Washington Merlot Made in Paso Robles

Sign of the times to be sure. A Washington Merlot, that’s made in Paso Robles.  There’s a few reasons to think this is hardly the end of this trend.  In fact, I expect we’ll see an increasing amount of this type of stuff.


Video Transcription:

Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’m going to hold this up so you can see it. This is a Barter & Trade and this is a Washington Merlot. I thought this was interesting for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, this is going out to Exploration Wine Club members this month. If you subscribe to one of our wine clubs you’re going to see this, if you’re an Explorations member, some of our other red wine club members will see this too. I thought this was interesting for a couple reasons.

First, it’s a damn good bottle of wine. The state of Washington has a lot of things going for it. They grow a lot of things really, really well. The kind of history up there is, for a long time, people in the wine industry thought that Washington was going to make its mark with Merlot. Then, for a while, it turned into, “Well, the Syrah’s really world class.” Now, increasingly, you’re seeing people say, “Well, maybe it’s the Cabernet.” Truthfully, I think that you could say, much like the Central Coast and part of Santa Barbara, where there’s kind of this cascade of good weather to grow certain varietals, I think Washington really does experience that too.

Really they can ripen, or barely ripen in this case, a lot of different Bordeaux varietals in a lot of different regions, so I think instead of trying to pigeonhole Washington into, “Well, it’s Cabernet, or it’s Merlot, or it’s Syrah,” or whatever the case may be, it is just saying that they make really good red wine grapes, and maybe on the white wine side we’re still trying to find what is that signature grape still. On the red wine side they might not have a certain singular, kind of, signature grape, and it may be red wine blends, Bordeaux-based that are what kind of makes the name for themselves.

As Napa has gone increasingly to only Cabernet and 100% Cabernet, or at least 85% Cabernet, maybe Washington zigs a little bit out of that range and does focus on winemaker blending. I think that’s something that’s going to be interesting to watch over the coming weeks and years, not weeks, but in months, as we come to harvest we start to see what kind of choices winemakers are going to be making about grapes coming into the winery. Then in the coming years what kind of choices do they make?

Secondly, I think this helps to tell a wider tale, too, of what wine industry. This is Washington grapes made by a winery based in Paso Robles. Much like Napa, and many spots in California, we are incredibly lucky winemakers have awesome facilities. Really, truly the finest facilities in the world exists in California. That’s not to say they don’t have good facilities in Washington or Oregon, or really in most of Europe, but truly there has been a larger amount of money per capita invested in facilities, in wine making facilities in California than there has been elsewhere. I think a natural offshoot of that is while there’s this continued kind of fight for good grapes, one of the ways that people and California winemakers are trying to expand their businesses by looking in other directions for fruit. It’s logical for them to look northward.

If you’re in Paso, you might like to Napa and Sonoma first and foremost if you’re trying to bring in grapes from outside the region, but those are incredibly competitive as is most of the central coast, [War 00:03:07] is the next stop. If you’re in Paso you might not be comfortable making a Pinot because that’s really foreign to what you usually do on a daily basis, but a Washington Merlot would kind of be more in your ballpark.

I think you’re going to see, we are seeing more of this already. I talked about Elouan Pinot, an Oregon Pinot made in Napa yesterday. This is a Washington Merlot that’s being made in Paso Robles, we’re going to do a few more of these in the coming months for wine club members, and I think it’s an interesting tale about how the industry is expanding, and really coalescing here on the west coast. I don’t think that’s something you’ve seen quite ever happen in the United States, and it certainly hasn’t happened really in Europe, you’re not really seeing Burgundian Pinot grapes being shipped to Bordeaux to be made. That stuff’s all really made fairly locally, and so this is going to be a different aspect of the wine industry that we haven’t seen before.

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