04 Ash Hollow, Columbia Valley Merlot
In Oregon, they call this Bergstrom. In California, they call this Sea Smoke. In the Rhone, it is Domaine Royer. But what's amazing is that, somehow, in Walla, this can still be called merlot. Because I don't mean it tastes like pinot or syrah or grenache. It's not that. It's more that this wine defies the conventions of its varietal the same way the other three great vintners I mentioned do. At once both heavily extracted and heavily attuned to its DNA, the Ash Hollow is nothing if not all the pomp, circumstance, and bombast of Parker-era New World wine. It does nothing to define terroir. Instead, it spends all its time positioning the hand of its winemaker, which is large, deliberate, and decidedly hairy. By which I mean, let's not kid ourselves. This wine is not abalone sashimi. It's beef Wellington--a perfect cut of filet mignon unnecessarily coated in foie, mushrooms, butter, and motherfucking puff pastry. It's ripe with unctuous flavors of strawberry, blueberry, hints of fennel, and the most complex aroma of white pepper and leather. It's easy to try this wine and think it's just another juicy American merlot. It almost is just that. It almost is too much. Which means it's just right. Just perfectly right. And in so many ways not the kind of wine I've normally championed on this site. I don't taste a bunch of rocks and gravel, nitrogen and UV radiation. I taste a shot in the dark; one that hits right in the heart and keeps aiming in that same direction as I fall. First it hurts. Then I'm filled with rage. Then I'm weak, and see my life, and everything I've loved, and am filled with light, flowers, and the incurable desire to keep going on.