Two from Woodward Canyon

Hello friends. Two new releases today from a Mt. Rushmore level Washington winery, a model of consistent excellence: the inimitable Woodward Canyon.

2012 Woodward Canyon Chardonnay

Woodward’s bottling is benchmark Washington Chardonnay, from the yin-yang vineyards of cooler Celilo, in the Columbia Gorge, and Woodward’s warmer Estate Vineyard, in the northern part of the Walla Walla Valley. Much of Rick Small’s focus and interest in the last few years has been in the estate vineyards, and that has paid clear dividends in this Chardonnay, which contains a full 71% estate fruit. When I visited the site, all I saw was a small vineyard surrounded by a sea of wheat-fields in every direction. You can see it on our vineyard map, too; there aren’t many other vineyards in this area.

This is outstanding Chardonnay, luxuriating in a return to a normal vintage after the cooler 2010 and 2011. I love the full, rich, creamy texture, but the fruit is never overblown, displaying lovely restraint to the peach, plantain, and lemon curd flavors. Woodward’s Chardonnay consistently supplies mineral and leesy complexities to complement that fruit, and that’s certainly the case here. Long and powerful, this cries out for rich fare to complement. I had doodles of crabs and lobsters next to my tasting note, and those would match well with the full texture and the cleansing lemon-drop acids.

No review yet from Paul Gregutt (Wine Enthusiast) for this vintage, but it’s worth noting the track record, with each of the previous four vintages receiving strong (93-96pt) reviews.

2011 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series

For the second vintage running, Artist Series sees a sizeable chunk of Champoux fruit that usually ends up in Old Vines. Here it takes a plurality, at 30% of the blend, rounded out with fruit from Canoe Ridge (29%), Sagemoor (18%), Woodward Estate (12%), Hedges (6%), and 1-2% dollops of a few other sites. 2011 was a tough year for a few of Woodward’s sites, due to both the 2010 Thanksgiving freeze and the cooler 2011 vintage, and subsequently, this is a low-yield year for Artist Series.

It’s a full 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it shows, with a solid core of crème de cassis fruit, swaddled in barrel notes of woodsmoke and coffee, along with Champoux’s signature graphite/pencil-lead mineral tones. In the mouth, I immediately admired how this visits all the highlights of a cooler Cabernet vintage: beetroot, bay leaf, black olive. There is blackcurrant and blackberry fruit of course, but it’s merely a component of a complex overall blend. The finishing tannins (well-managed as always) are redolent of star anise and black tea, just lovely. I’ve been lucky enough to taste some Woodward Cabernets from the cooler 1999 vintage, and my oh my, if that’s any indication of what Woodward produces in cool vintages, this should have a fascinating decade or two ahead of it.

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive on Wednesday, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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