Below are my Wine Enthusiast reviews for April 2021. 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.
Fifth generation Spanish winery Bodegas Valdemar announced its arrival in Washington in 2018 by building a 20,0000-square foot production facility and tasting room in Walla Walla Valley that is as grand as any in the state. The winery, named Valdemar Estates, subsequently opened in the spring of 2019.
The winery also smartly hired Marie-Eve Gilla to make its wines. Gilla previously made her mark at Forgeron Cellars, crafting classy Rhône and Bordeaux-style wines as well as some best-in-state Chardonnay. We now have the first of Gilla’s Valdemar wines, and they are nothing short of extraordinary.
Gilla has always shown a gift for white winemaking, but the winery’s 2018 DuBrul Chardonnay takes things to another level – the perfect confluence of great winemaker, great site, and great vintage. It’s textured, structured, and flavorful. It’s one of the very best Chardonnays I’ve ever had from Washington – an accomplishment for this winemaker and for the state (Valdemar 2018 DuBrul Vineyard Chardonnay Yakima Valley $50, 94 points, Editor’s Choice).
Another gorgeous white is the 2019 Sagemoor Vineyard Roussanne. This is part of the winery’s Component Trials series, experimenting with different sites and varieties. Roussanne can be a tricky one, but when done well, it can make some of the most impressive white wines in Washington. That is what we have here, with its aromas and flavors of white peach, pear, and spice. Again, the acid balance is exquisite (Valdemar 2019 Component Trial 019-A Sagemoor Vineyards Roussanne Columbia Valley $40, 93 points, Editor’s Choice).
Valdemar’s reds include three stunning Walla Walla Valley Syrahs. The first comes from Blue Mountain Vineyard. There’s volume, texture and weight to the blueberry, plum, and herb flavors, but there’s also captivating deftness and dexterity. It shows what can be accomplished with this variety in this area of the valley (Valdemar 2018 Blue Mountain Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley $75, 94 points, Editor’s Choice).
The next Syrah comes from Stoney Vine Vineyard. Many wines from the Rocks District focus on brawn and the region’s intense savory profile. This wine shows this sub-appellation can also provide plenty of grace and finesse, with rich, silky earth, plum, and orange rind flavors (Valdemar 2018 Stoney Vine Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley $75, 93 points, Editor’s Choice).
Finally, there is the Walla Walla Valley Syrah, with all of the fruit coming from LeFore Vineyard, also in the Rocks District. Aromas of earth, red plum, and huckleberry lead to palate coating fruit flavors. The balance is impeccable (Valdemar 2018 Syrah Walla Walla Valley $65, 93 points, Editor’s Choice).
These wines are not only delicious and outrageously high quality, they are also in Gilla’s distinctive style. Along with the stately building and Valdemar’s plans to plant in the North Fork area, they announce the winery as a major player in Walla Walla Valley’s present and future.
April’s Wine Enthusiast reviews also include two reserve level wines from Gramercy Cellars. Founded in 2005, Gramercy is a winery that zigged when everyone else zagged.
Many Washington wineries launched in the mid-2000s focused on displaying the power that the state’s wines can bring. Gramercy instead made wines that focused on subtlety and a brighter acid profile.
This marked the beginning of a trend that numerous other wineries have subsequently followed, of lower oak, deliberately higher acid, food friendly wines. However, 15 years later, no one is doing that style better than Gramercy (Gramercy 2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $95, 93 points, Cellar Selection; Gramercy 2017 John Lewis Syrah Walla Walla Valley $87, 92 points, Editor’s Choice).
Matthews Winery was founded in 1992, and their tagline is “Bordeaux-inspired, Washington crafted.” While the winery has focused most recently on the Cabernet-driven aspects of Bordeaux wines in terms of reds, its latest offerings explore Right Bank-style, Merlot-dominant blends in the inaugural release of the Cuvée and Reserve Cuvée.
“We’ve been working to place a Merlot-dominant blend next to our Cab-dominant blend, because we believe that Merlot is equal [to Cabernet] in everything you could want from this state in a red varietal. It’s sensational,” says Matthews proprietor Bryan Otis.
Sensational it is. The winery’s 2018 Cuvée is 60% Merlot and the rest near equal parts Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc. It starts out still in its shell but quickly opens to reveal aromas and flavors of dark chocolate, spice, cherry, and cocoa powder. The palate is seamless and layered. It’s a whole lot of wine for the money and brings plenty of immediate appeal (Matthews 2018 Cuvée Columbia Valley $34, 93 points, Editor’s Choice).
