Tag Archives: Columbia Valley

Wine that Is a Feast for the Eyes and More

14 hands Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Reserve

14 Hands 2012 Cab Sauv Reserve

14 Hands 2012 Cab Sauv Reserve

This wine is a feast for the eyes.  Rich, deep, dark Cabernet Sauvignon is always a pleasure to engage with emotionally.  It’s color invites appreciation and awakens the best of expectations.  It’s a promising beginning for an experience with this wine.

The aroma does not disappoint either, with fruit and oak in a harmonious marriage that gives birth to smells so complex it is hard to find lines of demarcation between one aroma and another.  The mouthfeel is velvety and the tannins, both firm and fine, are displayed in a perfect balance of acidic vibrancy — not too much, not too little.  The finish is luscious with dark fruit flavors and rich, sweet oak notes on a long, enduring farewell.  It delivers a message of its quality and power with the promise of more pleasures to come as it ages.

Of special note is the return with power of the brightness and depth of blackcurrant fruit on the finish.  This is a great Cab!  Buy and enjoy it with your best cut of red meat or with fabulous cheeses that you are keeping for that very special occasion.  And enjoy the value as this is offered at a very friendly price.

Horse Heaven Hills is a featured location in Washington’s winemaking history.  Its vineyards are already famous for their full-flavored fruit.  As a basaltic uplift, separating the Columbia and Yakima rivers, it is benefited by the modifying temperatures from the rivers.  The fruit has an exciting expression of richness and brightness.  14 Hands is a winery to watch.  Stay tuned for a verbal experience of its equally notable Chardonnay.

Rating: 93

Emotional rating:  Not too heavy or tiresome, but just right for a great experience of Cab.  As good as a Washington Cab can get, and that’s great!

Availability?  The 14 Hands wines are widely distributed.


More Depth and Great Appeal for a Modest Price

Kiona Cabernet/Merlot

Kiona Cabernet/Merlot

Kiona Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 

This wine is less complex than the Enzo Bianchi described in my previous post, but very impressive for a price tag of $15.  A deep wine, with the character of Red Mountain AVA fruit from the Columbia Valley.  It exudes blackberry and dark berry flavors with a nice marriage of vanilla, leather, and toast.  The bright edge to the wine is probably due to the mix of grapes that lifts its mellow depths and gives it so much  more than you would expect.  Cabernet Sauvignon at 50%, Merlot 15%, Syrah 13%, Carmenere 9%, Sangiovese 8%, Malbec and Cabernet Franc 2% each, and 1% Petit Verdot make for quite a lineup and contribute to its complexity.

When comparing this with the Enzo Bianchi, its not apples with apples, but appeal to appeal. There is less of an up-front powerful display of character but a presentation of a smooth and luscious wine that has no faults and just wants you to sit back, drink, and enjoy its pleasures.  It doesn’t jump at you like the Enzo.  Rather it commends itself for its quiet display of rich Cabernet that seems not to exclude any blending partner.  This is a very good everyday wine with more depth than the price suggests and a far greater appeal.  It even has a more viscous texture and equal softness.  You will love this wine and still have a heavy wallet.  You will generally note that the staying power of the aromas and flavors in a less expensive wine are not as persistent.

Cabernet is a perfect foundation for a red wine.  It can also be fleshed out with other grapes to  accommodate the winemaker in the pursuit of that unusual, but still traditional, wine.

If you are tasting the Enzo side-by-side with the Kiona (a great price difference), smell the empty glasses and note how the Enzo, even in an empty glass, is still hanging on as though it it is clinging to the glass and will be there tomorrow.

Rating: 88

Emotional rating:  I come away loving its difference and wanting more.

Available:  In most places across the USA.

From the Oldest Chenin Blanc Grapes in Washington’s Columbia Valley

L'Cole Chenin Blanc

L’Cole Chenin Blanc

L’Ecole Chenin Blanc

This wine comes from the oldest Chenin Blanc grapes in Washington’s Columbia Valley.  Light straw in color, it treats us to light honey notes, prominent pineapple, lemon, and floral reminders, finishing with a mouthful of fresh acid and fruit.  It’s a fruit-driven, luscious, generous wine.  Some minerality is observable, so it reminds us of its homeland.  It is much like a Vouvray with its fruity and floral aromas and producing more complexity than might be expected.  For $14, it is a real buy.  Note, it has plenty of acid.  Chenin Blanc’s high acid is a benefit in warm to hot climates and Columbia Valley can be very hot during the day, but the nights cool, slowing the loss of acids.  This makes a Washington Chenin Blanc an interesting example of an excellent New World Chenin.

Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley in France, is a perfect example that a great wine can and is made on the edge of climatic conditions.  The Loire Valley produces some great examples even though Chenin Blanc buds early and ripens late.  The struggle in this cooler climate seems to bring out the best in the grape, whereas in the Central Valley of California, it produces an ordinary wine at best.  Great struggle equals great wine possibilities.  Pay attention to climate when selecting a Chenin Blanc.  Ideal growing conditions can also produce great Chenin Blancs, but watch out for the evils of high yield and dropping acids if the region is too hot.

In most of the world, Chenin Blanc is pushed to give loads of fruit and is vinified to make some of the most ordinary wine.  It is often used as a blending agent to bolster up the acids when acids are too low, in the case of Chardonnay for example.  The characterless wine so often made from this grape is a bad rap on the reputation of a grape that is truly great when given the treatment it deserves.  This is a Chenin Blanc to savor.

