Tag Archives: Washington state wine

Expensive wine 116: Hedges Family Estate La Haute Curvee 2014

Hedges La Haute Cuvee.The Hedges La Haute Cuvee is top-notch Washington state cabernet sauvignon

Hedges Family Estate has been part of the good fight for quality wine, transparency, and fair value for years. Its $13 CMS red and whites are well made and almost always worth buying, and the Wine Curmudgeon enjoys tasting its more expensive wines, like the Hedges La Haute Cuvee whenever I get a chance.

Hence, my anticipation when I opened the Hedges La Haute Cuvee ($50, sample, 13.5%). It’s Washington state caberent sauvignon that speaks to terroir and the difference between the state’s Red Mountain appellation and those in California and France. It’s not as rich and opulent as a Napa Valley caberent, nor as taut and firm as a great red Bordeaux. It’s different – and that’s the joy, for all wine is not supposed to taste the same.

Look for lots of black fruit (blackberry?), though aging has mellowed the fruit’s power a bit; some baking spices (cinnamon?) and even a intimation of cocoa; beautifully soft and integrated tannins, and a fine balance. One key to this wine: aging in older oak, to complement the fruit instead of overwhelming it. This is a wine that has aged magnificently, and should continue to do so for at least another five to seven years.

Pair this with red meat (I drank it with homemade mushroom and pecan sausage), and enjoy what Washington state has learned about making top-notch red wine.

Mini-reviews 108: Walmart wine, Lake Sonoma, Exem, Concha y Toro

walmart wineReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month, four reds, including a Walmart wine.

Lunar Harvest Merlot 2015 ($9, sample, 13.5%): Walmart private label Washington state red wine that can be summed up in one sentence: Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

Lake Sonoma Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2015 ($26, sample, 14.4%): Doesn’t taste especially Sonoma or Alexander Valley — just rich, overripe black fruit, lots of chocolate oak, and hardly any tannins or acidity. Which is fine, I suppose, if that’s what you’re looking for at $26.

Exem Rouge 2015 ($13, sample, 13%): Pleasant French merlot blend from Bordeaux with nothing really wrong with it, save that it’s about $8 worth of wine. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Malbec 2016 ($15, sample, 13.5%): More Old World in style than one expects from Chilean wine, and especially from malbec. This red has less ripe fruit and more backbone and acidity than similar South American wines. Find this for less than $15, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Imported by Excelsior Wine.

Expensive wine 99: Goedhart Family Syrah 2013

Goedhart Family syrahThe Goedhart Family syrah is Washington state red wine at is finest, and in time for Father’s Day

Washington state wine is mostly known for Chateau Ste. Michelle’s usually competent grocery store stuff, including the self-named rieslingand the 14 Hands and Columbia Crest brands. This is not to say that there isn’t more expensive wine worth buying, but that it doesn’t get as much attention.

The Goedhart Family syrah ($32, sample, 13.5%) is worth the attention. This red wine, from the consortium organized around the Hedges family and long known for its fine cheap wines, does almost everything a wine at this price should do. And how often does that happen any more?

First, it’s varietally correct, rare enough these days of wine made with too much fruit, too much oak, and too much alcohol so it can get the points needed to sell a $32 wine. Look for a subtle bacon fat aroma as well as some pepper, and even some gamey notes. Plus, it has syrah’s rich red fruit, but not so much that it overwhelms everything else and which means you can taste the wine’s layers and subtleties, also rare for post-modern syrah.

This is honest winemaking, something I don’t see enough of any more, even at this price. Highly recommended, and a fine Father’s Day gift (a holiday barbecue?) for anyone who wants to see what Washington state can do with expensive wine.

Expensive wine 97: Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Canvasback cabernet sauvignonDuckhorn’s Washington state Canvasback cabernet sauvignon speaks to terroir, value, and quality

California producers have been buying land in Washington state recently, something that surprised a lot of people. But why not? Land prices in Washington are a fraction of what they are in Napa Valley, where Duckhorn Vineyards makes its highly-rated red wines. So Washington gives it a chance to make quality wine, like the Canvasback cabernet sauvignon, for half of what its Napa wine costs.

And the Canvasback cabernet sauvignon ($37, sample, 14.5%) does Washington proud. In this, it tastes like Washington state wine, and not an extracted, overripe Duckhorn Napa knockoff. The company and Canvasback winemaker Brian Rudin deserve much credit for this; given the way wine works, it would have been much easier – and more expected – to do it the Napa way.

