M’s the word all right, but I am not referring to keeping your lips sealed about something. Rather I am talking about spreading the “M” word, which in this case stands for Mourvèdre. Washington Mourvèdre to be exact.
Following are three selections that express what can be accomplished with Washington grapes planted in good sites and made with caring hands and excellent palates. From a veteran winemaker, a software developer turned winemaker and a talented younger winemaker, this grape seems to be gaining some respect. If you haven’t tried Mourvèdre, you might consider opening up a few bottles at same time and taste through them side by side to get a better sense of the grape. Trust me; you will not be disappointed.
McCrea Cellars 2008 Mourvèdre $28
A pioneer of Rhone varietals in Washington State, Doug McCrea is known for transforming grapes from the finest Yakima Valley and Red Mountain vineyards into wines of extraordinary depth, balance, complexity and finesse. McCrea declares “Washington State shows great potential for Mourvèdre, and will very likely become a primary wine in time. Of all the Rhône varietals in Washington State, it most greatly reflects characteristics that resemble “old world” wines such as those of Bandol in France and Spain’s Jumilla region.”
McCrea 2008 Mourvèdre is from the Yakima Valley with grapes sourced from Ciel du Cheval, Red Mountain, Elephant Mountain and Sugarloaf. McCrea started planting Mourvèdre to blend into their southern-Rhône style blend (“Sirocco”), and he adds “we couldn’t resist bottling a small quantity as a single varietal. It has proved to be a very popular decision! It is our single most popular bottling, particularly on restaurant wine lists.”
“Washington Mourvèdre is dense and velvety with flavors of leather, game, truffles, earth, spice, and red fruit,” McCrea explained. “The inherent smokiness comes from the vine, not from any oak it sees.”
Richer, smokier and full-bodied meats and dishes tend to pair exceptionally well with Mcrea Mourvèdre. The 2008 blend is 76% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah and 4% Grenache with only 296 cases produced.
Kestrel Vintners 2007 Mourvèdre $40
Washington State and especially the Yakima Valley seem to be ideally suited for growing Rhone varietals. Kestrel Vintners has four tiers of wine to select from. The Mourvèdre belongs to the Winemaker Select Series which showcases 30 – something winemaker Flint Nelson’s talent and expresses his interest in particular varietals, unique clones, yeast strains and distinctive processing styles.
Ninety percent of the Kestrel 2007 Mourvèdre grapes were sourced from Olsen Vineyards. The remaining came from Kestrel’s View Estate Vineyard. Both are located high on the Roza, Northeast of Prosser. “This wine was co-fermented with 16% Grenache and 8% Syrah to enrich the character and complexity and bring out the nuances” says Kestrel winemaker Flint Nelson, who does most of his blending during fermentation.
The color is deep red with black undertones. “On the palate you experience red fruit flavors and floral elements like red currant, rose petal, dried herbs, tea and spice” says Nelson. This lovely wine is an excellent food match; it can stand up to hearty or smoky dishes and it is nicely balanced with subtle layers of complexity.
Kestrel Vintners now has three locations across the state with the original and first location its flagship in Prosser. You can visit and taste wines from Kestrel at their tasting room locations in Leavenworth and Woodinville.
Robert Ramsay 2008 Mourvèdre $42
A few weeks ago I sampled the Robert Ramsay Syrah and enjoyed it so much I went back to try a another varietal. I had two other Mourvèdre wines that I had been waiting to try so I added the Robert Ramsay to my collection and opened up a few bottles side by side.
I tend to use a lot of white pepper in my cooking because I love the subtleness it provides while adding depth to many dishes. It doesn’t scream at you the way black pepper does. White Pepper, according to Bob Harris, winemaker, is the telltale sign of Bandol, where the Mourvèdre grape is king.
The 2008 Robert Ramsay McKinley Springs Mourvèdre bursts with white pepper in the nose and continues on the palate with an incredibly luscious and velvety finish. This unique varietal from Southern France and Spain has found a cozy home in Washington and in the hands of Bob Harris. Only 130 cases produced of this 100% Mourvèdre from Horse Heaven Hills, aged in 100% French oak.
I love the way Robert Ramsay Cellars has the back label featuring the map and the particulars of the wine in a very user friendly way. You know what you are getting and where it is from right off the bat.