Barrage Cellars 2005 Alias cabernet franc

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on April 6, 2010:

We have a candidate for ‘oddest news of the year’. Two London women were arrested for attempting to smuggle a corpse onto a flight. They kept the 91 year-old dead man in a wheelchair with sunglasses on. My first thought was…oh no, Paul Gregutt died…who’s gonna do the Sunday funnies, errr, I mean the Sunday wine reviews?

I’m bypassing the D-wing on my Woodinville warehouse tour simply because I’ve reviewed all the current wineries there (Anton Ville, Patterson, and Edmonds) and am waiting for the debut of the new wineries (Kaella, Convergence Zone, Lauren Ashton, and Amelia Blue).

Moving onto the E-wing, there are several notable wineries: Sparkman Cellars, Darby Winery (update your website, dude!), and this winery. Barrage Cellars is the conceptual offshoot of a wild and crazy guy named Kevin Correll. He was born in Santa Rosa, CA and grew up in Arlington, raising horses (not grapes). I swear, the wine industry attracts the weirdest nuts (like me…and Kevin). His wine revelation started in a gaRAGE and he later volunteered at Wineglass Cellars over in Zillah, where he also toyed with making his own wine in a BARn. His production grew to the point he ended up leasing a space in the popular Woodinville warehouse zone. While dining in the Napa Valley with close pals, they tossed around names until the BAR in barn and the RAGE in garage merged in holy matrimony and BARRAGE Cellars was born. Now, don’t get this confused with Webster’s definition of “bombard” or Merriam-Webster’s “a dam placed in a water course to increase the depth of water or to divert it into a channel for navigation or irrigation.” However, Kevin does intend to “bombard” your palate with the “intense and unforgettable flavors of Barrage Cellars’ wines.” Quite a ballsy statement from a relatively new winery.

My trip to the tasting room on a sunny Saturday was rewarded with a very social conversation with Kevin and his wonderful wife, who was busy manning the pours from the many visitors. Kevin loves a knowledgeable wine drinker so we hit it off great, even though I clearly had copies of wine notes from his extensive website. There, I found out he has Boeing work roots (for health insurance reasons) and learned the wine trade from UC-Davis online. His first memorable wine was a 1982 Chateau Lafite Rothschild that he sampled at a Thanksgiving dinner…at his ex-wife’s father’s home. Well, duh!, who wouldn’t be awestruck by such a wine?! Loveliest quote came from his daughter while touring the vineyards at Conner Lee (Washington’s best chardonnay vineyard!) in reference to nearby Hanford: “Do you have nuclear grapes?” I can imagine how pale Kevin’s face became! Kevin’s philosophy with his wines is “I mix vineyards, not grapes.” Well said.

Another benefit of engaging with the tasting room staff, who also happens to be the winemaker, is accessing every available wine, which I had the pleasure and honor of sampling. I started with a mellow Conner Lee 07 ‘Nuclear Blonde’ chardonnay, then onto a ‘Trifecta’ 07 merlot that reflects his equine past. Next was this wine, then a comparable 09 cab franc barrel-sample from Marcoux Vineyard, followed by 07 ‘Outcast’ cabernet franc from Boushey Vineyard. Three supreme cab francs, of which I still think the 05 Alias is the winner. Moving onto 06 ‘Double Barrel’ cab sau, then finishing with a delightful 08 Dineen Vineyard Riesling. Not a faulty wine in the entire lineup.

Kevin also makes a ‘Secret Weapon’ Boushey Vineyard syrah, a roh-zeh from syrah grapes, and a viognier. Expect a red (blend) wine for summer release.

This is one of those times I apologize to my readers because this wine is very likely no longer available at the winery. He had only 5 cases left when I visited back in late January. And, his other cab francs just don’t match the profile of this wine, at this time. Unfortunately, I did not see any other ‘Alias’ vintages noted on his website, which I think is a mega-tragedy.

If you are a regular reader of my columns, then you know I am (or was) no fan of cabernet franc. While the grape was all the rage of 2009, I refused jumping on the bandwagon simply because I fail to understand why a blending grape of Bourdeaux should get center stage in my beloved Washington State. I think such a paradox only minimizes the State’s “terroir” on the world’s wine stage. There’s no glory in uplifting cabernet franc.

Food pairing with wine is an interesting concept. It’s easy to recommend a dish with a wine. Even I can do it without much thought, or imagination. What’s truly intriguing is to pair a wine with a food that is not considered “acceptable.” This is where I find a wine’s faults come to the fore, if there are any. Tonight’s food pairing started with leftover Anthony’s HomePort prawn tempura (nice and soggy), leftover king salmon, and a dense slab of garlic mash. No red meat! This cab franc would be stripped nekkid. What I found was no off-flavors other than the expected chocolate- and black fruit-flavors with subtle black pepper notes. When I paired the wine with savory Korean-style QFC kalbi short ribs, this wine shined brightly. A truly enlightening food-wine pairing. I converted.

Color: black cherry soda without the fizz. Nose: black cherry parfum, red plum, strawberries. Mouthfeel: full bag of coins. Tail trail: 8 seconds. Flavors: blackberry, currant, black plum, soft black pepper, white pepper (imagine in a steaming bowl of Asian noodles), tangy spices on the back end (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, licorice). Balance: ideal integration of fruit, pepper, and herbs. Power: bold across the spectrum. Depth: explore the senses affected by “black”. Finesse: elegant, powerful, balanced, solo or paired. Divine starts here.

Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Alder Creek Vineyard. 100% cab franc. Aged a whopping 41 months in half new and half once-experienced French oak. Alcohol: 14.9%. Music pairing: “Lady Marmalade” by Labelle. Rated: 95. Value: $40. Paid: $35. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

Twitter: @BarrageCellars

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