2007 RiverAerie Cabernet Sauvignon

Hello friends. I’ll admit it: I’m beginning to lose credibility when it comes to my (ongoing) claims that we’re reaching the end of opportunities to access wines from the glorious 2007 vintage in Washington. I feel like I’ve sounded the alarm at least four or five times on this issue, only to be granted access to another lovely 07.

So, from the Department Of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, here is our last bottle from 2007. (Until our next last bottle from 2007).

RiverAerie is Ron Bunnell’s second label (Bunnell Family Cellar is the first), and some of the wines in this portfolio can be stunning values. Ron was with Ste Michelle from 1992 to 2004, and left as the Head Red Winemaker. His vineyard contacts, established during his time at Ste Michelle, have served him well since leaving.

While the Bunnell label maintains a focus on Rhone varietals and blends, the RiverAerie label gives Ron the chance to play with other varietals. This model is different from many of the other second labels that we see in Washington, because this isn’t declassified juice from Bunnell Family Cellar. Instead, Ron uses his connections with growers to locate one-off deals, frequently from single vineyards, frequently in small amounts, and always at low prices. The result is a broad (as many as a dozen wines in the portfolio at any given time), fascinating, well-priced portfolio.

This was one of those wines where I tasted it without knowing much, and then had to hit the books to figure out why it was so damned good. Knowing Ron’s predilections with RiverAerie, I had my suspicions that this was a single-vineyard Cabernet, and those suspicions were happily confirmed. It’s a terrific site, too: Northridge Vineyard.

Northridge is a fascinating site on the Wahluke Slope, farmed by the Milbrandt brothers. The site is something of a rarity, because unlike most of the Milbrandt properties, Northridge sits above the Missoula floodline, at elevations of 1100’ (see location here), meaning instead of flood soils, this vineyard sits on a thin layer of ancient soils above a base of caliche and basalt.

This bottling is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and Ron matures it entirely in 2-3 year old French barrels. Earthy, savory, and already displaying plenty of tertiary notes for a wine this young, this nose is chock full of mushroom and dust to complement the blackcurrant fruit. The palate presents a compelling mix of earthiness, cassis fruit, and truffley notes. It’s a lovely little Cabernet from a terrific vineyard, and it’s in the middle of its peak drinking window. The softening tannins offer a suggestion of porcini powder on the nicely-structured finish.

This is definitely on an accelerated aging curve, and I suspect those of us who enjoy those earthy, mushroomy tertiary notes will find this difficult to resist. First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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