The winery’s Reserve Cuvée, however, is more aimed toward the future. Just short of being able to be varietally labeled as Merlot, it’s tightly wound with raspberry, cherry, and spice flavors. Give it a few years in the cellar to see it at its best (Matthews 2018 Reserve Cuvée Columbia Valley $85, 93 points).
Rocky Pond Winery meanwhile is spearheading exploration of the Rocky Reach area, which has been proposed as its own sub-appellation of the Columbia Valley. Like the Lake Chelan appellation just to the north, Rocky Reach is unique in that it has granitic bedrock rather than the basalt found throughout most of the rest of the Columbia Valley.
Rocky Pond’s Double D Vineyard has fist-sized cobblestones strewn about the grounds (check out the images on the winery’s website). The combination of soil and climate give the wines a truly unique profile (Rocky Pond 2017 La Domestique Reserve Double D Vineyard Columbia Valley $45, 92 points, Cellar Selection; Rocky Pond 2017 Reserve Double D Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $59, 91 points, Editor’s Choice).
One of the interesting evolutions in Washington of late has been wineries exploring lower oak, early release styles. We see that with the 2019 Le Doubblé Troubblé Merlot. The flavors of pomegranate and plum are fresh and pure. Give it a decant to see it at its best (Le Doubblé Troubblé 2019 Dry Hollow Vineyard Merlot Columbia Valley (OR) $30, 91 points, Editor’s Choice).
They say slow and steady wins the race. I don’t know about slow, but Saviah Cellars has won the steady race many times over, producing always-delicious wines that punch well above their weight class. See below for the full list, but I want to focus here on two of the winery’s white offerings.
Cayuse Vineyards and Reynvaan Family Vineyards have long demonstrated that top quality Viognier can come out of the Rocks District. However, those wines can be near unattainable. Here Saviah offers a wine that you not only can get your hands on, it is also exceptionally well-priced (Saviah 2019 Estate Vineyard Viognier Walla Walla Valley $30, 91 points, Editor’s Choice).
The winery also offers a lovely Chardonnay from the newly approved Royal Slope appellation. Again, both the wine and the value impress (Saviah 2019 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Chardonnay Columbia Valley $25, 91 points, Editor’s Choice).
Sticking with the white wine theme, Lisa Callan at Callan Cellars has two delicious Boushey Vineyard offerings. Picpoul is planted in microscopic amounts in Washington, but is clearly capable of greatness (Callan 2019 Boushey Vineyards Picpoul Yakima Valley $25, 91 points, Editor’s Choice). The same can be said of Grenache Blanc (Callan 2019 Boushey Vineyards Grenache Blanc Yakima Valley $25, 90 points, Editor’s Choice).
These varieties will always remain niche in Washington, but I also expect more producers to work with them and more vineyards to plant them in the coming years. It is clear Picpoul and Grenache Blanc are well-suited to the state, as these wines from Callan as well as others ably demonstrate.
In terms of value wines, the 2018 Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard and Winery g3 Cabernet makes one sit up and pay attention. It brings depth and intensity rarely seen at this price (Goose Ridge 2018 g3 Estate Grown Family Owned Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $15, 91 points, Best Buy).
As in every vintage, the L’Ecole No. 41 Semillon continues to be one of the best values in the state. The 2019 vintage, however, brings a little something extra. It’s the best Semillon I’ve had from this esteemed producer, and that is saying something (L’Ecole No. 41 2019 Semillon Columbia Valley $15, 92 points, Best Buy).
Looking at wines priced in the mid-20s, Grounded Wine Co. and Headturner Wine Co. offer two winners (Grounded Wine Co. 2018 Collusion Red Blend Columbia Valley $23, 91 points, Editor’s Choice; Headturner 2018 The Nerve Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain $25, 91 points, Editor’s Choice).
Finally, Calendar (made by Woodhouse Wine Estates) and Idaho’s Huston Vineyards give two delicious, aromatic whites. Calendar’s is Muscat Ottonel-driven (Calendar 2019 White Blend Yakima Valley $14, 90 points, Best Buy). Huston’s is Riesling dominant, with the wine name coming from Chicken Dinner Road where the winery is located (Huston 2019 Chicken Dinner White Blend Snake River Valley $16, 90 points, Editor’s Choice). Both are delicious.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Woodward Canyon 2018 Barbera. This wine has everything you want from the variety – bright, tart, fresh fruit and a big zing of acidity (Woodward Canyon 2018 Estate Barbera Walla Walla Valley $32, 92 points, Editor’s Choice).
Without further ado.
* * *
92 wines reviewed in the April issue of Wine Enthusiast.
