Columbia Crest Winery is based in the town of Paterson, Washington, located on the northern banks of the Columbia River in the Columbia Valley. The winery produces a number of red and white wines using many different varietals.
The 2009 Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon was a blend, comprised of 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged in French oak barrels (40% new, 60% old) for 18 months. The listed ABV was 14.5%. The H3 stands for Horse Heaven Hills, vineyards utilized by Columbia Crest since 1983.
I first tasted the H3 at the Wine Spectator Grand Tour in NYC, where I met Juan Muñoz Oca, Columbia Crest’s head winemaker. The Grand Tour was packed with over 200 wineries and I wanted to revisit the H3 when I could give it my undivided attention. I was lucky enough to have sampled the 2007 Columbia Crest Reserve before I obtained some H3.
I purchased two bottles of the 2009 H3 and tasted them on separate evenings over the course of one week. My notes were consistent on both occasions.
Prior to tasting, the wine was decanted for 2 hours.
The nose was more powerful than I had anticipated. Red and black fruit were at the forefront, with cherry and blackberry being most notable. There was a distinct aroma of vanilla and a touch of eucalyptus in the background.
Taking a sip, the wine was pretty dense in my mouth. Black fruit was the first thing to hit me, followed immediately by a strong, but pleasant, cocoa sensation. I also detected black olive and pencil. It was an interesting mix. The terroir of this wine was present in both texture and taste.
The finish as surprisingly long, with cocoa tapering off and tannins. The tannins were a bit harsh, but the food cut them down.
One of my meals with this wine began with a simple Romaine lettuce and cucumber salad tossed in a red wine vinaigrette. This was followed up by chicken fajitas with grilled onions and red peppers. The wine went great with the meal.
Like many other wines, this wine needs food. You can have a glass or two on its own, but it isn’t something you can sip for hours on end by itself. The tannins will just take over at some point. That said, it is a nice bottle of wine, especially at this price point (ah, but what is that price point?).
The 2009 Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon retails right around $15. It is a great buy at that level, just keep in mind my comments on food. If you try this wine (or have tried it), please let me know what you think.