Our List of Top 60 Washington Wineries

NYE WineAs the new year begins, we want to reflect on the wineries in Washington state that made our list of Top 60 Washington Wineries.

The way to get on our list is fairly simple; we only have two criteria: wineries must offer good juice and good people who provide an excellent wine experience. Perhaps we had fun or learned something in a tasting room or at a major wine event such as Taste Washington, Taste of Tulalip or Seattle Wine and Food Experience. Perhaps someone from the winery gave us a call, or sent us a personal note or samples. Or perhaps we were invited to an incredible winery party.

These people might be the winemakers or the winery owners; in some cases, they are the hard-working staff in a tasting room who went out of their way to make us feel welcome or the amazing workers in the vineyards where it all begins.

Why 60 wineries? The list grew to 60 from 50 last year, as we were introduced to new wineries or new wine experiences in 2015. We welcome the newcomers to the list, and thank you for the 2015 wine experiences you brought us — Andrew Will, B. Leighton, Cote Bonneville, Dynasty Cellars, Ensemble Cellars Kiona, Leonetti, Passing Time, Reynvaan, Seven Falls and Stottle Winery.

Write for Wine’s Top 60 Washington Wineries (in alphabetical order):

  1. Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  2. Andrew Will
  3. Avennia
  4. B. Leighton
  5. Baer
  6. Barrage Cellars
  7. Barrister
  8. Bartholomew
  9. Betz Family
  10. Boudreaux Cellars
  11. Buty Winery
  12. Chateau Ste. Michelle
  13. Columbia Crest
  14. Cooper Wine Company
  15. Cote Bonneville
  16. Darby
  17. DiStefano
  18. Double Canyon
  19. Dunham Cellars
  20. Dynasty Winery
  21. Efeste
  22. Ensemble Cellars
  23. Fall Line
  24. Fidelitas
  25. Fielding Hills
  26. Figgins
  27. Force Majeure
  28. Forgeron Cellars
  29. Gard
  30. Gorman Winery
  31. Guardian Cellars
  32. Hard Row to Hoe
  33. JM Cellars
  34. Kiona
  35. L’Ecole 41
  36. Lauren Ashton
  37. Leonetti
  38. Long Shadows
  39. Maryhill
  40. Mercer Estates
  41. Northstar
  42. Northwest Totem Cellars
  43. Obelisco Estate
  44. Otis Kenyon
  45. Passing Time
  46. Quilceda Creek
  47. Reynvaan
  48. Ross Andrew
  49. Sleight of Hand
  50. Seven Falls Cellars
  51. Sinclair Estate
  52. Sparkman Cellars
  53. Stottle Winery
  54. Va Piano
  55. Vin du Lac
  56. Walla Walla Vintners
  57. William Church
  58. Windy Point
  59. Woodward Canyon
  60. Woodhouse Wine Estates

To these people, we thank you; we support you. Cheers to Washington state wine!

Happy new year!
Margot and Dave
Write for Wine — it’s Wine O’clock Somewhere!

Cheers to a Wonderful 2016!

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 9.30.32 AMHappy New Year! May your best day in 2015 be your worst day in 2016!

That’s Margot’s favorite new year’s toast ever, one she has shared with her dear friend Kathie in Ottawa for more than 25 years.

And it’s our new year’s wish to you! May your year be filled with good health and happiness, and yes, fine wine!

We want to start 2016 with a shout out to our special friends in the Washington state wine industry who have gone out of their way to make our time with them, and their wines, special over the years.

Happy New Year from your friends at Write for Wine — It’s Wine O’Clock Somewhere!

Margot and Dave

Recent Releases We’ve Enjoyed-Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two-part post looking at some new wines that we discovered late this year. Part 1 can be found here. In this post, you’ll find a variety of holiday red wines that won’t make you dig deep in your pocket — Cabernet, Zinfandel, Chianti and Pinot Noir.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 12.44.32 PMOak Ridge Winery OZV Red Blend 2012 ($14)
If you are a fan of big, lush, jammy Zinfandels, this blend is for you. We were not expecting such a robust Zinfandel-based blend when we opened the bottle, although we should have, since it comes from Lodi’s oldest operating winery, Oak Ridge. Wow, we were hit with strong aromatics of vanilla and blackberries immediately, which then transformed to a fruit-forward blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Merlot. This wine has a lot going on, with flavors of plum, licorice and blackberries. We had it with pasta, but this rich wine would also pair well with grilled steaks, smoked meats, chicken and pizza. By the way, Oak Ridge Winery first came to our attention with its Old Soul value-wines this summer.


Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 12.29.58 PMMark West 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($15-$25, depending on where you shop)
Mark West has been producing California Pinot Noir since 1978, but this is the first one crafted from grapes sourced in the esteemed Willamette Valley.

Representative of the Pinot characteristics in Oregon wine country, this wine is lighter, brighter and more delicate than its California counterparts, but it is definitely not a lightweight.

With notes of cranberry, cherry and apple, this Pinot will pair well with meats such as prime rib, but we think it would also be fabulous with salmon.


Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 11.42.09 AMSterling Vintner’s Collection 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) and 2013 Meritage ($14)
Sterling Vineyards introduced a few new releases for the holidays, including these two reds. The Cabernet Sauvignon is medium-bodied and juicy, filled with flavors of plum, cherries, blackberries and a touch of smoke and violets. If you can’t find the 2013, no worries – Sterling has already released the 2014 vintage.

The Meritage blends Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot into a good wine to pair with food. Both of these wines will go well with grilled steaks, meat pastas and even roasted chicken in a rich sauce.


Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 11.55.09 AMSanta Cristina 2013 Chianti Superiore ($16)
Santa Cristina produces Italy’s No. 1 selling red wine, Rosso; released its first wine in 1946; and is represented by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Washington state.

The 2013 Chianti Superiore is a ruby-colored blend of Sangiovese (95%) and Merlot (5%). This is a tasty, medium-bodied wine with aromas of plum and cherry that are also experienced on the palate.

We enjoyed it with pasta, but it would also go well with mushroom dishes, turkey or chicken.



Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 12.41.15 PMRed Diamond 2012 Limited Release Mysterious Red Blend ($10)
This wine was released in time for Halloween, but it works well for this holiday season too.

A blend of 56% Syrah, 40% Merlot, 3% Viognier and 1% other red varieties, this bold wine is described as mysteriously dark, with a palate of dark red berries and a hint of spice.

It pairs well with hearty dishes such as grilled steaks, rich stews or strong cheeses, or with sweets such as chocolate peanut butter cups.

At this price, how can you go wrong?


Thank you to Oak Ridge Winery, Mark West, Sterling Vineyards, Santa Cristina and Red Diamond for samples of these wines.

Happy holidays and cheers!
Margot and Dave

Recent Releases We’ve Enjoyed-Part 1

As 2015 winds down, we are happy to share information about some new wines and wineries that we discovered late this year. As regular readers know, our palates prefer big reds, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Bordeaux-style blends. So it’s not surprising that these are most of the wines we are writing about today.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 2.53.58 PMSeven Falls 2013 GPS Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 GPS Zinfandel ($40 each)
Launched in October, these two new Seven Falls Cellars single vineyard “GPS” tier of wines rocked us, and when we shared them with our neighbors, they loved them too. The Cabernet Sauvignon is rich, bold and beautiful, just the way we like it — full of layers and complexities of black fruit, minerality, graphite, leather, tea and tobacco, which will showcase themselves differently as the wine ages. Our neighbors declared the Zinfindel one of the best they’ve tasted — jammy, fruit-forward and aromatic, with chocolate, raspberries and hints of nutmeg and other spices.

Why is the label called GPS? According to Seven Falls, “To highlight the unique sense of place where the wines are from, the vineyard block Global Positioning System coordinates are included on each of the Seven Falls single-vineyard labels, so everyone has an opportunity to visit the Wahluke Slope from anywhere in the world.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 12.07.40 PMStottle Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($34) and 2012 Big Eddie ($35)
Stottle Winery is based in Lacey, just north of Olympia,where owners Josh and Amy Stottlemyer recently opened a new tasting room and facility. (They also have a tasting room in Hoodsport on Highway 101.) This was our first opportunity to taste Stottle wines, which have won numerous Seattle Wine Awards. After tasting Stottle 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Big Eddie, we understand why. Stottle’s 2012 Cab also has a touch of Merlot (5%) and Malbec (2%), and is bursting with flavors of red and black berries, cherries vanilla and chocolate. With a great nose and structure, this wine can be opened now or cellared for a few years. Big Eddie is a medium-bodied blend of 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec, with juicy flavors of raspberry, blackberry and dark chocolate. What’s not to like, right?

