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Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard Merlot 2010
Blend: 89% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon
Ripe, bordering on opulent, with expressive cherry, currant, floral and subtle spice flavors that ride easily over refined tannins onto the long, detailed finish. Delivers depth and intensity without bulk.
Made in fairly modest quantities, this Merlot bears dark fruit that shows a pleasing, dusty quality. The blend includes 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, which keeps it in the Bordeaux-style camp. Firm and concentrated, it finishes with a tasty mix of cocoa, coffee grounds and Asian spices. Editors' Choice.
For thoughts on Chateau Ste Michelle's uniqueness and recent evolution, consult my extensive April, 2013 text designed to introduce recent tasting notes. The first part of Ste. Michelle's 2010 Merlot Canoe Ridge was bottled last April, a bit earlier than usual for this cuvee, which typically incorporates significant Cabernet Sauvignon (here 11%) as well as some Syrah and other Bordeaux varieties. The nose offers a fascinating amalgam of peat, licorice, and dark cherry, all of which re-merge on a brightly juicy but at the same time substantial and satiny palate. The only reservation I harbor about this fine-value, focused Merlot is a bit of heat in its bittersweet, multifaceted finish.
Bold plum and black cherry nose - very fruity. Rich and juicy, plump and velvety, this offers a big, luxurious style but it's not overwhelming. Long, toasty finish.
Chateau Ste. Michelle receives some of the highest accolades in the industry, including "American Winery of the Year" by Wine Enthusiast for 2004 and "2005 Winery of the Year" by Restaurant Wine. In addition, the winery's Eroica Riesling, crafted from a partnership with German winemaker Ernst Loosen, has been named to Wine Spectator's prestigious "Top 100" wines list for five consecutive years.
Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the few premium wineries in the world with two state-of-the-art wineries, one devoted to whites and another to reds. This dedicated approach to winemaking allows winemaker Bob Bertheau to build winemaking programs to the unique specifications of red and white wines. While all of Chateau Ste. Michelle's vineyards are located on the east side of the Cascade Mountains where the climate is dry and sunny, Bob Bertheau makes the award winning white wines in Woodinville, 15 miles northeast of Seattle. The winery's expansive, 87-acre estate hosts more than 250,000 visitors annually for tours, tastings, dinners and outdoor summer concerts.
By far the largest and best-known winemaking province in Argentina, Mendoza is responsible for over 70% of the country’s enological output. Set in the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, the climate is dry and continental, presenting relatively few challenges for viticulturists during the growing season. Mendoza is divided into several distinctive sub-regions, including Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley—two sources of some of the country’s finest wines.
For many wine lovers, Mendoza is practically synonymous with Malbec, originally a Bordelaise variety brought to Argentina by the French in the mid-1800s. Here it found success and renown it never could have achieved in its homeland due to its struggle to ripen fully in finicky climates. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Pinot Noir are all widely planted here as well (and often blended with one another. The best white wines are made from Chardonnay, and there are excellent examples to be found as well from Torrontés, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sémillon.
Known for its big, bold flavors and supple texture, Malbec is most famous for its runaway success in Argentina. However, the variety actually originates in Bordeaux, where it historically contributed color and tannin to blends but was susceptible to viticultural problems. After being nearly wiped out by a devastating frost in 1956, it was never significantly replanted, although it did flourish under the name Côt in nearby Cahors. Malbec was brought to Argentina in 1868 by a French agronomist who saw great potential for the variety in Mendoza’s hot, high-altitude landscape, but did not gain its current reputation as the national grape of Argentina until a surge in popularity in the late 20th century thanks to its easy-going drinkability.
In the Glass
Malbec typically expresses deep flavors of freshly turned earth, black fruits from berries to plums, and licorice, appropriately backed by dense, chewy tannins. In warmer, New World regions, such as Mendoza, it can be quite intense and often needs time to mellow before becoming drinkable. In the Old World, its rusticity shines, with aged examples showing dusty notes of leather and tobacco. The best examples in all regions often possess a beguiling bouquet of violets.
Malbec’s rustic character begs for flavorful dishes, like spicy grilled sausages or the classic cassoulet of France’s Southwest. South American iterations are best enjoyed as they would be in Argentina: with a thick, juicy steak.
If you’re trying to please a crowd, Malbec is generally a safe bet. With its combination of bold flavors and soft tannins, it will appeal to basically anyone who enjoys red wine. Malbec also wins bonus points for affordability, as even the most inexpensive examples are often quite good.