by Fred McMillin
for June 23, 1997

Make Mine Merlot

Prologue: Merlot has shot to the forefront in Washington State by delivering...many of the state'a most memorable reds.

...from Bob Thompson's "Wine Atlas"

A photo on the Preston winery wall taken in 1976 shows barefooted Cathy Preston crushing some of their first vintage. She was 16 and her brother Brent was 15.

The Rest of the Story: Today Cathy runs marketing while Brent grows the grapes and makes the wines for one of Washington's first five wineries.

However, back in 1976, Cathy was not crushing Merlot. About the time she was getting interested in the winery, there were only 10 acres of the grape in the entire state. Today, Preston alone has more than that in their 180-acre vineyard, and the critics like the results. Their 1990 Merlot made both the Gourmet and Wine Spectator magazines. In fact, the Spectator gave a rousing 88 to the '93, and said it should be even better in a few years. Time has passed, so I ran a bottle of the '93 by my tasters. They loved the rich berry and oak flavors. Clearly, it's one of those Bob Thompson memorable Merlots.

1993 Reserve Merlot, Columbia Valley, WA
Preston Premium Wines
Pasco, Washington
Contact—Cathy Preston-Mouncer, (509)545-1990

Category: Highly Recommended

Postscript: That first, 1976 vintage was rough. Founder Bill Preston had invested a big chunck of the profits from his tractor dealership in the vineyard, got the grapes harvested and delivered to the winery. Then the winemaker quit! Now, 400 medals later, Bill can smile about it. (While semi-retired, he still keeps a sharp eye on his kids.)

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.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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