2004 Bordeaux-Inspired Wines
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Père de Famille
Those long familiar with our Cabernet will see the continuing evolution of its style with this wine. A few years ago we began adjusting our cellar techniques to achieve the full dimension our vineyards had been able to deliver, but with more polish and length. More defined fermentation temperatures, less handling during barrel maturation and more precise barrel blending have delivered the results we've been looking for, greater harmony without sacrificing depth or density.
From my November 2006 tasting notes: “Deep ruby with a vibrant, youthful edge. Bright currant, blueberry, sweet berry fruit with exotic spice, smoke, camphor notes. Rich berry fruit with a sense of elegance.”
The vineyard source for the 2004 is also more focused, with barrels only from Red Mountain and the Horse Heaven Hills in the final blend. We're used to the terrific concentration and intensity of our Red Mountain fruit (Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun Vineyards) but this vintage the Horse Heaven fruit (Alder Ridge Vineyard) was equally concentrated yet without the tannic dominance of Red Mountain. The two appellations blended seamlessly (64% to 36%) and provided a structure that is both accessible now but will cellar beyond the previous two vintages.
The varietal blend is in line with previous years, 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 8% Merlot, 3% Petite Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc.
Steve Tanzer, of the International Wine Cellar newsletter, tasted this wine in summer 2006, three months after bottling, and ranked it the third highest Cabernet in Washington, a point or two behind Quilceda Creek and Leonetti Reserve (the “+?” in his score indicates a possible higher ranking once the wine is released):
“93(+?) Bright, deep ruby-red. Musky, minerally, spicy aromas of blackberry, blueberry, leather and tree bark. Quite penetrating on the palate, with terrific intensity and cut to the black cherry and currant flavors. Denser and larger-scaled than the Clos de Betz. This, too, finishes with excellent cut, growing sweeter and longer as it opens in the glass. There's firm tannic spine here but no impression of dryness.”
2004 Clos de Betz
With the hot summer months of 2004 it would have been easy to over ripen Merlot, the foundation variety of Clos de Betz. We worked in the vineyard to achieve full flavor development but without the baked, prune notes that the variety can take on when left to hang too long. Our decision to harvest slightly earlier than past years paid off, yielding a wine with pure red/black fruit aromas and brilliant balance.
Certainly this Clos de Betz has all the black cherry, baking spice and leather notes of Merlot (60% of the blend), and they sing in harmony, not dominated by the dried fruit aromas possible in a hot vintage like 2004. Add to this foundation the complex character of the additional varieties that were blended in (23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petite Verdot and 4% Malbec) and the wine turns satisfyingly complex.
My November 2006 tasting notes reflect this balance: “Pure, penetrating aromas of cherry, raspberry, slight vanilla, baking spice, with an overwhelming sense of berry. A great sense of harmony; supple and fine.”
The 2004 vintage is a more “serious” wine than previous vintages, with a structure and length that will reward aging. Its weight and density develop in the glass, adding layers of berry fruit and supple, sweet tannin The same vineyard and cellar practices we use with the Cabernet Sauvignon went into making the Clos de Betz. Grapes varieties and the vineyard sources account for the difference in character and flavor between the two wines.
Steve Tanzer, International Wine Cellar newsletter, also tasted this wine last summer just after bottling, awarding it his highest score ever for this wine, and wrote:
“92(+?) Bright, deep red. Musky, sweet aromas of dark cherry, roasted red berries, graphite, leather, roast coffee, herbs and treebark. Sweet, concentrated, very ripe and floral but showing less early opulence and more structure than recent vintages of this bottling. With aeration, though, this showed compelling sweetness and noteworthy depth. This builds impressively toward the back finishing with strong, juicy fruit; firm, fine-grained tannins; and excellent lift.”
2004 Rhone-Inspired Wines
2004 Syrah La Serenne
The track record for this Syrah has been impressive. The reasons are clear: a great vineyard site, conscientious care by owner Dick Boushey and low yields. 2004 was no different. Low cluster count and the stress of the summer heat of 2004's heat reduced the yields, and Dick's constant fine tuning of the vines (cutting off anything less than perfect grapes) further lowered the amount of fruit/vine so we ended up with below 2.5 tons/acre. As in the past the 2004 La Serenne is 100% Boushey Syrah, with its characteristic, abundant silky tannins. For me the overriding impression with this wine is its seamlessness on the palate. Sure, there are the dense black fruits, roasted coffee, earthy aromas and the black berry, smoky flavors, but the overall palate impact, huge and yet supple, is what lingers in my mind.
