By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
Every year my Cabernet tastings bring a surprise. This year it seems to be a statement of moderation. The wines are balanced and well structured with less of the expected toasty oak dominance and ultra ripe fruit. The best wines still have enough oak built in to the structure to add spice and nuance, but not so much to create the impression of “two-by-four in a bottle.”
The best defense at your dinner table for big wines or big-n-oaky wines is sitting out on your deck or in your garage. Grilling meat adds flavor nuances that mingle well with toasty oak flavors. Chef Ted keeps his Weber gas grill under cover on the deck where he can put a good sear on any meat year ‘round. Charcoal cooking is less fun in inclement weather, but you can add a smoky nuance to gas cookery by adding alder or hickory chips over the fire.
L’Ecole No 41 Winery
Marty Clubb and his team of winemakers show the ultimate skill and local knowledge in crafting this wine from grapes grown at the legendary Pepper Bridge Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. A challenging growing season finished with a welcomed Indian summer, enabling the crew to create this exemplary bottling which finished a unanimous first in this week’s judging. New World ripeness is tamed into Old World refinement with aromas and flavors of dark fruits and cassis, perfume of violets and lavender, complex nuances of spice, vanilla and anise, and a finish of light caramel and blackberry. (56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc)
The Leonetti Cellar winemaking team is also the winemaking team for Figgins Family Wine Estates, makers of Figgins wines, Toil Oregon wines and the proprietors of Lostine Cattle Company gourmet beef growers. Another top favorite with my tasters, Leonetti’s 2010 Cabernet also shows a superb balance between New World power and Old World balance and structure. Complex aromas of violet, cassis and blackberry lead to lovely flavors of berry and spice with notes of earthy mineral, lilac and vanilla – firm tannins and good acidity for future aging.
“Chi va piano, va sano e va lontano. He who goes slowly goes safely and
goes far. This old Italian saying sums up the Va Piano Vineyards
approach to winemaking, and to life.” This is good advice for those of
us living in the modern world. Winemaker Justin Wylie takes a patient
approach to his winemaking and crafted this delicious wine from the
excellent 2009 vintage. Look for aromas and flavors of cranberry,
blackberry, spicy tobacco, creamy vanilla and a finish of toasty cedar.
Adams Bench Winery
Tim and Erica Blue are professionals in the Seattle area who pursue their love of Cabernet Sauvignon through winemaking at their Adams Bench winery in Woodinville. They source their fruit from prominent vineyards on Red Mountain, the Yakima Valley and the Royal Slope in Washington State. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is an intense, New World-style wine that needs a little breathing time (see last week’s column) but it opens up to offer complex aromas of earthy berry, vanilla, floral perfume and menthol. The palate is very meat-from-the-grill friendly, offering chewy blueberry and peppery spice flavors with notes of lead pencil and toasty oak.
DeLille Cellars Grand Ciel
DeLille Cellars is one of the great success stories of Washington wine in the 1990s and on into the new millennium. Pursuing a love of “complete” Bordeaux-style wines, the winery sources fruit from historic and exceptional vineyard sites as well as from newer plantings in areas with great potential. With the new millennium came the planting of their Grand Ciel Vineyard on Red Mountain. The 2010 vintage is the sixth harvest and is crafted to mature with additional age. Cranberry and cherry mingle with currants, cedar spice and creamy vanilla.
Ron Coleman’s Tamarack Cellars doesn’t often get the big headlines when prominent wine publications trumpet the Walla Walla Valley, but it should. The wines from this small producer are consistently lauded as being balanced and well structured – a blend of the best of New World and Old World winemaking. Tasters will enjoy the wine’s fruity opening with boysenberry and blackberry leading the olfactory parade. The palate adds more serious notes of earthy spice and cocoa over the fruity base. Breathing time expands the complexity of the wine and firm tannins assure a positive future in the cellar.
Pendulum is Precept Wines’ premier Columbia Valley red blend, a mix of Bordeaux varieties with added notes contributed by Syrah and Tempranillo (in the 2011 vintage). This wine is very approachable in both price and character, showing bright blackberry and cherry fruit cocooned in vanilla and toasty oak. It is a New World style that appeals to the modern Washington wine lover.
Rick Trumbull and Ken Hart are experienced viticulturists who turned to winemaking in their home territory of the Walla Walla Valley. The tiny production of the winery comes mostly from vineyards on the east side of Walla Walla. Tulpen’s 2009 Cabernet is dense and intense, showing ripe blueberry and dark fruits with complementary notes of smoky meat, caramel and vanilla. Grill your best beef for this one.
