Food & Drink

Maryhill Winery takes the prize for balanced wines with character

Maryhill Winery is in the Columbia Gorge near the town of Goldendale, Wash. Richard Batchelor is the winemaker.
Maryhill Winery is in the Columbia Gorge near the town of Goldendale, Wash. Richard Batchelor is the winemaker. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

There’s a lot to like about Maryhill Winery: A tasting room on the Columbia Gorge with some of the most spectacular views of any winery I’ve visited; an onsite, 4,000-seat amphitheater for outdoor concerts; and a huge portfolio of wines that’s certain to satisfy virtually any taste preference or budget.

In 2007 I wrote, “Warning: wines from Maryhill Winery are not for the faint of heart. (They’re) big and bold with complex, massive fruit flavors. …”

Things have certainly changed since then. The Maryhill wines I recently tasted seemed to place much less emphasis on high fruit and alcohol content. The result: Wines that display superior balance, more character, and far better food-pairing capability.

It’s probably no mystery that the evolution at Maryhill coincides with the hiring of Richard Batchelor as winemaker.

Originally from New Zealand, Batchelor came on board with Maryhill in 2009, and the number of awards his wines have earned since that time is staggering, and include seven platinums at Wine Press Northwest magazine’s Best of the Best in the Pacific Northwest Competition last year.

Today’s recommendations include several choices nicely priced in the under-$20-a-bottle category. These wines are well-distributed and easy to find in local grocers and wine shops, including Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants in Bellingham.

2012 Winemaker’s White (about $11) – This tasty blend of chardonnay, viognier, semillon, pinot gris, and sauvignon blanc has just the right balance between viscous and crispness, with flavors of Granny Smith apple, pear, and lemon tart. Prefer red blends instead? A 2012 Winemaker’s Red is also available for about $15.

2013 Rosé of Sangiovese (about $11) – Batchelor hits a grand slam with this pretty-in-pink gem of a wine. Wild strawberry aromatics and flavors fill the glass from start to finish, with a closing note of red currant and beautiful, bracing acidity. Outstanding!

2013 Viognier (about $13) – Flavor profile-wise, there’s a bit of a throwback to the Maryhill of old with this full-bodied white wine. Toasted marshmallow on the nose, a mouthful of tropical fruit and baked apple flavors, and a creamy texture with great mouthfeel all add up to this somewhat guilty pleasure.

2009 Zinfandel (about $18) – Spicy aromas and tastes predominate, with understated flavors of raspberry and crabapple and a faintly peppery finish. With the fruit, alcohol and acidity in check, this makes an excellent red to serve with roast beef or pork tenderloin.

2011 Sangiovese (about $18) – Lovely caramel and red cherry aromas start you off, along with a hint of smokiness that carries through to the palate. Pie cherry, pomegranate and cranberry flavors are perfectly balanced with nice acidity, and salmon or duck come to mind as food-pairing options.