A surprising Northwest hole in The Daily Meal top 101 poll

By on August 15, 2015
walla walla valley wine

Rick Small, owner and founder of Woodward Canyon Winery in the Walla Walla Valley, was voted the top winery in the Pacific Northwest by The Daily Meal, ranking No. 5 on its top 101 for 2015. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Part of David Letterman’s nightly fame came from his entertaining Late Show Top 10 Lists, and public opinion can be shaped, reflected or jaded by polls and rankings.

The wine world is a never-ending stream of polls, rankings, ratings and lists. Many of the most influential are published late in the year, just ask anyone with a wine that makes Wine Spectator’s Top 100.

This summer, the Manhattan-based news organization The Daily Meal — a newsy and splashy food and beverage website that publishes a litany of lists — released its 101 Best Wineries in America for 2015.

Rather than merely throw up a ranking of 101 names, it’s a well-presented list that opens with a short introductory video followed by a detailed slideshow, accompanied by researched capsules for each of the 101 wineries represented.

Woodward Canyon, Leonetti make top 10

Leonetti Cellar

The barrel room at Leonetti Cellar continues to produce some of America’s most sought-after wines, and the Walla Walla winery ranked No. 10 overall on The Daily Meal’s top 101 wineries of 2015. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

It’s no shock California dominated, yet the Pacific Northwest showed quite well led by two longtime Walla Walla properties cracking the top 10 — Woodward Canyon Winery at No. 5 and Leonetti Cellar at 10th.

What some found surprising was that not a single brand under Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the Pacific Northwest’s largest wine company, received a mention.

Chateau Ste. Michelle’s collaboration with famed German Riesling producer Ernst Loosen on Eroica is targeted for the restaurant trade and is credited with the renaissance of Riesling in the United States. The Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was selected as Wine Spectator’s No. 1 wine in the world for 2009. Its 14 Hands Winery ranks as one of the country’s fastest-growing brands.

No Daily Meal votes for Ste. Michelle wines

Chateau Ste. Michelle is Washington state's largest and oldest winery.

Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, Wash., is the state’s oldest and most visited winery. (Photo courtesy of Chateau Ste. Michelle)

Colman Andrews, vice president and editorial director of The Daily Meal, said it was easy to explain why none of the Ste. Michelle properties made the list.

“Ste. Michelle wines were absent from the ranking for the simple reason that none of our panelists voted for them,” Andrews told Great Northwest Wine in an email. “This is not a reflection on the wines of Ste. Michelle or its sister properties, but rather an expression of the fact that there are approximately 8,500 wineries in America (including 750+ in Washington alone) and even if only, say, 5 percent of the total made truly exceptional wine (a low estimate, I’d guess), that would still leave us with far more than would fit into a list of 101 best.”

Washington places 9, Oregon 8 in top 101

Greg Lill, winemaker Chris Upchurch and Jay Soloff continue to lead DeLille Cellars in Woodinville, Wash.

Greg Lill, winemaker Chris Upchurch and Jay Soloff founded and continue to lead DeLille Cellars in Woodinville, Wash. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Aside from California, no state placed more on the list that Washington with nine spots. Oregon was a close third with eight among the top 101, followed by New York with seven.

The Daily Meal explained that wineries on the list were nominated by sommeliers, wine writers, chefs, restaurateurs and the organization’s editors.

“Where possible, they factored in their own tasting notes of recent vintages; they also consulted the leading wine publications and newsletters and considered recent awards from prestigious competitions,” according to the news release.

The rest of Washington’s representatives are Andrew Will Winery of Vashon (No. 22), DeLille Cellars of Woodinville (No. 32), Quilceda Creek Vintners in Snohomish (No. 44), Charles Smith Wines of Walla Walla/Seattle (No. 52), Abeja of Walla Walla (No. 57), Gramercy Cellars of Walla Walla (No. 80) and Seven Hills Winery of Walla Walla (No. 90)

The top Oregon representative came from the Dundee Hills — Domaine Drouhin Oregon at No. 14. Five of the Oregon wineries to make the list have second-generation winemakers leading their programs, including Véronique Drouhin-Boss.

Next was Ponzi Vineyards in Sherwood (No. 29), followed by pioneering The Eyrie Vineyards (No. 38) in Dundee, Elk Cove Vineyards of Gaston (No. 41), Evening Land Vineyards in Dundee (No. 43), Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton (No. 49), Bergström Wines in Newberg (No. 72) and Chehalem Wines of Newberg (No. 74).

