Full Pull All Cylinders

Hello friends. Chris Gorman is firing on all cylinders right now. He has three separate labels now (Gorman, Ashan, and Devil), and each of them is fascinating in its own right. Today we’re going to pluck one wine from each label, and my goal is to focus on the lower end of the Gorman price spectrum. In the past, we’ve mostly focused on the high-end. We’ve offered Evil Twin ($60-$70) three times; Bully ($40-$50) twice; Albatross ($70-$80) once. But today I’d like to focus on more of Chris’ gateway drugs:

2014 Ashan Cellars Chardonnay Barrel Fermented

Chris launched his Chardonnay-only Ashan Cellars label with the 2012 vintage, and we offered two of his three single-vineyard Chards back in March 2014. The philosophy of this project: to use historical and well-managed vineyards, press very lightly, allow native yeast fermentation, wild ML, extensive battonage, long ferments and extended barrel and bottle aging.

Along with his single-vineyard Chardonnays, Chris releases one that is a blend of several of his vineyards. While the single vineyard bottlings are $50, the blend comes out a year earlier and is usually sold for $25 (we have special pricing today). The 2013 was done in stainless steel, but for this 2014, Chris has gone in a different direction, doing a rich barrel-fermented Chard. The result is astonishing. With the warm vintage, the high-quality vineyard, and the house style, we end up with something that very much drinks like a great Napa Valley Chardonnay. For less than twenty bucks. The nose begins with layers of fruit – lemon curd, peach, plantain, mango, even plum – and then moves onto luscious barrel notes of smoke and toast and caramel. The fruit intensity on the palate is exquisite. It’s a ripe (14.5% listed alc) mouthful of creamy fruit swaddled in oak. Yes, there is richness and plushness, but not to excess; everything feels balanced, perfectly weighted, true to vintage. I almost feel guilty for liking this so much; it feels very much like an indulgence, but my oh my is it super delicious.

2012 Gorman Cellars Zachary’s Ladder

This has always been the lowest-priced red in Gorman’s main lineup, and it is often like a baby Evil Twin, predominantly Cab and Syrah (here it’s 50% Cab, 32% Syrah, the remainder Petit Verdot). I asked Chris what separates Zach from the new Devil You Know/Devil You Don’t Know label, which comes in at similar pricing, and he made a very good point, which is that Zachary’s Ladder is always 100% Red Mountain (the Devils vary in their sourcing).

You can almost think of it as: Zach is to Gorman as Coda is to Cadence (especially with our special pricing today; this is normally $30). What’s fascinating is that two winemakers could hardly have more differing stylistic takes on an AVA than Ben Smith’s and Chris Gorman’s interpretations of Red Mountain. They both make outstanding wines from this special patch of Washington terroir, but one favors elegance, the other power. In my mind (and cellar), there’s plenty of room for both. The choice on any given evening depends on mood, on context.

From Ciel, Klipsun, Ranch at the End of the Road, and Quintessence, this was raised entirely in once-used oak and clocks in at 14.8% listed alcohol. As you all know by now, I think 2012 is a fabulous vintage in Washington, and this is one of the better late-release wines I have tasted from ’12. A big high-toned nose starts things off: black plum, kirsch, and rose petal. On the palate, that big whack of Petit Verdot immediately makes its presence felt. This is a seriously structured wine, with massive black-tea tannins and no shortage of bright juicy acidity either. It’s very old-school Red Mountain to me, reminiscent of the wines that Chris and Mark McNeilly made in the mid-2000s. What the means is: black brooding fruit hidden behind walls of earth and structure. This definitely needs some time to unwind (a few hours in the decanter will work wonders), but even now, it offers honest Red Mountain character, and loads of power and structure for the tag.

2013 Old Scratch Cabernet Sauvignon

Quintessence Vineyard. File that one away. It’s a relatively new site on Red Mountain, and I have heard nothing but raves from the winemakers working with the fruit. Eric Degerman wrote a great article about Marshall Edwards, the gentleman who is managing this site. It was planted in 2010, so we’re just now starting to see the first usable fruit in bottle. And wow, if it’s this good young, the future is seriously bright for this site.

Quintessence Cabernet makes up the majority of Old Scratch. The young vines gave a big crop, and Chris ended up with enough excess fruit that it made sense to essentially bottle the vineyard on its own (there is some Kiona Vineyard fruit in the mix as well). He raised it entirely in used wood, and it clocks in at 15.2% listed alc. It’s noteworthy immediately when poured into the glass, because the color density is crazy: this is inky ruby-black juice. The nose is wild: super-expressive and also extremely savory for Cab. I love the black olive notes here, which comingle with black cherry fruit and sweet chile pepper. In the mouth, this is unapologetically delicious, a hedonist’s delight full of creamy fruit, continuing savory elements of herb and olive, and massive but supple/polished tannins. Really a singular Washington Cabernet; I can’t think of another I’ve had this year that is quite like Old Scratch.

Sean Sullivan noticed this one recently too, publishing it as his Weekly Wine Pick for Seattle Met Magazine. It doesn’t take a Nostradamus to foresee a strong future review in Wine Enthusiast. Let’s jump in and grab our share before that happens.

First come first served up to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and 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.

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