10 Best New Washington Wines of 2012

New releases are bringing fresh energy—and tasty offerings—to the Washington wine scene.

By Seattle Mag April 8, 2012


This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Seattle magazine.

Reynvaan Family Vineyards 2009 Unnamed Syrah
Walla Walla Valley, $55

This Walla Walla winery has enjoyed a lot of buzz about its first two vintage releases, partially because of the cachet of their consultant, Christophe Baron of Cayuse. Mike and Gale Reynvaan began planting vineyards in Walla Walla Valley in 2005, finally releasing wines from the 2007 harvest in 2009. Their Unnamed Syrah is a wonderful example of classic Walla Walla Syrah, with its smoky and meaty aromas, accented by lush black fruit and floral tones. Walla Walla; 509.525.3462; reynvaanfamilyvineyards.com


Rolling Bay Winery 2008 Manitou Red*
Yakima Valley, $26

Although Bainbridge Island–based Rolling Bay has been around since 2007, it has been under the radar for way too long. Winemaker Alphonse de Klerk has a love of blending, and his Manitou Red—Cabernet Sauvignon (55 percent), Syrah (40 percent) and Merlot (5 percent)—is a wonderful food wine made in the Old World style; excellent fruit and balancing acidity, with black cherry, chocolate and plum flavors. Bainbridge Island; 206.419.3355; rollingbaywinery.com


Robert Ramsay Cellars 2008 McKinley Springs Mourvèdre
Horse Heaven Hills, $35

With all of the new tasting rooms in Woodinville, you may wonder which make for the best visit. Robert Ramsay Cellars is an excellent bet, with its well-crafted wines made by winemaker Bob Harris. Just a few years old, the winery selects the best fruit from some of Washington’s most coveted vineyards. This Mourvèdre, usually a blending grape in southern Rhône-style wines, is a unique, velvety smooth, lush red wine. Characteristically spicy and earthy, this powerful red is a great wine to sip in front of the fire with charcuterie and bold cheeses. Woodinville, 19495 144th Ave. NE, No. 235; 425.686.WINE; robertramsaycellars.com


Rasa Vineyards PB Wines Heritage 2010 Pinot Gris, Kilian Vineyard*
Columbia Valley, $18

Brothers Billo and Pinto Naravane both had careers in the computer industry, but always shared an eagerness for wine and wine collecting. Their dreams came true with Rasa Vineyards in Walla Walla. Billo finished the University of California–Davis viticulture and enology program, and now heads the Walla Walla Community College winemaking program, while Pinto took on the general manager position. Their first releases have received notice, and they are creating terroir-specific, superpremium wines. Their second label, PB Wines, shows off some of the same winemaking talent at lower prices. This Pinot Gris comes from some of the oldest vines in the area, showing all the maturity and complexity of older vines, with pear and lemon aromas, and passion fruit on the palate; a lovely, dry Pinot Gris. Walla Walla; 509.252.0900; rasavine-yards.com


Kerloo Cellars 2009 Tempranillo
Columbia Valley, $34

Ryan and Renee Crane are among a growing number of young people who have given up day jobs to pursue their passion. Kerloo Cellars (named after the call of the crane) is their calling, and they have created some excellent wines in Walla Walla, including their 2009 Tempranillo, which reflects Ryan’s love of Old World–style blending. Although 100 percent Tempranillo, the fruit comes from two different vineyards (Stone Tree in the Wahluke Slope American Viticultural Area and Les Collines in Walla Walla) that balance each other in acidity and complexity, resulting in a beautifully aromatic and complex wine that shows how elegant Tempranillo in Washington can be. Walla Walla; 206.349.0641; kerloocellars.com


Two Vintners Winery 2010 Grenache Blanc
Yakima Valley, $25

Morgan Lee of Covington Cellars has been making his own delicately delicious wines in Woodinville under his Two Vintners label since 2009. Lee and another vintner, assistant winemaker Donavon Claflin, have created a unique white wine in their Grenache Blanc, using fruit from Dick Boushey’s vineyard in Yakima Valley. This lively white is full of white pepper, apricot and minerality, with superbright acidity, making this wine an extraordinary one for oysters and other shellfish, or when accompanied by a boat and a beautiful Lake Union sunset. Woodinville; 425.205.8680; twovintners.com.


Tulpen Cellars 2008 Sangiovese
Walla Walla Valley, $20

Walla Walla’s Tulpen Cellars owner Rick Trumbull has been a sustainable-vineyard and -orchard consultant for many farmers in the Walla Walla Valley. And he doesn’t just make wine. His company, Sustainable Soil Solutions, makes specialized compost teas to help balance the soil for some of the valley’s best vineyards (Tulpen uses sustainable practices). His partner, winemaker Ken Hart, has managed vineyards for Abeja, àMaurice and Dunham Cellars, among others. The 2008 Sangiovese shows how delicious Washington Sangio can be, with excellent acidity, and lush plum and blackberry as well as tobacco notes. Walla Walla; 541.938.7425; tulpencellars.com


Daven Lore Winery 2009 Petit Verdot*
Horse Heaven Hills, $25

When Daven Lore owner/winemaker Gordon Taylor shows up for wine tastings, he looks the part. Wearing his cowboy hat and blue jeans, he talks affectionately about the soil and climate of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, where he obtains most of the grapes for his luscious red wines. His partner—in business and in life—Dr. Joan Davenport (“Dr. Dirt”) is a soil scientist at Washington State University. This family-owned, Prosser-based winery produces wines as bold as Taylor himself. The Petit Verdot is a fascinating wine with black currant and chocolate notes, and eucalyptus, minerality and bold tannins. Prosser; 509.786.1575; davenlore.com

Salida Wines 2007 Tempranillo
Yakima Valley, $25

Doug McCrea, winemaker and co-owner of McCrea Cellars in Rainier, Washington, has become known for his wonderful (and award-winning) Rhône-style wines. Salida (the Spanish word for “exit,” a term for fruit leaving the vineyards at harvest) is his newest venture, focusing on the Spanish varieties Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell, Albariño and others. The major wine from this talented winemaker is his 100 percent Tempranillo, a fruit-forward wine with great acidity, making it ultimately food friendly. Red berry fruits, along with classic Tempranillo aromas of leather and tobacco, show beautifully in this wine, which may become as much of a signature as are his Rhône-style wines. Rainier, WA; 360.446.8466; salidawine.com


Laurelhurst Cellars 2007 Boushey Vineyard Syrah*
Yakima Valley, $36

Laurelhurst Cellars started out as a true “garagiste” proposition. In 2004, Greg Smallwood and Dave Halbgewachs made their first wines in the basement and garage of a friend’s home in Laurelhurst. They quickly outgrew their original location and in 2009, moved to a warehouse in Georgetown. Fruit for this beautiful Syrah comes from one of the state’s cooler sites, Boushey Vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA, which allows the fruit to hang longer, retain its acidity and ripen slowly. Georgetown; 206.992.2875; laurelhurstcellars.com


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