Gold medal reds from 2016 Cascadia Wine Competition

By on March 22, 2016
Ken Robertson, chief of judges at the 2015 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, reviews a wine moments after it was awarded a gold medal by one of the five judging panels at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore.

Ken Robertson, chief of judges at the 2016 Cascadia Wine Competition, reviews a wine moments after it was awarded a gold medal by one of the six judging panels at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore. (Photo by Sharon Beth Photography)

HOOD RIVER, Ore. – Red wines dominated the 2016 Cascadia Wine Competition – and for good reason.

Many of the reds entered in the judging were from the vaunted 2012 and 2013 vintages – both stellar seasons throughout the Pacific Northwest. And the 22 wine professionals who judged the Cascadia Wine Competition this year agreed, being as generous with the gold medals as the wines were with their ripe flavors.

One of the hallmarks of the Cascadia Wine Competition is that we write reviews of each gold medal winner. A large part of the burden – if you can call having to taste only the best wines a burden – falls on Ken Robertson, who served as the chief judge during the competition. He wrote a majority of these reviews, and for that we are all thankful.

The fourth annual Cascadia Wine Competition took place at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel, which has been the judging’s home since it began in 2013.

Here are our reviews of the gold and double gold medals.

Double gold

Abacela 2013 Fiesta Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley, $23: The Northwest Tempranillo master has proved his expertise once again. Earl Jones’ Abacela estate grapes from 2013, put into the capable hands of winemaker Andrew Wenzl, were used in this fruit-forward wine aptly called Fiesta. And you’ll want to start a celebration of your own after sampling it. Its nose opens with mint, spicy oak and nimble cherries. In the mouth, the cherries are dark, dipping down toward dark Marionberry skin, then unearthing Abacela estate’s minerality and grippy tannins. It’s a huge mouthful – “Yuuuge, I tell you” – that calls out for a rare ribeye amply dusted with cracked black pepper. (13.9% alc., 1,675 cases produced)

Barnard Griffin 2014 Rob’s Red Blend, Washington, $14: Rob Griffin takes the credit for stitching together this remarkably approachable blend of Merlot (53%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Syrah (8%) and Malbec (6%) that’s loaded with milk chocolate, black cherry, dark plum and vanilla bean aromas. Cherry juice and chocolate-covered almonds begin to describe the flavors, backed by a structure of easy tannins that slowly build and finish with red currant acidity. It’s priced for Tuesday night, but its food-friendly versatility makes it worthy of a barbecue or weekend dinner with lean meats such as flank steak or pork loin. (13.6% alc., 6,000 cases produced)

Bunnell Family Cellar 2013 Painted Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $48: Bunnell Family Cellar, perhaps best known for its outstanding Syrahs, shows off a deft touch with this Cabernet Sauvignon as well. The Prosser winery team, led by Ron Bunnell, brought in grapes from Painted Hills Vineyard, which overlooks the Yakima Valley, and the result is a wine rich in aromas and deep flavors of blackberries, plums and cassis. It finishes long and strong, with well-managed tannins and a touch of slatey minerality. (14.2% alc., 114 cases produced)

Bunnell Family Cellar 2012 Discovery Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $48: Ron Bunnell knows the Horse Heaven Hills well from his years of making wines for Chateau Ste. Michelle. And with the 2013 vintage from that AVA, he crafted this double gold medal-winner from Discovery Vineyard. It shows off its aging in French oak, then readily displays mouth-watering aromas and flavors of black cherry, blackberry, plum and cassis. The tannins are forthright but controlled and help build a long, satisfying finish. (14.5% alc., 120 cases produced)

Carlton Cellars 2014 Seven Devils Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $25: Carlton Cellars sourced Willamette Valley fruit for its 2014 Pinot Noir, then aged it in French oak for 10 months. The result is a wine with cedar and spice aromas layered over cherries, red currants and a tiny bit of sweet blueberry. The fruit lingers from midpalate through a close of firm acidity and well-managed tannins. (13.8% alc., 1,075 cases produced)

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2013 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $22: Scott and Lisa Neal earn a double gold medal for the second straight year at the Cascadia Wine Competition with their Willamette Valley production. It’s a juicy and fruit-forward Pinot Noir featuring aromas and flavors of Craisins, fresh raspberry and strawberry-rhubarb compote. A nip of blueberry skin tannin in the finish merely adds structure to the package. (13.4% alc., 1,480 cases produced)

College Cellars 2013 Summit View Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $35: The wine program at Walla Walla Valley Community College has become renowned for producing talented winemakers. And its College Cellars is building a record of producing fine wines as well. Its 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Summit View Vineyard extends that string by showing off black cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors, plus a touch of graphite and tannins with the bite of blueberry skin. (14.5% alc., 65 cases produced)

College Cellars 2013 Scholarship Red, Walla Walla Valley, $15: You won’t need a scholarship to afford College Cellars’ Merlot-focused red blend titled “Scholarship Red.” In fact, if you buy it, you’ll be helping provide someone else’s education as a winemaker or grape grower. In exchange for your 15 bucks, you’ll get a Walla Walla Valley wine with aromas of blackberries and blueberries and flavors of blackberry, blueberry and black currant, plus an elegant, juicy finish with restrained tannins. Who knew learning could be this much fun? (13.9%, 316 cases produced)

DANCIN Vineyards 2014 Élevé Pinot Noir, Southern Oregon, $34: Dan and Cindy Marca in Medford, Ore., stepped up to the 2,000-foot level for the fruit for its Elevé 2014 Pinot Noir. The result is a wine with subtle spice, forest floor and dark cherry aromas, followed by dark cherry, loganberry and chocolate on the palate, closing with crisp acids and athletic tannins for a long, satisfying finish. (13.4% alc., 124 cases produced)

Garry Oaks 2014 Zweigelt, Salt Spring Island, $16: British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island is worth a summer visit via B.C. Ferries simply for its innate beauty. But it’s also home to some capable wineries, chief among them Garry Oaks Estate, which crafts several varieties of wines and consistently makes excellent Zweigelt, an Austrian grape created only in 1922 by crossing Blaufränkisch (Lemberger) and St. Laurent. Literally translated, it means “two gold,” an appropriate term for the Garry Oaks 2014 version, made from grapes grown on Salt Spring. It opens with aromas of cherry and spice and on the tongue displays the most pure black cherry fruit you’ll ever encounter in a wine. (12.5% alc., 350 cases produced)

Grizzly Peak Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rogue Valley, $26: Oregon’s Rogue Valley nurtured the grapes for Grizzly Peak’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. The result is a complex drink with aromas of spice, dried black cherry, cassis and chocolate trailed by flavors of black cherry, blackberry, blueberry and plum. It closes with a bit of crisp acidity and firm tannins. (12.5% alc., 112 cases produced)

Kontos Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $38: Kontos Cellars of Walla Walla sourced Walla Walla Valley fruit for this 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. Judges unanimously rated it a gold, which won it a coveted double gold medal at the Cascadia Wine Competition. Its aromas lead off with black cherries, blackberries and black currants. On the palate, the black currants become more prominent, then the flavors merge with fine-grained tannins, chocolate and licorice at the close. (14.7% alc., 220 cases produced)

Kontos Cellars 2013 Les Collines Vineyard Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $40: Kontos Cellars of Walla Walla didn’t have to go travel far for the Les Collines Vineyard grapes it made into this luscious 2013 Syrah. Its color is black and broody-looking. And its aromas and flavors augment the appeal, sporting plums, blackberries and blueberries. Its close is earthy, deep and abundantly tannic. (14.4% alc., 14.8% alc.)

