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

Well folks, 2011 is down to its last few hours. Below is a look back at some of the things that happened this past year in Washington wine. For more on the year that was and the year to come, pick up the Winter Edition of Washington Tasting Room Magazine where I write about trends in 2011 and predictions for 2012.

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Saving one of the best for last. What follows is a Focus Report on FIGGINS. Download a .pdf version of this report here. Read previous Focus Reports here.
“I believe in terroir,” winemaker Chris Figgins of Figgins Family Wine Estates says. “It’s where I spend my time and energy is thinking about vineyards and trying to express the site.”

Figgins comes from one of the first families of Washington wine. In 1974, Chris’ father Gary Figgins was working as a machinist at the Continental Can Company when he decided to plant an acre of Cabernet Sauvignon by the family home in Walla Walla. In 1977, he and his wife, Nancy, founded Leonetti Cellar.

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Below is Part IV of a report from the Walla Walla Valley including wines from L’Ecole No 41, Woodward Canyon Winery, Abeja, K Vintners, Tero Estates, and Walla Walla Vintners. Read Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here.

L’Ecole No 41

It can sometimes be difficult for established wineries to garner the attention that the upstarts do. But there’s nothing like reintroducing yourself to your customers to change that.

2011 was a good year for L’Ecole No 41, one of Walla Walla Valley’s oldest and most highly regarded wineries. It included a successful label change, website redesign, and overall rebranding. The results have helped energize sales nationally and bring the winery additional attention. To cap things off, L’Ecole landed a spot on Wine Spectator’s annual top 100 list – at No 41 no less.

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Seattleites, turn on Q13 News at 5:30pm today when I’ll be talking about sparkling wines.

Well folks, 2011 is fast coming to a close, so it’s time to turn our attention to sparkling wines to help ring in the New Year.

Let me start by saying that if you’re not drinking sparkling wines year round, make this a New Year’s resolution. These wines are not just for special occasions. Imagine if people thought it was only appropriate to drink Cabernet on Valentine’s Day.

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Best of Washington Wine Report 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 0 comments

Today as we begin to wind down the year, a look back at some of my personal favorite posts from each month this year.

January’s was a post on Washington wines in the spotlight at the Whitehouse.

February’s was a look at Woodinville’s JM Cellars.

March’s were about EFESTĒ and L’Ecole 41’s new label.

Two posts from April were looking at the Starbucks wine program and terms like super premium.

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Fresh Sheet December 27th 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 1 comments

Today’s Fresh Sheet, new and recent Washington wine releases, includes wines from Adams Bench, Kerloo Cellars, Obelisco Estate, Cave B Estate Winery, and Soos Creek Wine Cellars.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from December 15th to 21st. Read previous round-ups here.

From around the country...

MSNBC writes about the best budget bottles with a callout to Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Knox News writes about wines for the holidays with a callout to Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Columbia Valley Riesling.

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Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 24, 2011 0 comments

Wishing Washington wineries, wine lovers, wine grape growers, distributors, and retailers everywhere a happy holiday season from all of us here at Washington Wine Report (that would be me). Click on the picture for a larger image.

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In tough times, we continue the search for good, inexpensive wines.

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Fresh Sheet December 22nd 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011 4 comments

Today’s Fresh Sheet, new and recent Washington wine releases, includes wines from Cadence Winery, Rotie Cellars, DiStefano Winery, Kaella Winery, Aniche Cellars, Stella Fino Winery, Trust Cellars, and Fall Line Winery.

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Decanter is one of the world’s top wine publications. The Pacific Northwest is one of the world’s top emerging wine regions. You would never know either based on a recent article in the magazine.

On December 12th Decanter published a 327-word article on the Pacific Northwest titled “Washington yields down, Oregon up as harvest finishes.” Decanter’s readers would have been best served if the article stopped there. Unfortunately, it does not.

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Below is Part III of a report from the Walla Walla Valley including wines from Saviah Cellars, Tranche Cellars, Waters Winery, Amavi Cellars, Pepper Bridge, and Forgeron Cellars. Read a .pdf version of this report here. Read Part I here and Part II here.

