Hello friends. Sometimes it helps to have feet on the ground.
I was reminded of that during my August visit to Walla Walla, when I had the pleasure of tasting through the gorgeous lineup of Tamarack Cellars wines with Ron Coleman and Sandy Kleck. What I have always found deeply impressive about Tamarack is that they’re essentially two wineries in one, and both are successful.
There’s the winery that produces 15,000 cases of Firehouse Red each year, an incredible value in the sub-$20 price range that frequently winds up on national Top 100 lists.
And then there’s the boutique winery, which produces a series of varietal wines and reserves with production levels of a few hundred cases. Those reserves are beloved by Washington wine insiders and are some of our state’s hidden gems. The current lineup, four 2008 single-vineyard BDX blends from some of the top sites in Washington, stole the show during that August tasting.
At the time, the Tamarack folks had just received word that those reserves were set to receive glowing reviews from Paul Gregutt in the September issue of Wine Enthusiast, so they were planning to hold most of the production back to sell direct through the winery (and, in fact, if we have to under-allocate, you might consider supplementing through Tamarack directly).
But because I was there in Walla Walla, I could direct my persuasive groveling right at the source (somehow, persuasive groveling over phone or e-mail just isn’t as effective). I’m sure we were also helped by the fact that our list has shown support for a number of Tamarack’s reserves in previous vintages.
In the end, a happy result: Tamarack has shipped a small parcel of reserves over the Cascade mountains, and that parcel awaits our order. We’re starting today with the two reserves that I think will see the greatest pressure towards extinction: the Seven Hills (lowest production of the four); and the DuBrul (highest score of the four):
2008 Tamarack Cellars Seven Hills Vnyd Reserve (Cabernet Blend)
Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($50); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”
A blend of 90% Cab and 5% each Merlot and Carmenere, this spent just shy of two years in barrel (40% new), and total production level was a measly 108 cases. This is serious boutique juice, now four years past vintage (it’s getting rare to see 2008s on the market), and it is a glorious expression of this Walla Walla Valley stalwart vineyard (see map for location).
Of the four reserves, the Seven Hills was the winner for outright prettiness. It begins with a soaring high-toned nose of lilac, rose, and violet (“floral ambrosia,” my note reads). On the palate, the floral notes move to background roles, subtleties to add lift to a core of rich crème de cassis fruit. A big part of the appeal of Tamarack’s reserves is the texture, and this reserve in particular is texturally flawless: a seamless, silky palate-stainer. Long and perfumed, this finishes with a kiss of cherry-tea tannins, fine-grained and integrating rapidly. Wines from Seven Hills are notoriously long-lived. The future is bright for this one.
2008 Tamarack Cellars DuBrul Vineyard Reserve (BDX Blend)
Now we head west out of the Walla Walla Valley and into the Yakima Valley, where we find the incomparable DuBrul Vineyard (location here). This is a site that has rapidly moved into the stratosphere in the past few years, driven in part by exceptional bottlings from Cote Bonneville ($120) and Rasa (Creative Impulse; $95), and in part by news that Quilceda Creek had contracted with DuBrul to purchase Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to replace their freeze-damaged Champoux fruit.
But Ron Coleman has been there all along.
His first DuBrul bottling was the 2005 vintage, and the reserve has a remarkably consistent track record of excellence since. His tariff for this wine also remains ultra-competitive within its peer group. Here we see the usual exotic DuBrul character, with streaks of sweet grain and olive and Indian spice running through a core of deep berry fruit. It picks up momentum across the palate and finishes with a wash of green-tea tannins: lovely, leafy, earthy. 200 cases produced.
Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($50); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 96pts.”
Please limit order requests to 4 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.