For five generations they have farmed the land. Generation after generation persevering. The land is part of them. It drives their pursuit of balance and sustainability. It fuels their love of country. It does not take more than a brief viewing of their site to see that the Mercer family is creating more than wine; they are building a legacy.
Long before they planted grapes, the family was farming the land. From sheep to row crops, they were stewards of the property before planting the first grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills region in 1972.
The 12,000 acre estate has over 2,000 acres of grapes planted in seven vineyards. Several vineyards are named in honor of family members who have given their lives in service. Service, patriotism, and stewardship are themes which run deeply through the Mercer Estate.
I recently sampled four of their red wines, three red blends and a Malbec. Each had unique notes particular to the grapes, all were balanced and smooth. My knowledge of Washington wines is limited with most experience in whites. The reds were surprisingly low acid, perhaps due to the hotter than normal growing seasons. The fruit shined with powerful secondary and tertiary notes. Each very approachable and easy to drink.
2013 Red Blend-Columbia Valley($17)-Merlot with 10% Syrah. Red fruit, mint, cocoa. Friendly and easy to drink. A casual, versatile blend.
2013 Sharp Sisters -Horse Heaven Hills ($26)- Mostly Merlot and Syrah, deep ruby to purple. A pop of blackberry and cherry with brown sugar, maybe some coffee. Soft mouthfeel, easy tannins. It was a nice complement to lamb burgers.
2014 Malbec-Horse Heaven Hills ($26)-Fresh blue and black fruit dominate and are supported by black pepper, mint, caramel. Soft tannins with structure, bold and balanced.
2012 Cavalie Bordeaux Blend-Horse Heaven Hills ($42)-Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Bing Cherry, coffee, brown sugar. Rich and reserved, round and soft tannins.
Part of their legacy is philanthropic. On September 11, the vineyard manager, John Derrick, lost a best friend, Richard Guadagno on Flight 93. Owner Rob Mercer reenlisted in the Marines as a result of the tragedy. Their Block 93 of Eagle & Plow vineyard was hand planted in memory of those who lost their lives. Those they left behind are supported through the proceeds. Through the Eagle & Plow program, wines are given to charities and the proceeds from sales of the Block 93 Cabernet Sauvignon go to benefit servicemen and women as well as survivors of 9/11. If you’ve been reading for any time, you know how much this means to me.
This week, I will head to my hometown. It is an agrarian community, many homes built centuries ago. Family farms are slipping away, usurped into commercial dairies, casualties of pricing and the draw of another way of life. But there are those who carry on. At this time of year, the corn is knee-high, the hay demands attention. Tractors plod along the shoulder, weighted, the fatigue palpable. And yet many wouldn’t have it any other way. They rise will the sun, or before, day after day. They honor the land and bend to progress. They continue the legacy, balancing dreams and obligations, the present and the past.
There is a sentiment to the agrarian life, a purity. It is a sentiment which seems to be echoed throughout the Mercer Estate. One which draws people in. One which draws people up. One which draws me home.