Gary McLean of Barons V had long been an advocate for Washington wine, bringing bottles with him whenever he traveled to share with business associates and sommeliers. In 2001 McLean put together a group of five friends – Barons V – and started a winery. Having previously met winemaker Matthew Loso through mutual friends, a partnership was born.
Barons V produces just one wine each year, a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux-style blend. The wine is aged for two years in American oak and then another year in the bottle before release.
The Vine & Sun label was added in 2005, mainly using wine declassified from the Baron’s V program. These are each big, tannic steakhouse wines.
Vine & Sun Columbia Valley 2007 $18
Rating: + (Good) Dark in color. Abundant toast aromas along with pine, resin, licorice, sweet spices, and black cherry. On the palate a big, grippy wine with taught, somewhat dry tannins. A lot of wine for the money. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, and 14% Merlot. Bel’ Villa, Wallula, and Conner Lee vineyards. Aged 21 months in American oak (50% new). 14.5% alcohol. 375 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Barons V Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $55
Rating: * (Excellent) Dark in color. Alluring aromatics with abundant licorices notes, a light earthiness, chocolate, coconut, pine, and dark, dark cherries. The palate is big, rich and packed full of rich fruit flavors and chock full of tannins. A dry, persistent finish. 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot. Conner Lee, Hedges Estate, Wallula, and Wahluke Slope vineyards. Aged 22 months in American oak (100% new). 14.5% alcohol. 1,200 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Barons V Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006 $55
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Extremely dark in color. Very pretty aromatics of licorice, coffee bean, vanilla, dark cherries, blackberries, and soil. On the palate, a big wine with a balsamic feel. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. Conner Lee, Hedges Estate, Kiona, Alder Ridge, Wahluke Slope, and Lawrence vineyards. Aged 22 months in American oak (95% new). 1,258 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Columbia Winery is one of Washington’s elder statesmen. The winery was established in 1962 by a group of ten friends. The late David Lake joined the winery in 1979 and left an indelible mark on the winery and on the Washington wine industry. Among a list of accomplishments, Lake worked with grower Mike Sauer at Red Willow Vineyard to establish the state’s first Syrah plantings in the mid-1980s.
Kerry Norton now serves as Director of Winemaking. Norton joined Columbia in 2007 after spending eight years at Covey Run. Columbia Winery is part of Ascentia Wine Estates whose portfolio includes Covey Run and Ste. Chapelle as well as several California brands. The winery is located in Woodinville.
The standout here is the Stone Cutter Series Opal white wine. This delicious blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon – among the most enjoyable I have had from Washington – has a creamy texture and mouthwatering acidity.
Columbia Winery Stone Cutter Series Opal White Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $NA
Rating: * (Excellent) Spice, herbal notes, lime, mineral, and pear on a lightly aromatic wine. Crisp and tart with a touch of tropical fruit flavors, a creamy texture, and mouthwatering acidity. 52% Sauvignon Blanc, 47% Semillon (not sure where that 1% went). Phil Church, Art Denhoed, Destiny Ridge, and Milbrandt vineyards. Aged 6 months in neutral oak. 300 cases produced.
Columbia Winery Cellar Master’s Riesling Columbia Valley 2009 $12
Rating: + (Good) An aromatic wine marked by honey, floral notes, and very light diesel notes. The palate is thick and rich with peaches, pear, orange peel, and sugared lemon. Made in a sweet style but with enough acidity to keep it together. 97% Riesling, 3% Gewurztraminer. 10% alcohol. 61g/L Residual Sugar. 80,000 cases produced.
Columbia Winery Merlot Columbia Valley 2007 $15
Rating: . (Decent) An aromatic wine with cherries, red fruit, mocha, tea leaves, and pickling spices. Grippy tannins and winding cherry and cranberry fruit flavors on the palate. 85% Merlot, 9% Malbec, 2.5% Sangiovese, 1.5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Barbera, and 1% Petit Verdot. Aged 12 months in American (65%) and French oak. 13.5% alcohol. 14,500 cases produced.
Columbia Winery Lapis Red Wine Stone Cutter Series Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $32
Rating: + (Good) Very pretty aromatics of strawberry, cherry, earth, and spice. Palate is tart and light bodied with a lick of tannins toward the finish. 52% Grenache, 22% Mourvedre, 22% Syrah, 4% Other. Aged 16 months in French and American oak. 13.5% alcohol. 304 cases produced.
Columbia Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2005 $25
Rating: + (Good) An intriguing wine aromatically with green olives, earth, chocolate, tea leaves, and savory notes. Palate has firm tannins along with licorice, cherry and herbal notes that stretch out along the palate leading to a long finish. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot. Aged 16 months in French and American oak. 14.1% alcohol. 1,000 cases produced.
Columbia Winery Peninsula Red Wine Red Willow Vineyard 2003 $40
Rating: * (Excellent) An aromatic wine with abundant licorice, cherry, dark chocolate, cola, and medicine cabinet notes. Palate is soft and full of fruit that draws out across the palate. A silky mouthfeel with well-integrated but still firm tannins. A very pretty, understated wine. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 6% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot. Aged 20 months in French oak. 14.1% alcohol. 298 cases produced.
Covey Run Winery
Covey Run Winery was founded in 1982. Located in Sunnyside, Covey Run’s motto is, “High on quality. Low on pretense.” The winery focuses on the value end of the spectrum producing wines between $8 and $14.
