Columbia Crest 2006 Reserve merlot

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on March 19, 2010:

Just because Hawai’i is known as ‘paradise’ to the rest of the world does not mean the locals feel the same way. The driver of a Mustang crashed and died in a tunnel on H-3 freeway while avoiding federal authorities as the car, shipped from the mainland, originally contained 37 pounds of methamphetamine in the door frames and under the rear seat. They didn’t need ‘Dog’ to deliver justice on that one. A city councilman voted to censure himself for improperly reimbursing himself for meals that were not connected to council business. This retard also plans to run for mayor on a platform of calling for naps in the afternoon. If you plan to drive during your stay, I suggest you wear a crash helmet. The newspaper contains highway fatalities on a daily basis. Last year, there were also 32 motorcycle deaths on roads that probably amount to less than that found in the Seattle metro area. Of course, helmets are still ‘optional’.

I am noticing some major challenges facing the Washington State wine industry as they try to market the wines to inhabitants of warmer climates. While those of “us” who have a solid understanding of the quality of our favorite local wines know what to expect when we purchase those bottles, the same cannot be said when we find Washington State wines in another (warmer) State. An example is finding Washington State wine in Hawai’i.
First, the problem is simply finding a Washington State wine. The locally popular stores lean heavily toward California labels. What few Washington wines that can be found are on the bottom shelves and are named “Chateau Ste. Michelle”, “Columbia Crest”, and maybe a “Hogue”. And, we’re talking only one or two different wines from each label in the entire wine department. That’s it. Herein lies a great opportunity for a winery to establish itself as “the name” representing Washington wines. The drawback is the quality will be compared to a California wine, and hence, the price will be the ultimate comparator. There are a few mom-and-pop liquor stores but the selection is only marginally better for Northwest wines and the prices are steeper. Personally, I’d like to see a Barnard Griffin go in, guns ablazin’ with their eye-catching Tulip label, diverse portfolio, and fair pricing and take over the local winescape. The target pricing range should be $8-20 and offer at least eight reds and whites that are seafood- and pupu- (appetizers, not #2) friendly. An advance event like a Taste Washington! will greatly help educate the Cali-philes and overcome their affliction. Hawaiians are deeply loyal people. Just ask the Spam-meat makers.
Second, what Washington State wines that did make the voyage are not glistening examples (and that’s not always the wine’s fault). Who from Washington State would actually pay: $14 for Snoqualmie Naked riesling, $26 for an Eroica 2006 riesling that is now succeeded by two vintages, and $13 for Chateau Ste. Michelle’s basic riesling? Are you kidding me? Even I wouldn’t pay that (and didn’t).
Third, buying wines in a retail setting in the Islands is far different than in Seattle. The store may feel cool inside (as opposed to the 80 degrees outside), but it’s more than likely around 72 degrees. Any of you store your wines at 72 degrees? Didn’t think so. Which means those precious bottles are “maturing” much faster (and more unpredictably) than expectations.
Lastly, this is a comically sad statement but…Costco has the best lineup of “affordable” Washington State wines in Honolulu. And, this is their list: Three Rivers Winery 2005 cabernet ($15.49), Columbia Crest 2006 Reserve merlot ($19.89), Chateau Ste. Michelle 2005 Columbia Valley merlot ($11.79), Kirkland Signature 2008 merlot ($8.99…why is it cheaper here than the $9.59 in the Puget Sound area?), and Chateau Ste. Michelle 2008 chardonnay ($8.99). A popular supermarket wine store I walked into last year never heard of Alexandria Nicole Cellars. So sad!

Tonight’s pairing was homemade pizza, using the dough from Whole Foods. Toppings included pepperoni, canned olives, bell peppers, red onions, and two cheeses. An excellent pairing to also go with March Madness. Btw, I picked 12 out of 16 correct on day 1! Same as Obama.

Color: deep ruby. Nose: pleasant soft tones of blackberries and plum. Mouthfeel: silky. Tail trail: 6 seconds. Flavors: blackberries, dark chocolate, medium-tart oaky finish but lacking wild tannins. Balance: dark fruit then oak. Power: medium. Depth: surprisingly shallow. Finesse: not integrated–why doesn’t the label simply admit this needs to be cellared?

Video pairing: Filet-o-Fish. Aged in 70% new French oak and 30% American oak for 25 months. 87% merlot, 12% cab sau, 1% cab franc. Alcohol: 14.2%. TA 0.51%. pH 3.7. 2500 cases. Rated: 89. Value: $20. Paid: $20. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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