K2′S LATEST WASHINGTON ROAD TRIP CONCLUDES: THURSDAY MEETS COL SOLARE, COLUMBIA CREST AND THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

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It’s been a pretty crazy week here at The Party Source.  So much so, I haven’t had time to get to the blog.  I’ve wanted to wrap up my trip out to Washington State, but it’s been all about moving product around in the store.  We are – hopefully – wrapping up renovating the wine department this week, but as the song goes, “nothing ever goes as planned.”

My last day in Washington State involved two appointments – Col Solare in Red Mountain and Columbia Crest in Paterson – as well as making my way back across the state to fly out of Sea-Tac – the Redeye back to Cincinnati.

I got up that morning pretty early, despite the fact my first appointment wasn’t until 10:30 a.m.  I had to venture back into Walla Walla to get gas and breakfast, which was of course, another Starbucks run.  And I hit the road, finding myself stuck again on Highway 12 due to construction.  I kept thinking about my time out there, underneath the desert sun, and thinking about the places I didn’t get to see.  I had hoped to visit one of the big volcanoes out there – Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier or Mt. St. Helens – as well as visit the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser (not sure if it’s built yet) – but time wasn’t really completely on my side.

The night before, I had tried the two wines I actually purchased on my trip:

Ross Andrew Meadow Rosé 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  Sangiovese and Lemberger.  Didn’t see it coming.  Great wine.  Previously reviewed.

Hestia Red Columbia Valley 2010.  Grade=Outstanding.  This Merlot-based blend was juicy and rich.  Lots of wild berry fruits, mocha and baking spices.  A great value.

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Ironically, I had time to kill before my appointment at Col Solare, so I washed the car.  It was covered in dirt from the drive to Spring Valley the previous day, so I thought it good to get rid of the evidence.

Once I arrived at Col Solare, I was blown away by the extravagance of the facility, and the amazing view of every Red Mountain vineyard site below.  It’s a pretty amazing place, and unlike a lot of the wineries and tasting rooms I had visited, it is not open to the public.  Which meant I was the sole guest of the place – kinda cool, eh?

I got to try the Col Solare 2008 and Col Solare 2009 side-by-side, the difference being the 2009 contained the first fruit from the Col Solare estate (a young facility, the first plantings were in 2007).  Another difference is that the 2009 focuses solely on Bordeaux varieties (the 2008 possessed 3% Syrah).

Col Solare Columbia Valley 2008.  Grade=Amazing.  Shows gorgeous black fruit aromas and flavors, anise, sage, dark cherries, tobacco and oak spices.  Full-bodied, majestic mouthfeel.  Rich, dense and showing exceptional grip.

Col Solare Columbia Valley 2009.  Grade=Amazing+.  Bolder and richer, yet maintaining its youthful edge over the 2008.  Full-bodied.  Layers of black and blue fruits, dark plums, dried herbs, pepper, mocha, vanilla, cigar box and charcoal.  Truly decadent.

The word for the day was driving, and after leaving Col Solare, I was on the road again, heading out to what amounted to be the middle of nowhere.  B.F.I.  I might as well have been going to Mars  – the drive to Columbia Crest was desolate and bare – not a McDonald’s, a gas station or a Starbucks along the way.  I had time to kill, and even drove passed the winery to meet with the highway that runs parallel to the Columbia River.  I drove 20 miles in both directions and found nothing.  There was a little diner/convenient store at the junction, but wasn’t in much of a trusting mood to try their fare so I simply went to the winery, very early.

I bellied up to the tasting bar and after telling them I was in the business, I ran the gamut:

Columbia Crest Reserve Pinot Blanc Yakima Valley 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  Surprisingly good, this medium-bodied white shows clean stone fruit, chalk and hints of crème fraiche.

Seven Falls Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  The newest restaurant-only brand from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, it’s a solid, medium-bodied effort.

Columbia Crest Reserve Chardonnay Unoaked Horse Heaven Hills 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  Very pretty.  Hints of lemon amidst fresh pear, mineral and acacia.

Columbia Crest Reserve Merlot Wahluke Slope 2010.  Grade=Amazing.  Blue-fruited, full-bodied – it’s a magnificent red wine.

Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2010.  Grade=Outstanding.  A bit more minerally than you’d expect for Cab, with subtle underlying notes of blackberry, plum, tobacco and cocoa.

Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009.  Grade=Outstanding+.  More black fruits and chocolate shine through this full-bodied red.  Excellent juice.

Domaine Ste. Michelle Luxe 2006.  Grade=Outstanding.  Creamy, yeasty sparkling wine.  Buttered brioche and fresh-baked sourdough with subtle notes of apple, lemon and pear.

Columbia Crest Reserve Late Harvest Viognier Columbia Valley 2012.  Grade=Outstanding. Nicely-balanced acidity shines amidst this display of honeyed apricot, peach and orange blossom.

Whidbey’s Port Washington State 2009.  Grade=Very Good.  Another nice surprise.  Well-balanced with hints of chocolate-covered berries, vanilla, clove tobacco and salted red fruits.

Columbia Crest is a big operation.  Millions of gallons of grape juice all over that place.  It resembles more of a refinery than a winery, with tanker trucks going in and out of the facility what seems like every minute.  It’s impressive.

A quick tour, and I was on the road again.  My first priority was getting something to eat, because I was hungry as hell, but every thought in my head was turning back to home.  I missed my wife like crazy, and couldn’t wait to get back to her, my home and the herd.

It was an amazing trip, one I cannot thank enough for all those responsible, including my homeys at Southern Wine & Spirits for the appointments, the Wine & Spirits Guild of America, the Washington Wine Commission, and all the great folks at every stop I made along the way.

Cannot wait to get back out there.

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