Fielding Hills Merlot Vertical Tasting
For those of you who are not familiar with a vertical tasting, it is a tasting in which you taste different vintages of the same wine from the same winery. We were first “wow”-ed by Fielding Hills in the summer of 2008. Since then, we have visited the winery, tasted all of their new releases, and even helped them with bottling. Previously, we have had the pleasure to enjoy vertical tastings of their Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon that have demonstrated the remarkable consistency that Fielding Hills has been able to produce since their very first vintage. We were thrilled when we were able to get our hands on all nine vintages of Merlot that they have produced, from their inaugural 2000 vintage to their current 2008 vintage, for another vertical tasting.
Fielding Hills Winery, a small, family-owned winery in Wenatchee, is one of the top wineries in Washington State. Owner/winemaker Mike Wade and his wife Karen are longtime apple and cherry growers who have turned a middle portion of their orchard near Mattawa into a vineyard. The grapes for all nine of these wines were sourced from the Wade’s Riverbend Vineyard, planted in 1998, in the Wahluke Slope AVA. However, the 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 vintages are labeled as Columbia Valley because Wahluke Slope was not established as an official AVA until 2006. Strictly red wine producers, Fielding Hills’ current production is about 850 cases per year but will be increasing to about 1400 cases with the 2009 vintage.
Recently, the four Wine Peeps and our good friends, Mark and Jill, sat down to dinner to enjoy this vertical tasting. While most of our tastings are blind, we decided not to taste these blind. We simply wanted to enjoy the wines and taste them in a logical order. We started with the oldest and worked our way to the youngest before we ate any food to try to get a good baseline for evaluation. This tasting was fabulous! Once again, we were amazed at the consistency of quality in these wines. All nine wines paired extremely well with Mom’s dinner of tomato basil soup, arugula peach salad, pan-seared flat iron steak, creamy potato and parsnip au gratin, sautéed haricot verts (French green beans), and chocolate cream pie for dessert.
You can’t go wrong with any of these wines. In fact, all nine wines were very good and received a Quality Rating of at least 3.5 stars (out of 5). We thought that five out of the nine were excellent and rated them as 4 stars (out of 5) or higher. We were very impressed with the quality of their first vintage, the 2000. It is really holding up well for an 11 year old wine. Winemaker Mike Wade really seems to be hitting his stride with the last four vintages though, and I believe that the 2008 is his best Merlot yet. Selling for $36, it also delivers serious bang for your buck.
If you are ever in the Wenatchee area, Fielding Hills is a stop you do not want to miss. I encourage you to give Mike and Karen a call to make an appointment to visit the winery. Or, if you are in the Seattle area, be sure to check out their tasting counter at URBAN enoteca. And regardless of whether you are able to visit or not, try to get your hands on a bottle or two of Fielding Hills wine and enjoy.