Maryhill Winery 2013 Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $40: Maryhill Winery’s Richard Batchelor crafted this sophisticated blend of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from multiple vineyards, using 30% from Clifton Hill, 30% from McKinley Springs, 20% Kiona and 20% Eagle Ranch into his Proprietor’s Reserve. The result is a seamless array of aromas and flavors showing off black cherries, blackberries, blueberries and black currants. It finishes with expertly managed tannins and dark, sweet chocolate. (14.8% alc., 284 cases produced)

Maryhill Winery 2013 Art den Hoed Vineyard Petite Sirah, Columbia Valley, $32: Maryhill Winery called on a familiar source, the 200-acre Art den Hoed Vineyard near Mabton, Wash., which sprawls across 250 acres of the Yakima Valley AVA, for its 2013 Petite Sirah. Its aromas open with deep blackberry fruit, black currants, black pepper and hints of minerality. In the mouth, the same fruits shine, the pepper shows a little bite and the minerality pops out amidst its grippy tannins. Pair it with hearty foods, perhaps a cassoulet or sea salt-encrusted duck breast braised and roasted in a high-temperature oven. (14.5% alc., 163 cases produced)

Maryhill Winery 2013 Proprietor’s Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley, $38: Maryhill winemaker Richard Batchelor produces no fewer than five separate Syrahs, and this is the best – appropriate for his reserve-level bottling. Aromas of dark chocolate meld with blackberry pie and black pepper. Flavors of toasted oak, purple plum and toasted marshmallow are backed by pliable tannins and a nice hit of acidity on the finish. (14.5% alc., 211 cases produced)

Mt. Hood Winery 2013 Scorched Earth Vineyard Syrah, Columbia Valley, $32: Scorched Earth is a small vineyard near Dallesport, Wash., just a few miles east of Mt. Hood Winery in Hood River, Ore. In the hands of winemaker Rich Cushman, Scorched Earth Syrah grapes result in a luscious wine with distinctive aromas of black licorice, chalkboard dust and black cherry, followed by plush flavors of blackberry compote and maple syrup. (14.5% alc., 165 cases produced)

Obelisco Estate 2012 Malbec, Red Mountain, $45: Obelisco Estate used 100% estate-grown Red Mountain fruit for this wine, which displays its home AVA’s warm-climate, deep fruit. Combined with Malbec’s natural tendency to produce grapes with color from the heart of darkness, this wine shows off deep, dark plum and summer blackberry aromas and flavors, closing with graceful tannins and a hint of black tea. (14.9% alc., 250 cases produced)

Palouse Winery 2013 Portage Port, Rattlesnake Hills, $70: This delicious red dessert wine is made from Rattlesnake Hills Petite Sirah that is fortified from brandy made from Vashon Winery’s Syrah and Petite Sirah wines. The result is delicious, thanks to aromas and flavors of dark chocolate, raisin, blackberry cobbler and clove. Thankfully, the sweetness does not overwhelm the wine, instead allowing the purity of fruit to shine through. The firmness of the Petite Sirah tannins help the finish hold on and provide a hint of the ageability of this wine. Enjoy now or hold for 10 years or more. (19.2% alc., 70 cases produced)

Palouse Winery 2013 Dineen Vineyard AHH! Syrah, Yakima Valley: This small producer on Vashon Island west of Seattle uses grapes from acclaimed Dineen Vineyard, a high-end growing operation near the Yakima Valley community of Zillah. This delicious Syrah reveals aromas of cherry pipe tobacco, dark chocolate and ripe raspberry. On the palate, it unveils flavors of plush plum, chocolate sauce and succulent spices. (13.9% alc.)

Plain Cellars 2013 Petite Sirah, Yakima Valley, $30: Plain Cellars in Leavenworth, Wash., tracked down grapes from the Lonesome Spring Ranch vineyard in the Yakima Valley to make its 2013 Petite Sirah, then aged it in French and Bulgarian oak. The result is a big, oaky fellow with sinewy shoulders but good manners that you’ll welcome to the table. He arrives with fresh ground black pepper and dark fruit aromas, then blesses your food – which better be hearty fare, perhaps cured meats, a juicy thick steak or wild game – with dark fruit led by late summer blackberries and dark plums. Behind that fruit are well-muscled tannins well worth pondering over several sips, each of which will linger long on your palate while you consider a long friendship with this masculine wine. (13.8% alc., 123 cases produced)

Saviah Cellars 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $45: Saviah Cellars of Walla Walla used local fruit for its 2012 reserve, creating an elegant Cabernet Sauvignon with aromas and flavors of blackberries and black currants, followed well-managed tannins and a closing touch of black tea and dark chocolate. This is yet another marvelous wine by owner/winemaker Rich Funk, one of the most talented folks in the Walla Walla Valley. (14.4% alc., 152 cases produced)

Seven Falls Cellars 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $20: Grapes from the Wahluke Slope went into this Cabernet Sauvignon from Seven Falls Cellars, one of the many pearls in Chateau Ste. Michelle’s string of wineries. Still primarily a restaurant pour, its stellar consistency in the hands of winemaker Doug Gore has made it highly coveted. Its nose promises deep black cherry fruit and spice, and in the mouth it delivers more cherries, blackberry, blueberry and grippy tannins. (14.5% alc., 45,000 cases produced)

Smasne Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc, Snipes Mountain, $44: Nobody makes more wines from Snipes Mountain, an upthrust in the middle of the Yakima Valley near the community of Sunnyside, than Robert Smasne. And Upland Vineyard is one of the historic plantings in Washington wine country, with a legacy that stretches back to 1917. This elegant yet powerful Cabernet Franc opens with aromas of dried herbs, black licorice and black currant. On the palate, it opens with flavors of dark cherry that gives way to notes of pipe tobacco and boysenberry. Firm yet pliable tannins provide all the structure to pair with braised meats or to cellar for up to a decade. (13.9% alc., 75 cases produced)

Tightrope Winery 2014 Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, $35: Tightrope Winery in Penticton, British Columbia, amassed a double gold and four gold medals at the 2015 Great Northwest Wine Competition, and the husband/wife tandem of Graham and Lyndsay O’Rourke continues to impress U.S. judges. Graham’s viticulture work on their Tightrope Vineyard and nearby Hermitage Vineyard, harvested during the first two weeks of October, allows Lyndsay to create a suave and rich Pinot Noir that brings aromas of black currant, plum, dried strawberry and cinnamon dust. There’s sophistication and suppleness on the pour and dark purple fruit flavors finish with cherry skin and cherry juice. (12.8% alc., 420 cases produced)

Van Duzer Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $32: Van Duzer Vineyards near Dallas, Ore., drew on several Willamette Valley sources for its 2013 Pinot Noir, crafting a wine that startles the taster with licorice elements in its opening aromas, backed by cherries and spice. On the tongue, there are more cherries and licorice, plus a hint of blueberry, leading to well-managed tannins in its close. (13.5% alc., 6,109 cases produced)

Van Duzer Vineyards 2013 WestSide Blocks Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $60: Zephyra, Greek goddess of the west wind, is featured on Van Duzer’s label and seems especially appropriate for its 2013 West Blocks Pinot Noir, which should be closest to the Pacific’s cool ocean breezes and the afternoon sun. Cherries, spices and cedar aromatics usher in refined red and black berry flavors that gradually fade into chocolaty, refined tannins and a final touch of nice acidity. (13.5% alc., 272 cases produced)

Westport Winery 2013 Jetty Cat, Columbia Valley, $29: Jetty Cat, a title inspired by a feline waterfront resident, is Westport Winery’s name for a 2013 red blend composed of 32% Cabernet Franc, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Syrah, 15% Merlot and 5% Malbec. Made from Columbia Valley grapes, it has a hint of leafiness on its nose from the Cab Franc, plus cherries and blueberries. On the palate, it’s a complex drink of black cherries, blackberries, blueberries and plums, with chocolate in its finish and grippy tannins. (14% alc., 419 cases produced)

William Grassie Wine Estates 2013 Liberation Syrah, Columbia Valley, $35: Owner/winemaker Bill Grassie produces his wines in Woodinville and also has planted a vineyard at his property in Fall City, a tiny community in rural eastern King County. The grapes for this wine come from east of the Cascades, and it is a beautiful effort. Aromas of blackberry cobbler, lightly toasted oak and a hint of black licorice gives way to flavors of racy dark fruit, dark chocolate and espresso, all backed by just-right tannins that lead to a memorable finish. (14.3% alc., 111 cases produced)


Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2013 “A squared” Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $25: The Horse Heaven Hills are home to about 25% of Washington’s wine grapes and home as well to Alexandria Nicole Cellars. It’s a deep, complex wine, redolent of oak, black cherry, blackberry and plum, which strut their stuff on the palate and march off to a triumphant close of blueberry-flavored tannins. (14.4% alc., 427 cases produced)

