For Mike and Laura Mrachek, success begins in the soil.
The couple began with four acres of cherries in the late 1970s. Today, they successfully farm more than 500 acres in Washington's Wenatchee Valley and Wahluke Slope.
They planted their first 60 acres of wine grapes in 1999, focusing on cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Today, their 260 acres of vineyards overlook the Columbia River near the towns of Mattawa and Malaga.
In 2001, they launched Saint Laurent, taking Laura's family name, as well as the name of an obscure wine grape and a Catholic martyr. The Mracheks smartly hired Charlie Hoppes as their first winemaker. The Ste. Michelle alum is one of the Northwest's top consulting winemakers, and his first efforts for Saint Laurent helped established the winery's tradition for quality. Hoppes eventually handed the winemaking duties to Craig Mitrakul, a New Jersey native who followed Hoppes from Ste. Michelle as well as Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla. Though Mitrakul has excelled with reds, he also has shown his winemaking prowess with ross and whites, providing Saint Laurent with a broad array of high-quality wines.
And in addition to the wines, Saint Laurent also boasts some of the most luscious views in Washington wine country, thanks to the beautiful Wenatchee Valley as well as the Mracheks' European-inspired winery in Malaga.
To find Saint Laurent wines, ask your favorite wine merchant or call the winery at 509-888-9463. Here are some new Saint Laurent wines we've tasted recently.
Saint Laurent Estate Winery 2008 chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $20: Quincy Estate Vineyards in the proposed Ancient Lakes appellation provides grapes for a brisk and slate-filled drink. There is no evidence of oak, and its fruit core is based on notes of Granny Smith apple, lemon, lime, quinine and minerality. Enjoy this with quiche.
Saint Laurent Estate Winery 2009 Estate riesling, Columbia Valley, $12: The Mracheks rely on their Malaga Estate, which features one of the more remarkable views in Washington wine country, for this off-dry drink. It offers full flavors of honeydew melon, cantaloupe and juicy pear, backed by a finish of lemony citrus to balance the residual sugar (2.4 percent).
Saint Laurent Estate Winery 2007 Estate cabernet sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $30: This big, full-on Cab provides notes of cassis, blackberry and cocoa powders. There's lots of spice from black pepper and cinnamon, some mintiness and firm tannins from the midpalate on back.
Saint Laurent Estate Winery 2007 Estate merlot, Wahluke Slope, $25: Compelling aromas of Rainier cherry, root beer, milk chocolate, tar and Bazooka bubble gum funnel into flavors of pomegranate, pie cherry and orange peel. Both the sturdy tannins and milk chocolate linger in the farewell.
Saint Laurent Estate Winery 2007 Estate syrah, Wahluke Slope, $28: The Mracheks were among the savvy folks to sink vines in the Wahluke Slope, and the ripeness of the fruit shows here. It's syrah, so of course there's a tone of blackberry to the nose, then come strawberry, pomegranate, coffee and a malted milk ball. Lush and juicy describes the spilling of plum and strawberry flavors. On the midpalate is boysenberry acidity, followed by hints of soft pencil lead and vanilla bean.
Saint Laurent Estate Winery 2007 Estate Lucky Red, Wahluke Slope, $15: The Mracheks' vast holdings in the Columbia Valley come under the umbrella of Lucky Bohemian Farms. Drinkers of Mitrakul's amalgamation of their syrah (65 percent) and merlot should feel fortunate. Cordial cherry, sweet herbs, moist earth and orange peel aromas transfer onto the palate. The drink is easy with lots of dark cherry and chocolate surrounding a midpalate of rhubarb compote and cranberry.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a website that provides news and information about the wines of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.