Best of the West: 2022 Wines You Can Still Buy


By now anyone who reads any wine coverage whatsoever has been buried in Best Of/Top 100 wine lists. And yet here I am offering one more. Why?

It’s honestly fun to pick a few top favorites from among the hundreds of wines I’ve tasted and given the thumbs up. I make no pretense of having tasted much of anything outside of Washington, Oregon and California. This is not a ‘best 100 wines out of the 25,000 we’ve reviewed this year’ list. Nor does it include wines costing many hundreds of dollars, or wines long ago sold out. I am calling out some of the top wines I’ve tasted in 2022 that are still available for purchase. Most are priced at $40 and under, with just a couple of exceptions.

These are exceptional wines from small producers, principally family-owned, with links to their websites for purchase. To be included they had first to be standouts among the weekly picks and reviews going back to last January. Rather than settle on an arbitrary Top 100 type number I’ve just rambled through my notes to find as many as I could that are still available. If you do not already purchase directly from winery websites I urge you to give it a try. If you have a favorite local wine shop you may of course ask them if they can find these wines for you. But more than a few are sold directly from the winery and not distributed.

My focus on boutique, family-owned wineries largely avoids widely available wines with mass distribution. There are many reasons for this, and I’m not going to blather on about the problems with the three-tier system in this post. We’ll save that for another time. But here in the Pacific Northwest we are fortunate to be living in a special time and place for wine, and the region has many hundreds of small producers who cannot get distribution even if they want to. They don’t make enough wine to stock grocery shelves; they don’t have a marketing budget; they can’t underprice Gallo or Constellation or any of the big wine corporations; or they simply have a different business model, one that relies on DTC – direct to consumer sales.

Think of this list as a treasure map. I taste many wines that are decent but not exceptional. The wines featured here are exceptional – for style, quality, creativity and price. And as I have written, they are also still available, and most are priced under $40. To conserve space, I include just one wine per winery though in many instances I could have chosen three or four others from the same winery. Note that in a few instances the vintage link may be updated to the newest release.

As a once-a-year bonus I am including my previously unpublished scores.

Happy New Year! My sincere thanks to all who support this website with wines, comments, time and attention.

White Wines

Amos Rome 2021 Estate Riesling

This cool climate wine hits all the marks. It’s focused, detailed and juicy. Flavors of citrus and apple are supported with ample natural acidity, and it’s backed with an impression of wet stone. It’s firm, balanced and has the tartness to accompany a mix of shellfish and white fish. The finish lingers like a well-thrown changeup. 350 cases; 13.8%; $22 (Lake Chelan) 92/100 [link]

Gärd 2019 Riesling Ice Wine

Rare in Washington, this is a classic ice wine as might be found up in the Canadian Okanagan. The grapes were picked frozen in mid-January and fermentation was stopped with 214g/L (21%) residual sugar. It’s quite rich with riper fruit than the Canadian styles, delivering a thick, palate-coasting pleasure ride down through layers of peaches, cream, toasted marshmallow, lemon meringue, cotton candy and candied orange. In short, a delicious wine that expands the extent of what types of wine the Royal Slope can produce. 96 cases (375ml); 11.5%; $70 (Royal Slope) 94/100 [link]

Hyland 2021 Old Vine Single Vineyard Gewürztraminer

This is a very special wine, as it’s sourced from own-rooted 50-year-old vines. Add to that a great vintage and a fine winemaking team and you have this treasure – rich, fragrant, true to variety and bursting with sweet citrus, pineapple, peach and pear fruit. The floral highlights are sensual without turning too perfumy, and the lingering finish brings hints of ginger and crushed rose petals. Whether you are familiar with this grape or not, this is a wine that should be experienced. 475 cases; 14.2%; $25 (McMinnville) 94/100 [link]

