Seattle Magazine's Eighth Annual Washington Wine Awards

This year we're showcasing wines that best illustrate the distinct qualities of our regions

We’re hearing more these days about “wines of place”—wines that reflect the terroir of a certain vineyard in addition to a larger winegrowing region. In Washington, winegrowers overall are becoming known for hefty reds and lush whites that reflect the heat of the Wahluke Slope or Red Mountain, for example, but also have a balancing acidity that comes from the shift from hot days to cool nights.

But every hillside is unique, and that is partly what the system of American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) is all about: distinguishing a particular area—large or small—from surrounding areas by its climatic, geographical and other characteristics. These “appellations” also help winegrowers set themselves apart in the marketplace. (That’s why a producer can’t call a sparkling wine “Champagne” unless it is from the Champagne region of France.)

So what are the styles emerging in Washington? This is the focus of this year’s eighth annual Seattle magazine Washington Wine Awards—highlighting wines from some of our state’s key AVAs, including Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Lake Chelan, Puget Sound, Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope, Walla Walla and Yakima Valley. The results enlighten all of us on what's being produced from some of the new—as well as some of the older—AVAs in Washington.

Red Wine of the Year
Avennia 2010 Arnaut Syrah, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard, $45
This wine rose to the top of its flight for its “beautiful nose” of ripe raspberry, cherry and spice, with a “vivacious” brightness and long finish. Although it is winemaker (and this year’s Winemaker to Watch) Chris Peterson’s first vintage under the Avennia label, based in Woodinville, he made the right choice in working with fruit—one of the earliest plantings of Syrah in Washington—from last year’s Vineyard of the Year, Boushey Vineyard of Yakima Valley. Peterson (who made wine at DeLille Cellars for seven years) chose to use native airborne yeasts, rather than adding yeast to the wine, and bottled the wine without fining (adding an agent to make the wine clearer) or filtering, thus preserving more of the tiny bits of grape skins and lees that will continue to add body and flavor to the wine as it ages. He feels this method of minimal manipulation also lets the signature of place shine through, and creates “wine with a voice.” We hear it singing!

Red Wine of the Year Finalists:
Chester-Kidder 2008, Columbia Valley, $50
Figgins 2009 Estate, Walla Walla Valley, $85
Rotie Cellars 2010 Northern Blend, Walla Walla Valley, $40
Waters 2010 Tremolo, Walla Walla Valley, $40

White Wine of the Year
Lullaby Viognier 2010, Walla Walla Valley, $35
Winemaker Virginie Bourgue understood the concept of “wines of place” from an early age. In college, she studied viticulture and enology in Avignon in her native France, and then received her master’s degree in enology in Champagne. She made wine for Bergevin Lane and at Cadaretta in Walla Walla, and had the chance to oversee the planting of new vineyards south of town for Cadaretta, before starting her own label, Lullaby Winery. Now she works with winegrowers in the Walla Walla AVA to not only source the best fruit, but also to make sure it is grown, pruned and harvested to her specifications. The results are in: Her wines have a restrained elegance that lets the fruit and minerality shine without being too fruity or too lean. This Viognier charmed our judges for its “rounded balance” and “long finish” with notes of lemon curd and white peach—all characteristics of a well-made Walla Walla Viognier. Once a Seattle magazine Winemaker to Watch, Bourgue is now at her best.

White Wine of the Year Finalists:
Efestē 2011 Feral Sauvignon Blanc, Ancient Lakes, Evergreen Vineyard, $20
L’Ecole No 41 2011 Luminesce, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard, $20
Two Vintners 2011Grenache Blanc, Yakima Valley,  Boushey Vineyard, $25

Read our feature on the Best Wines of the Washington Winegrowing Regions here.
To read the 2013 Washington Wine Awards methodology and view the tasting panelists, go here.
Get the Complete Buying List of Seattle magazine's 2013 Washington Wine Award Winners here.