Monthly Archives: October 2005
Added Note: Lost River Winery 2003 Merlot received a silver medal at the Tri-Cities Wine Festival on November 12, 2005.
Lost River Winery burst onto the Washington wine scene last year when its 2002 Columbia Valley Merlot earned best of show honors at the Tri-Cities Wine Festival in Pasco.
The winery is another of those that has ties to the Bellingham area. Winemaker John Morgan was an engineer for Whatcom County while his wife, Barbara House, was an emergency room nurse at St. Luke’s and St. Joseph’s Hospital. The two moved to Mazama in 2001 and began winemaking full time, where they were joined by House’s son Liam Doyle, who is the Director of Marketing and Sales.
Current releases include the 2003 Columbia Valley Merlot (about $21). This is a very heady Merlot that begs to be paired with a pork, duck or beef entrée. The wine begins with a lovely nose of crème brulee, followed by flavors of dark, bittersweet chocolate and licorice. The finish is soft with traces of oak, the result of 16 months of aging in French barrels.
Also currently available is the 2004 Columbia Valley Rainshadow (about $14), a blend of 60 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 40 percent Semillon. The wine displays flavors of citrus and pear with a finish nicely balanced between the anticipated acidity and mild creaminess.
Lost River wines are available locally for purchase at The Vines wine shop, Fairhaven Market and Community Food Co-op and can also be ordered at Nimbus Restaurant. A tasting room is scheduled to open in Winthrop near the end of this year. More information: Phone (509) 996-2888 or www.lostriverwinery.com.
Eola Hills Winery 2004 (about $12): A little more full-bodied than the Pinots you might be used to, I considered this a to be a plus when I recently tried this newer release from Oregon. Bright cherry and cranberry flavors are the highlight of a wine that tastes so good, you’ll swear it costs much more.
If you saw the critically acclaimed movie, “Sideways,” you know that one of the lead characters was constantly preaching the virtues of the delicate, yet finicky Pinot Noir grape while constantly bashing the more popular Merlot.
My theory for the outcry – which led to a nationwide increase in Pinot Noir consumption – is that everyone is out to get you when you’re on top. For years, Merlot was the darling of red wine drinkers. In fact, it was downright unfashionable not to be seen drinking it in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. So just as fashions change, it was inevitable that something else would try to be promoted to replace it as the red wine of choice.
Let me emphasis “try.” In Washington, Merlot is still one of the most widely produced grapes in the state. And for my money, I’d take a Merlot, with its dense, complex layers and soft finish over a lighter bodied Pinot Noir almost any day.
I recently attended a blind tasting of Merlots from the Pacific Northwest, California and Europe. The top two choices – clearly preferred by all of the tasters – were both from Washington. Although the wines are premium priced, their quality levels set them above the rest. Here are my tasting notes on each:
2002 Five Star Cellars, Walla Walla Valley (about $31) – Beautiful nose of cedar and cherry with huge berry and black cherry flavors and a big, chewy finish. Bring on the beef!
2002 Canon del Sol, Columbia Valley (about $23) – Dark plum and blueberry fruit flavors with delicate tannins and an ultra-long finish make this an elegant Merlot.
1:30 to 4:30 pm – Beginning Wine Tasting. The perfect class for those just getting started with wines. The format will be relaxed, yet informative, with plenty of wines to sample. No wine snob attitudes permitted! Click on the Wine Classes Page for more information.