Columbia Crest Winery 2006 H3 merlot

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on October 11, 2009:

Now, in all fairness to, basically the rest of the world, there really are numbnuts in the home state but their actions prove to me they do not drink Washington wine. A female driver hit a male pedestrian in downtown Seattle then sped off, before being caught in Tukwila. Not to be outdone, later that night, a woman was killed in a hit-and-run out in Sultan. Do NOT walk in Washington State! And, if you listen to Paul Gregutt, do NOT fly Horizon Air! Police have caught the “River Rat Bandit”, some 32-yr old fool who has been robbing stores and banks along I-5, north and south of the mighty Columbia River. And, does anyone know of any other big city mayoral election where neither candidate has big-time experience? That’s how horrible the current mayor has been running the city, is what the citizens have voted.

Columbia Crest opened in that milestone year of 1983 and current winemaker, Ray Einberger (the Maitre de Chai for Napa’s Opus One), started ten years later. In just 26 years, Columbia Crest has become the most prolific wine bottler in the State and along with “sister” winery Chateau Ste. Michelle, are the dominant top two wineries by volume. When I think of big volume, I think of Charles Shaw, Gallo, Franzia, and Golden Gate Vintners. None of them are to be confused with “quality.” That’s what makes Washington State wines, at approximately that price point, very different. Columbia Crest has been garnering real awards since 1990 and was the first U.S. winery to bottle a semillon/chardonnay blend. The winery’s always been attached to the “best winery for value” label and justifiably so. Recently, they have also been raved for their higher end lineup of their “reserve” and “Walter Clore” portfolios. Imho, their “Grand Estates” lineup is their best quality/price lineup with their Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet, and Chardonnay leading the block. Last year, they debuted a new lineup called “H3”, referring to grapes pulled from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. All the “outsiders” think the Red Mountain AVA is the sh*ts for Washington State, but our little secret is that the Horse Heaven Hills produces a better spectrum of varietals that are better balanced, yet equally durable in the cellar. Champoux Vineyard, home to one source of cabernet for Quilceda Creek Vintners, is a shining example. But, I digress…

While this wine is built for a grilled ribeye, lambchops, or basically, anything off the grill, I chose to pair it with good ol’ fried rice and pulled pork with cabbage. Poor man’s food. The fruit forward flavors fit in nicely with salty sauce and overall blandness of the food. This is a “drink anytime” wine and especially attractive as a table wine for winos like me.

Color: pretty red-purple. Nose: weak sniffs of blackberries, raspberries, granite covered in oak mulch. Mouthfeel: warm and slinky. Tail trail: 3 seconds. Flavors: blackberry tart, dark chocolate flakes, cigarette ashes.

Horse Heaven Hills AVA. 83% merlot, 16% cab sau, 1% cab franc. Alcohol: 14.1%, pH 3.77. TA 0.51 g/100mL. Harvested Sept. 30, 2006. Rated: 87. Value: $11. Paid: $13.  This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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