Two from Dumas Station

Hello friends. My bad.

I managed to let a vintage of a list favorite slip by us and sell out without offering it. After offering the 2006 and 2007 Cow Catcher Reds from Dumas Station, I missed the 2008. Released in March, it was gone by May.

Fortunately, my gaffe is mitigated by the fact that the 2009 is superior to the 2008. This has to be one of the stronger estate-grown Walla Walla Valley wines released at this price point, and there’s a reason why.

2009 Dumas Station “Cow Catcher Red” (Cabernet Blend)

Dumas Station is one of the great hidden gems of the Walla Walla Valley. The core of all their bottlings is fruit from Minnick Hills Vineyard, one of the rare vineyards in the rolling wheatlands between Walla Walla and Waitsburg. Jay DeWitt manages the vineyard and the winemaking, and from my first encounter with Jay, I have admired his dedication to farming and the focus and consistency of his portfolio. He has told me before that if his Cabernet and Merlot don’t match the house style in a given vintage, he won’t bottle them. Now lots of wineries say things like this, but when the rubber meets the road, financial requirements dictate a different policy. Not so for Dumas Station.

In 2009, the October freeze forced Jay to pick his Cabernet and Merlot at ripeness levels that would make his usual style for those bottles (with alcohols around 15%) impossible. Instead of a damn-the-torpedoes, bottle-it-anyway approach, a tougher decision was made: there would be no 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. There would be no 2009 Merlot. Instead, the juice would be declassified into the finest Cow Catcher ever made.

Unsurprisingly, this is also by far the highest-production Cow Catcher, at 850 cases (in a normal year, only a few hundred cases are produced, which is why the 2008 went so quickly). The winery did raise the price a few dollars, but they still must be taking a big financial hit by declassifying all that juice, and this still represents ridiculous quality for the price.

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($24); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: * (Excellent).”

Along with the Cabernet Sauvignon (48%) and Merlot (15%), there is a solid chunk of Cabernet Franc (26%) and splashes of Petit Verdot and Syrah. The finished alcohol here is 13.5%, certainly low for Dumas Station, but plenty ripe in most of the rest of the world. The aromatics are lovely: plum, fig, and rich earthy soil. On the palate, this does convey the signature Dumas Station richness in flavors of golden raisin and black cherry, dark chocolate and espresso. The tannins are ripe and sweet, and this has a lovely silky texture and plenty of length. It’s awfully classy for a wine at this tariff.

2008 Dumas Station Estate Merlot

Well, we know there will be no 2009 Estate Merlot, so how about the 2008? I found this really seductive in a recent tasting, an excellent example of the Dumas house style. A luxurious nose of Kahlua, kirsch, brown sugar, and nutty oak gives way to a red-fruited (cherry and raspberry) palate. Luscious, silky, and long long long, this has the ripeness (14.7%) that Jay wants for these bottlings. It’s also quite limited, at just 190 cases produced.

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($28); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: * (Excellent).”

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you see fit), and the wines should arrive in 2-3 weeks, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping.

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