Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on January 9, 2010:
What a discovery to find in Woodinville! Adams Bench Winery is a family-run winery headed by Tim and Erica Blue, on 3+ acres of prime horse pasture in Hollywood Hill overlooking Woodinville. By day, Tim is a top-notch healthcare trial attorney and Erica (Dr. Blue) is a clinic administrator with the Everett Clinic. Tim grew up in Indiana and attended Adams Elementary, where he was (sadly) familiar with the bench outside of the principal’s office. I can relate to that. The elementary school shut down and the Blues thankfully rescued the bench from destruction and now sits glamourously in the mansion called the Blue home, just above the winery shack. Erica grew up on the Oregon coast and they met in Seattle…think about it, healthcare and attorney! They took annual vacations to the Napa Valley (and Healdsburg) where they chose to “learn a little bit more” about winemaking after tasting the superb wines there (and making their own at home). They did weekend stints, attending classes at UC-Davis, and from there, had to decide, “Well, we have to apply this knowledge or else we’ll lose it.” At an Herbfarm dinner, they met Chris Camarda, winemaker at Andrew Will Winery on Vashon Island and if you know Chris, his full, complete answer was a “Yes” after the Blues emailed him inquiring if he would help as a consultant.
Their winery was bonded in 2005, then they moved to their current location just beyond the holly trees in Woodinville. The Blues are ardent followers of Robert Parker-favored wines and the winery’s ratings in the Wine Advocate correspond to a mutual respect, with the 2006 ‘Reckoning’ receiving a 93 rating.
Adams Bench portfolio is cabernet-lead, ala similar to Quilceda Creek’s lineup, in that there are no white wines or “obscure” reds in the lineup. This does not bother Erica (or Tim) at all since the wines they produce are “family made” and reflect their taste in wine. The grapes are fermented whole-berry and tilt toward “sweet” tannins that are found in the skins and not the crushed seeds. They favor Taransaud and Vicard French oak barrels, especially after a recent tour of the barrel-making facilities in Cognac, France.
Erica recommended reading “Home Winemaking Step-by-Step” (paperback $10.62 on Amazon.com) for those who prefer to do it without formal, academic winemaking classes. She preferred to go through a formal process like that offered by the UC-Davis; after all…she is a physician!
Adams Bench wines are a family affair with everyone helping to “hand make” all of their wines, which includes their grandson even participating in a recent “Winemakers Triathlon” held by 37 Woodinville wineries (they placed 4th). They choose to limit the quantity to 1000 cases (the ‘1000’ on the label).
One thing Erica regrets is their bottling equipment, for all you aspiring winemakers. When that contraption breaks down, there’s no one else to fix it so they become expert bottling-line repairwomen by default. Think of that as similar to when the copier machine eff’s-up at your workplace.
Some history for “the V”, their signature Cabernet Sauvignon…Erica originally wanted to name the blend, “Picato Baca” or “littlest grapes” but that was “voted off the island” as the family wanted something simple to pronounce. The name was changed to “Vibrance” which also happened to be the name of their all-white horse that witnessed the trials and tribulations of the early harvests, but that was rejected by the Tobacco and Trade Bureau because it implied “effervescence”. Huh? That’s the Feds fer ya. The name changed to “the V” and Erica noted that only the smallest berries from multiple vineyards were included in the wine.
As a side note, Erica’s first memorable wine was a Rafanelli zinfandel and her favorite white wine is a Saintsbury chardonnay. Speaking of which, the Blues plan on growing Estate Chardonnay after tasting some wonderful equivalent across the road with Hollywood Hill Vineyard. And, as for a preference of clone 6 cabernet vines (found more in Napa Valley vs. clone 8 which is more prevalent in WA), I think they made the right choice, scarce as it is. The Blues toured all of the Washington AVAs before making calls to the vineyards of their preference. Believe me, they had to deal with some awkward rejections coming from the more well-known vineyards. Erica also stated the ease with dealing with Federal regulations thanks to Tim’s legal background. That was a first.
What’s in store for the future (besides the Chardonnay): a wine club (get in early as there may be club-only wines), a Cabernet Franc, and a Red Willow Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tonight’s pairing was take-out from Pasta Nova in Woodinville. How coincidental that the featured wine bottle at the establishment was…Adams Bench (the 2006 ‘Reckoning’)! The red pasta with meatball was a perfect…let me state that correctly, perrrr-fect compliment to the Cabernet Sauvignon. I also ordered alfredo pasta, which was equally comfortable mixing with this gorgeously made wine.
Color: black with royal purple edges. Nose: ripe black cherry, blackberry, cedar. Mouthfeel: full metal jacket. Tail trail: 10 seconds. Flavors: dark plums, black fruits, black pepper, black violet flower, espresso, Theo chocolate, band-aid, Puerto Rico cigar, asphault on a summer day. Phreakin’ bliss in a bottle.
Columbia Valley AVA. Cabernet Sauvignon 75%, Merlot 17%, Cabernet Franc 8%. Alcohol: 14.9%. Rated: 97. Value: $70. Paid: $42. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.
48hr p.s.: color still inky black with purple edge. Sweet French oak flavors predominate, which now smell like a DeLille Cellars wine, the bouquet is mesmerizing! High notes of barrel hit the nares. Drinking beautifully with evolution of flavors not found on opening. A solid “classic” red wine representative of the best cabernet winemakers of Woodinville. 75% cabernet makes the wine more of a “Left Bank” blend. Released December 4, 2009 and should have been rightfully considered for wine of the year by yours truly. Decision time, this will be the first wine I take to a near-future tasting with a Master Sommelier who wants to try rising stars from Washington State.