What’s Hot in WA?

Highlights from 8 winery visits in Washington


While a relatively young winery, founded only in 1997, Betz quickly joined the upper echelon of producers in Washington State. Propelled by the enthusiasm and experience of Bob Betz, who had spent nearly three decades with Chateau Ste. Michelle prior to founding Betz, the winery emerged as a leader particularly with their Bordeaux styled blends. The wines stand out as Washington styled if for no other reason than their Appellation. Columbia Valley is on the label because Bob draws from the top vineyards throughout the state blending varietals from the finest vineyard to create wines that truly are greater than the sum of their parts.

In 2011 Bob and Cathy Betz sold the Betz Family Winery to Steve and Bridgit Griessel with Bob agreeing to remain on as winemaker for a five year period. Seeing as they are now releasing the first set of wines that were made in the post-Betz ownership period I thought it would be a fine time to pay a visit and see what has changed. It seems very little has in fact changed and these remain among the very finest wines in both Washington State and the world. Hard to find, but worth tracking down if you can these continue to be stunningly fine, powerful, and refined wines.

2011 Betz Besoleil Columbia Valley 14.2% $50

54% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 12% Counoise, 12% Mourvedre, 7% Syrah

Very pretty on the nose with a hint of road tar, some spicy herbs, wild strawberry fruit and then a huge garrigue, black fruit, leather and peppery scent emerges as the wine warms in the glass.   Big and firm in the mouth, this manages to retain fine transparency on the palate with fine hard black berry and wild strawberry fruit framed with hints of juniper and licorice.  Small firm tannins keep this tense and clear across the palate and through the long finish which reveals intense inner mouth perfumes of black cherry, blueberry, blue flowers and spice. Powerful yet not terribly weight in the mouth. 93pts

2011 Betz La Cote Rousse Syrah Red Mountain 13.8% $60

Inky on the nose and rich with aromas of dried herbs, roasted coffee, and almost gamy meat topped with  spicy black pepper notes. Another big wine that’s underpinned with good acids and fine ripe, polished tannins that lend this a voluptuous texture. There’s  lots of tobacco, meat juices, and a bit of brown spice  on the powerful palate which reveals deep lightly roasted coffee bean, crushed stone, and herb crusted lamb notes on the palate along with wonderfully pure blackberry and black plum flavors. A bit reminiscent of some of the more modern wines of Corans,  this is pretty awesome. 94pts

2011 Betz Clos de Betz Columbia Valley 14% $65

67% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot

Black fruit, herbs, mint, and spice all add nuance to the black plummy fruit of the nose that picks up hints of graphite with air. Deep and intense on the nose. Round, opulent and intense in the mouth, his shows of bright and juicy acids and  soft tannins before turning voluptuously soft and supple in the mouth. the midpalate is totally refined and elegant dotted with blue floral notes, blue plums and blueberry fruit before gaining  firmness and minerality on the back end, and absolutely powering through the long finish with uncommon elegance and finesse. 95pts

2011 Betz Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia valley 14% $75

88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot

Woodsy tree bark, mineral,  and beef aroms top the big black currant fruit on the nose here which is a bit unevolved and almost jammy yet retains lots of fresh wild berry fruit. This is a bit angular but slender on entry with nicely judged, polished tannins. It’s a big wine with nice power and depth, rich with ,dusty fruit, briary and blue plummy on the palate. Built more on richness and power, this turns a little chewy on the firm finish which is long but shows more oak sweetness than the Clos de betz and is a touch hot as well. It’s still a remarkable wine, that might just need more time but for me it lacks some of the purity and seamlessness the Clos de betz displays. 93pts

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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: sgVA
    1300081 27

    Wow! No mention in this three part article about Charles Smith and his wines! This leaves this article woefully incomplete in my opinion. Perhaps Charles is/was less accommodating during your tour than others? That does not excuse a complete omission of his various wines and brands including Chateau Smith, Magnificent Wine Company, K Vinters and Steak House. He makes a great cabernet and his Syrahs consistently receive high 90's in publications including the Wine Spectator. Robert Parker is a fan, too. Shame on you!

    Mar 06, 2014 at 1:36 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 204,337

    How about Leonetti? L'Ecole? Quilceda Creek? Kiona? Porteous? Bernard Griffin? My missing any of those get your dander up? All historically more important than Charles Smith, whom I did not contact on this trip, though not out of any fear that he might be less accommodating. Simply put I included a set of wineries that I am familiar with or in some way are important to the Washington wine scene for this very brief trip I'm not saying Charles isn't important, but when you have but a few days in a region you're not going to hit every significant winery, and while I could have added two additional visits a day, is that what you really want? Massive numbers of wines tasted in minutes without any actual time spent learning about the wines/wineries/people? If so there is plenty of that out there for you. I would suggest you stick with the Wine Advocate.

