2011 Cadence, Bel Canto
When we first tasted this wine upon release in December, we both wrote one word for a tasting note: “Wow!” As this is now the eleventh consecutive vintage of the Bel Canto that we have put in this club, most of our club members are familiar with our respect for Ben Smith’s skills as a winemaker and for this wine in particular. As impressed as we were with Cadence’s lineup from the cooler 2010 vintage, we rated the 2011 wines even more highly. Not only are all four single vineyard blends (Ciel du Cheval, Tapteil, Camerata, and Bel Canto) simply outstanding, they all have excellent aging potential. As usual 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 again predominantly Cabernet Franc (84%), with 8% Merlot and a full 8% Petit Verdot. It is both muscular and elegant, quite concentrated, and has a “subtle density,” in Stephen Tanzer’s well-chosen words. It will continue to evolve in the bottle, and in our opinion it has the chops to develop for another 15 to 20 years. The price is $60 and it will be a great match for a nice pepper steak or roasted duck when it’s ready to drink.
2012 Animale, Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley
Two weeks after Ben Smith poured at our monthly Saturday tasting in January, our customers had a chance to sample the wines of geologist and winemaker extraordinaire Matt Gubitosa, the other Washington winemaker that we invite every year without fail. Matt makes tiny amounts of unusual and distinctive wines, using fruit from cooler growing sites (allowing longer hang-time for the fruit), and never employing industrial processing methods such as filtration or fining. His goal is to make wines that are true to both varietal character and to the place where they are grown. A wonderful example is this Petit Verdot, a low-profile Bordeaux varietal that is so rich it is rarely vinified as a single varietal without blending. Made with grapes from Gilbert’s Doc Stewart Vineyard south of Mattawa, the wine has a deep and dark color, with aromas of exotic fruits and spices that are followed by mineral notes and a long finish. It is much smoother than other Washington Petit Verdots, which are usually more rustic and tannic. While it could develop another year or three, it’s tasty right out of the bottle and a great value at $26. This is Matt’s first offering of this varietal since 2009, since the Petit Verdot grapes were a bit too tannic to be bottled on their own in the cooler vintages of 2010 and 2011. He made just 22 cases, but we do have a bit more available.