Thursday, January 26, 2012

3 Winning Washington Wines at Value Prices

Can you really find good Washington wines at reasonable prices?

Last week I was snowed in for three days. My little car had a tough time on the icy roads, so I figured it was safer for my son and I to stay home. On the weekend my wife took us out in her SUV to run errands. Powering through snow and slush, we headed for the local grocer to stock up on supplies. My priority on our outing was to bring home wine to prevent me from raiding our home cellar. I'm saving most of those bottles for special occasions. Of the wines we purchased, I found three reasonably priced, locally produced, red wines. Two of the wines were priced at $10.99 and one was priced at $8.99. The prices were reasonable, but how did they taste?

2007 Powers Merlot
2007 Merlot is just one of many excellent wines by Powers Winery.
The first wine I enjoyed was the Powers Winery 2007 Merlot. Powers is about a 10 minute drive from my home, so they are very local to me.  Bill Powers and his family have been crafting Washington wine for many years. In 2010, Bill Powers was inducted into the Legend of Washington Wine at the Walter Clore Center.

Anytime I see a bottle of wine from a local winery, I pay attention, especially when it is priced on sale for $10.99. Last year I tasted the entire red wine lineup at the Powers/Badger Mountain winery, so I was expecting good things from the 2007 vintage.

The bottle was sealed with a screw cap so it was easy to open. Since this was a 2007 vintage, it was likely bottled in mid 2008. The reason I point out the date, is that bottles sealed for more than 5 years with a screw cap may, might, can possibly, begin to show some quality issues. This bottle of wine had no faults. On opening the bottle, I was greeted by a dusty nose with an aroma of prunes and a touch of cherry. The temperature of the wine was a bit warm for my taste, so I put the bottle in the fridge for about 30 minutes to achieve the proper temperature. Thirty minutes later I tried the wine again. The wine was a dark purple color, with currant and cherry on the broad nose and a touch of floral perfume, after a bit of swirling, the wine had a tasty cherry core, with gentle oak on the periphery, pleasantly dry and a medium body. This wine paired well with dinner, a grilled boneless rib steak. I marinated the steak in soy sauce, garlic, black pepper and a splash of rice wine vinegar.

ABV 13.5%

I enjoyed this wine and suggest drinking now. Found locally for $10.99. You can learn more about the winery and the wonderful wines they sell at: Badger Mountain Vineyard and Powers Winery
1106 North Jurupa St., Kennewick, WA 99338, 1-800-643-WINE
www.badgermtnvineyard.com


Vivacious Vicky! NV
Vicky looks like she's have a great time being vivacious on this label.
The second bottle of wine I enjoyed was the Non Vintage (NV) Vivacious Vicky! red wine. Vivacious Vicky! is made by Kiona Winery on Red Mountain. Red Mountain is a 13.5 minute drive from my home, so this wine is produced by another local winery. I've enjoyed Kiona wines for some 20+ years. This bottle did not disappoint.

Vivacious Vicky! is a NV blended red wine. The bottle does not indicate the blend, so I don't know which varietals are in the bottle. Since it's non-vintage, I don't even know how old this wine is. When Kiona winery originally released their Vivacious Vicky labeled wines, they did have a vintage. Two years ago I enjoyed a 2001 Vivacious Vicky at the winery – the 2001 was a real stunner.

This bottle of NV Vivacious Vicky! was sealed with a synthetic cork. I don't know how you feel about synthetic cork, but I'm no fan. Fortunately, I believe the industry is moving away from them and adopting screw caps as a replacement. Removing the cork, I swirled the wine in my glass. The first thing I noticed was the color, it appears I purchased an older bottling of Vivacious Vicky! because it showed signs of some bottle age (at a minimum, there was evidence of oxidation). The color was clear red with brick red edges and dark almost orange, glossy highlights. Moving on to the usual swirling motion, I put my nose in the glass and enjoyed aromas of cherry vanilla, a hint of  cedar smoke, and some orange zest, tasting the wine, it was bright in the back of the palate, with gentle tannins, medium body, and finally, it was very easy to drink.

13% ABV

However old this wine is, at this point in its development it is more more European in style, it has a lovely grace. I purchased this bottle at the local grocer for $8.99. A great value.  Learn more about Kiona winery at www.kionawine.com

H3 Merlot 2008 
Steak is the main pairing with all of these excellent wines.
My third bottle of wine was the H3 Merlot, made by Columbia Crest Winery in Paterson, Washington. Paterson is located near the Columbia River, where the river borders Oregon. The Columbia Crest facility is about a 35 minute drive from my home. Yes, a local winery, but not as easy to visit as the previous two wineries. If you are not familiar with the H3 label, it was named for the American Viticultural Area in which Columbia Crest is located (Horse Heaven Hills AVA) and where they planted their estate vineyards more than two decades ago. All the grapes come from those vineyards. I first reviewed an H3 wine four years ago.

This bottle had a real cork. Yay. When I first opened the bottle, it was not that exciting for me, it had a
wine barrel nose, prominent cedar, dark fruit, with raspberries, it was a bit earthy, showing some caramel, molasses and boysenberry, in a medium body. It was just okay, but not very interesting. Hmm, don't judge a wine by how it tastes at first, an hour later I revised my opinion of this wine. An hour later, some chalk on nose with cherry cola, and coffee. The wine was more focused, with more flavor, with cherry, vanilla, coffee, medium tannins and acidity. After 2.5 hours the wine really began to open up and show off.

14.5% ABV

The H3 Merlot I found locally for $10.99, a very good wine at a very reasonable price. The only fault with this wine is youth. Which means you could cellar the 2008 H3 Merlot for a few years. If you want to drink now, for maximum enjoyment I would decant this wine and wait an hour before drinking. Not a problem if you enjoy cooking like I do. Columbia Crest is the largest producer of wine in Washington State, their H3 label is a class act, learn more at: www.columbiacrest.com

To answer my original question: Yes, you really can find good Washington wine at prices of $10.99 or less. Go find these wines and enjoy them at your home.

Cheers!