Washington Wine – A Younger Oldster – John Abbott of Abeja


I’ll never forget the day I met John Abbott and Molly Galt.  We were at a wine tasting  in Walla Walla, in the summer of 2000.

He and Molly were glowing. Big smiles and barely contained glee. Something was going on, even if they were keeping it quiet. John stopped us in the hallway outside the conference room, pulled us aside, and with great excitement, told us the news. Abeja was about to “Bee”.

That day, John was pouring at the Canoe Ridge table. As winemaker at Canoe Ridge, his wines, particularly his Merlot, had grabbed the attention of the community. There was buzz about his skills – he’d quickly earned a reputation as a serious and unusually talented winemaker.

I knew that John and Molly had moved to Walla Walla with the intention of eventually starting their own winery. To afford their dream, John was at Canoe Ridge, Molly in marketing. They had just made a lucky connection with friends who wanted to start an inn with a winery on its premises. By pairing up with them, they could start their own winery, called Abeja, right away.

Abeja (Spanish for bee) became one of a small group of new wineries founded in the late 1990′s, a second generation for Walla Walla, and the first wave of what would become a flood.

Walla Walla used to have a couple of strip motels, several good Mexican restaurants, and a whole lot of wheat. Wineries were a sideline, no where near as important as, say, onions. By the late 1980′s, a few grape growers and less than a dozen winemakers were largely unknown. Then Leonetti burst into national recognition, and things changed.

On the hot summer day in 2000 that John and Mary leaked their news, the wine tasting was a minuscule event compared to today. The wineries, one to a table, fit in a conference room the size of a large classroom. A few hundred people came.

The “oldsters” – Gary Figgins (Leonetti), Rick Small (Woodward Canyon), Marty Chubb (L’Ecole #41) – were welcoming a dozen new wineries – Buty, Glen FIona, Reininger among them. Charles Smith (K Vintners) was in the room. He was just starting to make wine and had a friend from France – Christophe Baron – maybe you’ve heard of him?

The rest is history. It turns out that John’s first great Merlots were no fluke. Abeja’s red wines, now dominated by their sought after Cabernet Sauvignon, justified that early attention. John has earned the rank of a Walla Walla “Younger Oldster” and the loyalty of the same clientele every year – the best testimony a winery can have.

Today we are offering John’s 2007 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s $40.46 in a case of any 12 bottles.

John says: “This is the varietal that we believe will increasingly be recognized as the icon varietal of Washington State and comprises the majority of our production. This Cabernet is stylish, elegant, and impeccably balanced. We accomplish this by meticulous viticultural management, utilization of a rare sorting system, gentle handling of the fruit and the wine, customized practices for every lot no matter how small, and carefully selected French oak. ”

We have a small amount of the 2006 Abeja Cab available. Call 541-752-7418 or email us to order.

abeja-275-hive-2010Here’s Marcus’s tasting note for the 2006 Abeja.

I look at most Washington wines objectively. I look at Abeja as a fan. In some cases, that puts Abeja at a disadvantage, since they have to make a cab that I want to drink at home. The 2006 is it. Scents of wild berries and vanilla cream, and silky layers of all kinds of fruit. The finish is long and powerful with a distinct fresh blackberry streak. There’s no need to cellar, but the 06 Cab has plenty of guts to age for several years. It won’t last nearly that long at my house!

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2 Responses to Washington Wine – A Younger Oldster – John Abbott of Abeja

  1. Christian G.E. Schiller May 24, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    I had the pleasure to meet John Abbott recently. He looked very different from your photo. Cheers. Christian

  2. admin May 25, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    It’s an old photo – how was he different? Did you meet Molly? She’s something special.

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