Northwest Wine

Northwest Wine: Pacific Northwest proves itself on global wine stage

As a region, the Pacific Northwest again held its own in the world of wine. One of the most important annual yardsticks of quality is Wine Spectator magazine’s yearly Top 100 list.

Within this year’s list, unveiled just before Thanksgiving, Washington and Oregon combined for 11 selections, making it the fourth-highest region in the world. The only year that exceeds that total was 2009, when Washington and Oregon combined for 12 spots on the list, including the No. 1 spot, which went to Columbia Crest’s 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the only time a Northwest wine has finished on top of the list.

The top 100 list typically draws high interest with consumers. Decorated wine merchant Doug Charles, owner of Compass Wines in Anacortes, Wash., says his phone starts ringing the morning the list is unveiled, with interest not only in the Northwest wines, but also in other domestic and international wines on the list.

John Bookwalter, president of J. Bookwalter Wines in Richland, Wash., saw his 2015 Readers Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $28, land on the list at No. 69.

“This definitely opens doors with certain retailers - chains like Costco,” Bookwalter said. “More importantly, it solidifies our place with our wholesale partners that we are consistently one of the top suppliers of fine wines from Washington state.”

Here’s a breakdown of this year’s list by region:

  • California: 19
  • Italy: 18
  • France: 17
  • Pacific Northwest: 11
  • Spain: 8
  • New Zealand: 4
  • Australia: 4
  • Argentina: 2
  • Austria: 2
  • Germany: 2
  • Portugal: 2
  • South Africa: 2
  • Chile: 1
  • Greece: 1
  • Israel: 1

On this year’s list, five wines came from Washington, with the rest from Oregon. Here are this year’s Northwest selections, in order of ranking:

7. Colene Clemens Vineyards 2015 Dopp Creek Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $26

30. DeLille Cellars 2015 Signature Syrah, Yakima Valley, $46

34. Lingua Franca 2016 Bunker Hill Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $50

39. Patricia Green Cellars 2016 Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $27

43. Milbrandt Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $17

50. The Four Graces 2015 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $32

69. Bookwalter Winery 2015 Readers Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $28

74. Big Table Farm 2016 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $45

82. Pendulum 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $19

85. Sleight of Hand 2015 Levitation Syrah, Columbia Valley, $45

97. Domaine Drouhin Oregon 2016 Roserock Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, $35

For little-known Colene Clemens in Newberg, this is the third time on the list. For Dundee Hills icon Domaine Drouhin, it returns to the list after a 16-year absence. Lingua Franca, a young project near Salem, made the list for the second straight year.

This year marks the debut for both Bookwalter and Milbrandt Vineyards on Spectator’s Top 100. The recognition will spread beyond the spotlighted bottlings for those brands, who operate tasting rooms on both sides of the Cascades.

Stacy Bellew, director of public relations and direct-to-consumer strategies for Milbrandt Vineyards, said, “Interestingly, while we are sold out of the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon in our three tasting rooms, we’ve seen a 45 percent increase in sales of the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon and our Single Vineyard Series Cabernet Sauvignons since the Wine Spectator announcement came out, reflecting a halo effect the accolade has had in our other tiers of wine.”

Milbrant tasting room interior
Courtesy Richard Duval Images

Pendulum is a brand owned by Seattle-based Precept Wine and produced in Walla Walla by John Freeman of Waterbrook fame. The wines are available at Fred Meyer, Safeway and QFC markets in the Northwest. According to Precept media specialist Sydney Martinez, sales of the 2016 Cab have more than doubled since the recognition from Wine Spectator.

The complete Top 100 Wines of 2018 package is published in Dec. 31 issue of Wine Spectator, which hit newsstands Dec. 4.

Since the magazine debuted its Top 100 list in 1988, some 229 Northwest wines have made the list, 138 from Washington and 91 from Oregon. No wines from British Columbia or Idaho have ever cracked Spectator’s top 100. Bruce Sanderson, a New York-based senior editor at Wine Spectator, is a native of Canada, but his coverage areas are Burgundy and Italy.

Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, Washington’s oldest winery and its largest producer, has the most top 100 wines in the Northwest, with 17 selections in the past three decades.

In addition to the Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cab, the Northwest has had 14 other wines earn spots in the coveted top 10, including four ranked No. 2 in the world.

Quilceda Creek in Snohomish has reached No. 2 both times it has made the list. Charles was surprised Quilceda Creek didn’t make the list this year because he believes the Golitzin family’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon was among the best wines ever made by the legendary producer.

Wine Spectator also publishes a 100 Top Values list, defined by bottlings of $20 or less with sizable production. Northwest wines on this year’s compilation include the Chateau Ste. Michelle 2016 Indian Wells Chardonnay, Charles & Charles 2016 Art Den Hoed Vineyard Riesling, Charles Smith 2016 Boom Boom! Syrah, Columbia Crest 2016 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Brut, Dunham Cellars 2016 Three Legged Red, Maison L’Envoyé 2016 Straight Shooter Pinot Noir, Quady North 2017 GSM Rosé and Coppola-owned Vista Hills 2016 Pinot Noir.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at