Hello friends. The true vigneron model is surprisingly rare in Washington. It is unusual to see a single person managing both viticulture (growing grapes) and vinification (making wine), and doing it all from estate vineyards. It’s a structural issue, mostly. Unfortunately in Washington, many of the places that are among the best for growing grapes are likewise among the worst for, erm, living. I mean, good luck convincing a young, promising winemaker to set up shop in the Horse Heaven Hills (motto: We’re Only 40 Minutes From Prosser!). Easier to contract with a grower, set up in Woodinville, and begin enjoying that bumpin’ eastside nightlife.
Because the vigneron model is rare, they tend to stand out, and we tend to offer them. Walla Walla has Cayuse (okay, so we haven’t offered their wines, but a boy can dream) as the classic model, Figgins, and arguably Pepper Bridge. The Wahluke Slope has Fielding Hills and the Milbrandt brothers. There’s McKinley Springs in Horse Heaven, Nefarious (to some degree; the Neffs work with purchased fruit in addition to their estate) in Lake Chelan, Bainbridge Vineyards in the Puget Sound AVA. I’m sure there are a handful of others I’m forgetting, but not more than a handful.
And then there’s the Yakima Valley. When I think of Yakima Valley vignerons, there is one name at the top of the list: Scott Greer of Sheridan Vineyard.
Scott is an outstanding grower/winemaker, and he and Big John Caudill have done such a fabulous job of growing Sheridan’s mailing list and wine club over the years that these wines have become increasingly difficult to source (a seemingly endless series of huge critical reviews haven’t hurt either). To wit: the last time we were able to devote an offer to Sheridan was October 2012.
I’m thrilled, then, that we have access to parcels (barely) big enough to warrant today’s offer. These three bottles are very much in keeping with the Sheridan house style: dense layers of delicious fruit; massive structure; incredible concentration.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93pts.”
This is 100% estate Cabernet Franc, and it clocks in at 14.1% listed alc. Aromatically, it has that lovely poblano note that I associate with some of the most interesting Francs in Washington, beautifully balancing a core of blackberry fruit. It’s a palate-stainer in the mouth, very true to Franc’s savory/earthy character. You wouldn’t confuse it with the Loire Valley; it’s more like an homage to the Loire but with beautiful, supple new world fruit. After a rich attack, this fans out across the palate effortlessly and then lingers, and lingers, with earthy/leafy goodness. A singular expression of Washington Cabernet Franc.
L’Orage now has “Cabernet Sauvignon” on the back label, and the plan is to keep it that way going forward. The blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc, all estate of course, and it spent about two years in 50% new French oak. I typically think of L’Orage as something of a brooder, but this was showing very open-knit and aromatically expressive, with a beautiful nose of pollen-dusted blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, paired to smoky and graphitic subtleties. The stuffing, the heft, the power of this all defy the cool 2011 vintage, and I can only imagine Scott kept his yields ruthlessly low to achieve this level of concentration. It’s rich and delicious with its smoky black fruit, and it rolls into a seriously structured finish, awash in toothsome black-tea tannins, very true to Cabernet.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 94pts.”
This one is extremely limited, and I haven’t had a chance to sample it, so we’ll have to depend on Mr. Dunnuck’s tasting notes alone:
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITH HELD] 96pts.”