paulg’s top 100

Monday, November 30, 2009

My annual top 100 list is focused exclusively on wines from Washington state. The methodology is simple: I look through a year’s worth of tasting notes, and select one wine from each of 100 wineries for inclusion. No winery is represented more than once, though different wineries under the same ownership may be.

As I have often explained, I do not taste wines blind, I taste contextually. I do take price into consideration. I treat wine tasting as a movie, not a snapshot; wines often get looked at repeatedly over 24 or even 48 hours, both with and without food.

All of these wines scored 90 points or higher in my reviews for Wine Enthusiast. Their ranking below reflects both their score on that 100-point scale, and their placement among same-scoring wines, giving the higher places to the least expensive. Among all 91-point wines, for example, the least expensive will rank highest.

All these wines have been released within the past 12 months, but many are already sold out. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try the new vintage; to cite just one example among many, wine #13 – Buty 2007 70% Sémillon/26% Sauvignon/4% Muscadelle – is now in the 2008 vintage and, if anything, even better than in 2007.

I list just one wine per winery because I believe it is the best way to feature the breadth and depth of the industry’s offerings. Look at the wineries that are included in the top 10 or 15 and you’ll see that if I did not limit them to a single bottle, most of the list would consist of their wines alone.

Any “best of” list is going to be critiqued, argued over, and disputed. That’s half the fun. Due to a technological mishap, the Seattle Times closed the commentary on this article before it actually ran in yesterday’s Pacific magazine, so please use this blog as your sounding board.

Note: Missing from the 2009 list are some big names from previous years. Among them: Barnard Griffin, Brian Carter, Bunnell Family, Cadence, Cayuse, Chateau Rollat, Januik, Mark Ryan, O•S, Reininger, Saviah, Sheridan, Sparkman and Waters. This should not be taken as criticism; it is mostly a function of their release dates and my own deadlines – many of the new releases came out just after this column went to press.

Final note: in the newspaper I misstated the vintage of the #66 wine from Soos Creek. The correct vintage is 2007, as written below.

