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Columbia Winery Merlot 2014 Review

Merlot was going to be “the thing” in Washington.  Much like Napa Valley though, it didn’t take as much as it did in Bordeaux.  Here’s some information on Merlot in the state of Washington, as well as, this specific review for the Columbia Winery 2014 Merlot-which for me, was a miss.

Video Transcription:

Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So, I’ll hold this up so you can as good a look at it as you can. It’s a little hard to see on the video actually. So this is a Columbia Valley. This is a Merlot from let’s see, 2014, so in this case I actually think the vintage isn’t all that important. So first, Columbia Winery it’s one of the first up in Washington. In fact you know, back in the day you were allowed to take ABAs and names and kind of co-mingle the two, winery and ABA kind of went together hand in hand. Over the years in large part the Federal Government had asked wineries, and specifically other vintners in the areas have asked people, “Can we start to remove these winery names from the AVAs?” Of course somebody with the name Napa Valley Winery would have an easy access to sales that maybe somebody that had a you know, Aselstine Family Cellars, or whatever your last name happens to be winery wouldn’t have.

This is kind of a relic I guess of a bygone era at least as far as naming conventions go, and there’s definitely a few folks up in Washington that kind of want a little bit of access to that Columbia Valley AVA and that kind of name and some of the sales and kind of marketing prowess that might come with it. There’s this Columbia Valley. There’s Columbia Crest and there’s a handful of other ones too. So in any case I thought this was interesting on a couple of levels.

When people have … You know this is a maybe a $8 or $10 bottle of wine, so when people first started growing grapes in Washington, there was a great hope that Merlot was the grape. Over time Merlot has become less and less important. Different regions they figured out in large part for Washington that it’s a bigger state than most people realize, and it runs much further, I guess you would say it runs … You know, it’s not exactly a square, but it’s kind of a rectangle and it is a little bit longer than it is taller, so it runs more east and west and as far as growing wine grapes, that’s actually a pretty good thing.

In essence what happens is that as you go east in the State of Washington, you get into much warmer environments at least during the summer and it becomes pretty good spots to grow some grapes. Walla Walla is in the southeast corner, so you benefit from warmer summer conditions, but you still have the snow over the winter, and so they’ve kind of figured out that it doesn’t have to just be Merlot and unlike what most consumers expect, most of the grapes aren’t grown around Seattle. Woodinville is kind of the main wine-tasting region of the state, and that’s maybe 30 or 45 minutes north of Seattle, but that’s like this Columbia Winery is a great example. They don’t make the wine there, but they have a tasting room available, and that’s for a lot of folks.

I think over the years we’ve seen more and more people moving production to that region because it’s a little bit easier to have production and tasting at the same spot. The Walla Walla folks are kind of out in left field on this. They are kind of creating a whole industry on their own which kind of, I think, makes them a little bit more interesting. So in any case, $8 to $10 Merlot. Merlot used to be kind of the go-to grape in Washington. It became so raw it’s kind of slowly morphed into Cabernet. I think over time you’re going to see that it’s not any one single grape.

Napa increasingly is going just to a 100% Cabernet. Sonoma is so focused on Pinot right now it’s almost insane, so I think what you’ll see in Washington is you’ll see red wine blends kind of take over and I think that will add some interest as far as the wine-maker in charge will have a little bit more input than they might have elsewhere, and I think that’s a good thing. So in any case, kind of a cheapy Washington Merlot. It’s ripe. It’s not overly ripe. This is like 13-1/2% alcohol which kind of is right in the normal range, and kind of also interesting, the Columbia Valley ABA in Washington if you’re not familiar is in essence the entire state and part of the State of Oregon, so you learn absolutely nothing by seeing that on a label. Although people generally think that’s a much, much smaller area than say California on a California wine label. It’s really not. Well, it is smaller, but it doesn’t tell you anything more because you know nothing about the vineyards that are involved.

So in any case, it’s a worthwhile bottle to pick up, and $8 or $10 Merlot, you kind of know what you’re getting and you get what you get, and it’s not completely disinteresting and I think it’s one of those things that as we’ve seen in Sonoma, and we have friends family who had to sell a Merlot vineyard, which got pulled out and grafted over to Pinot, there’s going to be folks that always want Merlot, and even if it’s just for red wine blends, it’s important to have access to some of the fruit. So, you’ll see some of these older Merlot vineyards, especially as they age and the fruit quality goes up and up, they become more in demand. So, it’ll be interesting to watch as time goes by, and a rare Sunday hello from Uncorked Ventures. I hope everybody’s having a nice weekend, and shoot us an email if you have anything that you’d like to chat about. Thanks again.

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