Category Archives: USA – Washington

Tamarack Cellars, Columbia Valley (Washington) “Firehouse Red” 2017

($20):  Given the blend, Syrah (33%), Cabernet Sauvignon (27%), Merlot (18%), Cabernet Franc (11%), Mourvèdre (3%), and 2% each of Grenache, Counoise, Sangiovese and Petit Verdot, they could have called it “Kitchen Sink Red.”  But it works.  Fruit flavors mix with savory ones.  Fine tannins make it lovely for current drinking and bright acidity keeps it interesting throughout a meal.  Thankfully, it does not finish sweet.  The world needs more $20 wines that deliver this kind of pleasure.
88 Michael Apstein Nov 24, 2020

Mullan Road Cellars, Columbia Valley (Washington) Red Wine Blend 2016

($45):  Unsurprisingly, wine webinars in the era of Covid-19 are hit or miss.  One that I highly recommend is the SommCon Geographical Digest Series, a collaboration between The Somm Journal and National Geographic, during which I tasted this wine, which was previously unknown to me.  Founded in 2012 by Dennis Cakebread of the family that started Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley almost 50 years ago, Mullan Road Cellars makes one wine, a Bordeaux blend.  The precise components of the blend change year to year, as they do in Bordeaux, depending on how each variety fares during the growing season.  The 2016, a seamless blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (51%), Merlot (29%) and Cabernet Franc, delivers enchanting savory aromas — olives and herbs — which follow on the palate.  Fruit flavors emerge, but do not predominate.  Waves of flavor cascade on the palate as the wine opens. Simultaneously refined and powerful, it is not overdone.  There’s a delightful hint of bitterness in the finish that reminds you this is a serious wine.  It would be twice the price if it carried a Napa Valley appellation, but since wines from Washington lack Napa’s cachet, it’s a bargain for what it delivers.  Don’t miss it.
95 Michael Apstein Nov 24, 2020

Columbia Winery, Columbia Valley (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

($16):  This is why people love Cabernet.  Not just fruit, but enticing hints of herbs and savory notes penetrate this wine.  Similar to Columbia Winery’s Merlot, this Cabernet finishes with bitterness, not sweetness, which I find is essential if you want to drink more than a sip.  Though it has fine tannins, it has more structure — as it should since it’s Cabernet Sauvignon — than their Merlot.    The next time you have friends over who are interested in learning about wine, taste Columbia Winery’s Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon side-by-side.  It is a delightful educational exercise to distinguish the differences between wines made from those two grapes.  You can focus on the differences between the grapes since the winemaking is similar for both.
89 Michael Apstein Nov 6, 2018

Columbia Winery, Columbia Valley (Washington) Merlot 2016

($16):  Here is a reminder that good character-filled wine is available for less than $20.  A solid and deep Merlot, it combines herbal nuances with dark fruit notes.  Supple tannins mean it’s perfect for a hearty beef dish tonight.  A delectable hint of bitterness in the finish reinforces the idea that this Merlot is meant more for the table than for, “I’ll have a glass of Merlot” at the bar.
90 Michael Apstein Nov 6, 2018

Canvasback, Red Mountain (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon “Grand Passage” 2014

($80):  Canvasback, Duckhorn’s outpost in Washington State, has turned out a masterful Cabernet from the 2014 vintage.  It’s a “big” Cabernet, to be sure, but not overblown, hot, or out of balance.  Indeed, it is precisely the combination of expressiveness and elegance with its density that is so awesome.  Plush tannins provide structure without being aggressive.  Fresh acidity amplifies the gorgeous black fruit qualities complemented by mineral notes and prevents palate fatigue.  You want to return for another sip.  Engaging now, especially with a holiday roast, its balance suggests cellaring for a decade or so will be rewarding. 95 Michael Apstein Dec 5, 2017