Paul Gregutt’s Top 100 Washington State Wines For 2009

#1 – Charles Smith 2006 Royal City Syrah ($80)
#2 – Quilceda Creek 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($125)
#3 – Betz Family 2006 Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon ($58)
#4 – Abeja 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($80)
#5 – Leonetti Cellar 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($85)
#6 – Fielding Hills 2007 RiverBend Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($38)
#7 – Owen Roe 2007 Lady Rosa Syrah ($45)
#8 – Andrew Will 2006 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Wine ($55)
#9 – K Vintners 2006 En Chamberlin Roma Red ($60)
#10 – Sineann 2007 Block One Cabernet Sauvignon ($72)
#11 – Côte Bonneville 2005 DuBrul Vineyard Red ($125)
#12 – Poet’s Leap 2008 Riesling ($20)
#13 – Buty 2007 70% Sémillon/26% Sauvignon/4% Muscadelle ($25)
#14 – Rôtie Cellars 2007 Southern Blend Red Wine ($35)
#15 – Rulo 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
#16 – Gramercy Cellars 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($42)
#17 – Stevens 2006 XY Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($42)
#18 – Northstar 2006 Merlot ($50)
#19 – Corliss Estates 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)
#20 – Nicholas Cole Cellars 2005 Estate Reserve ($75)
#21 – Den Hoed 2006 Andreas Cabernet Sauvignon ($80)
#22 – Upland Estates 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($18)
#23 – Novelty Hill 2007 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Viognier ($20)
#24 – Ardenvoir 2008 Artist Series Sémillon ($22)
#25 – Eroica 2008 Riesling ($24)
#26 – Beresan 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($29)
#27 – JM Cellars 2007 Chardonnay ($32)
#28 – Watermill 2006 Praying Mantis Syrah ($32)
#29 – Bunchgrass 2007 Frazier Bluff Vineyard Malbec ($32)
#30 – McCrea 2005 Boushey Grande Côte Vineyard Syrah ($36)
#31 – Balboa 2006 Sayulita Red ($40)
#32 – Woodward Canyon 2008 Chardonnay ($44)
#33 – Dunham 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon XII ($45)
#34 – Grand Rêve 2006 Collaboration Series III Ciel du Cheval Red ($45)
#35 – L’Ecole No 41 2006 Seven Hills Vineyard Perigee ($50)
#36 – Spring Valley Vineyard 2006 Uriah Red ($50)
#37 – Rasa Vineyards 2007 QED Syrah ($50)
#38 – Pepper Bridge 2006 Seven Hills Vineyard Red ($55)
#39 – Gorman 2007 The Evil Twin Syrah–Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
#40 – DeLille Cellars 2006 Chaleur Estate Red Wine ($75)
#41 – JBookwalter 2006 Chapter Two Red ($78)
#42 – Boudreaux Cellars 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($100)
#43 – Whitman Cellars 2008 Riesling ($14)
#44 – Pacific Rim 2008 Organic Riesling ($14)
#45 – Amavi Cellars 2008 Sémillon ($20)
#46 – Syncline 2007 Syrah ($24)
#47 – Sleight of Hand 2007 The Enchantress Chardonnay ($24)
#48 – Darby 2008 Le Deuce Viognier 52%/Roussanne 48% ($24)
#49 – Barrister 2007 Cabernet Franc ($27)
#50 – Hestia Cellars 2006 Syrah ($32)
#51 – Tamarack Cellars 2006 DuBrul Vineyard Reserve Red ($45)
#52 – Arbor Crest 2005 Dionysus Red ($45)
#53 – Walla Walla Vintners 2006 Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon ($48)
#54 – Doyenne 2006 Syrah ($49)
#55 – Cougar Crest 2005 Estate Grown Reserve Syrah ($55)
#56 – McKinley Springs 2007 Viognier ($14)
#57 – Merry Cellars 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($14)
#58 – Trust 2008 Riesling ($16)
#59 – Nefarious Cellars 2008 Stone’s Throw Vineyard Riesling ($18)
#60 – Gamache Vintners 2007 Estate Riesling ($18)
#61 – Gordon Brothers 2006 Syrah ($20)
#62 – Alexandria Nicole 2008 Crawford Viognier ($20)
#63 – Baer 2008 Shard ($21)
#64 – Waterbrook 2007 Reserve Syrah ($22)
#65 – Efesté 2006 Final-Final Cabernet-Syrah ($25)
#66 – Soos Creek 2007 Artist Series #7 Red Wine ($28)
#67 – Andrew Rich 2007 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Roussanne ($28)
#68 – Olsen Estates 2007 Chardonnay ($28)
#69 – Basel Cellars 2006 Pheasant Run Vineyard Estate Merlot ($28)
#70 – Otis Kenyon 2006 Merlot ($30)
#71 – Tranche 2005 Chardonnay ($30)
#72 – Tulpen Cellars 2005 Merlot ($30)
#73 – Coeur d’Alene Cellars 2006 Boushey Vineyard Syrah ($36)
#74 – GLM 2005 Deluge Red ($40)
#75 – Forgeron 2004 Klipsun Vineyard Merlot ($46)
#76 – AlmaTerra 2006 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Syrah ($50)
#77 – Reynvaan Family Vineyards 2007 The Contender Syrah ($55)
#78 – Col Solare 2006 Red Table Wine ($70)
#79 – Snoqualmie 2008 Naked Riesling ($12)
#80 – Hedges Family Estate 2008 C.M.S. White/Sauvignon Blanc ($14)
#81 – Airfield Estates 2008 Riesling ($14)
#82 – Columbia Crest 2007 H3 Les Chevaux Red ($15)
#83 – Thurston Wolfe 2008 PGV ($16)
#84 – Woodinville Wine Cellars 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($18)
#85 – SuLei Cellars 2007 Beet Red ($19)
#86 – Three Angels 2007 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Primitivo ($20)
#87 – Seven Hills 2007 Merlot ($22)
#88 – Cadaretta 2008 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon ($23)
#89 – Milbrandt Vineyards 2006 The Estates Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
#90 – Isenhower 2006 River Beauty Syrah ($26)
#91 – Trio Vintners 2006 Morrison Lane Vineyard Sangiovese Riserva ($26)
#92 – Lullaby 2007 Viognier ($28)
#93 – Stephenson Cellars 2006 Syrah ($30)
#94 – Zerba Cellars 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)
#95 – Hard Row to Hoe 2006 Cabernet Franc ($32)
#96 – àMaurice 2006 Malbec ($34)
#97 – :Nota Bene 2006 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red ($35)
#98 – Tertulia Cellars 2006 Malbec ($35)
#99 – Va Piano 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($48)
#100 – Bergevin Lane 2006 Intuition Reserve Red Wine ($55)