Amelia Wynn 2013 The Dwelley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $32: Amelia Wynn winery on Bainbridge Island brought in Walla Walla Valley grapes from Dwelley Vineyard for this 2013 gold medal winner. On the nose, it shows off spice, blackberries and elegant use of oak, including 50% used American barrels. In the mouth, it displays blackberry, brambleberry, graphite and firm tannins, with a lingering touch of spice at the end. (14.2% alc., 96 cases produced)

Amelia Wynn 2013 Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley, $32: Bainbridge Island winemaker Paul Bianchi continues his impressive run of showy wines in West Coast competitions with this bottling from Stillwater Creek Vineyard in the Frenchman Hills near Royal City, Wash. He uses no French oak, but instead relies on Hungarian and American wood to help develop the nose of Chukar Cherry, toasted cherry wood and vanilla bean. This showy example is pretty rather than powerful with its structure, bringing flavors of Craisins and dried blueberries with black licorice and more vanilla. Juicy acidity stays just ahead of the orange pekoe tea tannins. (14.4% alc., 48 cases produced)

Armstrong Family Winery 2013 Four Birds, Columbia Valley, $25: Armstrong Family Winery in Woodinville reached across the Cascades to the Columbia Valley for the grapes in its Merlot-driven red blend for 2013, mixing 63% Merlot with 37% Cabernet Franc. There are only pleasant surprises to its aromas and flavors, which display a bit of leafiness and cherry from the Cab Franc, then blackberries from the Merlot and spice from its oak aging. At the finish, there’s a bit of sweet dark chocolate and a nip of licorice caramel. (14.8% alc., 310 cases produced)

Barili Cellars 2013 Syrah, Rattlesnake Hills, $24: Based in downtown Spokane, Barili brought in grapes for this Syrah from highly esteemed Dineen Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills district of the Yakima Valley. The resulting wine is filled with aromas of toasted oak, smoked ham and plum reduction sauce, followed by flavors of dried salami, maple syrup and boysenberry sauce. It is a complex yet approachable red. (14.2% alc., 40 cases produced)

Barrister Winery 2013 Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $37: Barrister Winery subpoenaed grapes from Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley, then crushed them into a blend of 95% percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Petit Verdot from historic Bacchus Vineyard along the Columbia River and 2.5% Merlot from Artz Vineyard on Red Mountain. The result is a bountiful blend of black and blue fruit aromas and flavors that linger long on the palate and close with a minty tannins. (14.5% alc., 162 cases produced)

Bridge Press Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $35: Bridge Press Cellars built this wine with 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc from the Walla Walla Valley, then aged it in French oak for 20 months. The result is a sophisticated mix of black cherry, blackberry and blueberry aromas and flavors under subtle nuances of caramel and spice. It finishes long and lush. (14% alc., 150 cases produced)

Bunnell Family Cellar 2010 Lia, Columbia Valley, $36: Ron Bunnell has something of a Midas touch with Rhône grapes and Bunnell Family Winery’s 2010 Rhône blend, titled “Lia,” shines by using 29% each of Mourvèdre and Syrah, augmented by 14% each of Grenache, Cinsault and Counoise from the Columbia Valley. Spice, cured meat, blackberries and blueberries waft from the glass, and in the mouth, plums and black currants join the fruit parade. In closing, chocolate, black licorice and grippy tannins emerge. (14.8% alc., 174 cases produced)

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2014 The Expedition Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: Canoe Ridge Vineyard has given “The Expedition” title to this tier, playing off the ridgetop site named by Lewis and Clark after they noted in 1805 that it looked like an overturned canoe. The winery’s 2014 Merlot from the Horse Heaven Hills offers a hint of pepper, then blackberries and mint in its nose. On the tongue, flavors of blackberries and black currants emerge, followed quickly by blackberries and then grippy tannins and AVA’s typical minerality on the finish. Luckily, we 21st century travelers don’t need a several-day canoe trip downriver to find our share of Canoe Ridge. It’s just a short drive to the nearest wine shop or grocery story for this “Best Buy.” (13.8% alc., 7,500 cases produced)

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2013 Echo Vineyard Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley, $44: The Columbia Valley extends south of Hermiston, Ore., which is where Hood River vintner Robb Bell sources the fruit for his dark, dense and intense Petit Verdot. Black plum, blackberry, cherry liqueur and mincemeat spice aromas lead to a remarkably silky structure of Bing cherry, Red Vines licorice and red currant. There’s a balance to the tannin structure and a steady stream of acidity that makes for a long finish. (13.4% alc., 125 cases produced)

Cave B Estate Winery 2013 Barbera, Columbia Valley, $35: Walla Walla graduate Freddy Arredondo sourced estate grapes grapes near the Gorge Amphitheater for this Barbera. It opens with aromas and juicy flavors of cherries and blackberries that stretch seamlessly from the front to the back of the palate, then closes with mouth watering acidity and smooth tannins. (13.9% alc., 200 cases produced)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Artist Series Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $65: Many Pacific Northwest wineries are celebrating significant anniversaries in 2016, so it’s fitting that the 20th anniversary of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Artist Series has won another gold medal and can join the party. This 2012 vintage red blend was 71% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14% Merlot; 9% Malbec; 4% Cabernet Franc; 2% Petit Verdot, drawn from across the Columbia Valley. Coffee tones from its oak, plus a parade of fruit aromas from black cherry down to black currant. Though now four years old, its fruit flavors are fresh, its acidity holding firm and its tannins are refined, not bracing. It will age gracefully but will drink well tonight if you’re lucky enough to have some. (14.5% alc., 4,300 cases produced)

Cinq Cellars 2013 The Professors, Yakima Valley, $28: Cinq Cellars of Redmond, Wash., dubbed its Cabernet Sauvignon-focused red blend “The Professors” to honor the faculty members of the University of Washington and Washington State University who have helped foster Washington’s wine industry through their research and encouragement. For grapes, Cinq reached into the Yakima Valley, Washington’s oldest AVA, for 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 11% Petit Verdot. The resulting wine shows off an array of fruit flavors and aromas from black cherry to blueberry, a bit of vanilla and smoke from its oak before finishing with a burst of black cherry, chocolate and smooth tannins. (13.8% alc., 215 cases produced)

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2014 Petite Sirah, Washington, $32: Coco Umiker is a talented young winemaker working hard to revive the legacy of winemaking in the Lewis-Clark Valley. She does reach outside of her region for a few of her grapes, and this Petite Sirah is one of them, as the fruit comes from Washington’s Columbia Valley. It’s a rich, deep and intense wine that provides clear indications that the future of Northwest Petite Sirah is bright. It opens with aromas of gorgeous chocolate-raspberry cake and plump blueberry, followed by flavors of blackberry cobbler with plum sauce and a hint of oak. (14.9% alc., 180 cases produced)

Coiled Wines 2013 Black Mamba, Snake River Valley, $30: Named for the formidable tropical snake, Leslie Preston’s 2013 Black Mamba is appropriately made from grapes grown in the Snake River Valley using 97% Petit Verdot and 3% Petite Sirah. Despite such dark wine components, it’s a smooth-drinking red blend with aromas of blueberry, black currant and black pepper. In the mouth, its blueberry and black currant fruit add a quiet blackberry note, plus more black pepper and a surprisingly tame set of tannins. We would pair it with a New York steak adorned with black peppercorns. (14.3% alc., 220 cases produced)

Colter’s Creek Winery 2013 Syrah, Snake River Valley, $17: Spokane native Melissa Sanborn is part of a group of winemakers reviving the wine industry around Lewiston, Idaho. The grapes for this wine come from the Snake River Valley to the south. It provides aromas of applewood-smoked bacon and blackberry sauce, followed by flavors of maple syrup, black pepper, dark chocolate and boysenberry. It is round, rich and luscious through the lengthy finish. (14.8% alc., 300 cases produced)

Columbia Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $14: Columbia Winery boasts “50 years of progressive winemaking” on its latest label and this 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon extends a reputation that began with its long-ago name of Associated Vintners. This Columbia Valley offering sports bright aromas of blackberries and black currants with deftly-used oak. On the palate, the blackberries and currants remain lively augmented by a dusting of cocoa powder and a bit of Bing cherry in its finish. (13.7% alc., 105,000 cases produced)

