Allen Shoup named his cabernet sauvignon– and syrah-dominant blend in honor of his grandfather Charles Chester and his grandmother Maggie Kidder. He’s done them proud with appealing aromas of cranberries, dark, brambly fruit, and tea leaves. The palate is structured with dark fruit flavors that make for an incredibly persistent finish. $50


98 / 91 points
Corvus Cellars Corbeau Sauvage Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2009
Corvus Cellars is a partnership between grower Randall Hopkins and former Whitman Cellars winemaker Steve Lessard. This nanoproduced (46 cases) cabernet is full of cranberry aromas and flavors with well-structured tannins. $39



99 / 91 points
William Church Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Cabernet sauvignon from Dineen Vineyards is accented by 10 percent petit verdot from Northridge Vineyard. The palate is softly structured and bursting with sweet fruit flavors lingering long after the last sip. $32 


100 / 91 points
Convergence Zone Cellars Storm Front Red Wine Red Mountain 2009
Red Mountain wines at this price are a rarity, and with only 25 percent new oak used, the focus here is on the fruit. Better yet, with a blend of 39 percent merlot, 26 percent cabernet sauvignon, 20 percent cabernet franc, and 15 percent malbec, no one grape steals the show, allowing this chorus to sing. $28 




101 / 91 points
Brian Carter Cellars Le Coursier Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007
Winemaker Brian Carter is devoted to blends. Here he has created a Right Bank Bordeaux-style wine that benefits from a full five years of age. $30 



102 / 91 points
Milbrandt Vineyards Sentinel Red Wine Northridge Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009
This third vintage of Milbrandt’s flagship wine—mostly cabernet sauvignon with a splash of merlot and petit verdot—is full of blackberry and cherry flavors accented by sweet oak spices. $55 

103 / 91 points
Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills 2009
An outstanding cabernet sauvignon for the price; a rich, hedonistic wine loaded with chocolate and cherry flavors. $28 

104 / 91 points
Den Hoed Wine Estates Marie’s View Red Wine Wallula Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2008
An intriguing blend of cabernet -sauvignon, syrah, merlot, petit verdot, cabernet franc, and sangiovese, this wine displays winemaker Rob Newsom’s trademark style of cherry cola and medicinal notes, backed by firm tannins. $80

Filed under
Show Comments