Hello friends. Perhaps visiting the Horse Heaven Hills in December was not my best idea. Driving south out of Prosser, the scene that greeted us as we turned onto South Ward Gap Road was a little scary. Some wine professionals might have turned back, but not this one; we pushed forward into the fog and sagebrush, undaunted by the flurries of snow and freezing rain falling around us and spurred on by the hope (nay, certainty!) that great wine would await the brave (or the reckless). And it did.
I’m sure that Ali and Jarrod Boyle, who run Alexandria Nicole Cellars, were a bit surprised to see us. Despite our appointment and confirmation, this was an inhospitable day to visit this part of Washington. Although it’s home to Champoux and Alder Ridge Vineyards, the Horse Heaven Hills AVA is a raw, underdeveloped area, with lots of dirt roads and little in the way of services. It was a serious relief that day to arrive at Alexandria Nicole’s production facility (next to their Destiny Ridge Vineyards) and be greeted warmly by Ali and Jarrod, who proceeded to taste us through excellent samples from both barrel and bottle.
Over a lunch of medium-rare steaks straight off the winery grill (here I acknowledge a potential bias: it is eminently possible that red wine tastes better when it’s served with steaks and you’re an hour away from the nearest restaurant), Jarrod told the origin story of Alexandria Nicole. On a trip to the Horse Heaven Hills, in his guise as a Hogue Cellars viticulturalist (where he learned under the tutelage of Dr. Wade Wolfe), Jarrod spotted a piece of south-sloping, sagebrush-dotted land above the Columbia River: perfect for a new vineyard. And in one of those coincidences that seems to happen with alarming regularity in the tight-knit world of Washington wine, it turned out that Jarrod was friends with the owners of that land (the Mercer family), who were happy to enter into a partnership with the Boyles. Soon after, out went the sagebrush, and in went the vines of Destiny Ridge Vineyard.
The vineyard is planted to a wide range of varietals (fifteen at last count!), and four fifths of the grapes are sold to other wineries. Jarrod keeps the rest for Alexandria Nicole’s broad lineup, which includes a number of gems. I want to begin with Quarry Butte because it represents perhaps the best value in the lineup. Named after the rock quarry that Destiny Ridge was slated to become if Jarrod and Ali hadn’t intervened, this is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon and 27% Merlot, rounded out with small portions of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Syrah. Estate grown and small production (168 cases), much of the juice is the same as what goes into Alexandria Nicole’s higher-priced bottlings.
Bright nose that gains complexity with time and aeration, starting with pomegranate and red licorice, and moving towards notes of dust and sweet pipe tobacco. Medium-bodied, with loads of bright, citrusy acid framing red and black licorice flavors. A lively wine with a long, buttery finish.
First come first served up to 18 bottles/person. We should have the wine in our warehouse in less than a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping.