Below are my Wine Enthusiast reviews for January 2020. Wines are listed alphabetically by winery. Read information on how I review wines here. Read about the Wine Enthusiast rating system here. Read about how to interpret my scores here. All of these reviews are freely available on-line at the Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide. 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.
A whole lot to unpack from the 86 wine reviews in the January Wine Enthusiast, and I’ll write more about more of these wines and wineries in subsequent posts.
First up, what an impressive job College Cellars is doing with its wines (College Cellars 2017 La Laurelia Red Blend Walla Walla Valley $30, 91 points, Editor’s Choice; College Cellars 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley $25, 91 points, Editor’s Choice; College Cellars 2017 Anderson Vineyard Barbera Walla Walla Valley $25, 90 points; College Cellars 2018 Cockburn Ranch Mourvèdre Walla Walla Valley $30, 90 points).
College Cellars is a teaching winery for the Institute of Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College. Tim Donahue (pictured above right) is director of winemaking. Joel Perez (left) is director of viticulture. Sabrina Lueck (below) is instructor of enology, and Danielle Swan-Froese fills out the team as program coordinator.
The program and winery focus on giving students hands-on experience. The program has an illustrious group of graduates that have already had a significant impact on the Washington wine industry. These people include Chris Peterson (Avennia, Passing Time), Elizabeth Bourcier (Cayuse), Steven Thompson (Analemma), Shane Collins (Rocky Pond), Ali Mayfield (Wahluke Wine Company), Brian Rudin (Canvasback), Ryan Crane (Kerloo), Marcus Rafanelli (L’Ecole No. 41), Ryans Raber and Driver (Tertulia), Josh McDaniels (Doubleback), Keith Johnson (Sleight of Hand), Brooke Robertson (Delmas), and the list goes on.
Over 200 graduates are currently employed in the wine industry. “We have 57 winemakers, 26 cellar masters or workers, 22 assistant winemakers, 19 vineyard mangers, and 12 students who are studying at 4 year institutions,” says Lueck. “51 are owners or partners in their business, including wineries, vineyards, vineyard management companies, and sales companies.”
The college has plenty more students in the pipeline. The future for the Washington wine industry couldn’t be brighter. Alternately, for aspiring winemakers and vineyard managers looking for a place to learn…
We talk a lot about the DeLille Cellars Chaleur Blanc and deservedly so. It is consistently one of the top white wines in the state. Continuing in this trend, the 2018 offering is a knee buckler (DeLille 2018 Chaleur Blanc Columbia Valley $35 93 points, Cellar Selection). But we should also be talking about DeLille’s Roussanne. This can be an absolutely stunning, unique wine, and the 2018 offering is just that (DeLille 2018 Roussanne Red Mountain $35, 91 points, Editor’s Choice). It offers aromas of nori, seashell, and tropical fruit with an exquisitely balanced palate. I can’t think of another wine like it coming from Washington (though Latta’s Roussanne also hits a consistently high mark).
Of note, as I’ve written about on Facebook, DeLille recently moved into the old Red Hook Brewery in Woodinville and did an extensive remodel. The tasting room is now open for seated tastings by appointment.
The new red Rhone releases from Saviah Cellars are top notch (Saviah 2017 Reserve Syrah Walla Walla Valley $45 94 points, Editor’s Choice; Saviah 2017 The Stones Speak Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley $55, 93 points, Editor’s Choice). They also offer some crazy good value (Saviah 2017 Syrah Walla Walla Valley $32, 92 points, Editor’s Choice).
But one of the wines that I found most compelling was the winery’s Viognier (Saviah 2018 Saviah Estate Vineyard Viognier Walla Walla Valley $30, 91 points, Editor’s Choice). Fruit for this wine comes from the Rocks District, and it’s like drinking a fresh peach from a glass full of stones. There is a trend of more white wines coming out of Walla Walla Valley, and this is another terrific example.
Then on the value side, there’s Saviah’s Jack series wines, which always offer a lot of bang for the buck (Saviah 2016 The Jack Grenache Columbia Valley $18, 90 points, Editor’s Choice; Saviah 2018 The Jack Red Blend Columbia Valley $18, 90 points, Editor’s Choice). In this great bounty of offerings from the winery, I haven’t even mentioned the 2017 Une Vallée Walla Walla Valley ($38, 93 points, Editor’s Choice). What a set of releases!
In January I issued a 2020 Washington Merlot Challenge to readers to drink at least one bottle of Washington Merlot each month this year. Part of the inspiration was the last couple vintages from Seven Hills Winery, one of which is reviewed here (Seven Hills 2016 Merlot Walla Walla Valley $25, 91 points, Cellar Selection). The 2017 offering is even more impressive.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wines from Time & Direction. Steve Wells started this winery, which focuses on Rhone-style wines, with the 2016 vintage. A tasting room for the winery opened in downtown Walla Walla last year.
