Below are my Wine Enthusiast reviews for December 2018. Wines are listed alphabetically by winery. Read additional information on how I review wines here. All of these reviews are freely available on-line at the Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide. There is also a freely available Wine Enthusiast Tasting Guide app. See previous Wine Enthusiast reviews re-published in this space here. Search Wine Enthusiast‘s on-line database here. Read instructions on how to find Washington wine reviews at Wine Enthusiast here.
116 wines reviewed in the December 1st and 31st issues of Wine Enthusiast.
The December reviews from Cayuse Vineyards are as notable for what is not listed as what is. Due to an issue with closures, most of the 2015 vintage Cayuse wines were not released. The three wines that were are: Cayuse 2015 Armada Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley ($100, 94 points); Cayuse 2015 God Only Knows Red Blend Walla Walla Valley ($100, 93 points); Cayuse 2015 The Lovers Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah Walla Walla Valley ($100, 90 points).
Vigneron Christophe Baron’s other wines from this vintage could not be more impressive. Horsepower Vineyards focuses on high density plantings, using trellising techniques such as ‘sur echalas,’ meaning, ‘on stakes.’ The vineyards are plowed by draft horse due to the tight spacing. These are extremely high quality wines, some of the best I have tasted in my five years at Wine Enthusiast (Horsepower 2015 Sur Echalas Vineyard Grenache Walla Walla Valley, $120, 97 points; Horsepower 2015 Sur Echalas Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley, $120, 96 points, Cellar Selection; Horsepower 2015 The Tribe Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley, $120, 96 points, Editor’s Choice).
Finally, Baron’s most recent project, Hors Categorie Vineyards, continues to distinguish itself in its second vintage. This vineyard, located by the North Fork of the Walla Walla River, is one of the more scenic locations in the valley. It shows itself as a special spot for Syrah, with the wine displaying a signature unlike anything else coming out of Walla Walla Valley or the Northwest (Hors Categorie 2015 Syrah Walla Walla Valley, $240, 96 points, Cellar Selection).
Some of the other wines in December come from the 2016 vintage. The biggest strength I’m seeing right now from 2016 in Washington comes from Rhône-style wines, though, in fairness, most of the high-end Bordeaux-style wines are yet to be released. Despite the warmth of the year, there’s a lovely sense of freshness, energy, and detail to many of the 2016s. A number of the wines are more elegant in style than recent vintages in Washington. In some cases, the wines can even come off as lean and have concentration and ripeness issues. The mid-palate density, to me typically one of the hallmarks of Washington wine, is always not there. That said, on the best wines, what is there is quite delightful (I will have more to say on the 2016 vintage in a post next year).
Standout 2016 Rhône-style wines from December include three wines from Kevin White Winery. These are: Kevin White 2016 Reserve Red Blend Yakima Valley ($40, 93 points, Editor’s Choice); Kevin White 2016 En Hommage Syrah Yakima Valley ($30, 92 points, Editor’s Choice); and Kevin White 2016 La Fraternite Yakima Valley ($30, 91 points, Editor’s Choice). Kevin White continues to be one of the state’s top producers, with a distinct, fresh, fruit and vineyard focused house style. The wines also offer exceptional value.
Other top 2016 Rhône-style wines in December include the Sparkman 2016 Wonderland Grenache Yakima Valley ($32, 91 points). This shows the variety’s more elegant side, with the wine a blend of fruit from Boushey, Olsen, and Sagemoor vineyards. Meanwhile Upsidedown Wine offers a delicious example of Mourvèdre (Upsidedown 2016 The Gold Drop Collection Kitzke Vineyards Mourvèdre Columbia Valley $45, 91 points, Editor’s Choice).
I’ve written previously about the rapidly decreasing acreage of old vine Chenin Blanc in Washington. Wines like the Cedergreen Cellars 2016 Old Vine Chenin Blanc Columbia Valley ($19, 90 points, Editor’s Choice) show just what we risk losing if more of these vines are pulled out. It’s a flat out delicious wine, with a lovely sense of texture and richness.
In terms of value wines, I’ve noted on my WWR Facebook page the strength of the 2017 vintage for white wines in Washington. A great example of this can be found in three well-priced wines from Pacific Rim: Pacific Rim 2017 J Riesling Columbia Valley ($10, 89 points, Best Buy); Pacific Rim 2017 Sweet Riesling Columbia Valley ($10, 89 points, Best Buy); Pacific Rim 2017 Dry Riesling Columbia Valley ($10, 87 points, Best Buy).
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:Nota Bene 2015 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Syrah Red Mountain $40 88 points
Brooding aromas of blackberry, orange peel and spice lead to quite ripe, full-bodied fruit flavors with a slightly tacky feel. There are good things going on if the feel evens out.
