Washington Wine Club – April 2013

2009 Cadence, Bel Canto
This is now the ninth consecutive vintage of Ben Smith’s Bel Canto that we have put in this club, which is a record for any wine and a tribute to Ben’s skills as a winemaker. As most of our club members know, this flagship wine is sourced completely from Ben’s own Red Mountain vineyard, Cara Mia, planted in 2004 and named after his daughter Cara McNutt Smith. As 2009 was a warmer year, what Ben called the “unstoppable” Cabernet Franc is a full 80% of the blend, with Merlot and Petit Verdot down to 10% each. This is probably the most approachable Bel Canto on release ever, but it could still use at least two to three more years in the cellar to develop. While you’re waiting, we still have all of Ben’s other 2009 blends available, along with small amounts left of selected wines from 2007 and 2008. The price of the Bel Canto remains steady at $55 and it’s a great match for a nice pepper steak or roasted duck.

2011 Longshadows, Dance Chardonnay
Most Washington club members are aware of the famous Longshadows project, where former Stimson Lane wine group CEO Allen Shoup has invited winemakers from throughout the world to Walla Walla to produce limited releases of world class wines, reflecting their signature wine back home. The wines keep getting better and better, as the “flying winemakers” refine their understanding of Washington’s climate and soils. But the unsung hero of the whole thing is supervising winemaker Gilles Nicault, formerly of Woodward Canyon, who studied and trained in his native France before venturing to Washington in the mid 1990s to pursue winemaking here. Sometimes Gilles is overshadowed a bit by such famous winemakers as Armin Diehl, Michel Rolland, and John Duvall, but no one in the Washington wine trade doubts that Gilles is the one responsible for the overall high quality of all the Longshadows wines.

As further proof of Gilles’ skill, we offer as Exhibit A this outstanding Washington Chardonnay, which, right from the very first release, joins the top shelf of Washington Chards, with such luminaries as Abeja, Boudreaux, Buty, and Woodward Canyon. The fruit was sourced from a high, windy bluff in the Horse Heaven Hills, giving the wine a cool-climate crispness with a richness from the abundant daytime sunshine. After five years of experimentation, Gilles settled on a Montrachet yeast for fermentation and an equal division of barrels between new and one-year-old. The wine exhibits crisp and bright flavors of stone fruit, such as white peaches and apricots, but also has a nice creaminess. Minerality from the basalt slopes along the Columbia add to its complexity. No matter what style of Chardonnay you favor, we think you will love this one. It’s ready to drink and could pair well with anything from salmon to chicken to fresh seafood. It’s $37 and in good supply, although only 195 cases were made.