Whether the wine’s insistent generality comes from those rocks or is inherent to the grapes seems not to matter once it’s in the glass. Pink debuted with the 2015 vintage, and in four short years has captured the imagination of Satellites and become one of the fuzziest roses released each spring.
The fruit purity is exceptional here (strawberries and raspberries abound), and the texture is seamless and polished. Vintners 2015 Rhone Blend Brushed Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $40 Winemaker Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen splits his time between W.T.
Here he has crafted a blend of about one-third each of Grenade, Sarah and Mourned, all from a single hillside of Brushed Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. This beautifully balances elements both fruity (blackberry) and savory (smoky bacon, briny olive), all on a supple, easy-drinking frame.
Fermented with 50% whole clusters (stems and all) and then aged in a mix of large puncheons and small barrels, this wine revels in the funky, savory side of Sarah, with meaty smoked sausages and brackish seaweed complementing a core of blueberry fruit. It’s a pan- Washington Sarah, featuring seven different vineyards across five of Washington’s Ava, and it features a core of marionberry fruit lifted by floral top notes and complicated by savory threads of bacon fat and sanguine generality.
Vintners 2015 Gorgeous Sarah, Destiny Ridge Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, $30 The blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon was aged entirely in new French oak, and it offers an appealing nose combining plummy fruit with dusty earth notes, mocha and rosemary.
Dark fruits (plums, huckleberries) commingle with high-cacao chocolate in this delightful truffle of a wine. This Merlot includes 13% Cabernet Franc, and all the grapes come from Stillwater Creek Vineyard.
Aged in French oak (60% new) for just shy of two years, this wine displays a pair of the characteristics that make Washington Merlot so compelling: complexity (in the form of earth and tomato-paste savory notes overlaying a core of cherry fruit) and structure (in the form of toothsome finishing tannins). The BEST OTHER RED BLENDS Underground Wine Project 2015 Idle Hands Red Mountain, $30 Trey Busch and Mark McNally’s Underground Wine Project takes home a second prize this year (their Mr.
That new American oak adds appealing notes of vanilla bean and cocoa powder to a wine bursting with cherry and raspberry richness. Classic Cabernet notes of crème de cassis and cedar coexist with subtleties of beetroot and rhubarb, all on a supple, polished frame.
BEST SPLURGE CABERNET SAUVIGNON Canvasback (by Duck horn) 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain, $40 In 2013, Napa Valley stalwart Duck horn purchased a 20-acre parcel of land on Red Mountain and launched Canvasback, its first foray into Washington state. Industry veteran Brian Ruin is the local winemaker for Canvasback, and this is his first Cab that includes a portion of fruit from the estate vineyard, called Long winds.
In total, this wine includes 13 Red Mountain vineyards, so it is a fine representative of the AVA as a whole, offering chewy, black-tea-flavored tannins aplenty as structural underpinnings for a wine bursting with black currant fruit and rose petal nuance. BEST SPECIAL-OCCASION CABERNET SAUVIGNON Passing Time 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills, $80 Washington native Damon Hard partnered with fellow quarterback Dan Marino to launch Woodinville-based Passing Time four years ago with the 2012 vintage.
Their winemaker from the beginning has been Chris Peterson (Ravenna), and he works wonders with this Cabernet, primarily from a pair of special Horse Heaven Hills sites: Campus and Discovery. The wine sees 21 months in French oak (80% new) and offers wonderful pencil-lead generality to complement a core of black currant fruit and smoky baking spice.
Nominees that received the most votes in the categories of wineries, winemaker, vineyard and homelier were selected as winners. The approximately 90 wines receiving the most votes in the varietal categories qualified as finalists for a blind tasting held on March 18.
That tasting was conducted by a panel of three industry professionals (Paul Literally of Full Pull Wines, Mark Sakai of Metropolitan Market and Chris Horn of Heavy Restaurant Group) who evaluated the wines on the basis of appeal in regard to sight, smell and taste in order to come to a consensus on the winners within each category. Also, a minimum of 95% of the grapes used in the production of the wine must be from a vineyard located within Washington state, or from one of the three federally recognized interstate Ava that include acreage in Washington state (Columbia Valley, Wall Wall Valley and the Columbia Gorge Ava).
