2015 Cadence, Bel Canto, $60
Winery info: This is the fifteenth vintage of the Bel Canto we’ve featured in this club, so Cadence Winery hardly needs any introduction. Winemaker Ben Smith produced his first vintage in 1998 and has gone on to become one of the most respected winemakers in the state, if not the country. His focus is on Bordeaux varietals from select vineyard sites. He recently made his annual visit to the shop to pour his current line-up and, once again, we selected his Bel Canto to put in the club.
Winemaker: Ben Smith
Grapes: Usually a Cab Franc-dominant wine, this year’s Bel Canto is 56% Merlot and 44% Cab Franc
Vineyard source: Ben’s estate Cara Mia Vineyard on Red Mountain, planted in 2004. Of Ben’s wines from this vineyard, Stephen Tanzer (of Vinous) writes: “There are any number of powerhouse Bordeaux blends being made in Washington today, but very few wines with this degree of class.”
Flavor profile: As Ben describes this vintage of Bel Canto: “High toned blue fruit, herbs and tobacco leaf leap out of the glass…The density and energy of Bel Canto are stunning, and the sweet fruit weaves itself around the firm tannins on the lengthy finish.” Another beautiful, ageable Cab from Ben.
Availability: Though not made in large quantities, the Bel Canto tends to last most of the year.
Drinkability: As with all of Ben’s wines, this one will definitely reward aging—at least three or four years, but over 15 if you can wait that long.
Food Pairing: Bel Canto is always a great wine for a juicy steak, roast duck, or herb-crusted lamb.
2014 Pamplin Family Winery, J|R|G Red Wine, $27
Winery info: Founded in 2007 by Dr. Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. and his son-in-law, Art North, with the single goal of crafting “the finest Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines with grapes sourced from the top vineyards in the Columbia and Walla Walla valleys.” They produce their handcrafted, limited production wines in their family-owned and operated winery in Dundee, Oregon. Dr. Pamplin is also a philanthropist, farmer, ordained minister, author, and founder of Anne Amie Vineyards.
Winemaker: Robert Henry, who worked at Napa’s iconic Pahlmeyer Winery before joining Pamplin.
Grapes: 73% Cab Sauv, 20% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot. Aged 21 months in new and used French oak.
Vineyard source: Canoe Ridge Estate, Alder Ridge, and Champoux vineyards (Horse Heaven Hills AVA); Klipsun, Scooteney Flats, and Tapteil (Red Mountain AVA); and Elephant Mountain Vineyard (Rattlesnake Hills AVA).
Flavor profile: Smooth and balanced, with expressive flavors of dark cherry and plum and savory spice. While rich and full-flavored, it doesn’t feel like a “big” wine. Very refined and focused,
Production/Availability: 846 cases made. Just released in the fall, it is still in good supply.
Drinkability: Very approachable now (especially with decanting) through 2023.
Food Pairing: A versatile wine you could pair with anything from burgers to roast lamb.