2009 Robert Ramsay Cabernet Sauvignon Upland Vineyard

Hello friends. I received a number of inquiries in the beginning of January about today’s wine after its appearance in the Jan 2 Wine Spectator Insider. Several of you asked about its potential as a 2013 Spectator Top 100 wine.

On January 2. The second day of 2013. Only 363 days to go.

All kidding aside, I applaud (and share) this level of obsession. And my answer is: I don’t think this is a very likely Top 100 candidate. The list-price ($30) and score (93pts) are a potent combination, but Spectator also looks at production levels, and this clocks in at a mere 139 cases.

Of course, that boutique level of production presents its own problems; namely, that there’s hardly any of this wine to go around. I have secured a chunk of the (small) remaining parcel in western Washington, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. So, this will be a one-time only offering, with no reorders possible. Apologies in advance if allocations are smaller than requests.

Okay, enough about future Top 100 lists and enough about logistics. What about the wine?

Let’s start with the raw materials. This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and all of it from Upland Vineyard. Those of us who care about Washington wine would do well to memorize the name Upland, because this site’s star is squarely on the rise. The vineyard represents the majority of the Snipes Mountain AVA. Let’s examine the map, because there are a couple items of note.

1. What crazy topography! Doesn’t it look like the alien mothership alighted on earth and dropped a mountain in the middle of the Yakima Valley? Surrounded by alluvial valley floor on all sides, Snipes Mountain is a seven mile long uplifted ridge, topping out at about 1300 feet. Its closest uplifted-ridge neighbor is Red Mountain, a full forty miles to the east, so Snipes presents unique terroir.

2. Vineyards are planted on both the warmer southwest aspect and the cooler northeast aspect, allowing for all sorts of different varieties to thrive here.

On that note, Upland has probably become best known in the past few years for its Rhone varietals. Maison Bleue’s La Montagnette Grenache and their Graviere GSM blend both come entirely from Upland, as does Javier Alfonso’s well-received Garnacha under his Idilico label.

Those Rhone vines, however, are newer plantings. The oldest material on the mountain (with the exception of a true curiosity: 1917-planted Muscat) is Cabernet Sauvignon. And 90% of today’s wine comes from that old block, planted in 1973, the year after Alfred Newhouse purchased the site (Alfred’s grandson, Todd Newhouse, now farms Upland). These are among the oldest Cab vines in Washington.

The remaining 10% comes from the (charmingly-named) “Dump Block.” [a quick aside: Come on, people. We can get creative here. Just because the vineyard block was planted where we used to dump our rusting equipment does not require us to call it the Dump Block. What about the John Deere Block? The Caterpillar Block? I’d even accept Rust Block. But Dump Block? Ew.]

Winemaker Bob Harris has crafted a Cabernet full of old-vine charm, balancing the components that make Washington Cab so attractive: fruit (crème de cassis, beetroot), earth (clean soil), herb (bay leaf), and barrel (dark mocha). From a warm vintage, this is accessible and open, ready to go right now for seekers of immediate gratification.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: ****/***** (Excellent/Exceptional).”

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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