A few weeks ago, we wrote about white wines from the 2010 vintage hitting store shelves. This week, we look at new releases of red wines from 2009, which are now making their ways into the marketplace.
In Washington, 2009 will be remembered for a sudden and historically early frost that hit across the Columbia Valley on Oct. 10. Temperatures dipped into the 20s, basically toasting vines' leaves and stopping the ripening process. At the time, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates -- the Northwest's largest wine producer -- had fewer than half of its grapes in, so it and many other producers went into a mad scramble to harvest the rest of their fruit.
So far, the wines we are seeing are high in quality, and this bodes well for a vintage that was a struggle at the end.
Here are a few 2009 red wines we've tasted in recent weeks.
Tamarack Cellars 2009 Firehouse Red, Columbia Valley, $18: Annually, this Walla Walla winery creates one of the region's best values, and this vintage is no exception. The blend includes nine different red grape varieties. Aromas hint at black currant, dark strawberry, blueberry, dusty cherry, pomegranate and cedar. There's a rich approach to the palate with boysenbery and plums dusted in cocoa powder.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Indian Wells cabernet sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $18: This affordable red from Washington's flagship winery includes a nose of poached plum, black cherry cola, malted milk balls, coffee, toasted coconut and thyme. It is creamy and hedonistic, with ripe black cherry, blackberry jam and chocolaty tannins. Suggested pairings include stuffed peppers or lamb.
Daven Lore Winery 2009 malbec, Horse Heaven Hills, $25: Prosser winemaker Gordon Taylor might not be far off the map with his bold statement about this Bordeaux variety. "Maybe you should cry, Argentina. Washington state is in the game." Scents of barrel and fruit emerge with a combination of nutty chocolate brownie, boysenberry, minerality and coffee. There's more fruit, less barrel and lots of minerality showing on a palate that's focused on boysenberry and marionberry flavors.
Cinder Wines 2009 syrah, Snake River Valley, $27: Boise native Melanie Krause continues to shine with syrah from Idaho. There's a fascinating greeting of blackberry, malt chocolate, mint leaf and freshly sliced pepperoni in the nose. The palate delivers notes of blackberry jam on toast, licorice and lacquered bacon, all carried in a pleasing structure of rich chocolate.
Wedge Mountain Winery 2009 lemberger, Columbia Valley, $26: This German red variety does well in Washington, and Charlie McKee planted some in his vineyard near Leavenworth. The nose is fruit-forward with raspberry, cranberry, strawbery and citrus peel with cedar and a hint of SpaghettiOs. Cherry and raspberry flavors combine for a Hawaiian Punch sensation, tightened a bit by a late sheen of sandy tannin. McKee also creates a sweeter version of lemberger.
Dakota Creek Winery 2009 sangiovese, Rattlesnake Hills, $22: Elephant Mountain Vineyards fruit near Zillah made the trip to the border town of Blaine. There's a delicious blueberry theme to this juicy and shiny drink that gathers in notes of marionberry, boysenberry, raspberry and cherry soda.
Whidbey Island Winery 2009 Primitivo, Horse Heaven Hills, $23: Owner/winemaker Greg Osenbach turns this into a crowd-pleaser. There's sweetness showing in the nose with chocolate, molasses, cherry skins and tobacco. The drink is filled with cherry and blueberry juice, backed by chocolate, good grip from tannin and some late heat.
StoneCap Wines 2009 Estate syrah, Columbia Valley, $8: This is undeniably Syrah with aromas of blackberry, marionberry, smoky bacon, chalkboard dust, white pepper and tar. There's even more of a fruity presence on the palate, which sings with blackberry and bacon on the entry, followed by plums in the midpalate, balanced tannins and unripe marionberry in the finish.
*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.