REMINDER: July’s Virtual Tasting is TONIGHT from 7-8pm Pacific. Read about how to participate here.
In tough times, we continue the search for good, inexpensive wines.
Columbia Crest is Washington’s value standard bearer. With its H3 label, the winery focuses on vineyard sources in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. This is the third vintage of the winery’s H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine. Meaning ‘the horses’ in French, this wine is a Bordeaux-style blend with a big dollop of Syrah. This wine is not shy on the oak but brings a lot of bang for the buck. The winery’s H3 Chardonnay also explores an oak-driven style, with three quarters of the juice fermented and aged in oak and the rest in stainless steel.
Swinging the oak pendulum to the other side is the Snoqualmie 2009 Naked Chardonnay. This wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel, with the grapes also coming from the Horse Heaven Hills. Meanwhile, Snoqualmie’s 2009 Winemaker’s Select Riesling is made in a fairly sweet style. The wine contains a splash of Viognier and Muscat Alexandria, giving it a great deal of aromatic lift.
The final wine this month comes from The Magnificent Wine Company. Charles Smith started this winery with the now omnipresent House Wine before handing the reins to Precept Wines. The Steak House Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal with limited oak influence.
See previous Five Under $15s here.
Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine Horse Heaven Hills 2008 $15
Rating: + (Good) Abundant coconut, vanilla, mocha, eucalyptus, spice, and dark fruit. Palate brings abundant oak flavors wrapped around dark fruit with a sweet finish. 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34%Merlot, 18% Syrah, 10% Malbec, and 3% Cabernet Franc. Aged 18 months in French and American oak (33% new). 14.5% alcohol.
Columbia Crest H3 Chardonnay Horse Heaven Hills 2009 $15
Rating: + (Good) Abundant toast, butter, and spice notes. Oak flavors are at the fore on the palate along with tropical fruit. Lingers on the finish. Those enjoying a lot of oak on their Chardonnay will find much to enjoy. 100% Chardonnay. 75% barrel fermented and aged 9 months in French and American oak (38% new) and 25% in stainless steel. 13.5% alcohol.
Snoqualmie Naked Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2009 $13
Rating: ./+ (Decent/Good) Very lightly aromatic with apple, pear, and straw notes. Full and rounded with citrus flavors that draw out across the palate. 100% Chardonnay. Residual sugar 0.65 g/100 ml.
Snoqualmie Winemaker’s Select Riesling Columbia Valley 2009 $8
Rating: . /+ (Decent/Good) Light diesel notes along with lemon zest, floral notes, and honey on an aromatically appealing wine. The palate is full, fleshy, and medium-plus sweet. 90% Riesling, 5% Muscat Alexandria, and 5% Viognier. 10.5% alcohol. 6g/100ml Residual Sugar.
The Magnificent Wine Co. Steak House Columbia Valley 2009 $13
Rating: . (Decent) Aromas of vanilla, peppercorn, red fruit, and spice. Light bodied with grainy tannins and full of pink peppercorn flavors. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.5% alcohol.
Sean, can you please confirm that you were indeed taste testing the 2008 Les Chaveaux and not the just released 2009 version? The 2008 scored 91pts in WS.
ibglowin, indeed the Les Chevaux was the 2008. I came very close to listing this wine as plus-recommended and perhaps should have but held off. As I indicated above, I think many people will enjoy this wine a great deal, and it is a good value at $15. For me, however, the oak influence was just a bit too prominent and seemed to throw the wine a little out of balance. Scoring on a 100 point system, I would personally give this wine an 89 – quite high still for its price point. I couldn't go higher without either turning down the oak or increasing the concentration of fruit to match it. It was this balance issue that also led me to not list it as +R. I should note, however, that I don't usually find myself complaining about the amount of high quality oak on a $15 wine. Bottom line, if you enjoy a wine with a lot of oak driven aromas and flavors, I would check this bottle out. It has a lot to offer. If you do not, I would look elsewhere.
Thanks Sean, I bought half a case last Summer and opened one then to try and still have 5 bottles left as I thought it was good, just not great so wanted to give it a bit more time in bottle. I will probably do the same for the 09 that just came out as well. Guess we have come to expect a lot of bang for the buck in the H3 label these days. IIRC the reviews of the 08 H3 Cab mentioned it being a bit heavy on the planks as well.
The good news for us H3 fans is that much of the portfolio is on sale in August as part of Washington Wine Month. Just saw the several of their wines, including the excellent, inky, purplely H3 merlot, on the rack for $11.99 at my local grocery.
Amazing price. Thanks for posting this one. Great stuff. Cheers!
Kind of a random question here. Have you sampled anything from the Puget Sound AVA recently that warrants a purchase?