Mercer Wine Estates, Horse Heaven Hills (Columbia Valley) “Sharp Sisters” 2015

($25):  This red blend, comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon (29%), Syrah (27%), Merlot (18%), Petit Verdot (14%), Grenache (10%) and Carignan, has the power you’d expect from those varieties.  This big, bold, New World-styled wine shows a hint of “not just fruit” elements in the finish. Soft-ish tannins and bright acidity provide structure without dampening the wines underlying ripeness.  Those preferring opulence over subtlety and nuance in their wines, will embrace this one.  It would be ideal for a hearty beef dish this winter. 90 Michael Apstein Nov 21, 2017

Cadaretta, Columbia Valley (Washington) “Windthrow” 2014

($50):  This Rhône blend — Syrah (76%), Mourvèdre (15%), and Grenache — delivers both power and elegance.  Layers of flavors emerge with each sip, which harmonize and complement each other.  The earthy, almost animal-like nuances, offset the ripe black fruit qualities.  This is a wine to ponder because much is revealed in its long finish.  Its stature and complexity would show best against simple food, such as pan-seared steak. 93 Michael Apstein Nov 21, 2017

Cadaretta, Walla Walla Valley (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon Southwind Vineyard 2014

($75): This single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon — which does contain 5 percent each of Malbec and Petit Verdot — is considerably more powerful and youthful than Cadaretta’s “Springboard” bottling.  At this stage, it’s quite closed with a combination of deep black fruit and mineral-like flavors peeking out.  It’s beautifully balanced with no heat in the finish despite its 14.8% stated alcohol.  Indeed, there’s an appealing hint of bitterness in the finish that also belies the level of alcohol, which frequently comes across as sweetness.  With time in the glass (hours, really), its allure starts to emerge.  But frankly, this is a wine to cellar for several years.  I’d happily drink Cadaretta’s Springboard while waiting.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 11, 2017

Cadaretta, Columbia Valley (Washington) “Springboard” 2014

($50): Cadaretta’s website describes Springboard as their “reserve-quality Bordeaux-varietal blend made from the top barrels of the vintage.”  Despite the large proportion of heavy hitting Bordeaux varieties — Malbec and Petit Verdot comprise almost 1/5th of the blend — the wine does not hit you over the head.  Indeed, it is remarkably elegant. A hint of toasty oak on the nose catches your attention, but does not overwhelm. The flavors actually dance on the palate.  Supported by fine tannins and juicy acidity, it’s a well-balanced and stylish wine.  And behold, the stated alcohol is less than 14 percent. Though $50 is a lot for a bottle of wine, Cadaretta’s Springboard delivers more than many Bordeaux blends that cost far more.
94 Michael Apstein Jul 11, 2017

Cadaretta, Columbia Valley (Washington) “SBS” 2015

($23): Cadaretta has consistently excelled with their SBS bottling, using the initials of the grapes to name this wine.  A Bordeaux-like blend of Sauvignon Blanc (90%) and Semillon, it’s a balanced, harmonious wine.  The addition of Semillon adds a lanolin-like texture and depth without eviscerating the pleasant pungency of Sauvignon Blanc.  Crisp and long, it screams for summertime fare.
92 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Horse Heaven Hills (Columbia Valley, Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon Canoe Ridge Estate 2011

($30): This marvelous Cabernet, approachable now, combines elegance with power.  Not as concentrated as Chateau Ste. Michelle’s rendition from the Cold Creek Vineyard, this release from Horse Heaven Hills displays more refinement at this stage, while still delivering plenty of oomph.  It’s a stylish wine that would be a terrific choice tonight with a rib eye steak.
91 Michael Apstein Sep 2, 2014

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen, Columbia Valley (Washington) Riesling “Eroica Gold” 2012

