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

As I’ve written elsewhere, Chenin Blanc seems to be slowly slipped away in Washington. Despite a relative abundance of vines twenty years or older, the wine seems to have fallen out of favor somewhat with consumers and each year seems to bring fewer vines in the ground and fewer producers making the wine. A consistently enjoyable representation of the grape comes from Riesling specialist Pacific Rim. The winery’s 2008 vintage Chenin continues that trend with (yet) another well priced, quality wine from this producer.

Columbia Crest is Washington’s value leader with a lineup of wines that consistently outperforms their price points. The H3 series is named after the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, which both provide the grapes for this wine and is where the winery calls home. True to form, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon offers great bang for the buck.

As we get into spring – sort of – we are starting to see the first of the 2010 red wines hit the shelves, including this one from Charles Smith Wines. The Boom Boom! is Smith’s entry level Syrah in a portfolio that marches all the way up to multiple $140 bottles.

Wines of Substance is a joint project from winemakers Jamie Brown of Waters Winery and Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars. The winery focuses on producing a wide number of varietally labeled wines at modest price points. The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is 100% varietal hailing from Minick Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Of note, the 2010 wines have seen a slight alteration to the label showing just the initials for the grape and a white square.

Pacific Rim Chenin Blanc Columbia Valley 2008 $10
(Good) Pale lemon yellow. A lightly aromatic wine with beeswax, citrus, and melon. The palate is medium-bodied, tart, and just off dry with mouthwatering, lemon-like acidity and a hint of citrus peel on the finish. Recommended

Pacific Rim Sweet Riesling Columbia Valley 2010 $10
(Good) Moderately aromatic with pear syrup, orange peel, botrytis notes, and honeysuckle. The palate is, as promised, medium sweet and full of orange and citrus flavors. 8.5% alcohol, 6.9% Residual Sugar.

Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills 2009 $15
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with dust, mocha, cherry cola, and dark cherries. The palate is full of chocolate and cherry flavors with chalky tannins and a tart, slightly attenuated finish. 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 3% Syrah, and 2% Malbec. Aged 18 months in French oak (40% new). 14.5% alcohol. Recommended

Charles Smith Wines Boom Boom! Syrah Columbia Valley 2010 $15
(Good) An aromatic wine with wild blueberries, bacon, and mesquite. The palate is soft but grainy – almost gritty – chock full of bacon and blueberry flavors, with a grapey, slightly sweet finish. 96% Syrah, 2.5% Grenache, 1.5% Malbec. Olsen Brothers, Outlook, Vinagium, Milbrandt, and Upland vineyards. 13.5% alcohol.

Substance Sauvignon Blanc Washington State 2010 $15
(Good) Leaps up from the glass with gooseberry, lime, kiwi, and herbal notes. The palate has a medium bodied feel with the fruit not quite as concentrated as recent vintages. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Minick Vineyard. Aged in stainless steel (75%) and neutral French oak. 12.9% alcohol.

Rating System
Please note, my rating system was revised at the beginning of 2012 as follows. Read additional details here.
(Not recommended/Flawed)