Washington Wine Club – May 2014

2010 Cadence, Bel Canto
As we mentioned when we put the 2010 Tapteil into the March club, we think the lineup from the cooler 2010 vintage is the most impressive ever for Cadence, with all four single vineyard blends (Ciel du Cheval, Tapteil, Camerata, and Bel Canto) simply outstanding. This is now the tenth consecutive vintage of the Bel Canto that we have put in this club, which is a record for any wine and a tribute to Ben Smith’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. It is as usual predominantly Cabernet Franc (77%), with 15% Merlot and a full 8% Petit Verdot. It is definitely not as velvety as last year’s edition (from a much warmer year) but it compensates for that with fabulous aromas of strawberry and cherry, a sprightly liveliness on the tongue, and even sweeter tannins. It is still quite concentrated, and its flavors of ripe red berries and spice knit seamlessly together. We’d give it another five to seven years in the cellar, and it will be as wonderful as the 2006 Bel Canto that Ben poured at our annual tasting in January. We do still have quite a bit left of the very approachable 2009 Bel Canto, and even a bit left of the 2008. The 2010 edition is $60 and will be a great match for a nice pepper steak or roasted duck when it’s ready to drink.

2011 Tempus Cellars, Grenache
As a complement to the Bel Canto, we’ve turned to a wine that is different in every way: a much lower price point, ready to drink, and made with Grenache, the Rhone grape least likely to be mistaken for a Bordeaux varietal. In the past few years, we’ve become more and more impressed with the work of winemaker Joe Forest, a graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s wine program, then Assistant Winemaker at Dunham Cellars, and now the winemaker at Patit Creek Cellars. Tempus Cellars is the personal project of Joe and his wife Molly, and this Grenache might be his best wine yet. It is all sourced from the carefully managed denHoed Vineyard in Yakima Valley, and then aged for sixteen months in completely neutral French oak barrels. While Joe uses more new oak on the wines he makes from Bordeaux varietals, the neutral oak allows the natural acidity and berry flavors of this wine to show beautifully. Joe describes the wine as “brooding,” with its ripe dark fruit aromas, ripe cherry flavors, and notes of minerals and earth. It is also only 12.5% alcohol, making it quite easy to drink and a good wine to pair with a wide variety of foods, from burgers to roasts. Although a few Washington Grenache-based wines have reached elite status, notably the Betz Besoliel, they have not yet achieved the acclaim of Washington Syrah, keeping prices much lower. The Tempus Grenache is only $25 and in good supply.