Mark Ryan Hauls a "Dead Horse" for a" Long" Time
World Class Champoux Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon
John Abbott's Abeja Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
October 18, 2005
Champoux Vineyard is one of the
best Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the US. Located on benches of land
overlooking the Columbia River on the Washington side of the Gorge, its
unique climate and soil combine to create a terroir that seems to bring
out the best in Cabernet and other red grapes.
contains an "Old Vine" section, planted in 1972, from which its most
highly prized fruit is obtained. The Old Vine section is jointly owned
by Quilceda Creek, Woodward Canyon, Andrew Will, and Powers wineries.
Woodward Canyon's Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, made from this Champoux
Old Vine fruit since 1981, is considered one of the best Cabernets made
from the site.
The Woodward Canyon Old Vine Cabernet
Sauvignon 2002 $58.45/$64.95
continues a tradition of "Dedication
Series" Old Vine Cabs that started in 1981! Each year, his finest offering
is bottled with a label featuring a different Walla Walla area pioneer,
and "...every year it's one of the most-anticipated releases in the
Walla Walla Valley" -- Wine Press NW Magazine.
For 2002, a warm vintage saw beautiful ripening and fruit.
Only the most perfect clusters of fruit were used to make the wine. With
an average brix over 25, grapes were at optimum sugar levels. The wine
was aged for a bit over two years in new French oak, and bottled in September
2004. It was allowed to continue to age in bottle until October, 2005.
2002 Woodward Canyon Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon is
a rich and powerful successor to the 2001 “Old Vines”. The 2002 vintage was warmer
than 2001 and this wine reflects that. Flavors of ripe black fruits and
cassis marry with spicy oak and vanilla. The color is dark purple and
the flavor is concentrated, rich and long; the texture is supple and
silky but still the wine has fantastic grip. This red wine will benefit
greatly from additional cellaring and, with proper storage, should last
for fifteen years or more from vintage.
As one of the first wineries
in Walla Walla, Rick Small creates Cabs in his own experienced way. These
are not fruit forward, soft, gushing, early drinkers. His wines are famed
for their ageability. He starts by aging the wines in oak barrels for
over two years, then another year in bottle before release. This is a
wine for cellaring, rewarding the patient connoisseur with a remarkable
wine experience. Sadly, the increasing trend towards "Parkerization"
of red wines has reduced Rick's ratings- he's continued to make a Bordeaux
style, complex and ageable wine that does not "show" at its absolute
best when first released. So if you want a wine for immediate consumption,
with the usual soft and lush flavors that don't get much better with
aging but are quite pleasing when you drink the wine the same day you
buy it, this is not for you. BUT, if you want to see what a real
world class Cabernet Sauvignon can be, with proper storage and aging,
store a case of this wine at the back of your cellar and bring out a
bottle every two years, starting about 2008.
Rick follows a French tradition in his winemaking, creating
wines he expects to drink at their best in 5-20 years after release.
When he comes to town, he'll often bring one of his wines, 15 year old
or more, to share with customers. In my 20+ years of selling NW wine,
I don't think I've had a more memorable wine experience than the times
Rick has shared a 15 year old Old Vine Cab with customers at a tasting.
His wines, after time in cellar, show a range of flavors, from classic,
wonderfully ripe black cherry, plum, and cassis, to smoke, vanilla, and
velvety tannins. Usually, when aged, his wines add fascinating flavors
of oolong tea, lychee, tobacco, herbs, and cedar, all passing rapidly
across the plate in a tempest of evolving flavors and textures.
serious about wine, and want to stretch beyond Bordeaux in understanding
aged red wines, the Woodward Old Vine Cabs are worth the energy of cellaring
and tasting over a decade. Even if they don't turn out to be your favorite
wines for sheer hedonistic pleasure, the process of following the wine
through its life will educate your palate and raise your knowledge of
Washington wine to levels most collectors don't even know exist.
And now for something completely different---
Mark Ryan Releases Flagship "Long Haul" and "Dead Horse"
Mark McNeilly is one of Washington's newer winemakers,
making tiny amounts of wine from his garage. Last month we offered you
the Mark Ryan "GunMetal" and "Badlands" reds. THis month, we add the
new vintage of his covetted "Long Haul" and "Dead Horse" wines, both
made from covetted Ciel du Cheval Vineyard fruit.
