Reminder that this month’s Virtual Tasting will take on Wednesday. Read more about it here.

In tough times, we continue the search for good, inexpensive wines.

Sleight of Hand Cellars is located in Walla Walla, Washington. Trey Busch, who co-owns the winery with Sandy and Jerry Solomon, serves as winemaker. Busch previously worked in this capacity at Basel Cellars. Sleight of Hand, which gets its name from a Pearl Jam song, was launched in 2007. Each of SOH’s wines have a magic-name theme. An audiophile, Busch spins discs at the winery’s downtown Walla Walla tasting room. Sleight of Hand will be opening a tasting room in Woodinville in the near future.

Barnard Griffin was founded in 1983 by Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard. Winemaker Rob Griffin came to Washington in 1977, against the advice of his UC Davis professors who considered Washington’s climate too cool for wine grapes, and began making wine at Preston Winery. He got off to a quick start, winning a Best of Show award for his 1977 Chardonnay. After starting Barnard Griffin, he also served as winemaker for Hogue Cellars from 1984 to 1991. Barnard Griffin has two tiers of wine, their Tulip Series which represents their value wines, and their reserve series. The winery currently produces 75,000 cases annually, reasonably large by Washington’s standards. Barnard Griffin’s tasting room is located in Richland, Washington.

Skylite Cellars is a Walla Walla Valley venture. The winery is located west of town. Skylite Cellars also has a downtown tasting room. Tom and Cheryl Hodgins are the owners. Robert Smasne of Smasne Cellars serves as winemaker with Greg Matiko assisting.

Thurston Wolfe Winery makes a number of wines from varietals uncommon in Washington, including Primitivo (a predecessor to Zinfandel), Tempranillo, Petit Syrah, and Zinfandel. Winemaker Wade Wolfe sources his grapes from vineyards located throughout the state, believing that this allows for the best pairing of varietal to terroir. The winery’s Red Table Wine is fascinating kitchen sink blend of Syrah, Primitivo, Lemberger, Petit Syrah, and Zinfandel. The 2007 vintage of this wine is due to be released on July 1st and is predominantly Primitivo.

Columbia Crest is one of Washington’s largest wine producers. I was intrigued to see that their current Two Vines (the winery’s entry level tier) Shiraz was from 2005.

If you have favorite Washington wines under $15, send them along and I will check them out.







Sleight of Hand ‘The Curtain Call’ Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2008

Lots of honeydew, sugared lemon, and mineral on the nose. Clean on the taste and pulls off being sweet without being heavy. Biscuit Ridge Vineyard.

Purchased from the winery for $15.



Barnard Griffin Syrah Columbia Valley 2007

Dark in color. Brambly fruit mixes with clove, vanilla and bright berries. The fruit and the oak duke it out a bit on the nose. Packs a fruit-weighted punch on the palate. If you like fruit bombs and don’t mind a decent amount of barrel influence, this is a wine for you. 14.2% alcohol.

Purchased at Trader Joes for $13



Skylite Cellars Big Red Hiney Columbia Valley 2005

Lightly colored. Lots of tobacco and bright cherry on the nose and taste. A bit tart on the palate but overall a good value.

Purchased from the winery for $15.



Thurston Wolfe Doctor Wolf’s Family Red Table Wine Washington State 2006

Lots of smoke, dark, rich cherry, and bright fruit along with a touch of dust on an engaging nose. Dry, very tart and puckering on the palate with bracing acidity. 39% Syrah; 20% Primitivo; 19% Lemberger; 12% Petite Syrah (that “e” is not from me); 10% Zinfandel.15% alcohol.

Purchased at Pete’s Bellevue for $13



Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz Washington State 2005

Nose is a bit off-putting with sulfur aromas along with candied fruit and a touch of earth. Taste delivers with lots of fruit and spice and a fair amount of weight. Straightforward but would be a good wine for the money except for the nose. Perhaps a bottle issue.13.5% alcohol. 135,000 cases produced.

Purchased at Pete’s Bellevue for $7