Coyote Canyon Winery 2012 Robert Andrews Mourvèdre, Horse Heaven Hills, $38: Coyote Canyon Winery calls its finest wines H/H Estate Reserve these days, and the 2013 Robert Andrews Mourvèdre is certainly worthy of that distinction. Using grapes from the Andrews family’s Coyote Canyon Vineyard high in the Horse Heaven Hills, Mike Andrews’ winery crew blended Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache and Counoise into this distinctive red wine. Its aromas and flavors readily show off blackberries, black currants and a dash of white pepper. Its juicy acidity extends well into its finish where gracefully managed tannins show off the tail-end of the AVA’s well-known minerality. Pair it with rack of lamb. (14.9% alc., 96 cases produced)

Daven Lore Winery 2012 Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $29: Daven Lore Winery of Prosser, Wash., brought in Merlot from the adjacent Horse Heaven Hills for this wine, then cranked out another gold medal wine. It opens with sweet aromas of blackberry fruit augmented by deeper tones of blueberry and black currant. Its flavor profile sports ripe summer blackberries and black currants edged with dark chocolate, then it closes with grippy blueberry tannins. (14.5% alc., 113 cases produced)

Davenport Cellars 2012 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $28: Jeff and Sheila Jirka set up Davenport Winery in Woodinville’s Warehouse District in 2007 after going through South Seattle Community College’s winemaking program. Together, they craft wines of excellence. This luscious Syrah is a great example, thanks to aromas and flavors of smoked sausage, dried herbs, ripe Bing cherry and dark chocolate shavings. On the palate, this is a gorgeous wine that is generous with its dark fruit flavors yet backed with complex acidity and moderate tannins. This is a perfect wine to serve with braised meat dishes. (14.9% alc., 101 cases produced)

Deer Creek Vineyards 2014 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $24: Southern Oregon vintners John and Katherine Bryan began their collaboration with winemakers Herb Quady and Brian Gruber of Barrel 42 Custom Winecraft in Medford during 2014, and this Pinot Noir continues to impress judges along the West Coast. It earned a gold medal at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and follows up on that at the Cascadia. Grapes from their vineyard along Deer Creek Road in the Illinois Valley achieve richness and ripeness, creating aromas of warm caramel, black cherry, dark strawberry and orange zest. The drink is one of finesse, filled with black currant, dried blueberry and and Rainier cherry. It’s a gorgeous Pinot Noir with a bit of strawberry seed bite to extend the finish. (13.5% alc., 560 cases produced)

Delfino Vineyards 2012 Dolcetto, Umpqua Valley: Delfino Vineyards picked grapes from its estate vineyard in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley for this 2012 Dolcetto, then winemakers Linda Donovan and Jim Delfino let their vineyard’s native yeasts take over. When fermentation finished and barrel aging concluded, aromas of strawberries, cherries and a hint of licorice emerged. On the palate, blackberries augment the abundant cherries, creating a mouthful of fruit that carries into and loosens the hold of its grippy Barbera tannins. (13.1% alc., cases produced)

Desert Wind Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $18: Desert Wind Winery of Prosser labeled this 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon as Washington, but the fine print reveals the grapes came from the Wahluke Slope. The result is an elegant drink that shows off aromas and flavors of blackberry, black currant and a hint of nutmeg and cardamom. (14.5% alc., 2,703 cases produced)

Dusted Valley Vintners 2013 Petite Sirah, Wahluke Slope, $42: Dusted Valley Vintners of Walla Walla brought in Wahluke Slope Petite Sirah grapes for its 2013 vintage. The result won’t surprise the winery’s fans, who flock there for lush, fruity Syrahs. Their PS relative shares blackberry and deep fruit aromas of raisins and black currants, plus some obligatory black pepper and long-lasting but controlled tannins offset by its appealing, juicy acidity. When you put a bottle of it on your table, be sure to have planned something hearty like a venison stew or a New York steak dusted with a generous coating of black pepper. (15.1% alc., 550 cases produced)

Eleganté Cellars 2014 Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley, $35: You’ll want to book a flight to Eleganté Cellars, a Walla Walla airport winery before this small operation runs out of its 94-case production of 2014 Tempranillo from Les Collines Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. Doug Simmons, who’s know for crafting high-quality Sangiovese with regularity, used the best-known Spanish red grape to make this stunner. Mint, spice, cherries and a suggestion of raspberry crowd into its aromatics, then the cherries combine with jammy loganberries and black currants on the palate. It finishes, as is the way of young Tempranillo, with grippy tannins. (12.5% alc., 94 cases produced)

Elk Cove Vineyards 2014 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $29: Elk Cove Vineyards has built a long record of crafting fine Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley grapes, and its 2014 adds to that reputation. Drawing on vineyards in the valley’s north end, this latest version yields cherry, blackberry and blueberry aromas and flavors, plus subtle spices and cedar elements. It closes with firm tannins and lingering fruit. (13.5% alc., 22,000 cases produced)

Et Fille Wines 2013 Heredity Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $34: The French phrase “et fille” translates to “and daughter,” which describes the concept at this North Willamette Valley project of Howard Mozeico and his daughter, Jessica. Heredity signifies the best barrels in their winery, and skilled hands develop aromas of dark strawberry, dusty raspberry and black currant. Blueberry juice and pomegranate begin to describe the lithe structure of the mouth feel, which opens with tangy acidity and balanced tannins, creating a long finish that will marry well with Cornish game hen or duck in a cherry reduction sauce. (12.6% alc., 371 cases produced)

Et Fille Wines 2012 Deux Vert Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $48: Howard and Jessica Mozeico are a father-and-daughter team from Newberg, Ore., as one might guess from their Et Fille label. And together they’ve crafted a gold medal winner from Deux Vert Vineyard Pinot Noir grapes grown in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Thus the wine’s spicy dark cherry and blueberry aromas, plus a touch of chocolate are no surprise. In the mouth, a blueberry skin overlay rides atop the cherries, augmented by a splash of blackberry at the end. That leads into dark chocolate, nice acidity and firm tannins in the finish. It’s a deep, complex wine of the sort the Willamette Valley has made famous. (13.4% alc., 120 cases produced)

Fidelitas 2013 Malbec, Red Mountain, $40: Charlie Hoppes drew on Red Mountain for his 2013 Malbec, and the resulting wine offers proof why this AVA’s vineyards are focusing more and more on red grape varieties. His Fidelitas is faithful to the grape, with flavors and aromas of black plums, blackberries and black cap raspberries. It closes with grippy tannins and a last sigh of sweet dark fruit. (15% alc., 580 cases produced)

Foris Vineyards Winery 2012 Siskiyou Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon, Rogue Valley, $20: Foris Vineyards of Cave Junction, Ore., brought in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Siskiyou Terrace Vineyard of the Rogue Valley for this wine and turned them into an elegant sipper. It shows off ripe blackberry, black currant and spice in its aromas and flavors before closing with restrained tannins. (14% alc., 320 cases produced)

Gamache Vintners 2013 Reserve Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley: A freshly opened package of Twizzlers Strawberry Nibs starts the discussion of Charlie Hoppes’ work on this bottling for the Gamache family. He blended some of their estate fruit with famed Ciel du Cheval on Red Mountain, and the aromas pick up cherry pipe tobacco, cedar and vanilla extract. The drink is supple with black currant juice and raspberry syrup, which are backed by sandy tannins that add structure and lead to a dried strawberry finish. (14.5% alc., cases produced)

Goose Ridge Vineyards 2011 Sol Duc, Columbia Valley, $50: Sol Duc, a Meritage-style blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 18% Malbec and 9% Petit Verdot, is the creation of Goose Ridge Vineyards, which is squeezed between Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills on the south, Red Mountain on the northwest and Richland and Kennewick to the east and northeast. Aged in 40% new French oak and 60% used barrels, it’s a sophisticated blend leading off with spicy oak, bright cherries, blackberries and blueberries in its nose, then on its palate. Toward the finish chocolaty tannins emerge, leading to a lingering, juicy finish. (14.9% alc., 248 cases produced)

