Washington State Wines: a masterclass

These are the wines that I showed yesterday (6 Dec 2021) at a masterclass on Washington Wine for sommeliers, held at 67 Pall Mall. A range of varieties, producers and price points were shown, and all these wines are available in the UK (I’ve included importer details in the notes). Lots to like here: as a couple of the participants noted, there’s very even quality here with no wine they wouldn’t want to drink, and there’s also a balance showing that isn’t always associated with new world wines. The wines are in no particular order, and grouped by winery.

Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay 2019 Columbia Valley, Washington State
14% alcohol. Sourced from a mix of cooler and warmer sites across the Columbia Valley. Just over half is barrel fermented, with 13% new oak, and the other half is vinified in stainless steel. This has nice fresh fruit with citrus, pear and white peach. It shows good balance with a slight stoniness and subtle spicy oak notes in the background. Very pure. 89/100

Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 Columbia Valley, Washington State
13.5% alcohol, pH 3.86. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with the balance Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Grenache and Cabernet Franc. Two-thirds aged in neutral oak, with 25% new French oak and 8% new American oak. Ripe, fresh and gravelly with nice pure blackcurrant fruit, showing good purity. Supple and polished with a bit of structure. Impressive considering this is a $12 wine in the USA. 91/100

Eroica Riesling 2019 Columbia Valley, Washington State
12% alcohol. The famous collaboration with Ernie Loosen of Germany’s Mosel region. Intense, limey and mineral with nice brightness. The keen acidity is offset by a touch of sweetness. Very refined and expressive, and brilliant value at sub-$20 in the USA. 92/100

Tenet The Pundit Syrah 2019 Columbia Valley, Washington State
14.5% alcohol, pH 3.94. Tenet is a collaboration with Rhône winemaker Michel Gassier, and with the assistance of Southern Rhône’s famous enology consultant, Philippe Cambie. This is aged in barrels and puncheons. 18% new French oak, 7% new American oak. 25% whole cluster ferment. Very ripe but well balanced with sweet, lush black fruits and a hint of pepper. Some meatiness, too, and the oak provides a nice support. Great value at around $20 in the USA. 91/100

Importer contact: craig.mitchell@smwe.com

Sleight of Hand Cellars The Magician Riesling 2020 Ancient Lakes, Washington State
11.5% alcohol. From the Evergreen Vineyard, this has a low pH (3.01) and 5 g/l residual sugar. Lovely aromatics here with pear, peach, apple and melon fruit. Fine palate has citrus and pear, with the rich fruit supported by good acidity. Exotic but balanced. 93/100

Sleight of Hand Cellars The Enchantress Chardonnay 2017 Yakima Valley, Washington State
14% alcohol. 40 year old vines at French Creek Vineyard, aged in a combination of concrete and neutral oak. Lovely spice, pear and citrus here with a stony edge to the bold fruit. Nice fruit purity and good acidity. Shows finesse. 92/100

Sleight of Hand Cellars The Conjurer Red Blend 2017 Columbia Valley, Washington State
14.6% alcohol. 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot. High pH at 3.98. 25% new oak. There’s a soft mouthfeel with ripe sweet black fruits and a slight chalkiness. Very richly textured with nice balance and well integrated oak adding some spice. 92/100

Importer contact: adam@esterwines.com

L’Ecole No 41 Semillon 2019 Columbia Valley, Washington State
13.5% alcohol. 88% Semillon, 12% Sauvignon Blanc, from five different vineyards. Bright, pure, fresh and linear with nice precision. Has a slight stony edge to the citrus fruit with a hint of lime pith. Very pure. 90/100

L’Ecole No 41 Chenin Blanc Old Vines 2020 Yakima Valley, Washington State
13.5% alcohol. This is from three vineyards in Yakima all planted in 1979. Pure, lively limey nose with tart lemon, mandarin and grapefruit character. Delicate with good acidity and just a touch of creaminess. Such precision here. 92/100

L’Ecole No 41 Syrah 2018 Columbia Valley, Washington State
15% alcohol. 80% Syrah, 18% Grenache, 2% Mourvèdre. From four different vineyards, fermented in small 1.5 ton fermenters, then aged in neutral oak. Supple, sweetly fruited, bright and showing lovely berry fruits with a touch of cherry. Plush with a smooth mouthfeel. Lots of sweet, pure fruit with a touch of pepper on the finish. 92/100

UK agent: rory@winetreasury.com

Seven Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2020 Columbia Valley, Washington State
13.5% alcohol. There’s a bit of Semillon and Muscat in the blend here. Lovely fruit: lively and bright citrus with some grapefruit freshness and a touch of grapey richness. Lovely pure fruit and nice finesse. This is good value for sub-$20 in the USA. 90/100

