On Saturday, May 7, during Spring Release Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley, we visited Tertulia Cellars' Elevation Vineyard. It is located almost in the southeastern corner of the AVA at an elevation of 1500 to 1700 feet (hence the vineyard name) in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, along the North Fork of the Walla Walla River. Lynn and I and about 20 other guests were guides by Tertulia winemker Ryan Raber, vineyard manager Ryan Driver, and consulting geologist Kevin Pogue who is also a Whitman College professor.
After leaving Tertulia Cellars on Whitely Road in the South Valley, we caravaned along a winding route to the vineyard. There, we convened at the base of the steeply sloped and terraced vineyard. We walked along a steep rock strewn slope. Ryan Driver said they had to use jackhammers to dig holes for the vines and posts. Kevin Pogue explained that the terrain comprises fractured basalt topped with varying layers of loess silt. The silt was deposited by wind from layers of silt left from intermittent glacial floods between 25,000 and 18,000 years ago. The loess deposits came from as far away as Idaho and Montana, blown by wind.
We went up further in elevation to plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. This site is ideal in elevation, exposure and drainage for classic varieties. On a terroir covered by loess over deep basalt, the vines grow deep roots for water and nutrients. We then reached the top of the slope, saw a nursery where cuttings were being propagated for planting around the vineyard. There, we could see extensive plantings, almost all terraced, and on distant slopes. We walked back down the other side of the slope past Merlot anf Cabernet Franc vines.
After the vineyard tour, we assembled in a large shed for a tasting of barrel samples of the first release from the Elevation Vineyard, produced by Tertulia under the label, Tierra Labrada - "carved earth." From the 2015 vintage, the future releases are a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Petit Verdot. They are available for purchase as futures to be released in 2018. Here are my tasting notes. The pluses indicate potential for advancement in these young wines., most lilely 19.5/20 points.
2015 Tierra Labrada, Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Elevation Vineyard ($85 - futures) - Deep young crimson colored this showed a perfumed nose of wild fruits - raspberries, cherries and currants - with scents of rose petals, lavender, tobacco and incense. The flavors were deep and penetrating, with classic minerality, along with notes of bittersweet chocolate, French roast and basalt. The back picked up fraise and cassis liqueurs, mocha and toffee, followed by a long sweet-dry tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2015 Tierra Labrada Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Elevation Vineyard ($95 - futures) - This showed a semi opaque crimson-ruby color and an intense nose of blackberry, cherry, cassis, crushed roses, pipe tobacco, sandalwood, violets and smoldering incense. The flavors were deep and penetrating, with great varietal purity, marked by licorice, cocoa, French roast and basaltic minerals. The back revealed sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts, creme de cassis, lanolin ("legs"), toffee and graphite, followed by a lingering fine-grained tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2015 Tierra Labrada Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley, Elevation Vineyard ($95 - futures) - This is the best Petit Verdot I have ever tasted. It exhibited a deep crimson olor and a lovely, perfumed nose of cherries, plums and cassis with scents of lavender, violets and oriental incense and pepper. The flavors were deep and laser-like in focus, with the lavish dark fruits marked by Belgian chocolate, French roast and silt-basalt minerals. The powerful back revealed sensations of roasted berries and walnuts, creme de cassis, creme fraiche, nougat and pencil lead, followed by a long, long, extremely focused ripe tannin finish. 19.5+/20 points.