2020 Washington Winery of the Year – Liminal Wine

Marty Taucher knew they had something special when winemaker Chris Peterson first tasted him on the inaugural Liminal Grenache from barrel.

“I go, ‘Wow. That’s the darkest Syrah I’ve ever seen,’” recalled Taucher when I spoke with him and Peterson about Liminal Wine last fall. “He goes, ‘No. That’s the Grenache.’ I couldn’t believe the concentration, and the color was just off the charts.”

Taucher and Peterson (Avennia) founded Liminal to focus on wines from WeatherEye Vineyard. Located high atop Red Mountain, WeatherEye was established by Cam Myhrvold, who spent nearly 15 years accumulating land, acquiring water rights, and planting the site (read more about WeatherEye Vineyard and Liminal Wine here and here). To do the planting, Myhrvold hired renowned vineyard manager Ryan Johnson.

Johnson has over 20 vintages of experience on Red Mountain, previously managing esteemed Ciel du Cheval and also planting nearby Force Majeure Vineyard. In addition to designing and planting WeatherEye, Johnson now manages the site, bringing the same maniacal devotion he once did to Ciel du Cheval and Force Majeure.

“I don’t know of anyone who can do it like Ryan,” said Peterson. “It’s crazy up there. He works so hard. His crew works so hard.”

This dedication and focus, along with Peterson’s gifted winemaking, are reflected in the inaugural Liminal wines, which were released last year. All reach a quality level few have achieved.

To wit, the 2018 Liminal Grenache is the highest scoring example of this variety ever from the Washington side of the Columbia Valley (Liminal 2018 High Canyon Series Grenache WeatherEye Vineyard, Wine Enthusiast 97 points, Editor’s Choice). It is also the second highest scoring Grenache ever produced in the United States, a distinction it shares with three wines from the Rocks District.

The 2018 Liminal GSM meanwhile matches the highest score ever for this category from Washington, a score only two other wines have achieved (Liminal 2018 Vineyard Series GSM WeatherEye Vineyard Columbia Valley, 96 points, Cellar Selection). The two 2018 Liminal Syrahs are also sublime (Liminal 2018 High Canyon Series Syrah WeatherEye Vineyard Red Mountain, 97 points, Cellar SelectionLiminal 2018 Block Highlight Series Block 16 Syrah WeatherEye Vineyard Columbia Valley $60, 96 points, Cellar Selection). Of note, the 2018 Grenache and 2018 High Canyon Syrah were my highest scoring wines of 2020 for Wine Enthusiast.

Peterson summed up perfectly what separates WeatherEye and ultimately, to my palate, the inaugural Liminal wines.

“There’s concentration, but not at the price of balance,” he said. “One thing that has really set itself apart early on is the acidity. The site just seems to retain acidity better.”

Indeed, the exquisite balance on the 2018 Liminal wines comes in part from their impressive acidity. WeatherEye is planted at a higher elevation and also has northern aspects, both of which help acid retention. Johnson also focuses on vineyard techniques to achieve this end.

Concentration, balance, acidity. They are all there in abundance on the 2018 Liminal wines. Moreover, the wines saw no new oak, giving them profound purity.

While Liminal Wine and WeatherEye Vineyard are both new projects, they are truly the culmination of decades of work and advancements in viticulture and winemaking in Washington. Those advancements are reflected in the bottle on the 2018 releases.

For these reasons, Liminal Wine is my 2020 Washington Winery of the Year.

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