Washington Wine 2016

Top Bordeaux-Style Blends

No disrespect to France, but this traditional blend—mostly based on cabernet sauvignon and merlot—has become a local signature.

By Sean P. Sullivan September 21, 2016 Published in the October 2016 issue of Seattle Met

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Harvest in Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima Valley, 2015

Image: Richard Duval

1. Figgins Estate Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2013  $85

The Upper Mill Creek area of the northeast Walla Walla Valley is one to watch—known for its higher elevation and marked diurnal shift that help grapes retain acid and deliver bright fruit flavors. This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot already wows, though its tightly wound earth, black cherry, licorice, and pencil lead aromas and flavors will only get better with a little time in the cellar.

2. Avennia Sestina Columbia Valley 2013  $65

Avennia favors old vines—20- to 30-plus years old—believing that age imparts additional complexity and character. The proof is in the bottle with this nuanced cabernet sauvignon–dominant blend, which hails largely from top sites Dionysus, Bacchus, and Red Willow.

3. Mark Ryan Winery Long Haul Red Wine Columbia Valley 2013  $50

This blend shows off merlot and cabernet franc at their action-packed best—notes of black cherry, dark fruit, and flowers hit you in waves, and there’s enough structure to reward cellaring. Fruit comes from the Red Mountain and Yakima Valley appellations.

4. Cadence Camerata Red Wine Cara Mia Vineyard Red Mountain 2013  $60

Ben Smith and Gaye McNutt struck gold when they planted the winery’s Cara Mia Vineyard on Red Mountain in 2004. The vineyard is starting to show its full capabilities: This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot dazzles with notes of black fruit, licorice, and spice, all in deft balance.

5. Eight Bells David’s Block Red Wine Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2012  $35

A blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, all from a section of this esteemed vineyard designed by the late Master of Wine David Lake (Columbia Winery). Pure flavors of dark fruit, spice, and licorice are almost hypnotic.

6. Cadence Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2013  $45

Here’s further proof that Ciel du Cheval is one of Washington’s premier vineyards: Cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon play near-equal fiddles, delivering ripe aromas and flavors of pencil lead, flowers, and black currant.

7. 21 Grams Red Wine Washington 2011  $125

Most of the fruit for this cabernet sauvignon–dominant wine comes from two stalwart sites, Cold Creek and Stone Tree. It’s wound up tightly with notes of herbs, vanilla, and dark fruit. Enjoy this sometime in the 2020s to see it at its best. 

8. Col Solare Red Wine Red Mountain 2013  $75

The latest result of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s partnership with Tuscany’s famed Antinori family (winemakers for an unbelievable 26 generations) displays black and blue fruit aromas and especially dark black fruit flavors; those lightly chewy tannins will benefit from some additional cellar time.

9. Corliss Estates Red Wine Columbia Valley 2012  $65

Corliss wines spend extra time in both barrel and bottle prior to release, giving them a chance to show their best when opened. Make no mistake—this wine may be ready to drink now, but it still has more than a decade of enjoyment in front of it.

10. DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Red Wine Red Mountain 2013  $80

Red Mountain is best known for brawn, but in the right hands, it can show plenty of brains too. Blackberry, incense, and graphite aromas lead to restrained flavors and polished tannins.

11. Kevin White Winery Heritage DuBrul Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013  $35

Kevin White was first inspired to pursue a career in wine after drinking a bottle from DuBrul Vineyard. Here, he comes full circle with his own DuBrul Vineyard wine, a stunner that’s also an exceptional value.

12. L’Ecole No. 41 Estate Red Blend Ferguson Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2013  $65

Up on the ridge crest of the massive SeVein project, shallow soils and persistent wind cause vines to struggle—a tactic that yields smaller berries with concentrated flavors, and by extension, this high-quality wine showing lively acidity and ageworthy amounts of tannins.

13. Shoup Red Wine Columbia Valley 2012  $95

Half cabernet sauvignon, plus a quarter each of merlot and petit verdot: Scorched earth, flower, cherry, and coffee aromas lead to plentiful dark fruit flavors supported by firm tannins. 

14. Spring Valley Uriah Estate Grown Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2013  $50

Spring Valley consistently crafts some of the best wines to be found in Washington. The latest Uriah offering—a merlot- and cabernet franc–dominant blend—is no exception, with appealing aromas and flavors of herbs, cherries, and flowers. 

15. Tamarack Cellars Sagemoor Reserve Red Wine Columbia Valley 2012  $50

Sagemoor Vineyard is one of Washington’s oldest vineyards, but also one of its finest, as amply demonstrated by this blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc. Aromas of herb, graphite, spice box, and cherry lead to tart cherry flavors that linger.

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