Tag Archives: Columbia Crest

A “Heavenly” Chenin Blanc from the Horse Heaven Hills

Columbia Crest Res. Chenin Blanc 2014

Columbia Crest Res. Chenin Blanc 2014

Columbia Crest Reserve Chenin Blanc, 2014

From old vines in the Horse Heaven Hills, this small lot (500 cases) preserves the greatness of the Chenin Blanc grape.  In France’s Loire Valley this grape can produce some of the world’s best wines.  They can be “to die for.”

In the New World, Chenin Blanc can be quite ordinary.  It’s firm acid backbone can make it useful for adding to blends and even for a component in sparkling wines, but even though its acids hold up well in hot climates, it seems to need a cooler region to show its best.  Therefore, what will this grape show us when grown in the Horse Heaven Hills?

The flavors to expect from Chenin Blanc range from apples, nectarines, and stone fruit to more tropical fruits like pineapple.  A touch of honey is something all fans of this grape look for.  Honeyed Chenin Blanc’s can be delicious.  Most are vinified with some residual sugar.  A lot of residual sugar ends up making some of the world’s greatest dessert wines, but you can find appealing dry Chenin Blancs, too.

Because this very ancient variety tends to vigorously produce foliage and grapes, look for a low yield example for the better wines.  When kept to lower yields, it can produce richly flavored wines with lower acid levels.  Another thing you need to know is that it favors a little oak.

Now, what do we find in this example from the Horse Heaven Hills?  A clean, clear wine with the slightest hint of color greets your senses.  Lime, pear, and white peach with tantalizing floral notes on the nose introduces the wine well.  It is off dry, which means it is a great aperitif wine.  With shrimp and a lightly spiced cocktail sauce, it pairs very well.  The wine is lively, delicate, and the hint of honey is there in a beautifully smooth, rich mouthfeel.  What a long finish!  The fruit lasts and lasts.  Go back and taste again and note the balance and the follow-through of the flavors, giving this wine a harmony that truly makes it a worthy Columbia Valley example of the Chenin Blanc grape.

Rating: 91

Emotional rating:  A soft lively and appealing elegance.  Wonderful!

Limited Availability

Part 5: Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah, 2010

(Part 5 of a 5-part series)

Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah, 2010

Coyote Canyon Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, Block 99

Columbia Crest Reserve Coyote Canyon Vineyard Syrah from the Horse Heaven Hills

Columbia Crest Reserve Coyote Canyon Vineyard Syrah from the Horse Heaven Hills

From Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, and the Rhone Valley, we trace the way Syrah expresses itself in other regions.  The Columbia Valley in Washington State features some impressive sites in which very promising vineyards are yielding some interesting wines.  Coyote Canyon in the Horse Heaven Hills is a steep slope with rocky soil, the site of block 99, the source for these grapes.

The wine is produced by Columbia Crest and on first impression fills the senses with aromas of butter or buttered popcorn.  Chocolate is not far from the senses, enlivened with subtle waves of lavender and cedar.  It is better balanced than the Thomas Goss Shiraz.  Plums, black cherry, vanilla, and old leather fill out the complex nature of the wine.  This is a wine of rich breed, full and weighty on the palate.  Masterly blending of oak and fruit add to its appeal.

Your palate experiences the weight with the contrasting velvety softness of the wine.  It is 14.8% alcohol but is perfectly balanced on the finish.  At 3 years older than the Goss Shiraz, it has a little age. Where will this wine go as it ages further?  Will it improve and unfold to even greater depth of oak and fruit or will it reveal delicate aromas?  It may die a premature death, but I don’t think so.  I think its future has promise, but we don’t know at this point in its development what will happen.  A wine lover is attracted by the mystery of a wines future.

That’s the excitement of wine.  It is what it is and yet, we wonder how this living organism will develop and reward or disappoint us as it ages.  Wine cannot be totally controlled by even the greatest winemaker.

This wine was also tasted with the same Gruyere cheese as was tasted with the Thomas Goss Shiraz and proves to be a perfect match, each blending into each other with perfection.  Sometimes you want a perfect blend and, at other times, the effect we got with the Goss Shiraz and Gruyere.

Rating:  91

Emotional rating?  Lovely and impressive now.  A rich, stimulating taste of flavors that so many of us favor.

Available: 175 cases crafted by Columbia Crest

“COMPLEXITY” Should Be this Syrah’s Name!

Columbia Crest H3 Syrah Columbia Crest Coyote Canyon Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills 2011

  • Deep ruby
  • Well extracted
  • Visual appeal that prepares you for the richness of the wine.
  • Caramel, dark chocolate, butter, warm toast, vanilla, coconut, dark fruit ripe blackberry, blackcurrant, with hints of hazelnut and a slight meatiness

This wine is round and very complex.!

Complexity is its theme.  Complexity is a description of a wine that exhibits layers of flavors, one after the other, revealing themselves in whiff after whiff and taste after taste.

