Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Grapes Do The Talking At Mannina Cellars

Every so often I will make a prediction, and when I do my prediction comes true. My predictions are always positive. My motto is, you don't need to make a negative prediction about anybody or anything -- the Law of Karma takes care of it all. My paternal great-grandmother was a midwife with lots of tales and remedies from the back woods. About three years ago, one of my maternal aunts said to me, "You have the gift, don’t you?" She was referring to a trait she felt in our family – being psychic (or maybe just looney). But as I have discovered in life, it’s a tough position to tell someone, "I told you so." Heh.

My latest prediction? Don Redman of Mannina Cellars is going to join the ranks of one of the top winemakers in Walla Walla.

With a background in chemistry, Don’s approach to his craft of winemaking is to create the perfect environment where grapes can make their journey to wine with as little human intervention as possible. This approach results in vineyard-driven wines with lots of varietal character. If you want to know what Merlot, for example, tastes like in its purest wine expression, Mannina's Merlot is the wine I'd point you toward.

A year ago I tasted Don’s first releases, a Merlot and a Sangiovese, both 2004. These classic and clean wines really showed the true qualities of the varietal. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to taste Mannina Cellar’s current releases and if I had to use only one word to describe my reaction to the new wines, it is S_W_O_O_N!

We tasted the Mannina Cellars Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and "Cali", a red table blend. They were all very distinguished wines, but the two that really shined for me were the Sangiovese and the Cali. It’s no surprise that Don's Sangiovese won a Gold from the Northwest Wine Summit. It's a classic Chianti, yet the nose told me it was born and raised in Walla Walla -- our signature local flavor of rich chocolate-covered cherry was everywhere in this beautiful wine.

The Cali takes its name from Don’s grandmother -- Cali was her maiden name, in fact. This red blend is both delicious and affordable, showing the best of Walla Walla grapes in the nose and flavors. It's well-structured, supported by tannins and acidity with additional earth and cherry qualities in the nose and flavors. There's just a hint, too, of vanilla in the finish. This bronze-medal winner at the Northwest Wine Summit retails for an attractive $17.

Don says he wants Mannina Cellar wines to show a true sense of place, and he believes the best way to achieve it is to let the grapes, not the winemaking, do the talking. From my tasting of Mannina Cellar's new releases, I can say that Don approaches terroir in just the right way.

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