Friday, February 19, 2010
Columbia Crest Winery: A Chardonnay Retrospective
Columbia Crest Winery, located in scenic Paterson, Washington, has become a household word. If you were to ask about it, most wine lovers would say that they are familiar with the brand or have tried many of the wines. But what makes this winery so special? The winery was founded in 1984 and has produced more 90+ point scoring wines than any other winery in the world. The wines are consistent, value-oriented and consumer-friendly. In part, Columbia Crest could be considered a staple in the wine industry. Since 1993, their winemaking has been under the watchful eye of Ray Einberger. Ray's illustrious career has included stints at Napa Valley's Opus One and Silverado Vineyards and Bordeaux's Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. In 2002, he became head winemaker and his talent shines!
I recently decided to do a tasting of my own and obtained four bottles of Ray's Chardonnay--all at different tier levels, from the simplest and least pricey to the most complex. I wanted to see how they differed. All were very enjoyable wines and I would highly recommend them.
The first one I sampled was the 2007 Two Vines Columbia Valley Chardonnay. It was a very simple, very tasty wine with gobs of apples, melon and citrus. The mid-palate was lush and for $7 a bottle (the average price), it is worth keeping a few of these around the house.
The 2008 Grand Estates Chardonnay is the one I was most familiar with. I've been consistently drinking this wine since the late 90s and have found it to be a joy! This wine scores highly with critics on a yearly basis. It drinks like it costs a lot more money. It's balanced with apple, pear and caramel and a kiss of butter on the smooth, lingering finish. And on average, it's about $12 a bottle! I never get tired of drinking this one!
Last night whilst shopping at my local grocery store, I spied a bottle of the 2008 H3 Chardonnay--H3 standing for Horse Heaven Hills. As you may know, I recently did a blog on the H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a wonderful find, so I expected greatness from this one as well. The grapes hail from Horse Heaven Hills, which adds a dusty, flinty quality to the wine. Greatness? I got it! This wine was very different than any Chardonnay I'd encountered in the past. It was like biting into a Fuji apple--so spicy with lingering apple flavor, flinty minerals and a round finish with vanilla-butter. Terrific wine. At $15 a bottle, who can afford not to have some of this wine around?
Last, but certainly not least, is a bottle I received as a gift from a friend recently and I am happy to say it was a great gift! It was the 2008 Reserve Chardonnay. With grapes sourced from their Estate Vineyard Block 95 in Horse Heaven Hills, this wine is racy, very fruit-forward. With pears, creamy toasted oak and a nutty coconut vanilla finish. Very rich mid-palate. Just lovely and only about $20 a bottle.
So as you can see, all of the above are awesome values from a great Washington state producer everyone should get to know better! These wines are available in most markets, grocery stores, wine shops or on the winery website at www.columbiacrest.com. Cheers and happy shopping!