10,000 Hours 2018 Red Mountain $35 92 points
Plum, black currant and barrel spice aromas are followed by broad dark fruit and spice flavors that show plenty of concentration and intensity. It brings a real sense a depth from start to finish. Editor’s Choice
10,000 Hours 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain $35 90 points
This wine is still wound up tightly right now, with notes of toasty oak, herb and dark fruit. Blackberry and black cherry flavors follow. The tannins are tightly wound. There’s a lot of goodness to be had. Give it a decant. Editor’s Choice
Battle Creek NV Yamhela Vineyard Blanc de Noir Sparkling Blend America $45 90 points
This was given an American label, but don’t be fooled—this is all Willamette Valley fruit. Strawberry and raspberry aromas lead to bright, fresh flavors. There’s a lot to like.
Be Human 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $17 91 points
This wine is unmistakably Cabernet, with its aromas of black currant, spice and dark fruit. The palate brings seriousness uncommon to see at a wine at this price, rich through the middle with plenty of structure to back it up. A light medicinal streak runs in the background. Editor’s Choice
Be Human 2018 Columbia Valley $17 89 points
This vintage offers a bounty of fruit, and this wine is a great example of it. Aromas of light toasty oak meld with plum, leading to bountiful black currant and raspberry flavors. There’s pleasing balance throughout.
Bergevin Lane 2016 Moonspell Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley $35 88 points
With this 100% varietal, aromas of gummy, cinnamon and cherry are followed by green pepper, vanilla and cherry flavors with a lightly grainy feel. Give a short decant.
Calendar 2019 White Blend Yakima Valley $14 90 points
Consisting mostly of Muscat Ottonel, the aromas pop, with notes of Mandarin orange spritz, flower and honey. It delights by drinking just about bone-dry, remaining light on its feet, and bringing structure rarely seen for the variety. Best Buy
Callan 2019 Boushey Vineyards Picpoul Yakima Valley $25 91 points
Aromas of whole lemon and lemon oil are followed by a rounded palate and quite puckering fruit flavors. There’s a big kick of acidity that delights. Pair it with lemon risotto and prawns. Editor’s Choice
Callan 2019 Boushey Vineyards Grenache Blanc Yakima Valley $25 90 points
Coming from one of the state’s top vineyards, the nose of this wine offers green apple, lemon zest and wet rock leading to a tart, puckering and sleek lemon twist flavor. It’s a thoroughly delicious, high-acid wine. Pair it with scallop ceviche with kiwi and lime. Editor’s Choice
Callan 2019 Rosé Yakima Valley $0 88 points
Pale pink with an orange tint, this wine is 70% Cinsault and 30% Grenache. Aromas of strawberry and peach are followed by full feeling flavors that show some sweetness but with enough acidity to pull it off.
Chasing Rain 2018 Merlot Red Mountain $25 91 points
This wine is a lot of what there is to love about Washington Merlot. It offers an opulent mouthful of ripe fruit flavors, with plenty of structure to back it all up. Editor’s Choice
Chasing Rain 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain $25 90 points
Red Mountain Cabernet at this price? Yes, please. Blackberry, dried herb and spice lead to palate-coating fruit flavors with plenty of structure. It shows impressive balance. Editor’s Choice
Chasing Rain 2018 Red Mountain $25 88 points
Aromas of chocolate and cherry lead to soft fruit flavors. There’s a lot of structure surrounding them, upping the interest. Decant if drinking in the near term.
Claar 2018 White Bluffs Vineyard Estate Grown & Bottled Syrah Columbia Valley $30 87 points
Light aromas of plum and wood spice are followed by somewhat lighter-styled black pepper and plum flavors. The concentration seems a bit light at times, but what’s there pleases.
Elevation Cellars 2013 Monolith Columbia Valley $41 88 points
Cabernet Sauvignon makes up 70% of this wine, with the rest Merlot (14%) and near equal parts Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. The aromas bring notes of dried herbs, celery salt and dried cherry. Tire rubber and cherry flavors follow, with the tannins showing some astringency.
Elevation Cellars 2016 Black Peak StoneTree Vineyard Tempranillo Wahluke Slope $38 87 points
Aromas of vanilla, baking spice, wood and cherry lead to vanilla-laden, creamy-feeling flavors backed by astringent tannins. The oak gets far out in front of the fruit.
Elevation Cellars 2013 Jammin’ Columbia Valley $25 87 points
This wine is 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Malbec. The aromas bring notes of fresh garden herbs, hay, cocoa, cherry and dark chocolate. Despite the age, the palate is bunched up and short. It brings surprising acidity given the warmth of the vintage.
Gård 2017 Winemaker’s Select Lawrence Estate Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $85 91 points
The aromas bring notes of raspberry compote, coffee and spice. Plentiful cherry and black licorice flavors follow, with the lightly grainy tannins giving a squeeze. Coffee notes linger on the finish. This one needs time to be fully appreciated but has good stuffing.
