Columbia Crest 2005 Grand Estates merlot

Another early WAwineman classic, 1st posted on May 18, 2008:
Salute to Seattle’s one fortnight of spring. We went from North Face fleece to Sylvia’s Swimwear in just this past week. As much as I like the blossoms, I guess this ‘what have you done for me now?’ generation is pushing a quicker turnaround of the seasons. What next…snow in September?? Did I C U at the Cheese Festival this weekend? I peeked into the packed wine tent on Saturday and couldn’t believe that many winos were sippin’ it up at noon. I’m so jealous! Invite me next time, ‘k?
May is for merlot lovers! Yeah. Woo. (give myself a high-five). Alrighty then. We continue the merlot tour with this birthing from a CSM subdivision down in Paterson, which, btw, had some great cheese for sampling at the festival. Where there’s good wine, there’s bitchin’ cheese…and that goes with tasting rooms, too. So, the Crest is like a monster in WA…I think like the second biggest producer, if not thee biggest…what does it matter since it’s part of the CSM portfolio?! Ray Einberger is the latest oenologist and is continuing the tradition of making some great ‘best value’ wines in the nation. The wine list is basically: Reserve, Grand Estates, and Two Vines, in order of price/quality. For me, in order to appreciate the superb craftsmanship of the smaller “boutique” wineries, I have to remind myself what the great masses outside this state have to drink because they don’t have the luxurious choices that I do. This reminds me of my out-of-state parents needing an emergency purchase to impress some guests and called on me for a recommendation. It was either a 2004 CSM cab or a 2005 Columbia Crest cab. That’s all they had on the shelf from WA. Can you imagine what kind of gulag they live in? Ohh, such a tragedy…tsk, tsk.
So, here’s my ‘sacrifice’ to all you WA wine lovers out there. A break from my reviews of the boutiques to try out something that Chicagoans can rest their guns on. Don’t shoot me, I’m the only lame wine blogger out there, as Elton would have said if he were me.
Tonight’s ‘pass the dutchie on the left hand side’ was slow cooked pork chops in light gravy with mushrooms and onions. This was just blaring for a merlot and I delivered. Yes yes, I could have opened the Pedestal or the Basel Cellars, but I will save that for next weekend’s ‘boy meets grill’. Well, being that this wine is quote-unquote value, I was admittedly apprehensive that I was about to douse myself in cheap wine. Plonk, if you will.
But, CC does not make plonk wines, unlike Cali’s Charles Smith, aka 2 buck Chuck. Uncorking this baby was no surprise…compressed cork bits that drove my corkwscrew from the middle to the edge, making me worry that I’d split the cork while unscrewing it. Hint to CC: go Stelvin. A first pour confirmed my no-expectations as the color was almost see-through. Let me change my thinking here…this is a ‘value’ wine…not the super-duper, squeegee-weegie stuff I’m accustomed to. It did pair well with the chops and light gravy…so much so that I drank half the bottle before dessert. Part of that was due to the ‘liquidity’ of the flavors. Aint’ no meal in a bottle here, folks. But, I must admit, there were enough flavors to enjoy decoding and warranted a continued journey to some wonderful desserts. First reward was…Beecher’s Flagship of the Fleet cheese bought at the festival. At $16.95/lb, I expected some bitchin’ tasty cheese that wouldn’t remind me of Kraft and it delivered. O-M-G. Aged one year. 2007 American Cheesemaker’s ‘Best Semi-Hard Cow’s Milk Cheese’. Yeah, it crushed Wisconsin’s best. Gotta love that little ‘crunch’ in there, too, ala Nestle’s ‘Crunch’. I heard violins when chased with this merlot. Next dessert was simple boiled peanuts, which also surprisingly paired well since the boiling process included licorice and that, I gather, was the bridge for this harmonious match. Wow, this turned out to be a pretty dern good dinner, I must say. Better to be lucky than good, sometimes.
Alcohol: 13.5%. Process included whole berries added during fermentation for added aromatics and soft texture. Grapes from Horse Heaven Hills (texture and body) and Wahluke Slope (aromatics and complexity). Aged 14-16 months in 25% new French and American oak. pH 3.66. Total acidity: 0.53gm/100ml. Merlot 94%, cab sau 5%, and cab franc 1%. Columbia Valley AVA.
Nose: very light. Color: tint of orange at the rim…it’s that diluted. Mouthfeel: featherweight. Tail trail: 2 seconds. Flavors: hydrated blueberries, Band-Aid on the mid-palate, a little li hing mui and raspberry throughout. I won’t dissect it further since this is a ‘value’ wine.
Value: $9. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.
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