Wine Tasting Dinner: Washington Malbec



By Kori ~ December 24th, 2008.

Mother Nature gave us just enough of a reprieve between snowstorms to allow us and our guests to make it to this month’s wine tasting dinner last Friday night. After being cooped up in our homes for a couple days, it was nice to get out for a fun evening of good wines, excellent food, and the company of wonderful friends.

20081224_wamalbec1This month’s tasting dinner featured Washington Malbec. You may remember that we tasted Argentine Malbec in June. While Malbec has become the signature grape in Argentina and is also used as a blending grape in Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style blends, I believe that it is on the cusp of becoming a major player in Washington State as a stand-alone varietal. More and more Washington wineries are trying their hand at Malbec each year. Malbec seems to do well in Washington State’s climate and soil. Malbec appeals to a number of different palates because it is not as tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon but is spicier than Merlot and goes well with a variety of foods.

All but the BEAST, which was the lone disappointment in this tasting, paired nicely with Mom’s dinner menu which included creamy tomato soup with basil, mixed green salad, seasoned beef tenderloin with sautéed mushrooms, chipotle-lime mashed sweet potatoes, and mixed vegetables. After dinner, we enjoyed gourmet cookies and Port. 20081224_wamalbec2

Not surprisingly, the 2006 Saviah Cellars Malbec and the 2005 Gilbert Cellars Malbec came out on top. We had enjoyed both of these wines earlier this year individually, but it is always fun to put our favorites up against their peers in a blind tasting to see how they fare.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

2006 Saviah Cellars Malbec (Walla Walla Valley): Dark, inky purple. Very aromatic. Luscious black fruit and movie theatre popcorn aromas lead to black Bing cherries, blackberries, and black pepper on the palate. Also hints of smoked meats and tobacco come through on the back end. Well crafted and well-balanced with a long, smooth finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Winery, $30

2005 Gilbert Cellars Malbec (Columbia Valley): Red fruits and hay come through on the nose, leading to more intense flavors of cherry, raspberry, and pepper on the palate. Smooth and well-balanced. Improves with food.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Winery, $26 [Sold Out; 2006 is the currently available vintage]

2004 Sagelands Malbec (Columbia Valley)
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Pete’s Wine Shop (Bellevue, WA), $14

2006 Seven Hills Malbec (Walla Walla Valley)
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Pete’s Wine Shop (Bellevue, WA), $25; Available elsewhere, $24 to $30

2007 Substance Malbec (Columbia Valley)
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Esquin Wine Merchants (Seattle), $20

2006 Buty BEAST Conner Lee Vineyard Malbec (Columbia Valley)
Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: NR (not recommended)
Price: $40


Filed under: American Wine, Malbec, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Tasting Dinners, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Sean Sullivan | December 24th, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Kori,

    This sounds like a fun tasting. I love the Saviah and Gilbert Malbecs as well. I have been planning to check out the Substance Malbec but haven’t gotten to it yet. I agree that this varietal is getting a lot of attention in the state lately. Interestingly, there has also been a lot of experimentation with the Italian varietals as well. Wine Press NW did a nice review of some of these wines in their Fall 2008 issue which you probably have seen already but I will include the link here for your readers (http://www.winepressnw.com/fall08/story/2247.html). Unfortunately, as the article indicates, most of these are low production wines – as the malbecs are – so can be difficult to find outside of the tasting room. Still, it will be interesting to see what happens with these varietals in the future. Over time, Washington has been known for: Riesling (first and still), Merlot, and, increasingly, Cabernet. However, there has yet to be one true red varietal that is associated with Washington state the way Cabernet is for California or Malbec is for Argentina or Pinot Noir is for Oregon. Perhaps this is because the soil and geography of Washington can do so many varietals so well. Still, many continue the search for that one varietal that unambiguously expresses the terroir and says Washington state. It will be interesting to see where it goes. Best wishes to you and your family for the holidays.

  2. Kori | December 24th, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Sean,

    I agree that it will be interesting to see what happens with some of these currently low production varietals in the future. I think that Washington is in a unique position because it can do so many varietals well. As for a signature varietal for the state, we probably tasted more good Washington Syrah than any other varietal this year. More than likely, though, individual AVAs within the state will settle upon a signature varietal rather than the state as a whole. Red Mountain does the Bordeaux varietals extremely well. Wahluke Slope produces excellent Syrah, etc.

    Wishing you and yours a very Happy Holidays!

  3. AWToday 25/12/08 « AWToday | December 25th, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    [...] Wine Peeps: A Wine Blog » Wine Tasting Dinner: Washington Malbec You may remember that we tasted Argentine Malbec in June. While Malbec has become the signature grape in Argentina and is also used as a blending grape in Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style blends, I believe that it is on the cusp of becoming … Wine Peeps – http://winepeeps.com/ [...]

  4. Margot | December 29th, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Kori,
    I’m a big fan of Gilbert’s wines — the Malbec, Claret and especially the Cab. Another great Malbec- quite smoky- is from Woodhouse Famly Cellars — Kennedy Shah Malbec. The latest vintage (2003) is sold out, but keep your eye out for the next release.

    Happy New Years to all of you!
    Cheers,
    Margot

  5. Kori | December 29th, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Margot,

    I have not tried the Woodhouse Malbec. Thanks for the recommendation; I will be on the lookout for the next release. Happy New Year!

  6. Dr. Douglas S. Shearer | May 5th, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    The 2007 Gilbert Cellars Malbec is not bad….BUT FOR THE PRICE OF $26/bottle…it is way overpriced! One can get great Argentina Malbecs for 8-10 bucks less a bottle and from wines.com. The trouble with WA states wines…is that most are far too pricey..and the profuse statements made about them…way too pompous! Heck…go to Costco…and for 18 bucks you can buy a great Malbec.

  7. Kori | May 7th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Dr. Shearer,
    We have found excellent Malbecs from both Argentina and Washington State. If you are looking for less expensive bottles, you might be interested in the wine tasting dinner we had featuring Argentine Malbec: http://winepeeps.com/2008/06/18/wine-tasting-dinner-argentine-malbec/. I must disagree with your statement that “the trouble with WA State’s wines is that most are far too pricey.” That is simply not true. Many Washington wines deliver great QPR, across varietals, particularly compared to California and France. Cheers!

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