2011 Cadence, Ciel du Cheval
In March we featured Ben Smith’s Bel Canto — the eleventh vintage of that wine we’ve put in the club! So by now we hardly need to remind you of our deep respect for Ben as a winemaker. He’s simply one of the best. While the Bel Canto is sourced from his own Red Mountain vineyard, Cara Mia, he produces several other single-vineyard blends, including this one from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, also located on Red Mountain. As we said before, while we loved Ben’s wines from the cooler 2010 vintage, the 2011s were even more impressive, and all with excellent aging potential (no surprise there). This Ciel du Cheval offering is 35% Cabernet Franc, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, and 18% Merlot and the wine shows all the intensity of aromas and flavors characteristic of the vintage. With its excellent acidity, fine-grained tannins, and “waves of flavor,” Ben says it is his finest Ciel since the 1999 vintage. It is $45 and, like all of Ben’s wines, it will benefit from aging—up to 20 years, he says for this one (but we won’t tell if you open it sooner!) It’s definitely a wine for hearty cuisine, especially carnivorous if you’re so inclined.
2012 JM Cellars, Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red
This month we revisit JM Cellars, founded by John and Peggy Bigelow in 1998 with a goal of producing handcrafted, limited-release wines of balance, power, and finesse. From the very beginning they were able to work with some of Washington’s top vineyards. Then in 2006 Gary Figgins, of Leonetti Cellars, along with several other top Walla Walla vintners, invited the Bigelows to become part of a new vineyard project they were developing in the Walla Walla Valley. John and Peggy jumped at the opportunity and purchased a 40-acre parcel 1,300 feet above the valley floor. They planted it to all six of the Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Carmenère, and John named their new vineyard for his wife. The first harvest from their estate vineyard was in 2009 and we featured that wine in our March 2013 club. Now that the vines have had time to become more established and mature, we were excited to revisit this wine. The Bigelows made 452 cases of the 2012 vintage, a blend of 50% Cab Sauv, 25% Merlot, 10% each Cab Franc and Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot. As John says, “it shows the elegant flavors you have come to expect from wines made with fruit from Margaret’s Vineyard.” We found it to be very elegant and complex, with the oak (it is aged 22 months in 75% new and 25% once-used French oak) perfectly balanced and integrated. It is $41.25 and, while drinking well now, it will continue to develop over the next ten years. Like the Cadence, above, it is a wine for a good steak or your favorite grilled fare.