@nectarwine said...

Glad to see some Spokane love in there, Paul! Loved the list.

Wawineman said...

This is the ONE 'top 100' list I can admire for its "breadth and depth" of Washington wines. The only other would possibly be that from Washington Wine Report.

With that said, I humbly speak to the 'bias' in this year's list. Mister G, you have 45 wineries listed from Walla Walla. I may be a Woodinville winery fan but, come on!, you cannot hide behind the "function of their release dates and my own deadlines" tune. Mark Ryan not in the list?? Who's the 'Dead Horse' here? Columbia Winery's beautiful 2007 'Lapis' at $32 should be somewhere in the top 20. Are you 'stoned'? Six wineries are from Oregon and one from Idaho... yet you passed on Ross Andrew Winery's 2008 'Meadow'? I certainly sense a 'nose' of conspiracy against, not just a lot of other wineries, but Woodinville wineries in particular. For the record, Woodinville wineries did place 12 times (not including tasting-room-only wineries), but that's a far distant silver medal to be congratulated for.

And, acoording to your numbers, Washington's strength is not syrah (16) or even merlot (6), heck or even cabernet (18) for that's the 'red blend' chiming in 22 times on your list. The same 'red blend' that, as I recall, was lightly mocked when compared to 'single-vineyard' wines. If single vineyards take more skill to vinify, then they do not appear to be as well-appreciated.

Just poking fun! Tells you how much time I spent analyzing this wonderful list, and enjoyed doing such! Your list, your rules. You'll have a chance to stab mine in a few weeks. Fair is fair.

douggator said...

I like the list. My one comment is how to decide different wineries versus different labels. In my opinion, the "different wineries" criteria should have something different to qualify such as ownership or winemaker. For example, I would say the various Ste. Michelle wineries are different, Januik/Novelty Hill has different ownership so they would be different. But I would consider DeLille/Doyenne, Reininger/Helix, Waters/Substance for example are the same winery with just different labels (IMO). I think I would include Charles Smith and K in the latter category.

NWTomLee said...

I understand the caveat regarding release times....but hard to imagine a WA Top 100 with no Cayuse representation.

ChrisinSunnyside said...

Fun list! 2009 was my first full year in wine heaven, Eastern Washington, and I'm happy to see some of my favorite wineries on the list. We all have bias, isn't that the same word as opinion, but the absence of Fideltas from this list is surprising to me.

mjp1776 said...

You beat me to the punch with Fidelitas!! Could not agree more.

PaulG said...

As I mentioned, not all wines released in WA this past year were tasted. In fact, Fidelitas was one winery whose wines were missed. Since there are 650+ wineries, and just one PaulG, it is really up to the wineries to decide if they want to submit wines for review. I am not able to visit more than a tiny handful in any given year. Fidelitas did not submit wines for review in 2009. Nor did Cayuse. In fact, Christophe has made it quite clear he does not want his wines scored. And he is not alone in that. I respect and honor any winery's right to say "do not score." However, that means that they don't make the list. As for an anti- Woodinville bias, gimme a break! I love those wines. But again, they must submit wines for review or they will be missed. And again, some were released past my (very early!) print deadline. Note to Douggator - good comment. I will give it serious thought for next year.

chrisinSunnyside said...