“I might point out that, for instance, such top-of-the-line California producers as Colgin, Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, Araujo, Sloan, Abreu, and Sine Qua Non are missing, too, simply because they received fewer votes overall than the producers who made the list,” Andrews wrote.

East Coast professionals dominate panel

Colman Andrews is the editorial director for The Daily Meal in New York City.

Colman Andrews is the editorial director for The Daily Meal in New York City.

The panel included John Tilson, The Underground Wine Letter, Santa Barbara, Calif.; Keith Beavers, owner of In Vino Restaurant in New York City; East Coast chef/restaurateur Daniel Boulud; Daniel Johannes, corporate wine director for Boulud’s Dinex Group; Norman Van Aken, a James Beard Award-winning chef/restaurateur in Florida, and Cathy Mantuano, wine director at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Terzo Piano.

“They regularly speak to media about the latest food and beverage trends and are experts in food, beverage, restaurants and travel,” according to The Daily Meal.

2 Precept properties crack Daily Meal list

Ste. Chapelle, owned by Precept Wine in Seattle, is Idaho's oldest and largest winery.

Ste. Chapelle, owned by Precept Wine in Seattle, is Idaho’s oldest and largest winery. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

It would seem the panel also sought to highlight and encourage work done by a particular winery in a state with an emerging wine industry. Those were among the factors applied to a pair of wineries owned by Seattle-based Precept Wine, the largest privately owned wine company in the Pacific Northwest.

Gruet Winery, the sparkling wine house in New Mexico purchased last year by Precept, showed up at No. 95. Idaho’s largest and oldest winery, Ste. Chapelle, cracked the Daily Meal’s top 100 wineries at No. 98. A particularly memorable wine factored into the votes for Ste. Chapelle, Andrews said.

“Re Ste. Chapelle, again this was simply a reflection of what people voted for (probably at least in part because it’s the best-known producer in the state and was an important pioneer) — though I should add that when we tasted an assortment of Idaho wines, including examples from Sawtooth, Coiled and Koenig Vineyards as well as Ste. Chapelle, the best wine of the lot was clearly the Ste. Chapelle Priest Lake Block 16 2011 Chardonnay, which encouraged me to cast my own vote for the winery,” Andrews wrote.

Judges at the 2014 Idaho Wine Competition might agree with Andrews as Maurine Johnson’s debut under Ste. Chapelle’s young Panoramic Idaho series received a gold medal and was the top Chardonnay of the fifth annual event.

Long Shadows Vintners in Walla Walla saw its Cabernet Sauvignon winemaker — iconoclast Randy Dunn — rank No. 6 in the country for the work at his eponymous Napa Valley winery.

The parent company of emerging Red Mountain brand Canvasback, Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa, checked in at No. 19 overall.

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the President and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for a decade. He is a frequent wine judge at international wine competitions throughout North America and orchestrates 10 Northwest competitions each year.


  1. Hello Eric,

    Putting our (QUINI) bias aside, we see lists by panelists as getting really tired. This is especially true for a confident, information-rich generation of millenials who want to see what peer said, not just an expert’s opinion. Lists ought to become based on crowdsourced input of both regular consumers and pros, to provide a more accurate sentiment of the wine being rated. As well, to eliminate holes such as an overpowering panel from one part of the country or another, or critics with strong affinity to certain types of wines based on personal taste.

    Food for thought I hope. We created the Quini wine tasting standard and app that has the basis to become the universal standard. I’d be delighted to demo the app one on one if desired. I think you’ll appreciate the investment we put into creating it.

    As a pro, do allow me to show you around the app, to ensure that every aspect of it is seen from the first use.

    Best regards,


  2. Mick Beard says:

    I’m a retired retail wine shop owner, and these sort of lists used to drive me nuts! The worst of all was the “WS Top 100 Wines”, as when they published the list, over half the wines were already sold out. This “Best Winery List” is even more disturbing – how do they differentiate between a winery making a great almost Burgundian-style Pinot Noir against one making what I call a Syrah Wannabe? It is all personal taste, and I wish more people would buy what they like, rather than what some “expert” says they should.
    I admit I was raised in Europe and am no fan of high alcohol, over-ripe, wines produced by many West Coast wineries that over power food.
    I would say to consumers, look at “experts” ratings, but get to know a wine merchant, go to their tastings, and let the merchant know your thoughts and tastes. She/He will then offer choices from all over the world.

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