Another WAwineman master post, originally debuted January 30, 2010:
Can’t help myself. Caveat lector (reader beware). The following review will singe through to the outer reaches of your senses, as it did mine.
I did a rare, quick re-visit with a winery (Adams Bench) today for several reasons. One was…”97, are you weak?” Another was, “Maybe you’re just trying to suck up to them high-falutin’ professionals.” What broke the camel’s back was, “You don’t know anything about terroir-driven wines. You’re from Washington.” Ok. All good. Is that all ya got?
Sadly, my visit didn’t start off well for me as Erica (Dr. Blue) greeted me at the pouring table with a gamma-ray grin and a “I know you!”, from reading my previous review of their par excellence 2007 “the V” cabernet sauvignon. Sacrebleu! After a humble admission and further questioning, I proceeded to dance (again!) through their wonderful lineup of wines that confirmed, to me, my initial impressions of the incredible quality of juice being produced by this fairly recent startup. Erica graciously allowed me to sample their upcoming March release of this 2007 single-vineyard cab and when I stuck my Massachusetts-sized beak into the Riedel stem, I felt an unidentified flying object hover over me and vacuumed me up to their flying saucer and whisked me away into another universe about ten blocks over. Erica was about to perform CPR on me as she saw my eyes roll back but I recovered in time to ask for another pour.
Well, there was some embellishment there but it sounded accurate, emotion-wise. Terroir (tehr-wah)…I’ve been asking myself all this time, what the hell is it? I have read that some Washington State vineyards have it and that the French are all over it. “Gout de terroir” or “taste of the earth.” They say it’s a combination of soil, site (location), sun (climate), and sow (vineyard practices). The Geological Society of America recently convened in Oregon and proclaimed that “whatever minerality in wine is, it is not the taste of vineyard minerals.” Perhaps then, my thought was, the unique qualities imparted in the grapes of a certain locale was a combination of the type (clone) of vine and the naturally-occurring yeasts that resided on the grape skins, as well as the soil dust that dissolves at crush. As a passing thought, and quite an idiotic one at that, maybe the vignerons were tossing foreign elements into the barrels that would impart said flavors such as salami, coffee, dehydrated French onion crisp (pain grille), old shrub grown on limestone (garrigue), pheromones (the ubiquitous “funk” which I envision to be worn, sweaty wrasslin’ trunks), and fatty liver. Ok, not the last one.
I have experienced terroir-driven wines with those from Betz Family Winery most recently. I believe there is something “else” there in the single-vineyard wines made from Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, Champoux, Boushey, and Red Willow that I had the pleasure of drinking. But, I must emphasize, it’s not found just anywhere. Have I tasted it in a white wine yet? No, but that does not mean it does not exist. It does, however, support my hypothesis that there is some interaction with the native yeast by-products, the soil dust, and the anthocyanin- (or tannin-) components that are only found in dark-skinned grapes. I’m no field chemist but I haven’t found a better guess so far.
Why bring this up? Well, I’ve covered Adams Bench in my previous review and I’ve also briefly espoused the history of Red Willow Vineyard in another. This is the result of what’s in my glass in front of me.
I’ve had cabernet from all parts of Washington State, some memorable, most unremarkable. The good stuff costs a pretty dime. Thankfully, we are not at the retail levels of that two-States south. Not yet, nor for the foreseeable future. This bottle sets itself into a category all unto its own. This is a great wine to begin with, expressing true varietal character with an elegance and finesse found only amongst the very best in America. What distinguishes this wine, made from the 1999 block at Red Willow, is the unique character that reforms and uplifts the senses. This is the wine that will define the 2007 vintage, one of the two best ever for Washington State.
Food pairing was Pasta Nova Restaurant (Woodinville) baked rigatoni and triple mushroom linguini. Nirvana never tasted so heavenly. Highly recommended.
Color: opaque, delectable black with fierce purple edges. Eyes: classic slow-forming teardrop “legs”, a work of art to behold. Nose: blackberry extract, cedar, black plum, blueberries, ripe raspberries, sack of dried herbs, toasted fresh bread, willow stick, forest bark, cinnamon, light molasses, Mexican vanilla. Tim says “brown sugar”. Mouthfeel: all-points bulletin, full-bodied. Tail trail: 20+ seconds. Flavors: need you ask? (same as nose and then some). Tannin quality: velvet, supple, wrap-around-the-tongue-with-a-600-threadcount-goosedown-pillow. Balance: precise as an apothecary scale. Power: 21-gun salute going down the pipe. Depth: the endless lasagna. Finesse: Dorothy Hamill at the Innsbruck Olympics.
Music pairing: both versions of “Feel So Good” by Shirley and Lee and “Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione. Alcohol: 14.9%. Yakima Valley AVA. 100% cab. 100% Red Willow. 70 cases (20 cases already pre-sold). Rated: 100. Pre-release price: $48. Value: $200. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.
A gracious tip-of-the-hat to Tim and Erica for acquiescing to my begging cries to allow me to take home their partial bottle for this review.
Hint: get this and “the V” now before the prices soar to what it should be. I warned you!
48hr post: call 9-1-1, this wine is still emanating smoky meats while softening a bit. The nose is intoxicating…and this, coming from a wino!