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.
2015 Mercer Estates Malbec ($20)
This Malbec (78%) is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon (22%) — the result is an inky-colored, concentrated, balanced and complex wine with aromas of blackberry, followed by flavors of more blackberry, baking spices, coffee and vanilla. Pair this wine with beef, lamb, spicy foods or hard cheeses.
According to Wine Press Northwest, Malbec was a passion of head winemaker Jessica Munnell, who believed Mercer could make its mark with the delicious, elegant red Bordeaux. Taste this wine, and you’ll likely agree. (Munnell left Mercer Estates earlier this month to focus on her family, and was replaced by Jeremy Santo, who has worked at more than four other wineries.)
2015 Mercer Estates Sharp Sisters Red Blend ($20)
Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah make up the majority of this blend, which is Mercer Estates’ best-seller and go-to wine — specifically, Cab Sauv (29%), Syrah (27%), Merlot (18%), Petit Verdot (14%), Grenache (10%) and Carignane (2%).
The nose of blackberry jam and plums opens up into flavors of dark cherries and ripe berries. This is a fun, fruit-forward wine, named after the Mercer’s grandmother, Carma Sharp-Mercer, and her five Sharp sisters. It’s perfect to take to parties, an autumn picnic or have as a night-cap. Or you can pair this wine with smoked meats, grilled meats, brisket, pasta with red sauce or pizza.
2016 Mercer Estates Sauvignon Blanc ($15)
This is a softer 100% Sauvignon Blanc than many available today. It features a pretty nose, with hints of grapefruit, hay, grass and tropical fruits. More light grapefruit is on the palate, along with notes of gooseberry and tropical fruits.
This is a clean and refreshing Sauv Blanc, a nice, crisp summer sipper to enjoy on the deck, by the lake, by the pool or on a picnic.
But as we drift into autumn, you could also sip on it before dinner, or pair it with fish, shellfish, bright salads or soft cheeses.
2014 Mercer Estates Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($42)
What a beauty! This wine is complex, well-balanced, and powerful, yet graceful and elegant. The Cab Sauv (84%) is blended with Malbec (16%) and has the potential to be even more stunning than the 2009 vintage that we wrote about back in 2013.
Aromatics of dark fruit, caramel, espresso, cocoa and baking spices turn into flavors of dark cherry, pomegranate, black plum and more caramel. While it is drinkable now with decanting, we recommend laying it down for at least another year or two to truly appreciate its lusciousness.
Pair this wine with a thick steak, grilled flank steak or any beef dishes, and add a spicy arugula salad. Or sip it with dark chocolate in front of the fireplace.
2014 Mercer Estates Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
This Cabernet Sauvignon is complex, elegant and big, yet with a decent price point. The Cabernet Sauvignon (75%) is blended with Syrah and Merlot (12% each) and topped off with Petit Verdot (1%).
This wine is classic Horse Heaven Hills Cab Sauv, with aromas and flavors of blackberry jam, plums, cassis, vanilla, toast, mocha, caramel and cherries.
If you’re still barbecuing, this wine will pair perfectly with juicy steaks or burgers. Or you could pair it with grilled meats, lamb chops, prime rib or pork shoulder steak.
2014 Mercer Canyons Cabernet Sauvignon ($17)
In May, Mercer Canyons 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon topped the 2017 Indy International Wine Competition as best of show — just one of several recent accolades for Mercer Estates.
The Cab Sauv (77%) is blended with Merlot (15%), Petit Verdot (6%) and Syrah (2%). A great expression of Horse Heaven Hills terroir, the Cab leads with aromas of dark fruit with a hint of licorice, earth and herb, followed by notes of more fruit, vanilla and baking spices.
Talk about a great-value red! Pair it with juicy burgers or pizza or any grilled meats. Or drink it with friends, take it to a party, or to a casual restaurant that allows corkage (but check first for the fee).
Whether you’re planning a visit to Seattle or Central Washington’s wine country, be sure to put Mercer Estates on your list of must-visit tasting rooms.
Margot and Dave