Much of Time & Direction’s focus is on fruit from the Royal Slope. I’ve been telling every winemaker who will listen lately about the potential I am seeing from this area – as much as any area in Washington – for Syrah and other Rhone varieties. When we talk about Syrah in Washington, we talk about Red Willow, Boushey Vineyard, and – more broadly – the Rocks District. I believe Lawrence Vineyards, a collection of sites managed by the Lawrence family, and other vineyards on the Royal Slope will become part of this list.
What’s got me so excited? Wines like these from Time & Direction from this region (Time & Direction 2018 Fretboard Corfu Crossing Vineyard Viognier Columbia Valley $25, 92 points, Cellar Selection; Time & Direction 2017 Bruce’s Island Reserve Syrah Columbia Valley $65, 92 points; Time & Direction 2018 UpUpDownDownLeftRightLeftRightBASelectStart Thunderstone Vineyard Grenache Rosé Columbia Valley $22, 90 points, Editor’s Choice). They are not to be missed.
The Royal Slope can bring a fascinating combination of savory notes, such as black olive and smoked meat, not unlike in some respects the Rocks District though without the high pH and associated mouthfeel. The wines can also bring a lovely sense of structure. Compelling Rhone offerings from this area can be found from Gård, Alleromb, Latta, K Vintners, and others. The Royal Slope currently has an appellation application pending.
Looking for wines that offer terrific value? Check out the Merf wines. These come from Ste Michelle Wine Estates winemaker David Merfeld, who heads up winemaking at Northstar. Talking with Merf last fall, his intention is to offer high quality and superb value. He definitely accomplishes that goal (Merf 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $13 90 points, Best Buy; Merf 2017 Chardonnay Columbia Valley $13, 89 points, Best Buy).
The labels are based on the hood of a Camaro, David Merfeld’s first car. The extended Merfeld family has certainly taken notice of the wines. “There’s Merfelds coming out the woodwork!” Merf told me last summer. “Mom and dad are proud.”
Again, more to come on some of the wines below in subsequent posts. Without further ado.
* * *
Andrew Rich 2015 Glacial Columbia Valley $45 87 points
Syrah makes up 52% of this wine, with the balance 26% Mourvèdre and 22% Grenache. The aromas of apple and cherry are lifted and show a bit of booze. Ripe fruit flavors follow, trailing on the finish. The warmth of the vintage shows.
Beauty in Chaos 2016 Red Blend Columbia Valley $13 87 points
Raspberry, cherry, vanilla, coconut and sweet spice aromas are followed by flavors that mix fruit and barrel. Overall, the oak is far out front, and, as a result, it shows some astringency that is a bit distracting.
Betz Family 2017 La Côte Rousse Syrah Red Mountain $62 94 points
For the first time, this wine is blended with a touch of Viognier (3%). It was partially fermented in concrete, and the aromas are lifted with notes of huckleberry, raspberry, herb, orange peel, black pepper and abundant minerals. The blue-fruited palate is silky, soft and fresh, with a fine sense of acidity and tannin structure. It brings a lot of finesse as well. Best after 2024, with a long life after that. Cellar Selection
Betz Family 2017 Domaine de Pierres Syrah Walla Walla Valley $62 93 points
This is the winery’s second offering from its Rocks District Ancient Stones Vineyard. It was fermented 100% whole cluster, and has nuanced aromas of wet gravel, brown stems, grilled asparagus, flower, green olive, orange peel and mineral, followed by a full-feeling, textured, but still elegant palate, full of olive flavors. The finish draws out. It’s a classy, exquisitely made interpretation of this area. Editor’s Choice
Betz Family 2017 Bésoleil Columbia Valley $48 93 points
Grenache makes up 49% of this wine, with the rest Mourvèdre (34%), Counoise (11%) and Syrah. The aromas are very pretty, with notes of white pepper, blueberry, raspberry and mineral. The palate is medium bodied, bringing a sense of delicacy. It’s all about elegance, with a fine sense of peppery spicing that ups the interest. A long finish caps it off. Editor’s Choice
Betz Family 2017 La Côte Patriarche Red Willow Vineyard Syrah Yakima Valley $62 92 points
This wine hails from the state’s first Syrah vineyard. Intriguing aromas of smoked meat, blueberry, coffee, dried herbs and aniseed lead to quite restrained fruit and savory flavors. The overall balance and length is striking. A lot of tannic structure backs it up. There’s no mistaking where the wine comes from. It will have a long life in front of it. Best after 2023. Cellar Selection
Betz Family 2017 La Serenne Boushey Vineyard Syrah Yakima Valley $62 92 points
Coming from one of the state’s top Syrah sites, this wine was fermented 60% whole cluster—more than ever before. The aromas are brooding, with notes of ember, whole blueberry, raspberry and assorted dried herbs. The palate is soft and brings coffee flavors with savory streaks throughout. An extended finish caps it off. This one is all about sophistication, but with a sneaky sense of intensity and enough structure to reward time in the cellar. It only ramps up with time open. Best after 2022. Cellar Selection
Canvasback 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley $55 91 points
Fascinating aromas of assorted dried herb, cherry, dried flower, raspberry and anise are followed by an elegantly styled palate. The tannins give a light squeeze. Far from a big, bold Cabernet, it’s a pretty representation of the variety and vintage, with enough stuffing packed in to do well in the cellar.