($30): The 2012 Eroica Gold, the inaugural vintage for this super wine, may explain the exceptional quality of the 2012 Eroica.  If I had to guess, the winemaking team compulsively selected grapes — ones with even a hint of extra ripeness went into the Gold Eroica keeping the 2012 Eroica even brighter and more vibrant than usual.  Not that Eroica Gold isn’t bright and vibrant.  Indeed, you should judge sweet wines by their acidity and verve, not their sweetness.  Using that standard, Eroica Gold gets an A.  Brilliant riveting acidity offsets flavors of apricot skin and ripe yellow peaches and amplifies the lush long finish. A touch too sweet for most foods — although I wouldn’t argue if there were spicy Asian fare on the table — it’s a perfect choice for cheese or as dessert.  (I avoid serving sweet wines with desert because the sweetness of dessert often fights the sweetness of the wine.) 95 Michael Apstein Dec 24, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen, Columbia Valley (Washington) Riesling “Eroica” 2012

($22): In 1999, Dr. Ernst Loosen, a leading producer in the Mosel (the ancestral home of the Riesling grape) and Chateau Ste Michelle embarked on a collaboration to produce world class Riesling in Washington’s Columbia Valley.  The collaboration made sense since Chateau Ste Michelle was among the first to plant Riesling in Washington and the Dr. Loosen estate had been making Riesling in the Mosel for over 200 years.  Their Eroica has always been a fine wine, but the gorgeous 2012 is likely their best ever.  This exciting Riesling has it all — fresh floral white peaches buttressed by firm mineraly and laser-like acidity.  The flavors dance across the palate.  Its vibrancy, the essential component of Riesling and lacking in so many versions, makes this wine a standout.  Drink it as a show-stopping aperitif, with spicy Asian fare, or roast duck.  For that matter, drink it with most anything.
95 Michael Apstein Dec 17, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Chardonnay Indian Wells 2012

($18): Though a more restrained — thankfully — style of Chardonnay, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Indian Wells bottling doesn’t lack flavor.  A subtle creaminess enhances the spicy tropical fruit-tinged flavors.  It’s 14.5% stated alcohol shows as a touch of heat in the finish, but doesn’t detract once you match this wine with grilled swordfish.
87 Michael Apstein Nov 5, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Merlot Indian Wells 2011

($17): Chateau Ste Michelle has pumped up this Merlot by adding Syrah (15%) to the blend thereby creating a plumy ripe wine.  Still the black fruit doesn’t obliterate the engaging subtle leafy funkiness characteristic of real Merlot.  The overall impression is a lovely combination of deep dark fruit with hints of earth.  The polished tannins and overall ripeness means you can pull the cork tonight to accompany a steak.
89 Michael Apstein Nov 5, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen, Columbia Valley (Washington) Riesling “Eroica” 2012

($20): Eroica, a collaboration of Ernst Loosen of Germany’s Dr. Loosen and Bob Bertheau of Chateau Ste. Michelle, has been one of the finest Rieslings made in America since its 1999 debut.  It’s a blend of grapes grown throughout eastern Washington, composed by Loosen and Bertheau (after all, the wine is named for Beethoven’s Third Symphony).  The 2010 and 2011 vintages were unusually cool and produced Eroicas with scintillating acidity and firm structure.  The 2012, from a warm growing season, is a bit softer and fruitier, brimming with ripe peach, apricot and citrus character, yet still with mouthwatering acidity that balances the 1.66 g/100ml residual sugar.  My own taste is for a leaner, racier Riesling, such as the 2011 Eroica, yet the 2012 is more generous, luscious and accessible.
92 Linda Murphy Oct 22, 2013

Cougar Crest Estate Winery, Walla Walla (Washington) Syrah 2008

($34): Founded only in 2001, Cougar Crest Estate Winery is a name worth remembering, at least judging from this stylish Syrah.  Syrah has gotten bad press recently with many critics lamenting its failure to deliver distinctiveness.  Not so with this one.  Seductive savory elements compliment the rich ripe black fruit notes in this wine that shows the all too elusive combination of power and grace.  Plush tannins allow you to enjoy this summer with grilled lamb.  It took a Gold Medal at the 2013 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 9, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Columbia Valley, Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon Cold Creek Vineyard 2010

