I admittedly look for words like ‘reserve’ or ‘estate’ on the label when buying a bottle of wine. However when looking for a quality bottle, another label moniker to seek is ‘single vineyard.’ When I first started researching single vineyard wines, I found the term somewhat dizzying. If a wine comes from one winery, doesn’t that mean it’s a single vineyard? Actually no, it doesn’t.
SINGLE VINEYARD 101
Wineries have many vineyards and those different vineyards can grow the same grape varietals. That means that their bottles of wine can contain the grapes from various vineyards on the same or even different properties.
A wine made from grapes from a one spot is what constitutes a single vineyard wine. A specific site. A particular lot. Single vineyard wines are terroir-driven, they grow in the exact same soil, with the same micro-climate conditions.
The 2 merlots I tasted are excellent examples of how a particular site can influence and characterize a particular wine.
Canoe Ridge Estate is in Washington State’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA in the Columbia Valley. The merlot grows on a steep, south-facing wind-swept slope which helps alleviate frost and moderate warm temperatures. 2014 saw an especially warm growing season in Washington, so the slope combined with the site’s proximity to the cool Columbia River helped protect the grapes against the heat, allowing for an even ripening.
The 2014 Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot spent 16 months in a mix of French and American oak and is coming up 4 years of development in the bottle. It’s perhaps one of the deepest purple wines I’ve seen, the stain on the cork looked almost black. Most merlots tend to be fruit forward and the Canoe Ridge definitely showcased dark cherries and berries. But the savoury components were more prominent for me with hints of earth and pepper woven throughout. This merlot exceeded my expectations, with a complexity I don’t often find.
RUST WINE CO.’S GOLDEN MILE BENCH MERLOT 2016
In 2016, the Golden Mile Bench was announced as British Columbia’s first sub-appellation. And for this bottle to be FROM that vintage makes it all the more special.
Nicole recently wrote about Rust Wine Co.’s Gamay Noir, which is actually grown further south near Cawston. Their merlot hails from their 12 acre home site on the GMB – called South Rock – which is closer to Oliver. The merlot vines are 25 years old and planted in rocky soils mixed with gravel and clay giving a mineral edge to the typical merlot profile.
On the nose, the 2016 GMB Merlot had a depth and fullness that was noticeable. I tasted dark cherries and ripe plums with hints of cedar and spice at the end. We paired the wine with an amazing sous vide tomahawk steak. And all I could think was that I wished I had another bottle!
SINGLE VINEYARD = QUALITY
I understanding not wanting to spend money on a bottle of wine if there’s any doubt it’s not great. I encourage you to look for a single vineyard wine the next time you’re at a liquor store. You won’t be disappointed in the quality and it most definitely has a story to tell.