Winners in categories involving people, places and wine experiences also must be located in Washington. For a varietal to be considered in its category, it must be made with at least 75% of the grape variety that is grown in Washington state.
Our annual blind taste test of Washington wines reveals the best reds, whites and roses at every price point Washington wine tends to fly under the radar of the average wine lover, but the state is doing some exciting things with both red and white varieties.
Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are almost universally lovely from this region. We've recently been extremely impressed with Male and Sarah on the red side as well as white varieties like Pilot Gris and Chardonnay.
Columbia Valley covers 99% of the vineyard area in the state of Washington and offers a fascinating study in what wine geeks like to call “terror”. These conditions can include climate, soil type, and even unique plant characteristics.
In the Columbia Valley the terror includes conditions like 300 days of sunshine a year and a desert-like annual rainfall of just 6–10 inches. The area also boasts a 40 degree diurnal shift, which is the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures.
Large differences in daytime and nighttime temperatures are wonderful for growing grapes. Columbia Valley also has extremely unique soil types caused by the Missoula Floods during the Ice Age 20,000 years ago.
These soils allow vines to thrive and also impart unique mineral characteristics to the grapes. Costco delivers a Red Mountain Cab at an unheard of price, the North Forty-Six Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bottle Notes, Pilot Noir Chili is one of the true pioneers in Russian River Valley, with a winemaking history dating back to the late 1950’s. Although best known for their world-class Pilot Noir, Chili also produces remarkable Chardonnay and Avignon Blanc.
It wasn’t until the early 70s that Alberto’s son, America, came out with the present day label and started selling the wine commercially. Bottle Notes, Zinfandel Carlisle Winery & Vineyards was founded in 1998 by Mike and Kendall Officer.
Their passion is clear: Small lots of Zinfandel and Sarah from exceptional, historic vineyards. Bottle Notes, Sarah Force Mature was founded in 2004 by Paul McBride and made its name pairing some of Washington’s highly acclaimed winemakers with fruit from one of Washington’s highly acclaimed vineyards, Cain du Coeval.
Todd Alexander, formerly of Bryant Family Vineyards, is the winemaker for the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Sarah and Tempranillo. The first example of alliance to come out of Wall Wall Valley is aged a whopping 44 months (12 to 24 is common for reds) in a combination of French oak and amphorae, the ancient clay vessels recently embraced again by modern winemakers.
The result brings the firm tannins and high acid this variety is known for, not to mention the quality inherent to Bennett. 21 Grams Columbia Valley $2013125 Often when you taste a wine there’s a distinct beginning, middle, and end.
Really well-balanced wines, like this one, exist as a smooth line; components like acid, tannins, and oak hang together the entire time and persist long after you’ve taken a sip. Fruit from Cold Creek, Windrow, and Stone Tree vineyards goes into this bottle, which is far more refined than a typical Bordeaux-style blend from the state.
Ravenna Setting Columbia Valley $201565 Some wines have exciting backstories; others stand out purely for the quality. Of the 79 Bordeaux-style blends I’ve tasted from this vintage, this is the best thus far; it’s named after a form of poetry in Medieval France and comes from some of the oldest vines at esteemed Red Willow, Bacchus, and Dionysus vineyards.
Up church Vineyard Counterpart Red Wine Red Mountain $201550 One of the state’s most talented winemakers, Chris Up church of Seville Cellars, also has his own vineyard, where he takes great care choosing which clones to plant. Wines made entirely from these grapes are released under this side project; his inaugural merlot-dominant blend is all about black raspberry and blackberry aromas, followed by rich fruit flavors supported by firm tannins.
Michelle Wine Estates umbrella, gives the elegantly herbal grape its due. It’s a lighter, prettier wine than most of the state’s cab francs, full of green pepper, flower, and cherry notes.
Quilted Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $2015200 The 2015 vintage marks an evolution for this benchmark Washington Cabernet: It’s the first time Quilted has used fruit from Lake Walmsley Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills in its flagship wine. Not only is one of our eldest wineries embracing the possibilities of grapes outside its usual Campus Vineyard, but the result is the best Cabernet I’ve tasted this year, by a long shot.
