Food & Drink

Washington’s Red Mountain Appellation a font of fine red wines

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes ripen on Washington's Red Mountain during the 2013 harvest.
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes ripen on Washington's Red Mountain during the 2013 harvest. GREAT NORTHWEST WINE

Looking for some good red wines to serve this holiday season? Be sure to consider Washington’s Red Mountain Appellation, which has plenty to offer in terms of varietals and body styles at prices to suit most any budget.

Red Mountain is just a 20-minute drive west of Richland in the Tri-Cities, and it’s now home to more than 15 wineries and a number of top-tier vineyards, including Klipsun, Tapteil, and Hedges Estate.

Hamilton Cellars recently opened a new tasting room on Red Mountain, and following an afternoon outing there last month I consider this a must-visit winery if you plan to be near the area.

Husband-and-wife owners Russ and Stacie Hamilton have done a first-class job with a facility that carries an appealing, friendly vibe while offering panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards and fantastic wines produced by omnipresent winemaker Charlie Hoppes.

If malbec is your passion, then Hamilton has you covered. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2009 Malbec (about $30), and the gorgeous 2010 Red Mountain Malbec (about $40), with its intense fruit flavors of blackberry and black cherry, spicy/peppery accents and velvety soft finish.

Two other highly recommended choices include the 2009 Merlot (about $28) and the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $28), which is drinking beautifully with layers of dark fruits and a plush finish enveloped with round, warm notes of toasted vanilla.

Another newcomer to Red Mountain is Frichette Winery, where you’ll find a warm and inviting atmosphere from another husband-and-wife team, Greg and Shae Frichette.

Greg is a Pasco native while Shae hails from South Carolina. Together they’ve created a comfortable tasting room with promising wines that lay the groundwork for a boutique winery worth watching.

Notable current releases include a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $35) and the well-crafted and well-priced 2011 Red Wine (about $25), with blueberry aromas and flavors, supple tannins, and a slightly sultry, smoky finish.

And no mention of Red Mountain would be complete without including two of my old favorites, Kiona Vineyards and Hightower Cellars.

The Kiona Vineyards Winery 2012 Estate Red Mountain Malbec just scored best of varietal honors and a gold medal at this year’s Tri-Cities Wine Festival, while their 2012 Lemberger is hard to beat as a great, lighter-bodied “everyday red” at about $15 a bottle.

At Hightower Cellars, the 2012 Murray Cabernet Sauvignon (about $20) features a new label with a Celtic rose that should be on your must-try list. The wine’s delicate floral aromatics are almost perfume-like, and delicious red fruits are backed with plenty of structure and a slightly herbaceous finish.

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