Rating: 89

Emotional rating:  On a hot day, it will bring out those pleasurable emotions we all love to feel.

Available widely.

Another Style of Cab Sauv from the Columbia Valley

Alexandria Nicole A-squared Cab Sauv 2012

Alexandria Nicole A-squared Cab Sauv 2012

Alexandria Nicole  “A Squared” 2012 Cabernet  Sauvignon

Here is a Cabernet of a different style.  Just like in any wine, styles can change due to the terroir, the winemaking techniques and skills, and the design the winemaker has for the wine.  The grapes for this wine also came from the Columbia Valley area, but you should notice a difference from the Cadaretta wine.

This wine’s deep ruby and opaque core shows more aromatic impression on the nose than the previous wine and has a distinct rich and complex palate.  Blackcurrant and tobacco plus a slew of oak flavors and strong but fine tannins give the wine a serious attractive note and a promise of years ahead.  It’s balanced with a near perfect finish.  For all Cab lovers this is a wine to taste and savor.

This vivid, full-bodied, Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon is serious and loaded with tannin, offering impressive aromatics of currant and darker fruits, tobacco leaf and crushed herbs. Flavors of Rainier cherry, black olive, and cedar continue to gain depth and richness with time in the glass.

Cabernet’s distinct flavor profile creates a nose and palate that can be easily identified even under different treatment.  It can be styled without oak and in different climes and yet have a noticeable likeness to the left bank Bordeaux wines or a Napa Cabernet.  When in a blend, it easily dominates with its flavor profile and always adds a firm structure to the wine.  Cabernet is known for its more reserved but more complex aromas and for its dominant fruit flavor: blackcurrant.  When picked early, its herbaceous character can be dominant.

Now how would you describe its style?  Is it a style best with food or as a wine to enjoy and savor on its own?  Is it both?  What kind of food would it highlight and what food would  highlight it in turn?  Is it a deep dark style?  A warm rich style?  Where on a scale of white to black would you place it and what color could best represent its total characteristics?

Alexandria Nicole Cellars are a winery to watch.  Their 327 acre Destiny Ridge Estate vineyard sits high on bluffs in the Horse Heaven Hills overlooking the Columbia River, an ideal place for the Cabernet Sauvignon grape to show its possibilities.  The wine was aged 20 months in 50% new French Oak and 50% in 2 year old French barrels.

Rating: 93

Emotional rating: Because of its smooth yet rich appeal, let’s say for me 98

Availability: From the winery and in some states.  Try wine searcher.com.

Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignons — Elegant!

Cadaretta 2011, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley

Cadaretta 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley

Cadaretta 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley

Cadaretta is a brand produced by Middleton Family Wines, who also produce wines under the label of Clayhouse and others.  The fruit is from the greater Columbia Valley, including vineyards in such notable areas as Red Mountain, Walla Walla, and Horse Heaven Hills.

Cabernet Sauvignon has often been called the “king of wine grapes” or the “king of wines.”  In  light of all the varieties that are being explored more intensely today, can it hold its place of honor?  In the next few articles I will explore Cabernet Sauvignon examples and both you and I will form our impressions of this noble grape and the wine it so consistently makes.

As we will find in this wine, the astounding concentration of phenolics (the color, flavors and other beneficial elements found in the skin) give to the Cabernet Sauvignon wine a reason to claim it is among the great wine grapes.  You may also notice that the vibrancy of fruit flavors are not necessarily its main appeal, rather the complexity and subtlety of flavors that develop from fermentation, aging in bottle, and its affinity to oak.  Oak flavors and composite flavors are as much on the nose as fruit flavors.  It shouts the word complexity.  This, however, is an expected mark of Cabernet.  As the years go by, these complex flavors will continue to develop and it is amazing how they evolve.  Wine lovers flock to Cabernet Sauvignon for its capability to provide such fusion of diverse tastes.  Cabernet displays best the continuing evolution of fermentation elements, maturation effects in oak, alcohols, plus oxygen’s subtle effect through the cork and the continual reinterpretation caused by the chemical changes in the aging process. Try a Cab aged for 20 or more years and see what I mean.  It gives true meaning to the phrase “wine is a living breathing thing.”

This transformation can be the metamorphosis of wonderful surprises.  I would suggest you get two bottles of this wine and drink one now and keep the other for 10 years to try again.  Letting a Cab breathe and sipping it over a period of hours will also give you an indication of its softening and changing behavior.  Drink it slowly and let it unfold.

This Cadaretta 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon is totally opaque and graduates from its almost black core to a rim of ruby touched with blueish notes that create a purple effect.  Cab should have structure, meaning a strong framework of acid, tannin, fruit to last, and alcohol in balance.  This one does!

Flavors of black fruits (blackberry seems to dominate) — black cherry, and the lighter edge found in blackcurrant fruit — create its base fruit palate that mingles with oak notes of dark chocolate, vanilla that is almost lost in the dark notes, spice, toast, and a hint of clove.  The mouthfeel is juicy due to a lively acid component.  The year was cool and the acids remained high.

This is a perfect example of a Cabernet Sauvignon in a warmer climate than Bordeaux and perfectly balanced.  This is also an example of a Cab that will stand tall with deeply flavored foods and creamy cheeses.

Rating: 92

Emotional rating:  The rating increases with rich and flavorful food rising to a great level of enjoyment.

Available:  From the winery and try wine searcher.com.