Saviah Cellars

Winemaker Richard Funk at Saviah Cellars has a knack for making high quality wines at compelling price points. Funk, who started his winery in 2000 after working as an environmental health specialist, consistently crafts impeccably made wines all in an elegant style.

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The Reader Survey Wine to Watch is intended for a wine that will be released in the coming year that readers of Washington Wine Report believe will be exceptional. The winner of the Reader Survey 2012 Wine to Watch is Reynvaan Family Vineyards 2010 Stonessence Syrah Walla Walla Valley.

In just a few short vintages, Reynvaan Family Vineyards has established itself as one of Washington’s finest wineries. The Reynvaan family established the winery in 2004, hiring Christophe Baron as consultant to help pick out vineyard sites, lay out the vineyards, and help get the winery started. Matt Reynvaan serves as winemaker.

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Well folks, another Reader Survey – the fourth annual – has come and gone. I want to thank everyone who nominated wines this year and who voted in the survey. We had a great list of wines this year.

As I have written previously, my intention starting the Reader Survey four years ago was to hear about what Washington wines my readers thought were most exciting from the year gone by and what wines they were most excited about being released in the coming year. It was to get people talking about wines that excite them. That goal has remained.

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From around the world…

Decanter writes about the growing season in the Pacific Northwest.

From around the country…

Wine Spectator says watch out California, Washington is the Value King.

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On Wednesday Washington received its 12th American Viticultural Area (AVA) – Naches Heights. Here’s an in depth look at the state’s newest growing region.

Naches Heights is situated in Yakima County, lying between the small towns of Naches and Tieton, northwest of the city of Yakima. A million year old andesite lava flow, originating from the Goat Rocks, formed the region.

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With the holiday season in full swing, here are some crowd pleasers that are guaranteed to bring the holiday party thunder and, most importantly, won’t break the bank just to be put on the table and guzzled by the thirsty masses.

Let there be no doubt that the holiday party wine of 2011 is the J Bookwalter Winery Bookmark Red Wine. This non-vintage blend is mostly Syrah along with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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If you're like me, you've got more than a few wine corks hanging around. Here's how to turn some of those corks into Christmas decorations in a few easy steps.

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The Washington Wine Commission should feel fortunate that Seattle is not Boston and that they are not the Red Sox.

If this were the case there would be a steady stream of stories in the Times counting the number of days since Executive Director Robin Pollard announced that she would be leaving with no successor in place. We would read stories about potential candidates coming and going from the office. Perhaps there would even be rumors of Commission staff members eating fried chicken and playing video games in the clubhouse during Taste Washington instead of rooting for their teammates on the field.*

But I digress.

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Final voting for the 2011 Reader Survey has begun! Readers may vote for one of the finalists for 2011 Wine of the Year and one of the finalists for 2012 Wine to Watch. Please note that voting more than one time is not allowed, and I am monitoring the voting closely. Voting ends Friday 12/16.

To reiterate, all of these wines were reader nominated and finalists were selected by preliminary voting by readers (see below). The finalists this year - the top five vote getters - are, in alphabetical order:

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When The Wine Advocate announced earlier this week that critic David Schildknecht would now be covering the Pacific Northwest, there were several responses from the locals. “Schild-what?” some queried. “Schild-who?” others asked. More to the point, many wondered what this change might mean for the Northwest wine industry.

First things first. The name. “One can say ‘shildnecht’ as though the ‘k’ were absent, and it's no big deal,” Schildknecht corresponded earlier this week. He reports, in case you haven’t heard this name before, that the world’s only concentrations of Schildknechts are in Switzerland and near Rotterdam where his ancestors are from.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from December 1st to 7th. Read previous round-ups here.

The big story this week was the resignation of writer wine reviewer Jay Miller, who was responsible for covering Washington and Oregon as well as other areas, from The Wine Advocate. Read stories from, Decanter, San Francisco Chronicle, and the New York Times.

From around the country…

The San Francisco Chronicle gives its Top 100 Wines for 2011 with a callout to Pacific Rim, Amavi, Betz, Andrew Will, Barnard Griffin, Cadence, Gramercy, and Januik.

The Sacramento Bee writes about Alaska Airlines and the Walla Walla Wine Alliance teaming up.

