Monday, January 25, 2010

Columbia Crest on the Rise

Much has been made of Columbia Crest lately, which produced the 2010 Wine Spectator Wine of the Year--the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. And while there’s not much more that can usefully be added in terms of the discussion of its crowning, a quick look at the big picture is always instructive.

In fact, the main reason I’m using today’s blog post to link up and discuss Columbia Crest isn’t only because of its Cab, but, rather, because of the range of excellent wines I’ve tasted from it lately. In particular, we’ve been pouring the 2005 Merlot Reserve for certain classes at The Wine School, and every time I open a bottle, I’m amazed by the way it balances complexity with drinkability, a lush texture with enough structure that it benefits from a couple of hours of breathing, and beautiful ripe fruit with a real sense of terroir.

It’s not, unfortunately, what most people would necessarily expect from Columbia Crest. But, then again, there are a number of great producers whose more value-priced wines have sadly had a negative impact on the perception of their higher end ones. (Think of the ocean-sized difference between, say, Mondavi’s Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon--fine for quaffing--and its Reserve, which is often one of the greats of the state.)

The Quarterly Review of Wines recently ran an interesting piece on Dr. Walter Clore, a onetime consultant to Columbia Crest (he passed away in 2003) and namesake of one of its best bottlings, the Walter Clore Private Reserve Red. The Reserve line in its entirety, in fact, notes QRW, “represent[s] the pinnacle of winemaking at Columbia Crest.” I’d take it a step further: They are often among the best, most drinkable wines in the state. And these days, they only seem to be getting better.


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