Corvus and Hightower wineries make the most of Red Mountain growing region near Tri-Cities

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 1, 2014 

Today's focus is on two excellent wineries with vineyards in Washington's Red Mountain Appellation, located just west of the Tri-Cities.

Corvus Cellars was established in 2004, and although the winery tasting room and production facility have since moved to Walla Walla, they still maintain their estate vineyards on Red Mountain.

Two of their current releases that I recently tried and thoroughly enjoyed included the 2010 Loceaux and the 2010 Syrah - Petit Sirah (about $28 each).

The Loceaux (pronounced "loco") is a 50/50 blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. It's a perfectly balanced red wine, with spicy aromatics and big blackberry and black cherry fruits that display a bit of an acidic edge. There's also a nice meaty texture to this wine, with just the right amount of tannic structure and a lingering finish of toasted oak.

I also loved the Syrah - Petit Sirah combination; particularly the smoky characteristics of the latter varietal that waft around the glass and carry through to the palate. Intense, dark notes of black currant, anise and chocolate predominate, with accents of black pepper and baking spice on the finish.

Hightower Cellars is a Red Mountain favorite of mine that gets a perennial visit due in large part to the husband-and-wife owners and winemakers, Tim and Kelly Hightower. They make touring and tasting wines in this area an absolute pleasure.

The Hightowers had the foresight to buy 15 acres in this now world-famous Washington appellation in 2002. I've followed the growth of their 10 acres of estate vineyards since they were planted in 2004 and it's safe to say these have matured into some of the region's finest.

Two Hightower wines I enjoyed as of late absolutely blew me away, especially the 2010 Murray Red (about $20). Despite the Columbia Valley label designation, all of the fruit for this wine was sourced from Red Mountain vineyards.

The 2010 Murray is a delicious Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, petit verdot and cabernet franc. There's a pleasant, wet stone, mineral-like aroma - indicative of Red Mountain terroir - that leads off and follows through to the finish. In between, this overachieving red wine offers generous, mouthwatering boysenberry and blueberry flavors that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Also a pleasure to taste is the 2010 Merlot (about $25). Subtle black cherry, plum and currant flavors are complemented with a 15 percent contribution of malbec, which gives it a gentle but distinct brambly, blackberry finish. Here, the Hightowers show how attention-to-detail winemaking can result in an excellent wine despite a challenging, cooler vintage.

For additional wines and winery information, go to corvuscellars.com and hightowercellars.com.

Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.

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