Hello friends. As I mentioned last week, something we like to do early in the year is reoffer some of our most popular wines of the previous year, one more chance to access these beauties before they sell out.
Today’s group focuses on the glorious 2012 vintage in Washington, a welcome return to a normal year after the successive cool vintages of 2010 and 2011. One of the themes of last year was wave after wave of wonderful 2012s crashing onto our shore, and there are a number of the 2012s that have been massively popular as reorder targets. Today we’re focusing on Bordeaux varieties and blends; we’ll save the Rhones for a future reoffer Friday. Let’s dive in.
2012 OS Winery Red Wine
Originally offered August 17, 2014, under the subject Full Pull (Still) Underpriced. Excerpts from that original offer: This has become a true list darling. Strong even in questionable value vintages like 2010 and 2011, it is exceptional in down-the-middle vintages like 2012. When this bottling is on, it is for my money some of the best value juice in Washington. And in 2012 it is most certainly on. Our list members went crazy for the 2011 vintage, which disappeared fairly quickly after Paul Gregutt’s 90pt Enthusiast review called it “a splendid wine for the price, one to buy by the case.” The OS Red Wine is made from declassified barrels from the higher-end OS Bordeaux blends (e.g. R3, BSH, Ulysses), and in 2012 it’s 44% Cabernet Franc, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Merlot. The winery doesn’t release specific vineyard sources for the Red, but it doesn’t take much sleuthing to figure the likely suspects from the roster of OS vineyards. Potential candidates include such luminaries as Sheridan, Klipsun, Champoux, Ciel de Cheval, Dineen, Two Blondes, Elephant Mountain.
What we do know: average vine age is 19 years (unusual; wines at this tariff usually come from considerably younger vines), and the wine spent about two years in French oak, one-third new. Listed alc is 13.9%. The nose is an alluring mix of kirsch, Kahlua, and smoky peaty earth tones. In the mouth, the Cabernet Franc asserts itself first, with that mix of flowers and earth that only Franc can pull off. There’s red cherry fruit, a savory kick of mole poblano, and a finishing lick of cherry-pit bitters. We’re all used to seeing jammy fruit bombs in this price range, but as usual, the OS Red transcends the category. This is earthier, more elegant, and certainly more structured than we have any right to expect. Or, to put it more simply, this is underpriced.
2012 Saviah “The Jack” Cabernet Sauvignon
Originally offered June 16, 2014, and it only got better and better as the year progressed. Excerpts from our original offer:
Look at the vineyards and elevage here and tell me this is a $15 wine. Sites like Bacchus, Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, Stillwater Creek – you may recognize those from Cabernet bottles that retail at $40, $50, $60 and up. And then they go into French oak barrels (30% new) for fifteen months. At which point they’re bottled and released. For $15. Madness.
“I know these aromas,” I thought to myself when tasting this last week. “This smells like expensive Washington Cabernet.” There’s the purity of the cassis and black cherry fruit, and then there’s the complexities: of flower (violet); of barrel (espresso); of earth and herb (soil and tarragon). In the mouth, this continues to impress, both with its purity of fruit and its palate-coating intensity. I just found none of the holes you usually see in Cabernet at this price. The mid-palate is fleshy and wonderful, and it rolls into a very Cabernet finish, awash in fine-grained black-tea tannins. This is a Cab that for me punches well above its price class, delivering delicious drinking now (at 14.3% listed alc) and the potential for a 10-year aging window. Congrats to Rich Funk; this is as impressive a Jack Cabernet as I can remember.
2012 Cadence Coda
Originally offered October 29, 2014, this has inspired rapturous praise from our list members ever since. Excerpts from the original blast: Why is Coda such an incredible value year in and year out? Well, Ben Smith makes exactly four single-vineyard wines for Cadence, all from Red Mountain. Two come from the estate Cara Mia Vineyard, one from Ciel du Cheval, and one from Tapteil. And that’s it. Ben carefully crafts the blends for those high-end ($45-$60) wines, and then whatever barrels aren’t included during those blending trials end up in Coda. What that means for Coda is that it’s always a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot, always a blend of Cara Mia, Ciel du Cheval, and Tapteil, and always barrels that were raised with the exact same care as the higher-end bottles. And we get all of that for a tariff that is about half the single-vineyard wines.
I was totally smitten when I tasted this wine. To give you the temperature of my notes, the first line says “oh wow baby Bel Canto!” which of course refers to one of Ben’s beautiful blends from his estate Cara Mia Vineyard. And my oh my, if this is a sneak preview of what is to come in a year or so when Ben releases 2012 Bel Canto and Camerata and Ciel and Tapteil, batten down the hatches. But for now we can revel in this marvelous vintage of Coda, a 33/29/29/9 blend of Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petit Verdot that comes soaring up out of the glass with a gorgeous high-toned flower garden of cherry blossoms, roses, and lilacs, overlaying beautiful spiced black cherry and redcurrant fruit and terrific soil-driven earth tones. This really nails the earth-and-flower aspect of Cabernet Franc that can be so exotic, so haunting when done well. At 14.4%, this is positively rich by Ben standards but of course retains Cadence’s signature elegance of texture, briskness of mouthfeel. It’s a remarkable wine, a clarion call for the grace, power, and incipient class of Washington’s 2012 vintage.
In that original offer, I said “Tanzer reviews should be released any day now, and if I were a betting man, I would bet on a strong review for this wine.” That would have been a good bet, as a 91pt review for a $20 Washington wine is just about unheard of from Tanzer. Vinous/IWC (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”
2012 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Lower East
Originally offered July 27 and a frequent reorder throughout the second half of last year. Excerpts from that July offer: This was a bottle where I was stunned by the quality right up until I saw the vineyard sources, and then everything made sense. In 2012, Lower East comes from an all-star foursome, three from the Walla Walla Valley (Gramercy Estate, Octave, and Pepper Bridge), plus the outstanding Phinny Hill in Horse Heaven. The blend includes 24% Merlot, and the whole thing was raised entirely in French oak, 40% new.
What Lower East does beautifully, year in and year out, is to establish itself as a true four-corners Cab, with fruit (black cherry, blackberry), earth, savory/herbal (beetroot, rhubarb, mint), and barrel (mocha) notes in fine balance. Here we see winemakers who strive for elegance in a year that wanted to be a little fleshier. The result: a balanced beauty, at 14.2% listed alc containing just the right amount of generosity to the laser-pure fruit, and of course plenty of balancing structure, in both the form of blood-orange acids and toothsome black-tea tannins. If you’re looking to build a cellar of sturdy, ageworthy wines under $30, this would be an awfully nice place to start. Like every vintage of Lower East so far, it is polished, classy, and punches well above its price class.
Please order what you like, without restriction, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.