Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve: Evolution of a Great Wine

By John ~ September 18th, 2009.

Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private ReserveThe Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve, a Bordeaux-style blend, is the premier wine of Washington State’s largest winery. Former Columbia Crest winemaker extraordinaire, Doug Gore, started their Reserve Red program with the 1997 vintage, which became designated as Walter Clore Private Reserve with the 1999 vintage to recognize the pioneer who did the unexpected in Washington State—prove that premium vinifera grapes could flourish in the Columbia Valley.

We have had the opportunity to taste each Walter Clore vintage produced by Ray Einberger, who has been the head winemaker at Columbia Crest since 2000, and have tasted several of them multiple times. Every vintage we have rated excellent or better [at least 4 stars (out of 5)] on the Wine Peeps scale. Further, since these wines can usually be found for $35 or less, they also have excellent QPRs.

To illustrate, let me repeat a story that Kori told in a June 2008 post:

At Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago, Mom surprised us with a 1996 Chateau Lafite Rothschild (French Bordeaux) that set her back $400, just so that we could see what a so-called “perfect” bottle of wine rated 100 points by the experts tasted like. Now I’ll have to admit, it was a very good bottle of wine. But was it worth $400 or anything close to that price? Probably not.

In fact, later during dinner, we took the remaining half bottle of the Lafite and blind tasted it against a 2000 Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve (Bordeaux-type blend from Washington). Walter Clore is widely available at about $30 per bottle. In our blind tasting, two of the four of us preferred Lafite and the other two chose Walter Clore as their favorite.

Now if it’s worth the $370 difference for you to say you drank a Lafite, fine, but we’d rather have a case of Walter Clore for the same money ourselves.

From the results of a Walter Clore vertical we had last year and several tastings since then, I’d say that the 2003 Walter Clore is the vintage tasting the best right now. It has aromas of bacon bits and flavors of coffee and dark fruits, particularly blackcurrants. It is well-balanced, smooth, and downright yummy! The 2000 Walter Clore is still going strong, so I’d say that these wines will easily last 10+ years and seem to get better as they evolve through at least year six.

The bottom line: If you’re looking for an exceptional Washington State Bordeaux-style wine at recession-friendly prices, the Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve is an excellent choice. It is widely available through fine-wine retailers.

Filed under: American Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Red Wine, Washington State Wine

Reader's Comments

  1. Mark | September 22nd, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Couldn’t agree with you more Kori-The Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve is flat out awesome and worth every penny! Loved your comparison. It certainly says a lot about this wine.

  2. John | September 22nd, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Glad to discover another Walter Clore lover. It is great stuff!

  3. Kori | September 23rd, 2009 at 7:19 am

    Thanks, Mark. I continue to be amazed by Columbia Crest. Both their Quality and QPR are quite impressive. Comparisons like this are so much fun; it’s always interesting to see what happens when you strip away price, reputation, etc. Cheers!