($30): More tannic and muscular than Chateau Ste. Michelle’s very good Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet, their Cold Creek Vineyard bottling is mineraly and dense. It is far less approachable at this stage than their Canoe Ridge Estate, which makes it a good candidate for a couple of more years in the bottle before pulling the cork. A long and charming finish suggests the additional aging will be worth it.
92 Michael Apstein May 28, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Sauvignon Blanc 2012

($11): Chateau Ste. Michelle has a way with their “entry level” wines. Year in and year out their Columbia Valley Riesling is easy to recommend. So too is this Sauvignon Blanc. A beautiful combination of subtle tropical fruit offset by just the right amount of bite and verve keeps you coming back for more. Not tiring, this refreshing and zesty wine would be a good choice for steamed clams, grilled fish or even linguine with clam sauce. And what a value.
88 Michael Apstein May 28, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Riesling Cold Creek Vineyard 2012

($18): Although Chateau Ste. Michelle does a consistently fine job with its entire range of varietal wines, they are especially talented when it comes to Riesling. This one is pure and precise. Its subtle sweetness is underpinned by riveting acidity, making it a superb choice either as a stand-alone aperitif or to accompany full flavored Asian cuisine.
91 Michael Apstein May 28, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Horse Heaven Hill (Columbia Valley, Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon Canoe Ridge Estate 2010

($30): Horse Heaven Hills, one of Washington’s most prestigious areas for wine, is a name worth remembering. Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Cabernet from there is dense and smoky with a rich, almost chocolate-like nuance. It combines power and succulence without overdoing it. Supple tannins allow you to enjoy it now, with a steak.
90 Michael Apstein May 28, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Chardonnay Unoaked 2011

($17): Chateau Ste. Michelle, one of the locomotives of the Washington State wine industry, produces a series of “limited release” wines. Wendy Stuckey, their talented white winemaker, made only about 2,500 bottles of this unoaked Chardonnay. Delivering a crisp green apple-like fruitiness, it has a refreshing austerity. Stuckey and her team show that you can make satisfying and distinctive wine with a reasonable level of alcohol–13%. It’s worth the search.
90 Michael Apstein Apr 30, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington State) Cabernet Sauvignon Cold Creek Vineyard 2009

($30): A big step up from their very good Columbia Valley Cabernet, this single vineyard bottling from Chateau Ste Michelle is worth the premium. Although it’s more concentrated, its real virtue lies in the plethora of flavors it delivers. To complement the black fruit, there’s minerality and hints of earth that impart a savory component. The tannins are quite suave and polished, making it a terrific choice now for an important dinner.
92 Michael Apstein Feb 19, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington State) “Boreal” Red Wine 2009

($30): Chateau Ste. Michelle is on a roll with their Rhône-style wines. This gorgeous blend of Syrah (95%) and Viognier is another winner. It’s another one limited release wine, only 603 cases, that is worth the search. The Viognier adds intrigue and lift to the Syrah. But the Syrah is no slouch with gamey elements and an alluring slightly bitter finish. It’s a wine that delivers a savory component along with a dollop of earthy minerality that offsets the ripe fruit flavors. Let’s hope they can make more of it.
92 Michael Apstein Feb 19, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington State) Mourvèdre Wahluke Slope 2009

($30): With only 613 cases produced, it will be difficult to find this wine. But it’s worth the search. At first glance, Mourvèdre, a grape that needs lots of heat to ripen, would seem out of place in Washington State. But one taste tells you it is not. Marvelous herbal and savory elements act as a perfect foil for the black fruit notes in the glass. Each sip brings more nuances–a little earth, a hint of bitterness, some spice. Suave tannins, which seem to be the hallmark of Chateau Ste. Michelle, make it lovely for current consumption.
93 Michael Apstein Feb 19, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington State) Merlot Canoe Ridge Estate 2010

