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'14 Tour Guide

Reviewed Wineries

Columbia Crest’s Grand Estates Merlot is consistently Washington’s best value wine. The Paterson-based winery produces approximately 300,000 cases of this wine. It has received the following Wine Spectator ratings for the previous three vintages:

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2003 90 pts
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2004 90 pts
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2005 88 pts

In previous tastings, I gave these wines a *, *, and a + respectively.

For the Virtual Tasting, I invited some friends over for a live tasting and conducted a “Poor Man’s Vertical” where we sampled the 2003 through 2006 vintages. Unfortunately, the 2003 was flawed. The 2005 stood out as the best of the bunch at present although all were quite good. Note, do not try this at home as this is a drink me now wine. This shows up in my ratings. However, I just can’t help myself. Check out below the interesting variations in the compositions of the wine.

Overall the 2006 lives up to its predecessors. It is a good wine for the money that is well put together but needs a little bit more on the nose to move it up a notch.

Wines:

Score

Name

Notes

$

+

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2006

Very light pencil shavings and a light, pretty berry smell on an elusive nose. After a bit, shows currant and pepper along with light herbal and floral notes. Very smooth and rich on the palate with a pleasing finish. Overall, good but would like a bit more on the nose. Perhaps will come on in the next 3-6 months. 85% Merlot; 7% Syrah; 5% Cab Franc; 3% Cabernet. 13.5% alcohol. Purchased at Safeway for $9.98.


$12

+

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2005

A lively nose with black pepper and spicy oak that gets quite smoky after a short bit. A rich, opulent taste marked by chocolate. Drinking very well and an excellent wine for the money. 94% Merlot; 5% Cabernet; 1% Cab Franc. 13.5% alcohol. 295,500 cases produced. Recommended.


$12

+

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2004

A touch of earthiness along with chocolate and cranberry. On the taste, the fruit has started to degrade a bit. 96% Merlot; 3.5% Cabernet; 0.5% Cab Franc. 13.5% alcohol. 140,000 cases produced.



$12

_

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2003

Unfortunately this wine was flawed. 98% Merlot; 1% Cabernet; 1% Cab Franc.13.5% alcohol. 150,000 cases produced.

$12


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A reminder that January's Virtual Tasting takes place tonight and is the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2006. As mentioned in my original post, we will be doing a poor man's vertical and trying the 2005, 2004 and perhaps 2003 so don't worry if you find an older vintage on the shelves. As usual, I will be opening the bottle about 7pm and I will be looking to get my notes up by 9pm. Please join us in trying this wine and posting your notes. Read more about the virtual tasting here.

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In search of...value wines

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 4 comments

As the economy continues to falter, I have been increasingly focused on looking for Washington's best value wines. I define these as wines that list at no more that $15 but can frequently be found on sale for a good bit less. On of my personal favorites is the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot. The 2006 release of this wine will be the subject of tomorrow's January Virtual Tasting (Note: We will also be sampling the 2005 vintage in case this is what you find on the shelves). This wine retails for $12 but can frequently be found for $8 and is always enjoyable and some years phenomenal.

I am interested to hear what your favorite Washington value wines are. What is your go-to wine(s), house wine, favorite table wine etc? Leave a comment listing your favorites. I will report my take on some of these wines in future posts of my monthly Five Under Fifteen. Also feel free to send along non-Washington favorites.

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Leonetti Cellar originally made its mark as a merlot producer and the 2003 vintage shows why. Vintage notes from the winery: “Much like 2002, the 2003 vintage was incredible for it’s lack of precipitation. While Eastern Washington normally has little growing season rain—to have vintages completely devoid of rain is quite unusual. In its’ place was our usual glorious warming sunshine and refreshingly cool nights. Spring time bloom occurred without event, resulting in even set and eventual ripening. Due to consistent warm temperatures, harvest for Merlot came in two relatively early volleys, the 2nd-7th of September, and Sept. 20th-24th for our cooler sites.”


Wines:

Score

Name

Notes

$

**

Leonetti Cellars Merlot Columbia Valley 2003

The nose is outrageous and is as compelling as any wine I have had, evolving second by second and swirl by swirl. Initially, floral aromas predominate but as the wine opens up, it becomes a virtual wine wheel with anise, cocoa powder, dried fruit, leather, and blueberry. Late, earth and herbal notes show through along with white pepper. On the taste, dried fruit and beautifully refined tannins stand out on this lip smacking wine. This wine is an easy three or more years from its peak and should drink well for the next ten plus. 82% Merlot; 7% Cabernet; 4% Cab Franc; 4% Carmenere; 3% Sangiovese. 83% Walla Walla Valley Vineyards: Seven Hills, Mill Creek Upland, Pepper Bridge and Leonetti Estate. 17% Columbia Valley Vineyards: Dionysus and Conner-Lee. 2,570 cases produced.

$60

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A reminder that this month's Virtual Tasting will take place on Thursday January 29th. You can read more about it here. Please join us in trying this month's wine and posting your notes.

