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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived October 17, 2016
Published September 27, 2016

Bordeaux Buddies - The Blending Grapes On Their Own
Part 1 - Malbec
Part 1 of a 3-Part Series  (See Part 2)  (See Part 3)
By Chuck Hill

The two major red grapes of Bordeaux wines – and New World Bordeaux-style blends – are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  These two are joined by other red varieties in various amounts including Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  One other variety, Carmenere, was once part of the blending scheme, but disappeared from Bordeaux about the time of the phylloxera plague in 1867.  Today it most widely planted in Chile. 

As we begin the survey of Bordeaux blending varieties, we come to the ubiquitous Malbec.  It is part of almost every Bordeaux-style blend in wines around the world.  The grape is widely grown in Europe and the United States, but nowhere has it achieved the status it enjoys in the Mendoza region of Argentina.  Vineyards there are planted in the shadows of the Andes, some at extremely high elevations, yet they survive and thrive, producing long-lived wines of character enjoyed locally and abroad. 

In the United States, varietal bottlings of Malbec have become popular for the fruit-forward flavors of dark cherry, blackberry and plum with added nuances from certain terroirs and complex notes from oak aging.  Depending on the producer, you can find Malbecs in all price ranges.  We paired up the Malbecs we tasted with Chef Ted’s perfect Churrasco flank steak with Chimichurri sauce. 

Januik Winery
2014 Malbec, Champoux Vineyard
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Mike Januik is the winemaker for Novelty Hill Winery as well as for his own eponymous label.  Mike crafted this Malbec from grapes grown at one of Washington’s oldest vineyards – Champoux Vineyard (formerly Mercer Ranch).  The wine is intense and complex with aromas and flavors of blackberry, vanilla, tobacco and earthy mineral.  Mike adds a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon to the blend, adding a nice black currant note. 

Skylite Cellars
2013 Malbec
Yakima Valley AVA

Winemaker Greg Matiko crafted this flavorful Malbec from grapes grown at Verhey Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. The wine was aged for 20 months in French oak.  Dark berry fruits mingle with notes of sweet oak and complex hints of black olive and mineral.  Check this wine out at Skylite Cellars in Walla Walla or their tasting room in Woodinville. 


Apex Cellars
2013 Malbec
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Apex Cellars Malbec is crafted from grapes grown at Alder Ridge Vineyard overlooking the Columbia River in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills. The wine is wonderfully complex featuring aromas of blackberry, citrus and violets leading to a rich berry palate with notes of vanilla, pepper and barrel spice. 



Novelty Hill
2014 Malbec, Stillwater Creek Vineyard
Columbia Valley AVA

Mike Januik crafted this wine from fruit grown at Novelty Hill’s estate Stillwater Creek Vineyard on the Royal Slope in Washington’s Columbia Valley.  This warm vineyard site produces ripe, balanced fruit in nearly every vintage, giving the winemaker great latitude in adding his personal touch through barrel aging and selection of oak for aging.  Dark berry fruits mingle with floral notes, cedar and flinty mineral. 

2013 Malbec, Eidolon Vineyard
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Owners Tom and Amy Glase work closely with vineyard manager Tom Waliser and assistant winemaker Tyler Grennan to produce a variety of red and white wines at their Balboa Winery in Walla Walla.  This 2013 Malbec from their estate Eidolon Vineyard offers raspberry, blackberry and cherry with toasty oak and baking spices. 

Desert Wind Winery
2014 Malbec
Wahluke Slope AVA

Desert Wind’s 480-acre estate vineyard is in Washington’s warmest growing region, the Wahluke Slope AVA in the Columbia Valley.  A splash of other red varieties was added to about 95% Malbec and aged in a mix of French and American oak.  Aromas of blackberry and plum lead to a flavorful palate adding vanilla, earthy herbs and mineral. 

Hightower Cellars
2013 Malbec
Red Mountain AVA

Tim and Kelly Hightower crafted this delicious Malbec for their Wine Club from grapes grown in their estate vineyard on the upper level of the Red Mountain AVA.  A blend of 76% Malbec with 24% Cabernet Franc, the wine offers blackberry and cassis with notes of anise, black olive and dried flowers.  Visit the winery website to join the wine club and get in on their special offerings. 

Columbia Crest Winery
2013 Malbec, Reserve
Andrews and Rowell Vineyards
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

The Horse Heaven Hills wine shows the character of the warm vintage with ripe black fruits, vanilla, warm spices and earthy mineral.  Winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca held back on using too much new oak, leaving the wine rich with a compote of berry, plum and currant. 

Spangler Vineyards
2013 Malbec
Southern Oregon AVA

Pat Spangler is one of Southern Oregon’s great winemakers, tackling each vintage with eager enthusiasm and knowledge to create memorable wines from each variety.  His Malbec from the 2013 vintage is a shade darker than his 2012, offering blackberry, plum and cassis tingling with hints of toasty oak, cedar and dried herbs. 


Wines from other areas

Pascual Toso
2014 Malbec, Reserva
Las Barrancas Argentina

Pascual Toso Winery was founded in Argentina in 1890 and remains faithful to its principles of tradition, authenticity and innovation.  The essence of Las Barrancas and its single vineyard estate in Mendoza is characterized by unique soils and climate.  Fruits of raspberry and plum mingle with barrel spice, cocoa and a hint of coconut. 

Zuccardi Q
2013 Malbec
Valle de Uco, Argentina

The Zuccardi “Q” line represents wines of the highest quality, made from the oldest vines (up to 40 years of age)... vines that grow at the foot of the Andes Mountains.  This wine comes from vineyards at almost 4,000 feet of elevation.  Aromas and flavors of blackberry and blueberry complement toast, tobacco and chocolate notes from barrel aging in French oak. 

Criterion Collection
2013 Malbec, Reserva
Mendoza Argentina

Wines in the Criterion Collection were curated by Master Sommelier Devon Broglie to offer value and quality to Whole Foods customers.  Two Criterion wines are currently offered – this Malbec from Mendoza and a Pinot Grigio from Friuli Grave in Italy.  Flavors and aromas of blackberry and spice pair perfectly with spicy meats from the grill.  

2014 Malbec, Seleccion
Mendoza Argentina

The 2013 Alamos Seleccion Malbec is the pinnacle of the Alamos portfolio, representing the signature grape of the Mendoza region.  This Malbec begins with a nose of ripe plum and blackberry notes.  On the palate, these characteristics are framed by hints of brown spice and black pepper.  The supple mouthfeel enhances flavors of violet and berry.

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To find contact information for most of the wineries in the above column,
visit our alphabetical list of Northwest States and their Wineries.



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