Earlier this week I wrote about my recent trip to Prosser, one of the many great wine locales in Washington State. One of the wineries that I visited while I was out there was Mercer Estates, which is the result of a collaboration between two great Washington wine families, the Mercers and the Hogues.
When Mike Hogue sold Hogue Cellars in 2001, he continued to be involved in the production of fruit for Hogue wines. In 2005 his daughter approached him about pursuing a partnership with the Mercer family, a respected farming family who have been growing grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills since the early 70s. Not many people are able to pursue starting one winery in their life time, and Mercer Estates has offered Mike a unique opportunity to start from the ground up again, although the signs of Hogue's previous success and experience are all around the winery.
The winery equipment is state of the art, with equipment that would be the envy of some larger wineries. The facility has the feel of a much larger winery, and yet maintains the advantages of being a family owned winery. Winemaker David Forsyth, who also spent time as the winemaker at Hogue, has had the opportunity to go back to the "simplicity of family winemaking", getting his hands dirty with the daily wine work. The size of the winery will doubtless grow over the coming years, as they are currently producing 20,000 cases a year for the Mercer label, and have the capacity to produce closer to 65,000. The goal of the project is to get to a point where Mercer can represent Washington wine nationally, as a family owned winery. So far the plan seems to be on the right track, as the wines that I tasted were all great values, priced below comparable wines from many of the family owned labels around the state.
Mercer Estates features a great mixture of whites and reds. The estate fruit for the whites are primarily produced by the Hogue side of the partnership, while the reds are mostly made up of fruit from the Mercers. Currently the winery is using about 40% estate fruit, while 60% is sourced. Current offerings from Mercer include a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Riesling on the white side, and Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Syrah that is a smaller production wine . The common theme that I found between the wines was that they are all made in a very food friendly style. None of the wines were over-oaked, and the most expensive wine comes in at about $30.
The Mercer Estates tasting room has been open for about two years, and is a lovely modern building that is inviting and comfortable. The tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 10am to 5pm. If you are in the Prosser area tomorrow (Friday, October 29th, 2010), stop by for the Washington Syrah tweetup that they are hosting at 6:00pm. Thanks to Hospitality Manager Jenna Hannan for hosting this event. It is going to be a fun time with some great wines.
If you would like to see more photos from Mercer Estates, check them out on my Facebook page here.