This Year’s Best Wines (Holiday Edition)


I generally don’t have much good to say about wine scores, but there is one person whose scores I trust completely. That would be me.

Not that I’m always right, nor do I always hit a bullseye, but I spend days – not minutes – tasting recommended wines. I taste under tightly controlled conditions, at home, with carefully selected stemware and no distractions. I frequently revisit older wines, make new notes and then look back at my original scores and reviews to see how those scores and predictions have held up over time. With that in mind I’m comfortable offering you this pre-holiday list of the very best wines I’ve tasted so far in 2023.

I don’t pretend to compete with global lists compiled by well-staffed magazines and websites that pull results from 20,000 or more bottles. On the other hand, I’m tasting a curated selection of Pacific Northwest wines that often fly under the radar of the national reviewers. The goal is to give you a quick handle on the wines – and wineries – that are hitting home runs here in the Pacific Northwest.

Some wines on this list may be sold out or otherwise unavailable. That is true of virtually every end-of-the-year ‘Best Of’ list from anywhere. In most cases a follow-up vintage will be close enough in quality to merit your attention. I’ve organized it by variety and blend, and condensed – but not changed – the original reviews. Each winery is limited to a single entry, in order to avoid the endless shopping list trap. And yes, more than a few of these wineries could have placed a half dozen or more wines on the list. But to keep it all manageable they each get just one, usually (but not always) their highest-scoring wine.


Soter NV Estates Brut X – This is the second edition of the Brut X; half from the 2018 vintage, half  reserve wine; 60% is Pinot Noir, 40% is Chardonnay, all from estate vineyards. This is sleek, steely, subtle and subterranean, in the sense of layer upon layer somewhat hidden at first. Compact fruit, a fine bead, a touch of brioche and more awaits discovery. 339 cases; 12.8%; $65 (Willamette Valley) 95/100

Adelsheim 2017 Bryan Creek Vineyard Sparkling Rosé – Effusive bubbles, a tawny gold color, splendid fruit and the mouthfeel of fine Champagne – this single vineyard release from Adelsheim has it all. A roughly equal blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from this high elevation estate vineyard, there’s a succulent texture, and overall the balance is spot-on. 376 6-pak cases; 12%; $75 (Chehalem Mountains) 95/100

Domaine Serene 2014 Evenstad Vintage Reserve Brut – This vintage reserve is two thirds Pinot Noir and one third Chardonnay, all estate-grown, and spent over six years en tirage. Like vintage Champagne this puts a focus on purity of expression. Still tasting quite youthful, it’s packed with crisp apple, steely acids and a tightly wound core along with highlights of biscuit, meringue and lemon zest. 12%; $110 (Dundee Hills) 95/100

Corollary 2018 X-Omni Vineyard Blanc de Blancs – This exceptional all-Chardonnay bubbly deserves the center ring in the expansive Corollary portfolio. I love the purity, the power and the precision of this wine. Fermented in neutral oak, left on the lees for six months, then re-fermented en tirage for three and a half years, this is as close the Champagne as you can find in Oregon. 96 cases; 11.4%; $60 (Eola-Amity Hills) 94/100


Shea 2021 Tina-Louise Chardonnay – This stunning wine hits a very high bar for Chardonnay, even by Willamette Valley standards. I’m tempted to say I’ve never had a better bottle, and few as good. Deep, sappy and utterly delicious, it’s a seamless mix of tree fruits, citrus and pineapple. The acids are plentiful and bring a burst of refreshing minerality. Fermented and aged in 14% new French oak along with a mix of concrete, stainless steel, and neutral barrels, the combination hits a flavor bulls-eye. And stays there for days after being opened. 558 cases; 13.9%; $70 (Yamhill-Carlton) 98/100

Domaine Divio 2021 Les Climats Chardonnay – This French term encompasses both terroir and the micro-climate, taking into account the soil, aspect, elevation and weather specific to a given area. This compelling wine fills the palate with well-textured flavors of tree fruits, citrus rind, seashell minerality and herbal tea. It’s dense and detailed, long and compelling, and a fine value. 13.3%; $30 (Willamette Valley) 96/100

