2009 Golden Ridge Cellars Estate

Hello friends. I hope everyone had a restful and happy end to 2012. Let’s kick off a new year with a new player in the Walla Walla Valley wine scene:

Golden Ridge is an exciting new project for a number of reasons. First, owner Michael Rausch is pursuing the full vigneron model, managing every aspect of the wine from viticulture to vinification.

Second, the vineyard itself is pretty exciting. It is one of the few vineyards located in the northern part of the valley. That area is almost entirely planted to wheat, and securing water rights has been a challenging enough prospect to deter many a prospective grape-grower. The vineyard was planted in 1998 with consulting help from Paul Champoux, whose Champoux Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills is probably the most recognizable name in Washington vineyards. It’s an 8-acre site , and it tops out at fairly high elevation (1350’). Planted out to about 70% Merlot and the remainder Cabernet Sauvignon, the vineyard sits on a soil base of rich silt loam and loess.

Michael purchased the site in 2007 after stints at Tamarack and Spring Valley (Spring Valley’s vineyards are the closest neighbors to Golden Ridge), and he produced a mini-release of the 2008 vintage (65 cases, sold to friends and family). This 09 vintage is his first true commercial release, although it’s still quite small, at 110 cases. The blend pretty closely mirrors the vineyard: 62% Merlot and 38% Cab. It spent a little over two years in oak, 80% new.

I also like the tariff! It is difficult enough to find any BDX blend from the Walla Walla Valley at less than $30, but to find one that is single-vineyard, and estate-grown? That is rare indeed.

Here’s what I find extra-impressive about this release: in many cases, winemakers in the early vintages of a new winery make bombastic, attention-grabbing wines. It takes a more confident winemaker to produce something that shows restraint, elegance, exploration of terroir; and that’s what Michael has done here. This doesn’t bash you over the head with its goodness; it sneaks up on you. Rich aromas of black cherry, mocha, sweet grain, and golden beet introduce the wine. The palate mixes redcurrant fruit with silty minerals, smoky barrel notes, and citrus-pith acids. A fine exploration of an under-explored section of the Walla Walla Valley, and a debutante winery to keep an eye on.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “Composed of 62% Merlot and 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, this displays a deep ruby color and a rich nose of blackberry, cherry and cassis with scents of dried roses, sandalwood, orange peel and incense. The dark fruit flavors are redolent of licorice, Swiss chocolate and roasted coffee bean. The back reveals notes of macerated berries, roasted nuts, dried cherries and silty loess minerals. The finish is well integrated, with moderate tannins and acids, light spices and toasty oak (80% new). 18.5/20pts.”

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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