The Coast News Group
Kira Smith of Duckhorn, Erik Siering and Ann Kramer of Canoe Ridge Vineyard from Walla Walla, Wash., at a road show at the Rancho Santa Fe Inn. Photo by Frank Mangio
Community Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: A coming-out party for Washington wines

I’m again on the mend, after getting acquainted with yet another Scripps Health Care surgeon.  Doctors, as a group, are some of the most avid wine consumers I know.

When the conversation gets around to what I do to keep me going, that’s all it takes to place the spotlight on wine.  There’s a nice healthy message there.

Over the years, Washington state wines have held a fascination for me. I’ve often visited the Seattle area with its wine community of Woodinville, with tasting rooms around every corner.

The big two are Chateau St. Michelle and Columbia Crest.

They have recently merged to become a huge force in the retail wine world.

St. Michelle has built an empire, emphasizing its European partners.

It produces big winners like Col Solare, a “Super Tuscan” wine with Italy’s Antinori and Eroica Riesling, with Germany’s Dr. Loosen.

Marie Eve Gilla, the French educated winemaker for Forgeron wines, with sales manager Neil Maertens. Photo by Frank Mangio
Marie Eve Gilla, the French educated winemaker for Forgeron wines, with sales manager Neil Maertens. Photo by Frank Mangio

Columbia Crest, on the other hand, is a force in the “value” wine market.

That’s a price that normally ranges from $9 to $15.  This wine is produced in Eastern Washington where most Washington wine grapes are grown.

The Cascade Mountains effectively block off the 50 or so inches of rain that Seattle gets annually.

The result is some 8 inches of rain, with an average 16 hours of long sunny days with cool nights in the Columbia Valley.  Look for Columbia Crest H-3 Merlot, Cabernet and the Red blend “Les Chevaux.”

The H-3 is for Horse Heaven Hills, a leading AVA wine region in the Columbia Valley.

Last month, a Washington Road Show came to the Rancho Santa Fe Inn north of San Diego, bringing some of the best of the family owned wines from America’s second largest wine-producing region of some 850 wineries from 13 appellations.

Riesling and Chardonnay are the largest varietals grown, with Cabernet and Merlot the top reds.

They were eager to tell their story so they brought in Sean Sullivan of Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Quote highlights included:  “2013 was one of the warmest on record with high production.  The soil is well drained with lots of water from the Columbia River to irrigate.  Although 850 wineries abound, some 800 produce less than 5,000 cases annually, and finally most Washington wines score 90 or above, each with a below average bottle price than other wine making regions of the world.”

Here is a journeyman’s list of exceptional wines from Washington.  “Google” the names, or better yet arrange a trip:

• Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, Merlot or Cabernet

• Chateau St Michelle Eroica Riesling and Col Solare

• Columbia Crest Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot and Les Chevaux Blend

• Dunham Cellars Riesling, Cabernet and Syrah

• Forgeron Cellars Chardonnay and Rhone Valley white blend.

• L’Ecole No 41 Merlot and Syrah and finally, beautifully structured red blends by Lauren Ashton Cellars and winemaker Kit Singh: Cuvee Estelle Red Bordeaux and Cuvee Arlette Red Bordeaux.

Jim Tobin, who with brother Bill, owns North County Wine Company in San Marcos, was at the Rancho Santa Fe event.

He’s a proclaimed fan of Washington wines and thought his customers should be, too.

He planned his own tasting event and is stocking lots of Washington wines; call for brands at (760) 653-9032.

Finally, a new urban winery just opened in Ocean Beach called Gianni Buonomo with winemaker Keith Rolle, who spent four years studying and making wine in Eastern Washington.

All his wines are world-class from Washington in the Yakima Valley region, and brought to San Diego to vinify. Call (619) 991-9911 for tasting room hours.


Wine Bytes

San Diego Wine & Beer Co. invites you to taste wines from France Feb. 27 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fee is $10.  Call (858) 586-WINE.

Capri Blu in Rancho Bernardo presents a B R Cohn wine dinner March 2 at 6 p.m.  One of the finest wines from Sonoma will be paired with a four-course special dinner for $55. Call for an RSVP at (858) 673-5100.

The Art of Mixology will be highlighted at a special event at Twenty/20 in Carlsbad’s Sheraton hotel; special small plate pairings by Executive Chef Julian Quinones, all on March 3 at 6 p.m.  Cost is $40.  Reserve now at (760) 827-2500.

Cucina Enoteca in Del Mar is planning a Sangiovese Tuscan special dinner and wine pairing, March 7 at 7 p.m.  Taste 10 of the top Sangiovese in Italy for $240 per person including food, wine, tax and gratuity; limited to 14 guests.  Call (310) 387-5104.


Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns at and reach him at [email protected]  Follow him on Facebook.