by Fred McMillin
for February 25, 1999

 

It's the Latitude


Prologue

"The vineyards of Washington State are almost on the same latitude as those of the Medoc in Bordeaux."

... Frank Prial, New York Times


The Rest of the Story

The Merlot seems to like that latitude. It has played a major role in making the Medoc arguably the best red-wine district in the world. It has played THE major role in making Washington State's red-wine reputation. In fact, the same Frank Prial also wrote that "some of America's best Merlots come from Washington vines."

Merlot
Merlot, Columbia Valley, 1995

Other critics agree. The Wine Spectator calls Merlot Washington 's "marquee varietal." "Merlot is Washington's hottest wine variety and is gaining an international reputation" is the way Bob Woehler put it in the Wine Press Northwest.

Which of them are the best currently? Bob reports on a tasting of 45 bottles, "probably the most Washington Merlots ever assembled for a single tasting."


The Winner

There were six runners-up; each scored 90. The best of the 45 hit a resounding 92. It was the 1993 Reserve of Preston Premium Wines... good blackberry and dark cherry fruit, perfectly balanced with the right amount of oak. So, I included the 1995 in my last blind tasting and its smooth intensity earned a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The details...
1995 RESERVE Merlot, Columbia Valley, Wash.
Preston Premium Wines, Pasco, Wash.
Contact—Office of co-owner Cathy Preston-Mouncer at (509) 545-1990.
Price—$21 range


Postscript

Merlot in Washington may be hot, but the winters are not. Bill Preston says you should be prepared to lose one in every seven or eight vintages. Press reports: 1991—Winter freeze slashes crop; 1996—Winter temperatures dropped as low as minus 16 degrees Fahrenheit, causing serious vine damage. Thus, you can see why potential investors walking the Columbia Valley often get cold feet.

Note: For much more on this subject, see the Sept. 29, 1998 WineDay titled "Preston's Merlot Magic".

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 

WineDay Annex

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