Best Washington Merlot

Brent Mccoy
• Tuesday, 17 November, 2020
• 8 min read

As temperatures start to drop and football blares in the backgrounds, fall means a shift from white wine and rose to reds. I adore the 2016 Long Shadows ‘Pedestal’ Merlot (OB, 96) which is dense, layered and has massive collaring potential.

merlot washington beverage ancient fire
(Source: ancientfirewineblog.blogspot.com)


Conversely, the 2017 Abuja ‘Columbia Valley’ Merlot (OB, 94) is silky and expressive right out of the gate, showing great structure, mid-palate weight and smooth tannins. I both the 2015 Andrew Will ‘Cain du Coeval’ Red Wine (OB, 94) and the 2017 Ravenna ‘Valery’ Red Wine (OB, 94) for different reasons, the Andrew Will being inky brooding and more non-fruit note driven and the Ravenna being quite pretty and floral with deep tones coming into play mid-palate.

The pandemic has brought plenty of stress and confusion but based on the quality of Merlot wines that Washington currently offers, you can be sure to have a great glass as we move into cooler temperatures and socially distance at home. The herbal, red bell pepper and deep, concentrated dark fruits from the Petite Vermont really make this blend work, as softer layers of chocolate and black cherry cordial from the Merlot also add to the enjoyment.

Layers of red and dark fruits combine with coffee grounds and chocolate tones with sagebrush accents on the palate. Gorgeous to enjoy in its youth, the 2017 ‘Columbia Valley' Merlot is a spectacular wine by a very talented winemaking team at Abuja.

A blend of mainly Merlot (63%) with 37% Cabernet Franc, this shows layers of blackberries and black currants that dance with suggestions of dark chocolate shavings and sagebrush that all take shape in the glass. The palate is soft, round and generous, showing gorgeous crème de cassis, mocha, tar and blackberry cobbler flavors, alongside a bright sense of generality.

Simply put, the wine is downright awesome now and will evolve well for another ten to fifteen years. 2017 Ravenna ‘Valery’ Red Wine- A gorgeous Right Bank style blend of 86% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc, the 2017 ‘Valery’ opens with a highly perfumed bouquet of red currants and Black Forest Cake with a light dusting of white pepper and espresso bean that all come together in the glass.

washington merlot walla mountain immersion total jameson northstar state
(Source: jamesonfink.com)

The weight of the wine really provides a layer of hedonistic enjoyment as bright Bing cherry and mocha flavors come together with shades of sandalwood, exotic spices and black tea on the palate. Fresh and vibrant, yet having great richness, this beautiful wine will enjoy a long life ahead of it.

Not really needing a decant at tall, the ‘Star; is soft, round and generous, as the Merlot yields a silky, pillow mouthfeel that entices. A light dusting of salinity falls upon a deep core of red fruits with milk chocolate and sagebrush undertones.

The wine shows nice herbal tones on the nose with the core of dark fruits, coffee grounds and chocolate. Layers of dark fruits and Turkish coffee line the palate, with marvelous length and a great feeling of tension.

The palate has a kiss of sweetness that connects with copious minerals and ripe red and dark fruits, with tobacco leaf and milk chocolate undertones. Needing an hour decant to fully evolve, once aroused this shows layers of chassis and mocha, with tar and underbrush on this beautiful nose.

Layers of blackberries and tar are woven together with sagebrush, dark chocolate shavings and graphite flavors. Intense and rich, with a Pomeroy like balance, this great new Merlot will enjoy a long life ahead of it.

wine organic wines natural
(Source: www.thewinebuyingguide.com)

Layers of blackberry compote and black cherry cordial combine with shades of milk chocolate and coffee grounds. The palate is silky smooth, giving off an err of opulence with its wonderfully plush texture.

The palate has a soft mouthfeel and great length with rich dark fruits that mingle with minerals and smoky undertones. Needing an hour in the decanter to be fully aroused, once awoken you experience dark currants and sandalwood aromatics, woven together with shades of milk chocolate and roasted figs.

With incredible tension and solid viscosity, this sturdy Merlot will enjoy a long life in the cellar. Needing a two hour decant to fully open, the 2018 Bennett Merlot slowly unveils layers of toasty oak that are woven together with black cherry cordial, sagebrush and milk chocolate tones that all come together in the glass.

Cocoa powder dusted red cherries greet you, while flavors of underbrush, damp earth and espresso bean all enliven the senses. Washington wine tends to fly under the radar of the average wine lover, but the state is doing some exciting things with both red and white varieties.

We've recently been extremely impressed with Male and Sarah on the red side as well as white varieties like Pilot Gris and Chardonnay. Columbia Valley covers 99% of the vineyard area in the state of Washington and offers a fascinating study in what wine geeks like to call “terror”.

merlot pairing winepw celebrate weekend wine foodwineclick regions sourcing excellent washington california state
(Source: foodwineclick.com)

These conditions can include climate, soil type, and even unique plant characteristics. In the Columbia Valley the terror includes conditions like 300 days of sunshine a year and a desert-like annual rainfall of just 6–10 inches.

The area also boasts a 40 degree diurnal shift, which is the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures. Large differences in daytime and nighttime temperatures are wonderful for growing grapes.

