Hello friends. We have a rare treat today: an opportunity to access the inaugural vintage of a bottling whose future vintages have been showered in accolades:
This was one of those rare instances where I had to make a go/no-go decision before sending out an offering. After tasting a (knee-buckling) sample, it was an easy “go.” This is a special wine in a beautiful place, offered to us at an attractive tariff. In all likelihood, I overbought, so this may well be available for reorder (or for me to put away in my personal stash!), but this was a wine where I’d rather be long than short.
We offered a mini-vertical of Andreas (2006 and 2007 vintages) way back in October 2011, and those were extremely popular wines, spurred on in part by Paul Gregutt’s glowing reviews in Wine Enthusiast (94pts for the 2006; 96pts for the 2007). PaulG didn’t review the 2004. In fact, no one did. As far as I can tell, this wine is a ghost.
But such a friendly ghost! At the bottom of this offering, I’ll paste in the details of the Den Hoed project from our original screed, but suffice it to say: it’s 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Wallula Vineyard; the winemaker is Gilles Nicault of Long Shadows; and this is an absolute showstopper.
The aromatics come spilling up out of the glass: a beautiful core of dried cherry fruit, with deep earthy soil notes and cedar and leather emerging. It’s one of those noses where you know you’ve found a wine in one of its sweet-spot stages: the end of its primary stage, or the beginning of its peak drinking window. There’s still fruit there, but it’s taking on that lovely dried character that only age can bring, and the maturing notes of dust and earth and leaf are just beginning to reveal themselves. The palate is a killer, with dried cherry and blackcurrant complemented by streaks of tar and espresso and earth. The oak has integrated into a nuance of the darkest dark chocolate. The beautifully-managed tannins have integrated, also, transforming into liquid silk, and making for an exquisite, seamless mouthfeel.
This was as interesting after 24 hours open as it was on pop-and-pour, so I suspect it still has a long life ahead. As an example of the aging curve of Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, I’m not sure we’ve offered another bottle finer.
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.
And now, as promised, the story of the project from our original offering:
The first force of nature to get its hands on Wallula Vineyards was the Missoula floods. The second was the Den Hoed brothers. As to which was the more powerful, the more stubborn, well, that’s an open question.
Even today, Wallula looks like an impossible place for a vineyard. In much the same way we puzzle today about Stonehenge and the Easter Island statues, future historians might wonder if it took alien technology to blast a vineyard out of virgin terraced rock and sagebrush. As it happens, no aliens were required; just two Dutch brothers and more than two backhoes.
When the Wallula site came up for sale in 1997, Bill and Andy Den Hoed had already been growing wine grapes in Washington for 20 years. Their parents, Andreas and Marie, first-generation Dutch immigrants, began their Washington farming career in the Yakima Valley, where they grew mint, potatoes, and Concord grapes. In 1978, they were among the first farmers in the state to plant vinifera, and it wasn’t long before Chateau Ste Michelle was their biggest customer, and Bill and Andy were hooked into the family business.
Here are object facts about the site in 1997: Untouched sagelands bordering 7 miles of the Columbia River near the Wallula Gap, a Missoula Flood bottleneck. Steep slope, ranging from 350ft above the river at the bottom of the vineyard to 1400ft at the top. Intensely variegated soils, with soil depth ranging from 6 inches to 20 feet.
The difference between seeing difficulty and seeing opportunity is, I suppose, experience. The Den Hoed brothers had experience in spades, and they saw the opportunity to create a special vineyard. Wallula is a spectacular site. It’s difficult to capture in pictures, but let’s try anyway. Here is a wide shot, and here is a closer view to give a sense of the steep, terraced nature of some of these blocks. Remarkable.
As the vineyard came online and the vines gained some age, the better winery owners and winemakers in the state began to take notice. One of those was Allen Shoup, founder of Long Shadows. Recognizing the incredible potential of the vineyard, he put together an investment group that purchased a majority interest in Wallula Vineyard in 2008. Much of the vineyard was then renamed The Benches, but the Wallula name was retained for some of it, and the Den Hoeds continue to own a minority stake and to do all the farming and vineyard management.
But before any of that happened in 2008, Bill and Andy started a small label, with dual purposes: first, to showcase the exceptional nature of Wallula Vineyard; and second, to honor their mother and father. Their mother’s wine is Marie’s View, a multi-varietal blend made each year by Rob Newsom of Boudreaux Cellars. Today, we’re offering two vintages (a mini-vertical!) of their father’s wine. Simply called Andreas, it’s a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon made by Gilles Nicault of Long Shadows.
You might remember from our JB Neufeld offering back in March that I am a sucker for single-vineyard, 100% Cabernet. It’s gutsy winemaking, this pursuit of terroir-driven Cabernet, and I like us to support it whenever we can; not so difficult when the wines are this compelling.
Gilles controls every aspect of these wines. The detail of the grape selection here is insane. It goes beyond block selection, beyond even row selection. In some instances, Gilles is choosing specific plants within a row that are appropriate for Andreas. Once the grapes are picked, all the winemaking is done at Long Shadows (and for the Marie’s View, it’s all done at Boudreaux), so that the winemaker can be intimately involved with the wine at all steps of its evolution. In short, these are lovingly cared-for, deeply coddled wines. And it shows.