Mercer Wine Estates

Another winery visited in the general Yakima Valley area was Mercer Winery. Their physical location is in Prosser. Their first vintage was in 2005 and six years later the owners received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers.

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We opted for the basic tasting for $5 (vs. $10 for reserves).

2016 Estates Rose
This bone-dry Rosé is perfect pool-side, brunch-side, or wedding-side. We also, just love it glass-side. A great wine for a wide variety of people and dishes, it’s pretty, pink, and delicious. Notes of fresh strawberries, white tea and cranberries combine with a beautiful balance of acidity and alcohol. Price: $15.
Horse Heaven Hills AVA|Blend: 100% Grenache|Alcohol: 12.5% |T.A.: 0.61g/100mL | pH: 3.22|Dry
*Very crisp, definitely a summertime wine.

2013 Chardonnay
Notes of vanilla, creamsicle, juicy pear and pineapple greet you on the nose. The voluminous fruit continues in the mouth with flavors of sweet pineapple juice and fresh pear with a drizzle of sweet butter. The lush fruit is balanced by clean, bright acidity that leads into a long, lingering finish. Price: $13.
Columbia Valley|Blend: 96% Chardonnay, 4% Viognier|Alcohol: 13.9%|TA: 0.6 g/L|pH: 3.53
*1/2 oaked, 1/2 un-oaked. Nice and crisp. Really liked this one.

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2014 Mercer Canyons Riesling
This off-dry Riesling (about 1.5 residual sugar) explodes with beautiful aromas of lychee, orange blossom and tangerine from the glass. The palate is full with apricot and peach notes drizzled in honey. The finish is refreshing with enough bright acidity. Price: $13.
Yakima Valley | Blend: 100% Riesling | Alcohol: 13.3% |T.A.: 0.68 g/100mL |pH: 3.02
*I got lots of honeysuckle on this. Yes, it’s a Riesling.

2013 Estates Merlot
Cherries and blackberries mingle with warm baking spices on the nose. Touches of oak, coffee and cocoa with lush fruit and velvety tannin on the palate. One of our favorite wines–enjoy with any red meat dish, tomato based pasta dishes, or just as a perfect sipping wine next to a warm fire. Price: $25.
Horse Heaven Hills |Blend: 80% Merlot, 17% Syrah, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon |
Alcohol: 14.5%|TA: 0.59g/100mL|pH: 3.68
*This had some definite chocolate notes to it. Very nice wine. There are good Merlots out there.

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2013 Petit Verdot
Whoa-Nelly–this is a big, bold wine! Big jammy flavors of blackberry jam, vanilla, and a hint of pie crust. This wine will age well, or if you need to impress someone with a high impact wine, or have a smoked brisket that needs a ‘pardner’–we suggest putting a few of these in your shopping cart.
Horse Heaven Hills| Spice Cabinet Vineyard| 100% Petit Verdot| Alcohol: 14.4% |
TA: 0.63g/100mL | pH:3.97
*White pepper is what I found to be the most prominent note.

Fun place to visit. I’m sure it’s another one that will keep growing. Love visiting more less-known, Washington wineries. Cheers!

Chardo…

Was in a local shop working a wine tasting recently and noticed this sign. Something just seemed off about it. I stared at it for awhile (because it was a slow night) and really had to think about it. Then I started staring at all the bottles in its section. No, I wasn’t crazy, the sign really was missing an ‘n’.

Now, what I had the hardest time deciding…do I tell the store owner about this? They have owned the store for over 10 years, it’s also a local sandwich shop, mini grocery store, etc. They know the people well. I couldn’t do it. Maybe regulars would be disappointed if it changed?

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Wit Cellars

When visiting WA wine country, I was pointed to a new winery by an established one. This new venture is Wit Cellars, which is just about a year old. They are not a huge winery, producing about 3,500 cases of wine a year and are located in the Prosser Wine Community of Yakima Valley. Their name comes from ‘We’re in It Together.’

The tasting room is in a sort of hidden place. Not in the middle of beautiful vineyards, but more of a ‘strip mall’ of tasting rooms.

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(photo source: wineyakimavalley.org)

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When we arrived (early in the day — strong wine drinkers!), there was only one other group in the tasting room. So one of the employees came over to help. With a tasting you get to sample eight wines, oh yes, half a dozen plus two (though one was out of stock). He was a bit concerned because he had been called in that morning to work, and was the husband of one of the owners and didn’t know all the info to a tee on the wine. Fast forward…he was quite good.

So as previously mentioned, the guy pouring us our wine ‘didn’t know a ton about them,’ so he was looking through some notes to tell us what they were supposed to taste like, etc. We ended up having a great conversation about each one and talking about them sometimes before and after he told us what the notes said. One of the best tastings you could have as the three of us were bouncing comments off each other as he had to enjoy some of the wine, too. What was great is that he gave us his history — former college football player, then in the Marine Corps, now in some IT/security/networking (he lost me after that) gig and part time in the wine industry because his wife is an owner.

