We always said we never met a grape from Red Mountain that we didn’t like. And last week’s event, Taste Red Mountain Woodinville, underlined our opinion. Likewise, it was a wonderful way to end Washington Wine Month. We tasted some standout wine, and connected with winemakers. We’ve known some of them for years, while we met others more recently. Read on for details about Red Mountain AVA, the winemakers and the wine.
Taste Red Mountain Woodinville
Most importantly, Taste Red Mountain Woodinville featured the vineyards and wineries that are creating some of Washington’s most award-winning wines. Moreover, the event honored the AVA’s 20th anniversary last year – a delay, of course, because of the pandemic. We were delighted to be able to raise a glass to Red Mountain wineries and growers. However, we unfortunately didn’t have enough time to visit all the wineries there. These are the ones we stopped by.
Talented winemaker John Bigelow is doing some cool things over at JM Cellars in Woodinville and Maltby, WA. At the event, we caught up with him, and tasted some of his superb new wines from Shaw Ridge Vineyard. Shaw Ridge is an estate vineyard, planted five years ago with Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. John told us there was essentially no soil, only fractured basalt to plant into, and they had to drill 10,000 holes to start the plants. Wow. Irrigation was pulled to the top of the mountain and over the next two years, the vines established deep root structures through the fractured basalt.
Subsequently, John says, the quality of fruit from their first harvest in 2020 was outstanding. These wines just went into bottle in March, after aging about sixteen months in a combination of French oak and clay amphora.
First, we tasted 2020 Shaw Ridge Vineyard Syrah, an elegant blend of two separate vineyard blocks, and co-fermented with 3% Viognier from Stillwater Creek Vineyard. Hints of nuts and chocolate from the amphora enhance the aromas and flavors of red and black fruits, pepper, olives and smoked meat, and a whiff of perfume from the Viognier.
Next, we tasted Thirty Six Degree 2020 Shaw Ridge Vineyard GSM blend. The slope of the vineyard is 36 degrees, hence the name of the wine. Layers of cherries, berries, plums and dark chocolate integrate with savory flavors of smoked meat, black pepper, olive tapenade and earthiness. Oh my, we look forward to tasting this beauty again in a few years.
We’ve been drinking JM Cellars wines since we moved to Seattle in 1999. We met John ten years later. From our first conversation, we found him engaging, friendly, passionate about wine, and a class act. That has not changed.
Canvasback — the only Washington label under the Duckhorn family of wines – debuted the first vintage in 2012. Ten years later, we tasted two wines that shine at Taste Red Mountain Woodinville. We also met Brian Rudin, the very talented winemaker who previously worked for L’Ecole 41. Brian’s style is to make terroir-driven, structured wines by working closely with the growers in the vineyards.
For example, he partners with legendary Washington vineyard manager Dick Boushey on Canvasback’s Longwinds Estate Vineyard, planted on Red Mountain in 2014. Longwinds features 13.5 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the rockier, exposed soils at the top of the vineyard.
First, we tasted Canvasback Red Mountain Longwinds Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018. It’s the debut bottling of a block-and-barrel selection of the vineyard’s finest estate fruit (98% Cab Sauv topped with 2% Merlot). Aromas of cherry pie, marmalade, cinnamon and black tea lead into luscious flavors of wild strawberries, cherries and raspberries. Decant if you pour it now, or put it away for up to five years.
Next, we tried Canvasback Red Mountain Grand Passage Cabernet Sauvignon 2018. This is one powerhouse wine, referred to as the pinnacle of their winemaking program, and its second release. Grand Passage is beautifully concentrated, textured, layered, complex and intense, with aromas of black cherries, blackberries, plums, spice and licorice, and sweet and savory flavors of dark berries with hints of chocolate. We plan to taste more Canvasback wine in the near future.
We’ve been fans of DeLille Cellars for years, but we just met Jason Gorski, Director of Winemaking and Viticulture, for the first time at Taste Red Mountain Woodinville. Not only does he craft excellent wine, but he’s also a warm, friendly, down-to-earth guy. He poured two 2019 wines for us: Four Flags Cabernet Sauvignon and Chaleur Estate Red.
We’ve tasted several vintages of Four Flags since its initial bottling in 2010 and this one, hands down, is the best, despite its young age. 2019 Four Flags Cab Sauv showcases Red Mountain’s dark fruit flavors, structure and intensity in a seamless full-bodied blend from four vineyards.
Meanwhile, Chaleur Estate Red 2019 displays intensity and richness from old-vine Cab Sauv (64%), Merlot (24%), Cab Franc (10%) and Petit Verdot (2%). Whoa, this opulent blend offers notes of dark berries, cherries, chocolate, coffee, licorice and spices. Chaleur Estate Red has history in Washington, as the pioneer Bordeaux-style blend created in the state.
More Taste Red Mountain Woodinville Experiences
It was great to see Will Hoppes, Fidelitas winemaker, again. He poured 2019 Optu Red, commemorating its 20th vintage anniversary. What a stellar blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 7% Cab Franc. We’ve been big fans of this wine since its first bottling, and the 2019 vintage exceeds them all. If you have never tasted Fidelitas Wines, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Further, we stopped to taste Obelisco Estate wines, which we’ve enjoyed for more than 10 years. 2017 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon shows quintessential Red Mountain fruit and structure. Aromas of berries, spices and vanilla mirror the flavors. We also had fun catching up with winemaker Ken Abbott, whom we hadn’t seen in years. We reminisced about his uncle, the late, talented Doug Long who founded Obelisco with his wife Betsy.
After that, two mouthwatering wines from Jerry Reiner of Guardian Cellars impressed: 2018 The Rookie and 2018 The Alibi. The Rookie is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon in classic Red Mountain style. (Jerry should offer this one for product placement on the ABC TV show with the same name.) The Alibi is a savory Bordeaux-style blend of 61% Cab Sauv, 31% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot. Jerry is one of the first winemakers to join John Bigelow, who championed The Vault, which houses six wineries, a brewery and a bourbon distillery in Maltby.
Likewise, we chatted with Upchurch Vineyard‘s Chris Upchurch as we tasted UV’s elegant 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, which celebrates the tenth vintage produced from his vineyard on Red Mountain. This Cab is one of our special-occasion wines, which we have cellared since its initial vintage. The addition of 10% Merlot to this release makes it soar. Meanwhile, this is only one wine in an incredible lineup of Upchurch Red Mountain wines.
Summary: Taste Red Mountain Woodinville
In conclusion, we were delighted to raise a glass to Red Mountain wineries and growers at the event last Sunday, and to wind down March’s Washington wine month in such a memorable way. But we celebrate Red Mountain and Washington wine all year round.
Above all, thank you Red Mountain AVA Alliance for the invitation to such a fun, educational celebration.
Margot and Dave