Making a wine like this requires great skill in finding the right moment to end its oak home and transfer it to the bottle for further development.  A little more oak and this wine would be unbalanced in its flavors.  Stronger layers of oak would predominate and rob the wine of a chance to display the contribution of its fruit.  The right moment was found.

Wine is a marriage of flavors and texture — in a good wine it’s a union destined to harmony and happiness.  A harmonious wine finishes as it begins: with layers of flavor fading in consort and giving the impression of team play at its best.  While fruit and oak support each other, the sum of its parts is surpassed by the creation of new blended tastes.  Taste this wine again and again as you discover more of its hidden excitement.

Smoothness in this wine is more than a velvety mouthfeel, more than the seamlessness of its finish.  It is the experience of each flavor enhancing the other flavors and each taking a well deserved bow in choreographic perfection.

I could drink this wine (moderately of course) for ever and still sing the praises of its sensual delights.  Avoid this to your impoverishment.  The only thing that keeps this from classic ratings is a slight diminishing of depth in the back of the palate.

Rating:  93 (almost 94)

Emotional rating:  How do you describe sensuous delight?  Enjoy a wine to be savored to the last drop.

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Amphora Wine: Columbia Crest Reserve Viognier 2013

Here is a wine you have to try just because a portion of it was fermented in amphora pots.  We can applaud wineries that indulge in such experimentation.  Why are amphora pots so

Columbia Crest Reserve Viognier 2013significant?  Because it is a return to the past — innovative to us, but commonplace to the folks of two millennia ago.  Wine was fermented, stored and transported long distances in amphora.

This wine from the Horse Heaven Hills is a very pale straw, clear and brilliant.  Apple pear and stone fruit aromas emerge willingly from the glass in a delicate and complex nose.

The mouthfeel is satisfyingly full, creamy, and velvety to the touch coating the mouth with a long-lasting viscosity.  Feelings help us call to mind the meaning for us of this tactile experience and if is not too far fetched, the word exotic comes to mind.  That’s what we want to happen when we savor wine — or anything for that matter.  Meanings that come to us in words help us define the significance of the experience.

To me, it is a perfect example of the effect of “micro-oxygenation,” which is achieved by a tiny amount of oxygen passing through the amphora into the wine just like it does when wines are placed in cask and the oak, being porous, achieves the same result.  So many wines today are fermented in stainless steel tanks to keep the flavors of the wine fresh that they lose this important treatment.  Oxygen rounds a wine; too much oxygen destroys it.

The winemaker feels the amphora vessels accentuate the terroir — a point to which I cannot speak.  In the creaminess of the after taste is a spice that is mellow, adding character to the wine.  The fuller, richer flavors of the tropics are accentuated too.  Paula Eakin, the assistant winemaker at Columbia Crest, feels that the hotter fermentation that takes place in the clay pots draws out these warmer flavors. She is likely right if we apply theory to our conclusions, and our tasting certainly verifies the facts.

It is one of the softest wines I have tasted.  Its finish is seamless (nothing standing out and shouting at you as it slides down your throat).  The delicate flavors last and last.  True to the grape, the alcohol is up there at 13.8%.  This is a wine to impress your wine buff friends and one that you will enjoy, not only in summer but even the cool dark days of winter.

Serve this wine and wow your friends with talk of clay amphora and spice-laden Viognier.

Rating: 92

Emotional rating:  To those who are sensitive to the meanings of touch, this is a winner — 98

Although the aromas are more delicate than many Viognier’s, it loses nothing of its memorable appeal.

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New Oak and Its Subtle Power

IMG_0949Honoring the father of Washington wine, Walter Clore, the 2010 Walter Clore Private Reserve from Columbia Crest opens with fabulous oak flavors of smoke, vanilla, caramel, and chocolate mingling perfectly with the fruit.  What a powerful welcome!  It has spent two years in new French oak.  New oak can overpower a wine in the short term but the longer it rests in the barrel, the softer and more integrated the oak flavors become and this is a perfect example.

A big gulp of rich, deep, black fruit — predominantly blackberry and black currant — are warmed with 14.5% alcohol and firmed with gripping but fine tannins, which do not fight each other but, rather, emphasize the wine’s exciting presentation.  Beautiful balance enhances the soft, pillowy mouthfeel and not even a hint of an edge is found.  There is power and strength in this full-bodied wine and a solid structure to age for a long time.

The wine is an emotional explosion and does more than fulfill our expectations.   A flashing, brilliant, deep ruby stirs the hopes of a well made wine and, from sniff to savor, the wine performs exceptionally.  Merlot at 53%, Cabernet Sauvignon at 46% and 11% Cabernet Franc come together in near perfection.

Rating: 94

Emotional rating: 98

You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my book, “Experiencing Colorado Wine,” and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several of them with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.  Order your autographed copyExperiencing Colorado Wine at Square Market.