2006 Pedestal, Columbia Valley Merlot
One of the great joys of following the Washington wine scene has been enjoying the success of the Longshadows project, where former Stimson Lane wine group CEO Allen Shoup has invited winemakers from throughout the world to Walla Walla to produce limited releases of world class wines, reflecting their signature wine back home. The wines keep getting better and better, as the “flying winemakers” refine their understanding of Washington’s climate and soils. This wine is the product of a collaboration between the world-famous Michel Rolland of Pomerol and supervising winemaker Gilles Nicault, formerly of Woodward Canyon, who studied and trained in his native France before venturing to Washington in the mid 1990s to pursue winemaking here. It’s the fourth vintage of the Pedestal and absolutely the best. The high heat of the 2006 growing season produced the kind of big, jammy reds well-suited to Rolland’s winemaking style. Whole berry fermentation kept the tannins soft and the percentage of new French oak was reduced from 100% to 85% to balance the chocolate and spice notes of the oak with the dark cherry and ripe plum fruit. Small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon (8%), Petit Verdot (4%) and Malbec (2%) were added to give the wine structure, acidity, and freshness. It will be at its best in two or three years and is still in good supply, at $55. Enjoy with it with a flank steak or hearty fare.
2006 Animale, Petite Verdot Columbia Valley
Now we jump from a $2 million facility in Walla Walla to a basement in Ballard. Regular attendees at our monthly Saturday tastings know that one of the best of these occurs in June, when they get to sample the wines of geologist and winemaker extraordinaire Matt Gubitosa. Matt makes tiny amounts of unusual and distinctive, wines, using fruit from cooler growing sites (allowing longer hang-time for the fruit), and never employing industrial processing methods such as filtration or fining. His goal is to make wines that are true to both varietal character and to the place where they are grown. A wonderful example is this Petite Verdot, a low-profile Bordeaux varietal that is so rich it is almost never vinified as a single varietal without blending. Made with grapes from a family-farmed vineyard in the Wahluke Slope, the wine has a deep and dark color, aromas of cherries with hints of cardamom and notes of minerals and stones. It is full-bodied, intense and concentrated, with firm acidity and a long and powerful finish. Worthy of aging another three to five years, it is a great value at $28. Matt only made 44 cases, but we do have a bit more available.