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2006 vintage guide for Washington State Merlot

Washington 2006: Keep

Seriously outstanding vintage producing supple, well-balanced, deeply-flavoured wines with the accent on blackberry, sage and tobacco notes. Best through 2011-2018.

Weather Conditions

The 2006 weather pattern was near ideal for Merlot: a mild, rainy spring followed by a dry, hot summer with cool nights. The daytime heat allowed sugar levels to steadily rise, while night-time coolness maintained vibrant acidity and intensified flavours. Berries were small, further concentrating flavours, and bunches tight. There was little disease to speak of.
A cool, dry September, saw sugar accumulation tail off and heralded the start of the harvest. The dry weather allowed growers to choose just the right moment to harvest the crop, maximising the potential for ripe, well-balanced wines.

Best Appellations

The 2006 Merlot vintage just pips Washington State’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 to the post. The best will be polished, deeply flavoured wines with lively acidity – for drinking in the short to medium term. The sudden cooling down in September had less impact on Merlot, which ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, and many show excellent acid/sugar balance. The cool, dry autumn afforded extra hang time for those growers concerned about phenolic (tannic) ripeness.
Though quality is likely to be superb across the board, the warmer sites – Red Mountain, Walla Walla Valley, Wahluke Slope – are likely to have the edge.

Best Producers

Not sufficiently tasted as yet but best bets include Columbia Valley’s Washington Hills, Januik, Sagelands, Barnard Griffin, Woodward Canyon, Columbia Crest, Waterbrook Winery, Chateau Ste Michelle and Lost River. Also Walla Walla Valley’s Leonetti and L’Ecole, Owen Roe (Yakima Valley), Milbrandt Vineyards (Wahluke Slope) and Bookwalter Winery (Red Mountain).

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