Announcing 2014 Heart of the Hill,
In our quest to better understand Columbia Valley vineyards over the past 20 vintages, we’ve harvested fruit from the far west end of the Yakima Valley to the Rocks of Walla Walla. It’s always enlightening to see the variations in wine expression based on the grapes’ origins and to correlate those to the numerous differences between growing sites. Some vineyards have yielded average wines (and they are no longer in our stable), and others have consistently yielded such stellar wine that we continue to farm them year after year.
It’s the rare vineyard that melds unmistakable character with extraordinary quality, expressing that single site character in a superb wine. We see it in wines like Chateau Latour, Phelps Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Antinori’s Tignanello or Mueller’s Scharzhofberger. These wines couldn’t come from anywhere else. Our search in Washington has led us to what we think is just such a marriage: Heart of the Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, the newest entry to our portfolio, created from a single site, single variety on Red Mountain. While we’ve farmed Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain vineyards since 1997, the performance of Cabernet Sauvignon from this discreet, small section of the appellation creates wines that we’ve not seen from other Red Mountain sites, even other nearby Cabernet blocks. (Lovers of French wine jargon will recognize the nebulous terms “lieu dit” or “climat” for this special marriage.) Our pursuit finally takes shape with the 2014 Heart of the Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, that we are releasing to you today.
This journey has been in the works for a decade: Scott Williams of Kiona Vineyard, with whom we have worked since 1999, planted the first Cabernet vines at Heart of the Hill in 2006, with additional vines added each season afterwards. We’ve used the grapes in our Père de Famille blend since 2010, and it formed the foundation of the stellar 2012 Le Parrain.
Why is this site so unique? We’re not quite sure! It shares certain physical traits (heat accumulation, high light intensity, low rainfall and cool nighttime temperatures near harvest) with other acclaimed vineyards midway up Red Mountain. It slopes gently due south, sandwiched roughly between Ciel du Cheval, Col Solare and Hedges Estate vineyards, with weak/high calcium soils and a little less wind than vineyards farther down the slope. But there’s a je ne sais quoi here that results in wines with character unlike anything we’ve had in our cellar before. Give us another 50 vintages and we will answer the question “why”!
Today we farm 4 separate blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon, two each of clone 2 and clone 8. (Even though these blocks touch each other, the wines from each are different!) Fortunately, we have enough of this vineyard’s fruit to maintain its formidable contribution to our Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as to make this Heart of the Hill Cabernet Sauvignon on a continuing basis. Tasting the two wines side by side clearly shows their individuality: Père de Famille, the blend of our best barrels of Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot from across the Columbia Valley, while Heart of the Hill is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from this small dot on Red Mountain. They are brothers, fingers on the same hand, children of a common mother, and both are proof that Cabernet Sauvignon is Washington’s greatest red variety.