2012 Hightower Cellars, Reserve Red, $55
Winery info: Founded in 1997 in Woodinville by Tim and Kelly Hightower with the winemaking philosophy, “Get the best grapes and don’t screw them up.” They moved to Benton City when they were able to purchase a vineyard on Yakima’s coveted Red Mountain in 2002 and have been making their widely acclaimed wines there ever since.
Winemakers: Tim and Kelly Hightower
Grapes: 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot.
Vineyard source: Their estate 15-acre southwest-facing vineyard on Red Mountain, one of the warmest vineyard sites in the state and Washington’s smallest AVA.
Flavor profile: A richly structured Cab, with dark red and black fruit flavors, firm tannins, and juicy acidity. And, as with all Hightower wines, excellently balanced.
Production/Availability: 144 cases and so very limited.
Drinkability: Although 2012 was a stellar vintage that tended to produce very approachable wines, the famous Red Mountain tannins could still use a couple of years in the cellar to soften and it should age gracefully for 10 to 15 years in the cellar.
Food Pairing: This would be perfect with a holiday meal of prime rib with all the trimmings, or with a succulent steak.
2011 Brian Carter Cellars, Byzance, $29.75
Winery info: Brian Carter began making wine professionally in 1980, and worked for a number of wineries over the years before opening his own winery in Woodinville in 2006. (Only Rob Griffin, who started a year earlier, has been making wine longer in Washington.) Brian’s focus is on blends, each inspired by a different region of the world, and his depth of experience and superb blending skills are reflected in all of his wines.
Winemaker: Brian Carter
Grapes: 56% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, 6% Counoise, and 3% Cinsault. Aged 22 months in new and used French and European oak.
Vineyard sources: Lonesome Springs, Elerding, and Boushey, in the Yakima Valley; Stone Tree, on the Wahluke Slope, and Olsen, in the Columbia Valley.
Flavor profile: Inspired by the red wines of the southern Rhône, in particular Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this wine has bright red fruit notes and an underlying earthy minerality. The Grenache contributes ripe cherry notes, while the Mourvèdre contributes wonderful spice and structure.
Production/Availability: 539 cases and always in good supply.
Drinkability: Brian crafts his wines to drink well upon release, but to also have the ability to develop with age.
Food Pairing: Brian says it would be a great match for a wide range of foods, his favorite being a medium rare duck breast with cherry sauce.