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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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of Northwest Wines

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived October 24, 2017
Originally Published
October 2, 2017

Bordeaux Buddies: Malbec
Part 2 of a 3-Part Series  (Part 1)  (Part 3)
By Chuck Hill 

As we continue our 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 that 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 with Chef Ted’s perfect Churrasco flank steak with Chimichurri sauce. 

Whidbey Island Winery
2015 Malbec
Columbia Valley AVA

As Greg and Elizabeth Osenbach celebrate 25 years of their Whidbey Island Winery in 2017, I offer a toast to their long success. My tasters have always found Greg’s wines approachable, enjoyable and a great value. That said, his 2015 Malbec is another winner, offering cherry and plum with dried herbs, dark chocolate and hints of olives and earthy mineral. 

Three Rivers Winery
2015 Malbec
Columbia Valley AVA

If you haven’t had a chance to play pitch and putt golf at Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla, get going before the rain and snow set in!  Meanwhile, fire up the grill and enjoy a steak with Holly Turner’s delightful Malbec, offering bright blackberry and cherry aromas and flavors with intriguing mineral, floral and spicy accents – delish! 

Silvan Ridge Winery
2015 Malbec
Rogue Valley AVA

It is not a necessity for a Malbec winemaker to be from Mendoza, Argentina, but it doesn’t hurt!  J.P. Valot came to Oregon in 2001 after studying wine and working in the Argentinean wine industry in Mendoza. His “Oregon wine with an Argentinean soul” pleased my tasters with its aromas and flavors of juicy boysenberry and black cherry, vanilla, spice and dried herbs. 

COR Cellars
2015 Malbec
Columbia Valley AVA

Luke Bradford named his Columbia Gorge-area winery after the Latin word for “heart” after finding a quote meaning “Good Wine Pleases the Human Heart.” He and wife Meg and daughter Liv make 10 wines for the COR brand, emphasizing matching varieties to growing site. This Malbec from Hogback Ridge Vineyard offers complex dark fruits, spicy herbs and mineral – “the proverbial tall, dark and handsome stranger.” 

Waterbrook Winery
2015 Malbec
Columbia Valley AVA

Waterbrook traces its history back to the mid-1980s when the winery was founded in the western Walla Walla Valley. Today, an expansive visitor center and winery on Highway 12 offers elegant grounds and a great tasting-room welcome. This New World Malbec features character from aging in American oak, 26% new. Vanilla bean and coconut wrap around a core of blackberry and cherry with a spicy, lingering finish. 

Belle Esprit
2014 Malbec Reserve
Rogue Valley AVA

This wine is from the Belle Fiore Winery in the Rogue Valley. Founded by the Kerwin family in 2003, the elegant estate features a French-style chateau, expansive grounds and a wine pavilion in the center of the vineyards. Stop by for a visit if you are in the Ashland area. This reserve Malbec offers intense, ripe blueberry and cassis on the nose and palate, with notes of floral perfume and toasty oak. 

The Expedition
2015 Malbec
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

This wine from Canoe Ridge Vineyard winery is a great value in Northwest Malbec. It is not burdened with too heavy fruit or too much oak and lets the spicy fullness of the Malbec grape speak out. Plum and blackberry mingle with notes of cassis and vanilla and a soft palate that is perfect for sipping or accompanying a wide range of meats and pastas. 

Rolling Bay Winery
2014 Malbec
Snipes Mountain AVA

Winemaker/owner Alphonse de Klerk crafts his wines from grapes grown at the historic Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain in Washington’s Yakima Valley. He works closely with the vineyard to achieve the ultimate quality in each wine. This rich and powerful Malbec shows blackberry and plum with pepper spice and excellent acid balance to pair with your favorite meats from the grill. 

Clearwater Canyon Cellars
2015 Malbec, Verhey Vineyard
Rattlesnake Hills AVA

Clearwater Canyon Cellars of Lewiston, Idaho crafted this Malbec from grapes grown at Verhey Vineyard in Washington’s Rattlesnake Hills AVA. Classic aromas of blackberry, plum and earthy spice finish with lingering notes of brown spices, olive and hints of floral perfume. 

Leah Jørgensen Wines
2015 Malbec
Rogue Valley AVA

This wine comes from Malbec grown at Crater View Vineyard in the Rogue Valley AVA of Southern Oregon. Leah Jørgensen has worked with this vineyard for a long time... and even reported on ancient marine fossils found during a 2015 excavation for a new vineyard block. The wine is dark and juicy with blackcurrant, cherry and plum fruit mingling with mineral and dried herb on the finish. 

Ginkgo Forest Winery
2013 Malbec
Wahluke Slope AVA

Mike Thiede grows many varieties of wine grapes at his vineyard on the southwest part of the Wahluke Slope in Washington State. His Malbec grapes always get perfectly ripe and create wines with great depth and power. Look for aromas and flavors of blackberry and black cherry with a wrapping of toasty oak, vanilla and smoky mineral. 

Kriselle Cellars
2014 Malbec
Rogue Valley AVA

Scott and Kris Steingraber have followed their life journey from California to Washington to Oregon’s Rogue Valley, learning and honing their passion for wine. Grapes harvested from their home Buxton Vineyard and other local sites are used to craft a variety of red and white wines. This intense Malbec was aged in French oak, 25% new, and offers ripe blueberry and cassis with dried herb, vanilla and spicy cedar.

Wines from other areas

Miya Ray
2016 Malbec
Curico Valley, Chile

This wine is sourced from 30-year-old vineyards in the Curico Valley of Chile – just on the other side of the Andes from Mendoza, Argentina. Fruit is carefully sorted and the grapes are cold macerated and fermented in small tanks under controlled temperature. Aging takes place in American and French oak barrels. Dark fruits and mineral on the nose and palate lead to a smoky finish that begs for meat from the grill. 

2015 Malbec

This exceptional Malbec from Argentina was a favorite with my tasters last year, and the new vintage is even better!  Bodegas Salentein created Killka Malbec from their high-elevation vineyards and named it in honor of their Killka Gallery of arts, culture and gastronomy. Great cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors – same value price! 

2016 Malbec, Serie A
Valle de Uco, Mendoza

The Zuccardi Serie A range demonstrates the richness and diversity of Argentina’s many microclimates and soils. This wine was made from grapes grown in two vineyard sites along the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Aromas of dried plum and cherry with peppery spice and coffee, lead to a rich palate of cherry and dark fruits with cocoa and spice on the finish. 

Don Miguel Gascon
2014 Malbec

Miguel Gascon bought his first vineyards and built his winery in Mendoza, Argentina in 1884. By 1910 he was the fifth wealthiest person in Mendoza and was officially bestowed the honorable title of “Don.” In the 1940s, the Gascon winery was the first to bottle a pure varietal Malbec wine. The 2014 Malbec offers the fruitiness of raspberry and plum with complementary aromas and flavors of black pepper, violets, anise and chocolate – light enough to sip; rich enough to enjoy with traditional churrasco and chimichurri. 

Ben Marco
2013 Malbec
Mendoza, Argentina

Edgardo Del Popolo crafts Ben Marco wines from grapes harvested in the high-elevation Valle de Uco in the foothills of the Andes. His non-interventionist winemaking style emphasizes the terroir and quality of the fruit – an Old World concept that is welcome in this day and age. Aromas and flavors of dark fruits, anise and smoky mineral complement meats from the grill and hearty pastas.

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To find contact information for most of the wineries in the above text,
visit our alphabetical lists for Northwest States.



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