2006 Columbia Crest Chardonnay – H3 and Grand Estates

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Columbia Crest is – by many accounts – a tour de’ force of winemaking when it comes to tier-1 wineries who produce huge volumes and still keep snagging winning scores with wreckless abandon as if there’s no tomorrow.

It’s “yoda-like” winemaker, Ray Einberger, is a genius when it comes to proven know-how of producing award-winning wines at everyday prices most folks can easily afford. His entire line-up from the 2-vine up thru reserve have garnered wide acclaim for him and Columbia Crest as well as opening new doors for the Washington wine industry at large.

We decided to pair up their Grand Estates Chardonnay vs. their newly released H3 line – a wine which uses 100% Horse Heaven hills fruit to see how they stacked up.

2006 Grand Estates Chardonnay:

Technical Notes:

  • Vineyards • Columbia Valley
  • Harvest Date • September 8, 2006
  • Fermentation • 14 days, Premier Cuvée
  • Burgo Blanc, and Chanson yeasts
  • Alcohol • 13.5%
  • Total Acidity • 0.53 g/100ml
  • ph • 3.57
  • $8-$10

Vinification

  • Whole berry Chardonnay was pressed, and the juice was held at 50 degrees in stainless steel tanks for two days.
  • The settled juice was placed into a combination of new and one- to three-year-old American and French oak barrels.
  • After initial fermentation, the wine was re-inoculated to begin malolactic fermentation.
  • All barrels were hand stirred every week for nine months.
  • Blending occurred after a total of nine months in the barrel.

Nose: Toasty pineapple with a hint of grapefruit, orange zest, bosch pear and lemon.

Taste: Good fruit on the front end which lingers good across the mid palate, however, sharply tapers off a the end. Ripe green apple skins mixed with hints of creamy butter, creme brule

2006 H3 Chardonnay:

Technical Notes:

  • Vineyards: Horse Heaven Hills
  • Total acidity: 0.52 g/100ml
  • pH: 3.58
  • Alcohol: 13.6%
  • $12-$15

Vinification

  • Whole berry Chardonnay from select vineyards was pressed, the juice was held at 50 degrees in stainless steel tanks for two days.
  • 40% of the grapes were barrel fermented in new American and French oak, and 30% in older oak barrels to create complexity and maintain the fruit integrity.
  • 30% of the juice was fermented in stainless steel to retain the minerality and fruit-forward elegance of the fruit, characteristics unique to the Horse Heaven Hills region.
  • Various yeasts were used at fermentation; the wines were then inoculated for malolactic fermentation.
  • All barrels were hand-stirred weekly for six to nine months.
  • Blending occured pre-bottling.

Nose: Gooseberry laden apples and pears which have been lightly toasted over a camp-fire. Big time toasted creme on the nose here with hints of some tropical action in the form of coconut, passion fruit and vanilla.

Taste: Nice fruit on the front- creamy mouth-feel on the mid palate with a nice cleansing sensation of the tropical fruits and coconut coming through. Solid effort.. good fruit without being over-oaked… I’m feelin’ this wine… would go stellar with any cream-sauce-based pasta or pizza.

Overall summary:
Once again, I did this blind – having my son pour me each wine in two different glasses without telling me which one was which. All in all, both are a solid effort and represent their respective prices very well – however, if pressed, I’d have to go for the H3 over the Grand Estates all day long.

Kudos to the winemaking team at Columbia Crest for doing a fine job of respresenting our state and making truely tasteful wines very affordable.

-Duane Pemberton

W.E.P. Scale Rating for the Grand Estates: 90%

W.E.P. Scale Rating:for the H3: 100%