Apologies in advance to my local Alberta readers: this review will be almost useless to you. I have never seen this bottle in our fair province, or on a retail store anywhere else for that matter. I got it for Christmas a couple years ago from a cousin-in-law out in Vancouver (thanks Brad!), was immediately impressed by the rap-video blinginess of its container (the bottle must weigh 2 pounds empty) and then discovered through research that it was created as part of a unique and forward-thinking experimental line of wines by stalwart Okanagan producer Stag’s Hollow. The Cachet wines are limited edition blends of top quality grapes which are outside of the standard SH catalog; they are made once, as a small run in a single vintage, and then never replicated again. So while this is the 2008 vintage of Cachet No. 01, there is no 2009 or 2010 bottling — the 1500 bottles (125 cases) of this wine from that single year are all there is. I have no idea how this is commercially workable, but I find it fascinating. These high-end one-off blends put the power in the hands of the winemaker to express a different vision with these specialty wines every year…or at least that was the plan. As it turns out, only two Cachets have ever been made: this one, and the sequel Cachet No. 02 (made from Grenache, Syrah, Viognier and Marsanne) that was released around the same time. The world is still waiting on Cachet No. 03, and I’m sort of wondering whether the concept has died before it ever really got off the ground.
But back to Cachet No. 01. Believe it or not, this is a Tempranillo-based blend, making it the only Canadian wine I have ever seen made using this Spanish grape. Even better, the Tempranillo is estate-sourced, grown in a special rocky subplot on the Stag’s Hollow property called The Hollow, where the vines get extreme heat and sun in the summer but must withstand much cooler temperatures later in the growing season. The precise blend is 40% Tempranillo, 35% Merlot, 20% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the wine is modelled after the new riper style of modern Spanish reds (as an added homage, it’s even aged in new American oak barrels sourced from the Spanish region of Navarra). For a producer who has never previously grown Tempranillo to plant it in a new site and learn how to work with it only so that it can be used for one year in a single small-production premium wine…I’m not even sure where I’m going with this. The whole concept cuts so against the grain of how things are normally done that it’s either revolutionary or insane or both.
Entering into its fifth year of life, the inaugural rendition of Cachet was still a deep, thick purple-ruby colour, thinning out very slightly near the rim but still not showing a hint of browning. Brambly and jammy on the nose, it exuded thick waves of candied, almost confectionary fruit (creme de cassis, raspberry liqueur) along with anise, violets and liniment/medicinal notes. There is an impressive depth to the wine: on both the nose and the palate, its flavours persevere without fading or changing into something lesser, a trait that not all Canadian reds share. On the palate, the Cachet had a medium-full body, subtle and slightly powdery tannins, and straight line acidity making railroad tracks down the centre of the tongue. Even after medium-term aging, it was still mostly primary fruit — blackberry and black cherry, with a touch of fig/raisin — lined with baking spice, a prevalent smoky oak influence and a lingering sweet note almost like angel food cake. However, it doesn’t finish cloying and is eminently drinkable throughout.
There is no way that I would ever guess this bottle comes from Canada, which in some ways is a good thing (presumably part of the reason to put so much effort into a high-end Canadian red is to establish that it can stand on its own on the world stage) and in other ways is a bad thing (there’s nothing about the bottle that specifically reflects its Okanagan roots, no strong sense of place about it). I suppose when the raison d’être for your wine is to emulate cutting-edge Spanish Tempranillo blends halfway across the world, whatever local touch the wine might have is necessarily sacrificed to that goal. This is one of the better non-Spanish bottles of Tempranillo that I’ve had, and it does a good job reflecting the new Spanish style (albeit without the streak of earthiness that even the most modern wines from Spain seem to possess), but in our national search for a niche in the global wine world, we may be better served by not being the cover band for traditional powerhouses. The price tag of this bottle may also serve to detract from its marketability — $50 at the cellar door can buy you a LOT of amazing wine and is a hard price point in which to remain competitive. I love the vision, creativity and ambition behind Cachet; I love the risk and the reach involved with pursuing it; I quite liked the wine itself; but I worry that the soul and the birthmark of Cachet No. 01 gets a little lost in translation because of how and why it was created.
$45 to $50 CDN