Canvasback 2018 Riesling Columbia Valley $30 90 points
Peach, lime leaf, sweet herb, botrytis and Nestea iced tea aromas are followed by off-dry stone fruit flavors, with plenty of Nestea accents. It’s an enjoyable, warmer climate example of the variety with spot-on balance.
Canvasback 2017 Funk Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley $70 88 points
The Rocks District shows itself on the aromas, with notes of green olive, green herbs, tobacco, orange peel and mint. The palate starts out sleek in style, ramping up significantly with time open. Fruit and savory flavors mix.
College Cellars 2017 La Laurelia Red Blend Walla Walla Valley $30 91 points
Light in color and very pretty. Fruit-driven aromas of whole berry, plum and dried herb are followed by blue fruit flavors that bring a sense of elegance and texture. It’s gorgeous. Editor’s Choice
College Cellars 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley $25 91 points
Coming from grapes donated by the Figgins family (Leonetti Cellar, Figgins), cocoa, green herb, thyme, spice, green pepper and whole black cherry aromas set the stage. Soft, light, pretty, acid-driven flavors follow. It impresses. Editor’s Choice
College Cellars 2017 Anderson Vineyard Barbera Walla Walla Valley $25 90 points
The aromas intrigue, with notes of smoke, cedar, dried tobacco and red cherry. A light, elegant palate follows, with a pleasing, juicy feel. The transparency is enchanting.
College Cellars 2018 Cockburn Ranch Mourvèdre Walla Walla Valley $30 90 points
Examples of Mourvèdre are a rarity in this appellation. The aromas pop, with generous helpings of freshly ground black pepper and dark roasted coffee bean, along with fresh herbs. The palate shows more of the same. It displays a sense of lightness and deftness that heightens the interest, with a citrus streak throughout, showing the variety’s lighter side.
College Cellars 2018 Stoney Vine Vineyard Mourvèdre Walla Walla Valley $30 88 points
Examples of this variety are a rarity in the appellation. Aromas of smoke, brown stem, hard candy, pot roast, black pepper and herbs lead to elegant, tart, citrusy fruit flavors. The tannins give a firm handshake. Give it some time to settle in.
College Cellars 2017 Seven Hills Vineyard Sangiovese Walla Walla Valley $30 87 points
Aged in amphorae, this has unique aromas of plum, wet clay, smoke and blackberry, followed by red currant, distant smoke and talc flavors. A medicinal note lingers on the finish. The tannins have a slightly tacky feel.
Dance 2017 Chardonnay Columbia Valley $42 89 points
Aromas of toast, pear, the underside of a pineapple, candlewax, peach and wet slate lead to full-bodied fruit flavors. It shows a lovely sense of texture and richness. The toastiness is quite upfront at present. Give it a bit of bottle aging to integrate.
DeLille 2018 Chaleur Blanc Columbia Valley $35 93 points
Sauvignon Blanc makes up most of this blend at 71%, with the rest Sémillon. Aromas of gooseberry, herb, the underside of a pineapple, miso and toast are followed by full-bodied, intense, richly textured kiwi, pineapple and herb flavors that show great depth. A hyperextended finish follows. It’s the best example of this style in the state. Best after 2022. Cellar Selection
DeLille 2018 Roussanne Red Mountain $35 91 points
Coming from esteemed Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, the wine has aromas that fascinate, with notes of nori, wet seashell and tropical fruit. A full-bodied, fruit-filled palate follows, showing exceptional balance. It has a big-time yum factor and a lingering finish. It’s one of the best example of this variety to come out of the state. Editor’s Choice
Double Canyon 2017 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain $55 90 points
Coming from one of the state’s premier vineyards, this wine has appealing aromas of graphite, blackberry, licorice, spice, black coffee and black cherry, which are followed by well-balanced, medium-bodied dark fruit flavors with tightly wound, slightly gruff tannins that need some time. It shows a sense of poise and polish. Best after 2023.