:Nota Bene 2015 Heart of the Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain $40 88 points
The aromas suggest notes of cocoa, vanilla, graphite, dill and dark berry, with the oak out front. The palate is reserved in style, showing a pleasing sense of balance to the dark fruit flavors, with plentiful vanilla accents. The oak juts out a bit on an otherwise quite enjoyable offering.
:Nota Bene 2015 Una Notte Columbia Valley $30 87 points
The majority of this wine is 77% Grenache from StoneTree Vineyard, with the balance being Syrah and Mourvèdre. Dried orange peel and flower aromas are at the fore, with the lighter styled palate showing more of the same. There’s a rough feel to the wine that seems distracting.
:Nota Bene 2015 Stone Tree Vineyard Syrah Wahluke Slope $35 87 points
Blended with 5% Viognier, which shows itself. Generous aromas of fresh orange peel, flower and boysenberry are followed by ripe, full-bodied fruit flavors. The tannins bring a gritty feel and some bitterness, too, on an otherwise enjoyable offering.
:Nota Bene 2015 Heart of the Hill Vineyard Mourvèdre Red Mountain $30 87 points
Blackberry and black pepper aromas are followed by ripe but somewhat lighter styled fruit flavors that taper toward the cranberry filled finish. There are some interesting things going on, but they don’t all come together.
:Nota Bene 2015 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Merlot Red Mountain $35 87 points
The aromas are light and difficult to get at, while the palate brings dark fruit flavors that are reserved in style, tapering on the finish. It doesn’t all seem to come together.
:Nota Bene 2015 Dineen Vineyard Cabernet Franc Yakima Valley $25 87 points
You have to lean into the glass to try and get at the aromas, with green herb notes starting to emerge over time. The dark cherry flavors are more giving, though not quite holding across the palate. Firm, not fully ripened tannins back it all up along with tart acidity.
:Nota Bene 2015 Dineen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley $35 87 points
Aromas of blackberry jam and fruit roll-up are followed by ripe dark fruit flavors, with the warmth of the vintage on display. The tannins bring a lightly tacky feel.
:Nota Bene 2015 Arianses Vineyard Wahluke Slope $30 87 points
Merlot makes up 40% of this wine, with the rest being equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Aromas of garden herb, soil, violet and cherry lead to medium-bodied fruit flavors that run straight down the middle, missing on the edges, with slightly gritty tannins throughout.
:Nota Bene 2015 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Blend Red Mountain $40 86 points
Merlot and Cabernet Franc each make up 40% of this wine, with the balance being Cabernet Sauvignon. Clove, vanilla and raspberry roll-up aromas are followed by slightly dried-out fruit flavors. The tannins bring an astringent squeeze.
4 Cellars 2016 Chardonnay Columbia Valley $18 87 points
Asian pear, spice and pineapple aromas lead to medium-bodied fruit flavors that drop off on the back half. It comes off as a bit light, but there’s interest to be had.
4 Cellars 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $20 85 points
Black raspberry, black currant, spice, green pepper and reductive aromas are followed by soft, plump black currant flavors, with the concentration seeming light. It needs more structure to stand it up.
Apex 2016 Chardonnay Columbia Valley $15 86 points
Toast, custard and stone fruit aromas are at the fore. The palate is medium bodied, with abundant toasty flavors that dip in the middle before
ing up on the finish. The concentration doesn’t seem all there.
Auclair 2016 96 Cedars Red Mountain $25 86 points
This wine is a blend of 38% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot. Aromas of dried cherry and baking spice lead to tangy, somewhat green seeming fruit flavors that drop off on the finish.
Auclair 2015 Heart of the Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain $45 85 points
Baking spice, vanilla, licorice and dried cherry aromas are followed by dried-out-seeming fruit flavors. Dry tannins and cranberry flavors fill it out. It seems quite evolved for its age.
Betz Family 2016 Bésoleil Columbia Valley $48 91 points
A blend of 55% Grenache, 23% Mourvèdre, 11% Syrah and 11% Cinsault, the aromas explode, with notes of fresh raspberry, blue plum, black pepper, fresh herb and huckleberry, showing a sense of freshness. The palate is light and elegant yet textured and flavorful.
Betz Family 2016 La Serenne Boushey Vineyard Syrah Yakima Valley $62 91 points
The aromas start out brooding, opening up to reveal notes of fresh and dried herb, smoke, dark coffee bean, iron and smoked meat, focusing mostly on the savory. The flavors are light, deft, and elegant, displaying enough structure to reward a bit of time in the cellar. Those looking for a big, bold expression of this variety and vineyard should look elsewhere. This one is all about finesse.
Betz Family 2016 La Côte Rousse Syrah Red Mountain $62 89 points
Pure blueberry, huckleberry, flower, herb and olive aromas are followed by light, ripe but still fresh dark fruit flavors surrounded by dense, slightly gritty tannins that need time to unwind. It’s equal parts intrigue and delivery, seeming to need some time in the cellar to come together.