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Preliminary voting for the 2011 Reader Survey Wine of the Year and 2012 Wine to Watch has begun! Use the surveys on the right-hand side of the blog to vote for any three nominees in each category. Readers may only vote one time. Those receiving these posts via email, go to to vote. Preliminary voting continues until 9pm on Sunday the 11th.

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Domaine Ste. Michelle Sparkles

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 3 comments

With the holiday season squarely upon us, it’s time to turn our attention to sparkling wine as we get ready to celebrate the season and bring in the New Year.

Domaine Ste. Michelle
is Washington State’s sparkling wine leader, producing more than 300,000 cases of wine annually. More than half of this production is the Brut, the winery’s workhorse – and consistent standout.

As you might expect from the name, Domaine Ste. Michelle is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates (SMWE). Domaine Ste. Michelle released its first sparkling wine in 1978 – a 1974 vintage dated Blanc de Noirs. In 1990 they added a Brut to the lineup, in 1991 a Blanc de Blancs, and in 1993 the Extra Dry.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from November 22nd to 30th. Read previous round-ups here.

From around the country…

San Francisco Chronicle writes about Washington Syrah.

From the blogosphere…

Winophilia writes about standout whites from Washington.

Salud writes about Washington wine.

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Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to pick the 2011 Reader Survey Wine of the Year and 2012 Wine to Watch!

The Reader Survey Wine of the Year is intended for the one Washington wine in 2011 that stood out among all those you tasted. The 2012 Wine to Watch is for a pre-release wine you tasted that will be released in 2012 that you believe will be exceptional.

Here is how it works.

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I was hoping to get Part III of this year’s Walla Walla Valley report up in advance of this weekend’s Holiday Barrel Tasting. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men. For those of you traveling out to Walla Walla, below is a list of recommendations for the weekend based on reviews up later this month.

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Robert Parker Jr. is the wine writer that many wine bloggers, wineries, and consumers love to hate.

Bloggers love to rail against the injustice of the 100-point system. We rail against the so-called Parkerization of wine. We rail against Parker’s influence. We rail against him for any one of a thousand reasons.

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Old school! Recent print articles

Thursday, December 1, 2011 0 comments

The Winter Edition of Washington Tasting Room Magazine contains an article I wrote titled, 'The Year in Wine: Trends & Predictions.' Pick up the article on newstands now. See other recent publications here.


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Fresh Sheet November 30th 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 5 comments

November's Virtual Tasting takes place tonight 7-8pm Pacific. Read about how to participate here.

Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent Washington wine releases – includes wines from Hard Row to Hoe, Mannina, :Nota Bene, Ash Hollow, Long Shadows, and Owen Roe.

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In this month’s Five Wines Under $15, we take a look at Washington Pinot Gris with a cyber special 2:1 wine list. Read previous Five Under $15s here.

Scan the wine and grocery store shelves and you will find a good selection of Oregon Pinot Gris. You might be surprised then to hear that Washington makes more Pinot Gris than Oregon. In fact, Pinot Gris is Washington’s third most planted white grape at over 1,500 acres. The obvious question then is, where are all the wines?

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Tasting Note Database updated

Monday, November 28, 2011 0 comments

Reminder: This month's Virtual Tasting is coming up Wednesday from 7-8pm Pacific. Read about how to participate here.

The Tasting Note Database has been updated to the present date. See the database here. Read an explanation of database fields here.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from November 15th to 21st. Read previous round-ups here.

From around the country…

Top winemakers take up the Tofurkey challenge, including Jean Francois Pellet of Amavi Cellars and Pepperbridge.

Houston Press recommends Pacific Rim Riesling for Thanksgiving.

Business Insider writes about Thanksgiving wines with a callout to Snoqualmie’s Naked Riesling.

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Washington wines were once again well represented on Wine Spectator’s annual Top 100 list with seven wines listed, including two in the top fifteen. All of the Washington wines selected were in the first fifty.

The highest ranking Washington wine was the 2008 Baer Ursa, which came in at number 6. This is the first time that a wine from Woodinville’s Baer Winery has been listed in Wine Spectator’s Top 100, an affirmation of the winery’s path since the tragic passing of Lance Baer in 2007.

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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.

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