Few images of Pacific Northwest wine country are as iconic as the red-roofed barn just off Mill Creek Road in Walla Walla.
And those who taste the wines from Myles Anderson and Gordy Venneri continue to make their way back since Walla Walla Vintners was bonded in 1995.
The success of their winemaking talents, blended with friendship, prompted them to hire Bill vonMetzger in 2002.
"As Walla Walla Vintners grew in that time period, we found that it was too much to run the business, market the wine and produce the wine," Venneri said. "Hiring Bill allowed Myles and I to focus more time and energy with our customers and without compromising on the quality of our wine. It has been a good fit for us."
Venneri, a certified public accountant, made sure bringing on another winemaker would pencil out. Anderson, founding director of the renowned Walla Walla Community College viticulture and enology program, hand-picked vonMetzger while still a student.
The Colorado native has helped Walla Walla Vintners double its annual production in the past decade, from 2,500 cases to 5,000 cases.
"We worked with Bill on the Walla Walla Vintners style of making wine," Venneri said.
VonMetzger described the Walla Walla Vintners style as "approachable young, but in the back of my mind and in my heart, we also want to make the wines that will stand up for 10 to 12 years."
Each year, the line up includes two bottlings of cabernet sauvignon, a Walla Walla Valley merlot, a Columbia Valley cabernet franc, a syrah, two bottlings of malbec, the blend called cuve and a Super Tuscan-style blend.
Those looking for white wines or dessert bottlings will leave Walla Walla Vintners disappointed because they don't make them.
Walla Walla Vintners will be pouring Feb. 27 with other Walla Walla wineries at Pure Space in Portland and again March 12 at Sodo Park in Seattle.
Walla Walla Vintners' wines are available throughout the Northwest. Check with your favorite wine merchant for the wines we've reviewed here.
Walla Walla Vintners 2009 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $28. Aromas of black raspberry, blueberry, cherries, chocolate, lavender and smoke give way to dried cherry flavors, backed by black currant, caramel and tar combine for a yummy and opulent merlot. While the tannins are bold, there's plenty of fruit and acidity to provide support.
Walla Walla Vintners 2009 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $28. The nose is rich with blueberry, Marionberry, cherry, cracked black pepper, black olive and porcini mushroom earthiness. There's even more richness found in the flavors of dark cherry, vanilla bean, more pepper and chocolate lavender bar. The low oak, bright acidity and savory finish of tapenade brought thoughts of London broil or roasted pork.
Walla Walla Vintners 2009 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $24. This Italian-style red brings aromas of pie cherry, black currant, epazote, graphite, tar and iron shavings. Flavors of dark fruit develop on the palate with dark plum, raspberry and smoky black cherry. There is plenty of structure as loganberry acidity laces the midpalate, yielding to a finish of gravelly tannins. Suggested pairings include eggplant parmesan.
Walla Walla Vintners 2009 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, $32. The nose of this bold red carries hints of dusty Marionberry, black currant, cinnamon, beet juice and steak juice. Brambleberry flavors and acidity are followed by lots of licorice and horehound, sturdy tannins, lingering minerality and a gamy finish.
Walla Walla Vintners 2008 Bello Rosso, Columbia Valley, $32. Cabernet Sauvignon from is blended with Sangiovese to make a wine patterned after a Super Tuscan. The aromas hint at black currant, raspberry and Cherry Heering, backed by cocoa powder, white pepper, iron filings, mint, shoe leather and black tea. As a drink, it comes across with red currant, cranberry and lengthy cherry flavors, backed by more mint, moist earth, sturdy tannins and charming acidity.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest. For the freshest reviews, go to www.winepressnw.com/freshpress.