Columbia Crest Winery: New Vintages of Old Favorites

By Kori ~ December 26th, 2012.

Columbia Crest, located in Paterson, Washington, has been one of our favorite sources of value wines for many years. In 2011, Juan Munoz Oca took over as head winemaker from Ray Einberger. Einberger had been at the helm since 2002 when he took the reins from Doug Gore who had been the winemaker since Columbia Crest was founded in 1983. The Columbia Crest winemaking team has produced more 90+ scoring bottles of wine than any other winery in the world. For those of us who live in Washington State, it is nice to have such a consistent, affordable producer in our own backyard.

Recently, we had the opportunity to taste the current releases of two of the red blends in their extensive portfolio in a blind samples tasting, the 2009 Grand Estates Amitage and the 2010 H3 Les Chevaux. Both of these wines have been favorites of ours in the past and previous vintages have been featured in our A Wine for Tonight series. These new vintages are also very good and, once again, would be great choices to enjoy tonight or over the coming weekend.

The Amitage name is a combination of the prefix “ami” which means love and the word “heritage” which is a tribute to the artisan winemaking techniques used to produce Columbia Crest’s Grand Estates tier of wines. H3, an abbreviation for Horse Heaven Hills, is another tier in the Columbia Crest portfolio and showcases the region in which their winery is located. All of the fruit used to produce H3 wines comes from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. The H3 red blend is called “Les Chevaux”, French for “the horses” and a reference to the wild horses that once roamed the region.

If you are ever in the Columbia Gorge or Horse Heaven Hills areas, I recommend taking a little side trip over to Paterson, Washington, to visit and tour Columbia Crest. And even if you aren’t able to visit, be sure to keep your eyes out for their wines. They consistently deliver serious bang for your buck.

2009 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Amitage Red Blend (Columbia Valley, Washington): 63% Merlot, 33% Syrah, and 4% Cabernet Franc. Deep, dark purplish red. Nice nose with cinnamon, blackberry, and black plum aromas and flavors. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium to high tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $12; Available elsewhere, $8 to $13

2010 Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine (Horse Heaven Hills, Washington): 80% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Syrah. Deep red. Aromatic with red fruit and leather on both the nose and palate. Medium-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a medium to long, smooth finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $15; Available elsewhere, $10 to $21

Filed under: A Wine for Tonight, American Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Troy | December 27th, 2012 at 9:31 am

    The Grand Estates wine has been a great “Tuesday night” wine for us and the H3’s are dang good too. I didn’t like the 2008 Les Chevaux but I’ll give the 2010 a shot based on your recommendation. I absolutely love the acidity in the Columbia Crest wines, so they’re usually great with most of the foods I throw at them.

  2. Wine Lass | December 29th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Enjoyed the thorough and succinct review here of Columbia Crest Winery and the two reviews–much appreciated!

  3. KJ | December 29th, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Love Columbia Crest. I don’t have a wide variety of Washington wines to pick from here in Nashville but Columbia Crest is dependable and easy to find.

  4. Kori | December 31st, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Glad to hear it. Hope you enjoy the 2010 Les Chevaux.

    Wine Lass,
    Thanks so much.

    Too bad that you can’t get more WA wines in Nashville. Hopefully, more will be available to you in the future. In the meantime, glad you are able to find and enjoy CC.

    Happy New Year!

  5. Mike | February 26th, 2013 at 6:44 am

    I have been buying the H3 Les Chevaux since 2007 and I think the 2010 is the best of the lot so far. We served this wine at our daughters wedding we loved it that much. I just snagged a Double Mag of this from the Winery last week. This wine is strong enough to serve with beef with the wonderful tannins but will also go with pasta or pizza with all the Merlot in it. I give this wine 4 stars (easily) on Quality and 5 stars on QPR. Just an incredible value!

  6. Kori | March 1st, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the H3 Les Chevaux. Glad to hear that you like it too! Definitely a great value. Cheers!