Luscious: Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet

h3I like horses. I like wine. And I like the romance that I hear in this name: “Horse Heaven Hills.”

Horse Heaven Hills is the name of a wine-growing region in eastern Washington State, and is also the home of a winery called Columbia Crest. There really were wild horses way back when, but for the two decades or so that Columbia Crest has been there, “H3″ has been producing some killer grapes — among the best in Washington State.

And that’s saying something. If you haven’t read many of my posts, you’ve probably missed the occasional rants about my love affair with Washington State wines. So here goes again…cab

Washington State has two totally different weather zones: the wet, cool west side that borders the Pacific Ocean and the dry, warm side east of the Cascade Mountains. This region, the Columbia River Valley area, is heaven for wine grapes. Its northerly latitude means that there’s more daylight hours during the growing season, with cool nights that allow the grapes to develop good acid and structure. The typical result is wine with intense fruit flavors balanced by good acid and soft tannins (my favorite kind of wine).

So getting back to Horse Heaven Hills, this area is blessed with a unique feature: unusually active winds that produce grapes with extra flavor and structure. While several wineries use grapes from these vineyards, Columbia Crest’s H3 wines represent unusual value. In fact, the one is drank last night got a Top 100 Value Wines rating.

I smelled and tasted the ripeness of the fruit in Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. The richness started with the deep berry and sweet vanilla aromas. The palate was bursting with fruit — sweet blackberries and cassis — that quickly turned to mocha. For a minute there I thought I was drinking a chocolate/coffee/berry milkshake: Not that that’s a bad thing… The finish was so soft and supple that it got me searching for the tasting notes. Sure enough, this wine is not all Cab: there’s also 8% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc.

The blend may account for the extra softness and richness. It might also be Washington’s exceptional 2008 growing season, which produced fully ripe grapes and good yields.

Either way, it made for a really seductive, luscious wine. That’s not surprising, since I’ve really liked the other wines in the H3 line, a Merlot and a Chardonnay. Grab any of them if you catch them at your local wine shop, and enjoy. Cheers!



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