Andrew Rich Merlot 1998
After 20 vintages in Oregon, Andrew Rich is beginning to feel like a veteran. His passion for wine was nurtured not in the fertile soils of the Willamette Valley, however, but in the urban sprawl of New York City, where he once edited the wine column for a national magazine. When the pull of wine became stronger than that of publishing, he headed to Burgundy to study winemaking and viticulture, a move that lead to employment at the small but influential Bonny Doon Vineyard, in California, for nearly six years.
His skills honed, Andrew headed to Oregon in 1994 with the quixotic vision of making Rhône-style wines in the Willamette Valley from Columbia Valley grapes. Turns out he was a little ahead of the curve: it wasn't until 2000 – when Syrah, Roussanne, Grenache, and Mourvèdre grapes became available to him – that he was finally able to realize that vision.
Meanwhile, he had discovered his love of Pinot Noir, which has since become the more dominant prong of his dual focus. There are three Pinot blends, with fruit sourced from a dozen northern Willamette Valley vineyards: the soft and approachable Prelude; the classic Verbatim, a "grape for grape" translation of vintage and place; and the structured and age-worthy Knife Edge.
While the range at Andrew Rich Wines may be broad – in addition to the Pinots and Rhône-style wines the winery is known for Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer dessert wine, and several others – the intent is always to make wines of balance, grace, and sheer deliciousness.
As the first recognized wine-growing region in the Pacific Northwest, Yakima Valley is centrally located within Washington’s vast Columbia Valley. The region also includes Washington’s oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines, Otis Vineyard, planted in 1957, and Harrison Hill Vineyard, planted in 1963. Yakima Valley contains three smaller sub-regions: Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, and Snipes Mountain and is ideal for both red and white wine production. In fact, Yakima Valley is Washington’s most diverse region, boasting more than 40 different grape varieties over about one hundred miles.
But its warmer locations yield a large proportion of Washington’s best Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The finest Yakima Valley reds are jam-packed full of red cherry, currant, raspberry or blackberry fruit, as well as cocoa, herb, spice and savory notes, and exhibit a supple texture, great body, focus and length.
With generous fruit and supple tannins, Merlot is made in a range of styles from everyday-drinking to world-renowned and age-worthy. Merlot is the dominant variety in the wines from Bordeaux’s Right Bank regions of St. Emilion and Pomerol, where it is often blended with Cabernet Franc to spectacular result. Merlot also frequently shines on its own, particularly in California’s Napa Valley. Somm Secret—As much as Miles derided the variety in the 2004 film, Sideways, his prized 1961 Château Cheval Blanc is actually a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.