Betz Family 2016 La Côte Patriarche Red Willow Vineyard Syrah Yakima Valley $62 89 points
Brooding aromas of black pepper, herb, blackberry, flower and whiffs of smoked meat are followed by light, elegant blue and purple fruit flavors with green accents that trail toward the finish. What’s there is pleasing, but the concentration seems a bit light at times.
Betz Family 2016 Domaine de Pierres Syrah Walla Walla Valley $62 88 points
This is the inaugural offering of this wine, with the fruit coming from the winery’s Ancient Stone Vineyard in the Rocks District. Aromas of fresh and grilled asparagus are at the fore, followed by mortared herb, black pepper, ash, flower and olive. In keeping with the vintage, the flavors are lighter styled, showing a soft texture, trailing toward the finish.
Cana’s Feast 2014 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Syrah Columbia Valley $32 87 points
Jammy raspberry and other red fruit aromas are followed by full-bodied, supple red and blue fruit flavors that linger on the finish. The tannins give a gentle squeeze.
Canvasback 2015 Grand Passage Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain $80 88 points
Blackberry jam and cherry aromas lead to ripe, slightly dried-out-seeming fruit flavors that at times paint around the edges. Somewhat burly tannins back it up. The warmth of the vintage shows itself.
Cavatappi 2014 Molly’s Cuvée Sangiovese Columbia Valley $18 87 points
This wine is a blend of fruit from esteemed Boushey, Red Willow and Alder Ridge vineyards. Aromas of sour cherry, herb and spice are followed by tart, bright fruit flavors backed by a firm lick of tannins.
Cayuse 2015 Armada Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley (OR) $100 94 points
This is the only one of Cayuse’s single-vineyard Syrahs to be produced this vintage due to a bottle closure issue. The aromas are locked up on first pour, with notes of fire pit, green olive, smoked ham, blackberry underbrush, mineral and smoked meat. The palate is flavorful, full of smoke and meat notes that linger on the extended finish.
Cayuse 2015 God Only Knows Red Blend Walla Walla Valley (OR) $100 93 points
The aromas aren’t quite ready to reveal their charms on first pour, with notes of strawberry, smoked meat, ground rock and crushed flower emerging over time. The flavors are light but sumptuous, showing a lovely sense of texture.
Cayuse 2015 The Lovers Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah Walla Walla Valley (OR) $100 90 points
The bulk of this wine is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, which is finished off with Syrah. Aromas of moist earth, funk, black currant and herb lead to soft, smooth cherry and green pepper flavors. It possesses a lovely feel.
Cedergreen Cellars 2016 Old Vine Chenin Blanc Columbia Valley $19 90 points
The aromas draw you into the glass, with notes of honeycomb, apple and the underside of a pineapple. It drinks dry, with a textured feel to the pineapple flavors. Yum. Editor’s Choice
Cedergreen Cellars 2016 Gamay Noir Columbia Valley $25 86 points
Examples of this variety are an extreme rarity in the state, with this one coming from Skyline Vineyard. Aromas of raspberry jam, spice and campfire lead to plentiful mesquite and red fruit flavors. Smoky notes linger on the finish.
Coyote Canyon 2017 Life is Rosé Horse Heaven Hills $18 88 points
This wine is 100% Barbera. A pretty pale salmon color, with aromas of watermelon and sour cherry that lead to quite tart, full-feeling flavors with a kiss of sweetness but more than enough acidity to keep it in check.
Coyote Canyon 2017 Albariño Horse Heaven Hills $19 88 points
Pleasing aromas of pear, melon and banana chips are followed by pure fruit flavors with a rounded feel. It brings a pleasing snap of acidity on the banana-filled finish.
Dusty Cellars 2017 Viognier Rattlesnake Hills $18 86 points
The aromas are quite subdued for the variety, with light notes of flower and spice. The palate is medium bodied, focused down the middle with stone fruit flavors that taper at the edges.
Gård 2015 Lawrence Vineyards Grand Klasse Roussanne Columbia Valley $24 90 points
Spice, vanilla bean and dried apricot aromas are followed by full bodied, creamy stone fruit flavors. It provides a lot of appeal, with a drawn out finish.
Gård 2015 Grand Klasse Reserve Lawrence Vineyards Riesling Columbia Valley $26 88 points
Aromas of barrel spice, lees, corn silk and citrus rise up from the glass. The palate is bone dry, with creamy feeling fruit and barrel flavors. It’s a unique offering of this variety for the state. Not for all tastes.
Gård 2015 Grand Klasse Reserve Lawrence Vineyards Viognier Columbia Valley $26 87 points
Aromas of barrel spice, creamsicle and flower lead to medium-bodied fruit flavors and a warm finish. The oak influence seems a bit overweighted for the fruit in the bottle.
