2012 Syrah “Red Willow Vineyard” Columbia Valley – MTA Only
This is a wine that I don’t honestly know how to describe. I don’t have words. I have had a bottle open at the house for three days so far. On day three, it tastes like the most intense black raspberry dropped in gravel dust. It’s focused and intense, like the Big Bang singularity at the mid-palate. It’s more intense than any Syrah that I can remember in our cellar. I imagine this is what very old vine Hermitage tastes like right after harvest. Don’t worry, I’ll clean up that name I dropped on the floor.
This is our first ode to Red Willow. We could have made a single vineyard Red Willow wine in 2010 and 2011, but we wanted our first effort to be legendary. Red Willow is where Washington Syrah all started in 1983. We wanted the first bottling to be legendary. Even Kayne would say this wine is better than Beyonce’s wine.
Brandon and I are very satisfied with this wine. The biggest issue is that we only made 90 or so cases. He and I will most likely drink less than six bottles of it total. It’s all out to the club. No reserve in the cellar. Isn’t that how it always goes?
In the immortal words of David Lee Roth, “Somebody said Fair Warning.” That somebody is me. This wine is locked up tight. It’s backward. It will take a week on the counter to open. But not because of the tannin. It’s tannic, but the tannins are integrated. The fruit on this wine is so intense that it’s almost primal. It dominates the wine. Secondary flavors will emerge, but it will take a long time. It is a 20-year wine.
Also Fair Warning, if you open this wine the day the shipment arrives and write a cellartracker review, Brandon is coming to your house John Cusack, Say Anything style. He’s going to stand in front of your house, playing the Soundtrack to Frozen and Taylor Swift’s latest. They still sell those boom boxes at the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater Wal-Mart. It’s no skin off his back to stand there all day and night as he just had his first daughter and isn’t sleeping. And he is going to hear these albums a million times in a few years – over and over and over. He may ever throw in a One Direction album. You have been warned. Ok – if you really have to try it early, seriously, open and leave on the counter for 3 days at least.
Drinking window: Wait at least two years to open, drinkable in 8, best in 20 years. If you can’t wait, open for at least three days before drinking.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Pepper Bridge Vineyard” Walla Walla – MTA Only
If we have realized one thing about 2012, it is that it is a phenomenal Cabernet year. Even last night, when we were tasting and evaluating all the wines for this write-up, the bottle of Cabernet disappeared first. Pam drank most of it by herself. Pepper Bridge is a vineyard that excels in warm vintages. In cooler vintages, it can be a bit lean with green overtones. It was near perfect in 2012; no green and the textbook definition of Cabernet. Everything that we are seeking in Walla Walla Cabernet. When the Cabernet came in the door, we were so impressed with it that we left it in tank post fermentation for almost 40 days. Extended maceration creates very fine tannins and intensity in the wine. To complement the Cabernet, we blended in a bit of Loess Merlot, which is owned and farmed by the Figgins Family. We started working with the Loess block in 2012. Very special Merlot indeed.
We think that 2012 could be our best Cabernet vintage to date. In the Fall with the John Lewis release, we will introduce a Reserve Cabernet. It’s absolutely incredible. And the Pepper Bridge MTA wine is a fantastic addition to the 2012 Cab class.
Drinking Window: Release – 15 years Its pretty tasty now.
2012 Syrah “Lagniappe” Columbia Valley
It all came together in 2012 for our Lagniappe Cuvee. A perfect vintage and world class fruit. (Read below to see who joined the party in 2012.) We continued to be amazed at Red Willow. It is simply world class. In terms of style, its more Hermitage, with Les Collines being more Cornas like. The fruit is brighter, crisper, more red focused. This is what Jeb Dunnuck had to say about the wine:
“A wine that blew me away, the 2012 Syrah Lagniappe is blockbuster stuff that needs to be tasted to be believed. Medium to full-bodied, tight, concentrated and focused, it offers thrilling Syrah character with notions of pepper, mineral, earth and pure blackberry styled fruit. Given the purity of fruit and high-quality tannin, it should be relatively accessible on release, yet benefit from 2-3 years of cellaring and have two decades or so of longevity.“ Jeb Dunnuck The Wine Advocate (95-97)
If you remember, in 2011, we blended Red Willow with SJR in the rocks area of Walla Walla and Olsen near Benton City. In 2012, we stayed very near Yakima and the Red Willow Vineyard, blending in with equal parts of Oldfield and Minick. Minick is a workhorse vineyard for us, bringing freshness and acidity. Oldfield is a new name, but the pedigree fantastic. Oldfield is a five-acre vineyard owned by Efeste Winery. However, the magic of the vineyard is that it is contiguous with the famed Boushey Vineyard and managed by the man himself. While only a few years old, this will soon be a very famous Washington Syrah Vineyard.
