We recently sampled three red wines from the Columbia Crest Reserve program — a layered red blend and two robust Cab Sauvs — all of which we recommend if you like your wine big and smooth.
These wines were free samples provided by Columbia Crest, which is located in Horse Heaven Hills, next to the Columbia River in eastern Washington. After tasting them, we can say that we would buy all three, particularly the Reserve Cab from Red Mountain — it speaks to our palate!
Columbia Crest 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
This big Cab received 91 points from Wine Spectator a couple of months ago, and if you like your Cabs chewy and juicy, this one is for you. Layered and dense, it has a mouthfeel that is classic Red Mountain. $38, 300 cases produced
Columbia Crest 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
Also receiving 91 points from Wine Spectator, this is one smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, true to its varietal character. Textured, big and bold, this wine pairs well with a big juicy steak. $45, 6,700 cases produced
Columbia Crest 2011 Walter Clore Private Reserve Red Wine Columbia Valley
Regular readers of this blog know we are big fans of good Bordeaux blends, and this one fits the bill. Spice and earthy notes flow into layers of flavor and texture in this blend of 68% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Cab Franc. $35, 4,990 cases produced
Any of these three wines would pair nicely with Valentine’s Day and chocolates!
We’ve been fans of William Church Winery since March, 2008, when our wine-expert nephew, Mathew, came to visit us with a bottle of their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.
It was awesome, so we made a point to visit their tasting room in Woodinville’s winery warehouse district — William Church was one of the eight original warehouse wineries.
Unfortunately, this was not an easy feat at the time because they were only open on Saturdays.
But that situation didn’t last long; soon the tasting room was open more frequently, and then three years later, in July 2011, William Church opened their second tasting room in Woodinville’s Hollywood Schoolhouse wine area.
Fast forward to today, and we’re extremely happy to say that William Church Winery is one of Washington state’s success stories.
We recently visited their Schoolhouse tasting room, which is open every day (and until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), and it was thriving; packed with people cheerfully drinking some amazing juice.
This was the first time in a couple of years that we tasted their entire lineup, and wow! Winemaker (and co-owner) Rod Balsley has always produced quality wines, but these days, that quality has risen to a new level.
Rod currently produces seven award-winning wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Viognier and three blends: 2Spires, Bishop’s Blend and Sur La Mer.
We love all of them because they are solid, stand-alone sippers and also phenomenal when paired well with food.
2013 Viognier: This flagship wine has always been one of Washington state’s best examples of Viognier. Somehow, this Viognier is both rich and fresh, and understandably named one of Seattle Metropolitan‘s Top Washington Wines Under $25.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon: We brought this wine home to pair with a good meal — perhaps a juicy steak or a savory roast over the holidays. As mentioned, we’ve loved this classic Cab Sauv since the 2005 vintage, and it just keeps getting better and better.
2012 Syrah: Another perennial favorite, this Syrah is rich and full-bodied, and tastes the way a good Syrah should: balanced, with smoke and spice, and simply delicious. We first wrote about the 2006 Syrah, which was named in the Top 100 wines in Seattle Metropolitan.
2011 2Spires: William Church was one of the first Washington wineries to produce a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon (two wines=two spires). In the 2011 vintage, the blend is 63% Syrah and 37% Cab. Think big, bold and beautiful, and a double-gold winner at the Seattle Wine Awards.
2012 Bishop’s Blend: This full-bodied, robust wine blends 55% Cab Sauv, 20% Merlot, 15% Malbec and 10% Petit Verdot. It’s a steal at $25.
2011 Sur La Mer: This Merlot-based wine has all five Bordeaux varietals in the blend. A newer wine in the lineup — 2007 was the first vintage of this classic blend — Sur La Mer is named after the seaport city in France where co-owner Leslie Balsley was born.
2011 Malbec: Unfortunately for us, the 2011 Malbec is sold out — not surprisingly, since Seattle Met called this double-gold award winning wine a “textbook example of Washington Malbec.” We first tasted the 2006 vintage, and before we knew it, William Church Malbec was recognized as the best in the state.
We encourage you to try some or all of these wines, and you’ll understand why they are award-winning. They also make great gifts for the wine enthusiasts in your life, for the hostess at your holiday parties or to serve guests in your home.
Some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends in British Columbia can be found at Fairview Cellars, a small unassuming winery in Oliver, which we recommend as a stop in any tour of B.C. wine country.
While many wineries in B.C. (and Washington state) have become gorgeous destination resorts, Fairview Cellars has a rustic tasting room in a tiny log cabin about five minutes into the hills off the north end of the Benches of the Golden Mile. Sandra Oldfield of Tinhorn Creek suggested we stop by during our September visit, and we now know why.
