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Top-Scoring Wines From Washington State

These bottles scored near-perfect ratings from top wine magazines

Janice Williams By May 25, 2022
wines set on a beach in Washington state
La Push beach in Washington. Photo by Vlada Karpovich via Pexels. Wine collage by Pix.

Washington is the second-largest wine-producing state in the U.S., home to more than 1,000 wineries which between them produce more than 17 million cases of wine each year. Yet despite the impeccable quality of wine made in Washington, the state is often overshadowed by its neighbors to the south.

“I’m always on social media scrolling and thinking, ‘You people need to keep tasting our wine.’ I constantly wish more people knew about the variety and quality we have here in Washington,” says Nancy Crosier, a wine educator and founder of wine marketing consultancy Vino Social.

But those who have tasted Washington wines know the state is a wine goldmine. In fact, many bottles from Washington have received some of the highest scores and ratings from critics.

Top scores for variety

California is known for its Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, while Oregon has won the hearts of many with its top-notch Pinot Noir

“What makes Washington so unique is our ability to grow a large collection of different varieties and do it really well. All of them have a unique freshness about them, a brightness, as well as intensity,” says Paul Asikainen, director of wine education at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the state’s largest producer.

Roughly 80 different grape varieties grow across Washington’s 19 wine-growing appellations, with Columbia Valley, the state’s largest American Viticultural Area, offering the most variety. Chardonnay and Riesling grapes do every bit as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

“We have a multitude of different varieties that traditionally don’t grow next to each other. We can ripen them all successfully to a great degree. So we have areas where tremendous Riesling grows right next to really fine Cabernet Sauvignon,” says Asikainen.

Many critically-acclaimed wines can be found across the Columbia Valley by producers like Columbia Crest and Erath, both of whom have received well over 90 point scores for bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Meanwhile, famous subregions like the Horse Heaven Hills AVA have birthed cult favorites like Quilceda Creek Winery, the first winery outside of California to be awarded 100 points by Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate. 

Within the Walla Walla subregion, producers have earned high scores for Syrah and Grenache, while down in the Yakima Valley, Riesling-based Eroica Wines attract high praise from critics. 

Eroica’s Single Berry Select dessert wine was one of the first white wines in the state to receive a perfect 100-point score from Wine & Spirits magazine in 2021. Meanwhile, the first five vintages of Eroica Riesling were among the top bottles on Wine Spectator Top 100 list between 1999 and 2003 and have continued to receive 90-plus point scores from critics.

“Washington has everything from your cool climate varieties to big reds, and we have the climate, soil, and precision to do it all very well. Look at Côte Bonneville — within their one vineyard in the Yakima Valley, they have so many unique microclimates that they can grow Riesling and Syrah, which kind of blows me away,” says Croisier.

Not about prestige

Winemakers in Washington appreciate the esteem that comes with high scores, but critical acclaim is not their most significant achievement. The main concern, according to Asikainen, is how everyday consumers feel about the wines of Washington.

“The nice thing about Washington is that we really still feel that rising tides lift all ships. What’s good for one winery supports everybody else as well. But our winemakers are focused on consistency,” says Asikainen. 

He adds, “Enjoyment from a bottle of wine at any price point propels the larger region ahead versus one or two wineries that score really well.”

High-scoring Washington wines to try:

bottle of Double Canyon Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

Double Canyon Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (~$23)

This rich blackberry pie of a wine comes with a 92-point score from James Suckling and a 90-point score from Wine Enthusiast. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Syrah creates a medium-body, round, and mouth watering wine that displays aromas of ripe blackberries and vanilla spice. An essence of stone fruit, tart raspberry appears mid-palate, while the juicy acidity keeps the wine bright and lively through the long finish. 

bottle of K Vintners Motor City Kitty Syrah

K Vintners Motor City Kitty Syrah 2019 (~$34)

This Syrah has received a 98-point score from James Suckling two years in a row. Produced in the Yakima Valley by K Vintners, this is a structured and complex big-bodied wine Syrah full of concentrated fruit and spice. Meanwhile, fresh minerality and a fluttering of lavender florals give it an extra oomph, while the long, decadent finish keeps drinkers coming back for more.

bottle of Cayuse Wallah Wallah Special Series Syrah

Cayuse Wallah Wallah Special #10 Washington Red Blend 2016 (~$142)

If you want to show off the beauty of Washington wine, why not do it with a magnum bottle that’s consistently scored above 90-points from critics at Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, and more? This exceptional Syrah produced by Cayuse comes from various vineyards across Walla Walla. The wine is elegant and intense, with pronounced strawberry aromas and notes of green herbs. Fruits, florals, and minerality intertwine on the palate, while rich tannins provide a sturdy backbone. What’s even more impressive? This wine will only get better with time. Experts at Wine Enthusiast suggest letting this one sit until at least 2026.

bottle of Horsepower Vineyards Sur Echalas Grenache

Horsepower Vineyards Sur Echalas Vineyard Grenache 2017 (~$170)

There’s a lot to love about this deliciously savory, spicy, fruity Grenache made in Walla Walla, which has received scores well above 90 points from James Suckling, Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and Wine Enthusiasts for multiple years in a row. Perhaps it’s the wine’s pillowy soft texture that has critics hooked, or the complex flavors or energetic acidity that makes this wine such a stunner. 

bottle of Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Quilceda Creek Winery Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (~$208)

Quilceda Creek’s 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon was the last vintage to receive a perfect score. However, its rich and layered 2019 vintage was still a hit with critics: the wine received a 99-point score from reviewers at Wine Advocate and a 97 from James Suckling. Incredibly complex, the wine displays aromas and flavors of black fruit, cassis, and dried earth balanced with minerality and velvety tannins.