Gård 2017 Lawrence Estate Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $40 90 points
Roasted coffee bean and dark chocolate aromas are upfront, with cherry behind. Lighter-styled vanilla and coffee flavors follow, with a pleasing sense of texture and balance. It’s a restrained offering of the variety. The oak plays a prominent part in the show but plays it well.
Gård 2018 Lawrence Vineyards Chardonnay Columbia Valley $28 90 points
The aromas offer notes of candlewax and crayon. There’s plenty of deftness to the lightly creamy flavors, keeping the interest high, with lovely balance to it all.
Gård 2016 Reserve Grand Klasse Lawrence Estate Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $55 89 points
The aromas offer notes of dark roasted coffee bean, green pepper, dried herbs, orange rind and cherry. Sleek coffee and cherry flavors follow. Coffee notes linger on the finish. Like a number of wines from this vintage, the fruit concentration is light, but what’s there is tasty.
Gård 2017 The Don Lawrence Estate Wines Red Blend Columbia Valley $24 88 points
Cabernet Sauvignon makes up a little more than three-quarters of this wine, with the rest Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. The aromas offer notes of cherry, tobacco and mesquite, not seeming entirely settled. The flavors are pulled back, surrounded by bright acidity and smoky flavors.
Gård 2017 Grand Klasse Reserve Lawrence Vineyards Roussanne Columbia Valley $28 88 points
The aromas bring notes of toast and char that are quite prominent. Aromas of nut oil follow. The flavors are sleek and savory, with pleasing acidity. There are good things happening if the oak integrates.
Goose Ridge 2018 g3 Estate Grown Family Owned Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $15 91 points
A black currant aroma is at the fore of this wine, followed by notes of spice and herb. There is a whole lot of depth and intensity to the dark fruit flavors. It’s absolutely chock-full of fruit and structure. Best Buy
Gramercy 2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $95 93 points
Aromas of mocha, piercingly pure cherry, graphite and cedar box lead to a textured, graceful palate. The style is very pulled back and is all about elegance and grace. It brings a fine sense of acidity and tannin structure. Pair it with ratatouille. Best after 2025 with a very long life beyond that. Cellar Selection
Gramercy 2017 John Lewis Syrah Walla Walla Valley $87 92 points
This wine is light in color for the variety and vintage. The aromas bring notes of peat, dried stem and moist soil. The elegant, textured smoked meat flavors meanwhile are all about grace and precision. A lingering finish follows. As always with this producer, it’s a wine intended to be enjoyed with food. Pair it with grilled lamb chops. Editor’s Choice
Grounded Wine Co. 2018 Collusion Red Blend Columbia Valley $23 91 points
The aromas bring notes of caramel, plum, tobacco and cherry. The luscious, plump, juicy fruit flavors have more than enough acidity and tannin structure to hold them up. Editor’s Choice
Headturner 2018 The Nerve Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain $25 91 points
This is an appropriately named, attention-getting wine. The aromas draw you into the glass with notes of dried herbs, plum and black currant. The flavors are fresh and lively, with a lightly grainy feel to the tannins and pleasing depth of flavor. Editor’s Choice
Headturner 2018 Flyaway Chardonnay Horse Heaven Hills $25 88 points
Panna cotta and vanilla make up the aromas and the flavors. A creamy feel caps it off, along with a light medicinal accent. It finishes warm.
History 2016 Mont Elise Vineyard Gewürztraminer Columbia Gorge $30 92 points
Fruit for this wine comes from some of the oldest vines in the Columbia Gorge, planted in 1968. Generous aromas of Mandarin orange, flower, lychee and ginger lead to just off-dry drinking, exquisitely balanced fruit flavors that are light on their feet but bring intensity. It’s gorgeous, exhibiting the area’s acidity and mineral streaks. Editor’s Choice
History 2017 The Pines Vineyard Zinfandel Columbia Valley (OR) $65 92 points
Fruit for this wine comes from the oldest vines in the Pacific Northwest, planted in the late 1800s. Appealing aromas of raspberry, cranberry and baking spice are followed by a broad but sophisticated palate. It’s a tribute to the variety. Editor’s Choice
History 2017 Columbia Valley $40 92 points
Coming from some of the oldest vines in the Pacific Northwest, this wine is 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec and 9% Merlot. The aromas are pulled back, with notes of plum, dried leaves, cherry and whiffs of tar. The flavors are plump, joyful and well-balanced, with an emphasis on purity. It’s a testament to old vine fruit—and all about sophistication. Editor’s Choice
History 2017 Windrow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley (OR) $75 91 points
This side project from the Oregon’s Stoller focuses on some of the oldest vines in the Pacific Northwest, with this one coming from the first commercial plantings in the valley (1981). It leans into the variety’s savory side, with aromas of fresh huckleberry, marionberry, nori, dark soil and whiffs of whole green pepper. The soft, supple flavors show sneaky intensity. It hangs on the finish. The oak is pulled back, letting the fruit shine. This is all about sophistication. Editor’s Choice
Huston 2019 Chicken Dinner White Blend Snake River Valley (ID) $16 90 points
This is mostly Riesling (83%), with the rest Muscat Blanc and Roussanne. Aromas of lychee, pink grapefruit rind and white flowers jump from the glass. Dry, sleek and focused lemon and iced tea flavors follow, hanging around on the finish. Editor’s Choice
Huston 2019 Chicken Dinner Rosé Washington $19 88 points
Coming from an Idaho producer, this pale salmon wine with a gold tinge could be varietally labeled as Mourvèdre. The aromas bring notes of apple and raspberry leading to tart, medium-bodied flavors. There’s a lot to like.
