Category: On the Road with the Grape Guy
April 3rd, 2019 ... A relatively busy day on the docket with four wineries on tap, but two happen to be in the same family (Chateau Ste. Michelle), plus earlier in the week I also visited the "mothership" in Woodinville; there I ended up tasting through a whole bunch of wine including their Canoe Ridge, Cold Creek, and Col Solare lineups. The location in Woodinville is Ste. Michelle's white wine location, while the Canoe Ridge facility is devoted to their red wine production. A 600 acre vineyard planted in 1991 and located in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, which has a very shallow top-soil made up of compressed volcanic ash ... During our visit certain tidbits are released like Ste. Michelle is the single largest producer of Riesling in the world and at this facility they produce 631,000 cases of wine (average annual).
From Canoe Ridge we move our party down the road a spell to Columbia Crest, another property now owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle. Columbia Crest was established in the 1980s and currently has 12,500 acres, but when they started it was a 1970 planting of a mere 2,200 acres. They produce three million cases of wine annually of which 1.2 are under the Columbia Crest label itself and there barrel program contains upwards of 130,000 barrels - that's a lot - they also have one hell of a bottling line.
Between the two wineries these were the wines of note one from each Ste. Michelle - Canoe Ridge - Columbia Crest:
Canoe Ridge 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cold Creek Vineyard … (****)
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Chardonnay, Cold Creek Vineyard … (****)
Columbia Crest 2015 Cabernet Franc, Beverly Vineyard … (****+)
From there we head to Mercer wine estate - to me this place proves that not all Washington State wine is all inspiring - sadly this is formulaic wine making trying to be something for everybody, but achieving mediocre results. Lots of easy drinking wine with lots of fruit but no substantial character oh, man I really hope this one gets better, to me and for me Mercer was a misstep. Only one wine stood out as having any kind of appeal.
2016 Reserve Heritage Blend … (*** ½+)
After the mistake of Mercer we end our day at Hedges - this turns out to be a real high point of the day with a relaxed in-the-kitchen dinner, beautiful views of the surrounding Red Mountains, and two wines that you could drink all day; and well Into the night. A great way to end our time in Washington State.
2017 LeBlanc... (****)
2015 Red Mountain Red... (****+)
Category: On the Road with the Grape Guy
This is now going to be a bi-monthly feature on Two Guys Talking Wine, "Two Thumbs Up", an homage to film reviewers Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, where we simplify the wine reviewing process to a couple of thumbs, or in some cases just one single thumb up, as a way of scoring wines ... you can listen to the accompanying podcast here - or read the notes below (trust me they are different):
2018 Kacaba Unoaked Chardonnay - $15.95 … LCBO.326975
THUMB UP - MICHAEL … Andre I know this is your white grape of choice, hell if you weren’t already married I believe you’d walk a Chardonnay grape down the aisle, and while this is not my style of Chardonnay I can see why some would like it, so I give it a passing grade here.
THUMB UP - ANDRE - Jesus - you’re such a curmudgeon at your reluctant love of this grape. Is this the most exciting Chardonnay in the province - no? But it’s not trying to be! This is a fantastic crowd-pleasing bottle to share with friends.
2018 Flat Rock Riesling - $17.95 … Vintages 43281
THUMB UP - M … I can get behind a Riesling like this with its sweetness, pear, honeysuckle and decnet mineral notes finishing with lemon drop and green apple; if I’m gonna have a fresh Riesling this one hits the mark.
THUMB UP - A - This wine comes from a magic little corner of the province where each bottle of Riesling seems to be better than the last. The perfect amount of sweetness helps orchard fruit pop, and clean mineral leave the finish - very satisfying.
2019 Curvos Vinho Verde Loureiro - $12.95 ... Vintages 471284 (March 2020)
THUMB UP - M … Quite possibly the best wine of the tasting, not only for the price but for what’s in the bottle; the freshness here is outstanding, makes me wish summer was here right now, too bad I have to wait a few months to even think about cracking a bottle.
THUMB UP - A … The floral aromas and bright citrus make this feel like bottled sunshine. A very slight spritz is totally normal for Vinho Verde so no fear if you find a few bubbles in your glass.
2017 Pelee Island J.S. Hamilton Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive - $16.95 … Winery
THUMB UP - A ... There are tropical aromas that climb out of the glass with this bottle - I expect to find that in Pinot Gris from BC or Oregon, but from Ontario it’s unusual. It’s quite appealing, and mated with a nice texture on the mid-palate and a bit of beeswax on the finish. Another wine that has me yearning for summer - I gonna preempt what I know you’re going to say: shut up Michael with your typical “boring grape” nonsense.
