You won't see the name "Precept" on any labels, yet Precept Wine in Seattle is one of the Northwest's largest and most influential wine producers.
Precept's roots go back to the 1990s, when the Baty family -- under the name Corus Brands -- bought such wineries as Columbia and Covey Run in Washington and Ste. Chapelle and Sawtooth in Idaho. It also acquired or planted vineyards in both states before selling most of its wineries to Constellation, an international wine giant.
In 2003, the Batys and Andrew Browne (who had been the CEO of Corus) launched Precept and started creating one brand after another. Along the way, the company purchased established wineries such as Washington Hills, Waterbrook, Sagelands and Canoe Ridge Vineyard, giving it an interesting mix of labels. It also has purchased and planted vineyards throughout the Northwest, making it one of the largest vineyard owners in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
Precept also ventures beyond the Northwest, using grapes from Germany and Australia. In fact, Precept now produces about 1 million cases of wine under more than 30 labels.
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So when you are drinking a wine from Apex, Blue Pirate, Bridgman, House, Pine & Post or Chocolate Shop, you're tasting a wine from Precept.
Precept's wines tend to be widely available, so ask for them at your favorite wine shop or grocery. Here are a few Precept wines we've tasted recently.
Waterbrook Winery 2010 Reserve Malbec, Columbia Valley, $23: This reserve-level version from a longtime Walla Walla Valley winery opens with aromas of chai tea, black pepper, clove, cinnamon and plum pie. On the palate, it offers rich, bold flavors of blackberry and dark cherry, all backed with bright acidity.
Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2012 The Expedition Pinot Gris, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: This reveals aromas of yellow rose petal, Granny Smith apple and slate, followed by bright flavors of nectarine, Asian pear and melon.
Washington Hills 2011 Syrah, Washington, $10: It doesn't get much better than buying a great wine for a 10-spot. This yummy red opens with aromas of black currant, blackberry jam, red plum and spice, setting the stage for rich flavors of black cherry, blackberry and walnut.
Sagelands Vineyard 2011 Freddie's Blend, Columbia Valley, $10: Here is a blend that includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Tempranillo. The result is a delicious and affordable red with youthful aromas, a smooth entry and flavors of cherry, vanilla and white chocolate.
Pine & Post 2010 Chardonnay, Washington, $7: This launches with aromas of melon, citrus, butterscotch and pear. Bright acidity highlights the flavors of pineapple and butterscotch candy. A buttery richness on the palate gives way to a lengthy finish.
House Wine 2012 Market Moscato, Columbia Valley, $10: This affordable Muscat opens with aromas of dusty white peach, jicama, light lemon and green apple, followed by sweet flavors of ambrosia salad and tropical fruit. It's a straightforward wine that is refreshing on a hot summer day.
Six Prong 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: This delicious and reasonably priced Cab opens with aromas of Hungarian paprika, red currant, cedar and dark chocolate. On the palate are flavors of Marionberry jam, black cherry, black pepper and chocolate. Assertive tannins on the entry smooth out by midpalate and become fairly modest by the finish.
Sawtooth Winery 2011 Syrah, Snake River Valley, $14: From Idaho comes a wine that rises with aromas of black currant candy, white pepper, plum sauce and toasted oak. The drink carries a theme of blackberry jam, ripe boysenberry and dark chocolate, which is backed by bright acidity and moderate tannins.
Primarius 2011 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $15: This opens with hints of ripe raspberry, strawberry-rhubarb jam and violets. On the palate, look for flavors of cherry, peach, raspberry and ginger. There is a lot of finesse to the structure, which shows nary a hint of oak.
-- Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine; www.greatnorthwestwine.com.