September Virtual Tasting - Tamarack Firehouse Red 2006

Tamarack Cellars was founded in 1998 by Ron and Jamie Coleman. The winery is located in an old World War II firehouse – hence the name of the Firehouse Red – in the airport region in Walla Walla, Washington. Tamarack is growing to be one of the larger producers in the Walla Walla AVA, producing over 11,000 cases in the 2005 vintage. The Firehouse Red accounts for over half of the total production.

When I initially wrote about the Tamarack Firehouse Red as September’s Virtual Tasting wine, I referred to it as a “kitchen sink” wine. This is a bit of a disservice to winemaker Ron Coleman’s extraordinary blending skills. Let’s take a look at what’s in the 2006 Firehouse Red:

34% Cabernet Sauvignon (9% Horse Heaven Hills; 8% Rattlesnake Hills; 6% Wahluke Slope; 4% Red Mountain; 4% Columbia Valley; 3% Walla Walla Valley)

30% Syrah
(16% Columbia Valley, 5% Horse Heaven Hills, 5% Wahluke Slope, 2% Walla Walla Valley)

21% Merlot
(12% Columbia Valley, 6% Walla Walla Valley, 3% Rattlesnake Hills)

8% Cabernet Franc
(4% Columbia Valley,2% Walla Walla Valley,2% Horse Heaven Hills,1% Rattlesnake Hills)

3% Sangiovese:
Columbia Valley

2% Carmenere:
Walla Walla Valley

2% Malbec:
Columbia Valley

That is staggering minimum of twenty different vineyard and varietal sources! Now anyone can throw a whole lot of grapes together, but to do it consistently with such excellent results is a tribute to Coleman’s abilities.

Note, the percentages beneath the varietals are the contribution to the wine as a whole, i.e. Cab Franc from Columbia Valley composes 4% of the total wine.

The 2006 Firehouse Red was aged in French, American, and Hungarian oak for 16 months. The Hungarian oak contributes nicely to the spiciness of this wine.

We'll do it all again next month. If you would like to suggest a wine, please send a comment or drop me an email.







Tamarack Firehouse Red 2006

A big nose with lots of spice – cinnamon perhaps? - black fruit, and chocolate. The chocolate on the nose, which becomes predominant as the wine opens up, is reminiscent of Walla Walla Vintner’s style. Bittersweet chocolate on the taste and a tactile feel to the tannins. The wine opens up nicely on the palate and finish. An excellent effort. 13.92% alcohol. 6302 cases produced. Sampled at 62 degrees.


Sean P. Sullivan


  1. Nose - Smokey, blackberry and white pepper. Hints of chocolate at first, coming on very strong after the bottle is open for a while.
    Taste - Great mid-palate. Nice, easy, but mellowing finish.
    Overall - Overall I think this is a super wine for the money. Definitely beats out the L'ecole Recess Red from last month. More complex, changes on the nose, and lasts a long time on the palate. I expect an even better recommendation next month!

  2. Here is what Wine Spectator had to say, giving the wine an 87:

    Firm in texture, and a bit chunky, with cherry and spice flavors that remain solid through the finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and others. Best from 2009 through 2012. 6,302 cases made. –HS