Happy New Year! As we begin 2018, it’s time for our annual Top Washington Wineries List. We have returned to our original list of 50, after it climbed up to 65 wineries last year. Why? As time goes on, our palates change, and our wine experiences become more focused. In addition, in 2017 we visited Walla Walla again for the first time in a few years, which shone the light on some new favorites.
We’ve been fans of Columbia Crest Winery for at least a decade — the winery produces good, easy-drinking wines at bargain prices. We’ve purchased cases over the years, and we were delighted to receive samples of their recent releases.
Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Merlot Columbia Valley ($12)
Merlot (87%) is blended with small amounts of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon; all fruit was sourced from Horse Heaven Hills for texture and body, and from the Wahluke Slope for aromatics and complexity. This is a rich Merlot with a balance of fruit and earthiness, punctuated by notes of dark cherries and chocolate. Pair this with blue cheese, dark chocolate, pork, grilled salmon or beef.
Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Red Blend Columbia Valley ($12)
This vintage’s blend combines Merlot (55%), Cabernet Franc (36%), Petit Verdot (8%) and a splash of other red varieties. The result is layers of dark berry flavors, with more layers of spice and caramel on the finish. Pair this with grilled meats or tomato-based meat dishes such as lasagne.
Columbia Crest 2014 H3 Merlot Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
This is a medium-bodied Merlot, lighter than the Grand Estates. The nose is beautiful with aromas of spice and blackberry, followed by cherry and cocoa on the palate. We have enjoyed several vintages of H3 Merlot, paired with cedar-plank barbecued salmon and grilled meats.
Columbia Crest 2015 Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay Columbia Valley ($12)
We much prefer unoaked Chardonnay like this one, which was fermented only in stainless steel. This is a refreshing summer sipper on the deck – or pour it any time of the year to accompany seafood dishes. Tart and crisp, this Chard has aromas of lemon, pear and orange blossoms, followed by citrus fruit and lively acidity. Where we live, Chardonnay pairs well with fresh crab in August and September, or crab cakes all year round, along with other shellfish, halibut or salmon, with a dash of lemon.
Other wines that we’ve tasted recently from Columbia Crest Winery:
Columbia Crest 2013 H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
Named after the horses (Les Chevaux in French) that once roamed Horse Heaven Hills, this is a lovely, vibrant red blend of Merlot (59%), Syrah ($36%), Viognier (4%) and Cab Franc (1%). You can enjoy this with strong cheeses such as blue or stilton, or with well-seasoned pepper steaks, beef stew or lamb.
Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley ($12)
This is a great value estate Cab to pair with beef tenderloin, hearty pasta, blue cheese or chocolate. This wine features dark fruit, a wonderful mouthfeel, and a smoothness, complexity and structure not often seen at this price point.
Columbia Crest 2015 H3 Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
We’ve enjoyed previous vintages of this Sauv Blanc as a summer sipper on the deck, but we recently tasted it on a rainy, windy day, paired with garlic prawns, and it was delicious. The Sauv Blanc features citrus notes and crisp minerality, just the way we like it. You can also pair it with halibut, crab or quiche.
With summer around the corner, we might open these wines with BBQ hamburger or fresh seafood. But at these prices, you can stock up for any season!
Margot and Dave
Summer must be around the corner because tickets are now on sale for the Chateau Ste. Michelle 2017 Summer Concert Series.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the oldest winery in the state, so its concert lineup, paired with award-winning wine and beautiful surroundings, is even more special.
Think about it: a lazy summer day or evening, kicking back on the manicured lawns of Chateau Ste. Michelle with a peacock or two sauntering by, as you sip on a refreshing summer wine, nibble on tasty munchies from your picnic basket and listen to some amazing music. Ah, summer!
Whether you prefer white, rosé or red wine during the summer, this concert calendar is something to cheer about. Twenty-seven concerts span the range of pop, jazz, rock and blues in the winery’s picturesque outdoor amphitheatre with seating for 4,300. The series kicks off on June 1 with a concert by Elvis Costello & The Imposters and ends on Sept. 15 with the Goo-Goo Dolls.
Please note – tickets sell quickly for this incredible summer experience, so act soon. Two John Legend concerts on June 3 and 4 have already sold out. We saw him last year at Chateau Ste. Michelle and what an entertaining show!
Concerts that have not yet sold out (as of this writing) are: Elvis Costello & The Imposters (June 1); The Moody Blues (June 11); Chris Isaak (July 1); Blondie & Garbage (July 13); Lyle Lovett & his Large Band (July 15); Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie (July 19); Natalie Merchant (July 22); 2CELLOS (July 23); Diana Krall (July 28); Festival of Jazz (July 29); the Wine Country Blues Festival (July 30); Allen Stone (Aug. 4); Michael McDonald & Boz Scaggs (Aug. 10); Bryan Ferry (Aug. 11); Chicago (Aug. 27); The Gipsy Kings (Sept. 1); The Australian Pink Floyd Show (Sept. 4); Steve Winwood (Sept. 8); Pink Martini with singer China Forbes (Sept. 9 and 10); and Goo Goo Dolls with Phillip Phillips (Sept. 15).
And there’s more — net proceeds from the annual concert series help fund Chateau Ste. Michelle’s charitable contributions program, which supports a broad range of non-profit organizations.
Have questions? No problem, there is an FAQ to help out.
So get your wine on and check it out.
Margot and Dave