More Great Washington Red: Waterbrook Melange Noir

vinesThey just keep on coming.

I’m talking about great value, great tasting reds from Washington State wine country. I just tasted Waterbrook Melange Noir 2008, which I’d grabbed just because I figured it would be as good as all the other red blends I’ve tasted from the Columbia Valley.

And I wasn’t disappointed. It showed the guts and elegance I’ve come to expect from the reds of the U.S. Northwest.

Let me give you a little background on the region. Washington’s wine country is in the eastern half of the state, far away from the  rainy Pacific coast. In fact, it’s separated from the ocean by two mountain ranges, the Cascades and the Olympics, which create a rain shadow in the Columbia Valley. This produces a micro-climate that wine grapes love, where the days are warm and dry to ripen the grapes, and the nights are cool enough to develop acid and structure. On top of that, the area’s northerly latitude gives it more daylight hours, and therefore more ripening time for the vineyards.

Here’s what all this means: Washington State wines have intense flavors, with bright acid that keeps them exceptionally well-balanced.

So back to Waterbrook. These folks aren’t newcomers to the Washington wine scene. They were the fourth winery established in Walla Walla, the heart of wine country, and that was more than 25 years ago. They’re not new to the awards lists, either. Waterbrook wines have won a slew of “Best Buy” and “Best Value” awards from big-name wine publications, as well as the Big Magilla: A Top 100 ranking for their 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which is kinda guaranteed to shoot a winery’s reputation into the stratosphere.

Waterbrook’s Melange Noir 2008 is, like the name suggests a blend. The winemaker wasn’t shy about adding grapes to the blend. There are — count ‘em — a total of 16 grapes. All but five, though, are only minimally represented. The big five include Merlot (33%), Cabernet Sauvignon (28%), Syrah (18%),  Malbec (11%), and Sangiovese (7%). That’s a real twist on the traditional Bordeaux style blend, and it gives this wine a unique flavor profile.

First, the nose shows much more than tooty-fruity berries: there’s a little smoke, a little tart cranberry, a little dust. The palate is predictably rich, but not jammy. The Merlot and Cab set the cassis and blackberry flavors, but the the other varietals chime in with cranberry, caramel, and really good acid. The finish hangs on with more smoke and vanilla.

This wine is a lot of fun for around $15. It really is great value, and it’s made me want to taste the rest of the line. If you’ve already tried them, let me know. Otherwise, stay tuned for more Waterbrook reviews. Cheers!

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