Now-iconic Washington State winemaker Chris Comarda founded Andrew Will. The venture started in 1989 with a tiny (600 square feet) winemaking facility in Seattle and then moved to its current location at Comarda’s countryside house—there’s no more family-run than that! Andrew Will specializes in European-style blends and single varietal bottling's of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, producing around 5500 cases of wine annually.
Chris has now been joined by his son Will (hence the name) in winemaking. The emphasis is on single-vineyard expressions (not expression). Thus various wines—both single-varietal and blends—are made from a single vineyard’s fruit, allowing for intriguingly different tastings of wine from a single place and a single vintage, but distinctly blended and produced. “Chris Camarda has been labeling his wines with the vineyard name on the front label to establish a sense of place from the different vineyards across Washington State” states the winery. “We believe that each vineyard that we work with has unique attributes that set them apart from each other.” Most of the wines feature a vineyard name, like Champoux (pronounced “shampoo”) and Two Blonds consistently produced vintage after vintage.
Comarda is well regarded for his Bordeaux blends, and he strongly believes in the potential of Washington State Merlot (alongside Cabernet Sauvignon). These are serious wines intended for appreciation of style, fruit, and the winemaker’s intention as well as comparison with European counterparts, like Bordeaux reds. Andrew Will wines have received substantial acclaims from critics over decades, and as his winemaking is about expressing the fruit from a particular place, he’s not obscuring terroir.
Two great examples are the 2015 Andrew Will Two Blondes Vineyard Red and the 2018 Andrew Will Columbia Valley Champoux Merlot. The latter was made from grapes from the eponymous vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA; only 638 cases of this blend of 33% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec were released. Comarda notes: “This blend is unique because we used only French Clone varieties for the Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. We grow multiple clones of each varietal and we think that these specific clones show off the most complexity and depth.” Two Blondes is located in Zillah Washington, with the name coming from Comarda’s late wife and his vineyard partner’s wife, also blond, who used to work together there. The vineyard was planted in 2000 to the same varieties in this wine, which features blackberries, mint, and cassis on the nose, with some spice; and blueberry and cassis flavors on the palate in an opulent yet structured style. “It's the finest version of this cuvee I've tasted,” said critic Jeb Dunnuck.
The Champoux Vineyard lies five miles from the Columbia River in the Horse Heaven Hills in the Columbia Valley AVA with sandy loam soils and nearly-constant winds, which can be good for vine health, though they may disrupt flowering. Comarda says: “In 2017 we decided that the merlot from Champoux has long been established and that we should recognize that on the bottle. Hence the creation of a full new line-up of single vineyard wines featuring our signature grapes. The 2018 is our second vintage of this wine and is already drinking like a true Washington State Merlot.” Only about 245 cases were produced. This wine got 91 points from Wine Advocate, noting its food friendliness: “ripe fruit flavors of plum, black cherry and dusty purple flowers with hints of brown baking spices.”
Find both of these superb wines at Bottle Barn Online Store, with shipping available across the USA, fast and easy.
Written By: Charlie Leary