Washington Wine Report is an independent publication focused on bringing Washington wine to you and bringing you to Washington wine. Our goal is:
  • To help you select Pacific Northwest wines at a variety of price levels
  • To keep you up-to-date about the Northwest’s wineries, vineyards, and individuals
  • To help you plan trips to wine country
  • To connect you to the larger wine community

Sean P. Sullivan

2019 Tour Guide

Reviewed Wineries

The Fresh Sheet - reviews of recent and current Washington wine releases - for today includes wines from Betz Family Winery, Guardian Cellars, Gorman Winery, SYZYGY, Spring Valley Vineyard, Col Solare, and Cadaretta.

Betz Family Winery – Fall Releases

Betz Family Winery
’s Fall Releases live up to the expectations that accompany such a highly regarded winery. The 2008 Besoleil is as fine a Grenache blend as the winery has made. The 2008 La Cote Patriarche - which marks the twentieth vintage from these Red Willow vines - shows the depth and complexity that can only come from such age. Of the 2008 fall releases, winemaker Bob Betz says that the differences in site were particularly magnified in the 2008 wines. He describes the 2008 La Serenne – another stellar release of this wine – as “more brooding than it’s been in years.” This is the tenth year that Betz has been using these same rows at Boushey Vineyards.

Betz Family Winery Besoleil Grenache Columbia Valley 2008 $45

Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) A thrilling, aromatic nose redolent with red fruit, stone, earth, raspberries, and game. Intensely pure, rich red fruit on the palate that just hangs on and on at the finish. Shows just a bit of alcohol at times. 82% Grenache, 9% Mourvedre, 9% Syrah. Ciel, Olsen, and Alder Ridge vineyards. 14.8% alcohol. Sampled at 68 degrees

Betz Family Winery La Cote Patriarche Syrah Yakima Valley 2008 $55

Rating: ** (Exceptional) Stains the glass with a purple tinge. The nose pops on this wine with bacon fat, floral notes, and earth. A rich, layered wine with bright acidity, chewy tannins and concentrated fruit flavors. 100% Syrah. Red Willow Vineyard. 14.5% alcohol. Sampled at 68 degrees

Betz Family Winery La Cote Rousse Syrah Red Mountain 2008 $55

Rating: ** (Exceptional) A nose to linger over with smoke, bacon fat, red and black fruit, and kisses of chocolate. Seamlessly stitched together on a palate rich with fruit and perfectly balanced acidity. Sails off into the distance. 100% Syrah. Ciel du Cheval and Kiona vineyards. Sampled at 68 degrees

Betz Family Winery La Serenne Syrah Yakima Valley 2008 $55

Rating: ** (Exceptional) Dark as night with a purple tinge at the rim. Fairly closed up on the nose at present but with coaxing reveals black fruit, blueberries, lavender, milk chocolate, traces of licorice, and the famous Boushey funk. The palate is intense and dark and takes you down a rabbit hole of fruit and earth. It emerges with a long, slightly lemony finish. Give two years. 14.8% alcohol. Sampled at 68 degrees

Gorman Winery – Fall Releases

A visit to Gorman Winery – now only open twice a year for release events – tells you everything you need to know about what will be in the bottle. Guitars hang from the wall alongside pictures of rock n’ rollers. The musical selection on my recent visit? Metallica’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls;’ Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star;’ and Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades.’ Yes, it’s hard to maintain one’s objectivity about the wines with such songs playing in the background. The musical analogies are apropo as Gorman’s wines are like listening to a stereo with each of the knobs turned far to the right. The fruit is big; the oak big, the tannins big. These are each gigantic wines in Gorman’s bold, distinctive style.

Gorman Winery Zachary’s Ladder Columbia Valley 2008 $28

Rating: * (Excellent) Very pretty aromatics of currant, red fruit, and cashews. On the palate, a big wine with a whole lot of grip and chewy, tart fruit. A pretty big hammer for the money. Alcohol shows through a bit at times. Give six to twelve months. 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Syrah, 4% Petit Verdot. 15% alcohol. Aged 20 months in French oak. 700 cases produced.

