Alex: Do you mind describing your Cabernet Sauvignon for our community?
Michael: This Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley region of Washington state. The vineyard is one of the landmark vineyards in the state's wine history, beginning in 1971; and it worked closely with some of the most important producers in Washington's burgeoning wine industry throughout the 1970s and 1980s and to this day. Its unique location, 30 miles west of most Yakima Valley vineyards, surrounded by desert sage and cattle ranch, and at the foothills of the eastern edge of the Cascades, offers a very different terroir from other sites in Yakima. The elevation is 1,200 ft, the slope is SE-facing and the soils are sandy loam.
I started working with the vineyard in 2011, with some Sauvignon Blanc (which I still get). Soon after that, the owner and grower, Mike Sauer, told me about some young plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon he would have available soon and were planted in 2012. I jumped in and started working with them in 2014.
As far as adding Cab Sauv to my more Loire-focused winery, it did take some consideration. However, I knew a bit about the vineyard's long history with Cab Sauv and its association with David Lake, a Master of Wine from the UK who made some legendary, more Bordeaux-like, balanced, lower-alcohol Cab Sauvs from the vineyard in the early 1980s. I started thinking that my approach would be to try to bring the Cab Sauv into a leaner, more old-world style and trust that it would work out. I went in with an open mind but decided I would pick the grapes earlier each next vintage and see how the wine worked out. I am still doing that. Each year, I've discovered I like the wine better and better and that it doesn't need to match any typically Washington Cab Sauv-style and can just be an extension of my more Loire or Burgundian leanings as a winemaker.
I don't mind a little green-ness in Cab Sauv, as that's the varietal character, and I don't need to use hardly any new French Oak to frame the wine, but can instead feature the amazing red currant fruit, meatiness, and leather that comes from the fermentation of the grapes. Also, due to the site's warm days and cool nights, Cab Sauv ripens well there, but stills retains great natural acidity. Since we do all-natural fermentation, no adjustments on wines, this ensures we will have both density and brightness at the end.
This Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in all neutral French oak, offers flavors of vibrant red-fruit, like cassis, mulberries, and raspberries, along with an earthiness and silky smooth tannins. It was picked on 9/23/2015 and then whole-cluster grapes were de-stemmed and gently crushed into fermenters to begin fermentation. It was pressed at dryness and then aged in 90% neutral / 10% new French oak barrels and finally bottled unfiltered after 18 months.