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One of the Washington state wineries I have always been big on has been Hogue Cellars.  Back in October, as part of the Washington Wine Road Trip 2010, I visited Hogue, and was given a pretty profound lecture on the correlation between high phenolics and quality levels by Hogue’s red winemaker Jordan Ferrier.

In layman’s terms, phenolics are, according to Wikipedia, :

In organic chemistry, phenols, sometimes called phenolics, are a class of chemical compounds consisting of a hydroxyl group (-OH) bonded directly to an aromatic hydrocarbon group. The simplest of the class is phenol (C6H5OH).

Hogue has been accumulating data on phenols for the past decade in the hopes that their data arrays might show them something tangible to help make better wines.  By monitoring for optimum levels of phenols in the grapes, they could determine that high levels of phenols clearly meant richer, fuller bodied wines.  And it is truly the most evident in the Reserve line, yet can be tasted in their everyday Columbia Valley series as well.

What used to be called their “Fruit Forward” series, their value line of wines represents the bulk of their production (over 650K cases of wine annually).  These wines reflect the overall objective of the Washington wine industry, and that is to “overdeliver.”

I wanted to sample through a few of the wines and illustrate what they have to offer, culminating notes from my Washington trip and recent tastings at home as well:

Hogue Cellars Red Table Wine 2007.  Grade=Outstanding.  So this is pretty new, a blend of Merlot, Cab, Syrah and Malbec, this red has some plush tannins and firm grip for an under $10 bottle of wine.  A bit of mineral and rust with some black cherries, peat, and blackberry tart notes.

Hogue Cellars Merlot Columbia Valley 2006.  Grade=Outstanding.  I always think of Washington as the place in the States that got Merlot right.  Bigger and more expressive than its California counterparts, with black cherry, plum and touches of mint.  Well-balanced acidity and surprising fullness make this a great value.

Hogue Cellars Syrah Genesis 2005.  Grade=Amazing.  I love Washington state Syrah, and this one, which we had on a closeout shelf, was surprisingly still rich and concentrated, displaying lovely notes of blueberry compote, raspberry jam, gingerbread cookies and white pepper, with a bit of rhubarb pie for good measure.  Delicious.

Hogue Cellars Merlot Reserve 1998.  Grade=Amazingn.  I was blown away by the power this wine displayed, with thick, opulent dark fruit, aromas of hickory smoke, charcoal, violets in bloom, and a bit of black cherry cobbler.  This full-bodied monster just stains the crap out of the glass and your teeth, and the finish resonates infinitely.  Glad I still have one more bottle.

Hogue Cellars Merlot Reserve 1999.  Grade=Amazingn.  I should have gotten more of this one, but this was equally as good as the 1998, with equal levels of dark, dense, rich black fruits, heady aromas of toasted oak, some creamy berry, freshly tilled earth, and loganberry jam.  Just beautiful.

Definitely check the wines of Hogue out for yourselves.  They will certainly surprise you.

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