Freehand 2017 Cabernet Franc Yakima Valley $25 90 points
The aromas delight, fresh and fruit filled, with notes of fresh black currant, plum, boysenberry, tangerine rind, coffee bean and herb, with the palate showing more of the same. A light smoky streak runs through it. It’s a fascinating offering of this variety.
Freehand 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley $28 89 points
The aromas draw you into the glass, with notes of bittersweet chocolate, dark coffee, dried and fresh herb, orange peel, blue fruit, cherry and campfire. The palate is soft, elegant and sumptuous, brightened by lively acidity, with a fine sense of tannic structure backing it all up. It’s a strong inaugural release.
Freehand 2018 Pinot Gris Yakima Valley $16 88 points
Aromas of slate, mango, cantaloupe and papaya lead to lighter-styled, dry fruit flavors. It brings a sense of elegance, not entirely standing on its own, but as a nice accent to a meal. Pair it with cashew-crusted halibut with a mango-kiwi salsa.
Freehand 2018 Oaked Chardonnay Yakima Valley $22 87 points
Peach, lees and corn on the cob aromas are followed by somewhat lighter-styled fruit flavors. It doesn’t all seem to connect together, looking for a bit more texture or oomph.
High Heaven 2018 Estate Grown and Bottled Cloud Mountain Chardonnay Columbia Valley $15 88 points
Light aromas of poached pear, padded butter and spice lead to medium-bodied yellow apple and pear flavors. The palate doesn’t all hold together throughout, but there are plenty of interesting things happening.
High Heaven 2018 Estate Grown and Bottled Starshower Riesling Columbia Valley $15 88 points
This is the inaugural release of this wine. There’s no mistaking the variety, with its aromas of rubbed lime leaf, lime and flower. Off-dry, plentiful white peach and lemon flavors follow. Lively acidity stands it all up.
High Heaven 2017 Majestic Pines Estate Grown and Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $18 87 points
Unsettled seeming aromas of green pepper, fresh herb, tire rubber and anise are followed by lightly concentrated, ripe fruit flavors. It’s an odd mix of overripe and underripe.
High Heaven 2017 Estate Grown and Bottled Roaming Elk Red Blend Columbia Valley $18 86 points
In this blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Merlot, the aromas offer notes of raspberry and cranberry along with red cherry and barrel spice. Butterscotch and cherry flavors follow, showing a slightly tacky feel. The oak gets in the way.
High Heaven 2017 Estate Grown and Bottled Sea of Tranquility Merlot Columbia Valley $18 86 points
High register aromas of baking spice and cherry are followed by creamy butterscotch and cherry flavors. The oak gets out front.
Hightower 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain $40 90 points
Aromas of exotic spice, Craisins, dried thyme, black currant, vanilla and black licorice are out front. Fruit and barrel play off each other nicely on an elegant, cranberry-filled palate. It has a pleasing mouthwatering sense to it.
Hightower 2015 Estate Red Mountain $45 88 points
Cabernet Sauvignon makes up half of this wine, with the rest nearly equal parts of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The aromas offer notes of cocoa powder, dried and fresh herbs, tire rubber, anise and cherry candy, with the palate showing more of the same. It’s remarkably elegant for the vintage and appellation. The reductive note is strong. If it blows off, it easily moves up, because what’s beneath it is beautiful.
Hightower 2015 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Merlot Walla Walla Valley $30 88 points
Fascinating aromas of citrus, pomegranate, cherry and new barrel lead to ripe, full cherry and cranberry flavors. A tart lick of acidity and firm tannins tie it together. The varietal is hard to find, but, still, it’s part successful, part intellectually interesting.
L’Ecole No. 41 2017 Syrah Columbia Valley $25 89 points
Though labeled as Syrah, this wine is more GSM blend, with 21% Grenache and 2% Mourvèdre. Reserved aromas of herbs, raspberry jam, barrel spice and blue fruit lead to ripe, extracted red and blue fruit flavors. The tannins initially bring some grip and astringency, needing time to settle in, but once it does it delivers a big, fruit-filled punch. Decant, or drink after 2022.
Locations NV 6 WA Red Blend Washington $25 89 points
The aromas are reserved, with notes of raspberry preserves and cranberry along with light reductive notes. The flavors are palate coating and rich. A warm, blue and red fruit-filled finish caps it off. It provides a lot of value.
Masset Winery 2015 Primitivo Red Mountain $32 87 points
The aromas offer notes of dried and macerated cranberry, raspberry and fruit leather, seeming a bit advanced. Full-bodied, jammy fruit flavors follow, with a nice lick of acidity pulling it all together.
