“I must have more of this,” confessed Karen MacNeil of the Washington wine she was in town to showcase. Karen, author of the number one selling wine book The Wine Bible, would be addressing a full house the next day at her Taste Washington seminar, “Up Close with Karen MacNeil: What Makes Great Washington Wine Great?”

At the seminar, Karen quickly got the audience’s attention with her opening declaration, “I have a lot of positive things to say about Washington.” She then went on to explain her intrigue over how it forces people to learn about how terroir works, about latitude, and about cataclysmic geology.

Then it happened. We got to taste through a hand-picked lineup of Washington wines with Karen. Wines she had so carefully chosen that she judiciously sampled multiple vintages of each before finalizing the selections. Each of those incredible wines is listed below in the order tasted, along with some of her engaging comments and insights which reflect her talent for making wine fun and approachable.

Analemma Wines
Gewurztraminer, Atavus Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2013

Syncline Winery
Grenache Blanc, Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2015

The Analemma and the Syncline are both a little floral and have great acidity but not “Hollywood acidity”.

Long Shadows Vintners
Poet’s Leap Riesling, Columbia Valley 2013

Feral Sauvignon Blanc, Evergreen Vineyard Ancient Lakes 2015

“This wine might well set a new course for American Sauvignon Blanc.”
It’s salty, peppery, and reminds me of a wind-swept Mediterranean Island.
A comment in her initial notes said, “Where are the oysters?”

Kerloo Cellars
Grenache, Upland Vineyard Snipes Mountain 2014

B. Leighton Wines
Petit Verdot, Olsen Brothers Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013

This wine was the first one in the lineup to reveal oak. The wine needs a good long dinner.

Andrew Will Winery
Red Wine, Two Blondes Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013

This wine reminds us all of umami. It’s not essentially a foodie wine, it’s a savory wine.

Spring Valley Vineyard
Uriah Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley 2013

The arc of this wine is like an invitation.

Seven Hills Winery
Merlot, Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2014


Karen observed that most Merlot sits on the palate like a couch potato.
Not so, with regard to this wine.
The Seven Hills Merlot demonstrates frame in wine, as in a framed piece of artwork. That kind of structure leads to longevity.

Gramercy Cellars
Syrah, Forgotten Hills Walla Walla Valley 2014

This wine is primordial.

Karen referenced her discussion of Syrah with winemaker Greg Harrington in which he said, “We look at Syrah like Pinot Noir with structure.” What’s it like to make? “It’s a little like waking up a woman at 3 in the morning. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Regarding the Rocks District of Milton Freewater AVA, she says you don’t even have to go there. Taste 5 wines from the AVA and you are transported there.

Syrah, SJR Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2013

“Here’s rocks turned into silk.” It has blue violet flavors…..what’s more important is the wine’s utter complexity.

Two Vintners
Some Days Are Stones Syrah, Stoney Vine Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2014

The wild vivid character of this wine would pair well with lamb roast.

The great wines of the world aren’t just fruity. They have some line of corruption. Fruity is pretty, but not sophisticated. The theory of corruption can be tasted in this wine. It’s hard to put publishable words to it.

Cayuse Vineyards
Syrah, Cailloux Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2013

Cayuse is the mothership that inspired the whole Rhône movement in Walla Walla and Washington. This wine is primal scream. Wonderfully corrupt.

It was an epic tasting that I will replay in my head every time I open my copy of The Wine Bible and see her personal inscription.

About the Author

Nancy Croisier is an enthusiastic advocate for exploring the world of wine. She holds the prestigious designation of Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators, and has graduated from the Northwest Wine Academy with expert training in wine sales and marketing as well as wine and food pairing. She specializes in bringing wine brands and consumers together. Follow Nancy’s wine and food adventures on Twitter and Instagram:  @NancyFeasts.