Paul, Thanks for the clarifications re: some of the ones missing. It's mindboggling anyone can sort through this many wines, as well as those from the rest of the Pac NW and elsewhere, to see how they all should rate. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting. :)

Andy Plymale said...

I agree with DOUGGATOR, Paul. It seems like Chas Smith got a free pass. Nothing against that, presumably, as long as Helix/Reininger, etc., get the same treatment.

In any case I'm with you on the Rulo 06 Cab (Red Mt, Kiona vineyard, I think). I also have been impressed recently by the wines of Trust. I'm also with you on the Rieslings -- now that we have a great Thai restaurant in town (Richland, WA), we are feeling lucky to have such fine local Rieslings.


Greg Harrington said...

Note to Douggator -

As an FYI, Waters and Substance are not the same winery. The Substance label is a joint venture between Waters and Gramercy, utilizing both declassified juice from each winery as well as dedicated vineyards. We always like to point out that Substance is not a bulk wine brand, but rater its own winery dedicated to Washington wines that are varietally correct, have a sense of place, balance and value. Thanks so much for the mention!

Timinspokane said...

Wow - that is certainly a "Who's Who" list! I was fortunate to have none other than Charles Smith pour me a huge glass of Royal City syrah at Taste Washington Spokane, and I must say, it was an amazing glass of vino! Loved the inclusion of Fielding Hills and Rulo pretty high on the list as well. It appeared that only Barrister from the Spokane area was on the list (which is well deserved). Did Robert Karl, Townshend, Lone Canary, or anyone else from Spokane submit? Along with that, have you tried the Nodland Cellars Private Blend (red wine) at all? That is a wonderful red Bordeaux blend, and even though it doesn't way "Walla Walla" on the label, fully 85% of the fruit came from the Walla Walla Valley AVA. It is a fabulous bottle, with a touch of that WW "funk" coming through on the nose.

Looking at the list (and not necessarily wanting to bring the whole WS/CC-CSM debate up again, I must say that your list much more represents everything that is brilliant about Washington wines. And the Betz Pere de Famille is a wine that I would have totally appreciated seeing at the top of that list. Of course, there are lots of worthy candidates, but that was a wine that received pretty consistent 93-96 point scores and isn't crazy expensive. Good catch on the J. Bookwalter Chapter 2 as well! Bookwalter consistently produces some excellent wines but don't seem to receive a lot of press.

Anyway, I will now close my pie hole (or vino hole??) and let others have their say.


Sean said...

Nice list. I will say that I personally prefer lists with fewer constraints. I don't like "top wines" lists that are then limited to only one wine per producer, only wines under X dollars, only wines broadly available, etc. I guess that's partially because I don't use these lists as shopping lists -- I'm not going to print this out, take it down to Village Wines and try to buy the top 10. So it's largely irrelevant to me if the specific wine on the list is easily (or cheaply) available. Similarly, I'm not really looking for an introduction to Washington wineries, so trying to include as many different producers as possible doesn't do much for me.

I like to see lists of the *best wines you've tasted*, without limit (other than a timeframe and/or region). These lists are useful for getting a view of who the top producers really are. If Betz and Cayuse each made 5 of your favorite wines of the year, that's pretty significant and worth knowing! It helps me identify the producers I should be paying attention to over the long run, rather than just telling me about a single wine I should run out to the store and buy right now. It highlights producers that are putting out a range of consistently good wines, rather than just having one hit. That information is totally hidden in a list that limits itself to one per producer.

All that said, I realize I'm probably not quite the target audience for a wine article in the Times. For a broader audience, this approach does make sense.

Sean P. Sullivan said...

Paul, Finally getting the opportunity to enjoy reading this after wrapping up work on my own list of favorites which I will be posting next week. One could consider finishing my list and getting to look at this one is a bit of a Christmas present to myself!

Suffice to say that many top 100 lists are made each year. Few have the benefit of being made by a single individual. And I'm not aware of any that also bring such a singular focus. It is a wonderful celebration of Washington and its wines.

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