Sagelands Vineyards: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon

Born in the 1980s as Staton Hills winery, and soon thereafter acquired by California based Chalone Wine group and renamed, today Sageland Vintners in Wapato, Washington is owned by giant international conglomerate Diageo. I confess that this is a little heartbreaking for me, and not just because I've never really recovered from learning Diageo owned Guinness.

Sagelands produces Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Riesling Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, a Dry Rosé and a red blend called Freddie's Blend. I've never seen Freddie's Blend, the Malbec, or the Dry Rosé for sale, though it is listed on the Sagelands Website. Their grapes are from Washington's Columbia valley, and more specifically the "Four Corners" of Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, Rattlesnake Hills and the Walla Walla Valley. They've contracted with a number of vineyard owners in these areas for their grapes. Sageland's winemaker Frederique Spencer is a native of Provence, France. Spencer came to Washington state in the late 1990s and worked at Covey Run, then worked in Australia for a while before being hired as the Staton Hills assistant winemaker. She was appointed head winemaker at Sagelands by Chalone. Spencer's philosophy, practice at Sagelands is to focus on blending for with the best combination for any given year, blending not just the various vineyards and plots, but varietals as well.

The Sagelands winery visitor's center is currently closed while they repair damage caused by a broken water main (the production areas are not affected). In the meantime, visitors can sample and purchase Sagelands wines at retailers as well as at their "sister winery," Canoe Ridge Vineyard in Walla Walla Washington.

Sagelands Merlot 2006

In the glass this Sagelands Merlot is almost as dark as port in color, with an acidic, almost piney aroma. In flavor, it's dry, not fruity at all. I like this wine, but it reminds me a bit of retsina, very tannic. I'm very curious if that's the effect of the Cabernet Franc that's been blended with the Merlot, according to Sagelands. There are distinct legs on the glass. I am very curious about how this Merlot would pair with braised pork with dried fruit and coffee sauce.

Sagelands Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

This is dark garnet in color in the glass. On the nose, there's a rich aroma of black berries and currant on opening. After breathing a bit, the currant aroma is dominant, and it's the dominant fruit in taste, with a bit of tannin at the back. It works surprisingly well with chicken fried steak, but I think that next time I'll try braised short ribs, or maybe a traditional pot roast.