Walter Scott 2021 X Novo Vineyard Chardonnay – In some respects this is the iconic vineyard for Walter Scott, and it anchors all that is valuable and authentic about their AVA and vineyard-focused Chardonnays. It’s supple and steely, tight and tart, focused and long. The tree fruits and citrus components provide a firm, full-bodied core. The finish brings hints of seashell and iron filings, and lingers languidly; this may have a 20-year life ahead. 13% (Eola-Amity Hills) 96/100

Big Table Farm 2021 Chardonnay (Honeybee label) – This gorgeous wine is simply packed with whirlwind flavors. They swirl around the palate in a glorious mélange of stone fruits, dried herbs, citrus peel, bee pollen and butterscotch. Great concentration and superior length are the cornerstones; it’s the depth, length and detail that make this a great Chardonnay. A stunning value, it should be enjoyed over the rest of the decade. 92 cases; 13.4%; $48 (Eola-Amity Hills) 96/100

Domaine Drouhin Oregon 2021 Arthur Chardonnay – It’s hard to imagine a more reliably brilliant Oregon Chardonnay vintage after vintage than DDO’s Arthur. Its textbook structure, compelling style and exceptional balance place this at the top of the state’s offerings. The fruit is picked at perfect ripeness, the acids provide a refreshing lift and the use of DDO’s proprietary barrels gives the wine a lush but never intrusive toastiness. 3030 cases; 13.9%; $42 (Dundee Hills) 96/100

Ponzi 2019 Alloro Vineyard Chardonnay – Under their own label the Alloro wines have a long track record of excellence, and here those grapes are spotlighted by one of Oregon’s premier pioneering producers. This is stylish, almost steely, focused and dense – the type of Chardonnay that has completely reshaped the state’s approach to this universal grape. The fruit flavors (white peach, melon) stay focused on through a long finish, adding details of toasted hazelnuts and white chocolate. 131 cases: 13.3%; $75 (Laurelwood District) 95/100

Day 2021 Eola Springs Vineyard Chardonnay – Spicy aromas greet the taster, with floral and honeycomb notes. There’s a suggestion of Asian spices, but the wine really opens up in the mouth. It’s rich and broad, loaded with Meyer lemon, cantaloup, papaya and guava fruit. There’s plenty of acid also, and a touch of caramel, and the complexity is dazzling. Chardonnays from the Eola-Amity Hills are among Oregon’s very best, and this is a pure and lush example of the style. 13%; $54 (Eola-Amity Hills) 95/100

Abeja 2021 Chardonnay – The generic Washington AVA is no reflection on the quality of the wine – it’s simply that the grapes were sourced from Celilo (Columbia Gorge), Conner Lee (White Bluffs) and the estate (Walla Walla) vineyard. This rich, mouth-coating wine takes full advantage of all three, loading the palate with buttery apple fruit, toasted almonds, vanilla cream and enough acidity to keep it lively all through the finish. 1073 cases; 14.1%; $48 (Washington) 95/100

Redolent 2021 ‘This Must Be The Place’ Chardonnay – This luscious wine is balanced, supple and beautifully orchestrated, layered with peach, pear, papaya, banana, caramel, cinnamon and allspice. Many of the top tier Oregon Chardonnays have only recently been discovered by the old school wine media, and prices for some have climbed into the triple digits. This wine sells for about a third of that and can stand with the best of them. 65 cases; 13.1%; $38; (Eola-Amity Hills) 95/100


Dowsett Family 2018 Celilo Vineyard Gewurztraminer – This dry, full-bodied wine comes from an old vine site perfectly sited for this grape. Such richness as you’ll find here is exceptional, but at Celilo it is supported by tangy citrus and underlying wet stone minerality. The length and power vaults this into a category usually reserved for sweet wines from Alsace, not a dry but succulent Washington wine. Bravo! 14.2%; $30 (Columbia Gorge) 94/100

