Spring 2011

Recent Releases: Best buy red wines

The following red wines were reviewed as "Best Buys" for being $15 and under. These reviews appeared in the "Recent Releases" section of the Spring 2011 issue of Wine Press Northwest.

Airfield Estates 2009 Lone Birch Red, Yakima Valley, $10

Outstanding: The talented Marcus Miller launches this second label with an amazing lighter-styled red from Merlot (38%), Grenache (26%), Cabernet Sauvignon (10%), Barbera (8%), Sangiovese (7%), Cabernet Franc (6%) and Cinsault. There's a delicate nose of strawberry, rhubarb, black cherry and milk chocolate. On the palate, it's black cherry from beginning to end, backed by blueberry, lingering mincemeat spice and late grip. Glug away. (2,096 cases, 14.8% alc.)

Airfield Estates 2009 Runway Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, $15

Recommended: A clean nose of strawberry/rhubarb pie and blueberries includes some barrel notes akin to blackberry jam spread on a toasted English muffin. The pie and blackberry continue onto the tongue, where cherry skins and tannin take command. It's unlikely you find this in the tasting room, as this has been geared for distribution. (1,122 cases, 14.5% alc.)

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Airfield Estates 2008 Runway Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley, $15

Excellent: Marcus Miller puts his wines in screwcap like the Aussies would a Shiraz, and he's priced it not much north of one. There's a smoky nuttiness to the nose, which includes blackberry jam, black cherry, molasses and vanilla extract. On the attack, it's a lighter-styled Syrah, leading with boysenberry and blueberry. There's a nice little girth to the drink, and it should handle richly flavored meats such as ribs or a juicy steak. (796 cases, 15% alc.)

Brown Box Wine 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington, $19

Recommended: It's all Cab, all from the Roza Hills Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills and made by Silver Lake's Bill Ammons, so it's a quaffer. There's no pretense, with black cherry, black currant jam and chocolate-covered pomegranate berries with some chalkiness. And it comes in a 3-liter cask, which works out to less than $5 a bottle. (1,500 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Brown Box Wine 2008 Merlot, Washington, $19

Recommended: Indeed, it comes in a brown box with a 3-liter bag inside, which means this delivery of ripe Bing cherries, sweet licorice and bittersweet chocolate can be enjoyed over the course of several Tuesday nights, rather than two days on the counter. (1,500 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Buried Cane 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington, $13

Recommended: From the owners of Cadaretta in Walla Walla comes this widely distributed, fruit-forward value that stays true to the variety with an easy drink of big cherry notes, crushed leaf, eucalyptus and some grip at the end. (5,628 cases, 13.4% alc.)

Claar Cellars NV White Bluffs Busty Blush Rose, Columbia Valley, $12

Excellent: A tasty and fruity pink made from Sangiovese, it's filled with a big cherry pie nose, hints of strawberry taffy, honey, apricot and a whiff of smoked charcuterie. There's better balance on the palate than one might think, leaning toward pie cherries and cranberry. It brings the acidity you'd expect from the Italian variety and some charming tannins. (60 cases, 12% alc.)

Columbia Crest 2008 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $12

Excellent: Celebrity chef Bobby Flay can definitely get cooking with this bargain that seems to have been spared little expense when it came to fine barrels. It shows in the nose with black cherry and blueberry just in front of roasted coffee beans, leather, chocolate and flannel. On the pour, it's easy to get into as blackberry and boysenberry flavors show depth in a pleasing balance of acidity and tannin. (225,000 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Columbia Crest 2007 Grand Estates Syrah, Columbia Valley, $15

Recommended: An oaky approach creates notes of chocolate, cinnamon and clove. Underneath, the addition of Grenache (8%) brings a mood of finesse with plums, Medjool dates, some nice minerality, a thread of red blackberry acidity, anise and milk chocolate. (10,000 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Columbia Crest 2008 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15

Outstanding: The largest winery in the Northwest was also the first to set up shop in the Horse Heaven Hills. Here's the fourth vintage of this label, and it's a doozy from the start with aromas of cassis, black cherry, roasted meat, Dutch chocolate and green tea. The drink starts with a dollop of black currant jam, backed by pomegranate and raspberry. Rich, chocolaty tannins merely impart a nice tightness. (40,000 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Columbia Crest 2008 H3 Les Chevaux, Horse Heaven Hills, $15

