We tasted nine Canvasback wines in June, when we visited the winery‘s rustic yet elegant tasting room for the first time. What a lovely Walla Walla location to experience Canvasback’s extensive wine portfolio. From sophisticated to hedonistic, polished to luscious, and refreshing to captivating, Canvasback has it all. Duckhorn pioneers Dan and Margaret Duckhorn founded the winery in 2012, and named it after the Canvasback duck, native to the Pacific Flyway.
As you can see from this photo, we occasionally notice Canvasbacks duck on our little backyard lake. That was just one of many reasons that we were delighted to finally visit the Canvasback tasting room. Talented winemakers Brian Rudin and Joe Czarny poured six reds, two whites and rosé. In other words, we tasted four styles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, a Rhône white blend and Rosé of Syrah. Subsequently, we discovered that Canvasback promoted Joe to winemaker from assistant, when Brian left to become general manager and winemaker at Echolands shortly after our visit. Fantastic news for both of these uber-skilled, knowledgeable and friendly guys.
Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon
In 2011, the Duckhorns held blind tastings of Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain and Napa Valley. They decided the Washington wines were exciting. Consequently, they started working with famed grower Dick Boushey, who helped them to cultivate relationships with the growers at some of Red Mountain’s most esteemed vineyards. Next, they debuted their first Canvasback vintage in 2012. These days, Canvasback has a reputation for luxury, single-vineyard and appellation-designated Cabernet Sauvignon. We sampled four of them.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Klipsun Vineyard 2019 ($74) blends 84% Cabernet Sauvignon with 16% Malbec. This Cab Sauv is smooth, structured and sophisticated, with mouth-filling flavors of cherries, black plums, blackberries, blueberries, dark chocolate and savory notes. Brian told us this will be the last from the 1989 block of Klipsun vines, which was pulled after the 2019 vintage.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard 2019 ($74) offers a classic expression of Red Mountain, combining 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot. Think luxurious fruit flavors, cassis and spices, highlighted with aromas of oranges, grenadine and juniper. Phenomenal.
Cabernet Sauvignon Longwinds Estate Vineyard 2019 ($74) is sourced from the estate vineyard’s finest fruit. Aromas of cherries, black licorice, herbs and floral notes lead into luscious flavors of wild strawberries, cherries, raspberries and a hint of cinnamon. Poised and polished, this wine has the wow factor.
Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain Grand Passage 2019 ($88) is a powerhouse wine that embodies the essence and the best of Red Mountain. One sip, and you know why it’s considered the pinnacle of Canvasback’s winemaking program. Moreover, Grand Passage is concentrated, complex and killer. Seductive scents of dark berries, licorice, black walnut and dark chocolate entice, echoed on the palate with savory notes and minerality.
Other Canvasback Reds
Cabernet Franc Ciel du Cheval 2019 ($74) blends 76% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a showstopper. We loved it. Pretty aromas of cherry cola, leather, violets and lilacs lead into lush flavors of raspberries, blueberries, apples, cassis, cocoa and herbs, with hints of graphite and crushed-rock minerality. We agree with International Wine Report: this wine is “a stunning example of why everyone should be reaching for more Franc.”
Red Mountain Merlot 2020 ($56) is simply gorgeous. But have patience! Canvasback won’t release this plush Merlot until Nov. 1, just in time for #MerlotMe Month. It will be worth the wait. Sourced from 20-year-old Merlot vines at Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, the tiny berries create concentrated, bold flavors of raspberries, cherries, strawberries and almonds. In addition, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon brings weight and depth to each sip.
Riesling Royal Slope 2021 ($32) features layers upon layers of tantalizing flavors and rounded textures. Brian and Joe fermented and aged this off-dry Riesling in both stainless steel and large oak casks. As a result, intense aromas of stone fruit, citrus, pear, pineapple, ginger and a hint of honey echo the palate.
Yakima Valley Rhône White Wine 2022 ($38) is a beautiful blend of 57% Viognier, 23% Grenache Blanc and 20% Marsanne. Brian gave us a preview of this rich white wine, which Canvasback will release Sept. 1. This vintage offers more Marsanne and less Grenache Blanc than the previous year. We loved the aromas and flavors of citrus and stone fruit, and bright acidity. Brian described its “haunting smell. And it’s hard to believe it is Viognier-based because it’s much crisper.”
Rosé of Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2022 ($34) is “fresh, bright, perky and assertive,” according to Brian. We also found this Rosé of Syrah both zesty and creamy, with aromas of raspberries, melons and apricots that mirror the palate, along with hints of minerality.
Summary: Canvasback Wines
In conclusion, Canvasback wines are amazing. We’ve always appreciated Canvasback’s luxury Cabernet Sauvignons and Syrahs. As well, on this trip, we discovered a delightful lineup of whites, rosé, Merlot and Cab Franc.
Above all, thank you Brian, for introducing us to these memorable examples of the Canvasback portfolio, and also for introducing us to Joe. Best wishes to both of you in your new adventures.
Credit for all photos but one (the ducks on our lake) goes to our friend Chuck Kinzer, a professional photographer.
Margot and Dave