Though we are still in the final throes of winter’s feeble clutches, we begin to think about spring and the renewal of life that it brings forth.
We also think about getting out of the house and stocking up the cellar. But knowing that tax day is on the not-too-distant horizon, we still need to keep our budget in mind, so we focus this column on value wines.
In the past several years, the Northwest has honed its reputation on being a premium winemaking region, and that means that many of the bargains we once were able to find have begun to slip away. Yet red, white and pink wines can still be discovered for $15 or less.
As we look down the list of bargains, invariably two wine producers stand out: Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Precept Wine, both in the greater Seattle area. Ste. Michelle runs such wineries as Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, 14 Hands and Snoqualmie — all labels that have wines that fit nicely in our budget. Precept, meanwhile, owns such brands as Waterbrook, Washington Hills, House Wine and Canoe Ridge Vineyard. And it isn’t above creating labels for special occasions.
But they aren’t the only ones crafting bargains. Here are a few delicious and inexpensive reds we’ve tasted in recent weeks.
Songbird Cellars 2013 Lyrical Red, Columbia Valley, $9: Precept Wine created this blend of Syrah and Merlot exclusively for Whole Foods stores in the Northwest. A light hand with oak allows for a nose of black cherry, red currant and cola with whiffs of anise and tar. There’s pleasing balance to its lighter structure that’s focused on Montmorency cherry and blueberry, leading to a finish of plum skin tannins and tangy acidity. (13.6 percent alcohol)
Columbia Crest 2012 H3 Les Chevaux Red Blend, Columbia Valley, $15: Syrah leads the herd of varieties in this blend, which has a healthy backbone of Merlot for structure. Those who enjoys an oak-driven Syrah will appreciate its blackberry, black currant and pomegranate tones with dark toast and licorice accents. (14.5 percent alcohol)
Waterbrook Winery 2012 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $14: Walla Walla’s fourth-oldest winery has a tradition of producing cellar-worthy Merlot, and this wine follows that template. Aromas of blackberry, black cherry, tar and cocoa powder lead to flavors of Marionberry, elderberry and blueberry amid a structure of bright acidity and sturdy tannins. (13.5 percent alcohol)
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $15: The Wahluke Slope might be the sweet spot for Syrah in Washington state, and that’s where Ste. Michelle’s red wine team made the draw for most of this wine. There’s an abundance of vanilla and roasted coffee in front of blackberry, dark plum, blueberry, mint and leather. It’s more fruit-forward on the palate with continued flavors akin to blackberry, black cherry and boysenberry. (13.5 percent alcohol)
Indian Creek Winery 2012 Syrah, Snake River Valley, $15: Winemaker Mike McClure’s work with one of the several Rhône varieties that shine in Idaho’s Snake River Valley offers dark tones of toasted bread, smoky plum and bacon, backed by boysenberry acidity that makes for good length and balance. (13.9 percent alcohol)
Two Mountain Winery NV Hidden Horse Red Blend No. 12, Rattlesnake Hills, $15: In 2000, the Rawn brothers purchased a Yakima Valley orchard planted by their grandfather and began transforming it into their 26-acre Copeland Vineyard. From there, they can see Mount Adams and Mount Rainier. Here’s their introductory, nonvintage blend of Bordeaux varieties, leading with Cabernet Sauvignon. Notes of black currant, plum and blackberry give way to a hint of minerality and fresh cedar. Blueberry acidity and easy tannin make this really drinkable as it leans toward the lighter side of a medium-bodied red. (13.7 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.