Food & Drink

Mount Vernon winery matures

Following the progress of a newer winery can be a bit like watching a rambunctious teenager mature into a responsible adult. Such is the case with Mount Vernon’s Carpenter Creek Winery, which is now in its seventh year of production.

Since my last visit about three years ago, the tasting room has expanded, a picnic area has been added, and the wines, which were good then, have gotten even better.

Owner/winemaker Jeff Hammer and his wife Tara are making all the right moves, keeping their operations relatively small and producing a number of wines with a distinctive, European style that places less emphasis on heavy-handed fruit flavors and encourages wine drinkers to pair them with food.

The 2005 Chardonnay (about $15) is full-bodied and complex with hints of vanilla, butterscotch, caramel and a mildly creamy finish. Slightly sweet with flavors of citrus and green apple, the 2006 Riesling (about $13) is refreshingly unique and will pair well with a variety of spicy foods.

Red wine offerings include the 2004 Meritage (about $13), a well-priced, cabernet-based blend with dark currant flavors and touches of smoke and spice. A 2004 Reserve Merlot (about $24) and an outstanding 2004 Cabernet Franc (about $32) are also available, but only at the tasting room, which is well worth the 30-minute drive from Bellingham.

Also watch for the 2004 Syrah, which will be released later this summer. I had a sneak preview of this awesome wine, and it’s loaded with dark fruit flavors and touches of black pepper. I think it’s easily Hammer’s best effort to date.

Carpenter Creek wines are available locally at Food Pavilion and Haggen stores and at Purple Smile Wines in Fairhaven. They can also be sampled at the tasting room, which is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, visitwww.carpentercreek.com.

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