In 1993, half Fairview’s 10-acre property was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. The remainder was split equally with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Later, one row of Syrah and one row of Petit Verdot were added; Sauvignon Blanc was planted on a lower terraced bench in 2007.
We found the Cabs and Bordeaux blends the best. But we also enjoyed Fairview Cellars 2013 Sauvignon Blanc on the hot end-of-summer day we visited; it was crisp, well-balanced and delightful.
And the stories from winemaker/owner Bill Eggert and his brother, Chuck, were an entertaining accompaniment to our tastings.
Fairview Cellars 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
This is an amazing wine that is drinking beautifully right now and still has about 10 more years left in it. This classic cab is a special-occasion wine that will pair marvelously with savory and/or smoky meats. We loved it.
Iconoclast Premier Series
Bill only makes Iconoclast when he thinks the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are near perfect – the most recent vintage is 2009, and the next release is 2012. This is another special wine, rich, silky and with great structure and balance. This is one big cab, which would pair so very well with a big, juicy steak.
2011 & 2012 Two Hoots
The flagship Cab-Merlot-Cab Franc blend is “produced for daily consumption,” according to Bill. He also says that while there are many reasons for the name, the main one is “to honour the return every year of the Great-Horned Owls to nest on the Fairview property.” This is a medium-weight blend with a flavorful punch. The 2011 vintage has floral notes and is one of the winery’s best sellers. The 2012 has the same blend, but is bigger and bolder, and we really enjoyed it.
2011 The Bear
Another favorite, The Bear is Cab-based (50-75%, depending on the vintage) with Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot to round it off. This is a classic Bordeaux blend, with grapes from the best barrels chosen, and stored from 14-20 months. Thinking of pairing? Think prime rib.
For our friends in B.C., you can find Fairview Cellars wines in a number of places, although we still recommend a visit to BC wine country.
As a young child, my family visited the Okanagan every summer, swimming in the numerous lakes and picking cherries. I said this in Part 1 of this series, and I’ll say it again now: Beautiful British Columbia, you’ve come a long way, baby!
Since 1975, Franciscan Estate has produced wine in the Napa Valley, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king.
So we were delighted to receive samples of 2011 Franciscan Estate Cab and Merlot to taste.
2011 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Although 2011 was a challenging, cool growing season, the Franciscan Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon offers beautiful aromas of red fruit and a silky mouthfeel. Comprised of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 2% Petite Verdot, 1% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Franc, this Bordeaux-style blend pairs well with hamburgers and other meat dishes.
While it is drinkable now, we recommend putting it down for a couple of years to further enhance the flavors. This is a good example of a quality Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with a $28 price point.
2011 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Merlot
Despite being produced in the challenging growing season of 2011, Franciscan Napa Valley Merlot shows richness, body and what the winemaker calls “generous shoulders.” A blend of 82% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 2% Syrah, this wine offers vibrant aromas and flavors, with soft tannins and supple texture.
This wine is approachable now or could be cellared for a couple more years. This is a good example of an everyday wine at $20.
As March (the official Washington Wine Month) comes to an end, we decided to open one of the first bottles of wine that we tasted when we moved here: Darighe from The Woodhouse Wine Estates.
The 2008 vintage is as lovely as the first we tried – 2001 Darighe.
2008 Darighe is an excellent, traditional, old-world, left-bank Bordeaux blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 11% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot, sourced from Columbia Valley grapes.
A silver medal winner at the annual Savor Northwest Wine Competition, 2008 Darighe has a magnificent mouthfeel and a lengthy finish.
The bottle is heavy glass, as substantive as the juice inside.
Like its predecessors, the 2008 features a dense tannic structure that is a hallmark of Darighe.
According to the tasting notes:
“Darighe is ruby in color with the delicate, yet complicated scent of violet, mocha, smoke, truffle, blackberry, cassis and an array of spices. It is soft, refined and elegant with a persistent finish.”
In our opinion, these words best describe 2008 Darighe: Classic, stellar, beautiful, robust, rich and soft velvet.
We have recommended Darighe since we first experienced the 2001 vintage; the 2008 continues that tradition. If your palate prefers big reds, you will love 2008 Darighe.
On Valentine’s Day, I fell in love with Big Papa all over again and developed a new crush on Nana. Thankfully, Dave feels the same way.
Of course, we’re referring to Efeste‘s 2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Nana, a three-vineyard and three-varietal blend, both made by winemaker extraordinaire Brennon Leighton. (Current Efeste winemaker Peter Devision has some magic up his sleeve too.)
2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon
This robust 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was drinking well in August 2013, when we last tasted it. Six months later, on Valentine’s Day, Big Papa demonstrated further why Wine Advocate bestowed Efeste with 94 points for this beauty and Wine Enthusiast just named it a Cellar Selection with 92 points.
