Blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot had been a tradition for centuries. But in most cases, only a small amount of Cabernet or Merlot is added to the other for a bit of added complexity or softness. Blending almost equal amounts of each varietal makes the resulting wine a perfect complement to both varietals: the body and character of Cabernet with the soft richness and fruit of Merlot. The finished blend had a wonderful purple/red color, with aromas of cherry, tobacco and licorice. A chocolaty top note lingers behind the fruit. Flavors are of fruit and spice, complemented by a medium-rich mouthfeel and a toasty vanilla finish. The winemakers suggest pairing it with moussaka or a rabbit fricassee.
The Hogue Cellars Winery
The Hogue Cellars, founded in 1982 by Mike and Gary Hogue, is located in Eastern Washington's Columbia Valley, the premier grape growing region of the state. The climate and soils of the Columbia Valley produce grapes with intense fruit flavors and high natural acidity. The wines have a liveliness and ripe, zesty fruit flavors that make them ideal complements to a wide range of foods.
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Columbia Valley is the largest of Washington State's wine growing regions, with almost 11 million acres. It encompasses a number of smaller regions, including Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain and more. The vast area consists of a range of climates, allowing viticulturists to plant a diverse selection of grape varieties. Most wineries plant rows sparsely, which helps the vines survive the harsh winters.
Now the number two producer in the United States, Washington State has also grown in quality.
So how does a state known for rain and coffee produce high quality wines? They plant their grapes on the east side of the Cascade mountains, away from that ever-present rain cloud that sits along the coast. Perhaps wine grapes do well since the sandy loam soils east of the Cascade range give way to an almost desert-like land, saved from drought only by the helpful rivers that run through the area – and the good irrigation systems.
Thinking that the state would do best with typical northern growing grapes like Riesling and Gewurtztraminer, turns out the apple state is well-suited for reds, namely Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and, more recently, Syrah. Of course, whites have not been forgotten - Washington State Rieslings range from bone-dry to sweet, are well-structured and high quality, and Chardonnay dominates most of the other white plantings, making a range of wines. But the reds of the region, Merlot in particular, have made Washington State a quality force to be reckoned with.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.