Mercer Estates: One Of The Great Things About Washington State

mercer vines

Mercer vineyards in Horse Heaven Hills appellation

In my opinion, nearly everything about Washington State is great, with the possible exception of freezing temperatures in the winter and that white stuff called “snow.” I don’t think they get a lot of white stuff in Eastern Washington State, where the wine industry is growing and thriving, but for a Northeasterner, any is too much.

I’ve talked in other reviews about why Eastern Washington is an ideal place to grow wine grapes. The Reader’s Digest version is that this area to the east of the Cascade mountains is arid (which wine grapes like), with warm daytime temperatures and very cool nighttime temps (which wine grapes love). On top of that, the very northerly latitude of the Columbia Valley results in more hours of daylight in the summer, helping to ripen the grapes and making them very happy.

So let’s talk wineries. Mercer Estates is a small, family-owned winery located in and around Prosser. It’s a partnership between the Hogue family, who built Hogue¬† Cellars from nothing, to the second largest winery in the state, and the Mercer family, who’ve been farming in Washington since before it was a state. Their winemaker, David Forsyth, is also a Washingtonian, except for sojourns to Sun Valley and Europe where he competed as a Para-Ski racer. (This is not a sport for the faint of heart. David parachuted out of an airplane to land on a target literally the size of a quarter, and then slalom-skied down a mountain. Really).

We tasted many of Mercer’s wines recently when David came out to do a Winemaker Dinner for us. In fact, he’s the one who gave me the definitive low-down on corks and screw caps, which you can read about in More on the Cork Wars. But getting back to what’s in the bottle, I’d like to talk about their stunning Columbia Valley Merlot, since I think it hits all the high notes of Washington state wines.

Mercer Columbia Valley Merlot 2007 surprised the heck out of me. It isn’t like any Merlot I’d ever tasted (except perhaps a mountain-grown one). The dark cherry fruit is incredibly intense, with hints of cocoa and vanilla sliding in at the finish. The acid and tannins created by the cool temperatures create a Cab-like¬† structure that leaves you thinking, “This ain’t your typical Merlot.” It’s really a Cab-drinkers Merlot, with the age-ability of a big red. For me, it’s what a red wine should be: fun to drink, great with food, and a joy to open for friends and family. Enjoy!

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