Huston 2018 Malbec Snake River Valley (ID) $32 88 points
Asphalt aromas are at the fore and eventually give way to green pepper, orange essence, exotic spice and loose gravel. Reserved, bunched up fruit flavors follow. The tannins give a grip, and the acidity is bright. It’s not clear where it’s all going.
Huston 2019 Chicken Dinner Red Blend Idaho $18 87 points
Fruit-forward aromas of plum, huckleberry and dried herbs lead to tart, center-focused green pepper and cherry flavors with some tart acidity behind them. There are good things happening, but it comes off as a bit green.
Kennedy Shah 2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley $55 87 points
Aromas of vanilla, garden fresh herb, tar, dried black currant and black cherry lead to a palate that paints around the edges. There’s brightness to the acidity, with the tannins giving a light squeeze.
Kennedy Shah 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley $18 87 points
The aromas bring notes of brown and green stem, dried leaves, hay and plum followed by tart tobacco and hay flavors. The acidity of the vintage is primary. Put it on the dinner table to see it at its best.
Kerloo 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley $18 90 points
The aromas suggest notes of star fruit, grass, tropical fruit and herb. Bright, light on their feet kiwi skin and pineapple rind flavors follow. It’s a very pretty, food-friendly offering. Pair it with halibut with a pineapple-kiwi relish.
L’Ecole No. 41 2019 Semillon Columbia Valley $15 92 points
L’Ecole has been carrying the banner for this variety in Washington for decades. This wine has everything there is to love about the variety, with textural richness and flavor intensity along with plenty of acidity to back it up. Best Buy
Le Doubblé Troubblé 2019 Dry Hollow Vineyard Merlot Columbia Valley (OR) $30 91 points
This is fascinating—an Oregon side of the Columbia Valley Merlot in a Rhône-shaped bottle released extremely early with the oak pulled way back. Aromas of red plum, muscat gummy and pomegranate lead to pleasantly pure, textured, layered fruit flavors. It’s a radically different interpretation of this variety. Give it a bit of additional time in bottle or decant to see it at its best. Editor’s Choice
Le Doubblé Troubblé 2019 Gewürztraminer Columbia Gorge $30 89 points
Boom! The aromas explode with notes of lychee, ginger and white flowers, bringing vitality. The palate drinks dry and is light on its feet but with plenty of flavor, with mouthwatering acidity that brings it home.
Maison Bleue 2018 Frontière Funk Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley $75 91 points
The aromas immediately place this wine in the Rocks District, with notes of moist earth, black pepper, peat and firepit, along with orange rind. Soft, plush fruit and savory flavors follow, bringing restraint and sophistication alongside a lightly creamy feel.
Maison Bleue 2018 Voyageur LeFore Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley $50 90 points
Coming from a Rocks District vineyard known for its quality but never the area’s signature funk, this producer’s fruit-forward style is on display. Fresh berry, orange rind, flower and gummy bear aromas lead to elegant, pure fruit flavors. It’s a vivid display of this area and vineyard.
Maison Bleue 2018 Gravière Stone Valley Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley $65 90 points
Bright aromas of berry, gummy and cherry along with whiffs of smoke are followed by fruit flavors that bring purity. The balance is lovely.
Marion-Field 2016 Toby Tylor Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley $28 88 points
This wine explores the variety’s greener, more savory side, with notes of stem, green and poblano peppers, flower, cocoa and cherry. There’s plenty of density to the flavors. It might be too green for some tastes, but there are good things happening.