THUMB DOWN - M … Since we tasted together I just knew you were going to try to shut down my argument before it even began with your typical “shut up” nonsense; and nonsense is what you are spewing here, this is an (for the most part) unappealing, uninteresting, boring grape and this wine follows right along that path and adds something bitter to the finish so you have something to say about it.
2018 Three of Hearts Pinot Noir Rosé - $19.95 … Vintages 552562
THUMB DOWN - M … Look, I like my Rose fresh and this one just didn’t provide it, I also loved the previous vintage so that might be clouding my judgement here as well.
THUMB UP - A … So it’s clear that your taste buds have no life left in them. While this is only the second vintage of this wine it’s beginning to feel like this may be a flag bearer for Pinot Noir rosé in the province. There is nice confected cherry aromas and flavours - but none of the cloying sweetness that comes with it. A hint of citrus pith comes through on the finish.
2016 16 Mile Civility Chardonnay - $29.95 … Winery Only
THUMB UP - A … The wines from this small boutique winery continue to over-deliver for their price points and the Civility continues that streak, its massively rich and complex from start to finish. This has retained a tremendous amount of acidity in spite of the intensely hot 2016 summer. Pineapple, peach, tangerine, vanilla, spice - all in perfect balance and harmony with each other.
THUMB UP - M … Andre, I couldn't agree more with you, except I didn’t find it \”massive” I found some restraint that I really enjoyed, but there is also so much going on here. Yes, I liked the Rebel Chardonnay, by 16 Mile, but the Civility is well worth the handful of dollars more; more complexity, more fruit, more elegance, there’s just plan more going on here.
2017 16 Mile Exonerated Pinot Noir/Gamay - $19.95 … Winery Only
THUMB UP - A … Wait? Pinot Noir from 16 Mile that comes in under twenty dollars? Ok well truthfully there’s about 10% Gamay in this bottle. The end result delivers the best of both worlds - beautiful floral notes, ripe cherry notes, and just a wee bit rough around the edges. This is one of those bottles beer snobs would refer to as “sessionable”
THUMB UP - M … I’m way up on this one, way way up … hold the phone, did you say there is also Gamay in here? You held that nugget of info till the last minute when we tasted it; that 10% adds another dimension to this wine, can’t wait to use this as counter-programming to some Chardonnays on the patio this summer - chilled of course.
2017 Sand Point Family Vineyard Chardonnay - $16.95 … LCBO 11194
THUMB UP - A … Sometimes you need a big buttery Californian Chardonnay in your life. This should be that bottle. While a lot of bottles will scream patio wine, or beautiful summer day - in unapologetic manner this screams hot beach - probably because it smells like coconut, pineapple, and tangerine. Given that this is on the general list shelves is what has me happy to raise my thumb.
THUMB UP - M … I sat on the fence a long time on this one, then you forced my hand, I notched it up instead of down to keep you from berating me, it’s a good wine for the price and on general list, so it’s always going to be available, but let’s see what happens with this wine over the next few years.
2016 Sand Point Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - $16.95 … LCBO 11193
THUMB DOWN - M … No matter what you say here you can’t talk me into raising the thumb on this one, it’s just too disjointed for me, the sweetness gets in the way - it could be called pretty and it’s drinkable, but it’s a far cry from what anyone would call “serious”.
THUMB DOWN - A … It would seem that I am destined to be perpetually disappointed by the California reds on the general list at the LCBO. You call this drinkable - but the sweetness destroys this wine for me - even though it’s only 8 g/l it’s cloying on the finish.
2018 Escudo Rojo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon - $17.95 … Vintages 13434 (Feb 8, 2020)
THUMB UP - A ... Great cassis on the nose - tannin is a bit chunky - needs some time to relax and open - but this isn’t a cellar wine - but you can set it aside for an hour. Slight eucalyptus on mid palate. Dry on the finish. Cocoa and smoke. This is what I expect twenty dollars to get me from Chile.
THUMB DOWN - M … The only way I drink this wine is if it does sit in the cellar for a few years, it’s grippy and gritty but it’s hard to get past that coffee bean and leather to find some kind of fruit - we sat it for that hour you recommended, and I still found no fruit so you’re on your own with this bottle sitting in the corner with a dunce cap on as far as I’m concerned.