Memaloose Estate Cabernet Franc ‘Idiot’s Grace Vineyard’ Columbia Gorge 2009

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Washington State was once the great promise land of American wine. A beautiful climate that can produce wines with great fruit but also freshness, cheap land and a willingness to innovate all suggested great things. Now, however, most Washington wines are mere copies of the big California blockbusters – overripe, over fruity and over priced. How some wineries can justify $50 USD price tags when some of the great wines of Italy and France sell for the same price shows a sad predilection in the market (though I suspect these wines are having difficulty selling these days).

Doing Washington Right

Enter Memaloose. These guys get Washington right – quirky yet delicious wines that merge new world and warmer climate fruit with freshness and great respect for old world traditions and flavours. Memaloose is not concerned with maximum extraction and extreme fruitiness. At the same time, they clearly do not shy away from the greater ripeness of the grapes in Washington compared to France (their inspiration).

Owner Rob McCormick has a history as an executive and consultant in the food industry. Winemaker Brian McCormick trained in Enology at UC Davis and spent time at Zind Humbrecht and in the Dry Creek Valley. However, this is clearly no stereotypical UC Davis project – rather, these guys are serious about making lighter styled wines that pair very well with food. Their achievement with this wine is all the more impressive considering that they only produced their first vintage in 2006.

Gorge Terroir

Columbia Gorge is situated just on the Washington and Oregon border. Extreme weather variations, including very high winds, make this a challenging but unique place to grow grapes. It is challenging insofar as one has to carefully match the right microclimate to the right grape – but unique insofar as almost anything can find a place in one of the many diverse climatic sub-zones. The Idiot’s Grace vineyard, where the grapes for this wine are grown, is at 300 feet elevation and sits on clay/loam soils.

Loire Meets Washington

Cool climate varietally expressive Cabernet Franc. Like Bernard Baudry meets Washington fruit lushness and all at 13% ABV. The wine is beautifully expressive both aromatically and on the long palate. There is almost nothing like this wine being made anywhere in the New World – in fact, it speaks of varietal and place so well that I think it is a new world benchmark for immediately delicious, perfumed, seductive Cabernet Franc – you know, the kind of Cabernet Franc that great producers in the Loire have been making unnoticed for generations. However, here you have a wine that is even more accessible and even more guzzle-inducing given the sheer lushness of the fruit and textures.

I have to place this as one of the most delicious wines I’ve had in months. It is too bad the production is limited to a mere 165 cases.

Excellent and Highly Recommended Value
$25 at Soul Wine Seattle


  1. Ron van Schilt
    February 8, 2012


    I know this wine. It is wonderfully delicious. Austria does produce some of the greatest white wines in the world, along with Germany, and, don’t forget, Switzerland. I have an Gruner Veltliner I want to import which blows what is available here out of the water, but it comes in a one litre bottle and I have been told that implies it should be “cheap,” as in well less than $12 or $15 a 750 litre bottle. I believe it has to do with marketing. When was the last time you had the opportunity to go to a tasting of German or Austrian wines where the wine makers are there for you to meet and talk to? Something like what Chamber Street in NYC would hold…. The problem in BC is not unique to BC but is endemic to the rest of Canada and the US. The few German and Austrian wines you see here, you see wherever you see German and Austrian wines in North America. And you rarely, if ever, see Swiss. A German friend of mine told me years ago that the best German wines never leave Germany. Which is a crying shame — they are to die for. Makes the chard most people drink seem like crap. Like,when was the last time you saw, or for most people even heard, of Franken riesling — dry or off? Again, I’m told there is no market here. Sounds like marketing. I think its time to change that, don’t you?

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