Monday, May 15, 2006

~May Cherry Pick~

I decided that my May Cherry Pick of the Month would be a wine that I tasted during Spring Release Weekend -- a tough choice indeed, as I tasted many standout wines.

One of the wineries on our itinerary was Fort Walla Walla Cellars. We tasted through their weekend lineup while visiting with owner-partner Jim Moyer. My "honeyman" (okay, his name is Steve) mentioned that he had just visited on the phone with Harvey Steiman from the Wine Spectator, and Harvey had spoken of the great Merlots to be found in the Walla Walla Valley. Harvey, in fact, gave 92 points to Fort Walla Walla Cellars for their 2003 Merlot. Generally, the protocol among wineries, especially on a busy weekend like Spring Release, is that after you receive a great score on a wine and great publicity, you don't pour free tastings of that particular wine for the masses.

Jim told us how all of a sudden he received requests for his Merlot, and big sales orders, from back east. He wondered what was going on and then he finally received the news that the Fort Walla Walla Cellars 2003 Merlot was rated a 92 from Harvey. On the Spectator's scale, that puts this wine in the "Outstanding" category as "a wine of superior character and style." While we visited, Jim said, "What the hell" and opened a bottle for us to taste.

I think Harvey himself sums up this Merlot best: "Deep, rich and aromatic, generous with its black pepper-accented cherry, currant and licorice flavors, lingering beautifully on the plush finish. Tannins are well integrated already. Drink now through 2013."

Both Steve and I thought it was indeed deep, rich and aromatic. The cherry, currant and licorice notes are prominent, chocolate and cocoa too. There's 10% Cabernet Sauvignon to give the wine some backbone, strength and aging potential. By the way, all of the grapes for this wine, both the Merlot and the Cabernet Sauvignon, come from the famous Pepper Bridge vineyard south of Walla Walla. Just 605 cases were made; $28 per bottle.

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