Gallo revives Columbia Winery and adds to William Hill Coastal Collection


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E.&J. Gallo usually makes a statement whenever it acquires wineries or imports the products of foreign ones.

Its portfolio spans the globe — and recently the largest family-owned winery in the world put its sights on yet another new area for them: the healthy industry in Washington State. In mid-2012, Gallo purchased Columbia Winery and Covey Run, and as one of my friends quipped: “It’s about time Gallo entered the Pacific Northwest.” It’s always a good sign for any region.

So, coming in late fall or early winter to Metro Detroit will be the new packaging, new wines and new thinking at Columbia Winery, one of the first wineries in that state. I have reviewed their wines for many years starting in the 1980s when Master of Wine David Lake, credited with introducing Syrah to Washington, was the winemaker. But even before that, Columbia was carving out its niche. The winery was founded in 1962 by several Washington professors under a different brand name.

Following the departure and subsequent death of David Lake, the winery seemed to lose its way, and went through several owners.

Now, Gallo has righted the ship, and you are going to love the results. I tasted the wines recently and they are spot on — in taste and price point.

Columbia Winery Chardonnay Columbia Valley Washington 2012, $15

Like California, the 2012 vintage in Washington was also spectacular with uninterrupted long sunny days and cool nights. This Chardonnay reflects the style of the Northwest — good acidity and minerality to make the fruit more complex. Swirl and inhale aromas of ripe pear, apple, citrus and tropical notes. In the mouth, it’s crisp and dry, with nice body and complexity to complement the fruit with its many tropical nuances. This wine sees no oak and is aged on the lees in stainless steel for nine months. Perhaps what sets it apart and creates the charm is the addition of small amounts of Semillon, Chenin Blanc and a few other varieties.

Columbia Winery Composition Red Blend Columbia Valley Washington, $17

A blend of red grapes from multiple vintages was used to make this red blend composition — a symphony of berries, dark plum, espresso and spice. Flavors are blackberry, cherry, cranberry, dark plum and black pepper with acidity for balance and velvet tannins. It’s a complex glass of wine — with layers of flavor. It’s 41 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 31 percent Merlot filled out with Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and other varieties. It’s likewise aged in a composition of oak — French and American. This is a terrific-drinking wine for the price. It showcases the quality and character of Washington reds.

Columbia Winery Merlot Columbia Valley Washington 2012, $17

Smoke off the barrels ripples through the aromas and frames the flavors. The fruit is big enough from the touted 2012 vintage to stand up to the wood. Swirl the glass and catch the mocha, cherry, vanilla aromas. In the mouth, tannins are like velvet, flavors are dark plum, blackberry, cherry, espresso coffee and spice.


Gallo purchased William Hill Estate Winery in Napa in 2007 and put its own glitter on this gem. Last year, they expanded the brand with the successful launch of a new, less expensive line from outside Napa — the William Hill Estate Coastal Collection with a North Coast Chardonnay and North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon.

Coming out soon will be a North Coast Sauvignon Blanc and Central Coast Merlot, both of which have to live up to the storied label shaped like the broad, notched roof of the winery. The suggested retail price is $17, but look for introductory sales to be less.

William Hill Estate Merlot Central Coast 2012, $17

The grapes are from warm regions of the Central Coast — Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties. It meets the nose with aromas of blackberry, cherry, plum and brown spice followed in the mouth with a peppery notes and berried fruit with dusty tannins and spicy oak. It’s a medium-bodied wine.

William Hill Estate Sauvignon Blanc North Coast 2013, $17

This tart, crisp summer white is off vineyards in Northern Sonoma County and Russian River. Aromas give a shout of grapefruit, gooseberry, lime, and Meyer lemon. In the mouth, it’s crisp and dry — with a stout backbone of acidity to provide a framework for the bright citrus flavors streaked with minerality.

You can reach Sandra Silfven at