Age is just a state of wine

Age has a strange way of playing tricks with our feeling of time passage. When I was young, it seemed like summer stretched way out into the future. Now time seems to fly by. When I heard that Columbia Crest Winery is celebrating its 25th anniversary, I was amazed. Where does the time go?

I am always impressed by Columbia Crest. The Grand Estates tier is a bargain. The cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay are world-class. And then if that was not enough, they recently added Columbia Crest red and white blends. The red is sangiovese, syrah and cabernet sauvignon; the white is chardonnay, semillon and sauvignon blanc. Several wine experts sitting with me all guessed that these two new wines would be around $12 retail. We all were surprised and pleased that they would be on supermarket shelves at $7!

Then the winery recently introduced Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills with the three classic varietals: cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and merlot. All three immediately took 90 plus ratings from various wine publications. Even though the wines had limited distribution, the cabernet sauvignon and the chardonnay sold out before the next vintage was ready. I had recommended the chardonnay, and the man returned: “Hey, you know that chardonnay you recommended last week?” I prepared myself for an unpleasant conversation. “Well, I’m on my fourth bottle!”

In 1978 the vineyards were planted in Paterson, Washington, along the Washington-Oregon border. The following year Seattle’s Howard S. Wright, Inc. drafted design plans for the French country manor house with 90 percent of the winemaking facilities housed underground.

In 1987 after producing a white blend and a rosé, Columbia Crest released white varietals: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, semillon, riesling, gewürztraminer and chenin blanc. The next year two reds were released a cabernet sauvignon and a merlot.

1990 was a hallmark year for Columbia Crest. The California Wine Experience selected the 1987 merlot to be on the list of the “Top 10 Wines in the World under $8.” Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate named Columbia Crest as one of the 24 “Best Value Wineries” in the world. Later in the year Impact Magazine named Columbia Crest to two different lists: “Top Five U.S. Wineries” and “Nation’s 20 Hot Brands.”

Four years later in 1994, Columbia Crest entered its 1990 cabernet sauvignon in the Challenge du Vin in Bordeaux, France. It was the only U.S. wine to win a gold medal.

In 1997 the first annual readers’ poll in the Wine Spectator voted Columbia Crest “Best Winery for Value in the United States.” The 1994 merlot was also entered in the Challenge International du Vin in Bordeaux, France, where it was the only American merlot to win a gold medal. When the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List came out, Columbia Crest’s 1995 Estates chardonnay was #59 while the 1994 cabernet sauvignon was #74.

I am not going to list every award, but you get the idea. Columbia Crest has been amassing awards right up to the present day.

In these days when we should shop locally, we are so lucky to live in Washington State where world-class wines like Columbia Crest are available at a wallet-pleasing price.

Happy 25th Birthday, Columbia Crest!

Recommended wines:

Columbia Crest Vineyard Ten rosé, white or red $7.

Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills merlot, chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon $14.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates merlot, chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon $10.

Auction Update:

The 21st Annual Auction of Washington Wines surpassed previous auctions both in attendance and revenues. Nearly $2.3 million was raised for uncompensated care at Children’s Hospital and the Washington Wine Education Foundation.

Celebrity Sighting: Joel McHale, host of the TV show “The Soup,” was on the Island with his family visiting his parents Laurie and Jack McHale.

Dee Hitch can be reached at

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