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Wine Blog Awards

'14 Tour Guide

Reviewed Wineries

Note: This list is available with tasting notes in .pdf form here.

Others have weighed in. As we close out the year, it’s my turn to list my top wines of 2009. First let me say that any such list is, of course, subjective. Perhaps some year I will make a bracket system and compare these wines directly against each other, but until then…

Let's start with some background.

1. To be considered for the list, a review of a wine needed to be published on my blog in 2009. There were a number of wines I sampled toward the end of this year, such as those from Walla Walla, Chelan, Woodinville, and South Seattle that I have not posted to the blog yet unfortunately. These wines will be considered for next year’s list.

2. I evaluated based on rating, my overall excitement about the wine, and price. In terms of rating, all wines below received either a double or single star in my rating system. In terms of excitement, I focused on wines that stood out in the weeks and months after I sampled them.

3. I excluded wines that were considered for last year’s list, even if they were published this year (such as wines from 2008 Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting which were published in January).

4. Although there were many wines I sampled this year, there were many (many) more that I did not. This is one of the things I find the most humbling and exciting about Washington wine. For this reason, there are, as always, some significant omissions.

What follows is therefore a list of Washington wines I sampled and posted on in 2009 that I was the most excited about. Nothing more. Nothing less. As with last year, I included only one wine from each winery. Without further ado…


1. Forgeron Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard 2004 $46
Of the many wines I tasted this year, none wowed me more than this gem from Marie-Eve Gilla at Forgeron. As I described in my original post, this was a wine that literally brought all conversation to a stop. From one of Washington’s finest vineyards and one of its finest winemakers. Reviewed July 16, 2009

2. Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Palengat Vineyard 2006 $83
While the Columbia Valley wine is its equal or better, the Palengat Cabernet is the one that impressed me the most from this vintage. This is Quilceda’s first release from this recently acquired vineyard located near Champoux Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills (the vineyard was planted in the early part of the decade; fruit from this vineyard was previously used by other wineries). This wine stands tall with the other offerings in Quilceda’s portfolio. Reviewed October 26, 2009

3. Betz Family Winery La Serenne Syrah 2007 $55
While the 2007 La Serenne Syrah from Betz Family Winery is probably the least immediately accessible of their new releases, it also brings the most long-term potential. The fruit from Dick Boushey’s vineyard has never been better. This is a dark, brooding, intense wine that needs significant time in the cellar to fully blossom. Reviewed September 14, 2009

4. Leonetti Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2007 $70
In the sequel to Sideways, Miles is waterboarded with this wine. He comes away a believer. Read the original post for a cautionary tale about using decanters with rounded bottoms. Reviewed April 11, 2009

5. Corliss Estates Red Wine Columbia Valley 2004 $65
This is Corliss Estates’ second released vintage, and none of their wines disappoint. This Bordeaux-style blend, while already five years old, will only improve with patience and time in the cellar. Reviewed September 29, 2009

6. Gramercy Cellars John Lewis Reserve Syrah 2006 $65
This is a wine that I literally lay awake thinking about for several weeks after I tried it. Was I thinking about this wine because I couldn’t fall asleep, or could I not fall asleep because I was thinking about this wine? It’s not clear. The bad news? This wine is long sold out at the winery. The good news? The 2007 vintage will be released next spring and is even better. Reviewed March 31, 2009

7. DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill 2006 $70
While many in Washington have gone big, this wine is notable for its elegant expression of a Bordeaux-style blend. The fruit comes from one of Washington’s oldest vineyards. Reviewed February 7, 2009

8. Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2007 $50
The grapes for this wine come from Cayuse’s oldest plantings in the “rocks” region of the Walla Walla Valley AVA. It shows on this exceptional offering. Reviewed December 28, 2009

9. Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006 $42

Winemaker John Abbott creates some of Washington’s most compelling Cabernets. But he doesn’t stop there, making a Syrah, Chardonnay, and a Merlot that are also standouts. Reviewed August 2, 2009

10. 21 Grams 2006 $125
This Bordeaux-style blend is a collaboration of two of Washington’s finest wineries, Waters and Gramercy. One hundred cases are made annually with each vintage bearing a unique label made by artist Makoto Fujimura. Reviewed in 2008 Walla Walla Spring Release Report

11. Andrew Will Sorella Horse Heaven Hills 2006 $75
2009 marks the twentieth year since Andrew Will Winery was founded by Chris Camarda. The Sorella is the winery’s flagship wine with fruit from Champoux Vineyard. Reviewed April 10, 2009


