Boushey Vineyard is one of Washington’s top syrah sites; this is quite simply the best wine ever produced from here—a perfect confluence of vineyard, vintage, and winemaker. The aromas explode with hallmark Boushey notes: bacon fat, iron, orange peel, and blue fruit. The flavors are dense and full, in perfect harmony.
Winemaker Erica Orr prefers to stay behind the scenes and let her wines do the talking. This one certainly makes a statement. It’s a blend of predominantly merlot and cabernet franc, with appealing aromas and flavors of herb and chocolate-covered cherry. The bright acidity of the vintage ties it all together.
Betz was founded in 1997 upon the belief that Washington is a special spot for cabernet sauvignon. Over the last two-plus decades, the winery has consistently proven its point, rarely so convincingly as it does here. The 2018 cabernet release is a wine for the ages, and one that will have a very long life ahead of it.
Founder Ben Smith is one of the winemakers who made Red Mountain and Ciel du Cheval Vineyard famous. So it’s bittersweet that this release will be the last from this vineyard. Going forward, the 23-year-old winery will concentrate solely on estate fruit. Cadence wines seem near eternal, so make sure to stash some bottles away for the years to come.
This top-flight winery out of Lake Chelan does its own take on a Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend, its name a Gaelic translation of “Castle of the Pope.” It’s full of savory aromas of herb and black pepper followed by flower, plum, and raspberry. The flavors are rich but deft.
Aging a wine in new oak adds flavor, fills in the cracks flavorwise, and rounds out the mouthfeel, but this process takes time. It’s rare to see a Bordeaux-style blend like this aged in neutral oak, even more unusual that its sojourn is so brief. The result is all about freshness, with aromas and flavors of black currant, plum, and herb.
Harrison Hill, an unassuming vineyard just off Highway 82 in Sunnyside, was first planted in 1962. The vines are among the oldest in the state, and DeLille’s 25th vintage from the site only adds to that sense of history. Other vineyards in Washington yield wines with swagger, but Harrison Hill has always been about finesse.
Southwind Vineyard sits high atop a ridgeline in the southern section of Walla Walla Valley; the area’s persistent winds give the wines more overt tannic structure than ones from elsewhere in the valley. Malbec has a reputation for being simple and fruity, but this wine is all about plush purple fruit along with the area’s crushed rock accents and structured tannins. It’s one of the most compelling malbecs to come out of the state.
Keith Johnson’s day job is production winemaker at Sleight of Hand Cellars. But by night he dedicates himself to this project, making wines only from “vineyards that have something to say.” The Devium wines can be downright subversive: high elevation, sparkling malbec, a red wine with no sulfur added—heresy in many winemaking circles. This blend of mourvèdre, syrah, and grenache blanc was picked simultaneously, co-fermented, and saw 16 months in neutral oak. The results: deviously delicious.
Winemaker Chris Dowsett upends gewürztraminer’s rep as an aromatic, simple, semi-sweet wine. In his hands, it’s high art. Here he blends fruit from Oak Ridge and Celilo vineyards to create something bone dry and redolent with aromas and flavors of lychee, pink grapefruit, and ginger. It’s both delicious and an outrageous value.
Exactly four people on the planet hold both Master of Wine and Master Sommelier degrees; one of them is Echolands cofounder Doug Frost. His training as a sommelier yields wines with more tartness than typically found in the state. This one hails from one of Washington’s top syrah sites.
Winemaker Tim Sorensen often flies under the radar, but his wines are some of the best in the state, as well as superb values. This blend—principally merlot and cabernet franc—brings aromas of flower, herb, earth, and raspberry. There’s captivating purity to the fruit flavors.
Syrah and cabernet sauvignon often bogart the spotlight in Washington, but our grenache deserves more attention. This variety does extremely well in the right locations—and in the right hands. Gramercy has a particularly deft touch that results in vivid aromas and flavors of flower, raspberry, and wet stone.