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 12.10.30 PMColumbia Crest 2013 Limited Release “Gold” Red Wine Blend ($12)
We wrote about this wine back in September, but recently enjoyed it again and wanted to remind our readers about its good value. For only $12, this wine is a blend of 52% Cab Franc, 38% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. According to the winery, a couple barrels of wine that represent the “gold standard” of Columbia Valley grapes are blended into this limited release Gold Red Wine. Think spicy, rich and textured – and great to pair with grilled beef, lamb, rich stews or simply with strong cheese. We’ve been delighted to find a number of value wines this year from Columbia Crest that we really like! This one is right up there with 2012 and 2013 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Thank you to Seven Falls, Stottle and Columbia Crest for samples of these wines. We plan on purchasing some in the weeks ahead.

Margot and Dave


Big Reds, Good Value

Looking for a reasonably priced big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon to take to that holiday party? Or maybe you want to serve it at your holiday open house? Perhaps you want to pour it before or during a holiday meal?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. Over the last few months we’ve found some big Cabs at good price points.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 2.53.58 PM
Seven Falls Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker’s Notes: “Ripe black cherry and boysenberry layered with notes of caramel, mocha and black tea. Concentrated, full body with a smooth lasting finish.”

Wine Enthusiast“This wine has immediate appeal showing aromas of milk chocolate, cherry and dried herbs. The flavors are plump and rich in feel yet backed by soft tannins.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 2.55.18 PM
Columbia Crest 2012 and 2013 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon
($10-$14, depending on where you shop)
99% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc

Winemaker’s Notes: “This bold Cabernet opens with flavors of black cherries and blackberries with a touch of currants and vanilla, complemented by earth and mineral notes. Deep berry flavors lead to a soft tannin cocoa finish.”

Wine Spectator: 91 points (2013); 92 points (2012)


Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 2.56.52 PMGiant Wine, 2013 Ghost of 413 Cabernet Sauvignon ($16-$19, depending on where you shop)
This is the fourth vintage of a great red wine created by Chris Gorman from Gorman Winery and Mark McNeill from Mark Ryan.

Full Pull Tasting Notes by Editor-in-Chief Paul Zitarelli: This begins with a nose of smoky crème de cassis fruit, complicated by notes of dried herb and soil. At its heart, it is a deep, black-fruit driven Cab, full of blackcurrants and blackberries and black plums.


If you like your Cabernet Sauvignon big, bold and beautiful, don’t let these low prices fool you. We think some of them would surprise you in a blind tasting next to more expensive Cabs.

Of note, samples were provided by Seven Falls and Columbia Crest; however we enjoyed these wines so much, we purchased additional bottles.

Margot and Dave

Sneak Peek

wine-glasses-photo-courtesy-Marcus-Whitman-Hotel-e1294811651743Life has been so busy lately – with work (our day jobs), the holidays and most importantly, family.

So while we’ve done our fair share of tasting wines lately, there hasn’t been as much time to write about them as we had hoped. But we will soon!

Here’s your sneak peek at what we’ll be posting in the weeks ahead:

  • List of best good-value red wine for the holidays
  • List of special wines for the holidays
  • Our second annual list of our top 50 Washington state wineries

Some new wines that we’ll be writing about include:

  • Seven Falls 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 GPS Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 GPS Zinfandel
  • Stottle 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sterling Vintner’s Collection 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 Meritage
  • Oak Ridge Winery OZV Old Vine 2012 Zinfandel
  • Mark West 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
  • Nero D’Avola (Sicily)
  • Red Diamond 2012 Limited Release Mysterious Red Blend

So stay tuned to learn about some good red wines for the holidays!

Margot and Dave



Special Wines for the Holidays

Holiday WinesGood wine over the holidays helps to make the season fabulous. Here is the list of special wines that we started to open and share over the Thanksgiving holiday and will continue to do so through New Year’s day — either pouring them for guests, taking to parties or enjoying at home.

Some of these wines are special because of their high quality and high price point. Others are simply special good-value wines enjoy in our home throughout the year.

They are listed in alphabetical order:

Of note, all but three of these wines are from the wonderful Washington state wine country.

