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While Cabernet is King in Napa Valley, I think its safe to say the Syrah reigns in Walla Walla. I would argue, however, that the oft-overlooked Queen of both regions is Merlot.
Walla Walla is an ideal terroir for Merlot with its lean soils, high-desert winds and diurnal swing producing small berries with tougher skins (think structure), balanced acidity and more intense fruit. These are powerful wines no doubt, with all the structure and stuffing of Cabernet made all the more compelling with Merlot's trademark supple mouthfeel and hedonistic complexity.
Today's offer comes to us from one of Washington State's pioneers and Walla Walla's foundational vineyards. Planted in the early 80's, these 30+ year-old-vines produce a fantastic wine that would easily command twice the price in Napa Valley. With previous vintages receiving low-to-mid-90's scores from Vinous and Jeb Dunnock (though I must say panned by the Wine Spectator - what gives?) and a circa $50 price tag, its an exceptional value at $18/bottle.
Opaque in the glass and brooding at first with dusty black cherry fruit poking through the darkness. However, it quickly opens up to reveal pretty violet florals combined with black cherry, blackberry, and mineral with a kiss of toasty oak and baking spice/licorice. Lush on entry but amply structured with concentrated black fruit fanning out across the palate, this wine finishes long and smooth. Powerfully built but supremely harmonious, this wine will age nicely over the next decade but drink well in its youth.
50% new French oak88% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Grenache14.7% alc.Bottled December 9th, 2020
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Phoenix Wine Company, LLC,
PO Box 472334
San Francisco, CA 94147.
© 2021 de Négoce.
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