Hyland 2022 Old Vine Single Vineyard Gewürztraminer – Own-rooted and half a century old, these vines reliably craft an expressive, detailed and deliciously dry Gewürztraminer. Even for those who may be ambivalent about the grape this is a must-taste wine. The perfumy aromatics are de-emphasized, replaced with layer upon layer of citrus fruits, stone fruits, lemon meringue, pineapple, white peach and candied ginger. 1000 cases; 13.7%; $28 (McMinnville) 94/100

Trisaetum 2021 Estates Reserve Riesling – This reserve includes 50% of the Coast Range and 25% each of Trisaetum’s other two estate vineyards. It’s rich and loaded with ripe fruit flavors, a stunning mix of citrus, peach, apricot, apricot and cantaloup. As with all the Trisaetum Rieslings the overall balance propels the wine through a long and clean finish. 96 cases; 11%; $45 (Willamette Valley) 96/100

Love & Squalor 2018 Dry Riesling – If you like your Riesling bone dry and sappy with lip-smacking juiciness look no further than this release from Matt Berson at Portland Wine Company. Grapefruit, Meyer lemon, tangerine and more are in the mix. The tension is electric, the definition and focus are pinpoint and spot on. 270 cases; 12%; $20 (Willamette Valley) 96/100

Other White Wines

Ovum 2021 Rare Form “For Love nor Money” Ana Vineyard White Table Wine – This old vine Riesling is lightly botrytised, bone dry, with palate-soaking density. It’s all about the texture, the mouthfeel, the impact of the neutral Austrian cask and (perhaps) of the German clay from which the bottle is made. It’s a wine that takes a deep dive down through the palate, principally focused on mineral, salt and savory flavors. 13.5%, $60 (Dundee Hills) 95/100

Maysara 2022 Autees Pinot Blanc – This densely flavorful wine transcends the usual limitations of the grape. Compound flavors roll through Meyer lemon, pineapple, peach, papaya and cantaloupe like a palate stroll down the produce aisle. Savory herbs are captured in the juicy acids, like a bartender’s custom infusions. The wine gathers itself in a concentrated core at the back of the palate, and lingers through a remarkably long finish. 315 cases; 12.5%; $20 (McMinnville) 94/100

Devison 2022 The Hunter’s Pride Sémillon – Light, tart and delicate, the wild yeast fermentation adds depth, texture and stacked flavors with penetrating power. The flavors just keep on going and going, citrus, apple and white peach with nuanced notes of bee pollen, lemon curd, grapefruit rind, even a dusting of spice. It’s a wonderful wine start to finish and belongs among the all-too-slim numbers of great Washington Sémillons. 120 cases; 12.5%; $35 (Walla Walla Valley) 93/100

Pinot Noir

The Eyrie Vineyards 2017 South Block Reserve Pinot Noir – Planted in 1968 and first bottled as a single block in 1975, these 10 rows of Pinot Noir are as special and iconic as any grapes in Oregon. This legendary bottling was for years cellared at Eyrie and not released. Here is a ‘young’ wine with almost unbounded aging potential. Elegant, subtle, complex, well-integrated components bring rhubarb, raspberry, pie cherry, tea, a touch of cumin and more flavors into play. After 24 hours baking spices and candied fruits emerge. By any measure this is a stunning achievement that can be enjoyed immediately (with decanting!) or cellared indefinitely – a truly magical wine whose track record of ageability speaks for itself. 97 cases; 12.9%; Dundee Hills; $250 (Dundee Hills) 100/100

Patricia Green Cellars 2021 Notorious Pinot Noir – Notorious is the top reserve from Patty Green, the only wine aged in 100% new French oak. It’s sourced each year from a mix of sites – in this vintage a mix of estate fruit, Freedom Hill, Durant and an unnamed Dundee Hills site. The new oak has not been overdone, and remains an accent at this point, not a dominant scent or flavor. The palate strains to corral all that’s going on here. Berries, bramble, savory herbs, lead pencil, coffee grounds, chicory, charcoal… well it’s pretty much endless. This is a big wine, but in perfect proportion and balance from start to finish. 13.5%; $195; (Willamette Valley) 98/100

