I recently had the opportunity to visit these wineries in Columbia Valley. Alexandria Nicole is a small production, boutique winery. Recently they opened a tasting room in Woodinville. Their main tasting room is located in Prosser, right down the street from Hogue. A relatively new winery that produces 10,000 cases on wine, Alexandria Nicole is known for their fantastic Viognier that is one of the best in the state. Recently they have been experimenting with relatively unknown varietals to Washington such as Carmenere and Albarino – and the results have been novel and exciting. In fact they have over 23 varietals planted at their esteemed Destiny Ridge vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills.
Hogue Cellars has gained national acclaim for their value wines. Most of their wines are readily available in grocery stores and have received very high reviews from Wine Spectator in particular, considering their price. Their Reserve label and their Terroir label (winery only) involves the winery’s choicest fruit. Terroir wines have sourced from the most famous in the state, including the Champoux Vineyard in Red Mountain. Over the years the Hogue Reserve Merlot is consistently one of the best made Washington Merlots. With its bold cherry flavors, it is definitely worth a try.
About a 30 minute scenic drive from Hogue Cellars lies Columbia Crest Winery, one of the biggest wineries in the Northwest. But they back up their large production with exceptional results. Columbia Crest boasts the only wine made in the Pacific Northwest to achieve the number one wine in the world (their 2005 Reserve Cabernet was rated 95 points) on the top 100 list by Wine Spectator magazine. While Columbia Crest makes incredible value wines in their Two Vines and Grand Estates label (including the some of the best quality Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet for the price), their Reserve label wines are truly outstanding and are also readily available. One of their best wines consistently is the Walter Clore, a Cabernet blend that is easy to find at Costco. Many Costcos also sell their Reserve Cabernet, another Columbia Crest signature wine.
Here are some of the great wines that I tried at Alexandria Nicole, Hogue and Columbia Crest.
2012 Chardonnay- Light spice on the nose with rich pear and golden delicious. Palate is viscous and rich. Pear, golden delicious and cantaloupes with vanilla and oak. Solid effort, drink now. -91
2012 Riesling- .6 residual sugar. Very dry style. Somewhat subdued nose with pear and honeysuckle. Palate has vibrant minerality. Lemon lime, grapefruit and orange peel, drink now. -89
2013 Albariño- 185 cases on this small production wine. White peach on the nose. Maybe unripe green papaya. Palate has pear
and red delicious apple. Light acidity and would like more minerality considering the varietal. That said, extremely novel. Drink now. -88
2012 Shepherds Mark -65% Rousanne 20% Marsanne 15% Viognier in this Rhone blend. Perfumed nose. Honeysuckle, ripe golden delicious and white peach. Palate has nice richness and viscosity. Minerals too. Golden delicious, pear and Welches white grape juice. Very solid. Drink now -91
2013 Crawford Vineyard Viognier- Perfumed nose of orange blossoms, white peach, and honeysuckle. Almost a gardenia on the nose. Palate has good structure and light saccharin flavors with ripe pear and red delicious. Drink now. -90
2013 Rose- Cab Franc and Tempranillo. Subdued nose with rose petals and light mushroom. Too sweet on the palate. Red cherry and strawberry flavors. Simplistic. -84
2012 Jet Black Syrah- white pepper and smoked meats on the nose. Slightly herbal. Palate has good acidity. Anise and smoked meats with tar. Also dried herbs. Drink now. -89
2011 Members Only- This is a GSM. 57% Grenache 30% syrah and 13% Mouvedre. 237 cases, so limited production. Black pepper, black olive and smoked meats on the nose. Nice balance on the palate with red cherry, red currant and blackberry. Maybe huckleberry? Nice complexity. Drink now. -91