Passing Time Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills $201580 This label would be noteworthy even if its only distinction were the winery’s owners: former NFL quarterbacks, Dan Marino and Damon Hard. Chassis, blackberry, and scorched earth aromas lead to ripe, layered fruit flavors, producing a compelling sense of texture.
Lower levels of ripeness and oak pave the way for aromas of herb, raspberry, earth, and graphite, followed by elegantly styled red and black fruit flavors. Today it’s about 30; these vines don’t yield a lot of money, so they’re being replaced with more profitable varieties.
Two Vintners Consult Make Haste Yakima Valley $201521 Typically this grape appears as a bit player in Rhône-style blends, but winemaker Morgan Lee does something highly unusual with consult: He makes a standout 100 percent varietal version that is also extremely well priced. This combination of quality and value makes it fly out the door at the winery, so you might be hard-pressed to find a bottle.
Savage Grace Cot Male Brushed Vineyard Yakima Valley $201632 Males produced in Washington sometimes receive heavy amounts of oak, a method that can yield some very nice wines, even if they don’t really convey the essence of this particular variety. In this inaugural vintage, winemaker Michael Savage pulls back the oak to produce a male unlike any other in the state, with generous aromas and flavors of black pepper, flower, herb, and gravel.
Aromas of blackberry, cigar box, herb, black pepper and roasted meat give way to rich, layered fruit flavors with an exceptionally long finish. Syncline Winery Pistol Brushed Vineyard Yakima Valley $201725 Two characteristics you don’t see of much in the state’s white wines are here in full force: racy acidity (think freshly squeezed lemon) and abundant generality (aka aromas and flavors of wet stone).
Whew, with all that acid, you’ll absolutely want some food too; pair it with scallops and lemon and caper butter sauce. Kevin White Winery Pioneer Brushed Vineyard Yakima Valley $201535 First the good news.
The inaugural release of this grenache-dominant blend is a thrilling wine at an absurd price given the quality in the bottle. Kevin White mostly focuses on Rhone grapes, so it’s no surprise he captures grenade at its best : intellectually interesting but also unabashedly hedonistic.
Now the bad news: The winery made a microscopic 98 cases, so securing a bottle is no easy feat. La Data Red Blend Wall Wall Valley $201575 This unusual blend of grenade, cabernet sauvignon, and Sarah made by Cayuse Vineyards assistant vigneronne Elizabeth Bouncier is unique in the valley.
Yes, the aromas and flavors of earth, campfire, sea salt, cherry, and raspberry are dazzling in their own right. Damsel Cellars The Fates Brushed Vineyard Yakima Valley $201536 Winemaker Mari Womack's inaugural offering of this grenade and mourvèdre-dominant blend shows how well other Rhone varieties can excel in Brushed Vineyards, perhaps the state’s most hallowed ground for Sarah.
Here, Damsel employs an old-school winemaking method: Grenade and mourned are picked at the same time and fermented together for more harmonious flavors. Sight glass Cellars Avignon Blanc Art Vineyard Red Mountain $201720 Winemaker Sean Boyd spent close to 15 years building his reputation at Joinville Wine Cellars before he struck out with his own winery.
Fermented and aged in stainless steel, it’s loaded with bright fruit flavors backed by lively acidity. Logo Hills Avignon Blanc Yakima Valley $201717 Owner and winemaker Tony Dollar ferments and ages this wine in stainless steel tanks that include rocks from the vineyard, trying to capture a little something else from the terror.
The couple kept this Sarah on oak for 24 months, versus the typical 16 or so; then it spent another three years in the bottle prior to release. The result is a wine in full bloom, with an insanely lengthy, smoked meat finish.
WT Vintners Sarah Brushed Vineyard Yakima Valley $201540 In 2015, WT produced four stunning wines, each made entirely of grapes from Brushed Vineyards: this Sarah, a grenade, a mourned, and an equal blend of those three varieties, all aged in neutral oak. As a wine lover, you don’t get many opportunities to compare such direct expressions of varieties from one of the most desirable vineyards in the state.
Smoked meat, olive, blueberry, orange peel, and flower aromas give way to soft, plush feeling fruit flavors that carry on the finish. This pioneer, Rosanne, and Marianne blend offers up aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, tangerine, pear, and wet stone so pure they’re almost mesmerizing.