Northwest reds provide plenty of value
June 10, 2010 · Updated 9:06 AM
By Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman
Wine Press Northwest
As the Northwest wine industry's stock has risen in recent years, so have prices — especially for red wines. In many regions (Walla Walla and Yamhill County in particular), it is not unusual to pay $30 and more for wines. Yet there are still many bargains to be found throughout the Northwest. Typically, value reds come from larger producers — A to Z, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Covey Run, Columbia Crest, Hogue Cellars, Precept Brands and Ste. Chapelle, for example — but we also find plenty of bargains with mid-sized and smaller wineries, too. In today's winemaking world, most wines are made to be consumed in their youth, typically fewer than five years after purchase. That's not usually a problem because the average consumer drinks wine within a few days of purchase.
That said, here are a few bargain reds to try.
Covey Run Winery 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $9: Winemaker Kate Michaud lords over one of the Northwest's largest wineries, and she continues to achieve quality with quantity. Smoky pie cherries, chocolate, root beer and shavings of cedar fill the nose. Open up a can of pie cherries with the syrup and you begin to get a sense of the flavors. Cola, cranberries and substantial tannins make for a lengthy finish.
Snoqualmie Vineyards 2007 Whistle Stop Red, Columbia Valley, $10: Winemaker Joy Andersen crafts this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot into an enjoyable mix of blueberry, boysenberry and Van cherry with white chocolate. Its finish of pomegranate juice and firm tannin will pair well with pot roast, puttanesca and artisan pizzas.
Latah Creek Wine Cellars 2008 Fox Vineyards Sangiovese, Wahluke Slope, $11: A program of sweet oak makes for a fun bouquet of Bing cherries, toasted marshmallow, malted milk balls and vanilla extract. The cheery drink has hints of a Brown & Haley Cherry Mountain Bar with cherries, chocolate and nuts. There's nice white strawberry acidity and smooth tannins to balance.
Pend d'Oreille Winery 2007 Bistro Rouge, Washington, $12: Stephen Meyer's winery in the the Idaho Panhandle became one of the first in the Northwest to "go green" with a bargain release, offering to re-fill this perennially popular blend in a magnum. This wine reveals an abundance of red currants, Rainier cherries, raspberries, cedar and chocolate-covered orange peel.
Buried Cane 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington, $15: This Cab opens with a twist. Dusty black cherries, strawberries, boysenberry, moist earth and pumpkin spice aromas transition into a drink with delicious flavors to match. It's nicely balanced with a bit of chalkiness that doesn't detract from the finish of strawberries and coffee.
Kamiak 2007 Rock Lake Red, Columbia Valley, $15: Gordon Brothers in Pasco streamlined the label for its second-tier program. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Malbec open with an opulent nose of cassis, black cherries, raspberry jam, bittersweet chocolate, black pepper and coffee. The structure is rich with more raspberry jam, a pinch of pepper, some chocolaty tannins and blueberry acidity.
Hyatt Vineyards 2008 Zillah Gorilla Zinfandel, Rattlesnake Hills, $15: Andy Gamache's winemaking skill, the price point and a cute marketing pitch combine to build a following for this wine. It grabs attention with a nose of blueberries, cherries, smoky oak and rose hips. On the palate comes the bit of sweetness one expects from Zin, along with enjoyable flavors of cordial cherry and strawberry jam.
Waterbrook Winery 2007 Melange Noir, Columbia Valley, $15: This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc from one of Walla Walla's oldest wineries achieves aromas of raspberry and black cherries with enjoyable cedar, a chip of chocolate and a slice of roasted meat. Wild brambleberries move to the front of this drink that's not overmade because of the pie cherry acidity, cedar and herbal tones.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest, a quarterly consumer wine magazine. For more info, go to www.winepressnw.com.