Brennon used his signature minimalist approach with native fermentation, which resulted in a big, bold, complex and balanced wine, made from grapes sourced from mature vines in five of the state’s best vineyards: Klipsun, Bacchus, Sagemoor, Kiona and Red Willow.
We’ve been a fan of Big Papa since 2009, and I can guarantee that we will continue to advocate buying it year after year. It’s true love.
2010 Nana Right Bank Bordeaux Blend
This is the only time I’ve written about Nana, but only because this is the first vintage. Elegant, refined, robust, strong yet supple, Nana showcases all the classic characteristics of a stellar Bordeaux blend from the Right Bank.
The mouthfeel is amazing, likely because my palate favors Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, both plentiful in this fine wine: 18% Stone Tree Cabernet Franc, 18% Angela’s Vineyard (Efeste’s Estate) Cabernet Franc and 18% Red Willow Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with 46% Red Willow Merlot.
Brennon also fermented this wine with indigenous yeast, which encourages more complexity and produces fuller, richer wines than those inoculated with commercial yeast.
We are new fans of this new wine, and I can guarantee that we will be buying more of this vintage, and in the years to come.
Both wines combine elegant aromas and flavors, ripe tannins and bright, juicy acidity, and are drinkable for another 10 years.
Now to see if we have the patience to cellar them instead of popping the cork in the near future.
When you drive between Seattle and Prosser or Walla Walla, be sure to stop at Windy Point Vineyards for a pour of some excellent value wines in a beautiful tasting room. Or if you’re looking for something different to do over a weekend, it’s worth the trip to Windy Point.
With stunning architecture and beautiful views of Yakima Valley, the well-designed tasting room is airy and comfortable, with a professional kitchen as the centerpiece.
Outside, you are surrounded by gently rolling hills, a small waterfall and a pond. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see some Mississippi sawbuck turtles raised at the vineyards.
And talk about value – our favorite Windy Point reds are priced between $17-$23, and we always seem to go home with a case. You can purchase the wine outside the tasting room but it’s much more fun to visit.
Here are the wines we enjoyed:
2007 Pointless Red ($17): A blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot, Pointless is known for its four “E”s: estate-grown, economical, easy-drinking and “endlessly pleasing.”
2005 Cab Franc ($18): This vintage was awarded a platinum by Wine Press Northwest and a gold medal at the Washington State Wine Competition; the more recent 2006 Cab Franc ($20) won a silver medal at the Washington State Wine Competition.
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20): Showing excellent potential, this Cab was just released. We were big fans of the 2004 Cab, so we’re cellaring the more recent vintage for a couple of years.
2007 !Exclamation Point! ($21): Windy Point’s signature wine is a rich blend of 60% Cab Franc and 40% Merlot, one of the winery’s best-sellers, a two-time gold medal winner and “best in show” at the Washington State Wine Competition.
2008 Moot Point ($23): This is an elegant Bordeaux-style blend at such a low price point: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% CabFranc and a splash of Malbec.
While some of these wines were lovely to drink on their own or with almonds and cheese, they also pair well with different foods. On the Windy Point website, you can find recipes, such as Apple Wood Smoked Pork Loin Sandwich, Seared Halibut, Braised Colorado Lamb Shank or Wine Infused Beef Flank Steak with Savory Mushroom Napoleon, Crispy Root Vegetable Cakes & Red Wine Cream Sauce.
We have been fans of Guardian Cellars since first tasting the heavenly 2004 Gun Metal, the winery’s flagship Bordeaux blend. We happily joined the crowds at the 2007 opening of the winery’s tasting room in Woodinville.
Since the beginning, owner and winemaker Jerry Riener has maintained a policy: to cellar each premium red at least one year before release, something not common in new world winemaking styles.
The result is beauty in a glass.
From three wines and 300 cases in those early days, Riener increased production to nine wines and about 5,000 cases in 2013.
We visited the Guardian Cellars tasting room over the holidays and were not surprised to find out that the 2010 Gun Metal sold out shortly after its release. But we were delighted to find three more beautiful reds:
2011 Chalk Line is a scrumptious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot, rounded off with a splash of Malbec, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. Jerry describes this sixth vintage as “a bona fide buffet of delicious grapes” and we couldn’t agree more.
2010 The Alibi is a stellar blend of Red Mountain fruit — 54% Cab Sauv, 31% Merlot and 15% Cab Franc from three vineyards, Obelisco, Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun. The Alibi is absolutely gorgeous in its third vintage, in our humble opinion.
In its fifth vintage, the 2010 The Rookie is 100% Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, blended from grapes grown at Obelisco, Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun vineyards. The Rookie was aged for 21 months in 100% new French oak, and 17 months in the bottle, before being released a couple of months ago and is, simply, amazing.
Next time you’re in the Woodinville wine warehouse district during a weekend, be sure to stop Guardian Cellars and try these wines for yourself.