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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Red Mountain Uncorked: Ten Year Onyx Vertical

As I was packing up and ready to head home from 
Terra Blanca part of the Red Mountain AVA, vineyard-dust still stuck to my boots and fruit-flies buzzing around the window of my rental, perhaps bidding me farewell.

I realized after I arrived home that hmmm, it was really a quick hop skip and jump to get back into San Diego this past Saturday and vice-versa. It is the kind of trip I'd would recommend highly to any wandering-wino, but especially so for the west-coast crowd.

Sadly though [sigh] I'm already missing wine-country and its wonderful atmosphere; where the smell of fermenting grapes is in the air, clear crisp mornings, even the rumble of a slow moving train and cows mooing in the distance can catch your attention on an early morning. Making it a very easy place to forget a world of folks who have nothing better to do than throw hot-dogs at celebrities and participate in silly "occupy" movements.

It was greatly  unexpected, but I had the great privilege of experiencing a ten year vertical with my great friends at Terra Blanca in the chandelier lighted library. The wine pulled for that vertical is their flagship label called Onyx. A deliciously delicate Bordeaux style blend that has a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot base. Actually truth be known this was my first ten-year vertical, so it looks like I popped my ten year vertical-cherry sort of speak [ha]. I later found out that I was only the second blogger in their history, to have a vertical like this pulled for them, it was great honor and one that I remain very thankful. 

Perhaps, it came about as I reacted to another wineries older [2004] bottlings, that in my words, "seemed a bit tired" which gave me a bit of pause about the long term ageability of Red Mountain fruit. Even though, not that too many folks who buy wines in this day and age, even give a fleeting thought about that issue, because honestly, most folks [vino-sapiens] uncork and suck down said purchase within 24 hours. There's nothing wrong with that either, as I drink most of my inventory, within a year to year and half after purchase, so I'm not too far behind the average. 

So it's Friday night; Happy Hour at Terra Blanca, the place is hopping. The staff is busy, with preparations to pick Merlot in the early AM, preparing for a wedding ceremony, reception and coming up with a new menu item for their delish weekend menu. Keith, the owner, chief wine-maker and all around nice guy is busy pulling the vertical and setting up the library table for what will be one of my most memorable tastings ever [yep you heard me right, ever].

The setting is amazing, ten years of Red Mountain fruit is shimmering in Reidel stems, beckoning me to give it a swirl, oh yeah baby, come to papa. My eye is immediately drawn to the "97" still pulsing with abundant fruit, a shade of brick on the rim and suave sophistication in the true sense of a Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon dominated [counter balanced with rich Washington Merlot] style blend [yes I killed that bottle].

All ten years of the Onyx are still showing vibrant acidity, balanced dark and red fruits, minerality [I could taste the vineyard], a touch of orange-rind, worn baseball-glove leather playing nicely with the well integrated tannins. A fantastic food wine made to pair effortlessly with many different styles of cuisine, whether you find yourself in a mood for Italian or you're going to do Basque style tapas night.

When you get to the top end of the vertical heading towards the 2007 Onyx, the fruit, ruby colors in the core dominate, supple tannins, vivid structure while still being suave and sophisticated, a wine to lay down for enjoyment later or uncork it now and enjoy its youthful embrace. Their Onyx label is a wine, which is far more about subtle influences and less about power of the high-octane variety with most of labels carrying an average of 13.5% ABV.

Now that said, my overall impression of ten-years of Red Mountain fruit with Terra Blanca specifically in mind is that this region is capable of producing extraordinary world class wines which come dressed to impress now and long into the future. If holding unto the wine for maturing is the goal, I know many can't wait that long. Now, if you're a Merlot fan, than you can't do any better than a Red Mountain Merlot, which has great Cabernet Sauvignon style and structure on its own, but when blended with Cab, wow a thing of beauty to be sure.

Hopefully I've peeked your interest in the Washington Wine Scene; specifically the Red Mountain AVA near the Tri-Cities. It's a great place to visit especially over the weekend when the majority of the tasting rooms are open. I had many fun experiences as I traveled around the area; I found wineries in this area to be very welcoming of guests and in many of the tasting rooms they have wine country maps and other helpful info for the wandering-wino to find their way around the Red Mountain AVA. Some of the wineries have tasting fees and others don't, but check with each winery for complete details, also some places are by appointment only. That said, the Tri-Cities is a quick flight from Seattle and once there is a great jumping off point to visit the wonderful Red Mountain AVA, I highly recommend giving it a swirl.

In the interest of full disclosure, yes I was a guest of Terra Blanca for a week covering harvest, which got a bit delayed [honestly it didn't start till the day I was suppose to leave]. I remain very thankful for the great opportunity and wish their entire team of dedicated winemaking and winery operations professionals continued success in all their endeavors, until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!
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