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Understanding the Rocks

This ancient former riverbed within the Walla Walla Valley is thick with cobble-stones, yielding wines with a distinctive funk that have exploded onto the national wine scene in recent years.

1. No Girls Tempranillo La Paciencia Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2013

Tempranillo is a bit player in Washington, even more so in the Walla Walla Valley, but it can produce some absolutely thrilling wines. Here reserved aromas of tobacco, smoke, spice, and funk are followed by a plush, fruit-forward palate.


2. Casa Smith Jack’s Vineyard Barbera Walla Walla Valley 2012  $35

Barbera plantings are extremely limited in Washington, but barbera from the Rocks District? Unheard of. This wine offers aromas of crushed gravel, smoke, and black currant, a stunningly supple mouthfeel, and plenty of fruit and savory flavors.


3. Kerloo Cellars Malbec Stone Tree Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2013  $40

The buzz surrounding Washington malbec has quieted of late (it’s hard to compete with an ocean of Argentinian wine) but this bottle captures the essence of the variety perfectly. Coming from two separate blocks within the same vineyard, it shows memorably pure aromas and flavors of herbs, plum, and peppery spices.


4. Ardor Cellars Mourvèdre Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2014  $40

If there’s one variety to keep your eye on in Washington right now, it’s mourvèdre. Plantings remain scarce, but it’s making some stupendous bottles. This one brings notes of dried herbs, lemon twist, and heaping amounts of black pepper, along with an elegant, polished feel.


5. Block Wines Golden Block Grenache Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2014  $35

This side project from retailer Full Pull Wines focuses on single-vineyard, single-varietal wines. One of the state’s finest syrah vineyards delivers a shockingly delicious grenache, offering lush flavors of brambly fruit, earth, and olive, backed by cranberrylike acidity.


6. Kerloo Cellars Mourvèdre Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2014  $48

Mourvèdre is also making inroads in a vineyard best known for syrah. This wine saw only neutral French oak, putting an emphasis on the purity of its black pepper, citrus peel, and dried herb aromas and flavors.


7. Saviah Cellars Tempranillo Walla Walla Valley 2013  $38

After building its reputation on Bordeaux- and Rhone-style offerings, Saviah Cellars made a welcome expansion into the world of tempranillo. Aromas of tobacco, black olive, mineral, and funk lead to generous fruit and savory flavors—impressive all around.


8. Two Vintners Grenache Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013  $30

Some describe grenache as Washington’s pinot noir; a finicky variety that’s difficult to get right. But when you do, that bottle can lift you to the heavens. This otherworldly wine brims with aromas and flavors of raspberry, smoke, earth, and white pepper that are utterly transcendent. 

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