Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot 1999
Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington
World class Merlot from Washington State, this wine has it all. Intensity, elegance, and rich, velvety fruit. Simply delicious! The 1999 growing season began as one of the coolest on record since 1954, resulting in smaller fruit set and lower grape cluster weights.
The month of August saw the onset of a prolonged period of warm, cloud free, sunny weather and low nighttime temperatures—ideal conditions for the development of intense aromas and flavors in the ripening grapes.
Harvest began in late September, giving extra time for flavors to mature. The fruit's complexity and concentration were further enhanced by smaller than usual berry size and low yields.
Aged for 18 months in French and American oak, using 75% new and 25% one-year-old barrels. Individual lots were gravity racked every three months for clarity, with a total of 6 rackings.
More than 13 individual lots and 20 blend possibilities were tasted for the final blend.
"Northstar has ramped up production to 2,900 cases, on its way to 15,000 once the new winery (being built in Walla Walla) is operational. Here is flat-out killer fruit, stacked with all the flavors of the rainbow, that finds the silky sweet spot on the palate and goes for a long, long ride. This winery is on a roll."
-Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Wines 2002
Northstar, located in Walla Walla, Washington, aims to make Merlots that can be considered among the world's best, using fruit sourced from one of the world's best regions for the variety: Washington state. Winemaker, David "Merf" Merfeld, blends New World fruit with an old world winemaking style, influenced by Bordeaux's "right bank," to create his highly-acclaimed wines. Northstar produces two Merlot-based wines from the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla AVAs, as well as the Stella Maris red blend and extremely limited production bottlings of the blending component varieties that Merf uses as his "spice box" in creating Northstar's Merlots.
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About Columbia Valley
Columbia Valley is the largest of Washington State's wine growing regions, with almost 11 million acres. It encompasses a number of smaller regions, including Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain and more. The vast area consists of a range of climates, allowing viticulturists to plant a diverse selection of grape varieties. Most wineries plant rows sparsely, which helps the vines survive the harsh winters.
Merlot is the most popular and most planted grape of the area, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Syrah and Riesling are also popular and continue to grow in acreage.
Now the number two producer in the United States, Washington State has also grown in quality.
So how does a state known for rain and coffee produce high quality wines? They plant their grapes on the east side of the Cascade mountains, away from that ever-present rain cloud that sits along the coast. Perhaps wine grapes do well since the sandy loam soils east of the Cascade range give way to an almost desert-like land, saved from drought only by the helpful rivers that run through the area – and the good irrigation systems.
Thinking that the state would do best with typical northern growing grapes like Riesling and Gewurtztraminer, turns out the apple state is well-suited for reds, namely Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and, more recently, Syrah. Of course, whites have not been forgotten - Washington State Rieslings range from bone-dry to sweet, are well-structured and high quality, and Chardonnay dominates most of the other white plantings, making a range of wines. But the reds of the region, Merlot in particular, have made Washington State a quality force to be reckoned with.
Alcohol By Volume Guide
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
- Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
- Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
- Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.