Gordon Estate 2015 Estate Grown Tempranillo Columbia Valley $24 87 points
Light aromas of spice, tobacco and herb lead to lighter styled fruit flavors. It doesn’t entirely stand up on its own but has a place at the dinner table.
Gordon Estate 2014 Estate Grown Syrah Columbia Valley $21 87 points
Vibrant aromas of dried orange peel, flower and blue fruit are followed by lighter-styled smoked meat and tangerine flavors that paint a bit around the edges, with plenty of meaty notes on the finish. It’s interesting but all seems quite light.
Gordon Estate 2015 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $24 86 points
Aromas of green pepper, black currant, plum and spice are at the fore. The flavors are reserved in style, not staying together throughout but still providing some appeal.
Gordon Estate 2014 Estate Grown Traditions Columbia Valley $30 86 points
This wine is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Merlot, with the balance Malbec and Petit Verdot. Aromas of mushroom, dried herb, wet gravel, spice and cherry lead to ripe cherry and soy flavors. The palate brings a sense of elegance and appeal.
Gordon Estate 2014 Estate Grown Petit Verdot Columbia Valley $21 85 points
Aromas of soil, violet, herb and cherry lead to medium-bodied fruit flavors that trail on the finish. It seems slightly evolved for its age.
Harvest Press NV Chardonnay America $19 83 points
Aromas of roasted corn and herb lead to a ripe stone-fruit flavor. This is an easy, enjoyable wine at an accessible price.
Hors Categorie 2015 Syrah Walla Walla Valley (OR) $240 96 points
The domaine name means “without category,” and it is no doubt apt. The nose offers compelling notes of ember, olive tapenade, blackberry bush, flowers, ham hock, broken rock and smoke. The palate is full, rich and layered, showing an impeccable sense of balance and structure that carries through the extremely long, salty, meaty, smoky, tapenade-filled finish. A profound wine, with a long life in front of it. Best from 2025–2034. Cellar Selection
Horsepower 2015 Sur Echalas Vineyard Grenache Walla Walla Valley (OR) $120 97 points
The aromas are haunting, with notes of white and black pepper, peat, potpourri, green olive, orange blossom, grilled asparagus and smoked meat. The palate shows incredible texture and detail, but the story here is truly the finish—a full minute-plus investment worth every thrilling moment. It’s hard to tell exactly when it stops. A complete mind- and palate-bending stunner—one of the defining wines of the vintage. Best from 2020–2030. Cellar Selection
Horsepower 2015 Sur Echalas Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley (OR) $120 96 points
The aromas provide brooding notes of brown stem, soot, freshly ground black pepper, wet rock, tar, grilled asparagus and smoked ham. The flavors are intense and wound up, showing layer upon layer of fruit and savory flavors. A supremely long, savory and floral finish caps it off. It’s a complete “wow” wine. Best from 2026 to 2032. Cellar Selection
Horsepower 2015 The Tribe Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley (OR) $120 96 points
The aromas are exultant in notes of fire pit, ham hock, green olive, mineral, peat, soot, sea breeze, steak tartare, coffee bean and potpourri. The palate is full of intensely rich yet still vibrant, savory flavors and an abundant peppery tone. The olive and fire-pit finish easily lingers for a minute, if not beyond. Editor’s Choice
Joleté 2016 Summit View Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley (OR) $30 90 points
The aromas start out high toned, with notes of bittersweet chocolate, black cherry and spice. There’s a pleasing sense of structure to the elegantly styled fruit flavors. Give it some additional time in bottle or a short decant.
Kevin White 2016 Reserve Red Blend Yakima Valley $40 93 points
This wine is near equal parts Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre from Elephant Mountain, Boushey and Sugarloaf vineyards. The black pepper, white pepper, garrigue, blueberry, cassis, dark strawberry and smoked meat aromas show a lot of complexity. Smoked meat, orange peel, strawberry and plum flavors follow, showing mesmerizing purity and verticality. An extended finish caps it off. It’s a complete knockout. Editor’s Choice
Kevin White 2016 En Hommage Syrah Yakima Valley $30 92 points
Boushey fruit makes up three-quarters of this wine with the balance being Elephant Mountain. Seeing just a kiss of new oak (12.5%), aromas of smoked meat, dried herb, earth, iron and dark blue fruit lead to bright, pure, fleshy fruit and savory flavors that bring a sense of seriousness. There’s a compelling sense of freshness that heightens the appeal. A long finish caps it off. Editor’s Choice
Kevin White 2016 La Fraternite Yakima Valley $30 91 points
This wine is a blend of 64% Upland and Boushey Grenache along with 27% Sugarloaf Mourvèdre and 9% Boushey Syrah, all aged in neutral oak. The aromas are knee buckling, with notes of huckleberry, black raspberry, leather, black pepper, stargazer lily, kirsch and orange peel, showing an outrageous sense of purity. The palate bursts with soft black pepper, smoked meat and red and blue fruit flavors that persist on the finish. It’s all about purity, but there’s a sense of freshness as well that is thoroughly captivating. Editor’s Choice
La Rata 2015 Red Blend Walla Walla Valley (OR) $75 95 points
Made by Cayuse assistant vigneron Elizabeth Bourcier, this wine is a blend of 54% Grenache, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah—the only one of its kind in the appellation. The aromas leap up, with notes of earthy funk, campfire, moist earth, sea salt, cherry, peat and crushed rock. The raspberry and earth flavors are light and juicy, showing a lot of delicacy as well as depth and detail. Tobacco and raspberry notes linger on the insanely long finish that opens up, broadens, expands and sails with grace. Editor’s Choice
Lawrelin 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $NA 89 points
As one might expect, this wine shows a fair amount of evolution aromatically, with notes of mushroom, leather, dried cherry, cedar and anise. The palate offers a seamless feel that continues through the finish. The balance is impressive. It has some life in front of it but is at peak or a little over. Drink now.