Masset Winery 2015 Portteus Vineyard Merlot Rattlesnake Hills $32 86 points
Aromas of cherry meat, orange peel, black tea and dried herbs lead to somewhat sweet cherry and green herb flavors in this Merlot, blended with 18% Cabernet Franc. The tannins give a light grip.
Masset Winery 2016 Tempranillo Yakima Valley $32 86 points
Intriguing aromas of macerated cranberry, white pepper and currant lead to quite smoky-seeming flavors with a citrusy finish.
Masset Winery 2016 Puncheon Aged Syrah Horse Heaven Hills $48 82 points
The aromas are reserved, with notes of cherry and berry, showing some volatility. Quite sweet-seeming fruit flavors follow. A warm finish caps it off.
Mellisoni 2017 Boateak Rosé Columbia Valley $45 87 points
Pale salmon in color, with aromas of raspberry, watermelon and herb, followed by just off-dry, broad feeling flavors. It could use a bit more acidity to stand it all up.
Mellisoni 2016 Best Friends Red Blend Columbia Valley $125 87 points
Sangiovese makes up 70% of this wine, with the rest Cabernet Sauvignon. The aromas are brooding out of the gate, with notes of blackberry, cherry, herb and spice. Cranberry-centric flavors, light through the middle, follow. It seems quite dried out.
Mellisoni 2016 Forte Rosso Columbia Valley $65 86 points
This wine is half Malbec, half Cabernet Sauvignon. The aromas provide notes of black currant, flower, anise and fruit leather, seeming unsettled. Somewhat jammy fruit flavors follow. It lacks the concentration to keep it all together.
Mellisoni 2018 Chardonnay Columbia Valley $50 85 points
Aromas of lemon curd, unstirred lees, wilted flower and cider are followed by lean-seeming tropical fruit flavors.
Mellisoni 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $65 85 points
Aromas of cranberry, cherry, baking spice and anise are followed by black tea, cherry and cranberry flavors. It seems overripe, bringing some alcohol along with it but lacking the concentration to tie it together.
Merf 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $13 90 points
Aromas of black currant, cedar, toast, spice, plum, green pepper and cherry lead to dense, tightly backed red and black fruit flavors. It has a lovely sense of freshness, balance, and length—a whole lot of wine for the money. Best Buy
Merf 2017 Chardonnay Columbia Valley $13 89 points
Winemaker David “Merf” Merfeld has made a name for himself making top end Merlot at Northstar. Here, he looks to bring high quality, well-priced wines to the masses and more than succeeds. The aromas offer notes of spice, corn silk and peach. There’s a lovely sense of texture and richness to the palate that carries through the finish. It hits well above its price point. Best Buy
Métis 2017 Red Blend Walla Walla Valley $33 90 points
This is a blend of Syrah (33%), Cabernet Sauvignon (29%), Merlot (19%) and Grenache (19%). It offers aromas of whole berry, carbonic maceration, dried herbs, raspberry and scorched earth, along with light barrel accents. The flavors are tart and elegant, backed by firm tannins. An unusual mix of these varieties that is just a baby now, needing a bit of time in the cellar to show its fullest. Best after 2022.
Mullan Road 2016 Red Blend Columbia Valley $45 90 points
This comes from a Washington label for Cakebread. Plentiful, appealing aromas of herbs, red cherry, fresh tobacco, graphite, coffee and gun smoke are followed by pretty, light and airy fruit flavors. A lovely sense of acidity brightens it. The intensity is dialed back, but the balance is spot-on.
Murray 2016 Red Blend Columbia Valley $18 88 points
Unusual aromas of cranberry, dried cherry and mint lead to orange peel, cherry and herb flavors. A firm tannic structure backs it up.
Murray 2016 Syrah Red Mountain $25 85 points
Aromas of mesquite smoke, herbs and cherry are followed by lightly concentrated cough drop flavors with a strong medicinal streak. It doesn’t all work.
Requiem 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $20 88 points
The second vintage of this wine is a blend of fruit from Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills and Red Mountain appellations. Aromas of cocoa, green pepper, black cherry and black currant are followed by light but nicely balanced fruit flavors.