12. Kerloo Cellars Les Collines Vineyard Syrah 2007 $32
Few new wineries excited me as much in 2009 as Ryan Crane’s Kerloo Cellars. This is one of two inaugural releases from this winery. The second is a Walla Walla Valley Syrah that goes head to head with this wine. Having tasted a number of wines in the barrel, there is much to look forward to from this winery. Reviewed September 11, 2009


13.
Trust Cellars Columbia Valley Riesling 2008 $16
Riesling excels in Washington, and this offering from winemaker Steve Brooks shows the state at its best. Reviewed July 14, 2009


14. Beresan Stone River Walla Walla Valley 2005 $35
Beresan is a Walla Walla Valley winery nestled up against Pepper Bridge Vineyard. Fruit for the 2005 Stone River comes from Cobblestone Estate Vineyards and Pepper Bridge Vineyard. This is a thrilling wine that displays a unique aromatic and flavor profile from others in the state. Reviewed February 5, 2009


15. Rotie Cellars Southern Blend 2007 $35
This is another wine I have spent a lot of time thinking about in 2009. The 2007 Southern Blend is a wine that becomes more and more impressive with each sip. This is one of the inaugural releases from Sean Boyd’s Rotie Cellars, a winery on the way up. Reviewed September 11, 2009


16. Spring Valley Vineyards Uriah Walla Walla Valley 2006 $50

Spring Valley Vineyards is situated in a unique spot in the Walla Walla Valley, far north from most of the AVAs’ vineyards. The winery consistently produces exceptional wines that possess the ever elusive terroir. Reviewed July 21, 2009


17. Owen Roe Syrah Lady Rosa Yakima Valley 2007 $42

While Owen Roe is located in Oregon, many of the wines they produce use grapes from Washington such as this Syrah from the Yakima Valley. Reviewed April 28, 2009


18. Buty Sémillon, Sauvignon, Muscadelle Columbia Valley 2008 $24

For Buty winemaker Caleb Foster, this is the seventeenth vintage he has made this Bordeaux-style blend in Washington. It shows on this gorgeous wine. Reviewed September 15, 2009


19. K Vintners The Boy Walla Walla Valley 2007 $45

Fruit for this wine comes from Cayuse’s Armada Vineyard. It seems like it might be time for a tasting alongside Cayuse’s God Only Knows Grenache which hails from the same vineyard. Reviewed July 22, 2009


20. Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Select Walla Walla Valley 2006 $48

Walla Walla Vintners favors an opulent style that is rich with chocolate and cherry aromas and flavors. In exceptional years, the winery makes a vineyard select wine. This was clearly such a year. Reviewed December 2, 2009


21. Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2006 $50

Pepper Bridge is situated in a picturesque location south of downtown Walla Walla. Winemaker Jean-Francois Pellet crafts some of the state’s most compelling Cabernets. Reviewed April 12, 2009


22. Cadence Winery Taptiel Vineyard Red Mountain 2006 $44

While others accrue the accolades, winemaker Ben Smith quietly makes wines that are equally as good and that will outlive them all. Reviewed January 6, 2009


23. Mark Ryan Winery Dead Horse Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2007 $45

With 2007 one of Washington’s finest vintages and the fruit for this wine coming from one of the state’s best vineyards, how could acclaimed winemaker Mark Ryan McNeilly go wrong? He could not and does not on this excellent, age-worthy wine which perfectly displays the bold, rich style he favors. Reviewed October 20, 2009


24. Reynvaan Family Vineyards The Contender Walla Walla Valley 2007 $55

The Contender is one of the inaugural releases from Reynvaan Family Vineyards. This Syrah, which is co-fermented with Marsanne, is nothing short of exceptional. The fruit is from the initial plantings of the family's first vineyard, In the Rocks, in the southern section of the Walla Walla AVA. Vigneron Christophe Baron of Cayuse Vineyards serves as consultant. Reviewed December 22, 2009


25. Bunnell Family Cellar Boushey-McPherson Vineyard Syrah 2006 $42

Winemaker Ron Bunnell learned the trade at Chateau Ste. Michelle, Beringer Vineyards, and Kendall-Jackson before turning his attention to his own small, family-run winery. This Rhone varietal focused operation produces consistently impressive results. Reviewed May 6, 2009


26. Dusted Valley Vintners Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2006 $45

Dusted Valley Vintners is one of a number of eastern Washington wineries that opened tasting rooms in the Woodinville area in 2009. While this Reserve Cabernet was worth the five hour trip for west-siders, now you truly have no excuse. Reviewed September 25, 2009


