“5 Cabernets? Don’t they all taste the same?” No way, man.
I love September. The month we release a whole slew of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from tiny Red Mountain. But don’t let the varietal or AVA trick you into thinking that these will be similar…they are far from it. Here are a few factors that play a role in creating a unique wine.
Seems obvious, but when the vineyards are within a mile of one another, you might not think that they’d be so different. However, if I compare just Quintessence Vineyard (which makes up the northeastern corner of the AVA) and our own Fidelitas Estate Vineyard (close to the center of the AVA, but definitely over the western ridge), the differences are remarkable. These two vineyards were even planted at about the same time but Quintessence lies further east, with intense slope, and rockier soils. The Fidelitas Estate Vineyard does not have as much slope, exhibits more silty loam, and is subject to more late afternoon. In 2015, we picked Cabernet Sauvignon a full two weeks later from our Estate Vineyard, than the Cabernet sourced from Quintessence. Red Heaven sits just between these two vineyards, with just a bit more age, while Ciel du Cheval lies further downhill from the rest, but was planted in the 1980’s…giving us some of the most established vines on the mountain.
Fidelitas Estate Vineyard (left), versus the slope at Quintessence Vineyard.
I won’t go too far in depth on clones here, but feel free to peruse previous posts for more detail on clones. Here are the basics: Charlies sources different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon to give us different attributes in the wines. While still being the same varietal, we may use one clone for more concentration and color, while another gives us bright fruit tones to lift the style of the wine. Charlie is looking for different Cabernet clones from each vineyard to create our varietal Cabernets. Quintessence Vineyard (clones 169 and 191) and Fidelitas Estate Vineyard (clones 2 and 6), contain none of what we call the “Washington Clone”, clone 8, but the Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is entirely clone 8 from four vineyard sites. It’s just another way to fiddle with the blend.
Clone 169 (left) is a special clone from France, which must be registered with the French governement. Charlie tells us it has elegance and finesse. Clone 6 (right) is what Dick Boushey calls the 'winemakers clone' because it is wonderful in the cellar and a pain in the vineyard. Those smaller berries and loose clusters give excellent structure and color.
Perhaps the most obvious way that two Cabernets may be fully different, but still worth exploring. Some wineries have a recipe that they follow, using the same oak regimen year after year or for each wine. However, for Charlie (who I swear calls me weekly to say “we’re going to try something new”), there is no formula that will work for every wine he creates. Every year is different, every clone is different, and he likes to create a perfect pairing for grapes and barrels that may not be determined until the fruit is in fermentation. Comparing the 2013 Cabernets, two received 100% New French Oak, one received an 80/20 blend of New French and New American, there is a 35/26 blend, and the last is 47% New French with the remainder being neutral wood (coincidentally, that wine was 100% New in last year…what a difference a vintage can make!). Then, even if a wine is 100% New French, there are a bunch of different decisions in the brands of barrels, the toast, and the time in barrel. But – that is a different conversation for a different day.
Harvest means I get text messages from Charlie at 6am on Monday morning. Still - so many beautiful barrels and fermenters.
I could go on and on about how wonderfully unique these wines are, but you are going to have to try them yourself to believe me. Join us for a Friday Evening Tasting in Woodinville, schedule an Elevated Tasting at either location, or let us send you some wines with notes on hosting your own specialized tasting. I’d love to hear any notes you come up with as you try these wonderful new releases!