A year ago, I had never tried a wine from Washington State. Now I actively try to seek them out whenever I can, and with every new bottle I become increasingly impressed with their quality, consistency and complexity. Washington wines aren’t bombastic or over the top like so many examples from California or Australia, but they aren’t as austere and unyielding as many European wines; they are a perfect middle ground between New and Old World sensibilities, and they deserve more attention than they get. As a result, I was quite excited to get a chance to try this back vintage wine from one of the pioneers of the Washington wine scene: Leonetti Cellar.
I found the Leonetti at Aspen Wine & Spirits in Aspen Glen Landing (85 St & 17 Av SW). When it opened, AW&S purchased a large part of the inventory of the now-defunct Wine Shop, which gave it access to many different bottles that haven’t been on retail shelves for years. Every so often these get hauled out to the sales floor and offered up at deep discounts, as was the case here. To be able to buy a 2004 Leonetti yesterday, at less than the release price, and drink it today…I’m not complaining.
The wine showed well, especially after sitting in the glass for awhile, but given the pedigree of the producer I expected a bit more. Ruby colour turning to brick on the rim, suggesting that it was starting to show its age, but there was still plenty of structure to keep it going for another few years. The nose was primarily raspberry and cherry mixed with burnt sugar, maple and caramel notes (my resident nosing expert called it “Cherries Jubilee”). There was some sweetness on the initial attack, along with surprisingly intense acidity for a 7 year old New World Merlot. The red fruit flavours carried over to the palate, along with earth and cedar undertones, and the smooth tannins stretched out the lingering finish.
All in all, a well-made wine from a top producer, and one whose various components I appreciate, but not one that really struck a larger chord with me. I’ve had less expensive wines from Washington that bring more to the table and are just more…interesting. I was looking forward to trying this Leonetti all day, and I’m left wanting to have liked it more than I did.
UPDATE: I had the rest of this bottle a day later with consistent tasting results to those above. I sort of wonder if this wine was slightly oxidized (over-exposed to oxygen), which would explain the burnt sugar/caramel flavours. On the other hand, it didn’t seem tired or faded…maybe I’m just grasping at straws. I need something to restore my faith in Washington State Merlot — suggestions?[Wine Jargon Notes: New and Old World = Old World wines are those that come from Europe, while New World wines are those that come from more recent wine regions elsewhere such as the US, Australia, South America, etc.
attack = the initial taste perception of a wine
structure = the components that make up the framework of a wine; a red wine's structure is largely a combination of its acidity and tannins]