By Kori ~ January 18th, 2010.
Washington State, in general, makes outstanding Merlot. Washington Merlot is bigger, more complex, and has higher acidity that most Merlot produced elsewhere. Recently, we had what turned out to be a Washington Merlot showdown in one of our double blind private tasting dinners featuring two wines from the 2006 vintage, the 2006 Fielding Hills Merlot and the 2006 Januik Winery Klipsun Vineyard Merlot. For a more complete description of how we set up these private tastings, please refer to How We Taste.
Fielding Hills Winery is a small, family-owned winery located in Wenatchee, Washington. Owner/winemaker Mike Wade (our Best Washington Winemaker of 2009) and his wife Karen are longtime apple and cherry growers who have turned a middle portion of their orchard near Mattawa into a vineyard. Their Riverbend Vineyard, planted in 1998, is in the Wahluke Slope AVA. They source all of their fruit, including the fruit used to produce this Merlot, from Riverbend Vineyard.
Januik Winery, located in Woodinville, Washington, was founded by owner/winemaker Mike Januik in 1999. Mike is one of the most respected winemakers in Washington State. Prior to starting his own winery, he was the head winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle for ten years. In addition to his work at Januik Winery, Mike also serves as winemaker for Novelty Hill. Novelty Hill and Januik Winery share a state-of-the-art production facility in Woodinville. Since this tasting featured one of his Merlots, I found it interesting to learn that he was once named as one of the worldâ€™s ten â€œMasters of Merlotâ€ by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
Both of these wines are very good and are good representations of the quality Merlot that Washington State produces.
2006 Fielding Hills Merlot (Wahluke Slope, Washington): Dark purple in color. Very aromatic with raspberry, earthy, and floral aromas. Flavors of black cherry, chocolate, and spice with a hint of pepper on the back end. Medium to full-bodied with medium to high tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $36; Avalon Wine (Oregon), $38.95
2006 Januik Winery Klipsun Vineyard Merlot (Red Mountain, Washington): Deep red and very aromatic. Blackberry and licorice come through on the nose; black plum, leather, and bakerâ€™s chocolate on the palate. Medium to full-bodied and lively with medium to high tannins and a medium finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: The Grape Choice (Kirkland, Washington), $40; Available elsewhere, $42 to $55
Filed under: American Wine, Merlot, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, Wines Over $25