Hello friends. Because of our list’s ongoing support for Michael Savage’s wines, we’ve been offered a treat today: exclusive access to a new wine in the Savage Grace portfolio, a killer Cabernet from one of the finest vineyards in Washington.
The reason I think we might end up snagging the entire parcel? Well, it’s a combination of factors:
FACTOR 1: THE WINEMAKER
Michael Savage is about as buzzy as a winemaker gets in Washington circles these days, and that buzz turned into a roar last summer when Savage Grace was named Best Emerging Winery in Seattle Magazine’s annual awards. Here’s an excerpt of what I’ve written about Michael previously:
FACTOR 2: THE VINEYARD
Red Willow Vineyard is one of Washington’s most important sites; the defining vineyard, in my opinion, of the far western Yakima Valley. It was originally planted by Mike Sauer in 1973, and for many years, the preponderance of the fruit went to Columbia Winery. In recent years, as Columbia contracts have loosened and as boutique, sterling-reputation wineries like Betz and Owen Roe and Gramercy (and Savage Grace!) have begun working with the fruit, the reputation of Red Willow has only grown and grown.
This Cabernet comes from the first usable harvest (third leaf) from a 2012 block planted on the Marcoux side of the vineyard. I reached out to Michael to ask him about working with Red Willow fruit, and here is his (excerpted) response: I started getting excited about the possibility of working with [Red Willow Cabernet] fruit and finding a way to express it in a style that matched the winery philosophy of making more restrained, old-world, balanced and terror-driven wines. Also, I thought of some of the older David Lake cabs that I’d tasted that were balanced and much lighter-bodied, lower alcohol. So this gave me a place to start to approach the fruit.
One of the main goals of the winery is to make balanced wines that speak of place and I feel like this is one of the truly great vineyards in the state, one where terroir really shows through in the wines. And I want people to know when they are drinking wine from this vineyard, how much the Sauer family respects their vineyard and what great people they are to work with. The terroir here is so unique. The aromas and flavors that show up in the wines are so specific to Red Willow and I feel like it shows across all varietals. Kind of a smoky, gamey, minerality, with brine and brilliant fruit.
2014 was a very warm year and I typically pick earlier, looking for more varietal character, lower-Brix, less “winemaking” needed, etc., so we discussed how early we could pick to get the right balance for that style. Leaner-bodied but balanced. So this was the first pick from that cab block, about 1-week earlier than the next pick that year. The 2014 Cab Sauv was picked on Sept. 25, berries were small, and it was fermented using a combination of destemmed, lightly-crushed, along with some whole-berry, for tannin management. Mostly punch-downs were used. Knowing that the cabs from that vineyard do not generally suffer from lack of tannins, it was aged in 18% new French Oak, which is rare for us to use, and the rest 1st and 2nd-use barrels. It was bottled after 1-year.
FACTOR 3: THE VARIETY
We’ve offered a lot of Michael’s wines over the years – Chardonnay and Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec and Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc – but never a Savage Grace Cabernet Sauvignon. This is as approachable a Cab as I can remember tasting from Michael; hell, maybe as approachable a Savage Grace wine, period.
It clocks in at 14% and has a nose that caused me to pause and jot a note to myself that “Michael has a real gift when it comes to purity.” Purity is the watchword for Savage Grace wines, and this is a fine example. The nose is a precise, expressive mix of black cherry fruit, cherry blossom, and loamy earthy notes. With time and air, lovely subtleties of cedar and tobacco emerge, like a Washington-Pauillac cross And then on the palate, it’s a marvel of intensity with nary a shred of excess weight. The sense of balance is impeccable, and the components (fruit, earth, exotic spice liked smoked paprika) coexist seamlessly. Acidity is bright and vibrant, tannins polished and supple, the entire package compelling as can be. It is really difficult to believe that this is third-leaf fruit, but that combination of skillful grower and gifted winemaker can make magic, even with youthful vines.
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.