Gorman Winery The Bully Red Wine Red Mountain 2007 $42

Rating: * (Excellent) Leaps from the glass with high-toned cherries, red licorice, and earth. Big and grippy on the palate with chewy red fruit flavors. A dry, tart wine. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. Aged 20 months in new French oak. 15% alcohol. 450 cases produced.

Gorman Winery The Pixie Syrah Red Mountain 2008 $42

Rating: * (Excellent) Abundant red fruit, licorice, and earth accented by oak. A big, rich, chewy, opulent wine with a big lick of tannins. 100% Syrah. Aged 20 months in French oak (90% new). 225 cases produced.

Gorman Winery The Evil Twin Red Mountain 2008 $60

Rating: ** (Exceptional) A perfumed nose marked by licorice, spice, oak notes, and black cherry. On the palate, a gigantic, colossal wine with an iron fist grip of fruit and tannins and an extended finish. Alcohol shows through at times. Give two years. 65% Syrah, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. 300 cases produced.

Gorman Winery The Albatross Red Mountain 2008 $85

Rating: ** (Exceptional) A perfumed nose with blackberry, balsamic, pencil lead, and licorice. Again, a monstrous, big beast of a wine that is an exclamation point on the palate. Hugely tannic and drinking very young right now. Give two to three years. 66% Cabernet Sauvignon; 34% Petit Verdot. Kiona Vineyard. Aged 20 months in new French oak. 120 cases produced.

Gorman Winery The Cry Baby Late Harvest Chenin Blanc Columbia Valley 2009 $25

Rating: * (Excellent) Dried pineapple and honey on an aromatic, alluring nose. A rich palate loaded with sugar but perfectly balanced by acidity. A perfect end to any evening. Barrel fermented in new French oak. 12.5% alcohol. 170 grams Residual Sugar.

Guardian Cellars

The latest Guardian Cellars releases maintain the winery’s signature of over delivering for their price point. The 2008 Chalk Line in particular is about as high quality a wine as you will find in Washington for $25.

Guardian Cellars Chalk Line Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $25

Rating: * (Excellent) Initially closed up on a nose that shows dusty chocolate aromas, blackberries, blueberries, and spice. On the taste, a big, rich bold wine that grabs you and shakes you with intense black fruit flavors. Finishes a bit hot. 31% Cabernet, 27% Syrah, 21% Merlot, and 21% Cabernet Franc. Aged 17 months in new French oak. 525 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Guardian Cellars Gun Metal Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $37

Rating: * (Excellent) Blackberry, spice, dark chocolate covered cherries, and licorice mark an aromatic wine. On the taste, ramps up, dips down, then comes back on the mid-palate like a freight train. A big lick of tacky tannins ties it all together. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc. Conner Lee Vineyard. Aged 22 months in 100% new French oak. 14.9% alcohol. 300 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


What’s this? An outrageously high quality Washington Syrah under $35? Indeed, Winemaker Zach Brettler has produced a wine of outstanding quality from the 2007 vintage at a price point below most of its peers.

SYZYGY Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $24

Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Pleasing smoky Syrah notes combine with red fruit, a touch of mint, and spice. Big and rich with fruit on the palate. Comes off as a bit tangy at times. 50% Syrah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 11% Malbec. Wallula, Conner Lee, Minnick Hills, and Stone Valley vineyards. Aged 23 months in French oak. 948 cases produced.

SYZYGY Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2007 $33

Rating: ** (Exceptional) Roasted meats, violets, and purple fruit mark a compelling nose. Rich and full of fruit on a palate that boasts an extended finish. 100% Syrah. Seven Hills, Les Collines, and Morrison Lane vineyards. Aged 18 months in French oak. 435 cases produced.