JC Somers 2021 Croft Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Jay Somers is another veteran winemaker who has embarked on a new chapter with this label. Sourcing from the Croft vineyard he is now in his third decade using these grapes. This is a well-defined, tightly woven wine with citrus rind, pineapple and grapefruit components. There is a lingering and well-integrated streak of zesty varietal grassiness so this is not a style if you don’t like those flavors. That said, this is a Loire-style wine that should continue to develop nicely over the rest of this decade. 200 cases; 13%; $32 (Willamette Valley) 92/100 [link]

Left Coast 2021 White Pinot Noir

Calling it a “flagship wine” for Left Coast, the winery backs up that claim with impressive volume. This is a winery that really knows how to make white Pinot, and better yet, sells it at a very modest price. This light straw colored wine has lovely snap and freshness, yet broadens out to display more lush flavors of white peach, melon and even a vein of vanilla. The blend includes tiny splashes of three other white grapes. 8710 cases; 13.5%; $23 (Van Duzer Corridor) 92/100 [link]

Nicolas-Jay 2020 Affinités Chardonnay

Four vineyards contribute to this excellent wine, including Bishop Creek, Maresh and Elton. The wine is textured and sappy, balanced and fresh, with nicely knitted citrus and stone fruits. The acids are natural and lively, the finish almost electric. Recently bottled, this is already showing well but may benefit from more bottle age or decanting. 440 cases; 13%; $50 (Willamette Valley) 94/100 [link]

Paul O’Brien 2021 Bone Dry Riesling

Bone dry can be a nice way of saying sour as sucking on a lemon, but when it works well, as it does here, you have a succulent wine loaded with citrus flesh and rind. This brings a nice mix of lemon, grapefruit and tangerine, with refreshing acids and a touch of wet stone. Listed at just 11.5% abv, it’s a wine you can enjoy with a wide variety of picnic foods, crab, lobster or noodle dishes. 138 cases; 11.5%; $26 (Umpqua Valley) 92/100 [link]

Pierce 2020 Van Horn Vineyard Riesling

Jess Pierce has a full-time gig at Walter Scott, where she also makes a small number of Rieslings, some in crown-capped, refillable 500 ml bottles. This is her chosen Riesling vineyard, located in the Hood River valley on the Oregon side of the Gorge. For such a low alcohol wine it is neither sweet nor sour, finessing its way through the twin poles of low alcohol Rieslings. Lovely texture and a refreshing mix of mineral, citrus skin, white peach and a dash of vanilla make this a compelling wine. It gets better on the second and third days after being opened, so aerate!. 150 cases (500ml); 11.5%; $15 (Columbia Gorge) 93/100 [link]

Ruby 2019 Chardonnay

I’ve been banging the drum for Oregon Chardonnay for years and each successive vintage just proves the point. Ruby’s latest release delights from the first sniff. Succulent flavors of mixed citrus are lively and refreshing, with appealing minerality. The wine is focused and deep, with lingering impact for a full minute or more. There’s very little evidence of new oak, but with fruit this good it’s not missed. 446 cases; 13%; $40 (Laurelwood District) [link]

Troon 2021 Druid’s Fluid White Blend

This biodynamic blend is two thirds Vermentino, the rest split between Marsanne and Roussanne. If you like the wildness that comes with indigenous yeasts, biodynamic grapes and non-interventionist winemaking, this is your wine. It’s quite different from the previous vintage but in many ways more interesting. Floral, citrus and sweet herbal flavors compound in a racy, sleek, spicy and quite fascinating wine. Rare to find such depth and complexity at this price. 285 cases; 12.6%; $25 (Applegate Valley) 92/100 [link]

Red Wines

Amavi 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

This estate-grown wine tilts in a Euro-style direction, with ample savory notes threaded around the core plum and berry fruit. The tannins take charge of the finish, ripe and full with just a hint of grit and toast. One quarter of the blend incorporates the four other Bordeaux grapes, all seamlessly integrated. It’s not hard to see how the masterful blending skills of Director of Winemaking Jean-François Pellet have been fully utilized here. This is the sort of wine that should cellar well over the next decade at least. 4335 cases; 14.5%; $35 (Walla Walla) 92/100 [link]