Holocene 2021 Memorialis Pinot Noir – Aromatic and penetrating, with luscious brambly red fruits, this deftly mixes those slightly candied fruit flavors with broader highlights of Dr. Pepper, hot cinnamon candy and lemon drops. Wow – a lot going on here. Give this one a good look over plenty of time. Still drinking quite well on day four! 260 cases; 13.5%; $65 (Yamhill-Carlton) 95/100

Dion 2020 Old Vines Pinot Noir – Dion’s vines are among the oldest in the region, so this designation carries some weight. Here they deliver the profound yet delicate flavors that make these wines so special. Subtle layers combine mountain berries, citrus, hints of tropical fruits, juicy acids and more. The length is sensational. 14%; $65 (Laurelwood District) 95/100

Lange 2021 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir – A bowlful of berries, red, blue and black, with a citrus kiss of tangerine leading the way into the mid-palate. This young wine opens up beautifully given a brief breathing window, adding gentle touches of licorice, coffee and black tea as it trails out the back door. A truly marvelous wine that should have a decade or more of great life ahead. 13.5%; $80 (Willamette Valley) 95/100

DanCin 2021 Adagio Pinot Noir – All Wadenswil clone, this fragrant and inviting wine opens with generous notes of citrus blossom, rose petals and ripe, slightly chocolatey red fruits. A total charmer, the flavors of sweet cherry soak the palate and continue to gain focus on through the finish. Tannins are ripe, firm, supportive and unintrusive; acids proportionate and clean. The aging in 30% new oak adds gentle streaks of caramel and chocolate. 93 cases; 14.3%; $46 (Rogue Valley) 95/100

Sidereus 2021 Estate Winemaker’s Cuvée Pinot Noir – A reserve-level blend of estate-grown clones and a mix of cooperages, this screams ‘high end’ from the first sip. Not just the well-heeled barrel toast and baking spices, but principally the impact of the clean, ripe, balanced fruit. Marionberries, blackberries, blueberries – all kinds of berries! – dusted with cocoa and a hint of cinnamon spice. 149 cases; 13.7%; $60 (Laurelwood District) 95/100

Cabernets/Merlots/ Bordeaux Blends

Passing Time 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon – What’s most impressive about this pure Red Mountain Cabernet is the tannin management. These sites (Klipsun, Red Mountain Vineyard, Heart of the Hill) are known for aggressively tannic wines. It’s a calling card – a marker – for Red Mountain reds. Here the tannins have been tamed just enough to keep the wine in balance while showcasing a heady mix of dark flavors (cassis, black cherry, licorice, a whiff of smoke and more). This is one to put down for long term aging. 14.9%; $94 (Red Mountain) 96/100

Long Shadows 2020 Feather Cabernet Sauvignon – This is simply stunning, a Vegas-style display of fruits and flowers, spices and barrel toast. Somehow it is silky, savory, textured and lush all at once. The flavors run through a long finish like threads in a shawl, and trying to untangle them is an impossible challenge. This wine is inescapably delicious, beautifully focused, and surely destined to be long lived. 3985 cases; 14.9%; $75 (Columbia Valley) 96/100

Pamplin 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon – A fine expression of classic Washington Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Klipsun, Discovery and Scooteney Flats vineyards. The 55% Klipsun fruit accounts for the firm, dark, pencil lead tannins, which are perfectly ripened and polished to a fine luster. Winemaker Robert Henry has made a poised, balanced wine with impressive, yet restrained, power. 289 cases; 14.2%; $55 (Columbia Valley) 95/100

DeLille 2020 Four Flags Cabernet Sauvignon – Named for the quartet of Red Mountain vineyards that supply the grapes – Grand Ciel, Upchurch, Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun – this brings concentrated flavors of black cherry, cassis, espresso, tobacco, baking chocolate, toasted walnuts and a hint of black olive. The tannins are ripe and lightly grainy, and the core is dense, dark and deep. Aged 20 months in 80% new French oak, this can age for another two decades. 1600 cases; 14.1%; $80 (Red Mountain) 95/100

L’Ecole 2020 Estate Grown Merlot – A textbook Walla Walla Merlot, this is both satin smooth and flecked with savory highlights. Sourced evenly from the winery’s Ferguson and Seven Hills vineyards, the Merlot is blended with 14% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s richly scented, structured and detailed with stacked black fruits, coffee grounds, baker’s chocolate and green tobacco. Optimal drinking – 2025 to 2035. 1000 cases; 14.5%; $42 (Walla Walla Valley) 95/100