($30): Good Merlot wines, like this one, should deliver at least a hint of leafy slightly funky notes that offset the ripe fruit flavors. Bob Bertheau’s team at Chateau Ste. Michelle has managed to balance the fruit, herbal nuances and oak so nothing dominates while conveying what I call “not just fruit” flavors. Unlike many Merlots, it finishes slightly bitter, not sweet.
89 Michael Apstein Feb 19, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington State) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

($15): At long last we are starting to see well-priced solid domestic Cabernet Sauvignon on the market. Bob Bertheau and his team have put together this straightforward Cabernet that delivers a delightful combination of fruit and herbs wrapped in polished tannins. Thankfully, it’s not a massive blockbuster, but rather it’s a beautifully balanced Cabernet with far more complexity than you’d expect at the price. It’s perfect for current consumption and a bargain to boot.
89 Michael Apstein Feb 19, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington State) Syrah “Ethos” 2009

($40): With Ethos, their Reserve bottling, Chateau Ste. Michelle brings together a fine amalgam of meaty and fruity flavors, both sides of what Syrah can offer. They should be congratulated because it’s clearly difficult to achieve this kind of balance. Bright acidity makes this a wine for food, not a stand alone aperitif. Suave tannins supporting the robust flavors mean it’s perfect for this winter’s hearty fare. Despite its stated 15.5% alcohol, there’s not a touch of heat in the long and impressive finish, just going to show that some varietals handle alcohol better than others.
91 Michael Apstein Feb 19, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Chardonnay 2011

($15): Chateau Ste. Michelle knows its goals and achieves them on a regular basis. When they want to make a top of the line, head spinning wine, they do. When they set their sites on a more modest everyday type of wine, such as this Chardonnay, they also succeed admirably. More restrained than most, it delivers a nice balance of apple-like fruitiness supported by just a hint of creamy citrus notes. I wish more $15 Chardonnays tasted liked this.
88 Michael Apstein Jan 8, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Riesling “Waussie” 2011

($22): Chateau Ste. Michelle, a world leader for Riesling, has done it again with this distinctive one. Super-talented Australian winemaker, Wendy Stuckey, calls it “Waussie” (Washington + Australia) Riesling because of its crisp Aussie style. I call it terrific. Citrus-infused and dry (appropriately indicated on the back label with the International Riesling Foundations [IRF] scale), its riveting acidity may overwhelm you if you sip as an aperitif. But that precise palate-awakening aspect makes it a perfect choice for spicy Pan Asian fare or just a simple pork roast. Clean, precise and long, it’s a delight to see such a glorious Riesling coming from these shores. Don’t miss it.
92 Michael Apstein Jan 8, 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Pinot Gris 2011

($15): Although Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape, the wines under those labels tend to be different with Pinot Gris having more ripeness and presence on the palate than the lighter styled Pinot Grigio. Chateau Ste. Michelle has hit a bull’s eye with their Pinot Gris. They’ve balanced a pear-like ripeness–and an ever so slightly gritty texture–with great vibrancy. Not terribly complex, it’s fresh, lively and extremely satisfying. It’s a superb choice for Asian-influence foods.
90 Michael Apstein Jan 1, 2013

Cadaretta, Columbia Valley (Washington) “SBS” 2011

($23):  Both the Sauvignon Blanc (the SB of the SBS) and Semillon (the S) speak clearly, but neither dominates in this beautifully polished wine.  Sauvignon Blanc explains the wine’s brightness and vibrancy while Semillon’s presence is clear from the creamy lanolin-like texture.  The modest 13% stated alcohol reinforces the balance.  This Bordeaux blend is a sophisticated wine nicely suited for grilled fish.  It’s a star. 92 Michael Apstein Oct 9, 2012

