Wine Tasting Dinner: Washington Malbec Extravaganza



By Kori ~ September 23rd, 2009.

Washington Malbec preliminary roundOur monthly wine tasting dinners are really the foundation upon which Wine Peeps was built. We have been getting together each month with friends to taste and evaluate wines throughout a four-course meal for years. Last Friday’s dinner featuring Washington Malbec was our 75th wine tasting dinner.

To mark this milestone of sorts, we decided to change up our normal routine a bit in order to taste a few more wines. It was a gorgeous late summer evening, so we tasted through eleven Washington Malbecs outside on the deck. Each person was asked to take one pour of each wine, taste it, and then give a preliminary 1-11 ranking in order of preference. We then tallied up the scores in order to determine the six “finalists” that would move on to the dinner portion of the tasting.

Washington Malbec paired well with leg of lambFor those of you who are not very familiar with Malbec, its ties go back to Bordeaux, France, where it was originally one of the five varieties used in red Bordeaux blends along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Today it is only used sparingly in Bordeaux but has really come into its own as a stand-alone varietal in Argentina. And, in my opinion, Washington State is beginning to produce some excellent Malbec as well. In general, Malbec is not as tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon but is spicier than Merlot and goes well with a number of different foods. Speaking of foods, Mom’s meal of creamy tomato basil soup, mixed green salad, leg of lamb with red wine gravy and lemon thyme, lemon zest rice pilaf, marinated grilled vegetables, and lemon sorbet was fabulous and a perfect complement to the wines.

While all six wines we tasted with dinner were good, the 2006 Barnard Griffin Reserve Malbec and the 2006 àMaurice Cellars Malbec stood out from the rest. They were my two favorites from the first sip right on through the meal. On top of being excellent wines, they both have QPR’s of 5 bangs for your buck.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of enjoying Washington Malbec, this list is a good place to start. Cheers!

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings with dinner:

2006 Barnard Griffin Reserve Malbec (Columbia Valley): Deep red. Very aromatic with aromas of dark fruits, spice, and oak. Blue and black fruits and spice come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with medium tannins and a long finish. Well-balanced and smooth. Great by itself or with food.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $35; Village Wines (Washington), $34.35

2006 àMaurice Cellars Malbec (Columbia Valley): Deep, dark red. Great nose with aromas of black fruits and spice. Flavors of black fruits and a hint of pepper. Medium to full-bodied with medium-high tannins. Smooth and well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: The Grape Choice (Kirkland, WA), $34; Available elsewhere, $33 to $39

Washington Malbec Extravaganza wines revealed2005 Dusted Valley Malbec (Columbia Valley): Deep, dark red. Dark fruits and popcorn on the nose; black pepper and dark fruits on the palate. Medium to full-bodied, medium-high tannins and a long, slightly hot finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: The Wine Alley (Renton, WA), $35

2006 Watermill Winery Estate Malbec (Walla Walla Valley): Brilliant, dark, dense purple. Mocha, vanilla, and some vegetal aromas come through on the nose; spices, black pepper, black fruits, plums, and black cherry on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with medium tannins and a long finish. Well-balanced and smooth.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $28

2006 Saviah Cellars Malbec (Walla Walla Valley): Dark, inky purple. A bit tight on the nose at first. Black fruit, movie theatre popcorn, and vanilla aromas lead to black Bing cherries, blackberries, green peppers, and black pepper on the palate. Medium-bodied with medium tannins and a medium, slightly bitter finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $30

2005 Beresan Winery Malbec (Walla Walla Valley): Dark red. Aromatic with black fruit and floral aromas. More black fruits come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with medium-high tannins and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $25; Available elsewhere, $28 to $33

The rest:

2005 Gilbert Cellars Malbec (Columbia Valley)
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $26

2007 Alexandria Nicole Block 20 Reserve Malbec (Horse Heaven Hills)
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $35

2007 William Church Winery Malbec (Wahluke Slope)
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: The Wine Alley (Renton, WA), $30

2007 Nefarious Cellars Malbec (Snipes Mountain)
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $27

2005 Gamache Vintners Estate Malbec (Columbia Valley)
Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: NR (not recommended)
Where to buy: The Wine Alley (Renton, WA), $35


Filed under: American Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Malbec, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Tasting Dinners, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Andy Perdue | September 23rd, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Just proving that great minds think alike, we rated the Barnard Griffin Malbec as the overall No. 1 wine in our big (88 wine) judging of Northwest “Bordeaux Gems” (Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere).