Acquilini 2019 10000 Hours Red Wine

This is the value brand for this powerhouse Red Mountain vineyard owner. The Red is 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc. Aged 20 months in 35% new French oak, it drinks like a much more expensive wine. In a way it’s old school Washington Cab, with alcohol topping out at 15%, though that’s not unusual for Red Mountain. It’s instantly appealing, smooth as silk, with a lush mix of red and black fruits and a big swath of mocha saturating the palate. Delicious now, it’s certainly cellar-worthy for the rest of the decade. In my view previous reviewers dramatically undervalued this wine. 2447 cases; 15%; $35 (Red Mountain) 94/100 [link]

Brittan Vineyards 2019 Cygnus Block Pinot Noir

The Cygnus designation, a nod to the swan in Greek mythology, is also a sly reference to the (Joseph) Swan clone of Pinot Noir featured here. Brightly fruity with raspberries, blueberries and cherries most prominent, it opens with the forward flavors of tangy red and blue fruits, then continues into deeper layers highlighted with espresso, wet stone, clean earth and savory herbs. The tannins are substantial, polished and firmed up from aging in 28% new French oak. Decant this for near term drinking; age this for up to 15 years. 136 cases; 13.3%; $65 (McMinnville) 95/100 [link]

Caprio 2019 Red Label Cabernet Sauvignon

Sourced from three estate vineyards this Cab-dominated Bordeaux blend includes 18% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. It’s a choice example of top-tier Walla Walla reds. The tannins in particular have a burnished, lightly gritty complexity. The wine weaves together cassis and black fruits with a strong mineral base, along with touches of charcoal, coffee grounds and burnt toast. It’s set up perfectly for steak or ribs off the grill. 340 cases; 14.5%; $48 93/100 [link]

Co Dinn 2017 Elephant Mountain Vineyard Red Blend

This is 58% Cab, 12% Petit Verdot, 11% Cab Franc, 10% Merlot,  and 9% Malbec – the first time Co Dinn added Cab Franc to this Bordeaux blend, completing the full house. If there is one wine from this entire overview you should absolutely try it is this one or its 2016 predecessor. Both are stellar examples of why and how Yakima Valley Bordeaux blends can and should be the iconic standards for Washington state. 14.6%; $50 (Rattlesnake Hills) 95/100 [link]

DeLille 2020 Le Dessein Red

Formerly marketed as Métier, this GSM blend is a meaty, serious red with a lovely mix of meaty, savory and fruit-driven flavors. Blueberries, black cherries, cassis, strawberry leaf and a touch of mineral all combine and lead through a powerful finish. Boushey, Stone Tree and Ciel du Cheval vineyards contributed the fruit, with the overall blend beautifully handled. 1400 cases; 14.5%; $45 (Columbia Valley) 93/100 [link]

Elizabeth Chambers 2019 Pinot Noir

Lush aromas of bramble and cherries highlight the entry and invite thoughtful sipping. Layered red fruits are dappled with citrus flesh and rind, giving the wine texture, balance and length. A fine value, this wine may be enjoyed immediately or cellared for up to a decade. 1400 cases; 13.2% abv; $38 92/100 [link]

Entiat 2019 Syrah

Well I’ve never seen this tech note before! “Fermented in two stainless steel alfalfa seed bins; one whole berries and the other 50% whole cluster”. There are a number of places in the Northwest that can produce superior, place-specific Syrah, and I’m adding this Rocky Reach vineyard (Double D) to the list. This splendid wine bears an astonishing likeness to a rather austere Northern Rhône Syrah, and despite the plus 15% alcohol it comes across as a bit restrained and herbal. It’s sinuous and lean, persistent and aromatic, with brambly blackberries, thistle and a streak of mint tea. It sets your palate on notice that (to quote Stephen Stills) “there’s something happening here; what is ain’t exactly clear…” What is clear? This is going to be a superstar AVA. 143 cases; 15.3%; $28 (Columbia Valley) 95/100 [link]

