Hello friends. We have the return today of a list-member favorite, an up-and-coming winery that still flies mostly under the national radar but is developing quite a local following: Eight Bells.
I think there are two main reasons why our list members have fallen hard for this winery: 1) their continuing focus on Red Willow Vineyard, one of the finest pieces of terroir in Washington; and 2) their pricing structure, which favors more accessible tariffs than we’re used to seeing for Red Willow fruit.
To date, most of our focus has been on their Red Willow Syrahs, but Cabernet may end up being the real shining star at Eight Bells, beginning with this 2010 vintage, where they were granted access to exceptional fruit with a rich history.
Located towards the far western edge of the Yakima Valley (location here), Red Willow was originally planted by Mike Sauer in 1973. Much of Mike’s plantings over the years were done in conjunction with the late Master of Wine and long-time Columbia Winery winemaker David Lake. Those plantings include a total of four field-blend blocks, and amazingly, Eight Bells gets the fruit from three of those four blocks. One is the “Clonal Block” Syrah that we offered in February (going forward, this will be called “8 Clone”). Another is David’s Block.
Named after David Lake, who designed it, this block is another experimental part of the vineyard, developed to test out a number of different clones. It contains rows of all five Bordeaux varietals, and each row contains a different clone. For example, there are twelve rows of Cabernet Sauvignon, which means there are twelve different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon. Mike Sauer’s goal, and the eventual goal of the folks at Eight Bells, is to be able to harvest the entire block in a single day and co-ferment all the grapes together.
Now it would be one thing if this wine just had historical significance. That would be enough to tickle the intellect. But it hits the double-whammy, engaging the intellect and the senses. It’s dynamite Cabernet. And when you look at this wine’s peer group – other Red Willow Cabernets (e.g. Owen Roe at $72) – Eight Bells is coming in well below tariff par for its comparables. It’s an outstanding value, and it starts with a nose that is pure and deep, all red cherry fruit and earthy black soil. The palate continues the combination of red fruit and earth, layering in fresh topnotes of mint and bay-leaf, as well as cocoa powder and espresso barrel notes. The texture is beautifully managed, offering a seamless, elegant mouthfeel, with all components in perfect proportion. When it rolls into its chewy Cabernet finish, you’re left with a toothsome lick of tannins, suggestive of dust and dried leaves.
Jeb Dunnuck got his hands on a bottle for his first set of Wine Advocate reviews, and this is among the lowest-priced Cabernets to receive a review this strong: one more piece of evidence of this wine’s fine value.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “($35); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”
First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive at the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.