The following content and photography are provided courtesy of our friends at Northstar Winery.
Just as the North Star has been used through the ages as a directional guide, Northstar Winery was established in the early 1990s to guide the creation of world-class Merlot-based wines that demonstrate the potential of the variety in Washington State.
The region has since been recognized as one of the world’s most exciting and acclaimed regions for Merlot. Washington lies at the same latitude as the Bordeaux region in France, yet has the additional benefit of a longer growing season and cooler nighttime temperatures. These characteristics aid in the even ripening of grapes and the locking in of acidity, resulting in full-bodied yet balanced Merlots. Northstar’s first vintage was in 1994 and the state-of-the-art winery was built in 2002.
David “Merf” Merfeld, has been the head Winemaker since 2005. Now leading the way, and with access to the top 2% of Columbia and Walla Walla Valley’s finest Merlot grapes, Merf is creating wines of great distinction and acclaim.
Below we highlight one of Northstar’s most exciting blends, a 2013 Columbia Valley Merlot.
The 2013 growing season was warm and consistent throughout, perfect for the vines to ripen. Harvest started early in mid-August and extended into early November as fall brought cooler temperatures. The long, warm 2013 growing season resulted in beautifully ripe and balanced wines.
The diversity of vineyards and sub-appellations within the Columbia Valley are Northstar’s hallmarks. The fruit is selected from the very best possible sources throughout the Columbia Valley. Winemaker David “Merf ” Merfeld works closely with each grower to achieve specific fruit quality and yield parameters. Vines average over 20 years of age and yield grapes with concentrated varietal flavors of cherry and plum with elegant tannins. Fruit from more than 10 separate vineyards and 15 different blocks contributed to this blend.
At harvest, grapes were held separately, destemmed and crushed with 60% whole berries remaining. Grapes fermented on the skins for five to seven days with daily punch downs to extract flavor, colors and fine tannins. The wine was placed into 90% French oak — 59% of which was new oak barrels — where it underwent malolactic fermentation. This process softens the taste and texture of the wine while adding complexity and character. The wine aged for 18 months with racking occurring at three-month intervals.
“The 2013 vintage has rich concentrated aromas of cherry, raspberry and vanilla that lead into flavors of spice and chocolate. It is subtle and soft with a lingering toasted oak finish. This wine was created to enjoy now, or for many years to come as it will age gracefully. Enjoy!” – David “Merf ” Merfeld, Winemaker
“Supple and expressive, plush in texture but not weighty, layering blueberry and currant flavors with hints of cream and green olive. Lingers easily. Best from 2018 through 2023.” – Wine Spectator rated this blend 92 points
“Herb, pencil lead, plum and vanilla aromas are followed by smooth, soft blue-fruit flavors. It shows a beautiful sense of balance.” – Wine Enthusiast rated this blend 90 points