The Wahluke Slope is one of the warmer Washington appellations and is particularly good for growing red grapes to produce some of Washington's great red wines. It is not unusual to find pieces of petrified wood on the vineyard floor in the ancient sandy soils that allow for good drainage and low nutrient capacity. These soils along with the warm days and breezes produce small canopies and berries for concentrated flavors and color.
The Desert Wind Vineyard is owned and managed by the Fries family. This particular block was planted in 1993 and I've had the good fortune to make wine from this block since 1996. I like the Desert Wind Cabernet Sauvignon as it has a lot of Cabernet character which, while it can be a bit over-powering in the young wine, with aging this Cabernets’ herbalness translates into complexity and spice which is complimentary to the cherry fruit which is framed with moderate tannins. These grapes were fermented in a one ton bin and punched down daily by hand. Once flavors, color and tannin had been extracted to the proper balance the wine was pressed off the skins. The wine was then racked to French Oak barrels where it was aged for two years.
The Sagemoor Vineyards, located north of Pasco, were the first substantive vineyards in Washington soon after they were planted in 1968. The vineyards are within the Columbia Valley appellation which is the largest Washington appellation encompassing most of the smaller appellations. Many of Washington’s top wineries procure grapes from these vineyards. Sagemoor vineyards consist of three vineyard entities - Sagemoor, Bacchus and Dionysus. This Cabernet Sauvignon is made from grapes of the Dionysus Vineyard block 14, a Southwest facing block overlooking the Columbia River. These old vines are challenged in the low-nutrient and water holding sandy soils producing small but flavorful berries and a supple rich mouth. The grapes were fermented in small one-ton bins and punched down by hand daily and then pressed to French oak barrels where the wine was aged for two years followed by extended aging in bottle.
This is a 50/50 blend of the Desert Wind and the Sagemoor lots. The Sagemoor wine moderated the more aggressive Cabernet character of the Desert Wind wine while the latter brought some verve and structure to the blend. Blending is a powerful winemaking tool to bring the positive elements into a blend. This wine was blended and aged for 24 months in new and one year-old French oak barrels to allow a slow maturation with the low oxidative conditions of barrel aging. Further extended bottle aging allows for further softening of tannins and evolution of flavors.
This Spanish variety, also known as Mataro, is one of the three varieties often used in blending of Cotes-du-Rhone wines, the other varieties being Syrah and Grenache. In the vineyard it is late to bud and late to ripen so it needs a warm site, such as the Red Mountain appellation, to fully ripen. It produces a wine of moderate tannins with good acidity and flavors of perfumed blackberries with a hint of black pepper. It is a great accompaniment to meals that call for a flavorful wine but without the tannin and weight that Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon possess.
The vineyard block was planted in 2006 after Scott Williams, winemaker and owner of Kiona Vineyards and Winery, returned from a trip to the south of France where he enjoyed a number of Rhone wines which are usually a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, commonly called GSM blends. Scott planted only four acres, enough to parse out grapes to just a few wineries. Fortunately for these wineries, this exotic Mediterranean variety does well in the unique calcareous and well-drained Red Mountain soil which produces ripe flavorful grapes reflecting the terroir or environment they were grown in.
These grapes were harvested in late October and fermented in a one ton bin. After daily punch downs to extract color and tannin the wine was pressed and then put immediately into second-fill French oak barrels so as to slowly age the wine without overpowering it with oak. The wine was aged in barrel for 17 months and then bottled where it was aged another 24 months in bottle to soften and meld the wine.