This week I continue my look at Washington's Horse Heaven Hills Appellation, with an emphasis on red wines grown in and produced from the area.
Located on the north side of the Columbia River on the Oregon/Washington border in the south-central part of our state, the region produces a wide and varied range of red varietals.
Some of the biggest and best wineries in the state are quick to point out that a number of their red wines are sourced from the appellation. Chateau Ste. Michelle? They're there. Columbia Crest? Of course. Quilceda Creek Vintners' four 100-point Cabernet Sauvignons? Each one was sourced in part from Horse Heaven Hills.
Need I say more?
I've enjoyed several wines as of late that carry the Horse Heaven Hills designation. Here are a few recommendations, along with a personal note on the higher-priced wines: They're absolutely worth every penny.
Columbia Crest Winery H3 2010 Merlot (about $15) - Here's a great "everyday" merlot at an affordable price. Fresh raspberry aromas, chocolate cherry flavors, a touch of cocoa powder and a fairly big dollop of vanilla on the finish make this a crowd pleaser.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $30) - Admittedly, I wasn't initially bowled over by this wine. But give it some time to aerate and it opens up nicely, displaying understated flavors of black cherry and espresso and a slightly chewy finish with hints of dried herb.
H/H Estates 2009 Michael Andrews Red Reserve (about $35) - I wasn't familiar with this label from Coyote Canyon Winery when I tried it, but I guarantee I'll be coming back to it. Gorgeous dark fruits predominate, with trailing notes of coffee, chocolate and caramel on a lengthy finish. The blend consists of graciano, tempranillo and grenache.
Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2010 Petit Verdot (about $42) - This is a stunning effort from winemaker Jarrod Boyle, who tames this sometimes brash varietal and turns it into an instantly enjoyable wine. Sweet cedar and berry aromas lead off, while gobs of black cherry and ultra-dark fruit melt into a plush, velvety finish.
Januik Winery Champoux Vineyard 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $45) - Winemaker Mike Januik hits one out of the park yet again with this beautifully balanced, near-perfect cab with incredible dark-purple color, warm vanilla bean on the nose, and opening flavors of blueberry and blackberry that explode on the palate. Even darker black currant comes through on the finish along with a gentle, tannic lift. Outstanding!
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.