27. Pomum Cellars Shya Red Wine Yakima Valley 2005 $38

Back in May then blogger/now Washington wine retailer Paul Zitarelli and I drew swords – each looking for a wine that was both extremely impressive and that the other had not tasted. While this battle continues (think “House of Flying Daggers” where seasons pass by as the two are locked in combat), this was a strong opening move by Mr. Zitarelli. In addition to this excellent Bordeaux-style blend, Pomum Cellars, located in Woodinville, is also one of a small number of Washington wineries to show success with Tempranillo. Reviewed May 13, 2009


28. Amavi Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2007 $28

Few make better wines at more compelling price points than Walla Walla’s Amavi Cellars. The 2007 Syrah is a beautiful expression of this varietal from perhaps Washington’s finest vintage. Reviewed October 6, 2009


29. Gorman Winery Evil Twin Red Mountain 2007 $55

Chris Gorman makes bold, expressive, small lot wines that display no shortage of fruit, tannins, French oak, and alcohol. Look for Gorman’s Collaboration Series V from Grand Reve in the future. Reviewed September 18, 2009


30. Olsen Estates Chardonnay Yakima Valley 2007 $25

What’s this you say? A Chardonnay on my list of top wines of 2009? No one could be more surprised than I am, yet here it is. This wine is a tribute to the varietal and proof that even long-time enemies can sometimes make up and be friends. Reviewed December 4, 2009


31. Walter Dacon Winery C’est Syrah Magnifique 2006 $42

Walter Dacon Winery is located in Shelton, Washington. Winemaker Lloyd Anderson, who previously worked with Doug McCrea at McCrea Cellars, devotes himself to Rhone and Mediterranean-style wines. Reviewed April 9, 2009


32. Va Piano Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia & Walla Walla Valley 2006 $38

Va Piano’s motto is “He who goes slowly, goes safely and goes far.” This Walla Walla winery not only boasts one of the most picturesque settings in the valley, it also produces some of its most enjoyable, understated wines. Reviewed August 5, 2009


33. Ardenvoir Sémillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008 $22

Ardenvoir is a second label for Walla Walla’s Chateau Rollat that focuses on white wines and roses. Reviewed November 19, 2009


34. Long Shadows Pirouette Columbia Valley 2006 $55

Long Shadows Pirouette is a conundrum for me. I consistently enjoy this wine – a Bordeaux-style blend with a bit of Syrah - from winemakers Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus. That said, I often wonder whether the unique expression of Washington gets lost somewhere in the blend. Reviewed July 23, 2009


35. Lantz Cellars Syrah Rattlesnake Hills 2006 $28

Lantz Cellars is another new Washington winery celebrating its inaugural releases in 2009. This wine from winemaker Kevin Lantz came in first as the People’s Choice at Seattle Uncorked’s Annual Syrah Event. Reviewed August 7, 2009


36. Adams Bench Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon “V” 2006 $42

Adams Bench is located in Woodinville in a pastoral setting far away from the area’s office parks. Chris Camarda of Andrew Will Winery is the winery's long-time consultant. Reviewed February 18, 2009


37. Col Solare Red Wine Columbia Valley 2006 $75

Col Solare is the flagship winery for Ste. Michelle Estates. The winery recently built a new facility high on Red Mountain. This is the first release produced at the new facility. Reviewed August 27, 2009


38. Balboa Winery Sayulita 2006 $40

Tom Glase serves as owner and winemaker for Balboa Winery. The winery is situated on the corner of Pepper Bridge Vineyard next to Beresan (Glase also serves as winemaker at this winery). Balboa uses neutral oak for its wines to put the focus on the fruit and the vineyards. This wine is named after a favorite surfing spot. Reviewed in 2008 Walla Walla Spring Release Report


39. Nefarious Cellars Riesling Stone’s Throw Vineyard 2007 $18

Nefarious Cellars is located in the recently approved Lake Chelan AVA. Heather Neff makes the white wines and husband Dean makes the reds. Fruit for this Riesling comes from one of the winery’s estate vineyards. Reviewed April 29, 2009


40. Waters Syrah Forgotten Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2006 $40

Waters Winery makes a number of vineyard-designated Syrahs. None are more compelling than this offering from Forgotten Hills Vineyard, located in the middle of the Walla Walla Valley AVA. Reviewed in 2009 Walla Walla Spring Release Report


41. Reininger Carménère Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2006 $45

Reininger created its first Carmenére in the 2002 vintage. Since that time it has gone on to become a winery favorite. Reviewed in 2009 Walla Walla Spring Release Report


42. Syncline Wine Cellars Cuvee Elena Columbia Valley 2007 $35

Syncline Wine Cellars is located in the Columbia Gorge. This Southern Rhone-style blend shows winemaker James Mantone at his best. Mantone will also be making wines as part of Grand Reve’s Collaboration Series. Reviewed December 10, 2009


