by Fred McMillin
for January 6, 1998

A Star Is Born

Prologue: Merlot has shot to the forefront in the State of Washington by delivering consistently appealing wines from almost every district in which it has been planted.

...Bob Thompson's "Wine Atlas"

The Rest of the Story: Bob Thompson is not alone in his praise of Washington Merlot. Some 15 years ago Roy Andries De Groot said the best Merlot in the U.S.A. came from that state. Prof. John Baxevanis regards the potential of Washington Merlots as "enormous."

My tasters just found a new one that is already enormous, Northstar Merlot from the Columbia Valley. It's the creation of two sterling winemakers, Gordy Hill (17 years of Washington experience) and Jed Steele (20 years of California winery experience). They joined forces in 1994 to create "Northstar," named in recognition of Merlot's newly-established starring role in this northerly state ... plenty of backbone from 24% Cabernet and 16 months in medium-toast French oak ... yet without harshness ... easily one of the best Merlots we've tasted this year.

The Wine:
1994 Northstar Merlot, Columbia Valley, WA
Northstar Cellars, Grandview, WA 98930
Bottled—June 1996
Food Affinities—Lamb, duck, beef; after the entree, cheese and chocolate.
Contact—Benjamin Myers (425) 806-3257
Price—$50 (Don't delay; only 1,029 cases)

Postscript: Good News and Bad News The bad news: Gordy and Jed had enough wine aging in those French barrels to make another 350 cases. But alas, it didn't happen because they didn't pass the winemakers' taste test. The good news: The 1995, 1996 and 1997 vintages of Northstar are alive and well.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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