Mixing it up with Washington red blends
More and more Washington wineries have been offering moderately priced, blended wines — most of them red — assembled from excess barrels, or occasionally from purchased fruit.
Special to the Seattle Times
Pick of the week
Beresan 2007 The Buzz Yellow Jacket Vineyard Red; $19
THERE SHOULD be plenty of buzz about The Buzz. It's a single-vineyard blend of cabernet sauvignon, cab franc, merlot, malbec and syrah from a choice location in The Rocks section of Walla Walla. Dense and dark, loaded with black fruits, coffee grounds and ground pepper. (Cavatappi distributes)
IN THE PAST few years, more and more Washington wineries have been offering moderately priced, blended wines — most of them red — assembled from excess barrels, or occasionally from purchased fruit. The motives varied, but it soon became apparent that the right combination of fruit, price and a catchy name could jazz up a winery's bottom line in a heartbeat.
I've written about many of these wines over the years, but I've never assembled an entire column devoted to them. It's time to do that.
The impetus came from an extraordinary stroke of good fortune that fell upon Tamarack Cellars shortly before the holidays. Their popular Firehouse Red — a blend of up to eight grape varieties, selling for around $15 — was listed as No. 49 on the Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of the Year. The wine was already a success, with production at 15,000 cases and growing. In fact, when I tasted it at the winery last spring, owner Ron Coleman told me he was confident that "the future of this wine will only get better and better; more and more wineries are walking away from grapes. I can step up and get fruit for half the price," he added, noting that "bad economic times help wines like this."
True enough. But what really helps is being No. 49 on an influential Top 100 list. I asked Coleman what had happened with sales after the list came out. "We made 15,000 cases of 2008 Firehouse Red and released it last March," he confirmed. "When the review came out we had about 5,000 cases left, which were allocated and sold in December, except for a little we kept for our own sales and for emergencies. There was only one 'version' of the wine, not a second release. I would never consider doing that. The 2009 is going into bottle beginning Feb. 15th and will have to be released immediately."
There is only one Firehouse Red, but there are other fascinating red blends, priced less than $20 and often selling for a few bucks below list. Here are some suggestions, some I've tried, some recommended by Facebook friends. Contact the wineries directly for purchase information and current availability.
What I've tried
William Church 2008 Bishop's Blend Red; $20
The best ever, seductive and smoky, with sweet fruit and toasty barrel spices.
Barrister NV Rough Justice Red; $20
This wine rocks; it has fruit power, punch and presence.
Saviah Cellars 2008 The Jack; $18
Mostly merlot, full-bodied and forward.
Gifford Hirlinger 2007 Stateline Red; $16
Dark, plush, well-ripened fruit; firm and confidently blended.
DiStefano 2006 domenica Red; $20
A Bordeaux blend with seductive aromas of mocha, cedar and toast.
Thurston Wolfe 2008 Dr. Wolfe's Family Red; $16
A full-bodied, rustic, ripe, red blend.
Kamiak 2008 Rock Lake Red; $15
Tart, tangy red fruit flavors, nicely integrated.
Others to look for
JM Cellars Bramble Bump Red; $20
Januik 2007 Red; $18
Novelty Hill 2007 Royal Slope Red; $18
L'Ecole No 41 2008 Recess Red; $17
Waterbrook 2007 Mélange Noir; $15
Syncline 2009 Subduction Red; $18
The Ghost of 413 2007 Red; $15
Mark Ryan 2008 The Vincent Board Track Racer; $20
Cuillin Hills 2008 Riff-Raft; $19
Portteus Bistro Red; $10
Goose Ridge 2008 g3 Red; $18
Basel Cellars 2007 Claret; $18
Nodland Cellars Bad Attitude Red; $20
McCrea non sequitur Red; $20
Stevens 2008 Yes Oui Si Red; $18
Robert Karl 2008 Claret; $20
Chinook Yakima Valley Red Blend XII; $15
Trust Cellars 2009 TATT Red; $17
Arbor Crest NV Cliff House Red; $14
About Wine Adviser
My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.
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