Washington Wine Club – February 2012

2008 Cadence, Bel Canto
This is now the eighth consecutive vintage of Ben Smith’s Bel Canto that we have put in this club. It’s the third year that his flagship wine was sourced completely from Ben’s own Red Mountain vineyard, Cara Mia, planted in 2004 and named after his daughter Cara McNutt Smith. You can taste Ben’s hard work and great craftsmanship in this Right Bank blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, which is powerful, intense, and full of deep flavor. The great wine writer Hugh Johnson has even compared Cadence to the famed Bordeaux estate, Cheval Blanc, concluding that Ben is “making Old World wines with prototypical Washington fruit.” Given that 2008 was such a cool year in Washington, with very late bud break, Ben held back the release of all his single vineyard wines for an extra year to allow the finely-wrought tannins typical of Red Mountain to “gracefully unwind,” as Ben puts it. As always, the Bel Canto could use three to five more years in the cellar but, while you’re waiting, we still have small amounts left of his 2007s, including Bel Canto, Camerata (his Cabernet from the same vineyard) and his Ciel du Cheval and Tapteil vineyard blends. The 2008 Bel Canto is $55 and a great match for a nice pepper steak or roasted duck.

2010 Syncline, Counoise
Who better to introduce our club members to a relatively unfamiliar southern French grape than the wonderful duo of James and Poppie Mantone of Syncline? Counoise is mostly grown in the Rhône valley, particularly in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, to add peppery flavors and acidity to the wines. There’s not much of it, only 1500 acres planted there, but it does play a stellar supporting role in the great wines of Château de Beaucastel. A few Washington wineries have made Counoise as a standalone wine, but none of them have really captured its varietal uniqueness. Until now. There’s not much to add to James and Poppie’s wonderful description of the wine on the label, except to say that its integration of tobacco, pepper and spice show why Counoise has survived as an important varietal. It’s amazingly light on its feet for a hearty southern French red, so it would definitely shine with grilled salmon, as suggested on the label. It’s $28, ready to drink, and very limited, as there were only 164 cases made.