Four Washington wines (one twice):2006 Gorman "The Bully" Cabernet Sauvignon
Charlie Gorman was featured (or was going to be, perhaps it never came off) at one of ten up and coming American winemakers at the recent Wine Experience, so though I'm very leery of the Wine Spectator's annointings there's no doubting their influence, and I grabbed a few bottles of Charlie's small production cabernet last summer lest the Speck exposure cause a total wipe-out. Hadn't tasted it until Friday night, when it seemed like a splendid idea to pop one for visiting Los Angelenos who came up from Seattle with several 06 Washingtonians in tow. Just popped and poured, and though we obviously woke it up too early, the nose was all about dense, seductive, blackberries and huckleberries with very mild mint. Though it got close to the line for me in terms of extraction and sweetness, it had the acidity and structure needed to carry it off and it was everybody's WOTN, including mine. Saturday morning found our visiting friends on my computer, hunting down six more bottles and re-routing themselves back to Seattle via Anacortes and Whidbey Island on a recovery mission. 2006 Mark Ryan "Dead Horse" red blend
Never got to look at the label and read the ingredient list, but remembering what I tasted I'm guessing this had a lot of merlot going on. Riper, more forward nose than the Gorman but less full in the mouth with a lot of strawberry/red fruit tones and simpler, less challenging textures. I'm not the one who bought this bottle, but if I were I wouldn't buy it again.
2006 Betz "La Serenne" Syrah
As stated earlier in the month, I'm starting to warm up to Washington Syrahs even though none have shown the qualities I love about Northern Rhone syrahs. That just changed. Fairly Cornas-like, the 2006 Betz 'La Serenne' has a very rich, iron-like minerality. The fruit was fairly subdued but this was most likely due to it's relative youth and the fact that we didn't decant--in the short time it was open and available (eight tasters liberally helped themselves), it made some progress toward showing a good mix of red and black fruits and none of the tell-tale Washington blueberry sweetness. Some roast pork and fennel rounded out the palate. My only complaint would be a lack of pepper, but that might yet develop, and if it doesn't there's plenty of stuffing and balance here to keep one well entertained. 2006 Gorman "The Bully", redux
Then last night, we joined friends for a steakhouse dinner and show at a local Casino. So enamored of this had we been, that I brought another bottle to this meal to show these friends who follow the Washington wine scene more closely than I do. This time, though, it got decanted for an hour first, which revealed a more complex array of red and black fruit than we'd seen in Friday night's bottle but no less excellence. It really loved being served with that red meat and also benefitted from the contrast with a wine a friend brought:2006 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon
I have had the 01, 02, 03, 05 and now 06 of this new darling of Washington cabernets, and every bottle has been impressive in its own right but perhaps even more so when looked back on and viewed collectively. There is a definite Abeja style, and while each vintage has it's own personality the house style is consistent from vintage to vintage. While you expect that of long-established houses like Woodward Canyon, Betz and Leonetti, many of the new winemakers here flounder a bit before finding their groove. Abeja's style is fresh without being forward which results in a minimalist kind of opulence that celebrates the grape and not the barrel, and delivers a wine that's satisfying to drink young while having the structure that will reward mid-term aging. It's no small feat for a wine in this state to be held in such esteem by both a lover of the extravagantly plush, sweet well-oaked variety like the gentleman who brought this and a Bordeaux-nut like me.