Matthews 2018 Reserve Cuvée Columbia Valley $85 93 points
This is the inaugural release of this wine, with Merlot making up just under three-quarters and the rest Cabernet Franc (16%), Cabernet Sauvignon (8%) and Petit Verdot (2%). Still settling in, baking spice aromas are out front, followed by notes of cinnamon and raspberry. Fruit and barrel intertwine on the palate. It needs time, but the stuffing is all there. Best after 2024.
Matthews 2018 Cuvée Columbia Valley $34 93 points
This is a new offering from this long-time winery, a blend of 60% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Cabernet Franc. The aromas take some time to get going, with notes of cocoa powder, barrel spice, dark chocolate, cherry and whiffs of green pepper. Ripe black currant and raspberry flavors follow, bringing layering and seamlessness. It sticks around for a long time on the raspberry- and cocoa-filled finish. It is absolutely delicious. Editor’s Choice
Mercer 2017 Malbec Horse Heaven Hills $25 89 points
The aromas are reserved, with notes of plum and dried herbs. Plump but still light, appealing fruit flavors follow, dipping in the middle. Pleasingly bright acidity accent it.
Mercer 2016 Petit Verdot Horse Heaven Hills $32 89 points
The aromas offer notes of garden herbs, blue fruit, crushed plum, orange, flowers and vanilla, with the vanilla and plum flavors being balance and polish. The variety’s acidity keeps it all in focus, though the oak gets a bit out front.
Mercer 2017 Merlot Horse Heaven Hills $25 88 points
Brooding dark raspberry aromas lead to somewhat streamlined-seeming blueberry and plum flavors. The vintage’s acidity supports it all.
Mercer 2017 Reserve Syrah Horse Heaven Hills $42 88 points
Aromas of forest floor, brown stem, red apple and flower are followed by light, graceful fruit flavors. It’s part intrigue, part delivery, with good things happening, but the concentration seems light.
Mercer Bros. 2019 Chardonnay Horse Heaven Hills $17 89 points
Pear, apple and candlewax aromas lead to light but creamy feeling peach flavors. There’s a mouthwatering aspect to it that ups the interest.
Mercer Bros. 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills $20 89 points
Blueberry and plum aromas announce themselves. Ripe, plush flavors follow. Herb notes linger on the finish. There’s a pleasing sense of balance throughout. It’s hard to pin down as Cabernet, but who cares?
Mercer Bros. 2018 Edge of Heaven Red Blend Horse Heaven Hills $20 87 points
Plum, medicine and asphalt aromas are followed by plump, fleshy blue fruit, green herb and smoke flavors that paint around the edges. The medicinal notes provide some distraction.
Next 2017 Red Blend Columbia Valley $13 85 points
Aromas of smoke and Vicks VapoRub lead to flavors that are plump around the edges and lighter in the middle.
Old Tavern Farm 2018 Big Barn Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain $24 88 points
This wine doesn’t seem to have fully settled in initially, with notes of asphalt, spice, cedar, cigar box and cherry cordial. Full-bodied fruit flavors follow, with all of the structure that this appellation brings. Time will tell if the aromas and palate sync up.
Palencia 2016 El Viñador Petit Verdot Wahluke Slope $50 88 points
The aromas are bright, with notes of raspberry, cranberry and green herbs. The palate brings a whole lot of acidity and tannin. A warm, chocolate-filled finish caps it off.
Pambrun 2017 Chrysologue Walla Walla Valley $65 90 points
Cabernet Sauvignon makes up three-quarters of this wine, with the rest Merlot (17%) and Cabernet Franc. Reductive aromas dominate initially, with notes of asphalt and wet tar followed by plum, blue fruits and berries. The palate shows flashy fruit flavors and acidity of the vintage. Time should bring it all together. The stuffing is there.
Pambrun 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley $70 90 points
The oak leads on the aromas initially, with notes of vanilla in front of cherry and raspberry. The fruit flavors are bunched up right now, extending over time. It’s a light, pretty offering of this variety.
Pambrun 2017 Merlot Walla Walla Valley $60 88 points
Aromas of red apple skin, cream, cherry cordial and raspberry gummy lead to center focused fruit flavors. It wants more around the edges.
Pamplin 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $50 88 points
This is 100% varietal. The aromas are wound up tight, and the palate is grainy and gritty right now. The concentration seems light, as with many wines from this vintage, but the acidity is impressive. Some time should bring it all together. Best after 2025.
