With all the wines we’ve discussed, we’ve enjoyed some nice blends, from assorted wine regions in assorted states and countries. And, most importantly, we’ve enjoyed those from assorted grape varieties.
That by itself is one of the best things about blends. We don’t have to pick just one grape variety. We can pick a style – heavier, lighter, richer and bolder, milder and softer; as well as a texture – thick, juicy, tannic, smooth – and, last but not least, a set of flavors – berries or other fruits, spices, earth tones.
Bottom line is, with all of these choices, blends have always been really good to us. Hopefully, another one this week will just add to our choices.
For our wine this week, we are going to Washington State.
Washington is the second largest wine-producing state, after California. There are over 900 wineries in the state and more than 350 grape growers. They grow more than 40 different grape varieties on more than 50,000 acres of vineyards. And, there are 14 AVAs.
The wines are 51 percent red and 49 percent white. Production is about 16 million cases a year.
The wine industry brings in more than $5 billion a year.
The majority of Washington wines fall into the premium wine market category, which, according to their definition, means they sell for $8 dollars a bottle and up.
One of the interesting things about Washington State wines is that the perception of them is that they do not excel at any one grape variety. Like Napa is known for Cabernet, Australia is known for Shiraz, Germany is known for Riesling, Chablis is known for Chardonnay. Also, there is a perception of Washington wines that they tend to be more expensive than other New World wines. Strange, because the two biggest producers (Chateau Ste Michelle and Columbia Crest) focus their production on value-priced wines. Oh, well. Guess part of our job is to help adjust some of these mis-perceptions.
All of which, gets us to our winery for this week: Columbia Crest. This winery opened in 1983, in the heart of what is now the Horse Heaven Hills AVA on the Columbia River in Eastern Washington.
Today, Columbia Crest is the state’s largest winery. They produce three tiers, levels, of wines. The “reserve” runs for $30 to $40 and more.
The “H3” wines run about $15 to $20. And, last but not least, the “grand estates,” that run $12 or so.
The Columbia Crest Grand Estate Red Blend is our wine for this week. The summer of the 2013 vintage was one of the warmest in Washington State in the last decade. Slightly cooler temperatures and rains in September helped to slow down the ripening. Thus little bit of extra time on the vines gave the grapes spectacular fruit characteristics and flavors.
The blend for this wine is 51 percent Merlot, 30 percent Cabernet Franc, 8 percent Malbec, 8 percent Petit Verdot, 2 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 percent Syrah.
Fermentation was done separately for each variety, with six to 10 days of skin contact. After fermentation, the blend was made and aged 41 percent in new French oak, 8 percent in new American oak, and 51 percent in neutral barrels.
It is a complex red wine, with layers of textures and flavors than we’ve learned to expect with blends. There are black cherry and dark berry flavors, black licorice, cocoa powder, coffee and spicy notes. And there are some earthy tones. The texture is rich and supple and glides along your tongue.
It’s perfect for easy hot-weather sipping and it’s just $8.99.
Sure a blend is a blend. But, some we like better than others.