Food & Drink

Watermill Winery keeps prices reasonable while producing stunning wines

Mention the words “Walla Walla Valley” in a wine-related conversation and you’re likely to receive a smile and a nod of approval.

Wines produced from the Washington wine region have developed quite a reputation over the last several years. And with that recognition you can expect to pay higher prices – some of it warranted and some of it, perhaps, based on what I refer to as a “reputation surcharge.”

That’s why it’s so refreshing to taste and recommend wines from Watermill Winery. Not only are they absolutely stunning on every level, they’re extremely well-priced, considering the source.

The Walla Walla Valley Appellation straddles the Washington/Oregon border. Watermill is on the Oregon side in the town of Milton-Freewater, about 10 miles south of the city of Walla Walla.

While it’s not uncommon for wineries in the area to charge $40 to $50 a bottle for red wines, nearly all of Watermill’s current offerings are priced in the much more reasonable $20 to $35 range.

Winemaker Andrew Brown has done a masterful job with the wines. They’re expressive, true to the varietal, and an absolute pleasure to taste. Here are my tasting notes:

2009 Estate Midnight Red (about $35) – This cabernet sauvignon-based Bordeaux blend includes four other red varietals sourced from McClellan Estate Vineyards (which is adjacent to Casey McClellan’s Seven Hills Vineyard). Red and black currant aromas and flavors predominate, with a touch of black cherry and roasted coffee on the extreme finish. The first food pairing that came to mind was gamey meats, such as elk or venison.

2010 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley (about $24) – Dark plum, blackberry and rum raisin flavors lead off, followed by a lighter contrasting note of woodsy, sweet cedar and nuances of cocoa and vanilla bean on the finish. This wine opens big, and then shows beautiful finesse as each wonderfully complex layer reveals itself.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley (about $24) – This drop-dead gorgeous cabernet features inky, jet-black currant flavors that melt into a chocolaty mocha swirl with accents of baking spice. I challenge you to find a comparable cabernet from Walla Walla Valley at this price.

2012 Viognier, Columbia Valley (about $16) – In addition to Walla Walla fruit, Brown uses 60 percent of his grapes from the Rattlesnake Hill Appellation’s Elephant Mountain Vineyard for this elegant viognier. It carries the characteristics of its Northern Rhone cousins, roussanne and marsanne, with its nutty, almond-like flavor, clover aromatics, and pleasantly unctuous full-bodied texture.

You’ll find Watermill Winery wines locally at the Barkley Village Haggen and at The Market at Birch Bay, and occasionally on the menu at the Dirty Dan Harris and La Fiamma restaurants. They can also be purchased on line at watermillwinery.com.

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