2005 Andrew Will Cuvée Lucia Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)Classic Cabernet Sauvignon notes of red currants and a touch of green herbs characterize this affordable cuvée from star winemaker Chris Camarda.
2003 Cougar Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($55)
Boutique Walla Walla producer Cougar Crest sources grapes from two of its estate vineyards—Stellar and Cougar Hills—for this elegant, structured Cabernet. Notes of mint and red currant lift its wild berry flavors.
2004 Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon ($50)
Winemaker Jean-François Pellet somehow transformed fruit from the difficult 2004 vintage into this velvety, complex Cabernet, with mocha notes from 21 months of aging in French oak barrels.
2005 Amavi Walla Walla Valley Syrah ($26)
Savory green peppercorn notes in the aroma and flavor mark this focused, northern Rhône-style Syrah. Jean-François Pellet, winemaker at Pepper Bridge, is one of the partners in this small, family-owned winery.
2005 Betz Family La Serenne Syrah ($55)
Inky-purple in color and packed with powerful blackberry fruit; the fruit for this wine comes from the Boushey Vineyard in Yakima Valley, one of the finest Syrah vineyards in the state. Betz Family produces some of Washington's most sought-after wines. If this wine proves difficult to find, make sure to get on the mailing list for future vintages.
2005 Saviah Walla Walla Valley Syrah ($32)
The remarkable 2005 vintage in Washington State helped winemaker Richard Funk produce this chocolatey Syrah, full of plump blackberry fruit.
2004 Boudreaux Cellars Columbia Valley Merlot ($40)
This is voluptuous, sexy Merlot, its plump blackberry fruit sheathed in spicy oak. Boudreaux, on the Icicle River outside the town of Leavenworth, is off the local power grid, and is the only completely self-powered winery in Washington State.
2003 Cougar Crest Walla Walla Valley Estate Grown Merlot ($32)
A spicy Merlot with almost citrusy acidity, this lively, intense Merlot comes from a boutique winery located at the Walla Walla airport.
2005 J. Bookwalter Columbia Valley Merlot ($38)
Star winemaking consultant Zelma Long helps make Bookwalter’s robust wines; from the 2005 vintage, look for the polished Columbia Valley Merlot, full of sweet raspberry and cherry fruit.
2005 Betz Family Clos de Betz ($40)
A complex, spicy blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, this is the flagship wine from winemaker Bob Betz, long-time head of winemaking for Chateau Ste. Michelle before leaving to found his own winery in 2003.
2004 Buty Columbia Rediviva ($50)
Walla Walla local Caleb Foster makes this generous, silky Cabernet/Syrah blend with fruit from the renowned Champoux Vineyard, and gives it at least a year of aging in bottle to help develop its seamless texture.
2005 Cadence Ciel du Cheval ($40)
Though it’s lighter and more elegant than Cadence’s profound 2005 Tapteil red wine, the winery’s 2005 Ciel du Cheval, from the vineyard of the same name, is equally delicious: imagine sweet cherry and berry notes with an overlay of complex herbs.
2004 Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve ($35)
Round and dense with flavor, Columbia Crest’s top red blend shows velvety tannins and succulent cherry fruit. It’s named after one of the pioneers of Washington winemaker, Dr. Walter Clore.
2005 DeLille Cellars D2 ($45)
Pretty aromas of violets and red cherries lead into velvety, dense plum and wild berry flavors in this Merlot-dominated red blend. DeLille is one of the benchmark wineries in Washington State, and their wines sell out rapidly; if this vintage is unavailable, try to get on the mailing list for the next one.
2004 DiStefano Meritage ($28)
Lots of mocha notes from oak are here, but the dense curranty fruit is full-bodied enough to balance them. In 2004, DiStefano’s Meritage is a blend of 40 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 40 percent Merlot and 20 percent Cabernet Franc.
2005 Dunham Cellars Trutina ($26)
Appropriately enough, the name of this wine is the Latin word for balance—in this case, of light minty aromas, wild berry flavors and zingy acidity. Winemaker Eric Dunham blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc to achieve those flavors.
2004 JM Cellars Columbia Valley Cuvée ($27)
An abundance of bright raspberry and cranberry fruit is the key to the appeal of this juicy blend, which winemaker John Bigelow derives from vineyards in several appellations—Horse Heaven Hills, Red Mountain, and Columbia Valley.
2005 Spring Valley Vineyard Frederick Red ($50)
Spring Valley Vineyard’s top Merlot, Uriah, is often one of Washington’s best reds; the ’05 Frederick, a blend of Cabernet with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, is making a bid to be its equal, though. It’s aromatic and luscious, with a minty finish.
2004 Three Rivers Winery Columbia Valley Meritage ($39)
Sweet dark berry notes and a creamy texture make this robust red blend a pleasure to drink; firm tannins give it enough structure to keep it from being cloying.