People tend to take a very firm stand and are damn near adamant about their preference for white versus red wine. You may have a love for wine in general, but for the most part, you choose one or the other. Very similar to how we prefer our cocktails…you are either a vodka/gin person or you side with the browns (cognac/bourbon). At least with cocktails we can find a middle ground with tequila! Just a few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to attend an intimate dinner at Haven with Columbia Crest head winemaker, Juan Muñoz-Oca. As we enjoyed our meal, we sampled and discussed his wines and his approach to wine making. The Columbia Crest winery is located in central Washington right along the Columbia River and has been at the forefront of Washington State’s emergence as a “force to be reckoned with”. Columbia Crest has officially changed my perception of red wines…
The menu for the evening, created by Chef Randy Evans, offered several dishes that paired nicely with the wines selected. The Quail (served with Arugula, Citrus Vinaigrette, Orange, Candied Pecans, and Pink Peppercorn Goat Cheese) was paired with the Columbia Crest H3 Chardonnay. The Chardonnay had aromas of apple and pear and ended with a really nice vanilla note. I enjoyed this wine as the sweetness enhanced the citrus flavor in the appetizer but yet didn’t overpower the quail. Next, we had the Grilled Tuna (served with Golden Beet Steel Cut Oat Risotto). The Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux was sampled along with this dish and at first taste had a fruit aroma, but surprised you with the chocolate flavors in the end note. This is the great thing about blends. It is up to the discretion of the wine maker and really shows the “art” behind the process. This blend was very light, but bold; and not dry or bitter.
As we talked through each wine, I began to notice a theme…something I had not found before in my recent history. These wines were not dry at all!!! I can’t tell you how many times I have turned my nose up at a wine and gagged from being tortured by the dryness. Not here my friends! It could be due to the “perfect” storm that is created by the unique Washington climate or the fact that by using an irrigation system, they have full control over their watering process which in turn allows them to create the great harmony in their wines. Either way, I was sold and ready for more!
On our next course, we had Akauishi Steak (served with Mushrooms, Leeks, and Cabernet Demi-Glace). This was paired with my new favorite “red” wine, the Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh my, my, my! If you could have only seen the look on my face when I asked for a second glass. This blend contained 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, and 1 % Cabernet Franc. This wine had great texture and a lovely finish. It was refreshing and crisp and cut through the fattiness of the beef and brought out the sweetness of the onion in the entree. This went beyond a great pairing…this was one hell of a wine! This is the first Cabernet Sauvignon that I would easily put up against any white wine and challenge those who have never found a red wine of their liking. Seriously folks…who wants in? 🙂
We ended the night with a wonderful sweet and salty chocolate mousse dessert blended with chunks of pretzel – Nuff said. The food at Haven is always consistently great and those are the same words I use to easily describe the wines of Columbia Crest. They are consistent in their approach and are quite affordable. If I could sum it all up, I would say that Columbia Crest wines are easy to drink and pair well with just about anything. They could be enjoyed by both someone who is new to wines or a wine connoisseur. These wines erase the stereotype that come along with red wines…dryness. Well, I have one thing to say to Mr. Dry Red Wine: “Hit the road jack and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more”. Juan, whatever you are doing up there in Washington, keep doing it! Because as L.L. Cool J states better than anyone else, you are “doing it, and doing it, and doing it well”!
Urban Swank did receive a complimentary tasting, but the opinions expressed are our own.