Monday, May 22, 2017

Washington Red vs. California Meritage

The Tour of California overlaps with the Giro d' Italia.  It typically attracts racers that are preparing for the Tour de France or trying to earn a spot on their team's Tour squad.

This year the race started in Sacramento and headed South, finishing in Pasadena.  As the racers toed the line for the first two stages they may have had the opportunity to enjoy some wines from Sonoma.

This week's challenge features a Washington Bordeaux Style blend taking on a California Dry Creek Meritage challenger.

2014 Mullan Road Cellars Red Wine vs. 2012 Dry Creek Vineyard The Mariner

Andrew Talansky won the "Queen Stage" of the race on top of Mt. Baldy.  Talansky's nickname is The Pit Bull because he never gives up.  Just like Andrew Talansky, both these red wines are focused and assertive. 

Tale of the Tape

2014 Mullan Road Cellars Red Wine

45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec sourced from Seven Hills, Stillwater Creek and Lawrence Vineyards.

Since Seven Hills is located in the Walla Walla Valley AVA and  Stillwater Creek and Lawrence vineyards are located on the Royal Slope within the Columbia Valley this wine is designated Columbia Valley.

Aged for 17 months in 40% new French and American oak barrels.

Provided as a sample by the winery.  Find this wine at retail for $48.

2012 Dry Creek Vineyard The Mariner

56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 8% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc all sourced from estate vineyards in the Dry Creek AVA

Aged for 20 months in 52% new French Oak barrels.

Purchased at Esquin for $41.

Round 1.  First opening

Mullan Road isn't wasting any time.  Hopping into the ring over the top rope this Bordeaux inspired Washington State Luchador is showing currants, dark cherry, forest floor and candle wax on the nose.  The palate features dark cherry, cola, dusty baking spices and light cocoa notes on the finish.

The Dry Creek challenger looks stunned as if it didn't anticipate this level of power from its opponent.  The nose brings character of dried cherries, mushroom and earthy forest floor.  The palate is tight with super tart cherries and overwhelming tannins.

The Dry Creek is definitely wound up tight.  Mullan Road takes the first round with a dominant display of power.

Round 2.  One hour after opening

Mullan Road is keeping its foot on the gas.  Racing to the middle of the ring and calling out the Dry Creek Challenger from California as if to say "Is that all you got Bro?!"  The nose is showing black cherry, dusty spices, cocoa powder and a touch of savoriness.  The palate follows suit with black cherry, menthol and mole' spice followed by a fine grained tannin finish that includes some subtle cocoa powder notes.

The Dry Creek Luchador is loosening up a bit with a nose of black cherry, light menthol and a touch of forest floor.  The palate is still tight with notes of dry cherry, light cracked pepper and a dry tannin fueled finish.

Once again, Mullan Road dominates the round taking a commanding 2-0 lead.

Round 3.  One day after opening

Dry Creek's only hope is a knock out, or pin, of the stronger Mullan Roads luchador.

Mullan Road isn't having any of that.  This wine luchador is building stamina and picking up steam!  The nose features dark currant, dusty black cherry, menthol and cocoa powder notes  The palate backs up that initial attack with currant, black cherry, white pepper, cocoa powder and candle wax that wraps up with a smooth cocoa powder finish.

Dry Creek is mustering all its got.  You have to admire the California challenger's focus and "never say die" attitude.  The third round is bringing out a nose with floral notes and dry earthy cherries.  The palate repeats the dried cherries along with orange peel and the persistent dry tannin finish.

It was a gallant effort, but the Dry Creek challenger just couldn't stand up to the constant onslaught of the Mullan Road Cellar luchador.  Mullan Road wins the round and the match 3-0.

Wrap up and overall observations.

Mullan Road Cellars is another example of California winemakers migrating North to Washington.  In this case, it is Dennis Cakebread of Cakebread Cellars.  Dennis has been making wine in California since 1973.  He is putting this experience to good use at Mullan Road.  This red blend showed strong character from the moment the bottle was opened.  That character continued to show many days later as I continued to sample this wine.

The Dry Creek Mariner will age for many years.  If you pop this wine now, give it plenty of air.  It was still evolving 4 days after the bottle was first opened.  This Luchador wanted to take the fight out to the parking lot and keep going after the official bout was over!

Both of these wines showed a high degree of quality.  The Mullan Road is ready to enjoy now while the Dry Creek will benefit from a few more years in the cellar.

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