Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Friday, December 21, 2007

Fifteen Best Washington State Winemakers

It's that time of year again - time for "bests" or "faves" of the year. Try as hard as could, I just couldn't get this list of best winemakers down to the "Ten Best" and limiting it to fifteen still leaves out lots of great winemakers here in Washington state, so here goes in no particular order:

1) John Bell - Willis Hall

2) Trey Busch - Sleight of Hand

3) Brian Carter - Brian Carter and Apex

4) Scott Greer - Sheridan Vineyards

5) Don Corson - Camaraderie

6) Brett Isenhauer - Isenhauer

7) Mike Januik - Januik and Novelty Hill

8) Gearge Kirkish - Palouse

9) Serge Laville - Spring Valley

10) Ned Moriis - Amaurice

11) Jean Francois Pellet - Pepper Bridge

12) Tim Narby - Note Bene

13) Tim Sorenson - Fall Line

14) Ben Smith - Cadence

15) Chris Upchurch - DeLille


  • At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    interesting list. can't say i agree with it though.

  • At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A good list, but one glaring exception: Paul Golitzen at Quilceda Creek.

  • At 9:28 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    You're right! But then, so many omissions - Gary Figgins, Rusty Figgins, Chris Carmada, Keith Pilgram, Mark Ryan, Chris Sparkman, Chris Gorman, Ross Andrew, Dave Minick, Jeff Gordon, Rob Griffin to name just a few others. Washington has so many great winemakers, maybe next year we will try to list them all, but then I'm sure we will leave someone out. Gene

  • At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Jae said…

    I realize this is something of an Oscar awards, Best Director vs. Best Film question (inotherwords, how can the director of the best film not win Best Director), but how is it that this list of 15 best winemakers doesn't match up with your list of best wineries in the state (your Nov. 19th classification post)?

    I suspect this may be about your visceral feel for the wines and the wineries, so hard to quantify, but it would be interesting to learn how you think about such things.


  • At 10:28 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Jae, good question. Of course, all best lists, like wine ratings, are ultimately subjective impressions dressed up in objective garb. People love best lists and wine ratings because they make the complex and nuanced, simple and easy to remember. And they lend credence to one's choices. And one does not have to think or trust one's own experience. These are really my favorites. The top wineries may be based on one or two top wines or on consistency. They tend to be established wineries with consistent results. "Best" winemakers are chosen on an annual basis and are a mix of "top" winemakers and up and coming winemakers. These are my subjective or visceral impressions dressed up in their "best" garb.
    I figure if Seattle Magazine and other more formal media can get away with it, why can't I? BTW, anon above, if you disagree, what are your impressions. Gene

  • At 10:31 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    P.S. This list is also largely based on winemakers and wineries I've encountered in the past year.

  • At 8:24 PM, Anonymous b | f said…


    as you mentioned, there are so many good winemakers in WA, it's hard to narrow down the list. and, it's all a matter of opinion, which i respect. so, as my views differ from yours, here are my thoughts. just my humble opinion.

    i like James & Poppy at Syncline - love what their doing with Rhone varietals (and i think they're already on the path to surpass Doug McCrea)

    Chris Gorman and Mark Ryan are ushering in the next generation of super wine makers (they make great wine in addition to great marketing, too often it's all flash with no substance, but that's not the case with these two)

    I like Chris Camarda for quietly making some of the best wine WA has to offer while also emphasizing terroir above all else

    i definitely agree with Ben Smith and Tim Sorenson - these two are making a name among top WA winemakers

    You can't mention a top WA list without mentioning Gary Figgins and Paul Golitzen, so i'll mention them here - but they do deserve to be on the list for the benchmark they are setting for all others to follow (and perhaps even surpass some day)

    And i'd close with Tim Stevens at Stevens Winery and Justin Wylie at Va Piano - two wineries to keep a close eye on over the next few years

  • At 9:40 AM, Blogger Peter said…

    tough choices - have to agree that Golitzen should be on there as well as Bob Betz...

  • At 8:06 PM, Blogger Catie said…

    I might differ with you a bit, as I think Serge LeVille and Ned Morris should be a little higher on the list, but at least they made the list. And then again - - considering this is your blog you can list anybody you want and those who do not agree should get their own blog and make their own list. Anyways - -

    Happy New Year Gene and here's to drinking more good Washington State wine!!

  • At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think any list of WA states best winemakers that leaves off Christophe Baron is an absolutely incomplete list.

  • At 9:35 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Blake, you are absolutely right. It is a totaly incomplete list. Thank you all for your great suggestions. Maybe next year, we can have a poll or vote, but no caucuses, please! Gene

  • At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What is "best"? As others have pointed out, you leave off many that could be argued to be on the "best" list not to mention many others that produce consistently good wine like Bob Betz and Steve Lessard. More importantly, why create such a list at all. I would much rather see profiles of different winemakers and ultimately taste their wines vs having a list with no criteria at all to be labeled "the best." A vote would be interesting, but likely would lead to those that have the nicest hair, designer jeans or biggest sunglasses to score well. I'm tired of these phony lists, just give readers info on the winemakers themselves and let readers' try the wines without everything being a competition.

  • At 10:52 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Most recent anon, thanks for your thoughtful comment. Of course "best lists" are absurd, especially in the case of Washington State winemakers where a list of fifty or a hundred might more closely capture the reality of winemaking in Washington,but Top Ten gets attention - witness the popularity of this post. As I mentioned above this is really just my list of "faves" and changes every year. It is not the
    "2007 Claasification of Washington Winemakers." All "best lists" whether from Seattle Magazine or the Wine Spectator are just "faves" dressed up in objective garb. You are certainly right about a poll or vote. Do we really want the nicest hair or the biggest egos? For me, this is not a competition. These are just my thoughts on worthy winemakers this year. They are not listed in any particular order. They are not ranked. No one gets a "100" or a "75". My hope was to bring fifteen worthy winemakers to my readers' attention. Even expanding the traditional "Ten" to fifteen left out many worthy candidates, including some of the best known winemakers who have already had more than enough recognition. Gene


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