2007 Abeja, Merlot
Ah, Merlot. The grape seems to be buffeted by fickle trends — fashionable one day, then uncool the next. Movies like Sideways don’t help, unless you know that the biggest irony in the movie was that the Cheval Blanc Bordeaux that Miles continually rhapsodized over, then slugged down from a paper cup in a diner at the end, is actually a Merlot-Cabernet Franc blend! The message? Perhaps that everyone is secretly in love with Merlot. True, there is a lot of bland, generic Merlot out there. But in the right hands, the grape can produce rich, powerful wines, with great depth and complexity and exquisite texture. And there are few better hands than those of John Abbott at Abeja Winery in Walla Walla. Year after year, he makes some of the best wines around. Washington is actually perfectly suited for growing classic Merlot and John’s is pure, lush, and stylish, with an intensity that is typical of Washington fruit. Try it with lamb chops and couscous, or perhaps a gourmet grilled burger. It’s ready to drink, only $39.75, and we have some left.
2006 Stevens Winery, XY Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
This is Tim Stevens’ fourth release of his powerful XY Reserve Cabernet, and we’ve featured every one of them in this club. Tim selects a small grouping of his favorite barrels and blends them into this wine, which he makes in very small amounts — this year, 240 cases. It disappears quickly, but he always makes sure we get enough to put in our Washington Club. The fruit for this year’s XY Cab comes from Sheridan Vineyard, in the upper Yakima, and Meek Vineyard, in the lower Yakima Valley. The Sheridan fruit adds cocoa and black raspberry notes, while the Meek fruit provides structure and finesse. It is powerful and masculine (hence “XY”), with all of the components in perfect balance. Like last year it’s $42, and it is ready to drink now if decanted, or it could be left to develop for five or more years. When you do choose to enjoy it, consider paring it with a big, juicy steak or a roast.