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Leaving VA for #WAMerlot

Posted by on March 29, 2010

After the fun we had with our first twitter tasting for sauv blanc, we decided to jump back in and participate in the Washington Merlot tasting organized by Josh from DrinkNectar.  Any reader of this blog knows we’re huge VA wine fans and advocates, but we thought it could be fun to try a wine from another region that actually also grows in VA so we could see what else is out there.  I had a bit more strategy in place this time since I’m now a lot more familiar with tweetdeck and twitter tastings.  We even managed to send out a twitpic for the first time.

Since we couldn’t drink local for this event, we decided that we could at least shop local.  We picked up two wines from different independent wine shops in the area and were pleasantly surprised by the array of WA merlots at various price points we had to choose from.

Our first wine of the night was the 2007 Pine & Post merlot which we bought for $12 at Cork & Fork in Gainesville, VA.  (This made grape Envy Guy want to get barbeque from Pig-N-Steak to go with the Pine & Post from Cork & Fork.)  This was our budget conscious wine of the evening.

It had a nice rich color that was a lot deeper than I expected at the price point.  There was a light fruit nose (nothing distinct) with a bit of oak.  On the palate, I mostly got oak with a bit of cherry.  It had a relatively light tannin structure.  On the negative side for me, the wine was relatively thin with a slightly harsh finish and hints of acetone on the nose if you took a long, deep sniff.  I’d sum this wine up as drinkable but somewhat generic.  It’s not at the top of my list to buy again, but I could easily serve this to a non-wine crowd without embarrassment since those folks likely wouldn’t be looking for the complexity and layers I typically prefer.

Our second wine of the evening was the 2007 Helix by Reininger (Columbia Valley) merlot which we bought from Kybecca in Fredericksburg for $24.  This was, by no means, the most expensive option we had available, but since we were footing the bill for this jaunt to WA, it was the top of our range.  The folks at Kybecca had nice things to say about this wine, so we decided to give it a shot.

As we pulled the wines out to open them, we noticed that the alcohol content of this one was 14.9%! I was a bit nervous as I tend not enjoy higher alcohol wines (outside of dessert and fortified wine categories), but we’d already bought it, so on we went.  Right after opening, this wine was really tight and smelled complex but high in alcohol.  We figured time might help this one, so we waited about 45 minutes or so to actually try it.

When I actually got some in the glass, I was immediately struck by how dark the color was.  The wine reminded me of a zin or a petit verdot, and it almost seemed thick (sorry, I can’t think of any other way to describe this surprising color viscosity issue.)  The nose had tons of dried fruit notes with raisins and prunes along with a slightly smoke waft of alcohol fumes.  As I started to drink, the alcohol definitely hit my palate first.  Fighting through that, I got notes of cedar, vanilla, and perhaps a bit of coffee on the finish.  I wasn’t getting any clearly distinguishable fruit notes which really took me by surprise.  This was definitely a complex wine with smooth tannins, and I really wanted to like it, but the alcohol content just killed me and made me perceive the wine as rather harsh overall.  It did smooth out a bit when we paired it with some chocolate (8:30/9pm is too late for east-coasters like use to cook a steak), but the alcohol was still more than I like.

While this trip to WA was fun, I think I’ll stick to the local VA wines that are so readily available here – hey, it’s my thing. ;-)   I can try before I buy, find complex wines, and not have to deal with this high alcohol content overkill.  (FYI, the Pine & Post was only 13.5%, so it wasn’t an issue for that wine.)  If you don’t mind a high alcohol wine, try the Helix, it might work for you (with food).  The Pine & post is what it is, but it’s not a bottle that calls for dumping or shame.

All in all, we did have fun, and I even got to tweet with a few people about VA wines as well as the WA merlots we were drinking….and we knocked off another grape for our century club quest.

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The Leaving VA for #WAMerlot by Swirl, Sip, Snark, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

3 Responses to Leaving VA for #WAMerlot

  1. grapeenvyguy

    Pine & Post was fine, if a bit generic. I got light, tart fruit on the nose and not a lot going on in the finish. It’s fine; let’s get a pineapple & ham pizza and I’m more than happy to finish the bottle.

    Helix looked promising- super dark and bold looking. Holy leather, the alcohol! Definitely strong alcohol on the nose, and it was a potent flavor. Big dried fruit nose, and I would actually say the palate was dried fruit at the front, wet gravel at the back. Interesting.

    UPDATE: So the next night, we came home and popped the vacu-vin tops on these wines. Wow, they did NOT hold up at all! The Pine & Post lost a chunk of its nose, and on the palate it was coming closer (but not quite there) to Jolly Ranchers. As for the Helix, the nose was less heavy alcohol, but the nose was pretty lame and the wine also tasted pretty flat. The dried fruit flavors and interesting richness? Gone. It’s pretty disappointing that neither of these wines seemed to be able to maintain much of any of their positive attributes after 24 hours!

  2. Vello Vino

    In case you want to try some other Washington Merlots, here are a few that I have enjoyed recently. These are all in the 20 – 30 dollar price range here in Washington State.

    Kestrel Merlot
    Five Star Merlot
    Otis Kenyon Merlot

  3. grapeenvyguy

    Thanks for the recommendations. I have to admit, after shelling out $24 for a bottle of WA Merlot that was meh the first night and barely drinkable a day later, I was reminded of why we stopped buying wines we couldn’t taste beforehand. But who knows, maybe we’ll give them a shot.

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