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Mercer Estates Horse Heaven Hills Ode to Brothers 2010
Blend: 40% Grenache, 39% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The Mercer family farming tradition spans five generations. The Mercers have been actively managing the same property in Washington since 1886, first raising row crops and livestock, and today overseeing 2000 acres of vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. The family involvement in the wine industry began in 1972 when Don and Linda Mercer were the first to plant wine grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills after being encouraged by Washington wine industry icon, Dr. Walter Clore. In 2005, Rob and Brenda Mercer founded Mercer Wine Estates, which includes three tiers of estate wines plus a single label dedicated solely to charity: Mercer Estates, Mercer Estates Reserve, Mercer Canyons and Eagle & Plow. Mercers are known throughout eastern Washington for their stewardship of the land, conservation efforts, patriotism and continued contributions to the community.
"Surely this is Horse Heaven!”
Its wide prairies and rolling expanses led an early pioneer to proclaim that the region looked like “horse heaven,” and as a result, the area was appropriately named. Horse Heaven Hills is in south central Washington state, geographically bound on its northern border by the Yakima River and in the south, by the larger Columbia River.
Its proximity to the Columbia River contributes to a variety of climactic factors that dramatically affect its grapes. In particular, an increase in wind from changes in pressure along the river, which flows from the cool and wet Pacific Ocean, inland to Washington’s hot and arid plains, creates 30% more wind than there would be otherwise. These winds moderate temperatures, protect against mold and rot, reduce the risk of early and late season frosts, diminish canopy size and toughen grape skins.
The vineyards bordering the river are on steep, south-facing, well-exposed slopes, with well-drained, sandy-loam soils. But the soils of the appellation are diverse throughout, ranging from wind-blown sand and loess, Missoula Flood sediment, and rocky basalt. Horse Heaven Hills has an arid continental climate with elevations ranging from 200 to 1,800 feet.
The first vines of the appellation were planted in 1972 in an optimal spot now referred to as the Champoux Vineyard. Today it remains the source of some of Washington’s most desirable and expensive Cabernet Sauvignons. In fact, the appellation as a whole boasts many of Washington’s top scoring wines. Its primary grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Riesling.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, red Rhône blends originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley. Grenache, supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre typically form the base of the blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. With some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in Priorat, Washington, Australia and California.
In the Glass
The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit and a plush texture. Syrah supplies dark fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy and earthy notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume and earthy flavor as well as structure and a healthy dose of color. New World examples tend to be fruit-forward in style, while those from the Old World will often have more earth, structure and herbal components on top of ripe red and blue fruit.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. These can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes, playing equally well with beef, pork, lamb or game. Braised beef cheeks, grilled steak or sausages, roasted pork and squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the red Rhône blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.