It’s Election Day for the U.S. with the nationally observed Veterans’ Day holiday this coming weekend, and Winetraveler wants to share a special story and wine honoring U.S. Veterans and first responders. Last week, we introduced you to Mercer Estates and their commitment to community and family. Not surprisingly, that spirit extends well beyond the tasting room in Prosser, beyond the hills of Horse Heaven and beyond the valleys of the Columbia River. Service is an important thread in the Mercer family fabric with many generations of Mercer’s having served in the U.S. Military both in the states and abroad. They understand the commitment and sacrifices made by not only those that serve, but of the families that hold them dear; and giving back to those protecting all our communities is part of the family mission.
September 11, 2001
The date above speaks for itself. Those of us old enough to remember the events of that day are forever changed, but none more so than those personally impacted by the tragedies. Such was the case for the Mercer Estates’ family when United Flight 93 went down carrying Richard Guadagno. Richard, best friend to Mercer Estates’ Head of Viticulture John Derrick, was among the passengers who fought and died that day after the plane went down in a Pennsylvania field.
Upon learning of the days’ events, Rob Mercer, owner of Mercer Estates, like many other brave Americans across the country, reenlisted to serve. Previously a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1990’s, there was no question in Rob’s mind this was something he must do. Rob returned to active duty, leaving his wife and three very young children to serve in Afghanistan for another two years. Fortunately, Rob returned home safely. Upon doing so, he and John set to work on planting a special vineyard – Block 93.
Block 93 lies atop the serene expanse of the Horse Heaven Hills within the Cavalie Vineyard. The largest of Mercer Estates’ vineyard sites, Block 93 lies at the northwest corner of the family property and is planted with the king of all wine grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard, a living memorial to Richard Guadagno and all those lost on September 11, 2001, is planted with 911 vines. Forty of the vines were hand-planted in honor of each of the passengers and crew lost on United Flight 93.
In 2012, Mercer Estates harvested its inaugural vintage of the aptly named Eagle & Plow, Block 93, Cabernet Sauvignon. Not only are 100% of the grapes from Block 93 devoted to the Eagle & Plow wine, but 100% of the wine’s proceeds are then donated to charities serving American servicemen and women, their families, survivors of tragic events, and first responders. In 2014, within months of its release, nearly $12,000 from Eagle & Plow sales was donated to the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, Camp Patriot, Friends of Flight 93 and the New England Center for Homeless Veterans. As of last year, the Eagle & Plow project had donated more than $108,000 in both wine and cash donations.
Eagle & Plow, Block 93, Cabernet Sauvignon
Eagle & Plow wines so-named for patriotism and hard work – qualities that Mercer Estates strives to achieve, are a beautiful expression of Washington Cabernet Sauvignon from the Horse Heaven Hills. The 2014 varietal was described by the Mercers as a wine with “notes of ripe red cherries with a bright, lively mouthfeel that is balanced by sweet, dusty tannins. A veil of smoky char brings warmth. This wine is balanced and elegant with a powerful grace that ensures its aging potential for many years.”
The grapes for the above described 2014 vintage were double sorted, first in the vineyard with the selective harvest, then again at the winery on sorting table. The fruit was not crushed to better preserve as much whole-berry as possible before fermentation in an oak upright tank with twice daily punch downs. After fermentation, the wine was racked into four new French oak and three older French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation. The wine was then aged in those barrels for 18 months before being blended together. It is a wine that undergoes great care and one that is released with significant honor.
Fortunately for Winetravelers, the Eagle & Plow wine is available both in Mercer Estates’ two tasting rooms (Prosser and Seattle) as well as online. Great wine for a great cause.
(Winetraveler Tip: If there is a U.S. military, veteran or first responder charity you would like to support through your wine purchase, let the Mercer team know when placing your order and 100% of the proceeds of your purchase will go directly to the charity of your choosing.)
Thank you to the Mercers for their service, philanthropy and for sharing the Eagle & Plow story with Winetraveler. And thank you to all the U.S. service men and women, Veterans and first responders that serve or have served the country. This week we raise our glasses of Eagle & Plow to you.