Reininger Winery is located on the way in to Walla Walla. The winery was founded in 1997 by Chuck Reininger, a Walla Walla native. The Reininger brand focuses on Walla Walla fruit whereas their second label, Helix, focuses on fruit from the Columbia Valley.
Sandhill Winery is a small, family owned winery located in the Red Mountain AVA. The winery has an annual production of approximately 3,000 cases.
Cougar Crest is located close by Reininger on the way in to Walla Walla. The winery was established in 2001 by Deborah and David Hansen.
In the blind tasting, the Sandhill was the clear favorite of the group. This wine was drinking beautifully and appeared to have a lot of life left. The wine was classic Red Mountain with abundant floral notes and beautiful structure. The Cougar Crest on the other hand every one in the group agreed appeared to be past its prime. The Reininger was harder to pin down. It was an intriguing wine but was hard to get a sense of where it was overall on its lifecycle.
We finished the tasting off with a 2002 Whitman Port which is 100% Cabernet from Red Mountain. While some would correctly object to this wine being called a Port as others would if a Washington wine were called a Bordeaux, it was an enjoyable finish to the tasting.
Obviously Washington is a reasonably young wine region with a lot of new wineries. It remains to be seen how well many of the wines will stand up over time. Overall, my sense is that, not surprisingly, how the wines age is specific to the winery’s style. The Sandhill was doing exceptionally well and seemed if anything better than the last time I had tried it. At the same time, this is not surprising as their wines have a solid tannin profile and structure. The Cougar Crest on the other hand was a disappointment where the wine seemed to have trailed off dramatically since I last tried it several years ago. However, this was one of the winery’s first vintages and Cougar Crest’s wines tend to be more fruit forward and have less of a tannin profile.
|+||Reininger Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2002||Tobacco and touches of oak on the nose along with generous amounts of black and sour cherry. On first pour, there is also a bit of earthiness and black pepper. On the taste, the wine is marked by cherry and black olive. 92% Cabernet; 5% Cabernet Franc; 3% Carmenere. 1,340 cases produced.||$32|
|Sandhill Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2002||A beautiful nose with floral notes, spice, earth, and dried fruit. On the taste, the wine has an elegant, European style with lots of tannins and structure without being overpowering.||$24|
|Cougar Crest Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2002||On the nose there is a lot of black pepper and an herbaceous quality. The wine seems a bit untoward and uneven. One the taste, there is a quick attack but it trails off quickly.||$32|