Saturday, July 10, 2010

Take A Detour To Cougar Crest

With it being 100 degrees out, and the 4th of July in my recent memory, I decided to extend last weekend with a day visit to Walla Walla. Coming from the Tri-Cities on the highway I suddenly realized that I wasn’t on the same old highway anymore. Finally, after what seems like years of construction, the new highway is now complete.

The new road is great, but my old friends who have wineries from Touchet to College place on the old highway are now only reachable through a detour route. Thankfully there are plenty of signs and a newly paved road that will take you right down to the old route.

One of the stops I made after making the detour was Cougar Crest. If you haven’t been to the Cougar Crest tasting room since their big move from the airport years ago, you are truly missing out on a beautiful facility.

Debbie and Dave Hansen started Cougar Crest after moving back to Walla Walla in 1996. Debbie, a pharmacist, and Dave, a veterinarian, started their business small, with a simple love for wines. Debbie fell in love with making wines, traveling back to University of California, Davis, to earn her Enology degree.

Since then the Hansens have grown their business to be a very successful part of what makes Walla Walla a famous winemaking region. Each year, Debbie makes internationally award winning wines, earning high scores in Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and many other highly respected wine magazines.

The warm and friendly atmosphere of the tasting room and staff compliment the wines very well. As I arrived I found Dave himself standing at the counter visiting with a few couples. Other tasting room staff were right there ready to pour and explain their large wine selection.

I’ve had many of Cougar Crest’s vintages over the years. Some of my favorites are their Viognier, their Dedication red blend, and their Anniversary Cuvee. This visit I decided to taste a few vintages and blends that I hadn’t enjoyed before.

First, the 2007 Estate Viognier. As I mentioned Debbie’s Viognier is always one of my favorites. It wins awards year after year. This one opens with orange blossoms on the nose. Melon and white peach mix with the floral notes on the palate. The finish is crisp and refreshing.

Next, I tasted the Dedication Four blend. Where does the time go? I remember falling into the Dedication One blend just a few years ago, then being surprised at the quality of the Dedication Two. I never even had the Dedication Three blend. The Dedication Four is a wonderful blend of 44% Syrah, 32% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a nose of roses and herbs, plums and dark cherries on the mid palate, finished by soft tannins.

The 2006 Estate Cabernet Franc was a special treat for the day. This is a true, 100% Cab Franc, filled with a balance of dark fruit, tannins and bright acidity. The finish is a long mocha flavor.

Last I tasted the 2007 Estate Port. Blended from traditional Port varietals Tinta Cao, Touriga, and Souzou, this fortified wine is definitely in a tawny style. It opens with bright fruit, fills the entire palate with complex flavors, and then finishes in a deep, rich, cocoa.

Hopefully next time you are in Walla Walla you will take the time to check out the new highway, and make a detour down to my friends on old Highway 12.


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