Columbia Valley also has extremely unique soil types caused by the Missoula Floods during the Ice Age 20,000 years ago. These soils allow vines to thrive and also impart unique mineral characteristics to the grapes.

With their 2017 vintage, production director Rick Small and winemaker Kevin Mott have added to that legacy with a brilliant Chard sourced from their usual two sites: Cello Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge, and their own Woodward Canyon estate vineyard in the Wall Wall Valley. Not so for winemaker Michael Savage, whose Cello Chard is a fine value, offering nervy acidity and a dry flavor profile that combines lemon curd, mineral and subtle spice notes.

Whether the wine’s insistent generality comes from those rocks or is inherent to the grapes seems not to matter once it’s in the glass. Pink debuted with the 2015 vintage, and in four short years has captured the imagination of Satellites and become one of the fuzziest roses released each spring.

merlot fitch alexander wine
(Source: www.firstpourwine.com)

The fruit purity is exceptional here (strawberries and raspberries abound), and the texture is seamless and polished. Vintners 2015 Rhone Blend Brushed Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $40 Winemaker Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen splits his time between W.T.

Here he has crafted a blend of about one-third each of Grenade, Sarah and Mourned, all from a single hillside of Brushed Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. This beautifully balances elements both fruity (blackberry) and savory (smoky bacon, briny olive), all on a supple, easy-drinking frame.

Fermented with 50% whole clusters (stems and all) and then aged in a mix of large puncheons and small barrels, this wine revels in the funky, savory side of Sarah, with meaty smoked sausages and brackish seaweed complementing a core of blueberry fruit. It’s a pan- Washington Sarah, featuring seven different vineyards across five of Washington’s Ava, and it features a core of marionberry fruit lifted by floral top notes and complicated by savory threads of bacon fat and sanguine generality.

Vintners 2015 Gorgeous Sarah, Destiny Ridge Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, $30 The blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon was aged entirely in new French oak, and it offers an appealing nose combining plummy fruit with dusty earth notes, mocha and rosemary.

Dark fruits (plums, huckleberries) commingle with high-cacao chocolate in this delightful truffle of a wine. This Merlot includes 13% Cabernet Franc, and all the grapes come from Stillwater Creek Vineyard.

merlot american
(Source: squareup.com)

Aged in French oak (60% new) for just shy of two years, this wine displays a pair of the characteristics that make Washington Merlot so compelling: complexity (in the form of earth and tomato-paste savory notes overlaying a core of cherry fruit) and structure (in the form of toothsome finishing tannins). The BEST OTHER RED BLENDS Underground Wine Project 2015 Idle Hands Red Mountain, $30 Trey Busch and Mark McNally’s Underground Wine Project takes home a second prize this year (their Mr.

That new American oak adds appealing notes of vanilla bean and cocoa powder to a wine bursting with cherry and raspberry richness. Classic Cabernet notes of crème de cassis and cedar coexist with subtleties of beetroot and rhubarb, all on a supple, polished frame.

BEST SPLURGE CABERNET SAUVIGNON Canvasback (by Duck horn) 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain, $40 In 2013, Napa Valley stalwart Duck horn purchased a 20-acre parcel of land on Red Mountain and launched Canvasback, its first foray into Washington state. Industry veteran Brian Ruin is the local winemaker for Canvasback, and this is his first Cab that includes a portion of fruit from the estate vineyard, called Long winds.

In total, this wine includes 13 Red Mountain vineyards, so it is a fine representative of the AVA as a whole, offering chewy, black-tea-flavored tannins aplenty as structural underpinnings for a wine bursting with black currant fruit and rose petal nuance. BEST SPECIAL-OCCASION CABERNET SAUVIGNON Passing Time 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills, $80 Washington native Damon Hard partnered with fellow quarterback Dan Marino to launch Woodinville-based Passing Time four years ago with the 2012 vintage.

Their winemaker from the beginning has been Chris Peterson (Ravenna), and he works wonders with this Cabernet, primarily from a pair of special Horse Heaven Hills sites: Campus and Discovery. The wine sees 21 months in French oak (80% new) and offers wonderful pencil-lead generality to complement a core of black currant fruit and smoky baking spice.

woodinville chateau ste winery michelle washington
(Source: www.loveexploring.com)

Nominees that received the most votes in the categories of wineries, winemaker, vineyard and homelier were selected as winners. The approximately 90 wines receiving the most votes in the varietal categories qualified as finalists for a blind tasting held on March 18.

That tasting was conducted by a panel of three industry professionals (Paul Literally of Full Pull Wines, Mark Sakai of Metropolitan Market and Chris Horn of Heavy Restaurant Group) who evaluated the wines on the basis of appeal in regard to sight, smell and taste in order to come to a consensus on the winners within each category. Also, a minimum of 95% of the grapes used in the production of the wine must be from a vineyard located within Washington state, or from one of the three federally recognized interstate Ava that include acreage in Washington state (Columbia Valley, Wall Wall Valley and the Columbia Gorge Ava).

Winners in categories involving people, places and wine experiences also must be located in Washington. For a varietal to be considered in its category, it must be made with at least 75% of the grape variety that is grown in Washington state.

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