Hightower Cellars 2013 Reserve, Red Mountain, $55: Hightower Cellars is high atop Red Mountain at the end of famed Sunset Road. The Hightowers use estate grapes for this reserve-titled blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Petit Verdot. Just-right oak tones with a bit of vanilla lead off its aromas, followed by black cherries and dark berries. On the tongue, black cherry fruit merges seamlessly with blackberry and blueberry, leading to sweet dark chocolate and refined tannins. It’s a refined, elegant and versatile red blend perfect for a celebratory meal featuring beef, lamb or duck. (13.8% alc., 172 cases produced)

JoieFarm Winery 2014 Gamay, Okanagan Valley, $24: JoieFarm sourced Gamay from the famous Naramata Bench for this delightful, fruit-forward red wine from B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, crafting a supple drink that opens with abundant red cherries and a hint of spice. The cherries are mouth-filling at first sip, then slowly make way for bright acidity, leading to a lengthy finish of minerality and earthy tannins. (13.5% alc., 450 cases produced)

JoieFarm Winery 2014 Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, $24: JoieFarm drew on vineyards on the Okanagan region’s Naramata Bench and in Summerland for this Pinot Noir. The result is a cool-climate, elegant drink featuring red cherries, cranberries and refined oak and light spice. On the palate, it is seductively smooth instead of aggressively edgy like some of its southern cousins from Oregon. Pair it with roast duck or venison tenderloin. (12.9% alc., 700 cases produced)

Kennedy Shah 2012 Artz Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Franc, Red Mountain, $45: Woodinville winemaker Jean-Claude Beck, a native of Alsace, brought in these grapes grown by the late Fred Artz on Red Mountain. The longtime former Klipsun Vineyard manager passed away in 2015, and this vineyard-designate Cab Franc serves as a wonderful living tribute, opening with red currant, fresh rosemary, brown sugar and California peppercorns. There’s richness of ripe currants and cherries from start to finish as juicy acidity keeps pushing nonstop. (14.5% alc., 58 cases produced)

Knudsen Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $55: One of the Oregon wine industry’s most important figures – the late Cal Knudsen – would be proud of the synergy his four children have created in launching this brand that serves as a tribute to their father. Argyle winemaker Nate Klostermann also takes the lead on this project, and he captures the terroir of the Dundee Hills for the Knudsen family. Cranberry sauce, dried raspberry, mint, cedar and pink peppercorn aromas lead to a drink of refinement. Plump raspberry, fresh cranberry and ground savory flavors combine to make this a quintessential example of the Dundee Hills with its theme of high-toned red fruit, backed by a long, food-friendly finish. (13.5% alc., 200 cases produced)

Kriselle Cellars 2013 S/CS, Rogue Valley, $29: Kriselle Cellars crafted its S/CS red blend from 53% Sangiovese and 47% Cabernet Sauvignon in 2013, using grapes from Oregon’s Rogue Valley. On the nose, it has a hint of strawberries, then spice, pomegranate and dark cherries. On the palate, its refined fruit shows red tones from strawberry, red currant and pomegranate, then Sangiovese’s sandy tannins that stretch into a long finish. (13.9% alc., 592 cases produced)

L’Ecole No 41 2013 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $25: L’Ecole No. 41, the Walla Walla Valley’s famous schoolhouse winery, had compiled a consistent record of A-list Syrah over decades. Now it can add its 2013 Columbia Valley version to that honor roll. Fresh game, plum, blueberry and blackberry aromas lead off, followed by more of the same fruit flavors, then well-managed blueberry tannins and graphite at the close. (15% alc., 2,400 cases produced)

Longship Cellars 2013 Ginger Man Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $26: Kyle Welch – the “ginger man” – is crafting the wines for this young Richland, Wash., winery, and he’s off to a great start. This beautiful Syrah uses grapes primarily from the Walla Walla Valley with a small amount from the warm Horse Heaven Hills. On the nose, it exudes aromas of rich, luscious purple fruit slathered in dark chocolate sauce. On the palate, it unveils sensual flavors of blackberry jam on toast and raspberry reduction sauce. There’s just enough acidity to provide ample structure. (14.6% alc., 120 cases produced)

Lumos Wine Co. 2013 Five Blocks Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $25: Dai Crisp farms renowned Temperance Hill Vineyard and owns Wren Vineyard near Corvallis, Ore. He combined a dozen barrels from those sites for this rewarding, spicy and fruit-filled Pinot Noir. Aromas of cranberry sauce, strawberry taffy, blueberry jam, fresh spearmint and California peppercorns lead to sauve flavors of blueberry and pomegranate. Those lively reddish blue fruit notes bring a long finish. (13.2% alc., 290 cases produced)

Maryhill Winery 2013 Les Collines Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $40: The highly regarded Les Collines Vineyard in the foothills of the Blue Mountains provided the fruit for this 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and winemaker Richard Batchelor crafted it into a gold medal wine. Its nose offers sweet herbs, dark cherries and blueberries followed on the palate by blackberries, blueberries and chalky tannins that close with some dark chocolate. (14.8% alc., 279 cases produced)

Maryhill Winery 2012 Vintage Port, Columbia Valley, $20: Winemaker Richard Batchelor arrived in Washington in 2009 from New Zealand (via Napa Valley) and had an immediate effect. Today, he simply crafts some of the Northwest’s best wines. For this classic Port-style red, Batchelor brings in traditional Portuguese varieties, including Tinta Cão, Souzao and Touriga Naçional. The result is a luscious dessert wine with alluring aromas of dark chocolate, raspberry filling and sweet spices. On the palate, it unveils flavors of boysenberry syrup, dark molasses and golden raisin. Wave after wave of flavors wash across the tongue in a never-ending sea of deliciousness. (19.2% alc., 324 cases produced)

Maryhill Winery 2013 Rosso Granato, Columbia Valley, $36: Maryhill Winery Winemaker Richard Batchelor paired 80% Petite Sirah and 20% Zinfandel in a 2013 Proprietor’s Reserve blend. The Petite Sirah came from Art Den Hoed Vineyard in the Yakima Valley and the Zinfandel from Gunkel Vineyard from the Columbia Valley. And as blended, they are Rosso Granato, with spice, cherry, blackberry and blueberry aromas and flavors that lead into grippy tannins and a long black fruit finish. (14.5% alc., 287 cases produced)

Maryhill Winery 2013 Painted Hills Vineyard Tempranillo, Columbia Valley, $34: Art den Hoed’s excellent Painted Hills Vineyard near Mabton, Wash., in the Columbia Valley provided the grapes for this 2013 Tempranillo. and Richard Batchelor, winemaker at Maryhill, turned them into another gold medal winner. Deep cherry aromas, a bit of mint and warm spices on the nose usher in dark cherries, blackberries and blueberries on the palate. Grippy tannins and juicy acidity close out its lengthy finish. (14.2% alc., 207 cases produced)

Mercer Estates Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $28: Jessica Munnell, who elevated Mercer Estates to Wine Press Northwest magazine’s Washington Winery of the Year for 2016, crafted another winner with her 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from estate grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills. Spice, blueberries, late summer blackberries and cassis show off their aromas and flavors in this lush wine, which closes with grippy, sweet tannins. Serve it with a char-grilled steak. (14.1% alc., cases produced)

Mercer Estates Winery 2012 Reserve Cavalie, Horse Heaven Hills, $42: The top scoring red wine from the 2016 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition – judged last fall – enjoys another impressive ride with a different set of judges. Jessica Munnell develops this in a Right Bank Bordeaux style, leading with Merlot (52%) and skillfully blending Cabernet Sauvignon (27%), Malbec (17%) and Petit Verdot during her first vintage as head winemaker for the Mercer family. Aromas of toasted oak, black cherry, black currant, vanilla bean, nutmeg and clove. Its plummy entry leads to a blend of pomegranate and blueberry with a finish of bittersweet chocolate and raspberry. The sturdy frame is built to age, but folks in Texas and beyond can enjoy this now with a well-marbled steak. (14.7% alc., 270 cases produced)

Milbrandt Vineyards 2014 Traditions Merlot, Columbia Valley, $17: Butch and Jerry Milbrandt have plenty of acres of grapes to choose from, but they selected a batch from the Columbia Valley for this Merlot. Labeled “Traditions,” it’s a dark wine with spice, blackberries and a hint of mint in its nose, then more blackberries, dipping down into blueberries, and closing with sweet, carefully managed tannins in its close. Its abundant fruit profile and careful oak management give it an understated elegance. (13.5% alc., 9,188 cases produced)