Force Majeure 2019 Parabellum Coulée

This Rhône-style blend is three quarters Syrah with the balance a mix of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Counoise. Wow! This is strikingly delicious, speared with a vein of minty tobacco, loaded with sweetly toasty flavors of blueberry, blackberry and marionberry fruit, and buoyed with natural acids. Essentially a GSM, it’s fun to speculate on what the additions of the last two grapes contributed to the final flavors. 14.8%; $45 (Columbia Valley) 93/100 [link]

Forgeron 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

The vineyards are Seven Hills and Minnick Hills, representing quite different parts of the Walla Walla AVA. Pure varietal, aged two years in 20% new French oak, this is showing a lot of pretty raspberry fruit with snappy acids accenting the freshness. Beyond the immediate appeal is a solidly-built wine with medium term aging potential. For Walla Walla Cabernet at a high quality level it’s a fine value. 407 cases; 14.7%; $35 (Walla Walla) 93/100 [link]

Gramercy Cellars 2017 Walla Walla Syrah

A blend of Les Collines and Holy Roller vineyard fruit, this was co-fermented with 3% Viognier. It’s got an interesting mix of lemony acid, underbrush and brambly berry fruit. It’s a subtle wine but it gathers strength and focus once in the mouth so don’t give up on it. Gramercy Syrahs are often demanding. Lightly gamey, peppery and loaded with hints of anise, tarragon and umami. Wow! 931 cases; 13%; $40 (Walla Walla) 94/100 [link]

L’Ecole 2020 Seven Hills Vineyard GSM

The three grapes are equally distributed here, all grown in the estate’s Seven Hills vineyard. It hits a potent 15% alcohol, yet feels just right, poised and balanced. The red and purple berries, black cherries and plums share the center ring with lightly toasty tannins, black olive highlights and a streak of espresso. This is on the strong, dark side of the GSM universe, with excellent penetration through the finish. Should cellar well for the rest of the decade. 275 cases; 15%; $41 (Walla Walla) 92/100 [link]

Lujon 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

I have long been a fan of Lujon’s Cabernets and this may be the best vintage yet. It’s toasty and compact, fresh with lovely cherry fruit at its core. The fruit comes from Birch Creek and Spofford Station, both terrific and yet under-the-radar vineyards for most wine drinkers. The blend includes 6% Malbec and 4%Merlot – a savvy and distinctive combination that broadens the palate and brings further detail through the finish. Aged 26 months in just 15% new oak. 433 cases; 14.8%; $34 (Walla Walla) 93/100 [link]

Mercer 2018 Cavalie Reserve

The blend here is half Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest split between Malbec and Petit Verdot. Recently departed winemaker Jeremy Santo debuted with this vintage and hit a home run here. The blend is seamless and thick with flavors of black cherry, cassis, espresso, toasted walnuts and a hint of truffle. The tannins are ripe and full, with a touch of grit. All in all this is a beautiful wine and a terrific value, great for drinking with your summer barbecue or saving for a winter holiday meal sometime later this decade. 201 cases; 14.5%; $42 (Horse Heaven Hills) 94/100 [link]

Ponzi 2018 Pinot Noir

Take a big sniff – this is what fresh, ripe Willamette Valley Pinot Noir should smell like – black fruits, cola/root beer, and a hint of underbrush. Once in the mouth and down the palate more details are revealed, slender threads of char, rubber, blackberries, brown spices and more. This level of complexity and length are most often found in more expensive Pinots. This trails out with clean flavors and should be enjoyed over the next half decade. 982 cases; 14.1%; $45 (Laurelwood District) 92/100 [link]

