RECOMMENDED: 14 Hands 2009 “Hot to Trot” red blend (“red varieties including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petit Verdot”), Washington state. Alcohol 13.5% ABV. $11; available for as little as $7.99.

In honor of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup series of races at Churchill Downs, we are reviewing one more horsey wine and celebrating the centuries-old great global tradition of horse racing.

Back in the day, people expressed the measurement of a horse’s height via “hands,” one hand being the width of one’s palm and equivalent to about four inches. It was, of course, an approximation.

These days, horses’ heights are still expressed in the measurement called “hands,” but today one hand is precisely four inches. In fact, a good horse-measuring stick comes with a leveling bubble to ensure that it is plumb, and it comes with the recommendation that the horse be measured on a precisely flat and plumb surface. Furthermore, when an equine is on the cusp between pony/large-pony or large-pony/horse, and it matters for competition or sale purposes to the owner, the farrier can leave a little height on the heel during a trim, shave off some of the heel, or adjust the height of the horseshoe if the horse is shod.

Like most things and creatures, equines come in three sizes: small, mid-size, and large. Small ponies are 12-and-a-half hands (expressed as 12.2, or 12 hands plus two inches) or smaller; large ponies are in the middle; and an equine 14-and-a-half hands (14.2) or larger is a horse.

The reason for all this background, which admittedly has little to do with the actual wine, is tied into the winery’s WEB NOTES: The inspiration for 14 Hands wines recalls a time when wild mustangs once freely roamed the hills of eastern Washington State. These small horses, measuring a scant 14 hands high … would travel down from the hills every day to drink from the mighty Columbia River and graze upon the luscious waist high grasses along the riverbank, and then retreat back up into the hills to cool off at night. Strong and tenacious, these little horses became known for their endurance and were revered around the world. This unique and beautiful landscape that gave these unbridled horses their spirit and tenacity now feeds our vines. With loamy-sand and gravel soils, these hills require a strong and determined grapevine, and our 14 Hands vines revel in this unique and world class terroir. With the fruit from these tenacious vines, 14 Hands wines are handcrafted into big, bold, juicy fruit forward reds and crisp, fruit forward white wines that are laced with the unbridled spirit and legend of the region. 14 Hands celebrates the spirit of these wild horses, and the rich and unique history of Washington wines not only in our wines, but also in the vibrant colors and images on our popular varietal labels and our new Hot to Trot red and white blend wines.

Okay! On to the wine.

COLOR: Rich, dark garnet.
NOSE: Aromatic. Cherries, molasses at first; spices, pipe tobacco; oaky and complex.
MOUTHFEEL: Thick and chewy.
TASTE: Cloves, mocha, oak, big black fruit. An elusive sweet quality—evident, and then absent. Hmm. Hide and go seek.
FINISH: Slightly spicy on the finish, which is, oddly, at the middle of the palate.

Some wines are serious and austere. While they can be interesting, it takes some effort to think about them and to consider and write about their complexities.

Besides just reporting on the sensory impressions of a wine, I like to write about the emotional impressions, too. After all, emotion and relationships are two reasons we so enjoy the magic of wine. This one is a happy wine. It has complexity and interesting features, but it’s more like listening to a layered and imaginative Beatles song rather than a layered and imaginative madrigal. The “14-hands” large pony is a good description—it’s strong and individual, like most equines, but playful and a little mischevious, just like a large pony.

LABEL NOTES: Born from the starkly beautiful hills of Washington state, 14 Hands Hot to Trot red blend is named for the unbridled spirit of the wild horses that once frolicked there. Right out of the gate, this smooth and easy drinking red wine immediately piques your interest with its enticing ruby color. Your nose is drawn to the generous aromas of ripe red berries and dark stone fruits. At first sip these fleshy flavors gallop across your tongue in perfect harmony, balanced by soft and velvety tannins, and finish with just a hint of mocha.

Located in Paterson, WA, 14 Hands is a subsidiary of Columbia Crest Winery, as is Red Diamond (see our review of their 2007 Shiraz, http://www.thefrugalwinesnob.com/?p=159).

Grapes were sourced from vineyards throughout Washington state, including the Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, Wahluke Slope,
and Yakima Valley.

WINEMAKER’S NOTES: This Washington state red blend opens with generous aromas of crème de cassis and sweet blackberries. Fleshy, dark fruit flavors are joined by notes of wild huckleberries and a subtle pie crust nuance. Balanced by soft and velvety tannins, this smooth, easy drinking wine finishes with hints of toast and mocha. ~ Keith Kenison, Winemaker

LABEL ARTIST: Cynthia Cynthia Sampson is an award-winning representational colorist who specializes in brightly colored pastel and acrylic animal paintings. Through Cynthia’s imagination she gives viewers a glimpse into her world to spark their own creative journeys. She uses color to express the excitement and wonder she feels when she looks at life. Visit www.zebrajazzstudio.com

WEB: www.14hands.com

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7 Responses to RECOMMENDED: 14 Hands 2009 “Hot to Trot” red blend (“red varieties including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petit Verdot”), Washington state. Alcohol 13.5% ABV. $11; available for as little as $7.99.

  1. Sam says:

    Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Linda B. says:

    This has become our “house pour” and is very much admired by our guests. Bring it to a party and it’ll go empty immediately. Nice to find affordable value.

  3. L. Bryan says:

    A good sipping wine; don’t need a meal. We’ve begun bringing this to parties because the host is flattered and it’s the first bottle that gets emptied by the crowd.

  4. Jon Rogers says:

    I recently tasted their 2010 Merlot. It’s a blend of 78% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Syrah, 1% Grenache and 1% Cabernet Franc. Also a Go-To candidate in my opinion.

    Cheers!

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