Milbrandt Vineyards 2013 The Estates Clifton Hill Syrah, Wahluke Slope, $42: The warm western edge of Washington’s Wahluke Slope is one of the great places to properly ripen Syrah. The Milbrandts’ Clifton Hill Vineyard overlooks the Columbia River and often produces some of the state’s best early ripening fruit. This example is loaded with aromas and flavors of huckleberry, vanilla, Graham cracker crust and spices. It is backed by bright acidity and modest tannins, giving way to a memorable finish. (15% alc., 323 cases produced)

Mt. Hood Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $38: Vineyards planted outside the tiny Eastern Oregon town of Echo provided the grapes for Mt. Hood Winery’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Sited above the Umatilla River, the vineyard falls into the Columbia Valley AVA, which may be confusing to wine lovers on the west side of the Cascades. But there’s nothing confusing about the result, which shows off aromatics of violets, black cherries, blueberries and a whiff of tobacco. On the palate, the black cherries dominate, bulwarked with blueberry and black currant and carefully managed tannins. (14.3% alc., 90 cases produced)

Muret-Gaston 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, $42: Muret-Gaston winery in Benton City, Wash., used grapes from the nearby Red Mountain AVA for this 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, then blended them with 20% Petit Verdot. It displays aromas of ripe blackberries, black currants and spice, then shows off the same flavors, augmented at the end by firm, juicy tannins. (14.5% alc., 375 cases produced)

Naches Heights Vineyard 2013 Grenache, Yakima Valley, $30: Phil Cline stayed close to home in finding the grapes for its 2013 Grenache, tapping Two Coyote Vineyard in the Yakima Valley – a site he also farms. The result is an aromatic red wine that displays pomegranate, blackberry and spice in the glass, then juicy pomegranate, blackberry and blueberry flavors in the mouth. Its lingering finish displays graphite-like minerality and well-managed tannins. (14.3% alc., 125 cases produced)

O•S Winery 2013 Sonas Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley, $25: Using grapes from Sheridan Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, this winery in the south Seattle neighborhood of Georgetown has created a beautiful and elegant Cab Franc. Aromas of dried purple lavender and black cherry give way to flavors of huckleberry, vanilla cream and sweet dried herbs. It’s all backed by firm yet pliable tannins that lead to a memorable finish. (14.1% alc., 400 cases produced)

Palouse Winery 2013 Dineen Vineyard Mystique Merlot, Rattlesnake Hills, $30: Palouse Winery’s 2013 “Mystique” Merlot might be mysterious to some, but a few sniffs and sips reveal easily understood spice, violets, black cherries and blackberries in its nose, augmented by black cherry, currants, chocolate and coffee before it closes with robust, chocolaty tannins. Its lush fruit came from Dineen Vineyard near the Yakima Valley town of Zillah, then traveled west to the Vashon Island winery. (13.7% alc., 150 cases produced)

Plain Cellars 2013 Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley, $28: This little winery north of Leavenworth in the town of Plain, Wash., has been on our radar for a couple of years, thanks to the immense quality of its red wines. This Cab Franc is a new variety for winemaker Garrett Grubbs, who brought in fruit from Chandler Reach Vineyard across the Yakima River from Red Mountain. Aromas of succulent spices from 100% French oak aging meld with notes of black currant and olive. On the palate, it reveals flavors of plum, sage and gravely minerality, all backed by approachable tannins and perfect acidity. (13.7% alc., 91 cases produced)

Plaisance Ranch 2013 Carménère, Applegate Valley, $30: Plaisance Ranch in Williams, Ore., used Carménère from Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley to make a wine with a dark and intense nose of molasses, blackberry, plum and sweet cherry, plus herbs and sweet spices. There’s a pleasing texture to its plush tannins and great balance shows in its luscious cherries and currants. It has a lingering finish of mocha, chai spices and herbs that especially should appeal to fans of Cabernet Franc. Not a lot of Carménère is produced in the Northwest, but this is one of the best we’ve tasted. (15% alc., 200 cases produced)

Plaisance Ranch 2013 Syrah, Applegate Valley, $25: Joe Ginet is emerging as one of Southern Oregon’s most exciting winemakers. Using grapes from the fascinating and little-understood Applegate Valley, he has crafted a Syrah with elegance and power. Aromas of espresso, dark chocolate and blackberry lead to plush flavors of blueberry sauce, maple syrup and ripe plum. Pliable tannins provide the balance without getting in the way of the luscious fruit. (14.6% alc., 300 cases produced)

Pondera Winery 2012 Stillwater Creek Syrah, Columbia Valley, $38: Woodinville, Wash., winemaker Shane Howard has been crafting wine for Pondera since 2005, and he uses some of the top grapes in Washington. Stillwater Creek is a vineyard east of Ellensburg and grows highly sought-after fruit. This luscious Syrah offers aromas of dark chocolate, ripe plum and black cherry, followed by flavors of dark chocolate, ripe blackberry and crushed dried herbs. It’s all backed by juicy acidity and firm tannins. (14.3% alc., 152 cases produced)

Purple Star Wines 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $19: Kyle Johnson, a graduate of Washington State University and the University of Ste. Michelle, obtained fruit from the Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope and Yakima Valley AVAs for its 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, creating a sophisticated blend of regions that shows off attractive spice aromas overlaying mixed black and blue fruit. In the mouth, blackberries, black currants and black plums lead to well-managed tannins and a nip of licorice at the end. (14.5% alc., 1,200 cases produced)

Purple Star Wines 2013 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $19: Winemaker Kyle Johnson came to our attention when he made superior wines for Olsen Estate in the Yakima Valley community of Prosser. Now he is just east of there along the Yakima River crafting delicious wines for his own label. This stunning Syrah opens with aromas of smoked meats, blackberry cobbler and black licorice, followed by flavors of black currant, crushed herb and smoky bacon. It’s all backed by demure tannins. (14.5% alc., 1,208 cases produced)

Robert Karl Cellars 2013 Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $24: Robert Karl Cellars in Spokane, Wash., used 100% Merlot grapes from the Andrews Horse Heaven Ranch for its 2013 vintage. Its varietal character shines clearly in its aromas and flavors of blackberries and blueberries, aided by some oak spice and firm but chocolaty tannins. At the end of its lengthy finish, this wine also reveals its sturdy structure by showing the characteristic Horse Heaven Hills minerality. (14.3% alc., 100 cases produced)

Ross Andrew Winery 2013 The Huntsman Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: Ross Andrew Winery of Walla Walla labeled this Cabernet Sauvignon “The Huntsman,” and it clearly hits the mark. It displays aromas and flavors of blackberries, John Robertson raspberries and and cassis, then finishes with restrained tannins and a bit of chocolate, (13.2% alc., 2,884 cases produced)

Ryan Patrick 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Rattlesnake Hills, $50: Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA produced the grapes for the Flanagan and Milbrandt family’s 2013 Reserve. It offers spice, blackberries and black currants on the nose, then augments them with brambleberries and a hint of black tea, creating a sophisticated wine worthy of a thick New York steak seared and served medium rare. (15% alc., 300 cases produced)

Ryan Patrick 2013 Reserve Syrah, Red Mountain, $40: Jeremy Santo, a Washington State University grad, reached into the Red Mountain AVA’s Red Heaven Vineyard for the grapes for its 2013 Reserve Syrah. And with that pedigree, it’s no surprise this is a wine of heft, breadth and depth. It opens with oaky black fruit and coffee aromas, then dips even darker and deeper into boysenberries, blackberries, blueberries and black plum fruit flavors. It’s no wine for the faint of heart, closing with earthy minerality and grippy tannins. (15% alc., 215 cases produced)

Saviah Cellars 2013 G.S.M., Washington, $38: Saviah Cellars of Walla Walla, Wash., chose to label this 2013 red blend simply: It’s G.S.M. and listed as Washington State Red Wine. No sweat about AVAs or polysyllabic titles in French or Spanish. And this wine is equally straightforward and refreshing, with aromas and flavors of pomegranate, plum and blackberries, plus an enthusiastic grind of black pepper atop its refined tannins. This is the third consecutive year that winemaker Rich Funk’s GSM blend has won gold or better in the Cascadia Wine Competition (it won best of show in 2014). (14.7% alc., 297 cases produced)

