© 1997 JDM Enterprises
BEST BUY WINERYby Jerry D. Mead
In this time of American wine shortages and dramatically increasing prices, there are still a handful of brands that continue to be under-rated, or under-valued, or both. Napa Ridge is one such brand that comes to mind, Columbia Crest is another, as is Pedroncelli and a few others that consistently offer delicious wines at very reasonable prices.
The Hogue Cellars of Prosser, Washington, is another of those brands that has "Best Buy" written on almost every wine in line. I recently tasted many of the current releases and found much to praise and little to criticize.
Hogue is another of those operations that started out strictly as a farming operation, and eventually set out to prove that Hogue grapes could make world class wines.
When I say the Hogues (and they are a family) were farmers, I mean it. Daddy Hogue started in the 40's with 80 acres devoted to the growing of hops. By 1994, and with the help of two sons that tried to resist the family business, but finally yielded and are the major movers of the wine side, the company owned more than 1600 acres, was still a major hop grower (more than a million pounds), and was also big in row crops and wine grapes.
What started out as a 2000 case wine enterprise will soon account for 300,000 cases of premium wine sales.
They've accomplished this dramatic growth with quality and value and with pretty much the same winemaking and viticultural team they started with in 1982.
I should mention that the Hogue wines have a striking new label and that all the wines are grown in the Columbia Valley of Washington state, either in their own estate vineyards or in vineyards they control under contract.
Hogue 1996 Fume Blanc ($9) Pleasantly, aggressively herbaceous, with subtle mint and a definite grassy note. Dry but not austere. Subtle oak presence. Rating: 90/90
Hogue 1995 Chardonnay ($10) Super-fruit, but with subtle and attractive oak vanillin flavors. Melon and tropical fruit. Dry perception. Rating: 87/92
Hogue 1996 Johannisberg Riesling ($7) Apple fruit in aroma and taste and with light floral notes as a bonus. A slightly sweet perception, this is an afternoon sipper with a piece of fruit and a Lorna Doone. Rating: 86/90
Hogue 1995 "Barrel Select" Merlot ($14) What most people expect of Merlot. A soft and appealing red wine with no offensive astringency and the bright cherry flavors that most folks find so attractive. Rating: 87/87
Hogue 1993 "Barrel Select" Cabernet Sauvignon ($14) Velvety soft, supple, succulent, voluptuous...one of those red wines that just feels good in your mouth. Blended to 18 percent Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Franc. Earthy berry flavors and complex, wood-influenced after flavors. Delicious. Rating: 89/90
Hogue is also coming out with a new line of wines that are somewhat experimental. They are either varieties Hogue hasn't previously been known for, or they are single vineyard wines that Hogue hasn't previously identified. The idea is to let the winemakers have a little fun and maybe to have some of these wines become Hogue label regulars. The label for these wines is "Genesis," and although the Hogue name is there too, it's in very tiny print. Genesis is the brand.
Genesis 1995 Syrah ($14) Hogue's first ever Syrah, from first crop off of new vines and also the first Genesis release. It's a dandy and I predict it will be winning gold medals when the next round of wine competitions start. Plum and berry (raspberry, I think) fruit, very aggressive and forward in both aroma and flavor. Some really nice complex notes in the bouquet and aftertaste, reminiscent of something smoky and of roast coffee bean. Rating: 94/90
Now were going to do something we've never done before. This is our first ever Triple Wine of the Week.
BEST BUY WHITE WINE OF THE WEEK
BEST BUY RED WINE OF THE WEEK
BEST BUY DESSERT WINE OF THE WEEK
Hogue wines have good national distribution. If your retailer doesn't stock the wines they should be able to order them. For nearest retail information contact: Hogue Cellars, Box 31, Prosser, WA 99350 (509) 786-4557.
Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value.