A Bottle for the Road: Columbia Winery Tasting
July 10, 2009 by Erin Thomas
People have recently decided that I am a writer.
This is something that I’ve known for, oh, 15 years when I was writing short stories about fantastic voyages staring my grandfather as a detective and conducting interviews with relatives for my bi-monthly family newsletter that ran for almost a year. Hey, I was 12, I got bored.
Now, on my 70-somethingth post and 17th month writing abottle/aweek, rest assured boredom is not an issue. Fret not, faithful readers/Mom.
The People’s decision is a heavy one and seems to be gaining weight by the week. I guess people actually read my stuff! I am a writer! This week’s post is a direct result of this increased exposure to this blog/nonsense/wine drinking problem of mine.
After being contacted via Facebook, email and strangely enough on my cell (am I in some directory or something?), wineries and PR people are starting to track me down. It could be due to the fact that I have been “networking” (aka stalking down media relations folk) with people who know people who make decisions.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to come out and taste at Columbia Winery. I went yesterday morning and tasted 17 wines before noon. I’m like a pro.
With a few more upcoming similar invites that I have received, this is the inaugural post of a segment I like to call: “A Bottle for the Road” (hear that in a late show announcer voice).
But please don’t drink, drive and blame it on me.
With open arms and lot of handshakes (they think I’m a writer!!!), I was welcomed into Columbia Winery. The newly re-opened, refurbished, moderately re-staffed Columbia Winery.
With the David Lake established enterprise moving its longstanding production equipment out to eastern Washington, accompanied by new ownership by the California-based Ascentia Wine Estates, Columbia Winery lost a bit of their authentic “Woodinville Winery” allure.
Mercifully, a make-over was in the cards, with a new winemaker, a completely renovated tasting room with additional pouring bars, squatting stations and an outdoor trellis soon to be open with a pizza oven.
Wine educator and in-house chef, Jeff Lantz, is the man you want to have behind the bar. Considering he poured me 17 tastes and I’ve already hit the 400 word mark, below are the ones I remember…
Out of three different Chardonnays, the 2005 vintage from Prosser’s Wyckoff Vineyard, fermented in new French oak, surprisingly was my favorite. With 10 months in the barrel, this Chardonnay is nonetheless light, crisp and acidic, with lots of citrus, some minerality, pear and green apple both on the nose and palate. Fairly aromatic for 100% Chardonnay. Delightfully refreshing, despite this being my first wine I tasted and only 15 minutes after I brushed my teeth.
Out of a line up of red wine varietals, there were two Cabs that stuck out with their balance and refined practice, courtesy of our nation’s first Master of Wine, David Lake. The 2003 Otis Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon had the density and fruit concentration only a 52-year-old vineyard like this one could produce. Deep, dark fruit, leather and cedar aromas spill out of this glass (thank you, Jeff, for using the Venturi) with that depth flooding over onto the palate with chewy dark cherry, supple tannins and coaxed by age in the finish.
A little old, a little new, the next in line was the 2006 Red Willow Vineyard Cabernet. This was the last wine I tasted that sealed the deal on the idea of “vineyard specific.” After tasting several single-varietals from the Red Willow Vineyard, caramel, cedar and leather tones are a product of this site, which stands alone in high northeastern corner of Yakima Valley where another vine isn’t seen for 20 miles.
Balancing out with fruit and earth, this 2006 Cab promises potential and continuous length of that caramel, cedar and leather.
Finishing with a few dessert wines, the 2007 Columbia Valley Gewurztraminer, standing at a reasonable 3.1% residual sugar, the nose breathed out undeniable lychee nut, and honeysuckle with flavors of spice and grapefruit. I could drink lots of that, leading to a horrible headache the next day. I refrained.
For all the flack I give larger production wineries – Columbia tops out at 500,000-750,000 cases (Correction: production is 150,000), vintage-dependent – I’ve found you just have to weed out the good from the bad, simply by tasting everything their winery has to offer. Which means 17 wines.
Scoring my overall experience at Columbia Winery, with my wine selection to write home to, I’d say I left happy with it all. And drunk.