Rocky Pond 2017 Stratastone Double D Vineyard Columbia Valley $35 91 points
This wine comes from the Rocky Reach area, 15 miles southwest of Lake Chelan, where, unlike the rest of the Columbia Valley, the bedrock is granite. It’s a blend of Grenache (48%), Syrah (33%) and Mourvèdre (19%), with intriguing aromas of raspberry, herbs, orange peel, cherry and whiffs of spice, leading to a flavorful palate that shows a sense of intensity and restraint. Give it some time to open up, and it shines brightly. Best after 2023. Editor’s Choice
Rocky Pond 2017 Clos CheValle Vineyard Syrah Lake Chelan $39 91 points
Somewhat reticent aromas of berry, cigar box and herb lead to a medium-bodied, supremely flavorful palate that shows a sense of sophistication, texture and richness, with plentiful white pepper and citrus accents. It shows the promise for this variety in the appellation. Editor’s Choice
Rocky Pond 2016 Reserve Double D Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $59 90 points
Fruit for this wine comes from the nascent Rocky Reach region at the edge of the Columbia River. Aromas of graphite, whole green pepper, bright berry, coffee and herbs along with a whiff of tire rubber lead to somewhat elegantly styled fruit flavors that ramp up intensity with time open. There’s a lot of promise there.
Rocky Pond 2017 11 Dams Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $39 90 points
Named after the 11 dams on the Columbia River, this wine has aromas of vanilla, cocoa, cherry, herb and spice upfront. The palate offers length and depth, with the tannins giving a firm squeeze. Give it some time to settle in. Best after 2023. Cellar Selection
Rocky Pond 2017 Clos CheValle Vineyard Riesling Lake Chelan $20 86 points
Vibrant jasmine aromas are out front, with ginger, green apple and white flowers trailing behind. Dry Nestea iced tea and jasmine flavors follow. It’s more interesting than successful.
Saviah 2017 Reserve Syrah Walla Walla Valley $45 94 points
This wine is a blend of fruit from Funk and Watermill Estate vineyards in the Rocks District. Knee-buckling aromas of ember, fresh mortared herb, outrageous amounts of green olive, moist earth after it rains and charcuterie plate are followed by a full-feeling, supremely flavorful palate. The green olive-filled finish sails into the distance as far as you want to look, kicking it up a notch. It shows the winery’s hallmark sense of sophistication and detail along with plenty of intensity. Editor’s Choice
Saviah 2017 Une Vallée Walla Walla Valley $38 93 points
Cabernet Sauvignon makes up 67% of this wine, with the rest 22% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc. The aromas are arresting and complex, with notes of coffee, fresh and dried herbs, moist earth, olive and dark raspberry. The palate is textured, layered and flavorful, mixing fruit and savory. A lingering spice- and coffee-filled finish caps it off. Stunning stuff. Editor’s Choice
Saviah 2017 The Stones Speak Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley $55 93 points
The aromas pop, with notes of green and black olive tapenade, fresh herbs, plum, firepit, flower and smoked meat, showing complexity and detail. Full, generous, textured fruit and flavors follow, bringing a sense of layering. It’s like drinking a charcuterie plate. An ember note lingers on the finish. It brings a lot of elegance. Editor’s Choice
Saviah 2017 Syrah Walla Walla Valley $32 92 points
This wine is a blend of fruit from Funk Estate, Watermill, Lewis, and Anna Marie vineyards. The aromas are reserved, with notes of dried thyme, moist earth, green olive and crushed coriander. Very pretty, sleek-seeming fruit and savory flavors follow, with a citrusy finish that impresses. Editor’s Choice
Saviah 2018 Saviah Estate Vineyard Viognier Walla Walla Valley $30 91 points
Coming out of the winery’s estate vineyard in the Rocks District and fermented in concrete egg, the wine boasts generous aromas of ripe peach, honeysuckle, melon rind and mineral, followed by full-bodied, nectarous, textured stone fruit flavors. It’s like drinking a fresh peach in a glass of rocks. Editor’s Choice
Saviah 2018 The Jack Red Blend Columbia Valley $18 90 points
Merlot (73%) takes the lead on this wine, with the rest Malbec (11%), Cabernet Franc (8%) and Petit Verdot (8%). The aromas offer notes of plum, red and black currant and dried herbs. Full-feeling, somewhat jammy flavors follow, with a soft sense of tannic structure. A warm finish caps it off. Editor’s Choice
Saviah 2018 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Chardonnay Columbia Valley $25 90 points
Fruit for this wine comes from Stillwater Creek on the Royal Slope. Aged in Burgundy barrels with weekly lees stirring, the wine features aromas offering notes of lees, clarified butter, ripe peach and talc. A full-bodied, creamy-feeling palate, full of toast and stone fruit flavors follow, with a pleasing sense of vibrancy and restraint. It lingers on the finish. Editor’s Choice
Saviah 2016 The Jack Grenache Columbia Valley $18 90 points
There’s no mistaking the variety, with its raspberry, herb, cherry, white pepper and spice aromas. The palate is rich and full, packing a mouthful of fruit flavors while keeping it all in balance. It delivers a lot of quality and value. Editor’s Choice
Saviah 2018 The Jack Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley $15 88 points
Blended with 10% each Sémillon and Viognier, this Sauvignon Blanc features herb, whole pineapple and lime aromas, followed by full-feeling herb, grapefruit and pineapple flavors. It doesn’t quite all fit together, but there are still interesting things happening.
