Hello friends. We have a new vintage today of a lovely under-the-radar Cabernet that has become something of a list-member darling in its previous vintages. We’ve jumped around a bit in vintages, too. First we offered the 2006 and 2007 in October 2011. Then we got access to a library parcel of 2004 in February 2013. And now we have the latest release.
This new release already has one strong review from the only reviewer to publish so far:
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”
For the story behind this wine, I’ll excerpt from those previous offerings:
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. Their father’s wine, Andreas, is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon made by Gilles Nicault of Long Shadows.
Gilles controls every aspect of Andreas. The detail of the grape selection here is intense. 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, so that Gilles can be intimately involved with the wine at all steps of its evolution. In short, this is lovingly cared-for, deeply coddled wine. And it shows. It shows in the piercing cassis notes, overlain with woodsmoke and dust. It shows perhaps most in the texture, which is balanced, seamless, intense, a silky mass of blackcurrant and blackberry fruit dusted with sweet spice and cocoa powder. This would be a great wine to slip into a tasting of cult Napa Cabs, a fine ringer indeed.
This wine is just getting released, and with the strong review already in place, I’m not sure what will be available to us. Because of that, I’m not going to set an upper order limit. Request what you like, and we’ll do our best (we’ll allocate if needed, but I’m hoping we’re getting in early enough that it won’t be necessary). The wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.