Outstanding: Juan Munoz-Oca, who heads up the red wine team, shows that he's coming into his own with this blend of Merlot (34%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Syrah (20%), Cabernet Franc (8%) and Malbec. First, there's a big puff of smoke in the nose, bringing vanilla extract, Graham cracker and black cherries. Everything is balanced on the palate, showing a smooth entry of chocolate-covered cherry, huckleberry dusted with cocoa powder and just a touch of tannin. (5,500 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Columbia Crest 2008 H3 Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $15

Outstanding: Ray Einberger has brought this wine a long way since it debuted at a mere 9,000 cases in 2005. Velvety aromas include just the right amount of good oakiness to present black cherry, blueberry, pipe tobacco, a hint of mint and milk chocolate. You'll be hard-pressed to find an easier-drinking Merlot, as this provides a full mouth feel of macerated Bing cherries, blackberry jam and Baker's chocolate. It finishes with black licorice. (40,000 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Coyote Canyon Winery NV Downtown Red, Columbia Valley, $12

Excellent: Neither the sketch of a rather androgynous person on the label nor the price should be a discouragement to discover this drink-now wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Brambleberries and barrel notes of toasted almond, vanilla and chocolate become enhanced with savory sage, lavender and noble fir aromas. There's a pleasing blend of tartness and tannin, making it worthy of inviting over for a Tuesday night dinner - whoever that person is. (1,194 cases, 14.3% alc.)

Daven Lore Winery NV Recovery Red, Washington, $20

Excellent: If the bill passes, Gordon Taylor will be able to pour samples of this wine at the Prosser farmers market every Saturday. He offers this blend of Merlot (47%), Syrah (24%), Cabernet Sauvignon (24%) and Petit Verdot in a 1-liter, refillable clear Grolsch-style bottle. He refills it - for just $10 - with a tasty drink that's loaded with penetrating purple fruit, baker's chocolate and serviceberry chalkiness. (14.9% alc.)

McKinley Springs Winery 2008 Bombing Range Red, Horse Heaven Hills, $12

Outstanding: This Andrews family still picks up .50-caliber casings left behind in their vineyards from the days when their farm served as a bombing range during World War II. Doug Rowell certainly nailed the coordinates with this blend of Syrah (52%), Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Malbec (4%) and Petit Verdot. Black cherry jam, Graham cracker, menthol, cedar and black licorice aromas lead the way. There's fluidity to the satisfying structure on the palate with cherry pie, pomegranate, boysenberry, cassis and minerality. Tannins add support. (2,385 cases, 14.6% alc.)

Mount Baker Vineyard & Winery 2008 Barrel Select Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, $15

Excellent: Grapes from Kiona (46%), Crawford (38%) and Lonesome Springs didn't lose any zestiness during their trip over the Cascades. Exotic wood notes carry down into the aromas of Van cherry and raspberry. There's blackberry, molasses and beef juice flavors, enjoyable acidity and bittersweet chocolate in its finish of tar and molasses. (300 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Ridge Crest 2008 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $10

Recommended: This second label for Claar Cellars continues to deliver value. Look for accents of blueberry, cherry, watermelon, chocolate and tobacco in a savory structure. (240 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Ste. Chapelle 2009 Chateau Series Soft Red, Snake River Valley, $7

Excellent: Whether or not you appreciate its style, this off-dry offering is the most popular red wine made in Idaho. And it does have curb appeal because it drinks like a very off-dry rose (6.5% residual sugar). There's complexity in the attractive aromas of crushed strawberry, horehound and dried oregano - which shows the influence of Cabernet Franc in this blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The palate could be mistaken for an adult Hawaiian Punch, bringing more strawberry and some blueberry with lemon bar creaminess and acidity. A bit of grip at the end will pair well with BBQ ribs on a hot day. (25,000 cases, 10.5% alc.)

St. Laurent Winery 2007 Estate Lucky Red, Wahluke Slope, $15

Excellent: The Mracheks' vast holdings in the Columbia Valley come under the umbrella of Lucky Bohemian Farms. Drinkers of winemaker Craig Mitrakul's amalgamation of their Syrah (65%) and Merlot should feel fortunate. Cordial cherry, sweet herbs, moist earth and orange peel aromas transfer onto the palate. The drink is easy with lots of dark cherry and chocolate surrounding a midpalate of rhubarb compote and cranberry. (1,000 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Three Rivers Winery 2008 River's Red, Columbia Valley, $14

Recommended: Yes, Virginia, there is a bargain wine or two made in Walla Walla, including this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (36%), Malbec (27%), Merlot (13%), Tempranillo (11%), Cabernet Franc (7%) and Petit Verdot. Cordial cherry, plum, orange peel and eucalyptus notes join up in a creamy and juicy drink. Tannins gradually build to mere add texture and length. (3,812 cases, 13.8% alc.)

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