    As for me, yes I will miss the obvious sometimes, but I think it's better to have an incomplete report on Washington state wines that affords me the background to write somewhat intelligently on the topic as opposed to a more comprehensive set of robo-written tasting notes.

    Having said all that, I will be sure to schedule a visit with Charles Smith upon my return to Washington. As well as some of the other wineries mentioned above, as well as Swiftwater Cellars, which was mentioned in a comment on the previous Washington article as an up and coming winner worthy of attention.

    Thanks for pointing out my omission.

    Mar 06, 2014 at 2:17 PM

  • Snooth User: sgVA
    1300081 27

    Wow, I seem to have struck a nerve there! Geez, chill out! I was simply pointing out my disappointment, perhaps too enthusiastically, that Charles Smith's wines were not mentioned in an article I thought surely would include mention of this big personality with an equally big reputation for producing outstanding wines. And he's only been in the wine business since 1999 so certainly a noteworthy addition to the Washington State wine industry. I discovered Charles Smith cabernets about a year ago and prefer it to the majority of California Cabs. But that's just me. I don't know Charles and have no hidden agenda asking why his wines were not included in this brief survey/visit to Washington State. And thanks for the childish comment that I stick with the Wine Advocate which I'll point out I've never read (or seen). So, sorry if I got your dander up with my comments. When I eagerly read your three part article, I presumed from the beginning that you were covering all the major and, up-and-coming Wash State wine players. Not being the seasoned expert on wines that you are, I had no idea there were so many noteworthy wineries in Wash State nor how comprehensive such an undertaking would have been. Maybe you could have pointed that out in one of the articles that this was a brief survey of a smattering of noteworthy wineries for some of us neophytes. Nevertheless, your tasting notes were great and I enjoyed the three installments.

    Mar 06, 2014 at 2:56 PM

  • Snooth User: emmagramma
    422865 27

    Next trip you must try Owen Roe. It's an all time favorite.

    Mar 06, 2014 at 2:58 PM

  • Snooth User: dondub
    882230 2


    You should have visited every winery in Washington! ;>)

    But I am appreciative of this great effort. Another up and comer is Kestral, and DeLille is awesome too.

    So many wines....so little time.


    Mar 06, 2014 at 3:06 PM

  • Snooth User: Zuiko
    Hand of Snooth
    540750 756

    I was hoping Snooth would be a pleasant place to visit, without the condescension and quid pro quo of many online forums. Personal attacks are not a good thing.

    Good information GDP.

    Mar 06, 2014 at 5:04 PM

  • Snooth User: Labby
    1374876 19

    At Prosser village, my sister insisted we try Thomas Wolfe. We loved everything we tried. Living in Maryland, the closest availability is in Virginia but worth the drive. Big big fan.

    Mar 06, 2014 at 5:43 PM

  • Snooth User: dondub
    882230 2

    If anyone needs to chill their wine here it's sgVA. Gregory deftly responded to his/her rant with a measured response and the reply that he would catch up to Charles Smith wines next time. The referral to the Wine Advocate wasn't childish at all, but a simple suggestion.

    In the meantime, let's hope Charles' wines can approach the level of others mentioned before Gregory gets there, or we could be in for another rant. They have a ways to go...

    Mar 06, 2014 at 7:26 PM

  • Snooth User: Lucha Vino
    Hand of Snooth
    249612 82,108

    I would agree with everything dondub said above. It is great to see some Washington coverage on Snooth. My only disappointment is that Greg did not invite me to come along for the visits!

    Mar 12, 2014 at 1:11 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,114

    Geez, I've been out of touch for a little while and just checked up on Ste. Michelle. Seems they've been busy, busy:

    "Ste. Michelle’s Washington portfolio includes Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, 14 Hands, Northstar, Spring Valley Vineyard, Col Solare, Michelle sparkling wines, Red Diamond, and Snoqualmie. The company also owns Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (with Italy’s Antinori family), Conn Creek and Villa Mt. Eden in the Napa Valley of California, and Erath, in Dundee, Oregon. In 2006, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates became the exclusive U.S. importer for the acclaimed Marchesi Antinori wine portfolio of Italy and Chile’s Haras wines, for Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte of France in 2009, and for New Zealand’s Villa Maria Estate in 2010."

    Mar 12, 2014 at 8:51 PM

  • Snooth User: kaged27
    748218 66

    Fantastic article. I'm disappointed a WA wine fan felt the need to criticize you for leaving out Charles Smith. Yes the wines are good but he's hardly the only good juice maker in WA. My personal recommendations for your next visit would be Reynvaan and Abeja in Walla Walla. Hope you enjoy your visit(s).

    Mar 25, 2014 at 12:46 AM

  • Snooth User: kaged27
    748218 66

    Just saw your review of Abeja in the other article. Well done.

    Mar 25, 2014 at 12:58 AM

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