Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on May 4, 2010:
What a long, strange history Columbia Winery has. The original roots can be traced back to 1951 when Dr. Lloyd Woodburne took on winemaking as a hobby. Dr. Phillip Church, a meteorologist, convinced a group of hobby-winemakers to buy five acres in Sunnyside. The group of ten men (six were UW professors) made their own wines from this vineyard and in 1962 (PG claims the year as 1967 even though the label boasts 1962…hello!?), they founded their winery and made wines from the garage of winemaker Dr. Woodburne’s in the neighborhood of Laurelhurst, just northeast of the UW. They called their collaboration Associated Vintners.
In 1966, wine writer Leon Adams tasted the wines and recommended they start a commercial winery. Leon, who passed away in San Fran in September, 1995, was known as the “father” of U.S. wine history and was a prolific writer on the topic of wines, being most widely known for his book, “The Wines of America”. The convincing strike occurred a year later when Andre Tchelitscheff, the famed winemaker of Beaulieu Vineyards who died on April 5, 1994 in Napa after surgical removal of a stomach tumor, was served a gewürztraminer with a salmon dinner and was delighted.
In 1972, they purchased a 60 acre vineyard and added two more partners. Their initial planting of 25 acres was destroyed by a severe winter. AV’s operations were in a small Kirkland warehouse before they moved into a larger building in Redmond in 1976 and subsequently doubled their volume. In 1984, the name changed to Columbia Winery.
In 1988, they moved into their current location in Woodinville, across from Chateau Ste. Michelle, a gorgeous chateau that originally housed Haviland Winery. In 1990, Paul Thomas sold his winery to his cellarmaster, Mark Cave, who then sold it to Columbia Winery in 1993. Paul Thomas made good wines due to a very skilled winemaker in Brian Carter (1979-1988). Their last vintage was in 2003. In 1995, Columbia Winery built a larger wine production-only operation in Sunnyside. In 1996, they bought out Covey Run Vintners and the following year, purchased Idaho’s Ste. Chapelle Winery (125k cases/year).
I cannot find the exact date, but Columbia was sold to Corus Brands, which in turn in Spring, 2001 sold to Icon Estates, the fine wine business of Constellation Brands, which changed its name to Canandaigua Brands. The Spirit of Washington Dinner Train stopped at Columbia Winery for 15 years, until its demise in late October, 2007. In June, 2008, Ascentia Wine Estates purchased both Columbia Winery, Covey Run, and Ste. Chapelle, along with five other wineries (Geyser Peak, Buena Vista, Gary Farrell, Atlas Peak, and XYZin—all in California) for $209 million. Their Woodinville tasting room lease was up in 2008, but was renewed with the owners, Stan and Brandon Baty (whose father is Dan Baty—owner of Corus Brands…Alder Ridge Estates and Emeritus Corporation). And, let’s not forget that David Lake, MW, was the winemaker from 1979 to 2005.
As for the wine, remember petit verdot for two characteristics: (1) very late ripening; and (2) produces more than two clusters per shoot. It is well-known that petit verdot, even at 10% of a wine, can dominate with its strong mid-palate of violets and leather, and dark color, leading to a “coarse, rustic or unrefined” wine. Medoc wines are best known for using petit verdot.
As for the ‘Milestone’ name, I can trace it back to 1987 and was originally designated for grapes from Red Willow Vineyard, but is currently listed as “Columbia Valley”.
Tonight’s pairing was kalbi from Fred Meyer. Appetizers included Beecher’s Flagship cheese and Theo Chocolates’ Cherry and Almond Dark Chocolate made with 70% cacao. Phuh-phuh-phreakin’ A! InCREDIBLE pairings. Highest recommendation as my eyes rolled back.
Ebony red in the glass, this exudes muscular notes of black cherry, leather, Bing cherry, violets, and blackberry crème notes. Dense in the mouth, this leads to a powerful finish of black fruits, black pepper, dark plum, and Ceylon spices that quickly fade.
Tail trail: 4 seconds. Balance: tilted toward black fruits, not just black cherry. Power: bloom on the front, full in the middle, and ephemeral on the tail. Depth: two-dimensional. Finesse: a pungent petit verdot-blend.
Columbia Valley AVA. 80% merlot, 20% petit verdot. Aged 18 months in French and American oak. pH 3.73. TA 0.59%. RS 0.3%. Alcohol: 13.5%. Harvested October, 2005. Bottled July, 2007. Released December, 2008. 500 cases. Rated: 90. Value: $25. Paid: $26. Music pairing: “Time Out of Mind” by Steely Dan. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.
Disclosure: I am a wine club member at Columbia Winery.