Ready to try something different? That was the takeaway from Wine Spectator’s Jan. 31-Feb. 28, 2014 issue, which compelled its readers to discover wines from unexpected places in its Editors’ Picks 2014. In the mix was a rally cry for Malbec from outside of Argentina, including the 91-point-scoring Waterbrook 2010 Reserve Malbec ($24).
Washington Editor (and the magazine’s Editor at Large) Harvey Steiman noted head-turning varietal Malbecs are coming from the Pacific Northwest:
“In Washington, where more than four dozen wineries have bottled small volumes of often-impressive Malbec, Waterbrook has stepped out with the most widely available bottling. Both its 2009 and 2010 versions garnered outstanding ratings (defined as 90 to 94 points on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale), with ebullient black pepper flavors fitting deftly into open-textured frames. The winery inherited 12 acres of Malbec when Precept Wine bought Waterbrook in 2006. ‘We made a few hundred cases for our wine club,’ said winemaker John Freeman. ‘It did so well that we now make all of it into a Malbec reserve.’ The grape grows with a thinner skin in Walla Walla, Freeman noticed, so he uses winemaking techniques that soften tannins and emphasize fruit character. Inspired by Waterbrook’s successes, Precept is planting more Malbec on the original site (Canyon Vineyard Ranch – Prosser, WA) and in two other Walla Walla vineyards.”
Although priced higher than Argentine Malbec, the quality for the price of Pacific Northwest malbec ($20+) is comparably justified, Steiman noted.