Saviah Cellars 2013 Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley, $38: Saviah Cellars tapped several vineyards in its hometown Walla Walla Valley AVA for its 2013 Tempranillo, reaching out to Funk, Dugger Creek and Watermill Estate. Ihe resulting lush wine takes off with dark cherries and spicy herbs on the nose, then dives down past its black cherries into blueberries, black plum a touch of cracked black pepper before gliding down onto a runway of smooth tannins. It’s a flight of fancy well worth raising your glass to – repeatedly. (14.2% alc., 151 cases produced)

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2012 Syrah, Applegate Valley, $36: This Southern Oregon winery is on a roll, crafting superb examples of everything from Pinot Noir to Syrah. This marvelous Syrah uses grapes from the little-understood Applegate Valley not far from the California border. It opens with aromas of dark chocolate, French press coffee and Hostess blackberry pie. On the palate, it is firm throughout, thanks to rich flavors of dark fruit backed by austere acidity and firm tannins. It is a complex wine with remarkable balance. (14.67% alc., 251 cases produced)

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2013 Tempranillo, Applegate Valley, $38: Schmidt Family Vineyards near Grants Pass, Ore., has proved its skills with an array of varieties. And in 2013, the winery added Tempranillo to its Applegate Valley portfolio with predictably excellent results. Its nose readily shows off cherries, blackberries and warm spices. And a sip reveals dark cherries, blueberries, plum and blueberry skin tannins and a layer of chocolaty tannins. A finishing nip of acidity combines with its grippy tannins for a lingering finish. (13.82% alc., 73 cases produced)

Seven Falls Cellars 2012 Merlot, Wahluke Slope, $20: Not content with consistent wins for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Seven Falls Cellars also is producing a classy 2012 Merlot from Wahluke Slope grapes. With the talented Doug Gore at its helm, Seven Falls is the newest pearl in Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ string of high-quality wineries. With a $20 retail price aimed at restaurant wine lists, this young label is fast becoming a popular choice for budget-watching wine lovers who also want quality. The 2012 opens with vanilla oak tones, then offers lush aromas and flavors of blackberries, cassis and blueberry. It closes with restrained tannins and just a bit of sweet dark chocolate. (14.5% alc., 27,000 cases produced)

Skylite Cellars 2012 Malbec, Yakima Valley, $32: Skylite Cellars of Walla Walla reached west to Verhey Vineyard in the Yakima Valley for the grapes in this 100% Malbec. Those who love to ponder the difference between winemakers should seek out the Smasne Cellars from the same vineyard. Both share the intense color and deep black fruit aromas of Malbec and their vineyard, but on the palate, the Skylite seems a bit bigger, bolder and brasher. (13.8% alc., 110 cases produced)

Smasne Cellars 2012 Verhey Vineyard Malbec, Yakima Valley, $26: Robert Smasne can be counted on to produce gold medal wines regularly, and his 2012 Malbec from Verhey Vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA extends that reputation. The result is a wine with deep black fruit, including blackberries and dark plums, carefully managed tannins and a satisfying finish. (13.9% alc., 350 cases produced)

Smasne Cellars 2012 Coyote Canyon Vineyard RO Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $40: Robert Smasne called his 2012 Merlot from Coyote Canyon Vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills simply “Ro,” apparently “Because She Asked,” the label’s subtitle states. No matter how this small mystery unravels, his Grandview winery has produced another superb red wine. The edition’s aromas promise cherry, blackberry and spice flavors and on the palate all three appear, plus deep-down blueberries and dark chocolate as the sandy tannins on its finish emerge. Ro or not, Robert O. Smasne created another gold medal winner with this one. (13.9% alc., 125 cases produced)

Snoqualmie 2014 ECO Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $13: Perhaps it’s the magic of pixie dust from the region around tiny Paterson, Wash., where Snoqualmie Winery made this 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from organic Columbia Valley grapes. Whatever the source, this Ste. Michelle Wine Estates product stands out for its spicy black cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors, backed by chalky tannins and a delicate layer of chocolate in the finish. (14.5% alc., 2,400 cases produced)

Sol Stone Winery 2013 Grenache, Wahluke Slope, $28: Sol Stone Winery of Sammamish, Wash., reached across the Cascade Mountain summits onto the sunny Wahluke Slope AVA and Weinbau Vineyard for this 2013 Grenache, blending in 3% Syrah and aging it in 2-year-old French oak. Rose petal, pomegranate and red currant notes accent its aromas, then mint, pomegranate and blackberry dominate its rich flavors. Supple tannins close out its finish. (13.3% alc., 120 cases produced)

Spangler Vineyards 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Southern Oregon, $39: Patrick Spangler, owner of this popular Roseburg, Ore., winery, labeled his 2013 Reserve as simply Oregon, but there’s nothing simple about the results. This wine has aromas of vanilla and red currant, then flavors of red and black currants and finishes with brisk tannins and a nip of licorice. (13.9% alc., 174 cases produced)

Spangler Vineyards 2013 Petite Sirah, Southern Oregon, $35: Since arriving several years ago on the Southern Oregon wine scene, Patrick Spangler has produced superb and exciting wines. He’s been making Petite Sirah for a decade now, and he has his style and fruit sources dialed in. This example reveals aromas of cocoa powder, fresh-brewed espresso and blackberry cobbler, followed by flavors of dark chocolate, boysenberry syrup and hints of oak. The supple yet firm tannins provide all the structure needed. (14.6% alc., 217 cases produced)

Stina’s Cellars 2013 Tempranillo, Wahluke Slope, $25: Washington’s warm Wahluke Slope nurtured the Tempranillo grapes for Stina’s Cellars in Lakewood, Wash., and the folks who live almost in the shadow of Mount Rainier crafted that fruit into a shining 2013 vintage that features aromas of bright cherries and spicy vanilla. In the mouth, those cherries pop with bright red acidity, then slide smoothly into blueberry skin, more spice and carefully managed tannins, a surprising feat for a young Tempranillo. (14% alc., 95 cases produced)

Stottle Winery 2012 Big Eddie, Columbia Valley, $35: There must be something inspiring about living in Lacey, Wash., near the state Capitol in Olympia. Because the folks at Stottle Winery are bottling inspiration and selling it with their Merlot-focused red blend from 2012. Labeled from the Columbia Valley AVA, its blend is 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. Titled “Big Eddie,” it opens with cherry, blackberry, spice and chocolate aromas, leading to cherry, raspberry, dark chocolate and more spice in the mouth. It finishes long and juicy with controlled tannins. (14.8% alc., 200 cases produced)

Stottle Winery 2012 Elerding 6 Prong Vineyard Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, $32: Stottle Winery of Lacey, Wash., reached east into the Horse Heaven Hills and Elerding 6 Prong Vineyard for its Syrah grapes from the warm 2012 vintage. Nearly four years later, it’s a wine with blackberry, blueberry and cured meat aromas, then flavors of plum, blackberry and cassis, finishing with dark chocolate, black tea and a bit of kalamata olive pit in its abundant tannins. (14.9% alc., 138 cases produced)

Telaya Wine Co. 2013 Mourvèdre, Snake River Valley, $35: Telaya Winery in Garden City, Idaho, sourced fruit from the Skyline Vineyard for its 2013 Mourvèdre. Then Earl and Carrie Sullivan, the owners and winemakers, turned it into a dark, intense wine that offers hints of white pepper, blackberries and almost jammy black currants in its aromas, then blackberries, black currants and minerality in its full-bodied finish. Its tannins linger in the background, then take a brief bow at the end. (14% alc., 125 cases produced)

