Indian Wells Merlot

michelleYou know I love Washington State reds. I stumbled across one, or maybe two, a few years ago. I thought, “Damn, this is good.”

But that could have been a random occurrence of goodness. What convinced me was when I kept coming across reds from Washington State, and every one of them made me say, “Damn, this is good.”

So it’s no surprise that my latest Washington State tasting made me go…you guessed it…”Damn…”

I just tasted Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot 2009. I had ordered several cases of this wine for customers, so I knew it had something going for it, but until I saw it on the glass-pour list at Ken Stewart’s Grille (perhaps Northeast Ohio’s best restaurant), I’d never tasted it.

But before the “big reveal,” let’s do some background research.

Eastern Washington State, where this wine is made, is blessed with some of the best wine-grape-growing conditions in the world. Here’s how Bob Bertheau, Head Winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle, explains it:

“Low rainfall, extra sunshine during the growing season, (and) cooler days at the end of harvest for longer hang time” produce grapes with “great structure and intense fruit.” That’s short-hand for deep, rich, complex, kick-ass reds (that’s a technical term…).

So let’s look at the wine I tasted, the Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot 2009. The grapes for this wine come from vineyards in the Wahluke Slope region of the Columbia Valley, which includes the Indian Wells vineyard. This is one of Washington State’s warmest growing areas, and features gravelly, rocky soil. Wine grapes love these conditions, and the Wahluke Slope vineyards produce great red grapes including Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet. Even better, the 2009 growing season was classic, with moderately warm temperatures and a long season that allowed grapes to fully mature and still retain their natural acid.

When I saw my glass of Indian Wells Merlot, I liked the deep, opaque purple color.  But the nose made me sit up and take notice. The depth and intensity jumped out of the glass, with rich blackberry and mushroom aromas. The palate kept the party going with deep, sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit. Nice acid jumped in right behind the fruit, and kept things in balance. But then mocha and vanilla crept in on the finish, wrapping things up in a very pretty package.

The key to me was the depth of this wine: like a good Cabernet, it added to the richness, complexity and downright lusciousness. So I checked the winemaker’s notes and, guess what? There is a tiny bit of Cabernet in this wine, along with a good dose (16%) of Syrah and a dash of Malbec.

This was as good as a good Meritage, only at a fraction of the price. You can pick this up for under $20, and at that price, you really should. Cheers!








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5 Responses to “Indian Wells Merlot”

  • Raj:

    Really? It must take quite a long time to be able to gain enough knowledge and insight to be able to sense each scent (hey!) and identify them. Great post!

    • Thanks for your comment. Anyone can pick out those aromas and flavors, too. Just focus on what you’re smelling and tasting and ask yourself what they remind you of. Let me know how it goes. Cheers!

    • Thanks for your comment. Just focus on what you’re smelling and tasting and you’ll pick out distinct aromas and flavors. Cheers!

  • Vince:

    How do you rate 09 Indian Wells to the 08, which WS gave 90 pts? Both are on the shelf at a local store. I might go with the 08 because I had a glass at a restaurant, but your blog post here makes me hesitate. Perhaps one of each. Thanks for your in-depth comments. Very helpful and interesting.

    • Thanks for your comment. I think this is a knock-out wine every vintage, and it’s always a bold, almost Cab-like style. For that reason I’d probably drink the 2008 now and give the 2009 a little more time. It’s only going to get better! Cheers,
      Deb L.

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