Welcome to another Bottle Variations group tasting! Our Tasting Group meets semi-regularly for a blind tasting of 6 or so themed wines. The group knows the theme ahead of time, but only the organizer (generally myself) knows what the wines are specifically. However, I mixed up the wines after they were bagged, so while I knew what wines were in the tasting, I did not know specifically which wine I was tasting at any time. All of the wines were decanted for 2+ hours before tasting.
This tasting was of 2007 Washington State red blends. The 2007 vintage has been hailed in Washington as the best since 2005! This tasting was put together to test that theory. Without further ado, here are the wines:
1. JM Cellars "Bramble Bump Red". 33% Cab, 31% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 13% Mourvedre, 8% Petit Verdot. $19.99. 14.3% Alcohol (Though Sean cried "Bullshit!" on the alcohol content).
Ruby/purple color. Nose of wood spice, sweet ripe fruit, oak, lots of hot alcohol, vanilla, raspberry, blueberry preserves. Nicely medium-bodied on the attack, and then the oak comes out on the mid-palate. The tannins are firm, and the alcohol is evident. The fruit is pleasantly ripe, and it's a little too oaky. Not focused. L found it medicinal, and I agree a little bit. Sean said it felt like "Chewing on a crowbar." I didn't get much of that, whatever it means...
2. Tamarack Cellars "Firehouse Red". Columbia Valley. 31% Cabernet, 27% Syrah, 16% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec, 3% Sangiovese, 1% Carmenere, 1% Petit Verdot. $18.99. Alcohol content not listed on the bottle; don't tell the police.
Ruby and a little dark purple. Less oak, sweet fruit. Black cherry, cream, mild baking spice. The nose is subtler, and more multifaceted. The palate is smooth at first, and the tannin comes out on the mid-palate. Substantial oak on the finish. T says dark chocolate. I think the finish is just a little bitter, but I still like the wine in general. L found it to be a smooth and food-friendly wine. Sean thought it was over-extracted; I think he was in the minority there.
3. Waters "Interlude". 55% Merlot, 38% Cabernet, 7% Cabernet Franc. $26.99. 14.5% alcohol.
Opaque ruby color. Quite ripe nose, chocolate, plum preserves (but not pruny), sweet fruit, ripe. Alcohol is quite evident on nose. Some vegetal and dried herb aromas. L says sour cherry, and I agree. The palate isn't as concentrated as I'd like, but it is pleasantly tart, with nice acidity. Sean thought that the fruitiness complemented what he called a "smoky oakiness," and referred to the tannins as "chalky." L thought it was too alcoholic on the nose but liked it in general, though she thought it was "too overt for most food pairings." I agree; this is a cocktail wine.
4. Isenhower "Last Straw". Columbia Valley. Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Roussanne, Syrah (though I'm not sure of the blend). 14.5% alcohol. About $18?
Opaque ruby color, quite vibrant. The nose is medicinal and alcoholic, with ripe plummy fruit. I thought it was kind of a vague, fruity nose, maybe dried fruit. L detected tarragon; T called it "dark fruit." The palate really saved this wine for me. It was tart and juicy. My notes say "Tasty!" I appreciate the fact that it is not overly oaked, though it is super-sweet and ripe.
5. Cadence "Coda." 57% Merlot, 18% Cabernet, 13% Cabernet Franc, 12% Petit Verdot. About $30. 14.4% alcohol.
Lighter ruby color, almost translucent. Bright and very distinct cranberry on the nose. Again (and again and again) the nose is quite ripe, and the alcohol is evident. Not too much oak, but a little vanilla spice. L found the nose to be a little funky, T detected a Red Vines-esque candied aroma. The alcohol is evident on the palate as well; it's a hot wine. There's less body on this wine than any other one but number 3. L says it's too tart, which I actually didn't mind. It's the booziness I couldn't get over.
Sean: 8.5 (I think maybe he's getting a little tipsy at this point)
6. Three Rivers "River's Red". 48% Syrah, 22% Malbec, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet, 2% Carmenere, 1% Tempranillo (Where do they come up with these blends?!?). 13.6% alcohol. Around $13.
Ruby-purple. Slightly funky nose, cherry, almost citrusy. Just a little wood, pencil lead/shavings. L detected blue cheese. Medium-bodied, firm and pleasant tannins, juicy and plump. T liked the acid; so did I. L found the wine to be food-friendly. All in all, this is one that we enjoyed quite a bit. The general consensus was that it was balanced and drinkable, while still being ripe and fruity.
Given the price and the scores, this is the only wine of the tasting to be rated as RECOMMENDED.
Everyone at the tasting got a little frustrated at the lack of distinctions in these wines. M noted that they all looked VERY similar in the glass when we poured them side-by-side. T said they were "hard to differentiate." Sean thought they all smelled like Grenache. My final notes were thus: "I would like all of these wines more if they weren't 1. Overalcoholic and 2. So similar! At least there were no oak-bombs, though."
It was astounding to find all these wines to be so similar when their blends are all so different. I have to suppose that this is due to the extreme ripeness of the grapes and the (I assume) similarity of the aging procedures.
Washington State is the Wild West of winemaking. Wineries are young, people are doing unusual things with grape blends, and the rules are fast and loose. So why are these wines so similar? Is this the effect of Parkerization, or do enologists think that this is the style consumers are after? Do these winemakers like their own wines?
I hope that this trend reverses itself, and that we begin to see more unique, individual wines coming out of our wine region.