Northwest Wine

Northwest Wine: Load up on inexpensive Northwest reds for holidays

Vineyard manager Juan Uribe and winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca at Columbia Crest in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills have collaborated on many of the state’s most popular wines.
Vineyard manager Juan Uribe and winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca at Columbia Crest in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills have collaborated on many of the state’s most popular wines.

With three holidays in November and December, it’s time to top off your wine cellar with some less-expensive bottles.

We believe the holidays present an ideal time to bring out some favorite bottles, regardless of price. These wines are a fun way of sharing with friends and family, however, it’s a good strategy to include a few delicious bargains on the table. This affords you to provide more choices without challenging your budget.

Here are a half dozen red wines from Washington and Oregon that are approachable in terms of drinkability and priced at $15 per bottle or less. Seek them out at your grocer, wine merchant or contact the winery directly. Several of these brands also include a find-it-here section on their website.

14 Hands Winery 2015 Stampede Red Blend, Columbia Valley, $12: The popularity of 14 Hands is obvious as the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates brand has become the second largest in Washington state at 2 million cases. Keith Kenison’s Hot to Trot Red Blend is the flagship wine for this winery in Prosser, but his team’s young Syrah-led Stampede Red Blend has earned a following, too. This Syrah-led blend brings ripe blue fruit, cola and cured meat to the table. Plush tannins and a plummy finish with toffee makes this quite a quaffer that can complement foods such as Indian curries, Tandoori Chicken and Korean-inspired barbecue fare.

Columbia Crest 2015 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: Juan Muñoz Oca, who now oversees winemaking throughout Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, helped spearhead this tier a decade ago during his career at Columbia Crest. It’s grown into one of the Northwest’s largest expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as an ambassador for the Cab from the growing Horse Heaven Hills. Enticing aromas of blackberry jam and plum include caramel corn and orange oil. Inside, sweet cherries, black currant and dark chocolate flavors are joined by a sprinkling of baking spices over the fine-grained tannins and blueberry acidity.

Kirkland Signature Series 2015 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $15: Those who buy their wine at Costco do so without risk, and the assortment of Kirkland Signature Pinot Noir includes work from the Russian River Valley and Carneros in California as well as Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Credit for the 2015 vintage belongs to Sarah Cabot, Precept Wine’s Pinot Noir maven in Dundee, Ore. The minimal level of oak tones allows for enjoyment of saddle leather and ripe purple fruit tones of black cherry and blueberry.

Ridge Crest 2015 White Bluffs Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $14: The Claar-Whitelatch family farms 130 acres of responsibly farmed vineyards near the Columbia River’s federally protected Hanford Reach, and those vines allow Joe Hudon to create this delicious Cab under the Claar Wine Group’s consumer-minded brand. The tones of black cherry, elderberry and minerality resonate across the palate with a bold tannin structure of Western serviceberry and blueberry acidity.

Apex Cellars 2016 The Catalyst Red Blend, Columbia Valley, $15: The winemaking team at this Prosser, Wash., facility for Precept has changed the concept of this blend over the vintages, and this time, it is a 16-variety package that leads with Rhône grapes Syrah (33 percent) and Grenache (20 percent). There’s some Mourvèdre (7 percent) hunting the background, too. Jon Zimmerman turned it all into a quaffer, opening with aromas of milk chocolate, toast and black cherry. Easy-drinking flavors of dried blueberry and cocoa powder lead to a finish of red currant and cinnamon.

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2015 The Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: This Walla Walla winery owned by Precept went beyond its namesake vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills, but it stayed within the company and the appellation by relying heavily on The Benches — a few miles upstream along the Columbia River — for this bottling. There’s a hint at the influence of Syrah through this Cab-dominated bottling as the nose moves from blueberry, salumi and smoky sage toward flavors of more blueberry and black cherry.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com

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