Chateau Ste Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Sweet Riesling “Harvest Select” 2011

($18):  Sweet – yes, cloying – no. This long and refined wine has the requisite verve to carry the richness of late harvested grapes.  Not heavy, it dances across the palate with remarkable balance.  These people know how to make Riesling.  Drink it with spicy Asian fare, with fresh fruit or by itself, as desert. 92 Michael Apstein Oct 2, 2012

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen, Columbia Valley (Washington) Riesling “Eroica” 2011

($20):  Dr. Loosen, the famed German producer, and Chateau Ste. Michelle joined forces over a decade ago with the aim of making a stunning Riesling in Washington.  Well, they’ve succeeded and its name is Eroica.  The 2011, which may be their best ever, has a brilliant combination of lacey fruitiness–an almost Spätlese ripeness–offset by riveting acidity.   A Mosel-like delicacy makes this wine very appealing as an aperitif or with a full range of summertime dishes.  And the 11%-stated alcohol reminds us that you don’t need super ripe grapes to produce super wine. 93 Michael Apstein Aug 14, 2012

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Gewurztraminer 2010

($9):  What’s so remarkable about Château Ste. Michelle, Washington’s largest producer, is their ability to make terrific inexpensive as well as stunning high-end wines.  This bargain-priced Gewürztraminer delivers spiced fruit-flavors (gewürz means spicy), cutting citrus acidity and a whiff of sweetness that amplifies the wine’s spicy side.  It would work equally well as an aperitif or with roast pork. 88 Michael Apstein Feb 21, 2012

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen, Columbia Valley (Washington) Riesling “Eroica” 2010

($20):  Eroica, a joint project between Dr. Loosen, one of Germany’s top Riesling producers, and Chateau Ste. Michelle, has been a smashing success since its launch in 1999.  The 2010 continues that tradition with a delicate lacy fruitiness beautifully complemented by bracing and zesty citrus-like acidity.  The flavors dance across the palate.  It would be an equally fine choice as a stand-alone aperitif or to accompany roast pork. 92 Michael Apstein Feb 14, 2012

Buty, Columbia Valley (Washington) Semillon Sauvignon Muscadelle 2009

($25):  In this white Bordeaux blend, every variety seems to contribute without dominating.  Muscadelle (8%) brings appealing and delicate floral notes, while the Semillon (65%) adds body and a seductive creamy waxiness.  The Sauvignon Blanc gives the wine verve and bright acidity.  A harmonious package, additional flavors and nuances emerge with each sip.  It’s a versatile wine that would work equally nicely as a stand-alone aperitif or as an accompaniment to an elegant roasted chicken with a mushroom cream sauce. 91 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2012

Chateau Ste Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) White Riesling Late Harvest Reserve “Ethos” 2008

($35):  Sweet wines, such as this one (sold in a 375 ml bottle) with 23% residual sugar, need to be judged on their acidity, not their sweetness.  Without adequate acidity, the wine will be cloying and syrupy.  This one has fabulous enlivening acidity and verve that just amplifies the apricot-tinged flavors that explode on the palate.  Long and suave, with layers of dried fruit flavors and a honey-like richness, it’s wonderfully zesty and alive.  Have it with cheese or for dessert. 96 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2012

Buty Winery, Columbia Valley (Washington) Merlot/ Cabernet Franc 2009

($40):  Caleb Foster, Buty’s winemaker and part owner, loves to blend wines.  His Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blend (also reviewed this week) is masterful.  In that same vein is this Merlot-Cabernet Franc mixture, a blend that is popular in St. Emilion and Pomerol on Bordeaux’s right-bank.  Buty’s is ripe, but not sweet, with clear enticing herbal notes that remind you that wine can deliver so much more than just fruit flavors.  Young and vigorous now, its balance suggests it will develop beautifully (no pun intended) in the cellar. 90 Michael Apstein Nov 29, 2011