43. Guardian Cellars Chalk Line Columbia Valley 2006 $25

While Guardian Cellars’ winemaker calls this a “kitchen sink” wine, it does not resemble my kitchen sink in any way. Reviewed February 25, 2009


44. Long Shadows Sequel Syrah 2006 $55

Long Shadows is a venture by former Ste. Michelle Estates CEO Allen Shoup who pairs some of the world’s top winemakers with Washington fruit. Here winemaker John Duval, whose previous efforts include Penfolds’ Grange, sees what he can coax out of the state’s Syrah with impressive results. Reviewed July 23, 2009


45. Soos Creek Red Wine Artist Series #5 2005 $28

David Larsen is one of a number of winemakers who had his start in the Boeing Wine Club. After spending twenty-eight years in the finance department at Boeing, Larsen retired in 2004 to spend more time on winemaking and other endeavors. Reviewed February 9, 2009


46. Tranche Cellars Rousanne Viognier Columbia Valley 2007 $30

Tranche Cellars is a second winery from Michael Corliss, Lauri Darneille, and Kendall Mix. The first winery, Corliss Estates, had its inaugural release last year. The third, Red Mountain Vineyards, will have its first release in 2010. Reviewed on May 22, 2009


47. Glencorrie Cuvee Marquis Columbia Valley 2006 $45

Glencorrie is another new winery marking its first release. The winery is located on the way in to Walla Walla. Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas currently serves as winemaker. Reviewed June 19, 2009


48. Domaine Pouillon Gewurztraminer Columbia Gorge 2008 $17

Domaine Pouillon is located in the Columbia Gorge in Lyle, Washington. The winery is named after owners Alexis and Juliet Pouillon. Reviewed December 15, 2009


49. Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2005 $25

Novelty Hill is located in Woodinville. Mike Januik serves as winemaker. Reviewed February 14, 2009


50. Barnard Griffin Riesling Columbia Valley 2008 $8

I first tried this wine alongside several other Rieslings as part of my monthly Five Under Fifteen series. Washington makes many outstanding Rieslings, but few can compete with this wine on quality and price. Reviewed August 31, 2009

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13 comments

  1. cityroute16 Says:
  2. What I like most about your Top 50 is being able to return to your original postings and compare. Looking at some top lists, all you get is the number and the wine. Thanks for putting out a great wine site and Happy New Year and here's hoping it is a great one for everyone!

     
  3. Thanks for the comment cityroute16 and best wishes for the start of 2010!

     
  4. Anonymous Says:
  5. is $50 your average price point on these? The trend is value. How about an under $15 list. That would be useful.

     
  6. Anon, didn't determine the average price. Check out my monthly Five Under Fifteen for thoughts on value wines http://www.wawinereport.com/search/label/Five%20Under%20Fifteen Was hoping to post a "best of" list from these. May still get to it but the year is drawing to a close.

     
  7. PaulG Says:
  8. A very nice list, Sean. Of course everyone will find something missing but as you point out, can't taste them all. I look forward to spending more time together in the new year. Best regards, PaulG

     
  9. Thanks Paul. Happy New Year to you and Mrs. G.

     
  10. Kevin Pogue Says:
  11. Hi Sean-

    Nice list. I just stopped by Forgeron and purchased 2 bottles of the '04 Champoux cab - there's a great story behind that wine. I haven't tried it yet, but trust your judgment. Hope to see you in Wally World next year.

    Kevin

     
  12. Hi Kevin, glad to hear you picked up the Cab and will be interested to hear what you think. I'm quite jealous that you can just swing by Forgeron and other W2 wineries whenever you want! Have a good start to the New Year and hope to seen you soon. Best wishes.

     
  13. Great post, Sean! I am already working on wines to blow your mind in 2010. Happy New Year!

     
  14. Happy New Year PZ! Have as much fun as is legal down in Utah.

     
  15. Ky Says:
  16. Sean,
    Great list although I was surprised not to see anything from Saviah Cellars. Not sure of the cache, but Wine & Spirit did name them a Top Winery about the time Charles Smith got his from WE. I've found their wines to be outstanding and well priced. Maybe they'd have made a longer list. Lots of competition out there.

     
  17. Ky, thanks for the comment. Good call on Saviah Cellars. I think Richard Funk makes top notch wines - at very reasonable prices as you mention. Unfortunately I didn't post any notes on the Saviah wines to the blog in 2009. I'll correct that in 2010!

     
  18. Ky, and in a "you can't make this up" coincidence, I just ran in to Richard Funk at Pete's Bellevue today! He's in town for a winemaker dinner btw. http://www.facebook.com/saviahcellars

     

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