Wine Critic Falls for Apex 2010 Catalyst Red Blend

Copyright 2013 – The Pour Fool.

The only Apex wines I ever bought for any shop I ran or recommended to customers was their Chardonnay, which is, I have to admit, freakin’ ridiculously fine and has been for a solid decade. Honestly, I saw Apex as a vanity project for its uber-wealthy owner, Harry Alhadeff, and his aspiring-rock star winemaker, Brian Carter. I saw the wines – the reds, anyway – as slavishly faux-French, needlessly austere and over-manipulated. In a state where we have what is arguably the best fruit in the friggin’ world, they seldom delivered that volume and vibrant freshness that has always been the thing that makes me love – love, love, love – Washington wines so much. I tasted them religiously, every vintage…and nothing ever clicked. My socks stayed firmly up and my palate refused to spark.

Until now.

Folks, if you never believe another word you read in this screwy little bloglet, believe this: Apex Cellars “The Catalyst” Red Blend 2010 represents one of the finest – quite possibly THE finest – value-priced red blends that this corner of the United States has ever produced. It is SO unbelievably rare for any wine to stand out in the ocean of juice I taste every year that it literally happens less than 1% of the time. Seriously. I taste lakes full of very drinkable wine, a tiny pond full of exceptional stuff, and maybe a single bucket of wine that makes me go all weak-kneed and swoony. The Catalyst ’10 goes into the bucket, very near the top. I tasted it, in fact, seven times in a 24 hour period because I was afraid that, cheerleader for “Made in Washington” anything that I am, I was just trying too hard to like Apex. Nope. It is that good, that beautifully-made, that seamless and rich and fully-realized. It is a wine that could – and maybe should, if there’s any such thing as the price tag befitting the worth of what’s in the bottle – cost a solid fifty bucks.

And it goes for about $15.

Let me repeat that: FIFTEEN DOLLARS.

The Catalyst is a blend of 60% Cabernet, 30% Merlot, 5% Malbec, and 5% Syrah, sourced from the Alder Ridge, Clifton Hill, and Riverbend Vineyards, so its pedigree is impeccable, as is the non-interventionist winemaking that’s so clearly in evidence. For whatever reason, it’s just stupid-hard to figure out exactly who the winemaker currently is at Apex. In searching it on google and their own website, I came up with Brian Carter, Peter Devison, Bill Murray, and Ron Bunnell. I finally gave up and called the winery. Ron Bunnell it is, which makes a lot of sense, as Ron was the author of what was, hands down, the best Rhone-style red blend I’ve tasted from Washington in the past two years, the Bunnell Family “Vif” 2008. When you play in the same Rhone-wine ballpark as the inimitable Doug McCrea, you’d better have your winemaking chops honed to a serious edge, and Ron is clearly up to the challenge.  In Catalyst, he stayed true to the Bordeaux spirit of the wine but did what more and more vintners are doing these days to play that wonderful, soul-deep bass note at the end of their blends and finished this with 5% of a very inky, assertive Syrah.

Catalyst drinks like a Napa red – a very expensive Napa red. It’s one of those rare wines in which I go looking for weaknesses and don’t find anything I can nitpick. And I tried, I really did. The balance of acids, tannins, and alcohol is perfect.

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