Tag Archives: Horse Heaven Hills

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.


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.

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

Balance and Liveliness in a Cabernet Sauvignon from Colorado

Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, from Creekside Cellars, Colorado

Creekside Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Creekside Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon (“king of the red wines”) is a grape that adapts well to various climes but not with the same presentation.  You will notice a distinct difference between a Cabernet Sauvignon grown in a warm climate and one from a cool climate.  Brix at picking is a key factor, too.

The perk that Cabernet’s herbaceousness can give to the fully rounded flavors of the wine can be very attractive and are what some Cabernet lovers look for.  It is not pronounced in this sample from Creekside Cellars in Evergreen, Colorado.  Guess why.  Black current has a bright edge to its deep, warm, black fruit flavors and it is noticeable on the nose of this wine when first opened.  The flavors in this wine are further rounded by the caramel and cedar notes imparted by the oak.

Announcing to us the style of this wine is its bright edge — the liveliness of its acids.  Against a deep, dark background, such as Cabernet can present, acids show up readily and often seem stronger than they really are.  In this Cabernet the acid level is not extremely high, but certainly high enough to lighten the finish of the wine, making the wine a perfect fit with a grilled steak and salad meal.  Here’s why:  the rich savory meatiness of the steak is matched to the blackcurrant and oak flavors and the light green flavors of the salad are highlighted by the acids and slight herbaceousness in the wine.  The wine holds them together nicely.

Ninety minutes later the wine opens up with more of the cedar note dominant in the aroma and the tannins are a little more prominent.  It is a young wine.  The color is an appealing, deep ruby, clean and bright, and the body is medium weight.  What the wine exhibits is a lovely balance that does not obliterate its character.  Taste a Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon with this wine and you will see Cabernet in two easily distinct styles.  Which one do you prefer and with what food or on what occasion?

From an emotional perspective, this wine leans to the side of elegance for a Cab and promises some very interesting days ahead in its development as the wine lives on and the flavors marry and develop.  Aging potential?  Ten years.

Congratulations to winemaker Michelle Cleveland, for a well made Colorado Cabernet Sauvignon.

Rating: 90

Emotional rating:  High, for an invigorating lively Cabernet with a promising future.

Available from the winery.

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