Abacela 2018 East Hill Block Reserve Malbec – Intensely aromatic, dark to the point of blackness, this is as potent as any Malbec I’ve ever had from this hemisphere (hello Argentina!). Concentrated flavors bring a concert of purple fruits, smoky tannins, clean earth, tobacco and espresso. Still young (2018 is the current vintage) it offers a lot of palate bang for the wallet bucks. Decant, aerate or cellar another half decade or longer. 236 cases; 14.1%; $46 (Umpqua Valley) 94/100


Force Majeure 2020 SJR Vineyard Syrah – SJR is the Rocks District vineyard of the Delmas winery, and this wine’s aromas express the classic funk/umami notes for which the AVA is recognized. Sniff your way through its rainbow of scents and flavors including compost, breakfast tea, blood sausage, tapenade, cut tobacco, cedar and espresso. The fruit flavors build through the finish – blueberry, blackberry, black cherry – but the umami-soaked tannins clear the decks as the wine fades. This is a three ring circus of a Syrah, and should drink beautifully over the rest of the decade. 137 cases; 15%; $85 (Walla Walla) 97/100

Pášxa 2020 Rockgarden Vineyard Syrah – Made from a selection of the best Syrah from this estate vineyard, this was fermented in stainless steel and aged in one quarter new French oak. Without going over the top, and maintaining impeccable balance, it captures the blue and black fruits, the earthy umami, the suggestions of bloody meat and herbal tea and all the things that make this AVA unique and iconic. 375 cases; 14.3%; $85 (Walla Walla – Rocks District) 97/100

Liminal 2020 High Canyon Series WeatherEye Vineyard Syrah – This is Syrah with the precision and density of the finest Rhônes, yet with a particularity to the fruit and minerality that comes from this special site. Power, focus and density characterize this vineyard, here with extra concentration and length. I generally avoid comparisons to specific French wines because Washington is not France. But in many respects this is every bit as good as the best from the Côte Rôtie. 122 cases; 15.1%; $85 (Red Mountain) 96/100

Canvasback 2020 Funk Vineyard Syrah – The Funk vineyard (owned by Saviah’s Rich Funk) captures the essence of the Rocks District in a more elegant style than some of the AVA’s more notorious sites. Pure Syrah, loaded with ripe black berries, powdery tannins, dusty spices and highlight scents of lavender and violets, it’s the sort of wine that just demands attention and brings a smile. Big, bold and beautiful, it should drink nicely over the next decade. 14.5%; $74 (Walla Walla Valley) 96/100

Other Red Wines

Parabellum 2020 Coulée – The new vintage of Coulée is a true GSM – 58% Syrah, 21% Grenache and 21% Mourvèdre sourced from estate vineyards on Red Mountain and in the Walla Walla Valley. Fermented in concrete and aged 18 months in one fifth new French oak, it’s seamless, sexy and svelte, a lush mix of berries, plums and black fruits. The tannins are polished and fused into the fruit perfectly, with a side order of savory herbs, umami, olives and espresso. 600 cases; 15%; $45 (Columbia Valley) 96/100

Rocky Pond 2020 Tumbled Granite Red – This is 75% Cabernet, 20% Merlot and 5% Syrah, all from the flagship estate vineyard. It’s loaded with baking spices, giving it immediate appeal along with long term aging potential. The dark fruits line up taut and firmly ripened alongside sharp, polished and balancing tannins. This is a beautifully made wine which should be cellared for at least a few more years. 90 cases; 15%; $120 (Columbia Valley) 95/100

WeatherEye 2020 Estate Grenache  – Made with native yeast, 25% whole cluster, in concrete and open top fermenters, this was then finished in large format neutral oak. It’s a splendid Grenache, with massive red and black fruits that vibrate through an electric core. Far more than just a fruit bomb, this wine evolves, expands and radiates through the extended finish. 180 cases; 14.8%; $85 (Red Mountain) 94/100

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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