Wine Review: 2005 Woodward Canyon Merlot

7 04 2011

Ever watched a movie where only the first half hour was good?

I’ve been trying to drink a little more Merlot.  It’s one of the best known and most classic grape varietals in the world, and it’s responsible for some of the most famous, memorable and expensive wines out there, but compared to Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah I drink relatively little of it, especially in unblended form.  When I found out that my new wine region man-crush, Washington State, was well known for its high-quality Merlots, I decided to dive in, and I scooped this 2005 Columbia Valley Merlot from an iconic Washington producer, Woodward Canyon.  It was on the pricier end of the wines I usually buy ($30-$40), but being from a pioneer of red wine in this area, I figured it was worth a shot.

Initial returns were positive when I opened the bottle:  the Merlot had a dark, thick, rich garnet colour and a thoroughly intriguing nose rife with strange and interesting flavours.  I was expecting sort of a “comfort wine” of straightforward soft ripe fruit, but I barely got any fruit on the nose, and what there was smelled cooked or stewed instead of fresh.  The primary aroma was a savoury, gamey smell of tomatoes, beets and beef jerky, blended with undertones of maple syrup, anise and a floral note that lingered throughout.  When that many secondary flavours come at you at once, you’re generally in for an interesting wine, so the Woodward Canyon seemed like it was setting itself up for a strong showing.  And then…

Cork Rating: 1.5/10 (I say boring-est cork so far.)

…Then, it just didn’t quite come through on the palate.  It was medium-to-full bodied and tasted of dark red fruit, coffee grounds and dark chocolate, but with only a hint of the meatiness that dominated the nose.  Most of the supporting aromas dropped off entirely as soon as the wine hit my tongue, which meant that it had a much thinner and hollower flavour profile than my first sniffs led me to believe (or hope).  It was also quite disjointed:  the fruit/coffee/chocolate flavours showed up initially, then started to fade away on the midpalate, and on the back end the acidity and alcohol both flared up sharply, leaving only a tangy sensation and a bit of heat on the finish.  Each component of the wine was impressive when viewed by itself — the body was lush and round, the acidity was surprisingly vibrant for a grape that I had always thought was sort of mellow in that regard, and the tannins were smooth and fine — but the way and order in which they presented themselves left a confusing impression, like the wine didn’t connect all the dots properly.  I wouldn’t say that the acidity and alcohol and tannin were out of balance to each other, but they weren’t showing up in harmony with each other, if that makes any sense.

All in all, a disappointing result from a wine that could have been a contender, and the annoying thing is that I don’t know who or what to blame.  Is the producer making a mediocre product?  Unlikely; they’re one of the best in the State.  Is Washington simply not good for Merlot?  Not according to anything I’ve read.  Was 2005 a bad vintage in Washington State?  My free Wine Spectator Vintage Chart iPhone app says otherwise (and I never doubt anything I read on the Internet).  So what’s up?  I have no idea, but I’m not spending another $35 to find out, and I wouldn’t suggest that you do either.

85 points

$30 to $40

[Wine Jargon Notes:
secondary flavoursprimary flavours in wine are the fruit flavours that come from the grape itself; secondary flavours are non-fruit flavours that come from growing conditions or the winemaking/aging process.
midpalate when you taste a wine, the initial taste impression you get is called the attack; the final taste impression as and after you swallow is the finish; everything in between is the midpalate.]
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6 responses

8 04 2011
S.

Definetly still waiting for your first South African wine review. 🙂 Too bad this one didn’t work out for you though.

I also have a 2008 Iniskillin Cab Sav. at home. As A. and I normally drink South African or Australian wine for both wallet and flavors, it’s interesting to read about all this Canadian/US wine that we don’t tend to buy or drink much of.

An interesting thing I heard while touring KWV’s cellars is that apparently SA white wine is less harsh than whites from California. So if you needed an inspiration post, I’d be curious to hear what you have to say on that matter! 🙂

-S.

8 04 2011
petervetsch

The SA wine review will be coming, I promise – it’s just a little trickier to go wine shopping these days! I’m asking around at my usual shops though and will write about it when I get it! Thanks for keeping up with the blog!

Peter

22 04 2011
petervetsch

OK S, I have a KWV wine in hand that I just bought this afternoon. It’s a Cab (the only one that was in the store we were at), but it’s in the same price point as the ones you recommended ($15), so hopefully that will fulfill my end of the deal. I’ll drink it and write it up in the next week — stay tuned!!

24 04 2011
Sandi

Excellent!! I can’t wait! Hope you enjoy!

29 04 2011
petervetsch

SA review posted — sorry I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped! If you’ve had this particular KWV I’d definitely be interested in your thoughts about it. Thanks again for the suggestion!

3 05 2011
S.

From Cathedral no I hadn’t had it… I usually drink err… this one – http://www.snooth.com/wine/kwv-cabernet-sauvignon-reserve-2006/ for a CS. (I haven’t had wine in a long time, especially when I can’t seem to talk the husband into drinking it with me. >_<)

Then again KWV has several branches it goes by.

My thoughts are by no means as insightful as yours, but I usually find the Pinotage or Merlot to be nice and smooth on the tongue with hints of berry and not too many tannins, with all sorts of nice fragrances and a pretty deep red color. Perhaps why I don't write a lot on wines… and of course, to each their own.

Just be careful of Hungarian wines – someone gifted it to us once and although we appreciated the thought that was one bottle that met the kitchen sink super quick.

One of these days I will have to see about stopping over to meet your little guy and perhaps bringing you something else to try!

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