Lawrelin 2005 Syrah Columbia Valley $NA 88 points
That vintage is not a typo. This newly released wine is a full 13 years old. Subdued aromas of dried cherry, licorice and spice. The fruit flavors have started to fade, but there are still a lot of interesting things going on, particularly on the finish. Drink now.
Love That Red 2015 Seattle Slew Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $32 89 points
Char, toast and dark chocolate barrel aromas are out front, with herb and cherry lurking underneath. Full-bodied fruit and barrel flavors. The wood influence is heavy, but there’s enough fruit to largely stand up to it.
Love That Red 2015 Daily Double Red Blend Columbia Valley $36 88 points
Garden herb, spice and cherry aromas lead to plum and herb flavors that trail on the finish. It doesn’t all hang together.
Love That Red 2017 Love That Rosé Columbia Valley $18 86 points
A medium salmon color, with strawberry, herb and apple aromas that are followed by sleek fruit flavors, with pink grapefruit notes on the finish. The concentration doesn’t hold together throughout.
Luke 2016 Syrah Wahluke Slope $25 89 points
The aromas are light, with notes of toast, huckleberry and herb. The palate brings ripe, fleshy but still deft blue and black fruit flavors that taper toward the dark chocolate filled finish. One wants more aromatically, but it’s still a lot of wine for the money.
Luke 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Wahluke Slope $25 87 points
Aromas of garden herb, green pepper and black currant are followed by light, sleek black currant flavors. It doesn’t all seem to have fully ripened and filled out, but what’s there is interesting.
Luke 2016 Merlot Wahluke Slope $25 86 points
Toast, plum, herb and cherry aromas are followed by light, slightly sweet seeming fruit flavors. The tannins seem quite bunched up, not appearing to have fully ripened, and the fruit concentration a bit light.
Marshall Davis 2016 Seven Hills Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley (OR) $36 87 points
The aromas bring notes of vanilla, coconut, cranberry and wood spice. The palate shows a mixture of fruit and barrel, with the latter generally winning out. The oak is heavy-handed, obscuring the fruit and spice notes of the variety.
Marshall Davis 2015 Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley (OR) $36 85 points
Vanilla, tire rubber, char and cherry aromas are followed by ripe black fruit flavors with a lightly tacky feel. The tannins give a squeeze. It finishes warm.
Maryhill 2015 Vineyard Series Les Collines Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley $40 88 points
Light aromas of barrel spice, pencil shavings, cherry and green pepper are followed by full-bodied, palate-coating fruit flavors that persist on the finish. The tannins come off as a bit dry and gruff.
Maryhill 2015 Proprietor’s Reserve Syrah Columbia Valley $38 87 points
Raspberry jam, slightly candied fruit and barrel spice aromas are followed by ripe, luscious fruit flavors. The tannins bring a bit of grit on an otherwise enjoyable offering.
Maryhill 2015 Vineyard Series Kiona Vineyards Heart of the Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain $49 87 points
The aromas are appealing, with notes of plum, cocoa, cranberry and spice. Full bodied cherry flavors follow, supported by dry, grippy tannins. The palate shows quite a bit of warmth.
Maryhill 2015 Tavolo Rosso Red Blend Columbia Valley $32 86 points
Sangiovese makes up three-quarters of this wine, with the balance being Cabernet Sauvignon. Tire rubber, cherry, armpit and spice aromas lead to lighter styled, straightforward fruit flavors. It doesn’t all come together.
Maryhill 2017 Moscato di Canelli Gunkel Vineyards Moscato Columbia Valley $16 86 points
The aromas pop, with notes of mandarin orange, fresh flower, musk, herb and ale. It drinks medium-plus sweet—a surefire crowd-pleaser.
