Blending red grapes the merit in ‘Meritage’ wines

Go into most wine shops, and it’s likely that the largest category of wines you’ll find is red blends.

It has been this way for ages with French wines, especially Bordeaux, where the grapes allowed for reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenèré.

In the New World, there have been attempts to emulate Old World blends, the most famous of which is the Meritage Alliance. “Meritage” is a made-up word that combines “merit” and “heritage” — and rhymes with the latter.

According to the organization, a wine may carry the name “Meritage” if it’s a blend of at least two Bordeaux varieties. Such a wine may not contain more than 90 percent of one variety, and it should be the winery’s finest blend.

While many producers follow the Bordeaux model, plenty of winemakers no longer feel constrained to certain varieties and will include just about anything in an effort to make a superb wine.

Here are some fantastic red blends we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

Baer Winery 2009 Ursa, Columbia Valley, $39: This blend of Cabernet Franc (44 percent), Merlot (38 percent), Cabernet Sauvignon (9 percent) and Malbec opens with a gorgeous nose that brings hints of blueberry cobbler, dried cranberry, violet and sweet oak tones of tobacco and black pepper. The drink is dang delicious with its theme of inky blue fruit, bittersweet chocolate and Aussie black licorice.

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2009 Bordheauxd Head Red, Columbia Valley, $26: This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (44 percent) Syrah (33 percent) and Merlot opens with aromas of plums, blueberry, chocolate and mint, and one might think there’s some Cabernet Franc in the mix with its notes of leaf tobacco. The Syrah component shows on the palate with notes of huckleberry and gaminess, backed by a big expansion of blueberry and black cherry. Slaty tannins with that mountain berry acidity make for delicious balance.

Ginkgo Forest Winery 2009 Coalesce, Wahluke Slope, $26: Syrah (34 percent) melds with Grenache (33 percent) and Mourvèdre to offer aromas of freshly scraped vanilla bean, rose petal and lilac joined by boysenberry, blueberry, cranberry and humidor notes. It’s a juicy, yet delicate drink that’s very fruit-forward, offering hints of boysenberry and blueberry along with pie cherry and milk chocolate. There’s a flash of rose water on the midpalate and pencil shavings in the finish merely adds to the texture of sublime tannins.

Robert Karl Cellars 2009 Claret, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50 percent), Merlot (15 percent), Cabernet Franc (15 percent), Petit Verdot (10 percent) and Malbec opens with aromatics of blueberry, boysenberry, cinnamon, nutmeg, espresso and bubble gum. On the attack, flavors lead with plums and fig, followed by pie cherry acidity, a strand of chocolaty tannin and black licorice. Hints of dried herbs in the finish bode well for flank steak or duck confit with a cherry glaze. It’s a bargain at this price, and the screwcap makes it easy to get into.

Southard Winery 2010 Sugarloaf Vineyard Red, Yakima Valley, $20: This blend of Grenache (61 percent), Mourvedre (18 percent), Cinsault (12 percent) and Counoise smells of whole-berry cranberry sauce, bubble gum, cloves, toffee, cedar and saddle leather. There’s an even flow to the flavors of boysenberry, blueberry and Western serviceberry, bringing tantalizing acidity, minimal tannins and a bit of leafiness in the finish.

Michael Florentino Cellars 2007 Fusione, Columbia Valley, $20: Here is a blend of Merlot and Sangiovese that opens with aromas of cherry cola, plums, blackberry, peppermint stick, cedar and a bit of crushed leaf. The bright entry and red fruit profile of the drink is akin to some Pinot Noir, rounded off in the finish by bittersweet chocolate and horehound.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest magazine. For more information, go to www.winepressnw.com.

More in Life

Co-owner Jason Parzyk carries two growlers to fill as he serves up beer at Lake Stevens Brewing Co. The first brewery in the city is celebrating one-year anniversary this weekend. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Beer of the Week: Lake Stevens Brewing Co.’s Sour Imperial

The beer has a depth and a complex flavor profile that goes beyond just another barrel-aged stout.

Legendary bluesman Curtis Salgado to play Arlington show

The Northwest blues-soul-funk-R&B living legend performs with Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons Nov. 18.

This year’s Snohomish Blues Invasion has an all-star lineup

Proceeds send the CD Woodbury Trio and the Benton-Townsend Duo to the International Blues Challenge.

Schack holiday show features Northwest watercolor artists

The free exhibit also will have three-dimensional works, such as jewelry, glass, ceramic and wood.

‘Three Billboards’ rooted in Frances McDormand’s rigid role

The actress of “Fargo” fame gives an Oscar-worthy performance in this black comedy on human nature.

‘The Hate U Give’ shows the burden of being black in America

Angie Thomas’ story of a teen girl covers the challenging experience of African Americans.

A merry Christmas concert with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

The Christian music stars will perform at Xfinity Arena with Jordan Smith of “The Voice” on Nov. 18.

‘Veep’ production postponed during Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ treatment

The 56-year-old star has been documenting her breast cancer fight on social media.

The Rucker Hill house is featured in the Twin Peaks series in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Living happily ever after in the ‘Twin Peaks’ house

Everett homeowners snagged a role in the recent reboot of the 1990s cult classic show.

Most Read