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Walla Walla Vintners (WW HBT 2008)

Saturday, January 24, 2009 0 comments

What follows is an excerpt for the 2008 Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting Report. Read the full report here.


Walla Walla Vintners makes excellent wine with a consistent style dominated by rich chocolate and cherry. The 2006 releases all seemed to have a light herbal component that added a layer of complexity. Surprisingly, as this wine has been a consistent favorite from the winery, the 2007 Cabernet Franc barrel sample was a disappointment. Perhaps some additional time in the barrel will bring it around. Wine temperature not recorded. PPS.

Wines:

Score

Name

Notes

$

.

Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2007

Nose still very young and a bit off-putting, reminiscent of Mentos. On the taste, mainly cranberry but overall too young to get much of an idea of it.


BS

+

Sangiovese Columbia Valley 2006

Lots of cranberry and rose hips. Tart and crisp on the taste. 83% Sangiovese; 12% Syrah; 5% Malbec.


$24

*

Washington State Cuvee 2006

Classic Walla Walla Vintners cherry aromas and flavors. A big nose with an almost gritty aspect to it along with wheat and chocolate. A pleasing tartness and an even body. 38% Merlot; 24% Cab Franc; 13% Cabernet; 8% Petit Verdot; 7% Carmenere; 5% Malbec; 5% Syrah. Cordon Grove, Dwelley, Frazier Bluff, Killian, Sagemoor, Spring Creek, and Weinbau vineyards.


$28

*

Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2006

Classic Walla Walla Vintners nose with chocolate covered cherries laced with rose hips along with a beautiful, light herbal quality. Very smooth body, although a bit lighter than in previous years. 76% Cabernet; 10% Cab Franc; 6% Merlot; 3% Malbec; 3% Petit Verdot; 2% Carmenere. Dwelley, Frazier Bluff, Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, Tokar, and Windrow vineyards.


$35

*

Cabernet Sauvignon Sagemoor Vineyard Columbia Valley 2006

Rich chocolate along with touches of cassis, pencil shavings, and Herbes de Provence. Tart with a full mid-palate and a long finish. 79% Cabernet; 21% Cab Franc, Malbec, and Merlot.


$40

**

Bello Rosso 2006

A big nose with a good deal of complexity marked by wheat, chocolate, cherry, and rose hips. Fairly light on the palate but opens up and sails on the finish. 50% Sangiovese; 50% Cabernet.

$36


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What follows is an excerpt for the 2008 Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting Report. Read the full report here.


Amavi’s name comes from a combination of the Latin root words, "am" (love) and "vi" (life). Sharing a winemaker and vineyards with Pepper Bridge Winery, Amavi produces excellent red wines at reasonable prices. All wines sampled at 69 degrees.


Wines:

Score

Name

Notes

$

+

Semillon Columbia Valley 2007

Orange peel, mineral, and a light smoky component. A very pleasing, enjoyable wine. All stainless steel fermentation. 100% Semillon. 13.95% alcohol. 576 cases produced.


$20

*

Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2006

White pepper, tobacco, and baking spices on an expressive nose. A gorgeous wine with a big, plush taste and beautifully smooth tannins. 14.1% alcohol. 3,941 cases produced.


$28

*

Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2006

A gripping, gamey wine with lots of berry up front and a dark fruit core. A very long finish with pipe tobacco. 14.1% alcohol. 1,422 cases produced.


$28

*

Syrah Les Collines Vineyard 2007

A gigantic syrah with bacon fat, berry, and gamey aromas. A chewy, multiple swallow wine with cured meat on the taste. Give 3 plus years or extended decanting upon release.


BS

**

Syrah Les Collines Vineyard 2006

Packed with intensity on the nose with grilled meat and berry. More refined on the taste than the 2007 vintage. Overall, an intense wine that is loaded with power.


NA

+

Late Harvest Semillon 2008

Super sweet, thick dessert wine. Nose has a slightly sherried smell to it.

NA


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Va Piano Vineyards (WW HBT 2008)

Friday, January 23, 2009 0 comments

What follows is an excerpt for the 2008 Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting Report. Read the full report here.


Va Piano Vineyards year in and year out makes excellent wine. More than many wineries from Walla Walla, these wines really seem to be made with food in mind. This fall, winemaker Justin Wylie and wife Liz welcomed a new member – Sienna – to their family. Meanwhile, assistant winemaker Ryan Crane is planning to start his own label in the future which will be called Kerloo. Crane is planning to create a Tempranillo as well as other red varietals. All wines sampled at 65 degrees. The inverse of PPS - Giant Pour Syndrome.

Wines:

Score

Name

Notes

$

*

Syrah Columbia Valley 2007

A refined style with light spices, blackberry, and blueberry. Smooth and even taste. 38% Lewis, 32% Portteus, 16% Minick, 14% Va Piano vineyards.


