Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Red Mountain Boys (And Girls) - Part 1 : Terra Blanca

Red Mountain is neither red, nor a mountain. It is merely a hill that allegedly turns red when hit by the sun at a certain angle, but some would claim it produces the best grapes in Washington. Even though it is Washington's smallest AVA, many of the best winenies make wine from great vineyards on red mountain such as Klipsun and Ciel du Cheval. Some of the greatest Washington wines are made by Seattle area wineries such as Quilceda Creek, DeLille, Cadence, and Andrew Will wineries from Red Mountain grapes which they have shipped over the Cascade Mountains in small lugs. The wineries on the mountain do a pretty good job, too.

Terra Blanca has become the destination winery on Red Mountain. They have a huge tasting room in a new building designed for corporate functions. Terra Blanca produces about 30,000 cases of wine making it a big boutique winery for Washington, but the quality hasn't suffered.
Keith Pilgrim made a beautifully balanced 2004 Viognier and a fresh 2003 Chardonnay. The 2003 Estate Block 5 Chardonnay was in oak for 18 months and definitely tastes like a white Burgundy. The 2005 Reserve Rousanne is well made and better than most Rhone whites. Among the reds we particularly liked the 2001 Merlot (frequently on sale for $11 at supermarkets) and the 2001 Syrah. We have not been too fond of the Block 8 Syrah in the past but the 2003 is quite good. The real gem here is the 2001 Onyx, comparable in quality, I would say, to the 100 point 2003 Quilceda Cabernet. Not quite as soft and smooth, but more interesting in a way. This wine has lots of complexity due to the blending of Malbec and Petit Verdot with the usual suspects - Cab Sauv, Merlot, and Cab Franc. The past three vintages of Onyx have also been exquisite. Onyx is a hidden gem, perhaps because Terra Blanca makes such a wide variety of wines in contrast to, say, Quilceda Creek or Andrew Will. To top things off, the 2001 has beautiful label art by Odette Grassi. If you can afford $45 for a bottle of wine, Onyx is definitely in the same class with Andrew Will et al. Why not splurge or get a head start on your Christmas shopping? Look for more posts on Red Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills and Prosser area wineries, to complete our tour of the Yakima Valley.


  • At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree that the ONYX is their champion when it comes to their line but I am afraid their Merlot just doesn't come close.
    Some friends and I (a few uber wino types) hatched a plan to collect all the red mountain merlots we could get our hands and pockets books on and around. Took considerable time. I cannot tell you the anticipation that coursed through this dubious group. Finally we put together a grand tasting, complete with one of my best friend's over the top judging notes, otherwise know as "the list....goes on" and popped the corks. My hopes were high for the winery that sits in close proximity to world renowned Kilpsun Vineyards. Image my disappointment. Not only did it not come close it was almost dead last, unanimously. A pity too seeing as though it was priced right for that extremely lucky find.
    But on a brighter note, the Kiona was stellar, Hightower was fantastic, a great find and not to keep name dropping the Andrew Will from Kilpsun fruit was all we expected it to be. I could go on but we are planning our next get together, on to the cabs.

  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger Chrissy said…

    As of 2009 I have to agree with Anonymous about Terra Blanca's Merlot. VERY disappointing. Even the Onyx is hit and miss. I concur that expectations are high for a winery that shares a fence (?) with the renowned Klipsun vineyard. What an utter disappointment though when one drives up to such a fantastic facility to find that the wines are mediocre. Perhaps a new winemaker is in order.


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