Washington Wines – First Experiences

It was slightly over a dozen years ago when I first tasted a Washington State red wine. I was singularly unimpressed. It was, as compared to the California wines I imbibed regularly, rather thin, tinny, and unexciting. Even compared to the earthy, classic, and character-filled Bordeaux wines, Washington reds were, well, boring. After tasting several of the wines over the course of about a year, I found I could pinpoint a Washington red blindfolded.  If I found myself yawning while tasting, it must be a Washington red. Thin, metallic, lackluster, and flat were my usual descriptors of the wines, and those that I had tasted received a collective shrug from me.

And then something began to happen.

I began to taste wines from Washington that were, in a word, amazing. While the occasional metallic and thin wine would rear its offensive head from time to time, I found that those were beginning to fade away. One of my biggest surprises came when, about four/five years ago, I discovered a Merlot that was really good. I mean, not Gold Ribbon good, but pleasant, correct to the varietal, and easy to drink. It was practically delicious. It was a Columbia Crest Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington. About ten bucks.

My interested was piqued. The Budget™ rejoiced.

Changes? Or What?

Washington red wines, which I had more or less ignored over the course of many years, were beginning to prove themselves worthy of being taken seriously.

Mercer Sharp Sisters Red Blend
Mercer Sharp Sisters Red Blend

Fast forward to 2016 when Mercer Winery was recognized by the Wine Press NW as the Washington State Winery of the Year. I can only nod, especially as I taste the 2015 Mercer Sharp Sisters red blend. (PHENOMENAL with slow-braised lamb shanks, by the way.) Mercer is located in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, easily the best and coolest AVA name on the planet.

Its blend is 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Syrah, 18% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot, 10% Grenache, and 2% Carignane. Viva La New World! This is a blend that would make the haughtiest of dead Bordelais spin like a lathe in his grave.

It is deep and dark and not one of the semi-translucent “red” wines that I recall tasting in my early days of exploring Washington wines. It is gorgeous to look at and could easily fool anyone into thinking that this wine is higher-end than it is. The winemaker, Jessica Munnell, done good!

It has some chocolate (as in bakers, not in milk) character, along with blueberries, marionberries, dust, pepper, forest floor, spice box, and an interesting, exotic character. This is a fruit-forward wine, and not for the faint of heart. It reminded me of a Central Coast red wine, with its richness, structure, acidity, and fruit.  I still haven’t figured out the fruit forward component (Raspberries? Cherries? Yellow Plum?), but whatever it is, it is lip-smackingly good. There is a firm structure to this wine that belies its relatively low cost.

Washington red wines, which I had more or less ignored over the course of many years, were beginning to prove themselves worthy of being taken seriously.

This wine was fermented in stainless and then aged for 18 months in both French and American oak. It finishes out at an almost Central Coast-like 14.8% ABV. An anti-wimp wine, for sure.

Interestingly enough, the Sharp Sisters Red Blend is named after the sisters of the family Sharp, one of whom, Carma, married into the Mercer family.

Mercer Sharp Sisters Red Blend
Mercer Sharp Sisters Red Blend

I can easily recommend this wine, not only for the experienced wine aficionado who enjoys a casual quaff from time to time but also to the newbie who’s not sure whether or not he likes red wine.

Taste this. You will fall in love with red wines.

When I received this wine, I also received a bottle of their 2015 Malbec. My Somm tasting group will be visiting this wine this coming weekend, and if the red blend is any indication, the Malbec should be pleasing as well.

The wine ordinarily costs about $25.00, but right now the winery has a special for a limited amount of time at $18.50 a bottle.  Grab lots. Drink now.

2015 Mercer Sharp Sisters Red Blend
Mercer Wine Estates
3100 Lee Road
Prosser, WA 99350

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