The Seattle Times, this month, said " .... The benchmark
Long Haul and Dead Horse reds will be released later this fall. These
are clearly the best wines yet from an important new winery. Beautiful
packaging also." Paul Gregutt, 10-6-05
The Mark Ryan Dead Horse Red 03 $34.20/$38
is 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit
Verdot, all from the prestigious Ciel du Cheval
Vineyard. It's definitely
a firm, beefy, pumped up red this vintage, with loads of spice, big fruit,
and a massive foundation of fine, still quite firm tannins. It's ageable,
but is drinking beautifully right now.
The wine's nose is smoky but restrained, followed by
flavors of ripe marionberry, black cherry, spicy licorice, bittersweet
chocolate, and big, chewy tannins, pleasing but hefty and dense. It's
a wine that lovers of really big, not sweet fruit based but meaty, dense,
and pumped up intensity will love. Right now, it'll need a massive
steak or game from the grill to hold up to its majestic hugeness. With
some time in the cellar, it'll suit a more varied cuisine.
Dead Horse is, according to Mark, "Left Bank Bordeaux" in
style. The wine is called Dead Horse because the vineyard name loosely
translated in french is Horse Heaven.
Mark says: "Consistently, Ciel du
Cheval is one of the warmest vineyards in the state and this allows for
big, ripe, elgant wines with great structure, balance and complexity.
NO HORSES WERE HURT DURING THE PRODUCTION OF THIS WINE AND IT WAS TESTED
The Mark Ryan "Long Haul" Red 2003
Long Haul is a red blend named for the
long drive across the Snoqualmie Pass in a rickety Ford truck full
of grapes; it is made entirely from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard grapes,
and is a blend of 48%
Merlot, 45% Cab Franc and 7% Petit Verdot. Mark calls this his "Right Bank
Bordeaux" , in that it is primarily Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
If you like Cadence, DeLille,
Uriah, et al, this is the wine for you. This wine is a HUGE.
Big red blend. The 2003 vintage has strong aromatics of violets, lavender,
and berries, with flavors of black cherries, sweet blackberries, balanced,
seamless tannins, and a long, unctuous, rich finish. Delicious. It's
more immediately accessible than the Dead Horse, with the Merlot offering
a bit softer, sweeter fruit entry, followed by all the intensity you
We have a few magnums of the 2001 Long Haul left, we
found them this week when we were cleaning out the cellar.
Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2002 $67.50/$75.00
The Abeja Reserve Cab 02 is 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot. The fruit
came from Bacchus Vineyard and Seven Hills Vineyard, and was aged in new
French oak for 26 months. Drink through 2015.
"This vintage of reserve brings together fruit from some
of the state’s oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines grown at Bacchus
Vineyard with fruit from the younger, highly acclaimed, Seven Hills Vineyard
in Walla Walla. Bacchus contributes big, beautiful structure, and Seven
Hills adds soft tannins and pretty, exotic fruit, an extraordinary combination.
Together, they make a wine that is elegantly powerful. Its aromatics
are full of perfume and delicacy, richness and spice. It has a lush full
front, a mid palate that is loaded with fruit, silky luxurious tannins,
and layer after layer of complexity. It was aged for twenty-six months
in one-hundred-percent new French oak." - John Abbott
I have not had the opportunity to taste this wine, but
based on John's great reputation for Cabernet (the Cabs he made at Canoe
Ridge made his reputation, before he left to start Abeja) I'd expect
this wine to rank up there at the top of anyone's list of excellent Washington
wines. It's his first reserve level wine since leaving Canoe Ridge, and
has been highly anticipated by customers who've enjoyed his regular Cabernet
As long as the theme today seems to be "BIG" reds, we
might as well mention that we've still got some
Owen Sullivan BSH $35.96/$39.95
Owen Roe Dubrul Cabernet Sauvignon 03 $54/$60
Owen Roe Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon $36/$40
Mark Ryan "GunMetal" Red 03 $32.39/$35.99
All the Andrew Will 2003 Red blends
The lush Five Star Merlot 03 (Wine Spectator 92 points) $28.30/$31.45
and a lot more, all on our
HIGHEST RATED NORTHWEST BIG REDS PAGE
Avalon's October "Big Reds" Club
is shipping to members this week:
Woodward Canyon Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon 03 $65
Five Star Merlot 03 $32
Avalon's October Reserve Pinot noir Club is shipping
to members this week:
Shea Wine Cellars Pinot noir Block 23 2004 $48
Daedalus Pinot noir Seven Springs Vineyard 2004 $35
Alloro Pinot noir "Fattoria" 04 $17
you find something you like, and give us a call! We love to talk with customers
- you give us our best ideas.
Jean, Marcus, Chris, Kevin, and Wendy
201 SW 2nd Street
Corvallis OR 97333