On Friday, June 16th, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance hosted a panel presentation and tasting of three Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignons, along with ones from the Napa Valley, Bordeaux and Chile. This was the fourth Annual Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine panel event. The first, in 2013, focused on Cabernet Sauvignon, the second, in 2014, on Syrah, and the third, in 2015, on Merlot. The event was held at the Marcus Whitman Hotel where Walla Walla Valley Alliance Director Duane Wollmuth welcomed guests who each had six wines placed before them. Professor Kevin Pogue gave a presentation about the terrors of the wines being tasted, with slides of maps, climatic conditions and soils of each viticultural area. Then Andy Perdue (Great Northwest Wine) moderated a discussion by each winemaker of their wines. The winemakers were:
John Freeman, Waterbrook Winery, Walla Walla
Chuck Reininger, Reininger Winery, Walla Walla
Gordy Venneri, Walla Walla Vintners, Walla Walla
Thomas Burk, Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux, Bordeaux
Thomas Rivers Brown, Rivers-Marie Winery, Napa Valley
Patrick Valette, VIK Winery, Millahue, Chile
The discussions were interesting and stimulating, and each winemaker drew in aspects of terroir, viticulture and winemaking while the audience tasted the six wines being presented. I found all six wine to be nearly equal qualitatively (19 to 19+/20 points) but quite different in character. Here are my notes in order of personal preference (a subjective, not qualitative evaluation).
2012 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($38) - Composed of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, this showed a deep ruby color and s smoky, earthy nose of wild blackberries, cherries, plums, dried roses, tobacco and sage. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with thick, chewy flavors that were imbued with licorice, cocoa, French roast and earth. The back picked up notes of roasted berries and nut, toffee and pencil lead, followed by a lingering, toasty ripe tannin finish. The 2012 is sold out, but the 2013 is excellent (reviewed June, 18.5+/20 points). 19+/20 points.
2010 Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux ($200) - Deep crimson colored, this blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot possessed lovely aromas of wild raspberries, cherries, plums, cassis, crushed roses, orange peel, tobacco and oriental incense. The flavors were thick and chewy, yet refined, with interlayerings of licorice, chocolate, and minerals. On the back the wine turned supple textured with notes of pressed fruits, creme de cassis and toast, followed by a savory, lingering polished tannin finish. 19+/20 points. The $200 tag is current market price. The 2012 is about $130.
2011 VIK Red Wine, Millahue Valley, Chile ($140) - A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Carmenère, 5% Merlot, 4% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Franc, this came on as a lovely Bordeaux influenced red. It showed a deep crimson color and a sultry, smoky nose of raspberry, cherry, plum, dried roses, and musky incense. The flavors were deep and expansive, with layers of dark fruits, intermixed with licorice, cocoa, coffee and clay and gravel minerals. The back picked up pressed berries, toffee, mocha and caramel, followed by a lingering appealingly supple finish. 19+/20 points.
2012 Reininger Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($50) - Sourced from hillside blocks of the Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards, and blended with 4% Petit Verdot, this showed a deep ruby color and a perfumed nose of blackberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, tobacco, eucalyptus and incense. The flavors were generous and chewy textured, with noters of licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerally loam and gravel. The back picked up pressed berries, mocha, toffee and integrated moderate oak (44% new French), followed by a long, ripe smooth tannin finish. 19+/20 points. This is sold out at the winery.
2013 Rivers-Marie Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Panek Vineyard ($90) - This 100% Cabernet from hillsides above St. Helena, offered a semi-opaque ruby color and a dark fruited nose of blackberry, cherry and cassis with scents of crushed roses, lavender, violets and clove. The flavors, as well, were intense, marked by notes of licorice, dark chocolate and mountainside minerals. The back revealed sensations of macerated berries, toffee, graphite and toasty oak, followed by a long, complex finish. 19+/20 points. Still dark and brooding, this has the potential to advance to 19.5/20 points with 5-10 years aging.
2012 Waterbrook Winery "Icon" Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($45) - From the Spring Valley, north of Walla Walla, this showed a deep purplish color and a distinct varietal nose of blackberry, cherry, cassis, crushed roses, tobacco, sage and incense. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with well structured dark fruits that were intermixed with licorice, dark chocolate, French roast and minerals. The intensity continued on the back with notes of roasted berries and nut, toffee and integrated oak, followed by a lingering firm, yet ripe, tannin finish. 19/20 points.
All these wines were admirable, but what is striking is how well the Walla Walla Valley wines showed in comparison to the other much higher priced wines. I loved the Pavillon Rouge, but is it really worth $200? And the Napa Valley and Chilean wines cost twice the WWV ones.