After 12 months in French oak barrels and nearly an additional year in bottle, this is the more forward of the two Syrahs, yet it will still strut its stuff 5 to 7 years down the road. It has the stuffing to go the distance, but is so sensuous right now that it is easily appreciated.
2004 Syrah La Côte Rousse
One national critic recently wrote that the tannins from Red Mountain red varieties are tough to tame, and that he preferred the softer tannins of other areas in the state. He's right in one sense: typical high summer temperatures in the appellation can build thick-skinned, low juice fruit, jammed with tannins. But he missed something in the winemaker's quest to reveal a "sense of place" in a finished wine (terroir, if you want to speak French). We don't want all our wines to be homogenous expressions of the cellar, but rather reflections of the fundamental character of where they originated.
We're conscious of this potential for excess tannins when we work with Red Mountain grapes in the cellar. We pay close attention to the tannin development throughout winemaking; during crush, fermentation, and "drain and press" we taste each tank 2-3 times/day to evaluate the increase in tannin, and focus all our steps on extracting all the sweet skin tannins and avoiding astringent seed tannins. Each step helps insure the overall balance of abundant sweet tannin.
The 2004 La Côte Rousse Syrah is just such a wine: packed with dense, ripe flavors and abundant tannin while retaining a textural sweetness. It unites two Red Mountain vineyards, Scott Williams whose grapes we've used since our first Syrah, and Ciel du Cheval which we introduced into the 2003 vintage. La Côte Rousse speaks the language of the appellation, with a power, structure and longevity that differentiates it from the La Serenne, grown only 25 miles away. The 2004 has more "French" character than previous vintages: smoke, minerals and gaminess, a wonderful expression of the variety. This is even more cellar worthy than La Serenne, with a solid decade ahead of it.
The good news about the 2004 Besoleil is that we made 3 additional barrels. But more important, it's an even more expressive, Southern Rhone style wine. In 2004 we were able to add a classic Southern Rhone variety, Mourvedre, to the mix of grapes, and carve out a few more rows of Grenache vines from the Alder Ridge Vineyard for our program.
We were particularly thrilled with the Mourvedre, a grape that brings color, aroma and flavor to the blend. Its black-red density is more like Syrah than Grenache, the nose shouts black pepper and the palate is somewhere between the fruit intensity of Grenache and the pungency of Syrah. It brought "garrigue", the unmistakable Southern Rhone character of fruit, earth and wild herbs, to the blend.
The final blend is 69% Grenache, 19% Mourvedre and 12% Syrah. The 2004 Besoleil is denser than the 2003, with more richness and fullness. However, it retains the same pure berry focus, with notes of pepper, leather, crushed seed, explosive flavor and creamy finish. Drink now and over the next 5 years.
2004 Poggiòlo Rosso
Poggiòlo Rosso is our first Sangiovese. Tuscan vineyards have long been our favorite wine destination where we seek out Sangiovese-based wines, like Chianti, Brunello and Vino Nobile. It was only natural that when we had a chance to source some Washington Sangiovese grapes with a real pedigree that we jumped on it.
Our 2004 Poggiòlo Rosso is based on the Brunello clone of Sangiovese, from Jim Holmes' efforts at Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain. As a stand-alone variety this wine had plenty of complexity and varietal identity, but also carried the variety's typical higher acidity. Blending in Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon added depth to the aroma and flavor and rounded Sangiovese's angularity. It made it sort of a "mini Super Tuscan."
This is a wine structured for food. It carries plum, black cherry and camphor aromas, with deep black cherry and plum flavors. The Cabernet tannins strengthen the backbone yet don't interfere with the overall satisfying impression of Sangiovese. We chose the name Poggiòlo Rosso (red hill) because of its Red Mountain origin, and to hint at the flavor profile since the word Poggiòlo appears on the label of many Tuscan red wines. This wine is enjoyable now and capable of maturing for 5-8 years.