    Here’s the link: http://www.winepressnw.com/spring09/story/2661.html

  2. Katie Sims | September 23rd, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    A good line-up, to be sure. Hope you look for one of my favorites next time you’re tasting through Wash. malbec — Charlie Hoppes at Fidelitas is making some fine wine with this grape too.

  3. Mark | September 24th, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Seems like Malbec is going to be a more competitive area then it has been recently with the recent entry of both France and Washington State to finally give Argentina some competition. It’s a good thing because I’m not a huge fan of the Malbec which is available domestically(they keep the good stuff for themselves lol) so this should bring more choice into the market.

  4. Kori | September 24th, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Andy,
    Great minds do think alike. Thanks for sharing the results of your big judging. The Barnard Griffin Malbec is quite deserving of the recognition.

    Katie,
    Thanks for the recommendation. We’ll definitely have to check out the Fidelitas Malbec next time.

    Cheers!

  5. mrzitro | September 25th, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Thanks, now I’ve found some more Malbecs to try. Has anyone ever tried the Walla Walla Vintners Pepper Bridge Vineyard Malbec?

  6. Wmchurchwinery | September 26th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Glad to be included in this tasting across WA Malbecs. The 2006 Malbec might have stacked up better vintage to vintage but that is long gone. Congrats on the #6 ranking!

  7. Kori | October 14th, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    mrzitro,
    Hope you enjoy trying some of these Malbecs. I have not tried the Walla Walla Vintners Pepper Bridge Vineyard Malbec that you mentioned. I’ll have to check it out in the future.

    Wmchurchwinery,
    Thanks! I don’t believe that I had the pleasure of trying your 2006 Malbec. I do know how wines can vary from vintage to vintage. We’ll look forward to trying your 2008 when it comes out.

    Cheers!

  8. Kori | October 14th, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Mark,
    You are exactly right. I do enjoy some Argentine Malbec but the more choices, the better. I’m especially excited that so many Washington winemakers are starting to produce Malbec. Cheers!

  9. Chris | November 17th, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Interesting list! I’ve tried and enjoyed 5 of the 6 that didn’t make your cut, but haven’t yet tried any of your top 6. Now I have something to look forward to Barnard Griffin will be my first stop.

    I’ll second the Fidelitas recommendation and add Upland Estates.

  10. Kori | November 18th, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Chris,
    Thanks for the Upland Estates recommendation. I’ll have to add it to the list to check out in the future. I’d love to hear what you think of the Barnard Griffin when you try it. Cheers!

  11. Chris | November 19th, 2009 at 8:48 am

    It appears I’ve missed out on the Barnard Griffin, as it’s listed as sold out on their web site. Maybe I’ll try to talk them our of some at their tasting room or wait for the next release. We don’t belong to their club (yet), but might join because we enjoy most everything we’ve tried there. Cheers!

  12. Kori | November 19th, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Chris,
    That’s too bad. I’d definitely give their next release a shot, though. I’ve found Barnard Griffin wines to be fairly consistent from vintage to vintage. Cheers!

  13. Chris | November 29th, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Kori, Update! BG had, as of yesterday at ~4:00, about 10 cases of their ’06 Malbec at their tasting room in Richland. Some leftover from an event or something, and they had it on sale 25% off. We bought and enjoyed some yesterday. Thanks for the recomendation.

    They also had their ’07, which we tasted. Also a nice wine.

    Anybody looking for the ’06 call Richland or hurry by.

  14. Kori | December 2nd, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Chris,
    Thanks for the update! That’s great news. Glad you were able to get your hands on some and enjoyed it. I’ll look forward to trying the ’07. Cheers!

  15. Ikal 1150 | January 30th, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Wow what an event! looking forward to trying more Washington Malbec.

  16. Kori | January 31st, 2010 at 7:19 am

    Ikal 1150,
    It was a fun event. I am really excited about Washington Malbec and am glad to hear you plan to explore it more. Cheers!

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