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Current Releases - Reviews Roundup

External Validation = Warm Fuzzies

Most wineries have a complicated relationship with scores. We're no different.

But here's the truth: we submit some of our wines, sometimes, to some publications. We're not unilaterally blasting reviewers with our products. We're selective. 

At the end of the day, positive reviews (and scores) help sell wine. Often a lot of wine. There's frequent philosophical debate in the industry as to whether or not a wine score *should* sell wine, and that's a reasonable discussion for another day. 

I will say this: *when* we get great press, it will *often* result in large quantity three-tier purchases (three-tier, in our case, means wine that we sell to distributors, who then turn around and sell it to restaurants, shops, etc.). Just this year (yes, this 2020 dumpster fire), I can attribute quantity purchases of 2016 Estate Red Mountain Heart of the Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, 2018 Estate Red Mountain Lemberger, and 2019 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc to numerically-scored positive reviews. And that's a game worth playing, even if it occasionally results in a rogue 87 point score here and there (Which does happen! We just don't publicize them). 

We don't use the scores in our tasting room narratives/collateral (ahh, the good ol' days, when we could pour wine to lovely visitors from around the globe) or in most of our consumer-facing marketing (this post excluded, of course!). It's mostly a sales tool that is leveraged in business-to-business relationships as an external validation that we are, in fact, doing what we claim to be doing, which is make quality wine from quality grapes grown on our quality farm in a quality growing region. 

When that email from Wine & Spirits or Wine Enthusiast comes in, there's an "insta-open" visceral reaction. Accolades tend to be screen-shotted and posted in our Slack channel instantly, and vigorously debated and talked about in-house. ("Ohh, she liked it!" "Yikes, let's make note of that preference for next time." etc.) It's FUN to get a great score, and hurts to the bone to get a less-than-great one. We feel each score, good or bad. 

We will only publicize a review with a score below 90 if it is not a "but review" (my term!). A but review has the cadence of "good, description, good, but negative" and gives the impression that the reviewer did not like the wine. (Here is an example of a but review.) There are plenty of reviews that have great verbiage, but a score below 90. Here are two examples (Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Enthusiast) where the score was below our threshold but it's easy to tell that the reviewer enjoyed the wine. These are the types of writeups that we'll use if the score is below 90. 

So with all of that in mind, here's a roundup the nice things that have been said about us, about our current-release wines, and the numbers that are attached to those opinions over the last year or so. 

2016 Estate Red Mountain Heart of the Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

92 Points, Wine Advocate
"The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Heart of the Hill is poised and delectable on the nose, opening with a rich and chewy expression of dark fruit and an abundance of elegant purple flowers at the core. The full-bodied palate is weighty and chewy with tight tannins that lead to a creamy, round, textured mouthfeel on the mid-palate, giving way to the long-lingering finish with a focused balance and precision. 138 cases produced."

92 Points, Jeb Dunnuck
"The single vineyard 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Heart Of The Hill comes from Red Mountain and spent 18 months in new French oak. Vivid cassis and black rasp- berry fruits as well as notes of sagebrush, tobacco, and espresso give way to a medium to full-bodied, beautifully balanced, elegant wine that has ripe tannins, plenty of fruit, and enough structure and tannins to warrant 2-4 years of bottle age. It should evolve for two decades.”

94 Points, Year's Best US Cabernets & Blends, Wine & Spirits Magazine
Kiona’s spectacular recent planting in the heart of Red Mountain’s long slope is given mostly to cabernet sauvignon—eight blocks in all, with multiple clones and densities. The range of expression is big, and it’s reflected here in a big wine, with dark fruit and mildly spicy scents. There’s plenty of formidable Red Mountain mass contributing to the texture, but the wine feels pure, contoured in its delivery."

92 Points, James Suckling
A stylish nose with freshness that features cedary, wet stoney notes, played into ripe blackcurrants and purple cherries. The palate has a sleek and polished feel with fine, long and crisp tannins that hold well. Try from 2022."

92 Points, International Wine Review
"More violet ruby. Strong, cedary, herbal sour cherry nose–typical and fresh. Some pencil shaving/cedar notes, a hint of graphite and well-good complexity. Oldest block planted 2006-2013. Strong and muscular fine tannin, dense fruit–very min- eral–graphite, St. Julien style but bigger weight. Dark cherry on finish. Chewy fin- ish-long finish. Needs 6-8 years.

Estate Red Mountain Fortuna

96 Points, James Suckling
"This is a very beautiful vertical blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec and carmenere that shows fantastic integration of ripe fruit and polished tannins. It’s full-bodied with superb fruit and extremely intense yet beautiful character. I love the polish and refinement. Drink or hold."

93 Points, Best Buy, Wine & Spirits
"A multivintage blend of cabernet (2015), carmenère (2017) and malbec (2018), this is a compelling, exotic success. Its mild scents of smoke and cedar overlay a graham-cracker oak component; underneath, the deep black-plum and fig flavors have a suave, velvety texture, sexy and brooding at once. This would pair beautifully with dry-aged beef."

91 Points, Jeb Dunnuck
"Last of the non-vintage releases, the NV Fortuna has terrific purity in its blue fruits, violets, and peppery herb aromas and flavors. These carry to a medium to full-bodied blend that has a balanced, elegant texture, integrated tannins, plenty of beautiful fruit, and a great finish."

90 Points, Editor's Choice, Wine Enthusiast
"This is a one-of-a- kind wine for Washington, both in terms of the blend and multi-vintage approach: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Kiona Estate (33.4%), 2017 Carmenère from Heart of the Hill (33.3%), and 2018 Malbec. Aromas of baking spice, braised green pepper, plum and dried cherry lead to reserved but still plush fruit flavors that show length. The oak is pleasantly dialed back on this thoroughly fascinating wine."

2018 Estate Red Mountain Lemberger

93 Points, James Suckling
"This is a really fun blend of lemberger, cabernet sauvignon, mourvedre and carmenere that delivers a balanced and so drinkable wine. This is well crafted and all about drinkability and character. Drink now. Synthetic cork."

90 Points, Best Buy, Wine Enthusiast
"Fruit for this wine comes from 40-year-old vines. The aromas are fruit-for- ward, with notes of boysenberry, blueberry and plum. The palate is soft, bringing a compelling sense of purity to the blue fruit flavors. Reminiscent of a blue fruited Syrah, it's thoroughly delightful and a big-time value to boot."


Future Releases

Winery/Vineyard Writeups

Overall, I'd say it's been a solid 12 months for us, from a critical perspective. Like I said, our goal is to make quality wine from quality grapes grown on our quality farm in a quality growing region. These scores/reviews/accolades are a tool that we use to reach our *true* audience, the wine drinker. 


- JJ