Telaya Wine Co. 2013 Turas, Snake River Valley, $32: Idaho’s Snake River Valley has a proven track record for producing fine Syrah grapes, which form the foundation for the Sullivans’ 2013 Turas, a blends of 55% Syrah, 27% Petit Verdot and 18% Malbec. A Syrah-based blend was the first wine for the Garden City, Idaho, winery – now Wine Press Northwest magazine’s Idaho Winery of the Year for 2016 – and has become its “flagship blend.” Cured meat, spice and blackberries mark its aromatics, while in the mouth it shows off a rich display of blackberries, plums, black pepper, blueberry and black olive, then closes with juicy acidity and abundant tannins. Serve it with a big, braggadocio meal, perhaps a cassoulet or a hearty venison stew with abundant herbs topped with crumbled bacon. (14% alc., 275 cases produced)

Tesoaria Vineyard & Winery 2014 (Redacted) Abouriou, California, $42: Abouriou, an early-ripening French red grape most often used for blending, went into this wine from Tesoaria Vineyard and Winery in Roseburg, Ore. Imported from California after the 2014 harvest, it shows off a spicy nose, dark berry flavors and aromas, deep color, a light acid profile and closes with grippy tannins. (14% alc., 422 cases produced)

Tesoaria Vineyard & Winery 2014 Dolcetto, Southern Oregon, $25: Dolcetto from Southern Oregon went into this 2014 vintage from crafted by Tesoaria Vineyard & Winery of Roseburg. Aromas of black cherries and a hint of plum combine on its nose, then it delivers abundant acidity, dark cherries and Italian prune flavors on the palate. It closes with mouth-filling, grippy tannins that carry an almond-like bite familiar to the adherents of Barbera. (13.9% alc., 419 cases produced)

Tightrope Winery 2014 Syrah, Okanagan Valley, $35: Graham and Lyndsay O’Rourke learned their winemaking skills in New Zealand before the Canadians moved to British Columbia. Together, they have created one of the most dynamic wineries in the province. This Syrah uses grapes from the warm Naramata Bench near Penticton. On the aromas, this provides notes of wild game meats and ripe plum. On the palate, it shows off flavors of huckleberry, vanilla cream and a sprinkling of cocoa powder. It’s all backed by remarkable structure that allows the flavors to dance across the palate. (13.2% alc., 288 cases produced)

Van Duzer Vineyards 2013 Saffron Fields Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $60: The Yamhill Carlton AVA yielded the fruit for Van Duzer Vineyard’s 2013 Saffron Fields Pinot Noir. And the result is aromas of violets, sandalwood, cherry, blueberry compote and spice that lead into flavors of sweet cherries, blueberry skin and whispers of chocolate, closing with a touch of acid and graphite-lined tannins. It’s a complex wine worth pondering by itself or with mushroom risotto and rack of lamb. (13.5% alc., 229 cases produced)

Vino La Monarcha 2012 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $20: Victor Palencia, the young, forward-looking owner for Vino La Monarcha wines, put his 2012 Merlot into a spiffy bag that will keep it fresh for 30 days after opening (and two years before). Using grapes from the Columbia Valley, he created a wine that offers blackberry and blueberry aromas, plus a dash of oak spice. On the palate, it offers lush summer blackberry, blueberry and hints of plum skin and black currant. It closes with juicy tannins and ample acidity. Consumers will have the last word on whether they’ll accept the concept of a 750-milliliter bag, but they should realize it contains a top-quality Merlot at a reasonable $20. (14.2% alc., 500 cases produced)

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, $32: Walla Walla Vintners brought in Malbec from highly acclaimed Pepper Bridge Vineyard for this elegant wine, which offers spice, blackberries and black plum on its nose, then lush blackberries and plums on the palate and finishes with elegant but firm tannins. This quality of this wine should come as no surprise, as Walla Walla Vintners was just named Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest magazine. (14.2% alc., 169 cases produced)

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $30: Walla Walla Vintners has always had a deft touch with Merlot, especially in years when a warm spring blesses its Walla Walla Valley estate vineyard, as 2013 did. This version reveals the winery’s typical refined touch with oak, which adds a touch of mint and spice, then aromatic blackberries and blueberries. Black currants, dark chocolate and regimented tannins close out its lingering finish. (14.2% alc., 641 cases produced)

Wautoma Wines 2012 Malbec, Columbia Valley, $48: Jessica Munnell seems to produce gold medals with almost everything she touches, and this 2012 Malbec is no exception. It offers aromas and flavors true to Malbec, with inky black colors, black plum and tannins reminiscent of black cap raspberries. It all adds up to a delightful drink for hearty fare like slow-cooked roasted potatoes, carrots and pot roast. (14.5% alc., 24 cases produced)

Wedge Mountain Winery 2014 Cabernet Franc, Wahluke Slope, $28: Charlie McKee quietly crafts delicious wines at his small facility in Peshastin, a tiny community not far from Leavenworth, Wash. Using grapes from the warm Wahluke Slope, he has produced a delicious Cab Franc with aromas of sage, clove and red cherry, followed by flavors of red and black fruit, along with licorice and a hint of spice rub. It’s all backed by brilliant acidity and mild tannins. It’s a gorgeous effort. (14% alc., 95 cases produced)

Westport Winery 2013 Charterboat Chick, Horse Heaven Hills, $28: Westport Winery sailed off to Discovery Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills in 2013 to obtain the grapes for its Charterboat Chick Cabernet, but the result is no salty dog. Notes of coffee and black fruit overlaid by plum lead to a lush palate of black cherry, blackberry, blueberry, plum and coffee, finished off with well-managed tannins. When you pick up a bottle, the rain slicker-clad woman on the label is none other than owner Kim Roberts. (14% alc., 122 cases produced)

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2014 Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $30: Industry leader Jim Bernau has built a reputation for making quality Pinot Noir that he sells for reasonable prices. And the 2014 Estate version extends that by offering deep cherry and cranberry aromatics with an underlay of oak, spice and a whiff of forest floor. On the palate, reaches from front to back, with the cranberry and a bit of red currant emerging as the wine finishes with juicy acidity and just-right tannins. (13.4% alc., 9,385 cases produced)

William Church Winery 2013 Tres Bien Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $36: This small producer in Woodinville’s warehouse district has a well-earned reputation for distinctive red wines, and the quality of this Cab Franc further burnishes that renown. It opens with aromas of luscious chocolate syrup, a hint of toasted oak and ample dark fruit, particularly blackberry and black currant. On the palate, it reveals flavors of olive, black licorice, plum and caramel, with classic crushed dried herbs in the background. (14.2% alc., 164 cases produced)

Windy Canyon 2014 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $35: This is a label for the Weaver Family Winery, a small producer near the Walla Walla Valley community of Touchet, Wash. Using grapes from the Walla Walla Valley, the winery has crafted a beautiful and graceful Syrah with aromas of blackberry jam, smoked bacon and dark chocolate. On the palate, it is loaded with flavors of boysenberry and a whisper of smoke, all backed by firm yet supple tannins. (14.8% alc., 24 cases produced)

Wy’East Vineyards 2014 Vinette’s Cuvèe Estate Pinot Noir, Columbia Gorge, $36: Second-generation winemaker Peter Cushman continues to prove himself a chip off the old block with this award-winning estate Pinot Noir, a product of his inaugural vintage working in Hood River, Ore., for the Reed family. It presents a beautiful nose of dusty strawberry, red currant, blood orange and white pepper with flavors to match, offering glimmering brightness of acidity with fine-grained sandy tannins. (13.6% alc., 350 cases produced)

Zerba Cellars 2013 Zinfandel, Walla Walla Valley, $45: The prominent letter “Z” emblazoned on Zerba Cellars’ label is the perfect symbol for the Walla Walla Valley winery’s 2013 Zinfandel. Drawing on grapes from his home AVA, winemaker Doug Nierman crafted another gold medal winner for the Milton-Freewater, Ore., winery. In the glass, vanilla, black currants, blackberries and raisins emerge, then in the mouth they are joined by spices and white pepper. It’s a mouth-filling, satisfying wine with elegant structure, lengthy finish and restrained tannins that can pair with almost any table fare suited for red wine. Treat your favorite California Zinfandel fans to this and you’ll have a better friend at first sip. (15.1% alc., 331 cases produced)

About Great Northwest Wine

Articles authored by Great Northwest Wine are co-authored by Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue. In most cases, these are wine reviews that are judged blind by the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel.

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  1. Pingback: Great whites from 2016 Cascadia Wine Competition - Great Northwest Wine

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