By Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman
Maryhill Winery owner Craig Leuthold has never been one to sit still, and now he has a new lineup of vineyard-designated wines that not only allow his Columbia Gorge winery to showcase a new reserve tasting room, but also some of his favorite vineyards.
Late last year, Leuthold and his winemaker, Richard Batchelor, released nine wines they call “The Vineyards,” small-lot vineyard-designated wines that are available primarily to wine club members.
“The biggest driving force was the introduction of our Reserve Room,” Leuthold said. “We really wanted the iconic appellations of Washington represented in that room and the vineyards we think express those appellations.”
Most of the new wines were made in lots of 300 cases or less, and they were crafted to showcase the vineyards and Batchelor’s ability. The 2010 vintage was just the second for the New Zealand native since arriving from Hall Winery in California’s Napa Valley.
“There is no doubt I have a lot of trust in Richard,” Leuthold said. “He brought a lot to our cellar.”
Batchelor created stability at Maryhill, which went through three winemakers over the course of a few vintages as the Leutholds tried to find someone with the skills to improve quality and quantity at the same time.
Today, Maryhill makes about 80,000 cases of wine.
In future releases, Batchelor will add Red Mountain to his mix, as he brought in grapes from Kiona and Klipsun vineyards.
While the Reserve Room is open to Maryhill’s 1,000-plus wine club members, other visitors may come in and try the wines for a $20 tasting fee (refundable upon purchase).
Here are four of the new Maryhill wines:
Maryhill Winery 2010 Elephant Mountain Vineyards Indira, Rattlesnake Hills, $40: Elephant Mountain Vineyards in the Rattlesnake Hills region of the Yakima Valley is perhaps best known for its Syrah, but it also grows other Rhone varieties. This vineyard-designate from Maryhill Winery includes the somewhat rarer Cinsault and Counoise grapes, which are best known for contributing to Chateau de Beaucastel in the southern Rhone. This is a superb red with aromas of dark chocolate, toasted marshmallow, boysenberry, lime zest and toffee. On the palate, it reveals flavors that reminded us of a Heath candy bar, slate, coffee and dark fruit.
Maryhill Winery 2010 Northridge Vineyard Primitivo, Wahluke Slope, $32: For many years, Primitivo and Zinfandel were considered to be the same grape. Research revealed they both are clones of a Croatian variety known as Crljenak Kastelanski. Primitivo has a long, illustrious and mysterious history — and a myth has been perpetuated that it was the wine served at the Last Supper. This superb wine opens with aromas of cigar leaf, dried strawberry, raspberry and something that reminds us of an Arab spice market. On the palate, it produces flavors of black pepper, dark chocolate, strawberry-rhubarb jam and Bing cherry.
Maryhill Winery 2010 Les Collines Vineyard Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $36: Norm McKibben owns and co-owns several premier vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley, including Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge, and this 240-acre site in the southern valley is managed by his son, Shane. This yummy Merlot casts out aromas of orange zest, cherry bitters, spice and some oak, followed by flavors of cranberry, black cherry and chocolate. It’s a smooth, approachable red wine.
Maryhill Winery 2010 Alder Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $40: Alder Ridge is an 800-acre vineyard in the southern Horse Heaven Hills. It is less than an hour’s drive east of Maryhill Winery and is highly regarded for its warm-climate grapes, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon. This example begins with whiffs of cedar, red currant, black raspberry and ripe plum. On the palate, it brings rich flavors of blackberry compote, chocolate and even notes of fresh cranberry.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, www.greatnorthwestwine.com.