Two from Eight Bells

Hello friends. Red Willow Vineyard is one of Washington’s most important sites, the defining vineyard, in my opinion, of the far western Yakima Valley (location here). It was originally planted by Mike Sauer in 1973, and for many years, the preponderance of the fruit went to Columbia Winery. In recent years, as Columbia contracts have loosened and as boutique, sterling-reputation wineries like Betz and Owen Roe and Gramercy have begun working with the fruit, the reputation of Red Willow has only grown and grown.

Many 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 fascinating field-blend blocks, and there’s one winery that gets all the fruit from three of those four blocks. It’s not any of the aforementioned wineries, either; instead, it’s up-and-comer winery and Full Pull list member favorite Eight Bells.

So today we present a block party, with wines featuring two of those field blend blocks. The first is the new vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon from David’s Block; the second a last-call reoffer on Syrah from the 8 Clones Block:

2011 Eight Bells Cabernet Sauvignon Red Willow Vyd David’s Block

We offered the 2010 vintage last July. It received a strong (93pt) review from Jeb Dunnuck and disappeared soon thereafter. The block is named after David Lake, who designed it, and it was 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, beginning with a nose marrying black cherry and blackcurrant fruit to subtleties of cherry blossom and graphitic mineral. In the mouth, you find a wine true to the cooler 2011, a wonderful bridge between Washington and Bordeaux, with those wonderful BDX qualities of leaf and earth to go with brisk black fruit and espressoey tannins. Well-made Cabs from Washington’s two cooler vintages (2010 and 2011) are poised to age in fascinating directions. One need only taste wines from the 1999 vintage to realize where these wines could be in another ten years.

Most of this wine has already sold through the Eight Bells winery and mailing list. We have access to a small parcel, but this is likely one and done, with reorder prospects murky at best.

2011 Eight Bells Syrah “8 Clones” Red Willow Vineyard

Originally offered on September 30, 2013. Excerpts from original offer: The “8 Clones” block, as you probably deduced already, contains eight different clones of Syrah. This is the only place to taste this specific piece of Red Willow terroir, and it’s a beauty. The nose is glorious, interweaving marionberry fruit, bacon fat, white flowers, and green olives. The mix of rich fruits and meaty/briny/umami savories continues on the palate, which finishes with a lick of salty mineral tang. The mouthfeel is lovely, silky, with a sense of inner-mouth perfume that goes on and on through the lengthy, grin-inducing finish.

Since that original offer, two positive reviews have emerged:

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: **** (Excellent).”

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19/20pts.”

I had a chance to taste this recently, and another year of bottle age has only improved this beauty. It was crazily aromatically expressive during that recent tasting, and the briny green olive notes have really moved to the fore. I’m crazy about its brackishness. There’s something that feels almost naughty about loving this silky savory stew of a wine. The winery is holding onto their small remaining parcel for us, so this is officially last call on a terrific Syrah.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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