Maryhill 2015 Vineyard Series McKinley Springs Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills $44 86 points
Light aromas of cherry, vanilla and spice lead to full-bodied fruit flavors backed by dry, grippy tannins that come off as quite aggressive out of the gate but calm down a bit with a day open.
Maryhill 2015 Serendipity Proprietor’s Reserve Columbia Valley $36 85 points
Cabernet Sauvignon makes up just over half of this wine, with the balance being Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Dried herb, graphite and cherry candy aromas are followed by somewhat woody, straightforward fruit flavors.
Maryhill 2017 Tudor Hills Vineyards Pinot Gris Yakima Valley $16 85 points
Ripe peach and apple aromas are out front, followed by whiffs of tropical fruit. The palate brings dried apple flavors with a lightly smoky finish.
Maryhill 2015 Elephant Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Franc Rattlesnake Hills $36 85 points
High-toned apple and cherry aromas are followed by a scratchy feeling palate marked by gritty tannins. The tannins don’t seem to have fully ripened, and the variety is hard to find.
Maryhill 2015 Vineyard Series Clifton Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Wahluke Slope $40 85 points
The aromas offer notes of toast, spice and dark fruit. Despite the higher alcohol level, the flavors are somewhat lighter in style, a touch sweet but straight down the fairway, with a tangy finish. It’s a straightforward, easy drinker.
Maryhill 2017 Riesling Columbia Valley $16 85 points
The aromas seem muddled, needing more clarity. The palate drinks medium-plus sweet, with peach and orange flavors. It doesn’t all come together, living off the sugar.
Maryhill 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley $15 84 points
The aromas don’t seem entirely settled at present, showing some reductive notes. The palate is light, tart and tangy. It doesn’t stand up on its own but might have a place at the dinner table, though the listed alcohol seems a bit high for that as well.
Matthews 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $57 87 points
Aromas of anise, dried cherry and cedar are followed by a lightly styled palate with medicinal accents. The tannins seem a bit bunched up.
MCM Wine Co. 2015 Spectaculuxe Syrah Columbia Valley $25 87 points
This is mostly Ranch at the End of the Road and Arianses Vineyard fruit, along with dashes from Stone Tree and Marsala. Aromas of fresh flower and orange peel are in the lead, with the Viognier (6%) showing itself strongly. Blueberry pie aromas follow. The palate is interesting, with a lot of bass notes but seeming to be missing in the middle and top.
MCM Wine Co. 2017 Marveluxe Chardonnay Yakima Valley $25 83 points
This wine is a blend of equal parts Morrison and Copeland vineyards. Aromas of lees, custard and butter are followed by lightly styled, herb and wilted flower flavors that taper on the finish. It doesn’t all come off.
MCM Wine Co. 2016 Divinia Rosé Yakima Valley $20 82 points
This wine is mostly Grenache along with a saignée of other varieties. A light cranberry red color that doesn’t draw the eye. The aromas are quite reduced out of the gate. It drinks dry, with lightly smoky-seeming flavors that can’t make up the difference.
MCM Wine Co. 2015 Majestica Columbia Valley $25 82 points
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this wine starts out quite aromatically reduced out of the gate, along with notes of plum, herb, orange rind and cranberry. The flavors paint around the edges with gritty tannins filling the middle.
No Girls 2015 La Paciencia Vineyard Grenache Walla Walla Valley (OR) $75 94 points
The aromas pop in notes of sea breeze, dried nori, flower, wet stone, peat, white pepper and strawberry, showing a lot of complexity. The palate is elegant but intensely flavorful. A smoked meat finish carries as long as you care to count, kicking it up a notch.
No Girls 2015 La Paciencia Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley (OR) $75 92 points
A bit lighter in color, the aromas offer notes of earthy funk, blackberry, wet stone, blood and smoke—not quite seeming fully ready to reveal their charms on first pour. Fruit and savory flavors coat the palate, showing a sense of elegance, energy and freshness.
No Girls 2015 Tempranillo Walla Walla Valley (OR) $75 92 points
This is an up-and-coming variety in the Rocks District subregion of the valley. The aromas are generous, with notes of moist earth, tobacco, cherry and dried herb. The flavors are elegant in style, showing a sense of texture and grace. The finish kicks it up a notch.
Original House Wine 2016 Red Blend Columbia Valley $12 85 points
Aromas of green herb, sweet black currant and sugared plum are followed by lightly sweet fruit flavors. It’s a straightforward, easy drinker.
Original House Wine 2016 Mountain Merlot Columbia Valley $12 83 points
Braised green pepper, herb and tar aromas are followed by lightly sweet plum flavors. It’s extremely green for the variety.
Original House Wine 2017 Fish House Sauvignon Blanc America $12 83 points
Light aromas of tropical fruit and herb carry a slight metallic note. The flavor concentration is quite light, making this simple and straightforward.
