2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling

2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley RieslingPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Chateau Ste. Michelle “We craft our Columbia Valley Riesling to be an inviting, refreshing, off-dry Riesling vintage after vintage. This Riesling consistently delivers classic Washington state Riesling characters of juicy peach, ripe pear, melon, with subtle mineral notes. This is our everyday Riesling that is versatile and easy to drink.”
-Bob Bertheau, Head Winemaker

What I Think:

This one was recommended to me a while back via a comment from Danny. First off thanks for the tip, I always appreciate them. Keep’em coming all! That said I sat on for a while. Based on my lukewarm experience with the ’06 vintage of the same I was a bit hesitant. Especially given having a very dependable alternative in one of my long time favorites; the Dr. Beckermann Spatlese. When I saw Dr. Debs recent post on exploring Washington wines starting with Rieslings from Columbia Valley I had to join the journey and grabbed a bottle.

On opening, the color is striking (especially compared to L’Accessa). The color is almost see through straw, akin to a champagne or sparkler. This was the first, but wouldn’t be the last, characteristic of this wine that had me drawing comparisons to Sauvignon Blanc. The nose started very crisp, a common occurrence straight out of the fridge. Unlike Gary Vee (link it up Jason ?) I was looking forward to the journey to room temperature. Mr. Vaynerchuk favors starting there straight away. Personally, as a casual drinker/taster, I like to see the wine at some different stages. I’ve found I like some very cold, some at room temperature and most somewhere in between. In addition, I enjoy seeing the different taste profiles, or personas in my day job, the wine has given based on the temperature. What would be really interesting is to start tracking the temperature with my tasting notes. Anyone ever done that? Sorry, wine geek moment.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming. At the front of the palate you initially find a crispness with a bit of acidity which breaks open to rich white fruit on the mid palate with green apple prevalent and white, peachy notes lurking nearby. Bit of oak or something else on the finish? I was getting stones and mineral with hints of lemon rind; again almost a Sauvgnon Blanc-ish finish. I’m a fan. Revisiting the ’06 it looks like my initial perceptions were tainted by a poor food pairing, not a disappointing wine. That said, for my taste buds, this one is not for the traditional spicy food. Skip the Asian pairing angle here. Good news that is where the Dr. Beckermann’s thrives. A surprising outcome, on the Chateau Ste. Michelle. Unexpected and delightful, all the good flavors of Riesling without a hint of sweetness. I’ve already bought three more bottles and recommend you grab one for yourself. Looking forward to hearing what you think!

Rating: Buy It

2005 Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com “Aromas of truffle, blackberry liqueur and hints of tobacco precede a rich, silky, velvet-textured palate of ripe black fruits and chocolate with a touch of toasty oak on the long, pure finish.” – Juan Munoz Oca, Winemaker

What I Think:

Given my recent success with the Columbia Crest Grand Estates and Two Vines offerings I was curious to see how this old favorite would be after such a bittersweet ending last time around. It quickly became apparent that my fleeting memories were the correct ones. This wine is eminently drinkable but that is about the highest compliment I can pay it. It comes off as made in the laboratory with over the top fruits and a manufactured type of varietal-less appeal. The fruit is big and overwhelming but there isn’t much else going in this one’s favor. You can keep the money in the Chateau Ste. Michelle family but be sure to direct it towards those Columbia Crest bottles. For a $1 less you can get a wine that I would call two times as good. Anyone else out there had both? What do you think?

Rating: Skip It

2005 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com “Spice, blackberries and cassis aromas fill the nose followed by a medium-bodied, concentrated and satin textured mid-palate; the long finish offers silky tannins and dark chocolate notes.” – Ray Einberger, Winemaker

What I Think:

After running through all the Two Vines offerings from Columbia Crest I decided to take a step up the ladder and try the Grand Estates offering of the Cabernet to see if the extra $2 could be justified over the comparable Two Vines Cab bottling. That one was an ’04 and this an ’05 so not exactly an apples to apples comparison but insightful none the less. Both are the same alcohol percentage (13.5%) and similar in acidity levels. The Grand Estates was crushed with 25% whole berries and was aged in 1/3 new oak for sixteen months (versus fourteen months in “lightly” oaked barrels). Know let’s see if we can make sense out of any of this.

