This wine had Triple Crown written all over it

14 Hands Kentucky Derby Limited Reserve red blend is a wire-to-wire winner.
14 Hands Kentucky Derby Limited Reserve red blend is a wire-to-wire winner.

When American Pharaoh clinched horseracing’s Triple Crown at Belmont Park two weeks ago, I was overjoyed for two reasons. First, the Sport of Kings had its first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed accomplished the endurance feat 37 years ago. Second, it confirmed my belief that something good was going to happen when I purchased four limited edition bottles of 14 Hands Winery’s Kentucky Derby red blend in May.
For 14 Hands, it was a pretty sharp promotion. The Washington State winery took advantage of the hype surrounding the Kentucky Derby, where any number of eight thoroughbreds entered in the May 9 race had the potential to become a star.
The label on the limited reserve bottling is slick and powerful, showing two horses and their jockeys fighting for the lead at the fabled Churchill Downs track. Like its other distinctive wine labels, which features wild mustangs running free on the range, their shiny manes whipping in the wind, the Kentucky Derby bottle is a classic. Just above the race’s name is a gold horseshoe, with the U-shaped insignia surrounding a gold rose in the center. The rose is synonymous with the Kentucky Derby, where the winner is “crowned” with a blanket of red roses.
But it’s what inside that counts, right? 14 Hands is a quality, cost-conscious winery, turning out tens of thousands of cases annually at inexpensive prices. And the Kentucky Derby red blend is no different.
I bought four bottles and drank one with the Wine Goddess after American Pharaoh’s historic Belmont victory. It’s a juicy, smooth Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that delivers on cherry and blueberry flavors. The best part is that it costs $12.99. The 2012 vintage is drinking excellently now, and there is also a 2013 Kentucky Derby bottling but I have not been able to track it down in these parts. Let me know if you can find one.
I’ll be visiting the 14 Hands in Prosser, WA., when I take my annual wine-information gathering trip out west in the coming weeks. The winery is located halfway between the four-hour ride from Seattle to Walla Walla, which is my final destination.
Several friends are coming along this year, and we’ve made an ambitious itinerary of Washington State wineries to visit, including Drew Bledsoe’s Doubleback. I’m excitied. According to Bledsoe, the 2013 and 2014 vintages are considered exceptional, and the former New England Patriots’ star turned winemaker says he’ll be offering tastings of his premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah right from the barrel. Watch for my Washington State report in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, may the fastest horse — and tastiest wine — be with you!