Rickshaw 2018 Red Blend Washington $16 90 points
This is a blend of 30% Malbec, 28% Merlot, 17% Sangiovese, 14% Cabernet Franc and 11% Syrah. The aromas pop in notes of raspberry, blueberry and spice. The palate shows pleasing intensity and sophistication. Editor’s Choice
Rocky Pond 2017 La Domestique Reserve Double D Vineyard Columbia Valley $45 92 points
Merlot comprises over three-quarters of this wine, with the rest Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Appealing aromas of dried herbs, cherry and raspberry lead to a zippy currant flavor that fleshes out over time. The acidity is tart and bright, lifting it all up. Best after 2023. Cellar Selection
Rocky Pond 2017 Reserve Double D Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $59 91 points
This wine comes from a newer site in the Rocky Reach region, with the grapes grown on granite bedrock soils—a rarity for Washington. It has classic Cabernet aromas of cherry, crushed herbs, currant, cedar and olive. The palate is medium-plus in feel, soft, reserved and understated. Bright acidity provides support. Give it some additional time in the cellar. Editor’s Choice
Rocky Pond 2019 Double D Vineyard Semillon Columbia Valley $24 90 points
Fruit for this wine comes from the young Rocky Reach region south of Chelan. Reticent pear aromas lead to textured stone fruit flavors. Lovely acidity stretches throughout.
Rocky Pond 2019 Double D Vineyard Roussanne-Marsanne Columbia Valley $24 89 points
Fruit for this wine comes from the Rocky Reach growing region. A 50-50 blend, the aromas are light but the palate is broad feeling and textured, leading to a warm finish. There are a lot of good things happening.
Rocky Pond 2019 Clos CheValle Vineyard Gewürztraminer Lake Chelan $24 87 points
The aromas are reserved for the variety, with notes of lychee and flower. Light floral flavors follow, with the concentration not always seeming there.
Saviah 2018 The Funk Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley $65 92 points
This Syrah is cofermented with 4% Viognier, and its aromas are bright, with notes of fresh orange zest, black olive, medicine, smoked meat and firepit. Soft, plush, velvety flavors follow. Orange rind notes linger on the finish. It has a juicy feel that ups the interest. The Viognier plays a prominent role at present.
Saviah 2018 Une Vallée Walla Walla Valley $40 91 points
This is 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc. With fruit coming from McClellan, Pepper Bridge, Anna Marie and Eritage vineyards, the aromas bring notes of plum, blue fruit, earth, dried and fresh herbs and flowers. Soft, lighter-styled coffee, cherry and chocolate flavors follow. It’s all about grace.
Saviah 2019 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Chardonnay Columbia Valley $25 91 points
This wine comes from the recently approved Royal Slope appellation, and the aromas show pleasing subtlety, with notes of pear, crayon and wet stone. The lightly creamy stone fruit flavors are light on their feet, bringing the bright acidity typical of the vintage. The balance impresses, and it lingers on the finish. Editor’s Choice
Saviah 2019 Estate Vineyard Viognier Walla Walla Valley $30 91 points
Very varietal aromas of rich peach, pear, spice and flower are followed by fuller-feeling but still restrained stone fruit flavors. The concrete egg fermenting shows, giving the wine pleasing mineral accents. It brings intriguing acidity for the variety. A long finish keeps the interest up. Editor’s Choice
Saviah 2018 The Stones Speak Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley $55 91 points
This wine is a classic expression of Rocks District fruit, with notes of green olive tapenade, chopped parsley, flower, orange rind, soot and, of course, a whiff of funk. Broad, expansive medicine and olive flavors follow, showing intensity and depth.
Saviah 2018 Reserve Syrah Walla Walla Valley $45 90 points
The aromas are reserved, with notes of green olive, cigar box, medicine and firepit. Sleek plum and savory flavors follow. It’s pleasing, but all seems quite pulled back.
Saviah 2017 Tempranillo Walla Walla Valley $38 90 points
Fruit for this wine comes from Funk, Dugger Creek and Watermill Estate vineyards. The aromas bring notes of funk, roasted coffee bean, fresh and dried tobacco and ember. A savory, graceful, dried tobacco-filled palate follows. It’s equal parts intrigue and delivery.
Saviah 2017 Big Sky Cuvée Columbia Valley $40 90 points
Merlot makes up half of this wine, Cabernet Sauvignon a quarter, and the rest Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The aromas intrigue, with notes of wet rock, cigar box, dark chocolate and cherry. The flavors bring pleasing restraint but also plushness—a winning combination. Medicinal notes linger on the finish.
Saviah 2017 Lewis Vineyard Syrah Yakima Valley $50 89 points
Firepit and Kalamata olive aromas are followed by pillowy soft smoke and medicine flavors. It brings plenty of goodness, but the medicinal notes distract.