Pacific Rim 2016 Solstice Vineyard Riesling Yakima Valley $30 91 points
The aromas draw you into the glass, with notes of lime leaf, herb, pear and flower. Dry, well-balanced fruit flavors follow, backed by lively acidity. Beautiful stuff.
Pacific Rim 2017 J Riesling Columbia Valley $10 89 points
After showing a touch of reduction out of the gate, the aromas open to show notes of orange rind and citrus. It drinks off dry, with an appealing balance of stone fruit and citrus flavors that persist on the long finish. Best Buy
Pacific Rim 2017 Sweet Riesling Columbia Valley $10 89 points
The aromas are vibrant, with notes of tangerine peel, lime zest, jasmine and flower. It drinks medium sweet, with plentiful stone fruit and citrus flavors, with zippy acidity on the finish. Yum. Best Buy
Pacific Rim 2017 Dry Riesling Columbia Valley $10 87 points
The aromas are lightly reductive out of the gate, followed by notes of slate, citrus and herb. The palate is lighter styled and bone dry, with a zing of lemony acidity on the ever so slightly bitter finish. Best Buy
Pacific Rim 2017 Ramos Vineyard Gewürztraminer Snipes Mountain $15 87 points
Effusive aromas of freshly peeled orange, floral soap and lychee are followed by just off-dry, slightly oily feeling fruit flavors. It’s equal parts intrigue and delivery.
Pambrun 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley (OR) $70 90 points
This is the first release from a new winery from Willamette Valley Vineyards that will be located on the Oregon side of Walla Walla Valley. The aromas bring a sense of purity, with notes of black currant, raspberry, plum and fresh tobacco. The palate offers a sense of delicacy and restraint. There’s structure here, but it relies less on overt tannins than most Cabernets. It’s a unique offering of the variety.
Pambrun 2015 Merlot Walla Walla Valley (OR) $60 89 points
One of the inaugural releases from this winery, it is a blend of fruit from Seven Hills and Summit View vineyards. The aromas are fruit forward and fascinate, with notes of plum, raspberry and Twizzlers. The palate is soft, showing an almost Pinot-esque feel. It’s equal parts intrigue and delivery, a unique offering of the variety.
Pambrun 2015 Chrysologue Walla Walla Valley (OR) $65 89 points
This inaugural release is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc and 17% Merlot, with the fruit coming from Seven Hills, Summit View and Waliser vineyards. Seeing just 35% new French oak, the emphasis is squarely on the fruit. Aromas of raspberry jam, blueberry compote, black currant and spice give way to fruit flavors that show elegance, delicacy and length. It’s a pretty take on these varieties and the valley.
Primarius 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir Willamette Valley $21 88 points
The aromas of strawberry, herb, cinnamon stick and spice bring appeal. The palate shows an elegant style. The concentration doesn’t always seem there, but what is delivers.
Primarius 2017 Pinot Gris Oregon $13 87 points
Apple and pear aromas are up front, along with whiffs of petroleum jelly. The palate is medium bodied, with the concentration seeming to wax and wane throughout.
Primarius 2016 Pinot Noir Oregon $19 86 points
Aromas of tire rubber give way to notes of strawberry, cherry and smoke. The palate brings a pleasing sense of elegance but can’t make up the difference.
Radix 2015 Laevus Syrah-Petite Sirah Red Mountain $55 90 points
This is a blend of 69% Syrah and 31% Petite Sirah, all coming from Red Heaven Vineyard. Generous aromas of cherry, blackberry, plum and spice lead to a dense, ripe, full-bodied palate of dark fruit flavors. A firm lick of tannins provides support, followed by a warm finish.
Sagelands 2017 Rosé Columbia Valley $11 84 points
A darker medium peach/salmon color that doesn’t draw the eye. Aromas of strawberry and herb lead to dry fruit flavors. It doesn’t all sync up.
Sagelands 2017 Pinot Gris Columbia Valley $11 83 points
Aromas of lees, bruised apple and pear are followed by light, sleek fruit flavors with a tart finish.
Silver Totem 2016 Wallula Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills $20 88 points
A bit lighter in color than the norm for the variety in the state, this wine offers aromas of braised green pepper, cedar, herb, spice and cherry. The flavors show a sense of elegance. It comes off as a bit light and green.
Sparkman 2016 Wonderland Grenache Yakima Valley $32 91 points
A blend of fruit from Boushey, Olsen and Sagemoor vineyards. The aromas pop, with appealing notes of raspberry, smoked meat, herb, white pepper, potpourri and mountain blueberry. Textured, swoon-worthy blue fruit and savory flavors follow and persist through the lingering finish. It’s a thoroughly captivating wine, with a lovely sense of freshness. Editor’s Choice
Sparkman 2015 Rainmaker Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley $62 90 points
A blend of fruit from Olsen and Kiona vineyards. Brooding dried herb, black cherry and spice aromas are followed by a supple, flavorful palate, bursting with cherry, cedar and plum notes that extend on the finish. This one is all about subtlety and sophistication, and it brings both in abundance.