Seven Hills Merlot 2018 Walla Walla, Washington State
14.6% alcohol. From a range of Walla Walla vineyards with silt/loam soils. 40% new French, American and Russian barrels. Sweetly aromatic with ripe fruit and a touch of oak. Dark, lush blackberry and black cherry fruit on the palate with a touch of coffee. Very appealing in a ripe style. 91/100

Seven Hills Merlot Seven Hills Vineyard 2015 Washington State
14.7% alcohol. From the original Merlot blocks at Seven Hills planted in 1982. 89% Merlot with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. 20 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.Ripe and sweet with a slightly Port-like nose. Plush and ripe on the palate with hints of tar and spice, some dried herbs and ripe, lush black fruits. Rich, expressive and generous with lovely ripeness. 93/100

UK agent: daveallen@vineyardcellars.com

Reynvaan Family Vineyard Grenache Blanc 2017 Walla Walla, Washington State
13.5% alcohol. This is in from the Rocks vineyard in the Milton Freewater district, which is in Oregon. Fermented in French oak, 60% new. This shows pear, white peach and spice with some mineral notes. Lovely fruit with a touch of vanilla and fennel, and well integrated oak. Shows lovely depth and some fine nutty notes. Crystalline finish. 94/100

Reynvaan In The Rocks Syrah 2017 Walla Walla, Washington State
14% alcohol. 6% Viognier in this blend which comes from the distinctive Rocks terroir. Floral and meaty with ripe aromas of cherry and plum, as well as some spice and soy. The palate is fine and expressive with lovely precision and a savoury, meaty twist to the finish. Remarkable stuff. 95/100

UK agent: adam@esterwines.com

Hedges Bel’Villa Syrah 2017 Red Mountain, Washington State
Powerful with black cherry and blackberry fruit, showing good structure and well integrated oak. This has some chunky structure under the ripe fruit with a hint of pepper on the finish. 93/100

Hedges Family Estate 2018 Red Mountain, Washington State
13.5% alcohol. This is a blend of 34% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. Aged 18 months in one-third new oak, with two thirds of the barrels American oak, and one third French. It’s dense and nicely structured with some cedar and spice as well as some savoury notes. Quite classic in style with ripe black fruits, good structure and everything in place. 92/100

UK agent: keith.kirkpatrick@robersonwine.com

Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 Walla Walla, Washington State
Fresh with well defined blackcurrant fruit supported by good structure. This is very refined with brightness and purpose, and also the structure to age, although you can drink it now. Great refinement. 94/100

UK agent: info@sportingwineclub.com

Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz 2017 Columbia Valley, Washington State
This is a Merlot-dominated blend. Concentrated and structured with ripe cherry and plum fruit. Polished, with ripeness and focus, supported by some oak. There’s a touch of prune here, too, as well as blackberry and cherry fruit. 92/100

Betz Family Winery Père de Famille 2015 Columbia Valley, Washington State
A Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend. Polished, ripe and dense with sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit as well as a touch of cedar and wax. 91/100

UK agent: rory@winetreasury.com

Powers Riesling 2018 Columbia Valley, Washington State
Ripe and sweetly fruited with a touch of apricot as well as ripe citrus and melon flavours. This is a rich style with lovely fruit intensity. Finishes with spice and marmalade. 91/100

Powers Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 Columbia Valley, Washington State
14% alcohol. 2% Carmenere and 1% Merlot in the blend, from seven different vineyards. Sweetly fruited and ripe with lush blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. This has nice richness and presence. Bold and nicely weighted with good fruit expression. 90/100

Powers Champoux Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 Horse Heaven Hills, Washington State
14% alcohol. 55% new oak. Concentrated and ripe with nice sweet berry and cherry fruits, as well as some blackcurrant. Has some development and notes of cedar spice from the oak, creating a rich, bold, mellow wine of real impact. 91/100

UK agent: tim@amathusdrinks.com

Gramercy Cellars Syrah 2015 Columbia Valley, Washington State
13.3% alcohol. From four vineyards, this is 56% whole cluster and is aged for 15 months in neutral French oak. Wonderful aromatics of olive, pepper and direct cherry fruit. The palate is fresh and direct with lovely cherry fruit and wonderful meat and olive notes. Very fine and expressive with peppery framing, developing nicely. 95/100

Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Columbia Valley, Washington State
14.3% alcohol. From four vineyards, with 15% Merlot in the blend and 2% Petit Verdot, aged in 50% new French oak. Ripe but fresh with lovely blackcurrant, cherry and berry fruits. This has freshness, poise and elegance with almost refined balance: so elegant and pure. 94/100

UK agent: kirsty@flintwines.com

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com