With pork chops on the menu the cork on this one was pulled. Spice and black fruit were apparent on the nose with herb notes (likely from not destemming before crushing) lingering in the background. On the palate the wine immediately appears toastier (guessing this is attributable to the differences in barreling). On top of the toast the fruit is well rounded and starts to intermingle with spice towards the middle of the palate before giving way to a long tingling finish ending with a hint of mint. All in all, this one is not as fruit forward as the Two Vines bottling. It is almost as if it is trying to give the illusion of more complexity but I am not buying.

This was tough to rate because without its counterpart it has “Buy It” potential but in light of the competition I can’t recommend it over the Two Vines. Perhaps I’ll grab both again though and do a true side by side tasting. Maybe I’ll even get crazy and do it blind!

Rating: 12th Bottle

2004 Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com: “This minimally oaked Cabernet Sauvignon offers fruit-forward aromas and flavors of slight cherry and blueberry throughout. The balance of fruit and soft oak provides a lingering finish with hints of cocoa.” -Ray Einberger, Winemaker

What I Think:

The Columbia Crest Two Vines varietal tour continues with this being the fourth offering I have sampled. Having been pleased with the previous three bottles I had promised to grab the Cab next and as a man of my word am here to report even more good news.

This one makes itself known as soon as you pull the cork. The nose has strong aromas of dark, black fruit with just a hint of chocolate. On the palate this same fruit is lush and readily apparent. As the tasting profile continues the flavors evolve to vanilla and toast (usually barrel induced) leading to a nice velvety finish.

As I said last time, if you are newer to wine or know someone that is point them to these Columbia Crest Two Vines offerings as a way to get a good lay of the land. I’m going to try the rest of them, maybe the Chard will be next!

Rating: Buy It

2004 Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com: “The Two Vines Shiraz features New World-style, ripe, jammy fruitiness blended from varieties traditional in the Rhone Valley. Black cherry and white pepper aromatics are also pronounced on the palate along with hints of boysenberry and raspberry. The lingering finish is pleasingly supple.” -Ray Einberger, Winemaker

What I Think:

Having enjoyed the Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot and being pleased with the Gewurztraminer I thought I would give this Shiraz a try as well. I was trying to build upon a premise of being able to recommend this labeling to those new to wine as an affordable varietal tour of the landscape. On that note this wine certainly delivered. This was a big, ripe, jammy offering with dark berries and spice on the nose that led to a supple fruit forward palate and a pleasant finish. The one odd note I had written when tasting this was that I found hints of orange rind throughout. When reading the full winemaker’s notes I found my explanation as the final blend includes Viognier (as well as Grenache).
So if you are newer to wine or know someone that is point them to these Columbia Crest Two Vines offerings as a way to get a good lay of the land. Next up I think I will try the Cab!

Rating: 12th Bottle

2006 Columbia Crest Two Vines Gewurztraminer

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “This fruit-forward wine accents classic Gewürztraminer characteristics of lychee, dried apricots and hints of rose petal. Subtle spicy-sweet fruit flavors linger through a refreshing, juicy finish” – Best Buys: Whites, Excellent – Wine Press NW

What I Think:

So there I am standing in the wine section at Trader Joe’s.  It’s busy. My wife is in the checkout line, getting closer to the front. And I can’t decide whether to grab the JW Morris , the Santa Ynez or this. With time running out I decided to try something new.

The other night with curry on the menu I decided it was time to see what this one was all about. On the nose you get wafts of sweetness along with dried floral and fruit aromas. These flavors follow through on the palate but I found the sweetness a little overpowering. The next night I had it as an aperitif with some cheese which seemed to better suit this bottle. For those newer to this varietal this may be a nice introduction. As I prefer a drier style I wish I would have grabbed the Santa Ynez.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2003 Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com: “This pleasing Merlot offers intense aromas of spice, blackberry, and raspberry with expressions of cocoa and soft velvet on the palate. A hint of chocolate completes the lingering finish.” -Ray Einberger, Winemaker

What I Think:

This one was a pleasant surprise. I’ve always coupled Washington and Merlot in my head so I thought this was a good time to do my quarterly check in on this varietal. Amazingly out of the 286 bottles I have consumed since starting this blog a mere 2 have been merlot. This one opened the doors for me to try others. Nice, round red fruit throughout followed by a lingering hint of chocolate on the finish before fading to vanilla/barrel flavors. Nice and smooth throughout. I’ve already grabbed myself another bottle, don’t hesitate to grab one of your own!

