Hello friends. We have access today to a small parcel of one of the toughest-to-source wines coming out of Washington right now: Damon Huard and Dan Marino’s Passing Time.
2014 Passing Time Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 95-97pts.”
Reviews like that, plus the star power attached to the winery, plus the quality of the wine itself (outstanding) combine to make this such a challenge to access in any large quantity. And please note: our parcel this year is borderline for an offer. I’m going to set max requests at 6 bottles, but actual allocations are likely to be considerably smaller.
It’s not really a surprise to me that this winery’s star is so rapidly on the rise. It was clear from the very first time I met Damon Huard that this was not going to be in any way a half-ass celebrity wine label. I still remember walking into Avennia and catching Damon talking to Chris Peterson about vineyard spacing. Not branding or labels. Not sales or marketing. Geeky vineyard talk! It seemed auspicious at the time, and it seems auspicious today.
Now then, the story of how this all came to be. The genesis of the project was a period in the late ‘90s when Dan and Damon overlapped with the Miami Dolphins. 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, 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. What I love about this project is that Damon and Dan are asking Chris for a different house style than he does for Avennia (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). I’m sure that’s part of what makes it interesting for Chris, as well, and it certainly makes it compelling from a Washington Cab-lover’s perspective.
You may have noticed in Jeb’s note above that there are now Red Mountain and Walla Walla Cab bottlings as well under the Passing Time label. We may have access to those in future vintages, but for now, we’re sticking with the wine that started it all, from the Horse Heaven Hills. This year, the Cabernet is split right down the middle between perhaps the finest old-school Cab site in Horse Heaven (Champoux) and the finest new-school site (Discovery). There are small amounts of Merlot (9%) and Cab Franc (5%) in the mix as well, and all that good juice was aged in 80% new French oak for 20 months.
Please limit order requests to 6 bottles (and be prepared for actual allocations closer to 2-4 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.