Just about every wine-drinker in the state of Washington and well beyond its boarders – is Columbia Crest. There is few other wineries this side of Chateau St. Michelle which have done more to propigate and further the local industry. It’s reach is very pervasive and they’ve done a great deal to help promote the greater good of Washington wines.
For years now, it has had its 2-vine (cheap) series, a Grand Estates version and Reserve – earlier this year, however, it introduced its H3 brand. It’s called H3 because of its Horse Heaven Hills designated vineyards in which 100% of the fruit comes from. In contrast, Grand Estates could be sourced from other places within the greater Columbia Valley.
Starting at around the $10 mark, its Grand Estates is generally a pretty safe-bet as far as wine values go. It’s typically a fruit-bomb with layers of oak and some good complexity for its price.
The H3 label is a more premium one which fills the price-gap in its current line-up between the Grand Estates and Reserve lines. This was my first time with the H3 merlot, so it was fun for me to be able to check out what’s going on there.
2005 Grand Estates Merlot: W.E.P. Scale Rating: 80%
• Total acidity: 0.61 g/100ml
• pH: 3.73
• Alcohol: 13.9%
• Grapes were destemmed and crushed with 10% whole berries
remaining, then fermented on skins 7-10 days with a twice-daily
pumpover regime to gently extract color, aromas and flavors.
• The wine aged for 12-14 months in French (60%) and American
(40%) oak barrels. The blend includes Viognier (co-fermented)
to add complexity to the bouquet and also depth and nuance
to the finished wine.
Nose: Subtle blackberry and raw venison on the nose with dashes of pepper. The Vanilla isn’t near as strong here as it is on the H3 Merlot. I get some shoe leather, and the smell of carmalized carrots.
Taste: All fruit forward with little across the mid and zilch on the end of the palate. Dried blackberry and black cherry with components of leather and spice. This wine is a total fruit bomb made for those folks as a good alternative to other similarly-priced or cheaper merlots.
Summary: I didn’t like this one as much as the H3 and I was even poured them in a blind scenario (had my son bring both glasses out to me without telling me what they were). Its finish wasn’t near as long or smooth as the H3 and quite frankly there are other wines in its price-range which I find more interesting.
2005 H3 Merlot: W.E.P. Scale Rating: 100%
• Total acidity: 0.55 g/100ml
• pH: 3.69
• Alcohol: 14.3%
• Grapes were crushed at 30% whole-berry to retain the fruit quality.
• Fermentation lasted 7-14 days on the skins to extract optimum fruit and structural components.
• Various yeasts were used to maintain fruit flavors and complexity.
• Malolactic fermentation occurred in stainless steel tanks and oak barrels.
• Blending occurred shortly after malolactic fermentation.
• The wine was barrel aged in 40% new American and French oak, and 60% older oak for 14-18 months.
Nose: Jammy blackberry and blueberry with a hint of leather strip and white pepper. Some big league chew and twizzler action on the nose here. Also picking up the toasted vanilla component from the oak.
Taste: Vanilla-coated blackberries and cherries covered in a dash of pepper. Good fruit forward on the palate – smooth on the mid but gets a bit hot on the back-end of the palate. Picking up a hint of red clay as well on the end.
Summary: This is a well-priced Merlot which brings with it a good amount of worthiness. I like this Merlot and for $12 or so, I’d hit it. It’ll easily pair with any Lamb dish I can think of or a good, artisan-style pizza and red-sauced pasta dishes.