Reminder: September’s Virtual Tasting takes place this Thursday from 7-8pm Pacific Time. Read more about it here.
2009 was a watershed year for the Washington wine industry. Amidst numerous high scores and accolades, there were three particularly significant accomplishments. Columbia Crest’s 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was named Wine Spectator’s ‘Wine of the Year;’ Charles Smith’s 2006 Royal City Syrah received a perfect 100-point score from Wine Enthusiast; and Charles Smith was named Food & Wine Magazine’s ‘Winemaker of the Year.’ With three months to go until the end of the year, 2010 is shaping up to be an equally notable year for Washington State and its winemakers.
In the October 15th edition of Wine Spectator, Grand Reve Vintners receives a 97-point rating for its 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (read a Focus Report on the winery here). This is the highest score a Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon has received from this publication. It also matches the previous highest score for a Washington State red wine. Earlier this year, the 2006 Charles Smith Royal City Syrah and 2006 Cayuse Vineyards Armada Vineyards Syrah set the high water mark at 97 points, shattering the decades old 96-point ceiling in Wine Spectator. This score for Grand Reve comes on the heels of Gramercy Cellars being named Food & Wine Magazine’s ‘Best New Winery in America’ in its current issue. This is the second major award for a Washington winery in two years from the magazine.
Additionally, the August 31st issue of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate included the publication’s annual review of Washington wines. This is the only time throughout the year Wine Advocate devotes space to the state’s wines. In the latest issue, writer Jay Miller reviewed more than 810 wines, up from 560 last year.
Numerous Washington wineries received high scores, with 468 wines rated 90 points or higher. Of note, Quilceda Creek received a 100-point score for its 2007 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the sixth straight vintage the winery has received a score of 99 points or higher from this publication. Other wineries receiving scores of 95 points or above were: Andrew Will (2); Betz Family Winery (2); Cayuse Vineyards (10); Charles Smith/K Vintners (8); Fidelitas Wines (1); Gramercy Cellars (1); Grand Reve Vintners (3); Leonetti Cellar (1); Quilceda Creek (3); and Sheridan Vineyard (3). Of particular note was the 97 point score for Grand Reve Vintners’ 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and two 98-point scores for Sheridan.
Other wineries to receive high scores of particular interest were Reynvaan Family Vineyards (94, 93, 93; see a recent review of the 2008 releases here); Maison Bleue (94, 93, 93, 91, and three 90s; see a recent review here); Dumas Station (93 points for its 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Minnick Hills Vineyard), and Adams Bench (93 points for its 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Willow Vineyard). Miller writes, “Maison Bleue Family Winery may be the most compelling new producer uncovered in my 2010 trip to Washington,” strong words for this new winery.
In addition these high scores from Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast recently gave 97-point scores to Leonetti Cellar’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and Betz Family Winery’s 2007 Pere de Famille. The publication also gave 96-point scores to Leonetti’s 2008 Merlot and Buty’s 2006 Columbia Rediviva.
So what does this mean for Washington and what has made the last two years so particularly noteworthy for the state’s wineries? As I have written before, high scores and awards from major publications matter. They get significant distributor and consumer attention for specific wineries as well as for a wine region. I believe that the last two years have been so successful for Washington’s wineries for numerous reasons including: a string of near perfect vintages; a critical mass of wineries, wine knowledge, and viticultural experience; and increased competition amongst wineries setting the bar ever higher. Significantly though, this year’s accomplishments show that 2009 was not a fluke but rather part of a trend for increased recognition for Washington wine. Watch out world.