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Gordon Brothers Merlot 1997

Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington
  • WS86
  • WE85
0% ABV
  • WS91
  • WS87
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0% ABV

Winemaker Notes

Weather conditions for the season were near ideal with total heat units slightly above average accompanied by a long, mild fall. Some early rainfall did occur in September but the weather returned to a warm pattern that is ideal for grape maturation. As a consequence, 1997 is considered one of the better recent vintages in terms of varietal color, extraction, and flavors. Our 1997 Merlot is definitely powerful. A dark ruby color highlighted by purple introduces gorgeous blackberry fruit aromas broadened by spice, vanilla, and tobacco. The focused, generously textured mouthfeel has great depth and layered tannins through the finish with concentrated flavors of blackberry, red currant, vanilla and chocolate. This wine is very drinkable now but has great potential for further development over the next 4-5 years

Critical Acclaim

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WS 86
Wine Spectator
WE 85
Wine Enthusiast
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Gordon Brothers

Gordon Brothers Cellars

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Gordon Brothers Cellars, Columbia Valley, Washington
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The Gordon Brothers vineyards were established in 1980. They have planted a total of 95 acres, consisting of 25 acres of Chardonnay, 21 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 acres of Merlot, 15 acres of Syrah, 14 acres of Sauvignon Blanc, and one acre of Gewurztraminer. The vineyards lie on a perfectly oriented south-facing slope ranging from an elevation of 600 to 682 feet above sea level, on the Snake River just above Ice Harbor Dam and the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers in southeastern Washington. These mature vines are proving that the Gordon Brothers vineyard has a singular, superior micro-climate. Superb air drainage and all the favorable effects of river sites for grape growing are only two of the reasons that these are some of the most sought-after grapes and wines in the Northwest.

Columbia Valley

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A large and geographically diverse AVA capable of producing a wide variety of wine styles, the Columbia Valley AVA is home to 99% of Washington state’s total vineyard area. A small section of the AVA even extends into northern Oregon!

Because of its size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which are both further split into smaller, noteworthy appellations. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences extreme winters and long, hot, dry summers. Frost is a common risk during winter and spring. The towering Cascade mountain range creates a rain shadow, keeping the valley relatively rain-free throughout the entire year, necessitating irrigation from the Columbia River. The lack of humidity combined with sandy soils allows for vines to be grown on their own rootstock, as phylloxera is not a serious concern.

Red wines make up the majority of production in the Columbia Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety here, where it produces wines with a pleasant balance of dark fruit and herbs. Wines made from Merlot are typically supple, with sweet red fruit and sometimes a hint of chocolate or mint. Syrah tends to be savory and Old-World-leaning, with a wide range of possible fruit flavors and plenty of spice. The most planted white varieties are Chardonnay and Riesling. These range in style from citrus and green apple dominant in cooler sites, to riper, fleshier wines with stone fruit flavors coming from the warmer vineyards.

An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture, Merlot’s subtle tannins make it perfect for early drinking and allow it to pair with a wide range of foods. But the grape also has enough stuffing to make serious, world-renowned wines. One simply needs to look to Bordeaux to understand Merlot's status as a noble variety. On the region’s Right Bank, in St. Emilion and Pomerol, it dominates in blends with Cabernet Franc. On the Left Bank in the Medoc, it plays a supporting role to (and helps soften) Cabernet Sauvignon—in both cases resulting in some of the longest-lived and highest-quality wines in the world. They are often emulated elsewhere in Bordeaux-style blends, particularly in California’s Napa Valley, where Merlot also frequently shines on its own.

In the Glass

Merlot is known for its soft, silky texture and approachable flavors of ripe plum, red and black cherry and raspberry. In a cool climate, you may find earthier notes alongside dried herbs, tobacco and tar, while Merlot from warmer regions is generally more straightforward and fruit-focused.

Perfect Pairings

Lamb with Merlot is an ideal match—the sweetness of the meat picks up on the sweet fruit flavors of the wine to create a harmonious balance. Merlot’s gentle tannins allow for a hint of spice and its medium weight and bright acidity permit the possibilities of simple pizza or pasta with red sauce—overall, an extremely versatile food wine.

Sommelier Secret

Since the release of the 2004 film Sideways, Merlot's repuation has taken a big hit, and more than a decade later has yet to fully recover, though it is on its way. What many viewers didn't realize was that as much as Miles derided the variety, the prized wine of his collection—a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc—is made from a blend of Merlot with Cabernet Franc.

PBC2167948_1997 Item# 6026