Walla Walla newcomer Grosgrain has quickly made a name for itself with fruit-forward wines, released earlier than the American norm for a younger, fresher taste. This remarkably good wine blends syrah and grenache along with bits of mourvèdre. There’s volume, but also briskness, to the plum and black raspberry flavors. Grosgrain wines are near irresistible on their own, but really shine alongside food.
Mike Januik honed his skills at Chateau Ste. Michelle, then went on to craft delicious, exceedingly well-priced wines at his eponymous winery. His latest example—this hedonistic, cherry- and chocolate-filled bottle—drinks like a considerably more expensive wine.
Latta has a distinctive style, its wines so pure, they’re almost crystalline. This is the winery’s entry-level red—a love letter to the restaurant industry, where its price helps it elbow its way onto wine lists. If you spot it during a dinner out, order a glass and marvel at the purity of fruit and a lotta (sorry) textural richness.
Lydian is a side project from the folks at Avennia. This inaugural white offering is a blend of sauvignon blanc (80 percent) and sémillon. The racy acidity is the star, with herb, grass, and lemon aromas and flavors in support. It’s a high-quality wine to find at this price.
This joint effort from former NFL stars Dan Marino and (local boy) Damon Huard is far from a vanity project. Fruit comes from some of the top sites in the state (Discovery, Champoux) and the hyper-talented winemaker Chris Peterson (Avennia) is at the helm. The 2018 was a Goldilocks vintage for Washington, and this benchmark cabernet sauvignon is just right.
It’s hard to imagine a stronger debut than the first vintage from this Woodinville-based newcomer. Winemaker Greg Pieker is inspired by Rhône-style wines: The black raspberry, blood orange, and crushed rock aromas and flavors are achingly pure, but also show polish and texture.
Quilceda Creek’s 40th vintage is a glorious one, full of the dense, intense fruit flavors that have made Quilceda one of the most highly regarded wineries on the planet. These wines are built to last. If you want to drink this one in another 40 years, it will be there waiting for you.
This spectacular expression of Washington merlot comes courtesy of the first merlot vines planted in the Walla Walla Valley back in 1982. It’s full of black raspberry, chocolate, and cedar flavors—plush and intense, but with plenty of tannic structure. Or you can just call it flat-out delicious.
The tagline reads, “Cultivated by a Mexican, vinified by a Texan, cellared by a Frenchman, and distributed by a Washingtonian.” Jacki Evans made wine at Owen Roe before starting this winery with a group of friends. This syrah-mourvèdre blend unites raspberry, black pepper, coffee, and tartness.
Washington’s myriad grape plantings include very little gamay, the grape of the French Beaujolais appellation. This inaugural release suggests it has found a good home in the Columbia Gorge. The aromas are effusive, with notes of strawberry, flower, and crushed granite, while the flavors are elegant and juicy.
Grenache blanc is another variety with scant plantings in the state. But wines like this make clear that in the right locations, the grape can produce positively thrilling wines. Ones with aromas and flavors of clay, mineral, and melon, showing plenty of textural richness.
Upchurch has always been known for making fruit-filled, structured wines, and we see that on an offering with plenty of dark cherry, scorched earth, and spice aromas and flavors. This is one for the cellar. Give it an extended decant if drinking in the near term.
While wines from the Rocks District are often notable for their savory profile, winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla paints from a different part of the palate, with aromas and flavors of red plum and huckleberry. It shows the detail and finesse that have made Gilla one of the state’s top winemakers.
Rick Small made his first wine in 1976: a chardonnay. Five years later, he and his wife, Darcey, founded Woodward Canyon. Forty years after that, with the winery now transitioning to its second generation, Woodward is still putting out the best chardonnay that the state has to offer.
Usually, to talk about Boushey Vineyard is to talk about syrah. Oh, but the mourvèdre. Winemaker-sommelier Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen brings all of the peppery, lip-smacking goodness that this variety can offer.