While sifting through my archives I discovered that it has been about four years since I gave malbec center stage in a wine column.
At that time I noted, "It wasn't too long ago that the only place you could find a malbec at your local grocer or wine shop was from France or Argentina. Today, it seems as if nearly every winery in Washington has a malbec on the shelves or plans to produce one."
Fast-forward to today and that statement seems even more appropriate for Washington wineries, and chances are if one doesn't carry malbec as a stand-alone wine, it's used for blending purposes with one or more other red varietals.
This flavorful, easy-to-drink red wine has become a favorite of many Northwest wine enthusiasts. And although it's still a small player among red varietals, production of the wine grape in Washington has nearly tripled since 2007.
Carnivores can take comfort in the fact that malbec likes to be paired with meats, and as we inch closer to the outdoor grilling season, you'll most certainly want to pick up a bottle to try with barbeque chicken, burgers, steak or lamb.
Here are a couple of suggestions of Washington malbecs to consider:
Powers Winery 2009 Malbec (about $15) - Amazing aromatics of blackberry leaf, cedar and juniper are followed by raspberry flavors that transition to black plum on the palate. The slightly chalky finish is framed with a hint of spearmint. Give this wine time to evolve in the glass and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at its complexity and depth.
CAVU Cellars Les Collines Vineyard 2010 Malbec (about $30) - Here's another strong effort from this relatively new Walla Walla winery. Lovely aromas and flavors of wild blueberry are accentuated with finishing notes of espresso, white pepper and baking spice. Enjoy now, or cellar for another year or two.
Also, don't forget to venture outside of Washington to South America, where a number of excellent malbecs are produced at very reasonable prices. Two solid recommendations:
Trivento 2011 Reserve Malbec (about $11) - I loved the fruit-forward features of this Argentinian wine, but there's also some nicely integrated tannins to provide structure and balance. Mouthwatering cherry and red berry flavors lead off, with underlying touches of bittersweet chocolate on the finish.
Casillero Del Diablo 2011 Malbec (about $15) - This is a great "everyday" dinner wine, also from Argentina's Mendoza region. Its classic, darkly shaded juice yields understated plum and cherry flavors, a whisper of smokiness and a somewhat plush finish.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.