Saviah 2018 Syrah Walla Walla Valley $32 89 points
The aromas draw you into the glass, with notes of ember, funk, plum and coffee. With fruit coming from Watermill, Funk, Lewis and Anna Marie vineyards, the palate is more elegantly styled but still flavorful. It’s a very pulled back, pretty expression of the variety.
Stemilt Creek NV Earthen Red Blend Columbia Valley $15 88 points
Cocoa, green pepper and baking spice aromas are followed by broad, seamless flavors of green pepper, cherry and a bit of smoke. Pleasing acidity enlivens it.
Stemilt Creek NV Boss Lady Adelaide AJ Mathison Estate Grown Syrah Columbia Valley $28 88 points
The aromas offer notes of cocoa, sweet barrel spice and red fruit. The palate is light but flavorful, tapering toward the blue fruit-filled finish. There’s less concentration than the listed abv would suggest.
Stemilt Creek 2017 Successive Generations Estate Grown Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley $30 86 points
The aromas offer notes of dried tobacco, dried orange rind, cherry and barrel spice. Creamy-feeling, lightly smoky flavors follow. It all seems a bit dried out.
Stemilt Creek 2017 Thomas Cycle Mathison Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $28 85 points
Braised green pepper and black cherry aromas are followed by soft fruit flavors that bring a sense of elegance. Dried orange rind notes linger on the finish. The fruit seems quite underripe.
The Soldier 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $22 90 points
The aromas are fruit-forward in notes of plum and black currant accented by baking spice. The flavors are ripe and luscious. Pleasing acidity ties it all together.
Valdemar 2018 Blue Mountain Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley $75 94 points
This is a flat-out beautiful expression of valley Syrah. The aromas draw you into the glass, with notes of blueberry, plum and herb. The palate brings weight and volume but never gets bogged down, showing plenty of deftness and dexterity. The balance throughout is captivating as is the exceptionally lengthy, flavorful finish, kicking it up a notch. Gorgeous stuff. It wins on grace, balance and sneaky intensity rather than brawn. Editor’s Choice
Valdemar 2018 DuBrul Vineyard Chardonnay Yakima Valley $50 94 points
Winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla has consistently made some of Washington’s most delicious Chardonnay, and here at her new assignment working with some of the state’s best fruit, she takes it to another level. It’s all about subtlety, with aromas of apple, pear, spice and whiffs of pineapple. The palate is textured and flavorful, but it’s the balance that captivates. Structure, balance, texture, acidity: This wine has it all—a true accomplishment for this winemaker and for the state. Editor’s Choice
Valdemar 2018 Stoney Vine Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley $75 93 points
Rocks District wines are sometimes known for their brawn and outrageousness. This example shows the area is plenty capable of making wines focused on grace and finesse, too. The aromas are brooding, with notes of moist earth, blue fruits, plum and orange rind. The palate is rich in flavor and silky soft in feel, loaded with blue fruit flavors. The balance is exquisite and the length impressive. It’s a very pretty, classy offering from the area but with no shortage of hedonism. Editor’s Choice
Valdemar 2018 Syrah Walla Walla Valley $65 93 points
Almost all of the fruit for this wine comes from the LeFore Vineyard. Aromas of earth, red plum, orange rind, huckleberry and spice lead to full-feeling, palate-coating flavors. It shows a lot of layering, detail, depth, finesse and freshness. The balance is impeccable. Editor’s Choice
Valdemar 2019 Component Trial 019-A Sagemoor Vineyards Roussanne Columbia Valley $40 93 points
This is a classic example of the variety, with notes of pear, white peach, toast and savory spice. The palate is flavorful, broad and textured. The acidity balance is exquisite. It’s a standout. Editor’s Choice
Woodward Canyon 2018 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon Washington $99 93 points
Dark chocolate, barrel spice, vanilla, cherry and licorice aromas are followed by luscious black fruit flavors. There’s plenty of richness, texture and seamlessness along with a whole lot of structure. A long finish caps it off. It’s all about hedonism, but still possesses impressive balance, a classically Woodward styled wine. The oak is forward at present. Give it some time in the cellar or decant. Best after 2024. Cellar Selection
Woodward Canyon 2018 Estate Barbera Walla Walla Valley $32 92 points
This variety is an extreme rarity in the state let alone in the valley, though this producer has been making it for more than 20 years. The fruit-forward notes of cherry, dark raspberry and bramble capture the attention. Bright, tart, acidity-driven flavors deliver. It’s thoroughly delightful. Pizza anyone? Editor’s Choice
Woodward Canyon 2018 Artist Series #27 Cabernet Sauvignon Washington $59 90 points
This wine isn’t ready to reveal itself right now, with locked up aromas of chocolate, cocoa, cherry and spice. Coffee and cherry flavors follow. Give it some additional time in the cellar to blossom.