One of the Pacific Northwest’s first destination wineries continues to prove the bottlings from this bucolic property in Walla Walla are worth seeking out as the husband/wife winemaking team of Daniel Wampfler and Amy Alvarez-Wampfler produced our tasting’s most delicious example of Merlot. While there’s significant influence from Abeja’s estate vineyards (26%), the major contributions hail from two 40-year-old plantings near the White Bluffs of Sagemoor — Dionysus (42%) and Bacchus (26%). Ciel du Cheval contributes some Red Mountain muscle, too. A third of the barrels were new French oak, and the 20-month regimen shows beautiful integration. Its panoply of black and blue fruit, led by black cherry and black currant, makes room for light toast, mocha and a pinch of earth. The plummy structure teases out the smooth tannins that are carried along by Marionberry and capped by Baker’s chocolate. At last fall’s release party, The Kitchen at Abeja paired this bottling with braised beef, mashed potatoes and a shallot compote. “And it was sensational,” Amy says.
Rating: Double gold medal – 98 points
Production: 688 cases