Hello friends. In late 2003, if you had been walking along the dusty undulations of Red Mountain, you might have stumbled upon a strange site: men digging 8-foot-deep pits into the ground; 31 pits in total. You might have wondered what they were up to: Exhuming bodies? Digging wells? Hunting treasure? As it happens, these men were indeed treasure-hunters, albeit of a nerdier kind: geologists creating a vineyard soil map from the strata of each of the 31 pits. The geologists found three major soil types. The first, sandy loam, came as no surprise, as this soil constitutes much of Red Mountain. The other two soil types were astonishing: cobblestones and clay. Ben Smith, the owner of all this dirt, had happened upon rich Red Mountain terroir, and it seemed his luck had finally changed.
The story really begins in 1997, a year of two important events in the history of Cadence Winery. First, Ben entered four wines into Boeing’s annual winemaking competition for employees (Ben was a Boeing engineer at the time). I have mentioned previously that the Boeing Winemaking Club has been a launch-pad for a number of Washington wineries, so this contest is a competitive event, making it all the more shocking that, when the four finalist wines for Best In Show were revealed, all four were made by Ben Smith.
‘97 was also the year that Ben and his wife purchased more than ten acres of land on Red Mountain. Through his home winemaking, Ben had determined that Red Mountain produced the type of fruit that matched his winemaking style. The only drawback to the land was a lack of water rights, but this is a no small issue on bone-dry Red Mountain. When Ben began the water-rights application process, he was told it could take years and even then could end in rejection.
Perhaps the most common response to that kind of bad news would have been to put the brakes on the winemaking project. Instead, Ben punched it, launching a winery that would focus on Red Mountain Bordeaux-style blends, even if they couldn’t yet come from his land. He sourced fruit from the best vineyards in the area (Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, and Tapteil), and set about making layered, expressive, lovely red wines.
This perseverance paid off handsomely. In autumn of 2003, as Ben was fermenting his sixth vintage of fruit from Tapteil Vineyard, the owner of the vineyard (Larry Pearson) called with shocking news: it turned out that Larry actually owned the water rights to Ben’s land and was happy to transfer those rights to Ben as soon as pens could hit paper. It didn’t take long after that before those geologists were pocking Ben’s land with 31 pits. The vines went into the ground in 2004, and 2006 is the first vintage from Cara Mia Vineyard.
Camerata is 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, with just one barrel of Cabernet Franc thrown into the mix. It has stunning depth and intensity for a vineyard so young and bodes extremely well for vintages to come. I sampled this over the course of three days and was amazed to watch the layers emerge: fruit (berry, orange); then barrel (espresso, soy); then flowers; then earth; then herb. The acid is lively, and the palate reveals a saline intensity of flavor that beautifully complements the sweet tannins, satisfying the same craving that causes us to mix our peanut M&Ms with our popcorn at the movies.
Ben’s wines are built for aging (which is why I wanted to sample over multiple days). He picks relatively early, which gives his wines beautiful acidity and enhances the leafy, herbal side of Cabernet Sauvignon. Ben believes that it’s those aromas that, with time, turn into alluring notes of leather and tobacco. Like all of Ben’s wines, this garnered great critical acclaim, scoring 90 points or higher from Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and Tanzer. Spectator (while not the highest score) hits it closest to my experience of the wine:
[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]
Cadence just released the 2007 vintage of this wine, which will doubtless be excellent as well, but I asked Ben to part with some of his limited, remaining stock of 2006. For me, there is joy in tasting the beginning of the new chapter in this story of land, luck, and perseverance.
Please limit requests to a maximum of 6 bottles, and we will do our best to fulfill all requests. If we sell out, it looks like some other retailers have bottles on hand (LINK: http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/cadence+camerata/2006/usa), although the prices are higher. We will have this wine in our warehouse in less than a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping.