Full Pull Danny’s Vintage

Hello friends. We have the sophomore vintage today of Damon Huard and Dan Marino’s fabulous Washington Cabernet, Passing Time. Since Dan Marino is synonymous with the number 13, this vintage has come to be affectionately called “Danny’s vintage” around the winery.

Like last year, the Passing Time team is extending a very cool offer to Full Pull list members. The deal is: any of our list members who order 3 or more bottles of today’s wine will receive an invitation to Passing Time’s release party on April 16 and a chance to talk vineyard spacing, what Peyton Manning means when he screams “OMAHA!”, or any other wine/football topics you like with Damon and Dan. Basically, we’re going to give the Passing Time folks a list of any of our members who order 3+ bottles, and if you do so, you should expect an invitation from the winery to be forthcoming.

Please note: I need to get our list of names to Passing Time at noon on April 8, so only 3+ bottle orders placed before noon on April 8 will get added to the Passing Time invitation list. Now, onto the wine and the story of how this project came to be:

2013 Passing Time Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills

The genesis of the project was a period in the late ‘90s when Dan and Damon overlapped on the Miami Dolphins roster. Marino was already a wine fanatic at that point, and he surprised Huard (a Washington native) with the fact that a solid chunk of his cellar came from Washington (wineries like Andrew Will, Leonetti, Col Solare, all three of which, I have to say, were making phenomenal wine in the late ‘90s; fine taste, Mr. Marino!).

Damon can tick off multiple connections to Washington wine: his great grandparents were grape farmers (okay, the grapes were Concord, but close enough); his grandpa played high school basketball with Paul Champoux (Champoux Vineyard); and he married a girl from the Yakima Valley. So there was plenty of interest among both men in finding a way to move into Washington wine after retiring from football. With their shared love of Cabernet Sauvignon, and their connection to the Champoux family, the original plan was to wait until they could access Champoux Cabernet, but in the interim, they tasted Cabernets from a series of Champoux neighbors. One of those tastings featured Discovery Vineyard (if I had to guess, I’d peg an Andrew Will single-vineyard Cab), and the guys had a “wow” moment (I’ll admit; I’ve had a few of those drinking Disco Cabs).

With a vineyard plan in place, they next set about securing a consulting winemaker, and they landed on Chris Peterson of Avennia. I don’t think I have to say much about the wisdom of that choice. Our list members know perfectly well how beautiful Chris’ winemaking is. What I love about this project, though, is that Damon and Dan are asking Chris for a very different house style than he does for Avennia. I’m sure that’s part of what makes it interesting for Chris, and it certainly makes it compelling from a consumer perspective.

Like their inaugural 2012 vintage, the 2013 vintage for Passing Time contains exactly one wine: this Discovery Vineyard Cabernet. Unfortunately, production levels this year are shorter by 100 cases than the 2012. The 2013 has just 390 cases bottled in 750ml. More than 200 cases are already pre-sold, and we can expect another 50 to disappear at the release party. That doesn’t leave a whole lot, and I feel very lucky that our list has access to this wine at all.

On that note, I should say: you might consider joining the winery mailing list. We’re fortunate to have received an allocation this year (the focus is mostly on direct sales and restaurant sales), but we have no guarantees going forward. The eventual goal for the winery (likely starting with next year’s 2014-vintage release) is to produce three Cabernets: one from Horse Heaven, one from Walla Walla, and one from Red Mountain. Having tasted their wines in barrel, I can tell you that this is a serious project indeed, one that Cabernet lovers will want to play close attention to in coming years.

But back to this 2013, which is a full 97% Cabernet Sauvignon from Discovery Vineyard, rounded out with Champoux Cabernet Franc. It was done in 80% new French oak for 21 months, and it clocks in at 14.8% listed alc. If we think of the Avennia style as maybe 40/60 fruit elements/non-fruit elements, then we can think of Passing Time as Chris Peterson trying to achieve something closer to 70/30. This pours into the glass inky black-purple and is very expressive aromatically, offering blackcurrant fruit paired to lovely graphitic Horse Heaven Hills minerality. A lovely eucalyptus top-note keeps things fresh. In the mouth, you notice the energy and breadth first, as the wine just fans out and coats the entire mouth: a palate-stainer to be sure. It impresses with its balance, its finesse, and its lovely sense of freshness; a graceful wine in a vintage that wanted to be anything but. The finish is all fine-grained tannin, redolent of English breakfast tea. I’d drink this 2013 now and let the 2012 age a little longer.

It’s a beautiful, propulsive wine, a terrific example of why Horse Heaven is the ne plus ultra of Washington Cab. There’s a reason that Quilceda Creek and Andrew Will have been among the wineries to source Discovery Vineyard fruit; this site offers a striking balance of fruit and mineral elements.

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

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