Sparkman 2015 Darkness Syrah Yakima Valley $62 89 points
The aromas seem a bit understated on first pour, with notes of jammy raspberry and plum along with whiffs of iron. The fruit flavors are full bodied and rich, with tannins that at times don’t seem fully resolved. It doesn’t all come off, but it still keeps you coming back for more.
Sparkman 2014 Evermore Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $100 88 points
Vanilla, black licorice, herb, pencil lead and dried cherry aromas lead to somewhat lighter styled fruit flavors that trail on the finish. Fruit and barrel seem to tussle at times.
Sparkman 2016 Kindred Red Blend Columbia Valley $25 86 points
Aromas of tin, green pepper, herb, plum and cherry lead to plump but still light fruit flavors. Grainy tannins provide support.
The Originals 2017 Riesling Columbia Valley $11 88 points
Aromas of lime leaf, green flower and herb lead to just off-dry drinking white peach flavors. It brings textural heft and intrigue. Best Buy
Thick Skinned 2015 Red Blend Red Mountain $65 90 points
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Malbec (33%) and Petit Verdot. It’s aromatically locked up on first pour, showing whiffs of cherry and spice. The palate is considerably more expressive, packed with rich, dense, jammy black cherry flavors surrounded by a pleasing sense of structure.
Three of Cups 2016 La Monde Cameron Ridge Vineyard Malbec Columbia Valley $18 87 points
Aromas of fresh plum, orange peel, tar and herb lead to quite light, tart fruit flavors backed by lightly grainy tannins. It’s an intriguing interpretation of this variety, but the concentration doesn’t seem all there.
Three of Cups 2017 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley $16 87 points
A blend of 79% Sauvignon Blanc and 21% Sémillon. Light aromas of herb, citrus and grass are followed by medium-bodied, lemony fruit flavors with a tart finish. It’s equal parts intrigue and delivery.
Upsidedown 2016 The Gold Drop Collection Kitzke Vineyards Mourvèdre Columbia Valley $45 91 points
Heaping amounts of black pepper and raw meat aromas are followed by pillowy soft dark fruit and savory flavors that remain light on their feet, stretching out on the finish. It’s a compelling offering of the variety. Editor’s Choice
Upsidedown 2017 Rescue Rosé Horse Heaven Hills $22 89 points
This wine is all Nebbiolo coming from Andrews Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. A pale bronze color, with bright aromas of melon and cantaloupe that lead to dry, lightly spritzy flavors with a tart blast of acidity. It feels a bit weighty at times, but there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be had.
Upsidedown 2016 The Artist Collection Candy Ridge Vineyard Syrah Yakima Valley $50 88 points
Aromas of ember, herb, black pepper, grilled asparagus and char lead to plentiful but still elegant fruit and savory flavors that persist on the finish. It provides a lot of intrigue, but the concentration doesn’t all seem to be there at times.
Upsidedown 2016 The Artist Collection Dead Poplar Estate Vineyard Yakima Valley $50 88 points
This wine is a blend of Mourvèdre (55%) and Grenache. The aromas of white pepper, herb and red cherry seem quite reticent out of the gate. The red and black fruit flavors are on the lighter side of medium bodied, tapering toward the finish. It’s equal parts intrigue and delivery.
Warr-King 2015 Grand Rouge Red Blend Red Mountain $36 87 points
Light aromas of herb, cherry and raspberry are followed by full-bodied, dark fruit flavors backed by lightly chalky-feeling tannins and a warm finish. The fruit seems a bit desiccated.
Warr-King 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain $36 87 points
Aromas of raspberry and cherry compote along with baking spice lead to somewhat lighter styled red and black fruit flavors, with the concentration not always seeming to be there. The tannins are a bit wound up at present.
Warr-King 2015 Syrah Columbia Valley $34 84 points
Aromas of dried and fresh purple fruit lead to lighter styled but ripe fruit flavors with a warm finish. Floral flavors follow. It needs more structure to stand it up.
Washington Hills 2017 Late Harvest Riesling Washington $10 86 points
Honeysuckle, jasmine, lime and ripe peach aromas are followed by sweet fruit flavors, speckled with abundant floral notes. It delivers sweet, easy-drinking appeal. Best Buy
Waterbrook 2015 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $23 87 points
Cocoa, herb, dark chocolate, vanilla and cherry aromas are out front. Fruit and barrel flavors play off each other and continue to intertwine through the finish. Grippy tannins back it up.
Waterbrook 2017 Icon Viognier Columbia Valley $24 86 points
Aromas of vanilla, wilted flower and stone fruit are followed by full-bodied, dry, lightly creamy feeling peach flavors. The oak seems a bit heavy-handed.
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