Full Pull Cabernet Value

Hello friends. Today we have outstanding pricing (down from an $18 release) on one of the best value Cabernet projects to emerge out of Washington in the past few years:

2014 Balancing Act Cabernet Sauvignon

(Note: the main thrust of this offer will be the Cabernet Sauvignon, but Balancing Act also has an outstanding Chardonnay, and we’ll offer that below.)

This is vintage number two for Balancing Act. I wanted to offer the debut vintage, but I slept on it a little too long, Wine Spectator published a 90pt review, and that was all she wrote. I don’t want to make the same mistake this year, and I just learned that the March issue of Wine Enthusiast is going to contain the following review from Sean Sullivan:

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEST WITHHELD]. 90pts.” [Sullivan context note: in his time with Wine Enthusiast, Sean has published 121 reviews of Cabernets at $20 and below. Only a single wine (2012 Goose Ridge g3) wine has earned a higher mark (91pts). All that to say: a 90pt review for a Cabernet at this price point is a fine review indeed from Mr. Sullivan.]

The most important thing to know about Balancing Act are the folks behind the project: Ron Coleman and Danny Gordon of Tamarack Cellars. For years, they have been producing their Firehouse Red, consistently among the finest values in Washington. Now they’re applying their considerable talents to producing similar value in Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The intention with the Cabernet is that it’s a blend of Tamarack-vinified house juice and carefully-selected purchased juice. Ron has been making wine in Walla Walla for a long time. He knows everyone, and that means access to very good juice indeed.

But in 2014, I actually wonder how much purchased juice the winery needed. After all, this is the high-quality/high-yield vintage in the northwest that led to the “grand cascade effect” (thanks again to Erica Landon of Walter Scott for this pitch-perfect term). The deal with the grand cascade: let’s say a winery normally gets enough fruit to make 100 cases of their expensive single vineyard Cabernet. But in a year like 2014, they get enough fruit to make 150 cases. One option, of course, is to just produce 150 cases of expensive wine and hope the market can bear it. Another option: “cascade” those extra 50-cases worth of single-vineyard juice into a lower-priced label, and make it that much better.

This drinks very much like expensive fruit given the careful coddling typical for everything that comes out of Tamarack. It clocks in at 14.2% listed alc and offers a wonderfully expressive Cabernet nose: crème de cassis and black plum paired to smoky/earthy peat moss tones and savory beetroot. The palate is rich, inviting, downright luxurious, and that’s not an adjective I find myself tossing around much for fifteen-dollar Cabs. There is a core of dense, layered fruit, swaddled in smoky/spicy barrel tones. The finish, awash in fine-grained Cabernet chew, leaves an impression of cocoa powder, a lengthy final note confirming a wine that punches well above its price class, drinking like many Cabernets in the $20s or $30s. What fun to have a Cabernet priced for Tuesday night that drinks like Saturday night!

2015 Balancing Act Chardonnay
This too has an upcoming Enthusiast review in the March issue: Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 89pts.” [Sullivan context note: in his time with Wine Enthusiast, Sean has published 87 reviews of Chardonnays at $15 and below. None have earned better than an 89pt mark, and in fact only three others share that 89pt score.]

This one clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and offers a nose of honeycrisp apple, citrusy pineapple, and crème fraiche. A real fruit yumball on the palate, with nary a shred of barrel influence, but with plenty of fruit intensity. The fruit is rich and layered: tree fruits, stone fruits, even a little tropical character. We haven’t offered many ten-dollar Washington Chardonnays, and there’s a reason for that. Most of them are anonymous at best, technically flawed and/or oak-powdered into oblivion at worst. This is a rare exception: clean, fruit-driven, and appealing.

Party and wedding planners, take note. Your guests will like you if you serve these wines. First come first served up to 120 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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