During 2015, we tasted a few thousand wines from around the world, with a heavy focus on the Pacific Northwest.
We published about 1,500 reviews of Pacific Northwest wines last year, and in December we distilled all those reviews down to our top 100. We did this by compiling a list that included all the top wines we tasted under blind conditions – meaning we didn't know who made the wine or what the price was until after the wine was evaluated and rated.
Here are eight of our favorite wines from 2015. While not all of them are still available, you can contact the wineries or your favorite wine merchants to see what might still be around. Also consider purchasing upcoming releases of the same wines to see how well they compare.
Passing Time 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $75: Our wine of the year is the inaugural vintage of this Woodinville, Washington, winery co-owned by retired NFL quarterbacks Damon Huard and Dan Marino and winemaker Chris Peterson. Aromas and flavors of roasted coffee, black cherry, cocoa powder and blackstrap molasses help make this an instant classic. This wine has long been sold out, but sign up for future releases on the Passing Time website. (14.5 percent alcohol)
DeLille Cellars 2013 Chaleur Estate Blanc, Columbia Valley, $38: This classic white blend of Sèmillon and Sauvignon Blanc has produced a stunning wine with aromas and flavors of starfruit, lemon pepper, apple and chalk dust. It is a luscious and complex wine. (13.2% alc.)
Penner-Ash Wine Cellars 2012 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $65: Our favorite Pinot Noir is from a legendary Oregon producer using some of the best grapes in the Willamette Valley. Notes of black currant, plum, cinnamon and espresso are backed by elegant tannins and beautiful acidity. A great wine from a legendary vintage. (14.2% alc.)
Woodward Canyon Winery 2012 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $99: Owner Rick Small and winemaker Kevin Mott crafted one of the great wines of the stunning 2012 vintage in this classic red that offers enchanting aromas and flavors of black licorice, sarsaparilla, dark chocolate, ripe plum and crushed black walnut. Drink now or cellar for up to two decades. (14.8% alc.)
Owen Roe 2012 Red Willow Vineyard Chapel Block Syrah, Yakima Valley, $55: Longtime Northwest winemaker David O'Reilly has moved his winery to the Yakima Valley specifically to be close to grapes such as Red Willow Syrah. This is an expressive red with notes of blueberry, boysenberry, chocolate, pomegranate, cured meat and buttered toast. A stunning effort. (15.1% alc.)
Mt. Hood Winery 2014 Dry Riesling, Columbia Gorge, $20: Perhaps the best Riesling we tasted in 2015 was from this small Hood River, Ore., winery. Aromas of Granny Smith apple and lime zest lead to flavors of pear, lemon and Graham cracker pie crust. Bracing acidity is like a sheet of ice across the palate. (12.2% alc.)
Palencia Winery 2014 Albariño, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $18: Albariño, a white Spanish variety, is gaining a toehold in the Northwest, and this example from a Walla Walla winery is one of the best around. Aromas and flavors of apple, pear, spice and honeydew melon are backed by stunning acidity perfect for enjoying with shellfish. (13% alc.)
Maloney Wines 2012 Elephant Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Rattlesnake Hills, $65: Cornell grad Josh Maloney went from red winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle to head winemaker for Milbrandt Vineyards and now has his own side project with this small-lot Cabernet Sauvignon. This inaugural release is superb, thanks to aromas and flavors of plum reduction sauce, black licorice, milk chocolate, vanilla, molasses and alder smoke. It's backed by muscular tannins that will pair well with a juicy steak or age for a decade or more. (15.5% alc.)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.