In This Issue

 How now, quick fade
We return to Washington State for a quick look at another wacky "Holy Cow" wine. This one's a Merlot, delicious with dinner, but it loves you and leaves you.
 Charles Smith Wines 2006 "Holy Cow" Columbia Valley Merlot ($12.99)
The wine maker declares it "tasty as hell," and I can't disagree, when the bottle is opened. But it fades as fast as a burglar fleeing the scene of a crime.
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This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Friday, Feb. 1, 2008 and can be found at

How now, quick fade

So I'm waiting in line for my latte at the corner coffee shop, and I run into my buddy John Johnson, the wine-savvy owner of my neighborhood wine shop, The Wine Rack.

He looked at me out of the corner of his eye and said, "Psst!"


"I see you liked the Holy Cow Chardonnay," he said. "Have you tried their Merlot?"

"Not yet," I said, "but I expect I'm about to."

And so it was. Coffeed up, we went to his wine shop next door, I said "Cow me," paid up, and walked out with a bottle of Merlot bearing a simple drawing of a Holstein dairy cow on the label, a mirror image of the bovine that adorned the Chardonnay reported in Wednesday's edition. Same label, same price, $12.99 cheap, and Johnson assured me that I would like it.

I had a vegetarian repast planned, a spinach-and-mushroom risotto with lots of tangy Pecorino cheese, and I figured its bold flavors would be enough to stand up to a presumably lighter-style red, so I uncorked it - or, rather, unscrewed it - with dinner.

Not bad! Not bad at all. On the Website that Holy Cow shares with its parent winery, Washington State's K Vintners, wine maker Charles Smith exults, "smooth as velvet, TASTY AS HELL!" I can't say I disagree with him about that, and would add that it's, well, a hell of a value.

Like the Holy Cow Chardonnay, it's almost more Old World in style than new, breathing ripe cherry aromas with good, earthy undertones and a solid core of lip-smacking acidity and smooth tannins. That's my kind of dinner red, and at just a buck or two over $10, it's mighty hard not to like.

But now let's turn to Page Two: I figured that I'd save half of the wine overnight to try with a more carnivorous dinner of local grass-fed rib eye steaks the next day.

Unfortunately, it loved me and left me. Reopened after only 24 hours at room temperature in the re-capped bottle, it had faded as fast as a burglar fleeing the scene of a crime. The cherry fruit had fled, leaving behind a thin, oaky beverage. Oak? I hadn't even picked up on much wood character on Day One.

What's up with that? Apparently the wine is vinified to show seductively appealing fruit up front, but it's no keeper. Still, while I've often preached that wine deteriorates quickly once the bottle has been opened, I don't usually expect it to go downhill that fast after only one night. If any of you have similar experiences to report - or better yet, serious theories as to what might have happened here, I'd enjoy hearing them. To join a conversation on this topic, just click to our online forum, the WineLovers Discussion Group, where you'll find this column posted and ready for replies at

Charles Smith Wines 2006 "Holy Cow" Columbia Valley Merlot ($12.99)

Dark ruby, reddish-violet glints. Ripe aromas of tart red cherries and a whiff of smoke. The wine maker's Web notes suggest "pipe tobacco," and I can see that, maybe, if we're thinking in terms of that cherry-scented smoke that was the rage back in the '70s. Excellent sour-cherry fruit and subtle earth, very well structured with mouth-watering acidity and soft but perceptible tannins. (Jan. 30, 2008)

FOOD MATCH: It made a surprisingly good red-wine match with a vegetarian risotto with mushrooms, fresh spinach and Pecorino Romano cheese. I had hoped to try it on a second night with a more traditional match of rare rib eye steak, but the wine didn't hang around long enough for me to find out.

VALUE: The lower teens price tag is a no-brainer for a well-structured Merlot that's good bordering on excellent, but the value diminishes if you're planning to keep it more than one night.

WHEN TO DRINK: The wine's remarkably quick fade in the open bottle makes me dubious about holding it for any extended period. Drink up!

You'll find brief information about the winery and its wines on the K Vintners Website:

Visit the winery Website for online sales; check prices and find vendors for Charles Smith's "Holy Cow" Merlot on

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