Tamarack Cellars Light a Fire — A Wine Review

washingtonHere’s something I hear way too often: “I don’t like blends. I drink only varietal wines” (usually accompanied by a disdainful sniff). Now where did folks get the idea that a blended wine is somehow second-class? Haven’t they heard of Bordeaux or Meritage? Don’t they know that  most of the wines they drink have a little something added to spice-up/soften-up/beef-up their varietally labeled wine?

The wine I’m writing about today, Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red 2007, is testament to the wonders of blended wines. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so many grapes and vineyards in one bottle (I counted eight grapes, each from as many as six appellations). And many of these appellations are known for producing premium red grapes.

Did I mention that this wine is from Washington State? I’m featuring that state in this week’s wine reviews because so many Washington reds knock me out! This one is no exception. It’s big on aromas and flavors (which I’ll get to later), but more important, it’s got that wonderful Washington State balance. If you’ve caught my recent reviews, you’ve already read my Hymn of Praise for the accident of climate and topography that’s created a veritable Wine Grape Heaven in eastern Washington State. But here it is again: the Cascade Mountains create a rain shadow in eastern Washington, and because the region is at a northerly latitude, there are longer-than-average daylight hours to ripen the grapes. Even better, there’s a 30 degree Diurnal Temperature Shift (that’s techie talk for “a really big difference between daytime and night-time temperatures). What this creates is good acid in the grapes, which balances the very rich, ripe fruit. Now that’s my kind of wine!

Getting back to Tamarack Cellars, Ron and Jamie Coleman have been making wine in eastern Washington since 1998.  They wanted to make small-lot, handcrafted wines, and built a winery in a restored World War II fire station at the Walla Walla airport. How romantic is that? And is that why this blend is called Firehouse Red?

So back to the wine: Firehouse Red is a rich, ripe, intense red blend. The nose offers up a hit of ripe dark berries and a little spice. The palate knocks you out with intense black raspberry and mocha, with a little spice drifting in near the finish. Vanilla oak definitely rounds out the finish, with that bright hit of acid that keeps everything from coming across too “fat.” It sounds like a fruit bomb, but the balance actually makes it great with food. And at under $20, it’s a nice Sunday supper wine.

If you can’t find it locally, have us send you a bottle, and tell us what you think. I’m betting you’ll go ape over this blended wine. Cheers!

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