August Domestic Wine: 2011 Desert Wind Merlot, Wahluke Slope, WASHINGTON
Desert Wind Winery and its History: “From the very first harvest in 1994, the Fries family marveled at the intensely concentrated fruit produced by their Desert Wind Vineyard–fruit perfect for crafting wines with immense structure and aging potential. In 2001, the family introduced Desert Wind wines in order to showcase this exceptional vineyard through its own wine brand. The original lineup consisted of just four offerings–an elegant Semillon and three refined reds, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and their flagship red blend known as Ruah, each with 3-5 years of barrel aging.”
In 2004, the family built a crush pad and wine production facility in Prosser, Washington, allowing them to process the fruit and age wines in close proximity to their vineyard sites. Three years later, they opened Desert Wind Winery, an immense Santa Fe-inspired destination housing a tasting room, restaurant and luxury overnight accommodations.
Desert Wind Vineyard: The Fries family began planting the Desert Wind Vineyard site in 1993. Today, the vineyard totals 423 planted acres, with large blocks of Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. The vineyard also contains smaller plantings of Viognier, Semillon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Barbera, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Mourvedre and Carmenere. The vineyard is planted using 9 x 6 vine spacing with 806 plants per acre.
Desert Wind Vineyard lies on the Wahluke Slope and ranges in elevation from approximately 800 – 1,000 feet. Its rocky soil is covered by shallow topsoil; the unique soil makeup places extra stress on the vines, forcing them to funnel energy into fruit production instead of excessive vegetation. The fruit from this vineyard is highly pigmented with firm tannins that lend structure to the resulting wines.
Several Northwest wineries purchase fruit from Desert Wind Vineyard for their own winemaking; they often refer to this site as “Fries Vineyard” on their labels.
Vineyard Notes: The Wahluke Slope is located in Eastern Washington’s Columbia Valley. The site is considered Zone 3, the hottest in the region. Our 480-acre vineyard is a southern facing block with a two percent slope and shallow, rocky soil. The vines are irrigated with an underground drip system; double catch wires are used to increase air circulation during the growing season. Leaf pulling and cluster thinning are important steps in aiding the ripening of the grapes.
Varietals: 98% Merlot and 2% Other Reds
Alcohol: 14.5% by volume
Food Pairings: Often you’ll get a lot of herbal, earthy and mushrooms from Merlot, which makes this wine a perfect match for herbal preparations of meat (such as marinades or herbal sauces). Merlot can handle the bitter flavors of fennel, eggplant, broccoli, raw onions, garlic, and even radicchio, just as long as the Merlot is not heavily oaked or sweet. Try a cool pairing and see how you like it!
Tasting Notes: Intense, late summer fruit flavors are a hallmark of the Desert Wind Merlot. The wine is full-bodied and rich with ripe flavors of plum, marionberry, with a hint of chocolate. Winemaker Mark Chargin uses oak and patience to bind these qualities into a well-integrated and supple wine. Our Merlot pairs well with full-flavored foods including hearty pastas, grilled meats and game.
88 points – Wine Advocate, Issue #213 (June 2014)
“The 2011 Merlot is a very good effort that’s also a solid value. Giving up ripe black fruits, mulled spices, chocolate and hints of herbs, it hits the palate with a medium-bodied, rounded, supple and deliciously texture profile that’s perfect for drinking over the coming couple of years.”
Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich, bold layers of complexity . Full throttle with plenty of punch. A wine that is very strong and bold, but has an elegance. Perfect with grilled meats, especially lamb, or anything on the barbeque. Cheers!”-JL