Instead, look for more freshness, juicy cherry fruit, some green herbs (thyme?), and even some spice. It’s not a heavy wine, and as young as it is, should age a little – the fruit will become less juicy and the wine will get rounder and fuller. Best yet, Rudin didn’t get carried away with the oak. There’s enough there to do what needs to be done with cabernet, but not so much that it gets in the way of the wine.

Highly recommended, and just the thing for a dinner party or spring holiday with prime rib or any fancy red meat.

 

Expensive wine 94: Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Cadaretta Cabernet SauvignonThe Cadaretta cabernet sauvignon is a classic Washington state red wine

Washington state wine, and especially its reds, remains less known and less appreciated than the bottles the Winestream Media and its scores push for. Case in point is the Cadaretta cabernet sauvignon, a classic Washington state effort.

The scores for the Cadaretta cabernet sauvignon ($50, sample, 14.8%) aren’t bad, but shouldn’t a $50 wine get more than 90 points? In this case, the wine isn’t exactly what the Winestream Media looks for. Yes, there is powerful dark fruit (blackberries?), but also tannins lurking in the background, a wonderful and unexpected earthiness, and even some black pepper. But the wine isn’t a fruit bomb and the oak, while obvious, doesn’t get in the way. It’s about as balanced as a wine of this style is going to get.

Highly recommended, with the caveat that there isn’t much of it. But if you can find it, it’s a prime rib and holiday dinner wine, and should get better over the next couple of years. The fruit and oak should tone down, and the wine will get more complex.

Wine of the week: Charles & Charles Rose 2015

Charles & Charles roseThe Charles & Charles rose from Washington state has played a key role in the rose revolution and embarrassed the Wine Curmudgeon. Both are reasons to recommend it.

First, its role in the revolution, in honor of July 4 this week. The first vintage of the Charles & Charles rose ($11, purchased, 12.2%) in 2008 more or less coincided with the idea that rose was worth drinking, something the U.S. wine industry hadn’t really embraced before then. The Charles & Charles was dry, crisp, and just fruity enough to give wine drinkers a quality pink that was in national distribution just as demand started to increase.

This year’s Charles & Charles rose is another top-flight wine, and should return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. The 2014 was a touch softer and not as enjoyable, and I was worried that trend would continue. But the 2015 is crisp, fresh, and alive, bursting with tart watermelon fruit and even a hint of herbs (perhaps the Washington version of garrigue). It’s one of the world’s great roses, and just the wine to drink over the long – and forecast to be 100 degrees here – holiday weekend.

And how did it embarrass me? In November 2013, I gave a sold-out seminar at the American Wine Society conference, focusing on unappreciated grapes, wines, and regions. So we tasted all my favorites – a nero d’avola from Sicily, a Gascon white, cava, a Texas red, and the Charles & Charles rose. My point? That in the chardonnay-, cabernet sauvigon-, merlot-dominated wine business, we overlooked a lot of cheap, terrific wine.

The Charles & Charles rose was the biggest hit, and even people who didn’t drink pink loved it. One woman was so excited she asked where she could buy it, and I had to tell her that it was sold out. It was November and the end of rose season, and the producer didn’t make enough given rose’s new popularity. I literally got the last six bottles in the U.S. for the tasting.

I will always remember the dirty look the woman gave me as she asked: “Why did we taste a wine that we can’t buy?” It doesn’t get much more worse for the WC.

Wine of the week: Columbia Winery Composition NV

Columbia Winery CompositionColumbia Winery’s Sean Hails is refreshingly honest, given that many winemakers aren’t always happy to answer the questions I like to ask: Why this oak level, why this alcohol level, and what was the thought behind putting this wine together?

Hails, though, had no qualms about any of that. He said he makes this non-vintage red blend from Washington state for one of E&J Gallo’s recent acquisitions within the framework that Gallo sets, but also with an eye to what he thinks the wine should be.

And the two are not contradictory. The Columbia Winery Composition ($14, sample, 13.8%) includes the softness that is a Gallo hallmark, but it also tastes like it came from Washington state. The blend is mostly merlot and syrah, with sweet cherry and blackberry fruit, a little pepper and spice, and surprising structural acidity. The softness is mostly in the tannins, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Pair the Composition with grilled meat and chicken — a Sunday spring afternoon on the back porch, perhaps?