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Mercer Estates Sharp Sisters Red Blend 2013
Blend: 47% Merlot, 41% Syrah, 12% Other
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.
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.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.