Time to enshrine another bottle in the pantheon of Killer Value Wines and expand the already-sizeable place in my heart for Washington State, because cheap Cabernet normally doesn’t taste like this. The Dead Canyon Ranch from Mercer Estates winery vastly outperforms its price point ($20ish CDN) and screams “house wine” to any self-respecting Cab fan. This was sadly my last of several bottles purchased from Highlander Wine & Spirits, who (I believe) have an exclusive on Mercer’s lineup of wines in the city; I have previously written about Mercer’s Merlot on this site, but in my opinion at least, the Dead Canyon Ranch is an even better wine at half the price.
This wine gets its eye-catching name from the place from which its grapes are sourced, the Dead Canyon Ranch vineyard in the awesomely-named Horse Heaven Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area), located alongside the Columbia River on central Washington’s southern border. Washington State is divided vertically in two by the Cascade Mountain Range, and the climate of the area varies substantially depending on which side you fall. If you’re in the western half of the state bordering the Pacific Ocean, it’s grey, wet and rainy enough for fictional tween-adored vampires to call it home, whereas if you’re on the eastern half the state, in the rain shadow of the Mountains, it’s a hot and arid (and presumably vampire-free) desert zone. The wines that have been growing Washington’s vinous legend over the past few years (including SEVEN of them in the top 50 of Wine Spectator’s just-released top 100 wines of 2011) come from the eastern half, which is where Horse Heaven Hills and Mercer Estates can be found. While the desert heat and sun make it possible for red wine grapes to reach full ripeness even this far north, the notably cool nights help to retain acids and preserve fresh flavours, which is the kind of built-in balance you look for in a top wine region.
So I’m still sick, making this currently the most wine-free wine blog on the Internet. Since I can’t DRINK wine right now, I’m doing the next best thing, which is THINKING about drinking wine, and to pump up the anticipation for my triumphant return to vino I thought I’d get your input about what bottle I should crack on that illustrious occasion. I have picked four wines that have been tangentially featured or mentioned in previous PnP posts, and now it’s up to you to decide which one will get top billing in my next review…whichever one gets the most votes by the time my illness goes away (hopefully sometime this weekend if there’s any justice in this world) will be the lucky winner. Without further ado, the very first Pop & Pour Wine Poll:
Here’s a little additional info about each of the four contenders and their PnP history:
2008 Mercer Estates Dead Canyon Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon: I reviewed Mercer’s $30ish Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State at the end of March (see the review here) and liked it (88 points), but to me it actually didn’t live up to Mercer’s own significantly cheaper $20ish Dead Canyon Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve had the DCR multiple times before (I tend to pounce on wine that good for that price), but I’ve never written it up on the blog…yet.
2007 Amavi Cellars Syrah: I had the 2005 vintage of this wine in mid-March and absolutely adored it (see the review here) — I gave it 92 points at the time, and in retrospect I might even want to bump that up another point. It was everything higher-end Syrah should be: fruity, meaty, savoury, long, lingering and endlessly complex. I’ve now obtained the 2007 version of Amavi’s Syrah and am dying to see if it lives up to its predecessor.
2008 Enzo Boglietti Dolcetto d’Alba: I TRIED to review this wine once before, back in mid-April, but it only took a sniff and a sip to force me to change plans and write about how to detect corked wine instead — yecch. I saved my ruined bottle, and the Ferocious Grape was good enough to take it back and give me a replacement, no questions asked. I now sort of feel like I owe Enzo a mulligan and have been waiting for the right time for a take two on his Dolcetto.
2009 Loosen Dr. L Riesling: When I reviewed Charles Smith’s Kung Fu Girl Riesling in early April, I suggested that the only entry-level (sub-$20) Riesling that I’ve had that could go toe to toe with KFG was Loosen’s Dr. L, which is available at Superstores everywhere for around $15. At some point I will do a Dr. L vs. KFG head to head taste-off, but I figure I owe Dr. Loosen a starring role in a review first.
There you have it — I await your votes! I will readily admit that I have hesitated putting up any kind of poll on PnP before in fear that the ultimate results would end up being 2 votes to 1 or something equally embarrassing, so I am counting on you to keep this blog from looking third-rate…make it seem second-rate at least. Please vote, and please pass this on to anyone else who might want to weigh in! If you want any more info on the contending wines, leave a comment and I will answer ASAP. Cheers!
Another day, another journey to what is rapidly becoming my favourite New World wine region, Washington State. Today was one of those days where work was busy, I hit a traffic jam on the way home, the baby wouldn’t sleep, and I didn’t get to sit down to have dinner until almost 8:00; by that time, all I wanted with my meal was a welcoming, easygoing, easy-drinking (no more beer commercial adjectives, I swear) wine, a leather armchair by a fireplace in a glass. That’s exactly what I got with this Mercer Cabernet. Read the rest of this entry »