Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2014 Verhey Vineyard Malbec, Washington, $28
Coco Umiker earned her doctorate in food science at Washington State University, and portions of her research helped deepened her knowledge of vineyards throughout the state. This marvelous Malbec bottling involves three vineyards — Verhey (95%) in the Rattlesnake Hills, the Verheys’ young Roosevelt site along the Columbia River (4%) and Phinny Hill in the Horse Heaven Hills, which is where she got the 1% of Carménère that made its way into this blend. Her use of 30% new American oak barrels for 17 months adds to the nose of deep blueberry, vanilla, crushed herbs, Christmas spices and wet stone. The tannin management stays on plane as flavors run from bright cherries to its hallmark blueberry juice acidity. Black licorice and dark chocolate add to the long finish. The Lewis-Clark Valley winemaker bottled her first vintage of Malbec in 2005, and this may well be her best to date. It earned our regular tasting panel’s top rating this summer, and it merited best of class at last week’s Great Northwest Invitational.
Production: 95 cases