Tonight, as I prepared a Cornish hen for dinner, I struggled with what wine to partake with it. I had staring at me, a 2006 Vintage Willamette Valley Riesling and a 2003 Merlot from 14 Hands. I know the cardinal rule of the type of food that should be consumed with what type of wine - but I couldn't bring myself to open the Riesling, so instead, I decided to go with the Merlot. I know, I know, shame on me.
Anyway, I received this bottle of 2003 Merlot from my friend Jon a couple of months ago after I dog-sat for him for about a week. I shelved this bottle of wine and truly forgot I had it until this evening. 14 Hands is a winery that is completely unfamiliar to me, at least I think it is (I don't recall having been there, but if it is in the Tri-Cities area, then it is possible I have visited them, but only once before). The grapes come from the Horse Heaven Hills, the south-central area of Washington in the Columbia River Valley. I have to be honest, I have not been able to find out much more about the winery itself. I have called the 800 number, but it being a Sunday, they were closed, so I will work on finding out more and make an addendum to this post.
I opened the bottle and let it breathe for about 30 minutes before I poured my first glass. Holding the glass, I noticed a very rich, very deep and dark color, which peaked my interest. I took a whiff, and the first thought that came to my mind to describe it was "clean." The nose on this wine - and I have continued to smell it - can only be described by me as clean. Don't get me wrong, its not like a cleaning agent, but just "clean." The nose also is not very strong - you smell it initially while sniffing the wine, but it doesn't remain.
The first sip was not very impressive, as is not completely uncommon with wines, but it definitely gets better. I do find the taste to be very "oak-filled," not in a bad way, but it is clear that it was fermented in oak barrels. You are also able to taste the spices of this Merlot, which comes in the form of an aftertaste - there isn't anything that hits you before you swallow it. I continue to sip as I write this, and I can feel/taste a little bit of a kick that enhances the spices.
What I am finding here is that this Merlot is not over-bearing, nor is it bland, but rather, it has a mellow sense to it. I definitely imagine that this is a wine enjoyed while just relaxing. A not bad wine for under $15.