It’s the vintage Washington winemakers have been waiting for—some of the highest-quality wines the state has produced in the last decade, fragrant with the state’s signature generous fruit, but with a core of acid and tannins lending a sense of gravitas. 

The 2012 vintage, which yielded most of the wines on this extraordinary list, is the result of temperatures that were decidedly—and perfectly—average. In winemaking, that’s a good thing. 

The year tracked almost perfectly to 20-year historical averages for heat accumulation, after a warm 2009 with an early October frost and growing seasons in 2010 and 2011 that were cool and cooler.

Reds from the dazzling 2012 season are more than just fruit forward, immediately appealing wines. There’s a core of acid and tannin that gives them a sense of gravitas and also bodes well for their longevity. These are wines to open and enjoy now or tuck away in the cellar for the future. And that’s exactly what we need while waiting for the more brooding 2010s and 2011s to strut their stuff. The 2012 vintage was also a great one for whites. 

Though syrah proved the year’s big star, most varieties rejoiced at the growing season. For the first time, this year’s list contains a separate category for grenache, a fruit-rich grape variety making inroads in the state, though Bordeaux-style blends and cabernet sauvignon continue to be strengths. 

Overall, the year’s list is more selective and represents a higher level of quality than it ever has before. And now, a toast to this most exceptional, average year.

In This Feature:

The Top 10 Washington Wines

We sampled, scrutinized, and ranked over 1,000 wines to come up with this year’s list. These 10 ­bottles—the best of the best—shine above all others.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan

Top Bordeaux-Style Blends

Made of varying combinations of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot, these blends are becoming a calling card for the state.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan

Top Grenache

Still a niche variety with only 268 acres planted in Washington (by comparison, cabernet has over 14,000), grenache is producing some of the state’s best wines.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan

Top Syrah

Further proof that 2012 was one of the best years ever for Washington syrah.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan

Top Merlot

Washington has long made some of the world’s finest examples of merlot, typically more muscular and tannic than those found elsewhere in the world. Here are five of the state’s finest.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan

Top Cabernet Sauvignon

These bottles explain why this remains the state’s most planted grape variety.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan

Top White Wines

While Washington reds have the reputation for quality, the state still makes an abundance of top-flight white wines. Here are this year’s best.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan

Top Malbec

Malbec has been getting a lot of buzz in Washington lately as acreage increases and more winemakers experiment with varietal bottlings. These wines realize malbec’s promise.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan

The Wild West

Our state grows over 40 different grape varieties. Here are six wines from less common varieties—the Washington wine frontier.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan

Top Red Blends

Washington winemakers can—and do—blend just about every ­imaginable variety. Here are this year’s best results.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan

Wines with a Sense of Place

Winemakers strive each year to capture the essence of a particular vineyard and vintage. Here are five that unequivocally put that genie in the bottle.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan

Cellar-Worthy Reds

Opening aged bottles is part of the joy of collecting and drinking wine. Here are six wines that deserve a place in the cellar.

09/09/2015 By Sean P. Sullivan