2011 Quilceda Creek, Columbia Valley Red Wine
Breaking with tradition this year, Quilceda Creek has chosen to release the Red Wine at the same time as their iconic Cabernet, instead of letting it stay in barrel for another six months to be released at the holidays. The freeze which struck Champoux Vineyard in late 2010 significantly affected the quantity of grapes available, which means that this version of the Red Wine is from somewhat younger vines whose grapes need less time in barrel. (It spends 22 months in 100% French oak.) Once again it is predominantly Cabernet (91%) and full of red fruit, herbs, smoky notes, minerals, and spices. You can enjoy it any time over the next ten years, but we’d suggest keeping it for a year or two and then pairing it with a rich meal like lasagna or short ribs. Thanks to Quilceda Creek’s generosity, we were again able to get enough to put in the club, although there is not much left over due to the limited yields of the vintage. It is still $51.50, the same price as last year, and one of the best values you’ll find anywhere for an elite Cabernet. And we do have a tiny amount available of the 2011 Quilceda Creek Cabernet at $175.
2012 Sleight of Hand Cellars, The Conjuror
It has been a great pleasure for those of us in the Washington wine trade who have followed his career to see Trey Busch’s continuing development as a winemaker. Trey started making wine professionally in 2000, working with Eric Dunham and then becoming head winemaker at Basel Cellars. In 2006, he founded Sleight of Hand Cellars in Walla Walla, making wines with beautiful, whimsical labels based on circus and vaudeville themes. He is also one of the best producers of value Washington wines under $15, which he makes under the Renegade label. We tasted his latest line-up last month and were impressed with the sophistication and polish of his flagship reds, the 2011 Illusionist Cabernet and the 2011 Archimage Merlot-Cabernet Franc blend. But we were especially taken with his second vintage of The Conjuror, smooth, complete, and ready to drink. It’s a big wine, well described on the label as “full-bodied and rich,” a good match for a steak or roast. While it could develop for another two or three years in your cellar, it’s really ready to go any time. And yes, the magician on the label is indeed actor Neil Patrick Harris, who is in fact a club member at Sleight of Hand Cellars. It is a good value at only $29.75 and still in good supply.