"You take North Grand out of town. Turn at the last stoplight, you know, the one that leads towards the engineering lab. Drive around the bend, through some wheat fields, and you'll find it," I overhead the clerk tell my friend Kyle as I was browsing through the shop. We were at the Old Post Office wine shop in Pullman, Washington, having recovered from a Ludacris concert at Beasley Coliseum the night before. By the way, if you'd like to be hip the kids call him "Luda". We knew there was wine in them there hills, and we were on a mission to find it. Stat.
Merry Cellars was the destination du jour, a winery that we were all tangentially familiar with from our time living in Pullman. Back in my day, Merry Cellars was located at the Old Post Office, so you could understand the confusion when we walked through the door and found a wine shop and production brewpub but no winery tasting room. Unfazed and armed with directions, we hopped back in the car and headed to the other side of town...all of a 5 minute drive...to find the man they call Merry and drink his wine.
Founded in 2004, Merry Cellars seeks to craft age worthy and approachable wines, those which are elegant yet casual enough to serve at the family dinner table. Winemaker and owner Patrick Merry finds a sense of place in his wine, capturing the essence of the Palouse region through small lot productions. The winery uses a minimalist, hand-crafted approach through the entire wine-making process, and as we were soon to discover, produces some outstanding wines from varietals that are relatively rare but up and coming in Eastern Washington. And talk about fruit! Sourcing from some of the finer vineyards in Walla Walla and Columbia Valley, most of the wines in the Merry Cellars portfolio are backed with Les Collines, Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, Stillwater Creek, Stone Ridge, and Echo West offerings.
We turned at the last stoplight, you know, the one that leads to the engineering lab. We drove around the bend and through some wheat fields, and there it was. In an otherwise unassuming building, with simply some sandwich boards announcing it's presence stood what was to be the start of a great afternoon of wine tasting. We walked through the door, a rag-tag group consisting of Rick and myself, blog regulars Alyssa and Kyle, and my brother Chris. Immediately we were greeted with a smile and some glasses by Joe, a relative newcomer to the Merry Cellars family but certainly an asset to the tasting room, and Bruno, the Merry Cellars puppy. At 12-weeks old and adding an incredibly cute and cuddly attribute to our experience, Bruno was conked out on a pillow in the corner of the tasting room after reportedly lapping up spilled Carmenere off of the floor. I'd guess we tasted 6 or 7 wines, although my notes are sketchy in that arena. In fact, they don't exist so I'm going to profile a few wines that stuck out among the crowd and we'll go from there:
2008 Crimson: Merry Cellar's interpretation of a Bordeaux blend, the Crimson brings about 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the balance in Cab Franc to the table. Smoky and masculine as described by the winery, this one has long been Kyle's favorite Merry wine.
2008 Carmenere: This one was a nice surprise to our group, many who were completely unfamiliar with Carmenere as a varietal. Entirely from Seven Hills Vineyard, spice and pepper was evident on the nose but we found a very well-balance wine on the palate. Yum.
2007 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Merlot: This is the one that I took home and for good reason. A deep, rich, but moderately tannic wine, the merlot has been critically acclaimed by everyone and their brother. It's classic Columbia Valley, delicious every time. In fact, my brother did enjoy it.
After tasting through, Joe asked if we were interested in seeing the back room as they were in the process of bottling. Never ones to turn down back room tours or back door deals, we were in. He led us through a gorgeous barrel room, which is available for events by the way, to the bottling line. When I say bottling line I mean a group of Merry Cellar's closest friends hand bottling each and every drop of the wine with care and attention to detail. It's definitely cool to see.
Merry Cellars is one of those places that is a bit off of the beaten path, well at least in Pullman terms, so really not much. Firmly planted in a college community, they have a phenomenal opportunity to help in our mission of making wine more approachable to the next generation, and the winery is a great place to spend a hot Palouse summer afternoon sipping wine on the their patio. There's also a puppy.