For our 10th anniversary, we reached out to wineries whose wines had been declared Wine of the Year in our past tastings. We asked them to submit the current vintage, as they define it, of that same wine. A five-person panel tasted these wines openly, as opposed to blind tasting, and discussed what these flagship wines say about the state of Washington’s wine industry and the progress it has made. Three main themes emerged:
1. Sense of Grape. Typicity is an important aspect of winemaking. Syrah should taste like Syrah, Cabernet like Cabernet, and so on. Our panel noted that a common theme across these previous winners is typicity: The wines are doubtless examples of their respective grapes. Several of the wines tasted, for example, were Cabernet Sauvignons from the 2012 vintage, and they showed the hefty tannic structure and deep black fruits we’ve come to expect from a good vintage of Washington Cabernet.
2. Sense of Place. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the tasting for our judging panel was that these wines were deeply expressive of the particular part of Washington in which they were grown. Boushey Vineyard Syrah (Avennia’s 2012 Arnaut) tasted uniquely like Boushey fruit (that alluring mix of blueberry fruit and smoked meat); Buty’s 2012 Rediviva of the Stones possessed the funky, meaty, briny character we expect from the rocks of the Walla Walla Valley; Côte Bonneville’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon had the unmistakable exotic fruit/exotic spice character that makes DuBrul Vineyard so fascinating.
3. Sense of Balance. The biggest evolution our judges noticed over the course of the last decade has been a movement toward balance. A commonality among all the wines tasted in this panel was the lack of out-of-balance elements. No hot/overt alcohol. No clunky vanilla-bomb oak. No moisture-sucking tannin monsters. More earthy notes. More tertiary complexities. More natural acidity. This common sense of balance made this particular tasting deeply appealing to our judges.
Reds and Whites of the Year winners submitted for the 10-year retrospective tasting
Best White Wine of the Year Winners
2014: Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen 2013 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley
2013: Lullaby 2011 Viognier, Walla Walla Valley
2012: Dowsett 2013 Gewürztraminer, Celilo Vineyard, Columbia Gorge
Best Red Wine of the Year Winners
2014: Mark Ryan Winery 2012 Lonely Heart Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
2013: Avennia 2012 Arnaut Syrah, Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley 2012: Betz 2012 Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
2011: DeLille Cellars 2011 Grand Ciel Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
2010: Corliss 2009 Red Wine, Columbia Valley
2009: Côte Bonneville 2008 Red Wine, DuBrul Vineyard, Yakima Valley
2007: Long Shadows 2012 Feather Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
2006: Buty 2012 Rediviva of the Stones, Rockgarden Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley