Wines from Hedges Family Estate, Washington State
One of the great experiences I enjoy as a wine guy is hosting tasting events. I love showcasing a collection of wines, sharing details of where they’re from and how they’re made, and hopefully turning an enthusiastic wine crowd onto something new and exciting. I think that’s what we wine lovers always look for anyway, something new to get excited about.
I recently played host at one of my retail accounts, and presented a beautiful portfolio from one of my favorite wine growing places in the country, Washington State.
And the label? Hedges Family Estate.
Washington has emerged as its own unique wine destination. There are 14 AVA’s (American Viticultural Area), including the highly esteemed Red Mountain and Walla Walla areas, as well as the most famous Columbia Valley, producing almost 90% of the state’s wines. As for varietals, the state shines in both Bordeaux (cabernet sauvignon, franc and merlot) and Rhone Valley (grenache, syrah, mourvedre) grapes. You’ll also find cool varietals like lemberger (Blaufrankisch), muller-thurgau and marsanne. All of this makes Washington State a great place to crack open a bottle.
Back to Hedges, and my event…
Washington State native and winery owner Tom Hedges was enjoying an international marketing career, with a focus on food commodities, when he was approached by a colleague and asked to produce a wine that would be sold in Sweden. The first shipment, a Columbia Valley cabernet sauvignon – merlot blend, in 1987 was the moment that Hedges Cellars was created. Helmed by Tom and his wife, Anne-Marie Liegeois, a native of Champagne, France, they, along with their two grown children, Christophe and Sarah, run the family business together. For over three decades now, they’ve produced beautiful, award-winning, bio-dynamically farmed/Demeter certified wines.
As for the wines served that night, the array was vast and diverse. For this piece, I’ve chosen a few that I recommend you try and enjoy.
One of HFE’s best wine values, and the bottle that kicked off the night, is their CMS Sauvignon Blanc 2018. A well-integrated blend of 80% sauvignon blanc, 19% chardonnay and 1% marsanne (hence the CMS), this wine is light straw in color, brilliantly clear, and refreshing. Peach, gooseberry and lemon fruits complement floral notes on the nose, while biscuits and tinges of orange marmalade add to the palate. It is 100% stainless steel fermented, allowing for a firm acidity. And at $15.99, it escapes the bargain bin dropouts without putting heavy stress on the wallet…a great wine for the money.
Playing big brother to the sauvignon blanc is the CMS Red 2016. Another artful blend from winemaker/Hedges’ daughter Sarah Hedges Goedhart, this wine is 30% cabernet sauvignon, 58% merlot and 12% syrah. And like its sister counterpart, the fruit is mostly Columbia Valley sourced, with a small yet respectable pull from Red Mountain.
CMS Red 2016 is a fun mix of strawberry and raspberry fruit, cocoa, earthy spices and a bit of red licorice. The palate shines with bright acidity, rich flavors of red fruits and earthy spices, while hints of dried sage, cocoa nibs bring up the finish. Sarah’s cellar notes will tell you that “about 40% of the wine was racked to barrel, completing fermentation, then aged for an additional 15-18 months. The other 60% is tank fermented, then racked onto French oak barreling.” This is a great food wine and another deal at $15.99.
One of my favorite varietals is syrah. I could write paragraphs as to why, but I won’t. Washington State has emerged as a syrah lover’s paradise, and the Descendants Liegeois Dupont (DLD) Syrah 2014 might just be the Capital. An homage to Anne-Marie’s family name (Liegeois), the DLD 2014 Syrah is truly outstanding, made from 100% syrah and 100% Les Gosses vineyard grown (Red Mountain AVA). This full-bodied jewel sees 19 months in-barrel, split between 72% American and 28% French oaks.
Here are the tasting notes, as pulled from Sarah’s book –
“Dark, gorgeous purple color. Intense dried blueberry cinnamon roll with a hint of maple bacon. Slight sweet vanilla with cloves, cinnamon and just a hint of smoked cedar. Cinnamon, blueberry and smoke on the palate that fills your mouth due to the lush texture of this wine. A nice tartness balances out the fullness and a slight taste of anise on the spicy and lush finish. A real treat, this Syrah has a pleasant richness, yet is also noticeably delicate and elegant.”
Having enjoyed this bottling numerous times myself, I couldn’t have said it better. Price-wise, it lands just inside $40 on the shelf, worth every penny.
And finally, no Hedges line up would be complete without their Bordeaux signature varietal based wine, the Hedges Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016. With a driving force of 80% cabernet sauvignon (75% requirement to label the wine by grape name), the HFE CS 2016 is complemented with 7% merlot, 5% syrah, 5% cabernet franc, 2% petit verdot and 1% souzao, an eclectic little grape of Portuguese origin.
Much like the DLD, the HFE CS 2016 is a big bold, expressive wine that truly epitomizes the depth of Washington State. Deep red in color, there’s a complex weave of aromas that includes blackberry and cherry, black licorice, new leather, earth and clove spices. There are also hints of coffee and dark cocoa, with just a touch of vanilla. These assortments are all derived of the characteristics of the additional varietals. But the cabernet still drives the train. The tannins are firm, but elegant. Fruit was sourced from four exceptional vineyard sites, and the wine is 100% barrel produced, aged 21 months…another solid balance of American and French oak. Priced around $45, this is wine for the more serious minded consumer. It also has a James Suckling rating of 92 points.
So, there you have it. Get to know Washington State, and more importantly, the beautiful wines of Hedges Family Estate…they’ll become a permanent part of your wine life, as they have mine.
Until next time, Happy Vino’ing!