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Five Wines Under $15 - December 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011








In tough times, we continue the search for good, inexpensive wines.

In last month’s Five Wines Under $15, I wrote about the apparent abundance of Pinot Gris in Washington, despite the fact that there are so few on the shelves. While many of the wines I tried then did not leave me particularly inspired – although I should say the Columbia Crest H3 Pinot Gris improved enough after a day that I would recommend it – this month we have two wines that break that trend.

The first is the 2010 Kyra Wines Pinot Gris. Winemaker Kyra Baerlocher quietly produces a lineup of well made, well priced varietal wines. The winery’s Pinot Noir (see review of the 2008 vintage here) is one of the more enjoyable bottles coming out of Washington, as is its Chenin Blanc (see review here). Add Pinot Gris to that list. This wine hails from Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes area and is full of fruit flavors.

The second is the 2009 Milbrandt Vineyards Pinot Gris. This wine is also 100% Evergreen Vineyard fruit making for an interesting comparison and contrast, although the 2009 vintage was warm and the 2010 vintage cool (Note: The 2010 Milbrandt Pinot Gris looks to be starting to move through distribution channels).

Next up we have three Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet is, by a good stretch, Washington’s most produced red grape at 31,900 tons in 2010, with Merlot second at 28,300.

The first wine is another from the Milbrandt brothers. In a very short time, Butch and Jerry Milbrandt have planted enough vineyards and made enough wine to compete at volume in the $15 and under market. To wit, 11,891 cases were made of the 2009 Cabernet. Though not even slightly on the scale of Washington’s largest wineries, it is quite an impressive feat given that their first vines were planted in 1997. While the 2009 vintage doesn’t quite live up to the strong 2007 and 2008 vintages, it remains an enjoyable, well priced wine.

Next up is the 2009 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet. While mass production can sometimes mean mediocre quality, especially in the wine world, Columbia Crest proves that isn’t necessarily the case and they do so bottle after bottle. The 2009 Cabernet, which includes 7% Merlot and 6% Syrah, is immediately identifiable as Cabernet and is, once again, a quality wine.

The final wine, the first of the 2010 reds, comes from Stonecap. Stonecap is a second label for Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard and Winery. With a large estate vineyard, the winery has begun aggressively competing in the sub-$10 space where few Washington wineries play. Stay tuned.

Kyra Wines Pinot Gris Evergreen Vineyard Columbia Valley 2010 $13

Rating: * (Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with abundant pear and melon aromas. The palate is full of ripe apple and peach flavors with a medium bodied feel and a lingering finish. 100% Pinot Gris. 13.5% alcohol. 300 cases produced.

Milbrandt Traditions Pinot Gris Columbia Valley 2009 $13

Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Pale in color. Aromatically appealing with straw, apple notes, and light lemon zest. The palate has a full, rounded feel with red and green apple flavors accented by a citric finish. 100% Pinot Gris. Evergreen Vineyard. 12.5% alcohol.

Milbrandt Traditions Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $15

Rating: + (Good) Lightly aromatic with cherry, mocha, and pickly wood spice. The palate is soft and on the light side of medium bodied with tart chocolate flavors and silky tannins. An enjoyable, easy drinking wine where the wood pokes through just a bit too much on occasions. 77% Cabernet Sauvignon 15% Merlot 6% Malbec 2% Petit Verdot. 14.5% alcohol. 14.5% alcohol.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $12

Rating: + (Good) A moderately aromatic wine with cherry, coffee, and herbal notes that is immediately identifiable as Cabernet. The palate is full of chocolate and cherry flavors with enough tannic backbone to hold the whole story together. Finishes slightly sweet. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and 6% Syrah. Aged 16 months in oak (33% new). 13.5% alcohol.

Stonecap Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2010 $8

Rating: ./+ (Decent/Good) Starts off somewhat reductive before switching to toasty spices, light cherry, blueberry notes, and caramel. The palate is soft, smooth, and easy drinking. 13.5% alcohol.

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