Food

Washington boasts top wine, but good luck finding it

November 25, 2009 

Wine Spectator magazine has released its list of the year's top 100 wines, and for the first time, an offering from Washington ranked No. 1.

Call it the pride of the Pacific Northwest: a Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon besting the also-rans from around the world.

That's great news for fans of domestic wines, especially those who contend that Napa doesn't have a lock on premium cabernet sauvignon.

Want to taste this Columbia Crest champ? Good luck.

"It's a shame," says Eric Stumpf, owner of the Wine Consultant in Citrus Heights. "In this economy, merchants are looking for ways to entice customers, and they name a wine that isn't available to sell anymore?"

Columbia Crest produced 5,000 cases of its winning wine, which received 95 points from Wine Spectator and won praise for "subtlety in the layers of complex flavor against a refined structure."

But for some, Wine Spectator ratings carry the same light weight as pinot grigio on the palate. The publication, after all, was once tricked into giving an award of excellence to a restaurant that didn't exist. And what do those highfalutin wine critics know, anyway?

"The Wine Spectator, Robert Parker -- they all take a lot of abuse from everybody," says Stumpf. "But when it comes to naming the No. 1 wine of the year, everyone takes notice."

Wine auctioneers are certainly noticing. With the winning bottles scarce on store shelves, the 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is fetching upward of $115 a bottle on the wine auction site wine commune.com. How's that for a wine that originally sold for about $27?

"The key thing is if [Columbia Crest] will maintain their price," says Stumpf. "Their price has always been in the mid-$20s to $30s. Now that this has happened, where will their future prices go?"

But overall, this big win might encourage some to explore the region, which is known for merlot, riesling and syrah.

"Washington state was due," says Stumpf. "They make good wines, but whether it's No. 1 in the world, that's your call."

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