Quady North 2015 Arsenal Red

This is the current release of what is a (sort-of) Right Bank blend – 75% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot, 12% Malbec and a finishing splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. It has benefitted from the extra bottle age, smoothing out tannins and integrating the various component flavors. Blueberries, cooked plums and black cherries combine in a complex palate that is nicely layered and textured, all in good balance. Drink this now through the rest of this decade, decant if possible, and enjoy! 14.1%; $40 (Applegate Valley) 94/100 [link]

Reininger NV Helix Tucker Legacy Red

Formerly called Pomatia, this latest version was just bottled and includes a mix of unnamed grapes from around the Columbia valley. It’s a substantial red, dark in color and showing real density and muscle. Most likely this includes a fair amount of Cabernet and a side order of Syrah; whatever the actual blend it brings generously ripe flavors of black fruits and cassis with a finishing lick of espresso. A fine value, this is a perfect go-to summer barbecue wine. 875 cases; 13.8%; $20 (Columbia Valley) 92/100 [link]

Rocky Pond 2019 Stratastone Red

Not indicated on the label, this is sourced from the Double D vineyard. It’s a Rhône-style blend – 56% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 14% Mourvèdre. This is a total home run, with a bright and beautifully-ripened mix of spicy berry fruits, supported with light citrus acids and amplified with a hint of baking spices. 380 cases; 14.9%; $45 (Rocky Reach) 93/100 [link]

Saviah 2020 Syrah

Saviah has quietly accumulated a fine portfolio of estate vineyards scattered around the Walla Walla Valley, and many are part of this excellent blend. It’s supremely drinkable, which is to say delicious despite its youth and balanced for immediate enjoyment. Plush with purple fruits, a streak of licorice, a sassy swatch of butterscotch and lifted with refreshing acids, this is one of those wines you won’t be able to keep your hands off. 532 cases; 14.5%; $35 (Walla Walla) 93/100 [link]

TruthTeller 2020 The Clever Fool Cabernet Franc

Pure varietal, two thirds Elephant Mountain fruit, this is a tight, fine-tuned, steely wine with great tension and definition. The dark fruit flavors dig deep – cassis and black cherry, cola and char, espresso and a touch of granite. In short, a beautifully made wine with aging potential. 150 cases; 14.5%; $40 (Columbia Valley) 93/100 [link]

Tulpen 2017 Yellowbird Vineyard Dryland Cabernet Sauvignon

This unique Walla Walla Cab is dry-farmed in a vineyard adjacent to Leonetti’s Mill Creek Upland. If there’s a Rutherford dust equivalent in Washington this may be it. Put this in a blind tasting against Rutherford’s best. They will cost hundreds of dollars more. 100 cases; 14.7%; $45 (Walla Walla) 96/100 [link]

NOTE:  The wines I recommend have been tasted over many hours and days in peer groups and are selected for excellence. I have chosen to eliminate numerical scores from this website. Only recommended wines are shown, no negative reviews. My notes are posted with minimum delays and links to the winery website, so you may purchase recommended wines directly from the producer before they are sold out. I take no commission, accept no advertising, and charge no fees for wines reviewed.

Paul Gregutt
Paul Gregutt
Paul Gregutt has been covering the wines and wineries of the Pacific Northwest since the mid-1980s. From 2002 to 2012 he wrote a weekly wine column for the Seattle Times and authored two critically-acclaimed editions of ‘Washington Wines & Wineries – The Essential Guide’ (UC Berkeley Press). He served as the Northwest editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine from 1998 until 2022. Early on he was an original staff member of both the Seattle Weekly and KZAM-FM. He lives with his wife Karen and his rescue dog Cookie in Waitsburg (pop. 1204), a farm community about 20 miles NE of Walla Walla. When not tasting and writing about wine he writes songs, plays guitar and sings in his band the DavePaul5 ( Follow his writing at PaulG on Wine,, and in the Waitsburg Times.


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