Cheers – and happy holidays!
Margot and Dave

Wine Lover’s Gift for the Holidays

Is this the year when you want to give your friends who love wine a different type of gift for the holidays? Maybe you’ve given them a nice bottle of wine in the past, but want to surprise them this year with something else.

Look no further than VinoGrotto Premium Wine Cellars, where Black Friday specials are underway.

For example, if you have wine-loving friends who enjoy golfing, skiing or maybe even rodeos, VinoGrotto offers a number of novelty items: a 3-bottle recycled snow ski wine rack ($59.95), a golf club wine balancer ($28), a rodeo wine holder ($18) and a 6-bottle Eiffel Tower wine rack ($42.95).

Or check out this 24-bottle wine rack – it also makes a nice table for wine collector’s items such as our mini-wine barrel. And it’s short enough to be an end table too.
Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 10.27.35 AM Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 10.27.13 AM

You can even use it as a centerpiece for your holiday decorations.

Winston wine shelf

This redwood 24-bottle table rack, also comes in clear pine, and is on sale now for $99.

It has a deep 12-inch design, with wide 3¾” openings to fit all 750ml bottles. The wine rack stands 26.31 inches high and 18.56 inches wide.

And it’s easier to assemble than you might think — no glue or nails are needed.

Read the reviews to learn more.

Even Winston, one of our Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, loves to admire our wine rack.

But if you think your friend might prefer other types of wine racks, VinoGrotto has several to choose from: a wine cube for 12 bottles ($68), 24 bottles ($81) and even 120 bottles ($219).

You can also find barrel stave wine racks, scalloped racks, countertop racks and decorative racks.

Many items are up to 30% off for Black Friday savings.

You might even want to get one for your home, to keep all your wine bottles in one decorative location when guests come by to visit over the holidays. Think about it. We’re using ours to hold the wine we’re taking to festive parties in the next six weeks.

Many thanks to VinoGrotto for providing us with a sample. Winston says thanks too.

Margot and Dave

Another Successful Taste of Tulalip

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 12.25.27 PMTaste of Tulalip 2015 is now behind us and once again, it was a taste sensation that featured a collaboration of wine, food and art.

We applaud Lisa Severn, the director of food and beverage at Tulalip Resort Casino, and her entire team for their incredible efforts to make this amazing event so enjoyable.

Let’s start with the art. We had the pleasure of meeting Mike Gobin, the talented artist and master woodcarver who created the commemorative wine bottle and plate featured in this photo. He showed us several pictures of his work, all of which represent a beautiful expression of his Tulalip culture. He had our complete attention as he shared stories of his people and his craft. We also were delighted to meet his super-nice family.

His commemorative bottle contains a unique blend of wine created by Tulalip‘s talented wine expert, Tommy Thompson, and the event’s 2015 honorary winemaker, Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville. Sourced from DuBrul Vineyard grapes, this stellar wine blends 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. We somehow had never met Kerry before, so we were glad to have that opportunity, and hope to taste more of her wines in the future.

Sparky TOT2We were fortunate to spend considerable time with Sparky Marquis, co-winemaker/owner of the award-winning Australian winery, Mollydooker Wines. His seminar, “Turning Water Into Wine,” was both informative and fun. We also chatted with him throughout the weekend, at the Celebration Dinner, the Grand Taste and at Tulalip Bay, one of our favorite Seattle-area restaurants where we ended off the event enjoying a fantastic meal with our very good friends, Robin and Sue from British Columbia.

We are big fans of Mollydooker wines: Carnival of Love, the #2 wine in the world, according to Wine Spectator, in addition to the coveted Velvet Glove, Enchanted Path, Blue Eyed Boy and seven more!

We first met Sparky last year at his Cellar Door in McLaren Vale, Australia. For more information, see our blog posts, Mollydooker Part 1 and  Mollydooker Part 2 and learn about Mollydooker’s Marquis Fruit Weight™ process and their “yum-worthy” wines.

