Deborah and David Hansen founded Cougar Crest Winery in 2001. Natives of the Northwest, the Hansens had been living in San Francisco when they decided to move back to Washington to raise their family on a farm. With the apple market plummeting, they decided to replace some of their orchards with vineyards. After several years of selling grapes to others, Deborah decided to try her hand at winemaking. She made her first vintage for Cougar Crest in 2001.

From the beginning, Cougar Crest has focused on its estate vineyards – Cougar Hills, Stellar, and Golden’s Legacy. The winery produces 12,000 cases annually, making it relatively large by Washington standards. Cougar Crest favors a style with a fair amount of oak influence. While occasionally the wood gets in the way, generally Hansen makes it work with a rich, palate-coating style.

Of note, all of the 2006 vintage releases seemed surprisingly light in color compared to their peers in previous vintages.

All wines sampled between 68 and 70 degrees.

Cougar Crest Dedication Three Red Wine Columbia Valley NV $20

+ (Good) Fairly light in color. Hints of green pepper along with sweet spices and a kiss of chocolate. Tart on the taste with palate coating oak. Appears to have been open for some time. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. Cougar Hills, Golden’s Legacy, and Willard vineyards. 13.4% alcohol. 1,008 cases produced.

Cougar Crest Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2006 $35
+ (Good) Light in color. Birthday cake spices surround bright cherry aromas. A bit uneven on the palate with sweet oak up front followed by a tart finish. 88% Merlot, 7% Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot. Cougar Hills Vineyard. 13.4% alcohol. 814 cases produced.

Cougar Crest Cabernet Franc Walla Walla Valley 2006 $36
* (Excellent) Light in color. Abundant red currant aromas along with sweet oak spices. Very evenly balanced on the palate with well-integrated oak. The finish persists. Only detraction is that it is quite light bodied and occasionally comes off as a bit thin. 76% Cabernet Franc, 13% Merlot, 9% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot. Cougar Hills Vineyard. 14% alcohol. 945 Cases produced.

Cougar Crest Anniversary Cuvee Walla Walla Valley 2005 $32
* (Excellent) Nose is marked by light white pepper and sweet spices dusted over red cherries. A bit tart on the taste on an otherwise very well put together wine. 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, and 18% Petit Verdot. Cougar and Stellar Vineyards. 13.9% alcohol. 980 cases produced.

Cougar Crest Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2006 $38
+ (Good) Again, fairly light in color. A classic Cougar Crest nose with lots of sweet spices, confectionary sugar, chocolate, a fresh ground tobacco. An enjoyable nose but unfortunately comes off as a bit thin on the palate. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, and 12% Petit Verdot. Cougar Hills Vineyard. 13.6% alcohol. 693 cases produced.

Cougar Crest Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2005 $32
+ (Good) A whole lot of stinky game aromas and violets on a nose accented by light chocolate and hints of earth. Dances lightly along the palate. An enjoyable, well put together wine. 97% Syrah, 3% Viognier. Cougar, Stellar, and Golden’s Legacy vineyards. 13.8% alcohol. 376 cases produced.

Walla Walla River Malbec Columbia Valley 2007 $32
. (Decent) Fairly light in color. Nose marked by white pepper, dark chery, and caramel. All of the pieces don’t quite tie together on the taste but still a decent wine. 100% Malbec. Cougar Hills Vineyard. 13% alcohol. 190 cases produced.