Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Monday, January 28, 2008

Widely Available Washington Wines

Even though there are five hundred some odd wineries in Washington, approximately half of the production comes from just a few wineries mostly owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle. Chateau Ste. Michelle, Domaine Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest and Red Diamond are distributed in most American markets. Hogue, owned by Canadian wine conglomerate Vincor, is also widely distributed as are Columbia Winery and the much smaller Fourteen Hands. If you hunt and peck ( try Costco or Trader Joe's) you may find Gordon Bros, Barnard Griffin, Waterbrook or Apex. If you are really lucky, you may turn up K Vintner, L'Ecole, Seven Hills or even Novelty Hill. You may even turn up the much vaunted Andrew Will,Leonetti, Quilceda Creek or Cayuse. Although it is unfortunate not to be able to taste such Washington wonders as Brian Carter, Januik, Cadence, Fall Line, OS, Note Bene, or Amaurice, there are some remarkably user- friendly values available from the big producers. Here are a few recently tasted:

1) 2003 Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon - I've been drinking the Merlot for so long, I seem to have forgotten that Red Diamond makes a Cab. This was a pleasant surprise -lots of user-friendly fruit followed by some gentle tannin. Made me want to have a steak. Available in supermarket for about $9 ( $7 or $8 on sale.).

2) 2005 Hogue Chardonnay - Good basic Chardonnay with the usual green apple flavors. Fairly dry for an American wine. Good with food. A good value at about $8.

3) 2004 Columbia Crest "Two Vines" Chardonnay - Widely available (try any gas station in Washington), this wine is actually smoother and fruitier than the Hogue. Easy, great on it's own. About $7.

4) 2004 Columbia Crest "Grand Estates" Chardonnay - Drier than the "Two Vines", it is designed to go with food. I actually prefer to "Two Vines." About $8-$11.

5) 2003 Columbia Crest Merlot - Nicely balanced with lots of friendly berry fruit. Excellent value at about $7.

6) 2005 Waterbrook Chardonnay - Tart green apples, good with food. Is it worth the price difference? About $11.

7) 2006 Gordon Bros. - Jeff Gordon does it again! Not as smooth as the award-winning 2003, this one just need to age to surpass its ancestor. Beautiful, complex black berry fruit followed by a dollop of tannin. Almost European in it's structure, this wine deserves kudos and should be great in, say, 2010. This is definitely one for Ryan's cellar. About $18.

8) 2003 14 Hands Merlot - To this day, my original post on 14 Hands gets more hits than any other. Something about the name really struck a chord - perhaps a nostalgic longing for a simpler, more civil America. The wine is good, too, although this bottle doesn't seem as robust as previous bottles. Still, it's fruity, and light to medium bodied with mild cherry vanilla flavors. About $12.


  • At 11:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i'm a bit confused by your post. it seems to me that you maybe trying to write for an audience outside of WA or Seattle because i've been able to find many wineries, even the elusive ones, at local wine shops such as mccarthy & schiering, esquin, seattle cellars, pike & western, pete's, etc. and many of these shops do tastings so i've been able to try fall line, cadence, etc.

  • At 10:10 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Thanks for your comment. You are right. You can pretty much find "anything you want" at seattle wine shops, but the Seattle Wine Blog is also read by people all over the United States and in many countries around the world. Gene

  • At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Can't agree on the Columbia Crest chard. Tastes like cotton candy to me. Too sweet and over-oaked.

  • At 8:28 PM, Blogger jeffdav said…

    The best of the Red Diamond wines, IMHO, is the Syrah. Likewise, it is about $9. It is in the same class as the lower end Penfold's Shirazs and is way better then things like Little Penguin or the cheap Rosemounts.

    I just moved to California and I haven't been able to find anything other than Ste Michelle and Columbia Crest in the grocery stores. I haven't had time to try the real wine shops.

  • At 8:29 PM, Blogger jeffdav said…

    And I don't think you'll find Cayuse anywhere. They are only available through the mailing list... which I had to wait two years to get on to. If you find it for sale it is someone on the list reselling.

  • At 11:36 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Anon, one person's garbage is another person's treasure. In fact, Columbia Crest "Two Vines" Chardonnays to the taste of most American wine drinkers. I can certainly understand your "cotton candy" comment. You shouldn't drink Colmbia Crest Chardonnay, perhaps Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand would be more to your taste or would it be Montrachet - I'd be happy to help you with a bottle. Thanks, Gene

  • At 12:10 AM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Jeffdav, sorry to hear you are no longer in Washington. Hope you will continue your blog. There is certainly plenty of material for a wine blog in California.

    Valiant effort to get on Cristophe's mailing list! It turns out that Cayuse and Leonetti go to certain distributors and restaurants around the U.S. and, perhaps, in France, too? And thus, are, perhaps, more available, to non-mailing list buyers outside of Washington -the very people I wrote this post for ( There's my dangling preposition to match anon's "vineyards you've tasted from" in his comment on my Ten Best Vineyards)

    Anyway, I am glad to hear that you are on the Cayuse mailing list and thanks for the tip on Red Diamond Syrah. I will check it out. Gene

    P.S. If you tell me where you are in California I may have a few suggestions for you. Your comment perfectly illustrates the problem I was trying to address for folks outside of Washington State.


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