Winemaker Kate Michaud joined Covey Run in 2007. Before joining Covey Run Michaud had worked at Bonny Doon, David Bruce, and Canoe Ridge. She had also worked harvest in Western Australia (the other WA) and New Zealand. As I wrote in last month’s Five Under $15, the winery’s website contains one of the more vivid and inspired winemaker descriptions out there.
Covey Run produces 170,000 cases annually.
Covey Run Quail Series Gewurztraminer Columbia Valley 2009 $9
Rating: + (Good) Pale in color. Honey, white flowers, and orange rind on a pleasingly aromatic wine. Off-dry on the palate with a zing of acidity. Thins out a bit on the mid-palate but overall an enjoyable bottle of a seldom seen varietal in the state at a can’t be beat price. 97% Gewurztraminer, 3% Muscat. Art Denhoed and Phil Church vineyards. 13.0% alcohol. 9,683 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Covey Run Late Harvest Riesling Reserve Columbia Valley 2008 $12
Rating: + (Good) Light straw colored. Light diesel notes, mandarin orange, and honey on an aromatic wine. Palate is clean with abundant lemon flavors and a fair amount of residual sugar. Loses focus toward the finish on an otherwise very enjoyable wine. 100% Riesling. 11.46% alcohol. 4,950 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Covey Run Reserve Merlot Columbia Valley 2005 $14
Rating: . (Decent) Very light aromatics of spice, toast, mocha, and cherry. An elegantly structured wine with bright acidity and soft, grainy tannins. 97% Merlot, 3% Malbec. Aged 12 months in French (70%) and American oak. 13.5% alcohol. 5,175 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Covey Run Quail Series Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $10
Rating: . (Decent) Aromas of pickling spices, coffee bean, and cherry. Palate has dry tannins and a lot of cherry fruit. Thins out a bit toward the finish. 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot. Alder Ridge, Oasis, Phinny Hill, and Smith vineyards. 13.68% alcohol. 5,650 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Covey Run Quail Series Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2009 $9
Rating: . (Decent) Pale in color. A lightly aromatic wine marked by herbal notes and tropical fruit. Palate comes off as a bit flat, wanting more acidity to hold it together. 85% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Semillon, 5% Chenin Blanc, and 4% Riesling. Phil Church, Evergreen, Art Denhoed, and Destiny Ridge vineyards. 13.5% alcohol. 4,975 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Three Rivers Winery was founded in 1999. The winery is named after the Columbia, Snake, and Walla Walla rivers. Holly Turner has been Three Rivers’ winemaker since 2002. The winery, which produces 16,000 cases annually, is located off Highway 12 in Walla Walla and sports a three-hole golf course.
Three Rivers Winery Riesling Columbia Valley 2008 $15
Rating: + (Good) Pale in color. Aromas of gasoline, lemon drop, and honey. Palate is on the sweet side of off-dry with abundant tropical fruit flavors. 100% Riesling. Lewis and Bacchus vineyards. Aged in stainless steel. 12.5% alcohol. 683 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Three Rivers Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2008 $18
Rating: + (Good) Pale lemon yellow. A moderately aromatic wine marked by yellow apple, tropical fruit, marzipan, and spice. A creamy texture on the palate with a long finish. 100% Chardonnay. Bacchus, Champoux, Sagemoor, and Weinbau vineyards. Barrel fermented in French oak (34% new). 50% malolactic fermentation. Aged 8 months sur lie. 14.3% alcohol. 2,038 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Three Rivers Merlot Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2007 $39
Rating: + (Good) A lightly aromatic wine with wood spice, high toned licorice, mocha, and herbal notes. The palate has a firm grip of somewhat dry tannins along with elegant fruit flavors. 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in French oak (50% new). 14.7% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Three Rivers Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $21
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Dark in color. Very pretty aromatics of spice, black cherry, herbal notes, dark chocolate and a whiff of mint. Palate brings abundant cherry fruit and herbal notes with a firm backbone of dry tannins. 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, and 5% Malbec. Minnick Hills, Katherine-Leone, Martinez, Alder Creek, Bacchus, North Ridge, Snipes Canyon, and Dionysus vineyards. Aged 18 months in French oak (40% new). 14.6% alcohol. 2,200 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Three Rivers Winery Cabernet Franc Weinbau Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2007 $39
Rating: + (Good) A lightly aromatic wine with vanilla, mocha, herbal, and cherry notes. The palate is soft and tart with dark cherry flavors. Dips in the middle before coming back with a lick of tannins. 95% Cabernet Franc (Weinbau) and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon (Bacchus). Aged 16 months in French oak (50% new). 194 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Three Rivers Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2007 $50
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Abundant mocha notes along with earth, light herbal notes, high toned cherries, and tea leaves. The palate is full of cherry fruit flavors with a firm backbone of tannins. Loses a bit of its rhythm about halfway through but comes back together. 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot. Aged in French oak (63% new). 14.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
The 2008 Desert Wind Winery Ruah was the March Virtual Tasting wine. In a first since I started these on-line tastings back in 2008, this wine received a unanimous ‘buy’ vote from all twenty participants. And with good reason. The 2008 Ruah is perhaps the best the winery has made since the 2005 vintage. It is appropriately priced at $20. If found on sale, it is nothing short of a steal.
Desert Wind Winery Ruah Red Wine Wahluke Slope 2008 $20
Rating: * (Excellent) An aromatic wine with heaping amounts of black cherry along with spice, black pepper, green pepper, dust, and an underlayer of bittersweet chocolate. Palate is firm and tart with a tight coil of black cherry fruit. A tart, fruit filled finish. An impressive wine at this price point.