While highly regarded and highly rated, Washington red wines have had something of a glass ceiling in Wine Spectator over the years. As noted previously, ninety-six points has been a high water mark for Washington in this publication. In fact, of the many Washington wines reviewed by Wine Spectator each year, only seven wines from three wineries – Cayuse, Leonetti, and Cote Bonneville – have even received a score of 96 points. This spans over 4,000 wine reviews.

This is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather it is an indication of the rare air of such scores in this publication. To wit, in the most recent twelve months, only 38 out of 6,127 red wines reviewed by Wine Spectator have received scores of 97 points or higher (0.6% for those keep track at home). That said, no Washington wine has ever been in that group.

Until now.

In its upcoming issue Wine Spectator has awarded Charles Smith’s 2006 Royal City Syrah a 97 point rating. This makes it the highest rated Washington red wine by this publication. The 2006 Royal City Syrah, released last November and sold out long before that, received a 100 point rating from Wine Enthusiast – its first for a Washington wine – and a 98 point rating from Wine Advocate. This is, quite simply, a recording breaking wine. It is also another feather in the quill-filled cap of winemaker Charles Smith who was also named Wine & Spirits ‘Winemaker of the Year’ in 2009.

This rating continues an unprecedented string of recent accolades for Washington wine, most prominently Wine Spectator’s naming the Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon its ‘Wine of the Year’ in 2009. While some may wonder about the overall significance of such scores and accomplishments, have no doubt. Consumers, retailers, distributors, restaurants, and others who impact the wine industry take notice.

So what does all this increased attention mean? It means Washington is entering a new phase in its development as a world-class wine region. Buckle yourself in and enjoy the ride.