2009 Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon Discovery Vineyard

Hello friends.

“I believe that an individual piece of property can form a signature.”

“I believe that if Washington is ever to be considered a great wine region we need to establish the characteristics of our geographical areas and the characteristics of each vineyard in those areas.”

“We are trying to let the vineyards reveal themselves.”

What those three quotes all have in common: they are all from Chris Camarda of Andrew Will Winery, and they all speak to a wine worldview that emphasizes expression of place as paramount.

Chris Camarda is one of Washington’s terroir champions, and so when a new vineyard ascends to the white-label, single-vineyard program, it’s reason to celebrate.

The white labels have been the same since 2006: Ciel du Cheval, Two Blondes, Champoux, and Sorella (which is old-block Champoux). But no longer.

Discovery Vineyard is going to be a name you’ll want to remember. It’s as buzzy a Cabernet site as I can think of in Washington. To determine important newer vineyards, you need only follow the fruit. Who is buying Discovery fruit? Andrew Will (duh). Adams Bench (many thanks to Tim Blue for first introducing me to Discovery fruit more than three years ago). Oh, and a little winery named Quilceda Creek.

The vineyard is in the heart of the Horse Heaven Hills (location here), on a sloping bluff high above the Columbia (here’s a picture from the site). Horse Heaven is arguably the finest AVA in Washington for growing Cabernet Sauvignon (I say arguably because Red Mountain could submit a compelling case as well). The main climatic characteristics of the area are that it’s warm and windy. The warmth helps to ensure consistent ripening from year to year (important for late-ripening Cabernet), and the wind thickens up the grape skins, which leads to strong tannin structure in the finished wines. Geologically, it’s an area that was repeatedly hammered by the Missoula floods, which left gravel bars and weird flood sediments all over the place, topped by a layer of sandy loess.

Champoux Vineyard is without question the most famous site in the AVA (and perhaps the entire state), and Paul Champoux himself helped owners Milo and Kay May plant Discovery in 2004. He remains involved with vineyard management at a consulting/mentoring level. Discovery is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Syrah and Petit Verdot planted as well.

Chris Camarda’s single-vineyard bottlings for Andrew Will almost always contain Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Because neither of the latter two are planted at Discovery, this is that rare beast: a white-label Andrew Will that is 100% varietal.

An oft-repeated saw in the wine trade is: “Pinot tastes like where it was grown. Cab tastes like Cab.” But just because we say it a lot doesn’t make it true. I defy you to taste this 100% Cabernet and not experience a sense of terroir. This doesn’t just taste like Cab; it tastes like Horse Heaven. And for me, that means a deep graphitic core, a minerally/pencil-lead note that just won’t quit (it’s that strong mineral/earth character that is prized in Champoux fruit as well). This is a dark, brooding bottle, with the blackest cassis fruit, asphalt, and black espresso. The depth of character, the palate coating quality: very impressive indeed for vines this young. It picks up a head of steam in the mid-palate and powers through a long, chewy finish; very Horse Heaven Cabernet.

This is a tiny production run for Andrew Will (just 198 cases), so I can’t speak to this wine’s availability on reorder. For now, 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 available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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