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columbia crestWhen large industrial wineries, such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, owners of the Columbia Crest brand, pause long enough in their quest for market share to make wines of genuine quality they should be praised. Neither blockbuster nor rebel, this reserve level wine is just variations on a familiar theme but it’s a well-made wine with some distinctive virtues.

Blackberry with a charming kiss of red fruit,  vanilla, chocolate and baking spices for a sense of warmth, and dusty earth for the obligatory Bordeaux reference. The nose tells you right away it wants to be taken seriously.

On the palate, the dense, lush entre turns a bit woody as the  mid-palate energy gathers, but there is no hint of sweetness to flatten the wine’s verve. In fact,  the acidity is impressive driving a steady crescendo that peaks on high tones, the tannins a presence but lurking in the background. Very dark 80%chocolate emerges to set off a red berry note, giving the medium length finish some interest. It needs a bit more oak integration but the elegance comes through nevertheless.

Lush, sophisticated, warm, stylish and  agreeable, it would make a very good date even if you had no intention of marrying someone quite this conventional.

It resonated nicely with Steely Dan’s Josie though the lyrical Josie, “a raw flame and a live wire” seems to have had a bit more game.

Technical Notes: A blend of Merlot (64%) Cabernet Sauvignon (34%) and a touch of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, aged for 26 months in mostly new French oak. The wine is an homage to Walter Clore a pioneering viticultural researcher in Washington State.

Score: 90

Price: $45 (Purchase here)

Alc: 15%

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