This landmark Washington winery of the 1980s was founded in Prosser, Washington by Mike and Gary Hogue. They enjoyed a great wave of success and the winery employed some of the state’s most notable winemakers in the early years. The winery is now internationally owned, but the focus of winemaking continues to show the fruit-forward Columbia Valley character. This plush and juicy reserve Cabernet offers ample notes of vanilla and caramel wrapping an attractive core of dark cherry and plum with a soft finish.
Ginkgo Forest Winery
This winery on Washington State’s Wahluke Slope continues to gain new fans for its interesting wines of good value. The winery owner and winemaker Mike Thiede farms two vineyards in the AVA and makes a wide selection of red wines from Bordeaux and Rhone varietals. The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon shows aromas and flavors of cranberry and cherry with notes of mint and toasty oak.
This 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon is Thurston Wolfe’s sixth dedication to Stan Clarke, renowned Washington State viticulturist, teacher and mentor to students of all ages. Stan’s favorite wine was Cabernet Sauvignon, and he enjoyed meats from the grill. With lamb chops, our tasters found this wine a perfect accompaniment showing aromas and flavors of plum, cassis, cherry candy and vanilla, with notes of earthy mineral and tobacco.
Browne Family Vineyards
This wine doesn’t have too much Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, but it
is a damn fine Right Bank Bordeaux-style blend, and it is a shame not to
let you know about it. This is the wine that Precept Wine CEO Andrew
Browne dedicates to his family. Look for aromas and flavors of cherry,
plum, more cherry, baking spice, toasty oak, cocoa and dusty tannins on
the finish - great with grilled meats, or pasta with hearty sauces. (58%
Merlot, 23% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Syrah)
Scott and Krisell Steingraber grow grapes and make wine along the Rogue River at their family vineyard in Southern Oregon. Their elegant tasting room with a panoramic view makes for a lovely visit at any time of year. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon offers complex aromas of cranberry and strawberry with hints of violets, vanilla and toasty cedar. The lip-smacking palate rewards a sip with flavors of cherry, juicy plum, dried herbs and vanilla.
Jeff and Sheila Jirka are having too much fun making wine and new friends. This is the result of fulfilling a retirement dream of starting their own winery just over five years ago and locating in Woodinville, Washington. They source grapes from excellent vineyards in the Columbia Valley to make their wines including this Bordeaux-style blend. Earthy plum, candy cherry and baking spices lead the nose into the glass, and a taste reveals juicy black cherry and red fruit flavors finishing with rich cassis, toast and supple tannins.
Wines from other areas:
Louis M. Martini Winery
When us old timers start talking about wine drinking in the good ol’ days, one name that always comes up is Louis Martini Winery. These wines were lined up on the grocery store shelves, and every bottle was a taste adventure to accompany hamburgers, pizza or more fancy fare. Back in the day, the price of today’s featured wine would have paid my monthly rent, but today it is the taste of refinement in the Old World style. On the nose, look for toasty oak wrapped around boysenberry and vanilla. On the palate, you’ll discover flavors of red and black fruits mingling with mineral and smoky cedar – just right to pair with steak from the grill. By the way, the Monte Rosso Vineyard in the Mayacamas Mountains has been owned by the Louis M. Martini Winery since 1938.
Just as Paul Hogan exhorts high living Americans to “put another shrimp on the barbi,” so too might rural South Africans encourage hospitality by “putting another Kudu steak on the braai” (antelope on the barbecue). We didn’t have any antelope, but beef worked just as well, and the tasters went wild for Ernie Els Cabernet. This wine shows the vegi side of Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of green olive and herbs and ample cherry and cassis to create a fine and complex red wine.
Conn Creek Winery
Conn Creek Winery was founded in the early 1970s and was among a small group of wineries leading a renaissance in the Napa Valley. Founders Bill and Kathy Collins were devotees of Bordeaux red wines and from the beginning focused the winery’s direction on Cabernet Sauvignon and blends. This medium-bodied wine offers bright aromas of red currant and cranberry with notes of vanilla and dusty mineral. The palate adds Napa mint and toasty cedar to the mix with moderately firm tannins.
Robert Mondavi Winery
late Robert Mondavi described the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from his To
Kalon vineyard as being, “as silky as a baby’s bottom, as powerful as
the voice of Pavarotti.” I’m not sure that “baby’s bottom” should be
part of the ongoing lexicon of wine writing, but metaphor and hyperbole
are to each his own. Look for aromas and flavors of ripe cherry and
plum with complex nuances of green olive, herbs, baking spice and toasty
# # Copyright
February, 2014 Chuck Hill
February, 2014 Chuck Hill