So, what we enjoyed (info is directly from website, my notes in bold italic)

2015 Rose
The beautiful coral color will put you in a festive mood. On the nose you will be greeted with notes of strawberry, rhubarb and pink grapefruit. The lively acidity plays on the palate, while hints of spice and dried herbs round out this lively and refreshing summer sipper.
Price: $14.00

Light and crisp.

 

2015 Pinot Gris
Light bodied fresh and lively summer sipper possess hints of mandarin orange, honeydew melon, bosc pear, and green apple. Ancient Lakes is a cool site which lends itself to aromatic whites. You can literally taste the tortuous past of these prehistoric soils. A gravely minerality mixes with citrus notes and dazzling acidity, to create a unique gem true to its sense of place.
Price $18.00

Minerality!  LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. Left with a bottle.

2015 Chardonnay
The feast of reason and the flow of soul brought us to the Ancient Lakes Appellation to source aromatic whites of exceptional quality. The vines struggle in high elevation silt loam vineyards on fractured caliche and basalt. This extraordinary example of Chardonnay possesses hints of green apple and pear. The saline minerality and focused fruit void of white noise; set this wine apart from any other. This wine is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of Wit.
Price $22.00

Unoaked, cheddar on the nose. Neutral oak barrels. I would give it ‘crisp oak’, Very unique.

2014 Riesling
Again the Ancient Lakes Appellation shines with Riesling. We were able to create a Riesling of exceptional quality. Bright acidity mixes with clove, peach, apricot, spice, honey-suckle and clover blossoms. Of course, the underlining feature of this wine is the gravely minerality brought by the tortured prehistoric soils of this majestic appellation. This racy gem is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of wit.
Price $18.00

Not syrupy like a Riesling could be, but it was still a Riesling.

2013 Red Blend
The colors of this wine are the deepest shades of inky purple and red.

The enchanted flavors of raspberry liquor, vibrant pepper, baking spice, blackberry, graphite and gravel will tantalize your taste buds. This is an extraordinary elegant wine with silky smooth texture and lingering finish. I found that this wine leaves me fully satisfied, but longing for one more taste.
Price $45.00

Nice nose. Melt in your mouth. Just so much good stuff happening. Left with a bottle.

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2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
We were drawn to Elephant Mountain Cabernet because it showcases the vibrancy of the site. Only at the extreme margins of this black beast can you detect a deep garnet color. An abundance of black currant, wild cherry, raspberry and cedar greet your nose and caress your pallet. The lingering finish will provide hints of anise, vanilla, toasted hazelnuts and roasted coffee which are balanced by gravelly earthy notes. This is a particularly well balanced and beautiful wine. Your first sip will leave you wanting more.
Price $50.00

Jammy, but not overkill, and not too chewy.

2013 L’armonia Red Blend
This is a big wine with an abundance of dark beautiful fruits that blend harmoniously with it’s ample body and structure.
The integrated tannins dance across your palate while flavors of huckleberry cobbler, vanilla and brown sugar tempt your taste buds. By combining classical Bordeaux varietals we believe that each individual piece of this red blend has come together to sing.
Blend: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, 14% Malbec, 3% Merlot
Price $60.00

I got tastes of coffee, kahlua and fruit. Unique.

 

As you can see, I left with two bottles. One was enjoyed that night when we returned to a friend’s house in Seattle, and the other the following night at the same house. Of course these guys/this winery can’t be kind and sell in stores on the east coast, let alone in stores in their area. It’s all direct from them. They do have have three wine clubs, though. The requirements aren’t super demanding, on them either. So I might have to join down the road. Overall, spent well over an hour there. I can easily see these guys getting into some of the big wine magazines in the coming years as an up and coming winery. Cheers!

 

Pour Me Some White

Love my part time wine tasting gigs. Last weekend during one of them I had all whites.  Ironic because it was freezing cold outside because of the 15-20mph winds and mid-50 temps. But, I guess you can sip your pain away, right?

I was sharing the delights of:

La Marca Prosecco — one of my favorites. You cannot go wrong with this stuff. You can find it for $10-$15/bottle. Just crisp and and perfect bubbles with tiny hints of citrus. Need I say more?

Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc — I love the SB from New Zealand.  Gimme some grapefruit! This one was a bit milder than my favorite.  Awesome notes of citrus all around with a nice finish. Low teens on the cost.

William Hill Chardonnay — if you like (traditional) oaked Chard, this one’s for you.  It’s from the North Coast of CA and has some definite tropical fruit notes in it while giving you that oaked, buttery taste. This one runs in the mid-teens per bottle.

Sip on, my friends.