BS

*

Columbia Valley Blend 2007

The nose is light with an occasional herb component and touches of anise. A beautiful, dry wine with a long hang time and a lot of pucker to it. 82% Cabernet; 8% Cab Franc; 7% Merlot; 2% Malbec; 1% Petit Verdot. Va Piano, Klipsun, Portteus, Pepper Bridge, and Seven Hills vineyards.


BS

*

Syrah 2006

Gorgeous spices and herbs mark the nose. A pleasing mouth feel on a tart wine with a lot of black pepper.


$38

+

Bruno’s Blend IV Columbia Valley

Vanilla and clove mark the nose. Tart and crisp on the taste. A great food wine. Syrah; Malbec.


$23

*

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Loaded with spice, tobacco, cherry, and bramble berry along with touches of cassis. On the taste, tart and crisp with a solid tannin profile without being overpowering. 94% Cabernet; 3% Petit Verdot; 3% Cab Franc. Va Piano, Seven Hills, Portteus, Klipsun, and Phinney Hill vineyards. 14.1% alcohol. 392 cases produced.

$45


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What follows is an excerpt for the 2008 Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting Report. Read the full report here.


This visit to Sapolil Cellars, my first, gave us the opportunity to try several single vineyard Syrah. The Dwelley and Patina Vineyards, both located in the Walla Walla AVA, have considerably different elevations and aspects. These differences show through beautifully across the wines and across years providing additional evidence, if any were needed, that not only does terroir exist, it exists in Washington state. All wines sampled at 65 degrees.

Wines:

Score

Name

Notes

$

*

Chardonnay Yakima Valley 2007

Beautifully clear in color, the nose is fairly light and marked by lemongrass. A gorgeous, medium bodied taste.


$18

*

Syrah Dwelley Vineyard 2005

A complex wine with cola, dark brown licorice, some gaminess, and dark fruit. 14% alcohol.


NA

*

Syrah Patina Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2005

Lots of anise, cola, and soy. A very good wine that seems like it might have been open for a bit.


$38

*

Syrah Patina Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2006

An interesting nose with lots of dark, brown spices. A very subtle, pretty taste.


$38

.

Papa Louis Mambo Columbia Valley 2007

Black licorice is predominant on the nose. A rich wine with a bit too much sweetness to it. 70% Syrah; 20% Sangiovese; 10% Cabernet.

$32


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Saviah Cellars (WW HBT 2008)

Thursday, January 22, 2009 0 comments

What follows is an excerpt for the 2008 Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting Report. Read the full report here.


Richard Funk’s Saviah Cellars is one of the reasons I fell in love with Washington wine. Saviah’s 2003 Une Vallee remains one of my all time favorites. Saviah’s wines never disappoint; the price points are always right; and Richard Funk is always adding a new and exciting wrinkle to his operation. Recently, it was a reserve Merlot and a Malbec. This year it is a Cabernet Franc, a grape that an increasing number of wineries are experimenting with as more than a blending wine. Like all of Saviah’s wines, the 2006 Cabernet Franc is expertly crafted and extremely enjoyable with a much softer profile than many being made in the valley. Saviah Cellars’ record of success brings to mind two questions. One, can Richard Funk keep it going? The answer here is a resounding yes. The 2007 Une Vallee barrel sample may be the best vintage of this wine yet. Second, what will Mr. Funk do next? On this, only time will tell. Wine temperature not recorded.

Wines:

Score

Name

Notes

$

+

Chardonnay Stillwater Creek 2006

Melon, pear, and mineral with just a touch of grassiness. If you like chardonnay, chances are you will like this wine. Single clone Dijon 25. 226 cases produced.


$25

*

Cabernet Franc 2006

Blueberry and other blue fruit along with touches of spicy oak. A nice soft structure. Seven Hills and McClellan Estate vineyards. 191 cases produced.


$28

+

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Herbs and spices mark this enjoyable wine that is up front on the palate and then thins out a bit. A good food wine. 304 cases produced.


$28

*

Syrah Stillwater Creek 2005

A gorgeous, lively nose with violets, spice, and touches of chocolate. On the taste, a pleasing tartness but a little lighter in the mid-palate. Still, a very good wine. 14.2% alcohol. 151 cases produced.


$32

*

Big Sky Cuvee 2006

Loaded with chocolate and bramble spices along with a dusting of earth. On the taste, opens up and expands with generous amounts of chocolate. 61% Merlot; 26% Cabernet; 8% Cab Franc; 3% Malbec; 2% Petit Verdot. 536 cases produced.


$35

*

Malbec 2006

A very enjoyable wine rich with spices and brambly fruit. Not as opulent as the 2005. 170 cases produced.


$30

*

Merlot Reserve 2006

A fair amount of greenness to it right now. As it opens, herbs show through. A pleasing mouth feel and a long, long finish. Give at least one year. 92 cases produced.


$45

**

Une Vallee 2007

Blue fruit, spice, and chocolate on a nose that still needs to come together. A spectacular mouth feel and taste. Wow! 57% Cabernet (Pepper Bridge); 36% Merlot (Seven Hills); 7% Cab Franc (Stillwater Creek). 343 cases produced.

BS


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