Readers, I’d like to introduce you to Mercer Wine Estates. Mercer Wine Estates, meet the readers. I think you’d all get along. I mean Mercer produces GREAT wine and the readers love drinking GREAT wine. In fact, this may be a perfect match, especially with your variety of price points and wines to accommodate many wine drinkers out there. With the introductions aside I’d like to tell the readers more about you, Mercer, if that’s OK. Just hang out in my glass for a while until I need you again…
Mercer Wine Estates is now on their
fifth generation of farmers showcasing Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington. By
the way Horse Heaven Hills is 25% of the state’s wine grapes – not too shabby.
Founded in 2005, Mercer has been “quietly growing” and produces wines from
across three tiers ranging from $10 to $42 – from Riesling to Cabernet
Sauvignon. OK Mercer, I need you now…
Pinot Gris, 2013 from their Mercer Estates line is up first.
Aromatics of juicy honeydew melon, ripe peach, and a hint of orange blossom
escaped from my glass. The flavors continue through the palate adding
creaminess, bright fruit, nice acidity, and just a touch of minerality all
added to the delicious balance in this wine. Retail price is around $13 – yum!
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 from their Mercer Canyons line is next. I’m detecting aromas of
warm blueberry pie à la mode. This has flavors of cherries and spice, mouth gripping
tannins, and a lasting finish. Wait, what? This retails for $14? Uh, I’m in!
Ode to Brothers, 2011 from their Reserve line is the last - a GSM
blend (40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, & 20% Mourvèdre). With this being a blend
of classic Rhône varietals I let this one breathe in the bottle for over an
hour and it still evolved in my glass. Notes of raspberries, smoke, cured
meats, pepper, and minerality. Excellent body, structure, and a super long
finish! You can cellar this bottle for years and I’d expect it to improve that
much more (although it’s pretty amazing now). Expect to pay about $42 for this
bottle but expect it to be worth every penny!
Now that we are all introduced I suspect a long
lasting friendship. Based on just three of their wines tasted I’m already a
friend and fan.
Pic Saint Loup is a mountain in the Languedoc region of Southern France. Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup makes wine that represents this region characteristically but also using entirely biodynamic methods when cultivating their vines. Simply put and as their website states, they are the “Forerunners of this technique since they started, the brothers simply turn over the ground and use no pesticides.”
I uncorked their classic Rosé, 2013. The vines are grown in soil of red chalky-clay, scree from the slope bottom, and gravette. Their 2013 Rosé is a blend of 30% each; Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and 10% Cinsault. My glass of wine bloomed with discreet aromas of stone fruit and minerality and after some time in the glass, creaminess showed through. After several sips (for research purposes only) this had delicious flavors of exotic fruit, spice, and finished with a very subtle sour cherry. Again, with time in the glass, allowing it naturally aerate, the wine got even better – becoming softer. In fact, let it roll around your tongue for a bit, it’s pretty fantastic. Serve at about 53-55 degrees for maximum gratification. I picked up my bottle at Wine with Me (Itasca), upon a recommendation from the owner, Mark. It’s wine like this one that makes me question why I don’t drink more Rosé.
This time last year I wrote about 2 Chardonnay’s battling it out. Tasting those wines side by side proved to be an interesting experience. Recently, I had another chance to taste 2 more Chardonnays side by side, this time it was a blind tasting so only their “fruits” of their labor could influence me.
“Brand X” Chardonnay (Napa Valley) 2011: You’re immediately hit on the nose with smoky oak, and butter. If you concentrated enough you could almost get vanilla, and a hint of rich cream. Medium to full body, with concentration, this extends itself with flavors of citrusy honey, vanilla, and minerality. Sounds good eh? Nope. It was not balanced well – It was hard to get past the smoky oak and butter in the aroma and flavor. The finish was long but I wanted it to go away – Basically a buttered-popcorn campfire in your mouth. I guess you could skip the butter and pour this over your lobster…Robert Mondavi Chardonnay (Napa Valley) 2011: Unbelievably vibrant aromas of sweet citrusy juice, honey crisp apple, and honeydew melon. A Lighter body wine with elegant flavors of pear, crisp minerals, and lemon-lime. The finish is long that made you yearning for another sip. It was delicious! You can easily drink this with or without food (paired with tilapia, grilled shrimp, or roasted chicken).
I don’t normally give any wines bad press, I only write about what I like. In all seriousness I sincerely respect wine makers and what they do and that’s why I decided to leave the vineyard name out of the first Chardonnay and name it “Brand X”. Here is the catch; “Brand X” is a $40 bottle while Robert Mondavi’s is $19 proving the fact that cost does not guarantee you what you’d like. Listen to your taste buds, they know!
Fortified wine is a desert style wine with a lot of residual sugar. This is typically served as an after dinner drink but can be versatile. Some can be too dismissive with fortified wine stating they are too sweet but paired with the right items, they will be fantastic, i.e. (but not limited to) dark chocolate, select nuts and cheeses, sausages, or my favorite, a cigar. The key here is to balance the sweetness.Port Wine is a style of fortified wine, traditionally from Portugal. Although there are different styles of Port; Ruby, Tawny, and Vintage, I’ll be writing about one of my favorite Tawny Ports. Tawny Port is a blend of barrel-aged Port wine and released as 10, 20, 30, and 40 year old wines.
Warre’s Optima 10 is a perfect example of a delicious ten year old Tawny Port. Bottled in 2012, this revealed aromas of plum, orange rinds, cinnamon, and hints of lavender. Optima 10 offered flavors of dried fruit, honey, and some toasted nuts. Delicious, complex, flavorful, smooth, balanced, and a long lasting finish. This is not your typical Tawny Port. From glass appeal, aromas, flavors, all the way through the finish it is absolutely beautiful – A perfectly tuned orchestra in your mouth! Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. This is widely available at restaurants and retail wine shops and is moderately priced. I strongly encourage you to taste this if you haven’t already.
I recently attended a wine dinner at Zeal’s in Schaumburg featuring the mastermind of Chef Vince and Trinchero Napa Valley wines. Although I was lucky enough to taste several of Mario’s wines my favorite (and his) is the Meritage.
Trinchero Meritage, 2010 ($50) is an artfully blend of Bordeaux varietals including 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petite Verdot, 8% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. The aromas in the beginning are a perfect fusion where California meets France, juicy ripe blackberries and deep French oak. As it opens up the blackberries became preserves, I started to detect black pepper and over time I noted blueberry pie, cinnamon and possibly nutmeg. The wine is super balanced with smooth tannins and a long finish. It’s a true “Napa Valley” wine, big, rich, and chewy! Again, as it opened up the flavors became a little sweeter and the wine softer.
Like Mario’s personality his Meritage is inviting and incredibly approachable – down to earth! Yet you can cellar this bottle for another 6 plus years. We drank several glasses of his wine together and nattered like “wine geeks”. Alas, he had to depart but his closing remark to me summed everything up about his wine and personality “If I didn’t have to leave with my associates right now I’d have a drink with you at the bar!” Sláinte, Mario!