2011 Carmenere- Not 100 percent of the varietal with 10 percent cab and 3 percent Malbec. Green olive and black pepper on the nose. Nice herbaceousness on the nose. Palate has nice balance but is a little thin. Red cherry and raspberry flavors. Novel wine. Drink now.-88
2011 Cabernet Franc- Brownish purple color with 3 cab and 2 petite Verdot. 191 cases produced. Feminine and perfumed nose with red cherry and rose petals. Rich nose considering the vintage. Palate is light bosiws and is somewhat herbaceous with vegetal tones and red cherry and guava. Strong acid structure and might need some time for the fruit to integrate. Light tannins and A bit thin. Drink now or cellar for 1-2 years.-88
2010 Destiny- Bordeaux blend wine with black olive and black cherry on the nose. Red cherry and raspberry on the palate. Acidic and a long ager. Slightly vegetal. Would like a little more richness. Drink now. Drink now or cellar for 1-2 years. -89
2011 Block 17 Syrah- 14% Grenache with the rest Syrah. Smoke and black tea on the nose. Palate has serious richness. Boysenberry jam and figs. Tasty. Drink now.-90
2013 Terroir Viognier- Honeysuckle and orange peel on the nose. Nice balance with good structure. Pear, golden delicious and starfruit with vanilla and minerals on the palate. Drink now. -88
2012 Terroir Barbara Rosato- Strawberry, guava and mushroom on the nose. Red cherry, pomegranate and guava with strawberry on the palate. A bit simplistic. Some earthiness as well. A step behind other vintages. Drink now.-88
2011 Reserve Chardonnay- Aged 17 months in oak. Oak and butter on the nose with golden delicious. Palate has some mushroom with oak, cream and golden delicious apple. Drink now. -89
2009 BIII- Merlot, Cabrnet and Malbec. Blackberry and black cherry with spice on the nose. Palate has nice richness with spice and black cherry, raspberry and anise. Straightforward style. Delicious, drink now. -90
2010 Reserve Merlot- Red cherry and anise on the nose. Palate is chewy. Red currant adds some spice with red cherry and raspberry. Solid. Drink now.-89
2010 Terroir Syrah- Slightly subdued nose with white pepper and smoked meats. Palate has black cherry, black olive, black pepper and blackberry. Slightly shut down. Might cellar for a year and see if it opens up.- 88
2011 Reserve Cabernet- Oak and baking spices on the nose. Maybe blackberry pie? Palate 76% Cab, 16% Merlot, 4% Malbec and 4% Petite Verdot in this blend. Open and plush blend. Some herbaceousness. Very nice with red bell pepper, anise, red cherry and ripe tomato. Light tannins. Drink now or cellar for one year. -90
Columbia Crest Winery
2011 Reserve Malbec- Blueberry and mulling spices on the nose. Palate has plum, blueberries, blackberry and smoke. Excellent. Drink now. -92
2010 Reserve Walter Clore- 53% Merlot, 36% Cab and 11% Cab Franc. Blackberry oak and smoke on the nose. Nice balance on the palate. Red currant, red cherry and red bell pepper in this consistently impressive blend. Drink now or cellar for one year. -91
2009 Reserve Cabernet- Black cherry and smoke on the nose. Palate is rich with plum, creme de cassis and blackberry. Light tannins. Delicious. Drink now. -93
2010 Reserve Cabernet- Slightly more vegetal nose than the 2009. Red bell pepper, herbs and red cherry on the palate. Somewhat shut down on the palate. Blackberry, anise and heavy tannins. Fruit hasn't quite integrated. Cellar for 1-2 years. -91
2010 Reserve Stonetree Vineyard Cabernet- 100% Cabernet. Pomegranate, guava and red cherry on the nose. Palate has black cherry, anise and blackberry. Nice richness, this wine is rock solid. Drink now.-92
2012 Reserve Late Harvest Viognier- orange blossom, honeysuckle and nutmeg on the nose. Palate has light richness. Maybe a Spatlase style. Honeydew and starfruit flavors. Acid structure lacking but tasty. Drink now.-88