Mercer Estates

Mercer Estates has been growing grapes in Prosser since 1972, the first to plant in Horse Heaven Hills. Of note, Block 1 later became the highly acclaimed Champoux Vineyard.

But the family’s history in Prosser began in 1886, three years before Washington became a state. In 1915, the family began herding sheep; In 1958, Mercer Ranches incorporated.

The Mercer family made their first vintage of wine, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, in 2005. Four years later, their Prosser tasting room opened. (Earlier this year, a second tasting room opened in Seattle.) In 2011, Don and Linda Mercer received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers. Last year, Wine Press Northwest named Mercer Estates the “2016 Washington Winery of the Year.”

Wow! So it’s not surprising that we have been fans for quite a few years now, and Mercer’s recent releases continue to impress. The winery produces three tiers of brands: Mercer Canyons is the most affordable; Mercer Estates is mid-range; and Mercer Reserve has the highest price point.

We were fortunate to receive samples of three new releases — Malbec, Sharp Sisters Red Blend and Sauvignon Blanc, in addition to three Cab Sauvs from all three tiers. First, the new releases.
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Columbia Crest Crowdsourced™ Cabernet Sauvignon

Three years ago Columbia Crest became the first winery in the world to crowdsource a wine through an interactive experience with wine enthusiasts.

Led by Juan Muñoz-Oca, Columbia Crest’s head winemaker, voters made decisions on every step of creating the wine — bud break, harvest, fermentation, the blend and the label.

For the grapes, Muñoz-Oca chose a five-acre estate block in one of his best vineyards, which is used for his highly acclaimed reserve program. 2014 Crowdsourced™ Cabernet Sauvignon was released in June 2016, and was followed by 2015 Crowdsourced™ Cabernet Sauvignon one year later. One thousand cases of each wine were produced; both retail at $30.

While the two vintages have similarities, there are also some distinct differences, as we noticed when we recently held a side-by-side tasting. You can do the same by buying both vintages on their website. And you’ll also receive a discount.
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Delectable Dunham Cellars

We have been fans of Dunham Cellars since their inaugural vintage, a 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2007, when Write for Wine launched, we first visited Dunham’s friendly tasting room in a remodeled World-War II-era airplane hangar in Walla Walla.

Our most recent visit was in May, where we tasted through a wonderful lineup and enjoyed a lengthy conversation, and a trip down memory lane, with general manager John Blair. While all the wines are noteworthy, we thought the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon XIX topped the charts of all the Dunham wines we’ve enjoyed over the years.
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Figgins and Toil Oregon

During our last trip to Walla Walla, we had the good fortune to stop by the Figgins wine studio, where we enjoyed some wonderful wines expertly crafted by Chris Figgins.

“Crafted” might not be the best word — the Figgins’ website clearly states: Figgins wine is “grown” not “made” and as such, the wine quality is achieved through meticulous, sustainable farming practices and carefully controlled, yet “hands-off” winemaking.

We’ve been fans of Figgins wine for years; more recently, Chris introduced us to Toil Oregon wines at the Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort. The silhouette on the Toil label is taken from a photo of Chris’ father and great uncle William Leonetti, planting the first Leonetti vineyard in 1974. The family history in the valley goes back even further; they moved to Walla Walla in 1902.
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