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Winery Stop 2, Moorooduc Estate

The second place we decided to check out on wine-tour in Mornington Peninsula was Moorooduc Estate.  This place was established in 1982, and is a small, family run wine business. So small of a vineyardt that when you pull into the parking lot you see the garage/work area where the great grape juice is being made.  We took a few quick sips of the wine here.  Very different than the first place.

 

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2013 Moorooduc Estate Chardonnay (Pale lemon in colour with lovely fruit expression lemon/grapefruit citrus and white stone fruits, on the nose and palate with a crisp linear acid line and terrific length) – true Chard – buttery!

2013 Moorooduc Estate Pinot Noir (This wine, from the McIntyre, Robinson and Garden Vineyards, is bright cherry garnet in colour with a vibrant nose of red cherry, wild strawberry a hint of Campari and savoury notes of cloves, star anise and nutmeg. Elegant on the palate with bright fruit and crisp acidity the wine is long with a silky finish) – tough to explain but not my kind of PN

2013 Robinson Pinot Noir (On the palate, the red fruit is juicy and the spice is warm and subtle with violet notes. The wine shows generosity of mid-palate, and finishes with good acid and firm, silky tannins. Very good length with subtle power; complete and round) – earthy

2013 Garden Vineyard Pinot Noir (The whole bunch fermentation results in a deep garnet colour and a gorgeous savoury nose.  Aromas of teak, dark wild cherry, morel mushrooms, earthy notes and dark red roses abound.  There is a hint of roasting beef coated in chopped rosemary and thyme.  On the palate the firm, fine-grained tannins are king, surrounding the savoury, meaty yet plush flavours and textures creating a dark mouthfeel that goes on and on.  A beautifully balanced wine this pinot walks on the dark side and is seriously sexy!) – another very earthy one

2013 McIntyre Shiraz (no vinter notes on it) – Pinot drinker’s Shiraz

Nothing there I was thrilled with and not an overly eager-to-impress staff.  But you must visit to find that out, too bad.

Wild Horses

Over the past several months I have started a part-time job as a wine taster/pourer.  So, 1-2 times a week I get to go to a variety of locations and be that person who pours different wines for the customers to sample, while of course sampling them myself to be educated about them to properly inform the shoppers.  It’s a win-win situation — learn more about the wine and talk to people about it!  It occurred to me the other day — why don’t I write a blog about all my tastings?  It has to start sometime, right?

Ok, so Friday night I was doing a tasting for Wild Horse Winery, which is located in the Central Coast of CA.  Very nice, affordable wines.  I had 3 varietals.

1) Wild Horse Chardonnay.  Oaked, but not overkill on it.  Very smooth, green apple, pear and vanilla notes.  Perfect with fish.  Price is around $15-$18.

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2) Wild Horse Pinot Noir.  Light Pinot, smooth, had both fruit and earth notes, with some mushroom in there.  Pretty nice.  Would pair well with salmon, grilled vegetables, chicken.  Price is around $16-$20.  (for some reason they don’t have this one on their site).

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3) Wild Horse Chardonnay.  Hello happiness, where have you been?  The body, the flavor…cherry, berry, cocao.  WOW!  Wow.  Go find one, buy it, open it, drink it.  Would be great served with a pizza made on the grill or some steak.

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If you go pick any of these up or have had them in the past, let me know what you think.  Cheers!

 

 

Some nights…

Some nights call for a good wine to numb a long day.  I always try to keep my (wine) glass at least half full, but had to shake my head when I was having problems getting it open to even fill it to that point!  Really?  I am just glad this made me laugh.  While opting for a white on this beautiful evening, I (attempted) to open a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay and the cork split.  AHH!  Give me my wine!  No, it didn’t take long to fix the error, but still.  At least good things come to those who wait.  Now I am enjoying some yeasty, citrus-y, toasty, oaked California Chard (with a few cork sprinkles).  I am not normally a big fan of oaked Chard, but there are some that hold a place in my heart.

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SA Winery Visit #1 — Moreson

While in South Africa, one of the days was dedicated to a cycling winery tour.  Sunny, 70s, paved and dirt roads, many grapes, heaven on earth!

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Our first winery of the day was Moreson.   To get there, we had about a 12K ride from our starting point.  Wine was in order!  It was a beautiful outdoor setting with fountains, ponds, little rivers and just a great atmosphere.

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To start the tasting, we enjoyed some bubbly, their One Chardonnay Pinot Noir, which I would describe as a perfect balance between Champagne and Prosecco.  Amazing!  And of course you can only buy it in South Africa (for a rough R126 — about $12!)

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We were given a second round of bubbly, this time Solitaire Blanc de Blancs.  I would describe this as green apples, sharp and crisp, NICE!  Another steal at R110.