Rating: Buy It

2003 Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $11.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “94 points The Wine News: Lush, seamlessly integrated flavors of ripe, sweet blackberry, blueberry and minerals; totally in control in the face of so much rich fruit…” 90 points and 1 Puff from the Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, “Ripe, rich, a bit spicy for its sins and full of black cherry and cassis fruitiness, this full-bodied wine takes a fairly direct line on the palate and garners its high points for its depth and flesh more than for complexity. Still, there is an awful lot of flavor and honest drinkability to be found here, and when its oh-so-inviting price tag is put into the calculus, this one adds up to a big winner for current consumption. (12/2006)”

What I Think:

This one came highly recommended to me from a friend at work. Given that my experience with Washington wines has been mostly pleasant I was keen to give it a try. On opening in a word Wow! Let us linger and enjoy that for a moment before getting into the specifics…

Pre-meal I gave this one a go and found mint and tannins on the nose. The front to mid palate showed dark cassis like fruit with the end showing well integrated tannins. It left me looking forward to adding some steak to the mix. What a pair. The steak brought our a bit of pepper and spice but the fruit remained lush. It went a bit dry towards the middle but then rounded out for a long pleasant finish. The experience lasted long after the wine was out of your mouth which is my tell tale sign for a good wine. I’m getting more at this price, heaven forbid this Hogue offering ever shows up at TJ’s (they have others). I’ll buy them out on day one.

Rating: Wow!

2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “We craft our Columbia Valley Riesling to be an inviting, refreshing, off-dry Riesling vintage after vintage. This Riesling consistently delivers classic Washington state Riesling character of juicy peach, apricot, ripe pear, melon, with subtle mineral notes. This is our “every day Riesling” that is a pleasure to drink and easy to match with a variety of foods.”

What I Think:

I saw this one when I was shopping to for the Rocking Horse the other day. Not sure what made me grab it. I have always thought that Riesling provided good bang for the buck so let’s chalk it up to that.

We opened this one to go with some chicken fajitas that were on the fruiter side thinking that it may be a nice pairing. Given that my dad was still in town with his wife and friends and they joined us for this meal my notes and impressions are again somewhat limited. I thought that this was a decent wine, on the nose you get some apple/pear hints. On the palate this hints come to life in a very dry fashion on top of a minerally backbone. This wine is true to the varietal character lacking that manufactured sweetness that I may have been secretly hoping for given the pairing. I think I was after a JW Morris Gewurztraminer like experience and this didn’t deliver. To sum it up, this is a decent wine certainly of the dry style. If I find myself searching for something of the sort I’ll likely be looking elsewhere.

Rating: Skip It

2003 Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Aromas of black cherry, blackberries, liqueur and hints of tobacco and smoke precede a rich, silky palate of cherry, chocolate and black fruits with a touch of toasty oak on the finish.”

What I Think:

This wine is made by one of the Washington behemoths; Chateau Ste. Michelle. It consists of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. This bottling use to be one I liked quite a bit when it was on the shelves say six months ago so I had been looking at the remaining bottle for some time. I figured I would save it for an evening when I needed to have a nice wine, a known commodity and last night turned out to be that night. Boy was I disappointed. Coming off a series of good wines over the last ten days this one tasted almost like, dare I say it, manufactured plonk! There was not one unique varietal character about this wine. You could drink the bottle with 4 people and at least two wouldn’t know it was Cab, I may be one of them. Don’t get me wrong this was still nice to drink and maybe worth buying again but it certainly didn’t meet the nostalgia I had been feeling after looking at this bottle for weeks. If it were still in the stores I may give it another shot as I don’t want the memories to end like this. Six months ago I was buying this wine regularly. Have my taste changed that much over that timeframe? Was this bottle slightly off? Unfortunately we will never know as it is long gone from TJ’s.

Rating: 12th Bottle