We all may fantasize about being winemakers but few of us ever make the leap, and so we sit sipping and dreaming of how we might craft a world class wine. Enter Columbia Crest Winery one of Washington state’s most established and important brands. Back when I was growing up, crowdsourcing wasn’t a term, but thanks to Al Gore’s internet, the concept, of relying on a large group to help you compile the information you’re looking for, has taken on perhaps it’s most unique application to date, in Columbia Crest’s Crowdsourced Cabernet.
Through a stroke of marketing genius the folks at Columbia Crest have offered the average Jane and Joe the chance to have a role in the creation of a Cabernet from one of the country’s most well suited growing regions. The sandy soils of the Horse Heaven Hills above the Columbia River have turned out to be one of America’s great Cabernet growing regions. The wines from this region offer intensity and perhaps most importantly, incredibly elegant structure.
The crowdsourcing project allowed fans, and casual wine drinkers to weigh in on picking and crop management decisions, like fruit thinning and canopy management in the vineyard. Once in the cellar, the crowd could chime in on the blending, oak regiment, all the way through the final label design. all through the process of making the wine. They could vote on what winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca did with the wine throughout the process.
Sourced from the same grapes that helped craft Washington’s only Wine of the Year from Wine Spectator the fruit in these wines is nothing to sneeze at. The crowd voted for a blend of 87% Cabernet, with lesser parts Malbec, Petit Verdot and Merlot. This wine was aged for sixteen months in 30% new oak.
The aromatics are dusty, dried violet and blackberry. The palate of the wine is on the elegant side, with a focus on fruit and mineral components. The tannin structure of the wine is silken and its core of black fruit flavors are accented with hints of dusty minerality and graphite.
Compared to the 2014 vintage, this wine is more broad shouldered and rich. Since both vintages were markedly warm, perhaps it’s owing to the blend and doubling of new oak used in the production method 60%. The 2015 is a blend of 80% Cabernet, with equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The aromatics are black pepper and baking spices, along with dried herbs and notes of black plum. The palate is richer and sees dark dried fig flavors along with baking chocolate and espresso bean. The finish is mouth coating and the structure offers the same fine grain tannins found in the previous vintage, a hallmark of this growing region.
Both wines give a sense of the great Cabernet growing potential that this part of Washington in particular offers. They also show an innovation and imagination by one of America’s talented winemakers, and give that marketing person a raise.