Fred Koeppel, biggerthanyourhead.net | March 2009
Beef Salad and Six Wines
“a Great Bargain”
So, the first red I opened was the Northwest Cellars Merlot 2005, made from three vineyards in Washington’s Yakima Valley: Olsen Estates, Roza Ridge and 3 Rocks. The blend barely qualifies the wine as merlot; it’s 75 percent merlot (the minimum for a varietal wine), 13 percent syrah and 12 percent cabernet sauvignon. In an era in which winemakers strive for intense extraction and deep colors, this wine’s moderate dark ruby shading to a brick-red rim is a lovely reminder of sensible restraint. Aromas of black and red currents, black cherry, cedar and lead pencil twine with a touch of smoke; in the mouth, fairly concentrated black fruit flavors are ripe and meaty and slightly stewed, as in macerated plums and cherries. There’s nothing plush or over-ripe here; the balance between the rigor of the wine’s acid and tannic structure and the vibrant nature of its sensuous appeal is deftly handled. Very Good+, the revelation being that the suggested price is $15, making this wine a Great Bargain.
This Northwest Cellars Merlot 2005 made the best match with the beef salad, nicely bringing together the ripe fleshiness of the wine and the meaty flavors of the steak and allowing the other spicy-herbal nuances plenty of play.