How important have red blends become in the Pacific Northwest? They might just be the biggest category of wine made in our corner of the world.
We receive more red blends for review than any other style or variety of wine. In fact, since we launched our weekly online Fresh Press publication in mid-May, 34 of the 194 wines we’ve reviewed have been red blends.
And it makes sense: For hundreds of years, winemakers in the Bordeaux region of France have made their reputations on blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. However, New World winemakers are not limited in the varieties they use, and that makes Northwest red blends fascinating. Any given wine might have anywhere from two to a dozen different kinds of grapes in it. While you won’t find Syrah or Tempranillo co-mingling with Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux, you will in the free-spirited winemaking of the New World.
We’ve picked out a few superb red blends we’ve tasted in recent weeks in a wide range of styles and prices. To find them, check with your favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly.
Wedge Mountain Winery 2007 Trois Chevaux Rouges, Columbia Valley, $20: The owner of this Peshastin winery, Charlie McKee, uses the French term for “three red horses” as the name for his annual blend of Merlot (64%), Cabernet Sauvignon (24%) and Cabernet Franc. Aromas of dried red fruit and crushed herbs expand on the palate with flavors of Bing cherries, blueberry jam and oregano. The acidity keeps the tannins tucked away in the background.
Precept Wine 2007 Pendulum, Columbia Valley, $15: One can almost breathe in the fuzzy boysenberries and raspberries, supported by anise, slate and menthol. A tip of the glass funnels in a fun, bold and balanced drink with more raspberries, chocolate-covered cherries and an explosion of boysenberries on the midpalate. There’s a sense of grace to the finish, thanks to fine-grained tannins.
Tagaris Winery 2007 Epyo, Columbia Valley, $56: This wine uses traditional Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon (34%), Malbec (22%) and Petit Verdot (22%) and Merlot. The 18 months in new French oak bring out aromas of cherry, chocolate, cigar, cedar, mint and cherry wood. Rich black cherry and dark currant flavors carry into cranberry and orangy acidity.
Gifford Hirlinger 2008 Stateline Red, Walla Walla Valley, $16: This is a collaboration of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Tinta Cao, Tempranillo and Petit Verdot. Skillful use of 100% neutral barrels creates a nose that includes chocolate-covered almonds, boysenberry, blackberry, nutmeg, espresso and black licorice. Close your eyes and the drink is of condensed blackberry juice and marionberry with delicious depth and bold tannins.
Capstone Cellars 2006 Solstice Vineyard Unicus Red, Yakima Valley, $24: Solstice Vineyard has gained fame recently for its Riesling, but this Longview winery has a string of success with blending red Bordeaux varieties, this time with Merlot (55%), Cabernet Sauvignon (27%) and Cabernet Franc. Classic and complex aromas of cassis, black cherry, tar and black pepper give way to flavors of cherries and chocolate.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2008 Limited Release CŸSŸM, Columbia Valley, $30: This red from Washington’s oldest winery is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (51%), Syrah (45%) and Malbec — hence the CSM reference. It’s an example of how Syrah accents red blends, and the package opens with whiffs of vanilla extract, black cherry, blueberry, chocolate, marionberry, smoke meat and cigar smoke. The drink is mouth-filling with blueberries and marionberries, backed by cherry and bittersweet chocolate.
3 Horse Ranch Vineyards 2008 Estate Syrah-Mourvedre, Snake River Valley, $25: Idaho’s largest organic vineyard provided the grapes for this blend. Aromas feature blueberry, plum, cola, rose hips, lilac, lavender tea and hint at a stroll among the Yoshino cherry blossoms in the Quad at the University of Washington. Crushed cherries, plump blueberry and marionberry flavors rush in, followed by more plums, watermelon and lingering acidity.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest. Read the freshest reviews of Northwest wine at winepressnw.com/freshpress.