Flash-forward to the 2014 vintage – wait until you taste Red Willow out of a concrete fermenter. And when we say concrete, we don’t mean eggs. Those are for Easter or omelets. We mean 10,000 lb, 1500 gallon rectangular solid masses of mineral intensity.
This wine was fermented 80% on stems and aged in a mix of older 225L and 500L puncheons for 18 months. 576 cases.
Drinking window: Wait a year to open, best in 5, up to 15
2012 Mourvedre “L’Idiot du Village” Columbia Valley
Wow, were we surprised with the 2011 Mourvedre. When Brandon and I make geeky wines, and that wine was geeky, we also expect to look at it for a long time. Well, we didn’t look at it for long. In fact, I think one customer bought so much that we may have to name something significant after him. It was fantastic to see the love for Mourvedre. I’ve been thinking about Mourvedre more and more this year and its place in Washington. Mourvedre is an amazing grape. What just blows us away is its ability to retain red fruit characteristics. Most red varieties in very warm areas will quickly turn to black fruit characteristics. While that can be ok, combined with the intense earthiness and funk, it would quickly become tiring to drink. But plant Mourvedre in a blistering climate, it still stays red fruit. And thus, retains its freshness. Jeb Dunnuck and I share a love of Bandol and Mourvedre. Here are his comments on his visit to the winery last year:
“The 2012 l’Idiot du Village checks in as a blend of 82% Mourvedre, 18% Syrah that spent 23 months in neutral oak. Earth, pepper, meat, underbrush, spice and assorted dark fruits all emerge from the glass and this medium to full-bodied, structured and rich effort has serious mid-palate depth and big structure that comes through on the finish. It will need short-term cellaring, but have 15 years or more of longevity. Jeb Dunnuck The Wine Advocate (91-93)
I have to say, while I appreciate our scores, I don’t always get excited about them. This review got me excited. When Jeb visited Bandol in 2014, his highest scores was a 94 for Tempier’s La Tourtine, a 40-year-old iconic hillside vineyard. This wine, along with the wines of Pibarnon, are my benchmarks for Mourvedre.
The 2011 L’Idiot is 82% Mourvedre and 18% Syrah Alder Ridge and Olsen Vineyards. We destemmed all the fruit and aged the wine for 20 months in old oak. 264 cases.
Drinking window: Wait 3 – 6 months to open, best in 5, up to 15
2012 Tempranillo “Inigo Montoya” Columbia Valley
I’m going to be straightforward about the 2012 Tempranillo. It’s better than the 2008 Tempranillo. Remember, the one we re-released last year? I think the 2012 is a bit more intense. We have been working very hard with Tempranillo, particularity with our estate blocks. Each year, our estate block gets better and better. In fact, in full disclosure, after the 2014 vintage, we will be fully estate grown with this wine. Our estate block has some of the only Spanish clone Tempranillo in the valley, and we want to go that direction. And instead of making 600-700 cases, we will make about 200. But we feel the wine at that point will be even better. We will start to move towards that goal in 2013, when we will have a 2013 Estate Tempranillo MTA wine.
From Jeb Dunnuck:
“Incorporating 15% Syrah, and aged 23 months in 11% new French oak, the 2012 Tempranillo Inigo Montoya shows classic Tempranillo character with its spice, vanilla, cedar and white pepper aromas and flavors that are all supported by a core of black and red fruits. Gaining additional meatiness with air, this medium to full-bodied, pure and layered effort has juicy acidity, fine tannin and superb length. Give it a few years once released, and drink over the following decade or more.” Jeb Dunnuck The Wine Advocate (92-94)
The 2012 Tempranillo is a reversal from the 2010 and 2011. Those vintages took a while to open and be generous. In 2012, we picked later. The wine is much more drinkable now. It’s a more full-bodied wine – ripe, but still has balanced acidity. It’s more Ribera that Rioja, more Jorge Ordonez than Steve Metzler. It’s hedonistic and a guilty indulgence without being gross. And best of all, besides maybe a bit of oak showing through, it’s ready to drink. The blend of the 2012 Tempranillo is reminiscent of the 2006, heavy on Syrah. It is 85% Tempranillo and 15% Syrah, aged in 2 – 7-year American oak barrels.
Drinking window: Drinkable at release. Will be best in 5 years and continue to improve for 10-15 years.