We blind tasted 14 rare WA Wines & here’s what happened

March 31, 2017

Rays Rewind Wine Tasting Group Photo

What is old is new again?

I admit it. I am guilty of holding on to my silk paisley ties that were fashionable many years ago in hopes that they would be stylish enough to wear again. Certain things never go out of style, right?  OK, I admit I know close to nothing about fashion but I do understand/respect pedigree and I have learned patience.  While I still have my ties “cellared” I recently “un-cellared” all of my oldest Washington Wines.  I promised Sean Hails (Winemaker, Columbia Winery), Master Sommelier Thomas Price, Sean Sullivan (Founder, Washington Wine Report), and a few other esteemed colleagues that we would double blind, taste, and casually compare notes on 14 rare older Washington wines. Both pedigree and patience showed up in spades at this recent private tasting. I can’t think of a better way to support of Washington Wine Month than to, once again, prove that Washington wines stand the test of time.


Double blind tasting wine bottles
Double blind tasting wine bottles

While we passed brown bagged wine around the table the conversation was for the most part was quiet.  The typical technical ‘cork dork’ lingo with tasting note spreadsheets and laptops was absent. And we are all guilty of sometimes getting lost in the west facing view from Ray’s Boathouse dining room, but this was not the case either. What was clearly present in the silence was the contemplativeness of what we were tasting.  What we were lost in was the ageless beauty of Washington wine produced in its infancy by pioneers such as Master of Wine David Lake and vineyard genius’ like Otis Harlan. The transition from the 80’s through the 90’s was seamless and the most impressive part to me was less the winemaking skills, and more the consistent sense of place. The foresight and skill to seek perfect areas to plant and farm vitis vinifera and capture the vision of the early pioneers is something that was contained in every one of these bottles. And it poured out beautifully.


Full line up of tasting labels
Full line up of tasting labels

Two wines stood out as our favorites so we of course unveiled them first.  The 1995 Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon was tops pretty much across the board. Running a very (very) close second was the 1988 Columbia Winery Red Willow Vineyard Syrah.  If you are old enough to recall (or smart enough to read the back label) this was the first Washington Syrah ever produced for sale.  It was showing beautifully. Again, quiet contemplation.  Impressed, oh yes. Surprised, not at all.  The first Syrah from Washington: Patience and pedigree.


Sign of a good time
Sign of a good time

Washington wine as it is today was built on the stakes that were driven into the ground in the 60’s. Each of us that has made a living buying, selling, and serving Washington wines should take a moment and re-up on the history behind it.  Get back our roots.  Pull an old bottle out and enjoy it. May you be as impressed as we were. Paisley ties not required.

– Douglas Zellers, Ray’s GM

Wine Tasting Lineup:

1980       Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon

1981       Columbia Winery Bacchus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

1982       Columbia Winery Otis Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

1983       Champs de Brionne Cabernet Sauvignon

1987       Columbia Winery David Lake Sagemore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

1988       Columbia Winery Red Willow Vineyard Syrah

1988       Quilceeda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon


1992       Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon

1993       Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon

1993       Columbia Cabernet Sauvignon

1995       Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon

1997       Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon

1999       Leonetti Cellar Sangiovese

1999       Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz

Hispanic Heritage Month Specials with Chef Gus

Ray’s Executive Sous Chef Gustavo Guerra hails from Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico and he’s graciously whipped up his Pollo en Mole Oaxaqueño in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month! This limited quantity dish will be available in the Boathouse and Café starting Friday, September 15 until it’s gone! Pollo en Mole Oaxaqueño pan seared chicken …


Ray’s Boathouse elevates local, sustainable seafood with global flavors and Northwest inspiration nightly.


Classic seafood dishes with seasonal preparations in our upstairs Café overlooking Puget Sound.


Simply choose either Ray’s Boathouse or Ray’s Cafe in the first drop down, then find your table.


Book your Ray's Boathouse reservation on Resy
Book your Rays Cafe reservation on Resy