Columbia Crest 2013 H3 Horse Heaven Hills chardonnay

F— Butler. F— Virginia. F— Villanova. Bracket busted way too early this year.

Sure has been a long, warm winter around these parts. Just made it through a long, drawn-out project that’s just getting some publicity and will soon hit your cozy, shmozy homes sometime later this year. Unlike other blogs that drag the same dead horse subjects because there’s nothing else to discuss… we chose to ease up on the rhetoric and let those half-wits blog about useless crap and let you decide how much you miss this perfect wine blog. Yeah, even those vomit-laced emails sent out by those revolving “wine consultants” aka smellier-wannabes pushing cheap wine on the clueless masses got a free pass. What were the results? S.O.S. Same. Old. Shit.

So, as we embark on another year of patrolling the local wine blog scene, let’s start with the fundamentals of Washington wine.

First off, our common ground between us writers and you readers is this… Washington wine is where it’s at. The wines coming from Washington State have been the best punch for the money since at least 2005 (some will argue 2003, but they’re old fogies who also hit on the teen waitresses). Ask the once-upon-a-time A-listers like Daniel Marino, Damon Huard, Kyle Maclachlan, Drew Bledsoe, and any debt-free doctor and they will concur with this.

Next, understand the 13 districts that want to be known as unique entities of wine fingerprints. No, we do not count the recent approval of The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA for the simple reason that it is a stupid name for an American Viticultural Area. Someone with the IQ of their shoe size decided on this mal-creative name and it figures that this is yet another cluster of arid land in neighboring Orygun.

There are many reasons to designate an AVA. Most are for ego reasons. Some dino-brained, high school dropout farmer hired an English major whose daddy works for the Feds and maneuvered their way through the system (read: old boys network) to get this fluffy title. However, look deeper and a few of these designations actually do have some real meaning for the masses of curious, moneyed wine drinkers. Take Red Mountain for example. This is rare and pristine acreage primed for red grapes. So, when you see a red wine bottle listed with “Red Mountain,” you can most assuredly be comforted that the wine will be a conversation stopper, regardless of price. It also helps that the proprietors of the vineyards within the AVA are as close-knit as family so they minimize the possibility of some “made in China”-type of questionable wine. Think about it… aside from some jackass’s weak effort at a sangiovese some years back, who else has made a shitty wine with the bold label proselytizing the Red Mountain name? Yeah, can’t think of any.

Then there’s the AVA with the “I know I make great syrahs so I will charge extra so that you pay for the free bottles I send to any jerkoff wine blogger.” Yeah, that’s Walla Walla. And, despite Walla Walla, the city, being wholly within Washington, the prime grape-growing sections are actually across the border in that other state. So, when you’re shelling out bookoo bucks for that anus-smelling syrah, just know that you are supporting yet another overpriced Orygun wine AND you still think you are drinking stellar Washington wine. And that’s why those yippees who tout Walla Walla wines are about as credible as Enron stock.

For you newbies to Washington wine, here’s the real lowdown. For white wines, the hierarchy begins with Ancient Lakes AVA. Any white wine labeled “Ancient Lakes AVA” is a safe bet to being the best white wine in Washington. That goes for riesling and chardonnay. And, to be specific, go for Evergreen Vineyard. There are no bad white wines that are labeled that way, and, if anything, you are getting a better return on your investment. Runner-up is the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. This AVA has the ideal combination of schooled winemakers and fabulous terroir for white wine grapes.

For reds, it goes deeper. Red Mountain for non-syrah, non-zinfandel grapes. Wahluke Slope for non-cabernet, non-merlot grapes. Walla Walla for syrah. And Horse Heaven Hills for a nice side-trip for all the reds.

Wanna get specific? Fine, let’s call it what it is since no other wine blogger or even half-decent wine scribe will lay his balls down for this. The best vineyards for cabernet sauvignon are: Red Willow Vineyard, Champoux Vineyard, and most of the older plots on Red Mountain. The best syrahs are made from older vines in Boushey Vineyard and a few acres in the Walla Walla Oregon area. The best cool climate grapes (chardonnay, gruner veltliner, pinot gris, etc.) are grown in the Columbia Gorge AVA and if you are in at Syncline Wine Cellars, then you know your shit.

Everything else is a crapshoot.

First off, watch the vintages. Avoid 2010 and 2011 like the plague unless the wines are from Red Mountain AVA because that’s the only AVA that survived the Ice Age. Pieces like Wine Expectorator require blackmail to get a rating. Buttwipes like Choad Enthusiast overrate the wines consistently so subtract like at least 3 points from the listed rating. Anything Paul Guttless rates should be deducted an automatic 5 points. Talk about the king of graft in the wine world.

Secondly, know your appropriate price range. White wines that will please the general population from wine tards to wine master-baters should cost no more than a Jackson. We’re talking a WAwineman-rated 90. For red wines, it’s a little more complex. Cabernets up the median to $25 and red wines fall in the range of $20-25. Syrahs are in the $25-30 range. Some like the fruit, in which case you should stay low and drink early versus the stinky secondary fumes with more antioxidant wood artifacts that moneyed drinkers will part a U.S. Grant for.

Cult wineries? Ask yourself why. Who are you trying to impress? Status costs money and that money is better spent on a high-priced screamer with a Hoover for a mouth than dropping down for some slick-named, old-time winery’s juice. I mean, like seriously, we just returned from a shindig that served up $140 cabernets and as great as it was, it ain’t the end all as far as dinnertime enjoyment.

Lastly, know this… Washington wines are fruit-forward like everything else not made in France. These wines are made to be drunk early. Why cellar a well-made $25 Washington cabernet when it was made to provide immediate pleasure? Many of the wines priced under $70 are made to drink well NOW. Sure, they can cellar for decades but why? You lose that primary fruit character for softer secondary flavors. Ask yourself if it’s worth it. Perhaps, buy yourself two bottles then. One for now and one to share with your high-schooler brat. Or, stash ’em both. Or, slog ’em both with the change of seasons. Never say never.

F*ck riesling. I brought this bottle over for some beef curry and I will say this… if you’re gonna have beef and chardonnay, this is the perfect pairing. The curry matches the heavy vibe of the beef yet brings an ameliorating presence that allows for a harmonious match that even Indians adore.

Tasted at 55-61 degrees on the IR temp gun. Color: bright light lemon. Nose: yellow flowers, peach, orange blossom. Mouthfeel: light-heavy yet dense. Tail trail: 7 seconds. Flavors: orange zest, Marcona almonds, cantaloupe, red apple.

Alcohol: 13.5%. Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Fermentation 14-20 days with Burgoblanc, N96, Prise de Mousse, Chanson, and Premier Cuvee yeasts. TA 0.51. pH 3.39. Many thousands of cases. Power: 3/5. Balance: 2/5. Depth: 2/5. Finesse: 3/5. Rated: 90. Value: $18. Retail: $15. Paid: $9.89. Music pairing: “Never Say Never” by Romeo Void. This is WAwineman… uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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