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2008 vintage guide for Washington State Merlot

Washington 2008: Keep

Very good vintage for Merlot which coped well with the short growing season. Beautifully balanced with promise of complex flavours.

Weather Conditions

A cold, late winter and an unusually cool, wet spring made the vines sluggish and bud-break was two to four weeks later than usual. Some growers insisted the spring was one of the coldest in memory.
The mercury was uninspired throughout summer and the fruit development remained equally grounded. Then came September, warm and balmy, and the Merlot began to steadily gain sugars and flavours – even so, by the month’s end few vineyards were ready for picking.
The harvest eventually kicked off 10-14 days later than usual, but a warm, sunny October quickened ripening and finishing dates for many growers were more or less normal. Such a compressed harvest meant little let-up for the pickers, but at least winemakers suffered minimal loss when a surprise frost bit in early October.

Best Appellations

Quicker-ripening Merlot had the advantage in 2008, and for many it will be the grape of the vintage. Although the growing cycle was out of kilter, when the Indian summer did arrive the Merlot could take relatively speedy advantage. October’s cool nights were a bonus : acting like natural refrigeration they helped preserve natural acidity.
Right across Columbia Valley, physiologically ripe grapes were harvested with slightly lower sugars and slightly higher acidities than other recent, more massive vintages. The top wines will be pretty and elegant, with a firm fleshiness and good flavours. They’ll be medium-bodied, with moderate alcohol and refreshing balance.
Those winemakers who limited yields earlier in the season are likely to have produced the most intense, complex Merlots, with well-defined flavours.

Best Producers

Early tastings highlight Ch Ste Michelle and Columbia Crest (Columbia Valley) and Leonetti and Seven Hills (Walla Walla Valley).

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