Throughout the weekend, we sipped our way through dozens of wines and send kudos to these wineries, whose teams poured some of our favorites.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 1.30.35 PMWashington State

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  • Betz Family Winery
  • Cote Bonneville
  • Double Canyon / Archery Summit
  • Fidelitas
  • Figgins Wine
  • Gorman Winery
  • Karma Vineyards
  • Leonetti Cellars
  • Obelisco Estate
  • Quilceda Creek
  • Reynvaan Family Vineyards


  • Caymus VIneyards
  • Silver Oak Cellars
  • Stone Street


  • Chateau Coutet, Bordeaux, France
  • Domaine Huet, Loire Valley, France
  • Inskillin, Ontario, Canada
  • Mollydooker WInes, McLaren Vale, AustraliaRocca di Frassinello, Maremma, Italy

Flowers TOTAnd then there was the excellent food experience at the Italian-themed Celebration Dinner and at various seminars and booths throughout Saturday.

Executive Chef Perry Mascitti and his talented culinary team were joined by special guest Chris Cosentino, the award-winning Chef/Owner of San Francisco’s Cockscomb and Boccalone, to prepare the delicious dishes. From extravagant gourmet treats to tasty snacks, there was something sensational to pair with every wine.

Antipasta TOT Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 1.56.48 PMThe Celebration Dinner was the Friday night highlight that kicked off the weekend activities. The mouth-watering dinner started out with “Amuse Bouche” Dungeness Crab and Lemon Cannoli Ricotta by Chef Gerry Schultz, followed by Antipasti Carni and Formaggio (pictured) by Chef JP Ponticelli.

Next up was Rustic Polenta Lasgna by Chef Brent Clarkson; Intermezzo by Chef John Jadamec; Seared Chilean Sea Bass by Chef David Buchanan; Filet Mignon Braciole by Tulalip Executive Chef Perry Mascitti; and Semplice Insalata also by Chef JP Ponticelli. Rounding out the explosion of flavors was Tiramisu (pictured) and a pink box of assorted Italian cookies, including chocolate biscotti and wedding cookies, by Chef Nikol Nakamura.

Last, but definitely not least, Taste of Tulalip 2015 supported the charity, Heartbeat Serving Wounded Warriors, which provides emergency assistance and numerous programs for wounded service members and their families in Washington state.

If you didn’t attend this year’s event, you missed something great. Be sure to stay tuned at this time next year, so you won’t miss out again.

Many thanks to Lisa Severn and Allan Aquila for inviting us to this extravaganza. It was a weekend that we will be raving about for a long time to come.

Margot and Dave

Villa Maria Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 5.12.52 PMRaise your hand if you knew that New Zealand’s Pinot Noir is right up there with its Sauvignon Blanc in terms of taste and value.

Good for you, because we didn’t!

Located at the northeast corner of New Zealand’s South Island, Marlborough is known internationally for its Sauv Blancs. But the region is also becoming popular for Pinot Noir.

We recently discovered this when we participated in a Nov. 4 Twitter tasting of two Villa Maria Pinot Noirs from Marlborough. Our main takeaway: Either one of these wines would pair very well with turkey and an assortment of sides during a Thanksgiving feast.

Villa Maria 2014 Private Bin Pinot Noir ($17)
This good-value Pinot Noir is very approachable and food-friendly, displaying the hallmarks of the region — the aromas of sweet red cherry and berries. This medium-bodied wine is ruby red, with a juicy palate of red berries, cinnamon and herbs. In addition to pairing well with turkey, this Pinot will complement red meats, smoked salmon or aged cheddar throughout the year.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 5.12.26 PMVilla Maria 2013 Cellar Selection Pinot Noir ($25.00)
Also from Marlborough vineyards, this Cellar Selection has subtle smoky aromas along with red cherries on the nose, and red berry, black cherry and plum flavors on the palate. We preferred this Pinot for its silky mouthfeel, spice and earthiness, and plan to enjoy it during our family’s Thanksgiving extravaganza. Of note, it will also pair well with many traditional sides, including beet salad. Other fall and winter meals, such as lamb or wild game, will go nicely with this wine too.

Villa Maria has been a family-owned winery since 1961. In the 1990s, Villa Maria pioneered sustainable viticulture and winemaking in New Zealand, and became the country’s first wine company to declare the winery “a cork-free zone.” Villa Maria has used screw caps from the 2001 vintage onward.

There is a Washington state connection — Villa Maria wines are imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Thank you to Villa Maria and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates for inviting us to the Twitter chat and providing samples to taste.

Enjoy these wines at your Thanksgiving table!

Margot and Dave