2010 Andrew Rich Merlot Red Willow Vineyard

Hello friends. Today’s offer comes from the intersection of two factors, and the result is a serious deal for our list members: a single-vineyard wine from a seminal Washington vineyard that normally retails for $30 (note that they’re still selling through the last bit of ’09 in Oregon), discounted to a TPU tariff that is considerably lower:

Factor #1 is the broadening accessibility of Red Willow vineyard fruit as the contracts with Columbia Winery loosen up. Located towards the far western edge of the Yakima Valley (location here), Red Willow was originally planted by Mike Sauer in 1973. In the past decade, as more boutique wineries have been able to gain access to Red Willow fruit, the reputation of the vineyard has grown and grown. And in the past few years especially, we’ve started to see more and more accessible tariffs begin to crop up for single vineyard Red Willow bottlings (Eight Bells Winery is the poster child for this trend, and we’ve offered their wines on numerous occasions).

Factor #2 is the difficulty of selling Washington wine in an Oregon market. Andrew Rich is one of a very few wineries that successfully straddles the line between the two states, making expressive Pinot Noirs from across the Willamette Valley fruit, and making a series of burlier whites and reds from carefully selected Washington vineyards, Ciel du Cheval and Red Willow mostly (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that they also make a stellar Sauvignon Blanc from what is for me the finest vineyard for that varietal in the northwest: Croft Vineyard in the Willamette). As I think of other wineries that successfully walk that tightrope, I come up with Sineann, and Owen Roe, and that’s about the end of the list.

Much as folks in the trade will tell you off the record that Oregon Pinot can be a tough sell in Washington, selling Washington juice in Oregon can be just as difficult. While a vineyard like Red Willow has plenty of name recognition in Washington, and folks don’t blink about paying $30 for a single-vineyard bottle of it, cross the boundaries of our state and it’s an entirely different story.

So, the folks at Andrew Rich are shipping some Red Willow juice back to the cozy confines of Washington, and because we committed to a whole boatload of it, we’re able to secure our parcel at a tariff that severely underplays the quality of the juice inside.

Why did we commit to so much of this? Because this is the kind of serious, grown-up Merlot that will continue to annihilate any lingering misconceptions (thanks, California) of Merlot as an insipid dullard. Because it comes from a block of Red Willow that is now more than twenty years old. And because this Merlot had an aromatic exoticism that I have only otherwise experienced from DuBrul Merlot fruit (another Yakima Valley stalwart). Look for plummy fruit, mixed with loamy earth, and dusted with star anise and cardamom. On the palate, the richness belies the cooler vintage but the vibrancy certainly doesn’t. Flavors of plum and cherry and the darkest chocolate roll across a plump, soil-inflected mid-palate and into the kind of chewy-earl-gray-tannin finish that makes Washington Merlot so extraordinary. It has all the length and power, the structure and complexity, to make you think Cabernet, but with Merlot’s approachability, its openness, its warm-heartedness.

Only 154 cases produced, so this is boutique wine for certain, and reorder prospects are understandably murky. For now, first come first served up to 24 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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