Saviah 2018 The Jack Chardonnay Columbia Valley $18 87 points
Unusual aromas of whole kiwi, corn on the cob and almond skin are followed by a palate packed full of kiwi and mango flavors. It doesn’t scream Chardonnay, but it’s tasty in its own right.
Seven Hills 2016 Merlot Walla Walla Valley $25 91 points
The aromas are vibrant, with notes of raspberry jam, mortared herb and black licorice. The palate is full flavored, but still fresh, with the tannins giving a tight grip out of the gate, loosening with some time open. The stuffing is beautiful. Give it some time to settle in. Best after 2022. Cellar Selection
Seven Hills 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley $50 88 points
The graphite, green herb, licorice drop, golden raisin, spice cabinet and cherry aromas lean slightly into the green. Medium-bodied cherry flavors follow. A light medicinal streak running through it, distracting a bit from an otherwise lovely, almost Bordeaux-esque wine.
Soos Creek 2016 Terrible Beauty Columbia Valley $30 92 points
Cabernet Sauvignon (88%) makes up the backbone of this wine, with the rest Merlot (8%) and Cabernet Franc from Ciel du Cheval, Dineen and Slide Mountain vineyards. Blackberry, green pepper and spice aromas lead to medium-bodied bell pepper, blackberry and black tea flavors. The tannins are tightly wound at present. Best after 2023. Editor’s Choice
Soos Creek 2017 Soleil Columbia Valley $20 91 points
Merlot comprises half of this wine, with the rest Cabernet Franc (32%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (18%). Quite reticent out-of-the-gate aromas of raspberry, dark fruit, flower, pencil shavings and spice are followed by medium-bodied fruit flavors with quite firmly wound, chewy tannins that need significant time to settle in. Best after 2024. Cellar Selection
Soos Creek 2016 Artist Series #16 Columbia Valley $30 90 points
Cabernet Franc makes up half of this wine, and the rest is Cabernet Sauvignon (45%) and Merlot (5%), with the fruit coming from Ciel du Cheval, Slide Mountain and Two Blondes. The aromas offer notes of fruit leather, black licorice, graphite and medicine cabinet. The baking spice and black fruit flavors show a sense of freshness and elegance, with a lot of structure surrounding them. A medicinal note caps it off. The tannins need some time to settle in.
Soos Creek 2016 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain $40 87 points
This wine is almost all Cabernet Sauvignon (95%), with the rest Merlot. Anise, fruit rollup, black cherry, anise and medicine cabinet notes are out front, with the fruit seeming dried out. The sweet but light flavors have a strong medicinal streak running throughout.
Soos Creek 2016 Sundance Columbia Valley $25 86 points
Half of this wine is Merlot, with the rest equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Aromas of hay, dried cherry and medicine cabinet make up the core. The palate is equal parts sweet and tart, with plenty of medicinal flavors. It’s an odd mix.
Sparkman 2018 As You Wish Sauvignon Blanc Yakima Valley $50 92 points
Fruit for this wine comes from 1985 plantings at Gamache Vineyard. The aromas pop, with notes of gooseberry, lemon, herb and wet slate. The palate is rich and full bodied, redolent with papaya and mango flavors, with plentiful citrus accents. It’s flat-out delicious and brings a sense of seriousness. Editor’s Choice
Sparkman 2017 Gaga Red Blend Yakima Valley $55 90 points
Touriga Nacional makes up 75% of this wine, with the rest Syrah (17%) and Petit Verdot (8%). Fascinating aromas of boysenberry, dried tobacco, green herbs, orange peel and cedar are followed by elegant blood orange flavors, interlaced with light barrel accents. The sense of texture heightens the appeal. It’s equal parts intrigue and delivery.
Sparkman 2017 Baba Red Blend Yakima Valley $55 90 points
This wine is 83% Sangiovese and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark coffee, herb, dried tobacco and cherry aromas are followed by sumptuous, textured red and black fruit flavors. The texture is a big part of the appeal. It doesn’t necessarily scream Sangiovese, but when it’s this tasty, who cares?
Sparkman 2016 Preposterous Malbec Red Mountain $42 89 points
Blended with 22% Syrah, the wine features butterscotch, sweet barrel spice, coffee, plum and fresh cut wood aromas out front, with the oak taking over. The cherry and plum flavors struggle to get to the surface, with the tannins showing some astringency that settles over time. Despite being only 33% new French, the wood at times steals the show, even with all the other good things going on.
Time & Direction 2018 Fretboard Corfu Crossing Vineyard Viognier Columbia Valley $25 92 points
Fruit for this wine comes from an up-and-coming site on the Royal Slope. The aromas pop, with notes of honeysuckle, peach and wet slate. Full-bodied but still fresh, rounded fruit flavors follow—like biting into a ripe peach. It brings a sense of texture and intensity that is captivating and will do well with some time in the cellar. Best after 2021. Cellar Selection
Time & Direction 2017 Bruce’s Island Reserve Syrah Columbia Valley $65 92 points
All of the fruit for this wine comes from Solaksen Vineyard, a place that is quickly establishing itself as one of the top Syrah sites in the state. The Syrah is blended with 5% Viognier, and the aromas are arresting, with notes of blueberry, black olive, flower, smoke and dried herbs. The palate is seamless in feel, with citrus accents and a lengthy finish following. It brings a sense of freshness that ups the interest.
Time & Direction 2017 Old School Syrah Columbia Valley $40 91 points
Two-thirds of the fruit for this wine comes from a new site, Eritage Vineyard in Walla Walla Valley. The rest comes from Solaksen on the Royal Slope, with a pinch of Viognier added to the mix. The aromas show nuance, with notes of olive, firepit, herb, blue fruit, orange zest and crushed rock. The flavors show the same, bringing a sense of freshness and poise. It delights. Editor’s Choice
Time & Direction 2017 Diamond Cutter Red Blend Walla Walla Valley $30 91 points
This wine is mostly Eritage Vineyard Syrah along with pinches of Grenache and Mourvèdre from Boushey Vineyard. The aromas aren’t ready to reveal their charms at present, offering light notes of plum, olive, raspberry and fresh herbs. The palate, on the other hand, is showy, textured and fresh, with olive flavors leading to a tart, citrus-filled finish. The tannins give a squeeze. Give it some time to open up. Editor’s Choice
Time & Direction 2018 UpUpDownDownLeftRightLeftRightBASelectStart Thunderstone Vineyard Grenache Rosé Columbia Valley $22 90 points
Named after the cheat code for an old video game, this wine is a light amber color, with its unfined/unfiltered quality bringing some cloudiness. Hailing from a vineyard on the Royal Slope, it has appealing aromas of pear and strawberry, followed by full but still sleek seeming, rounded feeling fruit flavors with a lovely texture. A lively sense of freshness connects it all. It’s a big-time winner—one of the rosés of the vintage—that has a lot of staying power for some cellaring. Editor’s Choice
Walla Walla Vintners 2016 Cut Bank Estate Vottavo Red Blend Walla Walla Valley $50 91 points
Coming from a vineyard at 1,467 feet in elevation—high by Washington standards—42% Sangiovese is at the heart of this wine, with the rest 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. Graphite, fresh and dried cranberry, barrel spice, sweet dried herb, red cherry and black licorice aromas are followed by a full-feeling palate, redolent with cherry and cranberry flavors. Underlying it all is a lot of acidity and a quite firm, slightly gruff tannic structure. Give it time to settle in. Best after 2023.
Walla Walla Vintners 2016 Cut Bank Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley $50 91 points
Coming from the winery’s estate vineyard that sits at nearly 1,500 feet in elevation, the wine has aromas offering notes of black tea, dried herbs, anise, graphite, black cherry, green pepper and dark chocolate. Soft, elegant, exquisitely balanced fruit and savory flavors follow. The lively acidity and chewy tannin structure up the interest. This site shows a lot of promise. Give it some time in the cellar to see it at its best. Drink after 2023. Cellar Selection
Walla Walla Vintners 2017 Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley $28 90 points
Lovely aromas of dried herb, scorched earth, ripe raspberry, crushed dried leaves and anise are out front. The palate brings lightly tacky-feeling cherry and chocolate flavors, showing the wine’s youth. It needs some additional time in the bottle, but all of the stuffing is there. Best after 2022. Editor’s Choice
Walla Walla Vintners 2017 Waliser Vineyard Cabernet Franc Walla Walla Valley $40 90 points
Aromas of savory herb, pencil eraser, smoke, barrel spice and cherry are out front. Lip-smacking, elegant pomegranate, chocolate and cherry flavors follow, with light grainy tannins backing it all up. It brings a sense of freshness. The tannins need some time to settle in.
Walla Walla Vintners 2017 Sangiovese Columbia Valley $24 90 points
Pale in color, this has bright, fruit-filled aromas of raspberry, cranberry and mineral, leading to light, ethereal red fruit flavors. Tart acidity ties it together. It’s a very pretty example of the variety that will shine at the dinner table.