Taste Washington 2013 Best Big Reds

Taste Washington Winemakers

Taste Washington 2013 was held in Seattle was last weekend. We were there, dashing between the 225 wineries’ tables to try everything. Here are our favorites.

Soos Creek

Dave Larsen (below), Soos Creek winemaker and owner, was pouring his two new big reds, Ciel du Cheval and Champoux Vineyards.

Soos Creek Dave Larsen
$34.15 in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case ($37.95)

A classic Champoux profile of black cherry, cassis, and a dollop of blueberry, with a lush attack. Finishes with savory/sweet  marriage of grilled herbs, cherry candy, a dark cocoa. I find it irresistible now but ultimately a couple years of age will make it even better. – Marcus
84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc.

Soos Creek Ciel du Cheval Vineyard 2010
in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case* ($34.95)

The Ciel du Cheval blend often takes a backseat to its even more famous sibling from Champoux. But it shouldn’t because this wine is outstanding. A juicy and concentrated array of red and black raspberry, with layers of spicy black cherry and sweet black currant gliding through, adding dried herb and mineral notes through the finish. The tannins carry loads of flavors and, with the overall fantastic balance, will help this age for a decade or more. – Marcus

59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot

Betz Family Winery

At Taste Washington Bob Betz had big smiles for everyone. With his sale of the winery he does what he loves: he makes the wine. As usual, the line for wine was longest at his table – trailing down the aisles and into the next.
below, Bob Betz
Bob Betz

Wine Advocate 95 Points
Betz Family Winery

Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille 2010

in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case* ($79.95)
Diversely-sourced, and blended with 8% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot, it leads with classic aromatic expressions of its star player: cedar box, juniper berry, arbor vitae, cassis, blackberry, and dark tobacco, all of which reprise on a luscious, savory palate underlain by ultra-fine tannin and possessed of vibratory energy.

Wine Advocate 93 Points
Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz 2010
in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case* ($59.95)
Cassis, huckleberry, and walnut offer bitter-edged but sappy fruit satisfaction; a crushed stone undertone adds a sense of intrigue; and mineral salts savory saliva-inducement in a gripping, palate-staining finish. This ought to be worth following for at least the better part of a decade.

Southard Winery

Wine Enthusiast’s Paul Gregutt anointed Southard as his “winery of the year” and said of the 2009 Lawrence Vineyard Syrah,  “you can pay four times as much for comparable Royal Slope [Syrah] projects, or grab this jewel.”

below, winemaker Scott Southard

Scott Southard

Southard Lawrence Vineyard Syrah 2010
in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case* ($24.95 retail)

Dark and bloody, this fascinating Syrah masterfully mixes layer upon layer of detail. Red meat, black olive, cassis and earth roll across the tongue, while hints of floral scents and chocolate linger in the nose. Complex, tart and earthy, this is as good as it gets in this price range.

Gorman Wines

The Gorman table was so crowded I never got a photo of Chris – he was deluged with fans!
Gorman Wines

Wine Spectator 93 Points
Gorman Evil Twin 2010 

in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case* ($65.95 retail)
Broad-shouldered but supple, wrapping its ripe cherry, plum and chocolate flavors in a blanket of fine tannins, finishing plush without getting too dense or weighty. Lingers enticingly. Best from 2014 through 2020. 600 cases made. – H.S.

Wine Enthusiast 94 Points
Gorman The Albatross Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
$76.45 in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case* ($84.95)
This reserve-level Cabernet-made from grapes sourced partly from 35-year-old vines-is lovely in its wealth of detail. A brambly, elegant mouthful of berry and cherry flavors mingles with a note of rose petal. The finish is soaked in graphite, with length, grip and finesse. – Wine Enthusiast

Mark Ryan

With a sea of their trademark shiny red bottle tops covering the table, Mark Ryan poured their three new releases: Dead Horse, Long Haul, and Wild Eyed. Mark Ryan’s owner, Mark McNeilly has a rock and rolling wine empire, with multiple tasting rooms and a great winemaker, Mike Macmorran.

below, Mark McNeilly in his Woodinville tasting room

Mark McNeilly, Mark Ryan owner

Mark Ryan Dead Horse 2010
$46.75 in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case*
($51.95 retail)
The flagship of the Mark Ryan line-up and always my favorite, owing to the Cabernet backbone and Petit Verdot. Deep black fruits laced with red cherries, espresso, graphite, and a touch of spiced vanilla. I highly recommend it. – Marcus Made from Klipsun, Ciel du Cheval, Obelisco, and Red Willow Vineyard. 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot.

Mark Ryan Long Haul 2010
$46.75 in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case* ($51.95 retail)
Long Haul picks up the burly baton and adds a sophisticated stride, heaping red berries, black cherries and red plums with cedar, cocoa shavings and earth. I’d plan to cellar it for 3-6 years, though when I had a glass right out of the bottle with braised short ribs, it was rocking. – Marcus Made from Red Willow, Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, and Obelisco Vineyard fruit. 61% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 9% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot.

below, Mike Macmorran, Mark Ryan and Manu Propria winemaker

Mike Macmorran


Mark Ryan Wild Eyed Syrah 2010
$43.15 in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case* ($47.95 retail)
I still remember the first time Mark McNeilly told me about the Wild Eyed Syrah before the first vintage was bottled. Talk about an apt name, he was positively electric about his Syrah. Fast forward seven vintages and Wild Eyed has become one of the go-to Washington Syrahs. Classic violets and bacon are amped up by plummy goodness and spicy dark currants. The white pepper and oak notes add further energy to the finish. – Marcus Made from Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, and Kiona Vineyards fruit. 100% Syrah.

Mark Ryan “The Dissident” 2010
$28.75 in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case* ($31.95 retail)
I can’t think about this wine without singing Pearl Jam’s “Dissident.” Totally gutsy, this captures the gregarious style of Mark Ryan with a black cherry wallop. The savory/spicy contrast helps make this a great value in Washington red wine. – Marcus  Made with grapes from Ciel du Cheval, Kiona, Klipsun, and Obelisco Vineyards. 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 22% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot.


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