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We then progressed from bubbles to the regular stuff.  Our first one was a white, the Dr. Reason Why Unwooded Chardonnay.  Love the name!  Though unoaked, there was a bit of light cream taste.  R89.

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Round 4 of the tasting brought about another Chard, this time the Mercator Premium Chardonnay.  The nose had notes of lemon, lime and toast.  The taste — NICE!  It had a light toast taste but not like a ‘true’ chard (to me — saying this as not a big chard fan).  R168.

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Last but not least is what I love about South Africa the most — Pinotage.  The sinful, powerful, delicious, perfect cross of Pinot Noir and Hermitage.  Have your ever wondered how it came about?  Here’s the quick history lesson on Pinotage.  Thanks Wikipedia!  This brought out all the characteristics of the varietal I expected — smoky and smooth…ahh, what a pour!  R168.

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This was a great start to the winery tour.  Once done, we hopped back on our bikes to the next one…about 5K away.

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Non-Domestic Flights/Airline = Free (Amazing) Wine

I have been MIA from blogging for a bit because I spent the last two weeks in South Africa (with a couple days at the end in Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls).  Amazing!  From scenery to culture…to food and wine (and some beer).  I was already expecting an amazing trip but it got even better on the first flight (of 8 over the course of the vacation) with the wine.  As many of us are used to paying for anything other than maybe water on flights (apparently some airlines charge for soda now), it was nice to have the hope of freedom when preparing for a long flight.  So as the flight attendant came around and asked what I’d like, there were various selections, all from South Africa (darn!) and I opted for one of the reds, a Merlot.  I don’t normally lean towards that grape, but why not, it’s free!  So, out came the bottle.  Oh, and before she moved on, she threw another one out there.  Most people were handed several bottles of wine on round 1.  Go South African Airways.  The Merlot was from Stormhoek.  WOW, that did not taste like a Merlot.  Unreal.  I wish I had scribbled some notes down but it just had some unique characteristics.  Their website doesn’t have a ton of info on where we could attempt to find this stuff here.  Darn!

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All alcoholic beverages had messages on the container, which of course are for safety reasons (took pics of most of them).  But this one is the best, and for good reason.  It was on this bottle of Merlot.

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Yes!  Because it tastes SO GOOD!

Another wine sampled just labeled what the trip and the country brought/bring — JOY.  It was a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.  Amazing, amazing.  14.5% alcohol — few SA wines go low on alcohol content.  The winery works with a social upliftment project in a local town to improve the lives of residents (see label below).  Can’t find any information on the web about the vintner.  If you happen to come across something, please let me know!

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As the flights progressed, you find out you also get free wine on domestic flights…ahh.  So nice.  So, while going from safari to Cape Town, it was mid-day and I opted for a white and received a Chenin Blanc, Flutterby.  Nice and crisp, fruity.

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Other mid-day flights brought the perfect time to sample some Chardonnay, Liberty Chardonnay to be precise.  It was a traditional Chard, oaked, buttery.  Tough to track down the exact site for this one, too.

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These guys also make a fun sparkling wine.  It has a screw top, which makes it easy to open on the plane!

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On my last flight, back to the US, I had an amazing blend from Spier 1692.  It was Classic Red with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Amazing all around.

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Great way to taste a wide variety of local wine while not on the ground.  Love what South Africa has to offer!

From Demo to Homemade…delicious find

I was at Whole Foods last week and they of course had all sorts of food demos/samples out in the store.  One was this delicious salad that they were charging a good amount for and extra to add salmon or chicken to.  I looked at the ingredients and mentioned how I’d love to just make it at home.  The girl doing the demo said quietly ‘just google it under Martha Stewart…’  Score!  So, last night I served some wonderful Toasted-Quinoa Saute with Lemony Cabbage and Dill with Pan Seared Chicken. There aren’t too many ingredients in the recipe:

IMG_02021 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed well
S&P
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 head Savoy cabbage (about 1 pound), cored and thinly sliced lengthwise, divided
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 ounces pitted large green olives, such as Castelvetrano or Cerignola, halved (about 3/4 cup) — picked up basic green at Trader Joe’s
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill

Step 1

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Stir in quinoa and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to high, and cook until water evaporates and quinoa is dry and tender, about 5 minutes (stir frequently to prevent scorching).  *I just cooked it like regular quinoa.

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Step 2

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the cabbage and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden brown in places, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining cabbage.

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Step 3

Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet. Return sauteed cabbage to skillet, add quinoa, and raise heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is toasted and crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chickpeas, olives, and lemon zest and juice, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in dill, and serve with yogurt.

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The salad was amazing!  And, it’s dairy-free and gluten free!  We enjoyed it with two whites (one was opened earlier in the night).  Chalk Hill 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and Chateau St. Jean 2010 Chardonnay.

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And for dessert we had some of the wonderful Ciao Bella Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet.  That stuff is deadly!

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