SYZYGY Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006 $36

Rating: * (Excellent) Blueberries, tobacco, and mint on a very distinctive nose. Tart and rich with fruit on a wine with mouthwatering acidity. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Conner Lee, Sagemoor, Klipsun, and Wallula vineyards. Aged 21 months in French oak. 455 cases produced.

SYZYGY Saros Red Wine Columbia Valley 2006 $45

Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Pepper, plums, and green notes mark the nose. A bit lean on the palate in terms of fruit but still nicely done. 50% Malbec, 25% Tempranillo, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Conner Lee, Stone Valley, and Sagemoor vineyards. Aged 21 months in French oak. 188 cases produced.

Spring Valley Vineyard

Spring Valley Vineyard wines are always distinctive in style with a unique herbal quality that comes from this vineyard. The wines always push the envelope in terms of alcohol level but generally pull it off. I recommend serving at 62 degrees.

Spring Valley Vineyard Uriah Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2007 $50

Rating: * (Excellent) A very lightly aromatic nose with lots of dust, baker’s chocolate, very light cherries, rose hips, and a distinct herbal streak. Big and opulent on the palate with abundant dry cherry fruit wrapped with a firm layer of tannins. Tart on the finish. Give one year. 60% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Malbec. 14.8% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Spring Valley Vineyard Frederick Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2007 $50

Rating: * (Excellent) Abundant dark chocolate and earth on the nose along with jammy fruit and high-toned cherries. Loaded with rich cherry and light herbal flavors backed by firm tannins. A big, intense wine. Hangs around on the finish. Alcohol shows through at times. 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot. 15.2% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Spring Valley Vineyard Nina Lee Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2007 $50

Rating: + (Good) A light mint aroma on the nose along with pepper, dried herbs, milk chocolate, and dried cherries. Palate is thick and syrupy. Alcohol gets a bit intrusive at times. 100% Syrah. 15.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.


Winemaker Marcus Notaro of Col Solare describes 2007 as “a special year.” Indeed it was for Washington, and Notaro has perfectly captured the vintage in Col Solare’s 2007 Red Wine. Notaro describes the wine as, “Powerful and rich but without being over the top and edgy.”

Col Solare Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $70
Rating: ** (Exceptional) A thrilling nose with aromas of spice, vanilla, black cherry and licorice. Big and power packed on the palate with tightly wound fruit, beautifully integrated tannins, and silky oak flavors. A wine with a long life ahead of it. Best I have had from this winery. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Klipsun, Cold Creek, Andrews Horse Heaven, Weinbau, Hedges, Four Feathers, Stone Tree, and Coyote Canyon vineyards. Aged in 85% French and 15% American new oak barrels. 14.5% alcohol.

Erratum: Please note that the published note for the 2007 Col Solare Red Wine was originally listed as having a rating of Excellent (*) instead of Exceptional (**) - the actual rating I gave this wine when I sampled it. I discovered this error when reviewing my tasting note database. Both this post and the database were subsequently updated after rechecking my original notes. My sincere apologies to the winery and to my readers for this error.

The Cadaretta Highclimber is a 100% Sangiovese hiding under the label of a Red Wine. The name Highclimber is a tribute to the timber heritage of the Anderson and Middleton families who own the winery.

Cadaretta Highclimber Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $50
Rating: + (Good) A very appealing, varietally correct nose with cranberry, earth, and a touch of dusty chocolate. Good fruit expression and abundant cranberry flavors but comes up a bit short on the finish. 100% Sangiovese. Desert Hills Vineyard, Yakima Valley. Aged for 18 months in 100% French oak (50% new). 14.1% alcohol. 50 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

| edit post


Post a Comment

Your comment will be published after it has been moderated.


WWR TN Database

See my Washington Wine Report Tasting Note Database. Read an explanation of the fields here. FINAL UPDATE 6/13/2015. See current Wine Enthusiast reviews here.

Blog Archive