This Merlot received 93 Points from James Suckling and Wine Spectator. An outstanding Merlot from Washington’s revered old vineyards Conner Lee and Dionysus. Our Readers blend tips its hat to all exploratory readers of books and wine. Blending Conner Lee Vineyard’s 1992 old block Merlot and Dionysus Vineyards’ block 15 Merlot combines two super character vineyards. Elephant Mountain Vineyard’s Cabernet bring spice and complexity to the blend. This powerful wine offers fragrant cherries and chocolate with rich marrionberry flavors in this delicious easy drinking style.
Vintage and Winemaking Notes
Vintage 2015 is Washington’s leading hot vintage and earliest ripening harvest. Our vineyards yielded fruit with record color and tannin. This is in alignment with our house style of rich and smooth age-worthy reds. Spring broke buds in March and flowered in May, setting the stage for the early harvest. Late spring developed small grapes on small clusters in all our vineyards. Summer temperatures were hotter than average and lead to an early July verasion. Together early and swift verasion are hallmarks of great vintages. Our fruit we shaded with healthy canopies balancing acidity and sugar ripeness while protecting against sunburn. We harvested summer fruits in excellent condition.
Dionysus we harvested August 26 into small fermenters. Conner Lee Vineyard we picked at the peak of ripeness swiftly by Pellenc Selective harvester September 10 delivering perfectly sorted fruit right on time. We hand mixed for two weeks, then finished fermentation in barrels and puncheons. We aged on lees reductively, developing savory tones complimentary to the powerful fruit. After 20 months, we selected the final blend. Lastly we added choice cabernet sauvignon for aromatic lift. We then filtered for purity and aging stability. The blend offers merlot at its most gorgeous expression. This rich wine is enjoyable with a host of foods throughout those seasons.
Blend: 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley 90% - 80% Conner Lee, 10% Dionysus
Yakima Valley 10% - 10% Elephant Mountain
Barrel Regime: 100% French oak puncheons & barrels, 25% new
The story of J. Bookwalter Winery is a story of family heritage, deep roots and a centuries-old commitment to the land.
Ten generations of the Bookwalter family have been involved in American agriculture. But it was Jerry Bookwalter, generation nine and father of current company president John Bookwalter, who led the family into viticulture. After graduating from UC-Davis in 1963, Jerry spent 13 years farming in California’s San Joaquin Valley before moving his family in 1976 to the Tri-Cities in Washington State. Once there, he firmly stamped the Bookwalter name on the state’s nascent wine industry. From 1976 through 1982, Jerry helped manage the plantings of three iconic vineyards – Sagemoor, Bacchus and Dionysus. He eventually became vineyard manager of the famed Conner Lee Vineyard which remains the largest source of grapes for J. Bookwalter wines. And in 1982, he leveraged his vineyard connections and industry knowledge to start J. Bookwalter Winery.
Jerry’s son John quite literally grew up in the vineyards of Eastern Washington, but left in the late 1980s to pursue a successful 10-year sales and marketing career with E&J Gallo, Winterbrook Beverage Group and Coors Brewing Co. In 1997, he returned to Richland with a keen understanding of the winery’s heritage and a clear vision for its future.
Since then, John has made sweeping changes to improve and expand the J. Bookwalter brand. He hired world-renowned consulting winemakers Zelma Long and Claude Gros to support the company’s winemaking efforts and introduced a sleek new brand identity and award-winning packaging. In 2014, John turned over most of the winemaking responsibilities to Caleb Foster, who is recognized as one of the top winemakers in the United States by multiple industry experts and publications.
The winery’s flagship tasting room in Richland, named one of the best tasting rooms in the United States by Sunset magazine, now includes a renowned, full-service restaurant, Fiction. J. Bookwalter also operates an attractive, modern tasting studio in Woodinville.
Today, J. Bookwalter has grown from one of Washington’s oldest wineries into one of Pacific Northwest’s most recognized boutique wine brands, relying on exceptional vineyard sources and meticulous winemaking to produce some of the world’s finest wines.
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This is a great winery, and a favorite destination spot on our visits to Washington State. The Merlot is superb! Don’t miss out on this one.
If the producers of “Sideways” had tasted NW Merlot, they would have never made the movie!!
Sadly, no room in the cellar for a case this time.
Kickstarter backer here, first time poster! I was very excited to be offered a bottle of this to lab rat. I am a Merlot fan so when I opened the box I knew this would be right up my alley and I was absolutely not disappointed.
I’ve worked at a couple wineries but still don’t consider myself a wine expert by any means, so I’ll do my best here.
The color is a really lovely deep blood red. The nose has a medium intensity that gives hints of spice, oak, vanilla. The taste is really nicely balanced with dark cherry, oak, spice and cocoa flavors. Medium tannins and body but bold flavor. Solid weekday red
Overall I really loved this one. Merlot is known for pairing with many foods but I went with a turkey dish and this went very well with that, but honestly it can be drank alone perfectly well. I think this is a phenomenal Washington State Merlot which hit all the notes I’d expect from this variety. For this price it’s a solid buy and I think I’ll be grabbing some more!
I lab ratted the 2014 when it was offered on wine.woot some time ago.
Not the same wine but it should indicative of the style they are going for here.
2014 readers merlot
"I received this bottle while visiting WD and friends while on a trip through sonoma a couple weeks back. These notes are from a 1/2 bottle I consumed last weekend, the other 1/2 went to Kyle. This is a Washington merlot based blend. the blend is 80% Merlot 12% Cabernet 6% Cab Franc 2% Syrah. Upon pouring from the screw top bottle I noted the color was a deep/dark red almost purple and was sediment free. The bottle is also fairly heavy.
It came across very tight, moderate aromatics but still very fresh and youthful. The primary fruit note is cranberry with a lot of oak and quite a bit of heat and if blindfolded I would have never guessed merlot, I probably would have guessed syrah. It opened up a bit later. I initially was really not a fan of this wine, it reminded me of some of the heavier wines in the Fejellene cellars offers we had a few years back. Over extracted, over oaked. With some time in the glass (nearly 2 hours) I felt it opened up and became enjoyable.
The wine is dry, full bodied, decent acidity and moderate but soft tannins. Right out of the gate I would not call this wine balanced, given some time it comes around into something a bit more enjoyable. Notes of oak, alcohol, plum, and dusty cherry were what I got though the 3 + hours I tasted/drank it.
This is clearly a modern style wine and not really a style I enjoy. The oak and alcohol don’t seem to be balanced by the fruit up front which tells me maybe lay it down for awhile and see if its knits. Its also a screw top so I’m not sure how that would impact any attempt at aging it a little bit.
As always I thank WW for the opportunity to try a bottle out and report back."
@InFrom Same here - went to Fedex to pick up another delivery and they gave me this one as well when website said order still processing - good job I went in or they may have returned this after 5 days!
@InFrom Glad to hear it wasn’t just me. I figured it was because I was so close, but it was still annoying. I only found out it was shipped because there was a note from FedEx taped to the door. I didn’t even see the note until a day later.
It worked out, but I’d really rather not do that again.