Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 22

22 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

This is my penultimate entry for this project. It has been a long run. I am glad you are still with us. We told you it would be opinionated. Pretending that everything tastes the same or somehow manages to land on the same quality benchmark as everything else would be disingenuous. Rest assured, though, I very much appreciate the fine work ALL of these grape growers and vintners have put into this beverage, this agricultural product, this work of art we call wine. I was pleasantly surprised by today’s reveal. For you see, I am a Pinot Noir guy who still manages to really loves Cab, in all of its decadent, rich, lavish glory.

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Woodward Canyon was founded in 1981 by Rick Small and his wife Darcey. Named for the canyon where Rick’s family has farmed the land for multiple generations, Woodward was the second winery to be bonded in the Walla Walla Valley, with the Smalls playing an integral role in the process by which the Walla Walla AVA was created in 1984. The focus has been largely on Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends, with some grapes grown on estate vineyards while others are sourced from select growers in the Columbia Valley. This emphasis on farming first typically yields wines of place, although Woodward Canyon is not averse to blending across sites to yield a particular style. Enter the present bottle.

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This is 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. The grapes hail from four top vineyard sites from across both the Columbia Valley more generally and Walla Walla (Woodward’s own estate site plus legends Champoux, Sagemoor and Summit View), with blending used to realize a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The 2014 vintage was relatively cool, but a combination of shoot thinning, leaf stripping, and green harvesting were used to maximize physiological ripeness of the grapes. The wine spent 22 months in 60% new French oak. The marvellous label is the result of Woodward Canyons selecting a specific work each year from a Pacific Northwest artist to showcase on the bottle (hence the name) — this particular label work is called “Release” by Lynda Lowe, a local Washington artist who has gone on to national acclaim.

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Cork Rating: 5.5/10 (more phone numbers… For a good time call…)

This has an absolutely classic nose, in the varietal sense of the term rather than stylistically speaking. I suppose the latter sense applies just as well. The deep, dark inky purple liquid in the glass is redolent with languid cedar, Irish moss, Cuban cigar, leather, and baking spice (cinnamon, cardamom) aromas, plus some sweet mocha and a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. These oaky elements float lazily above a fruity core of archetypal cassis/blackcurrant, including both the saccharine liqueur and the fresh fruit itself, maybe with some British fruit gums and purple Turkish delight. Black plums, cherries, and blackberries round out the roster, the rich dark fruits just going slightly dry and seasoned with dusty cacao powder, tea tree oil, dried mint, Vanilla Coke, kirsch, red bell pepper and gravel, both wet and sun-baked. This flashes opulence but also reveals a more delicate sensibility, as the best Columbia Valley Cabs do. I feel some of my Advent blogging fatigue alleviating, although maybe that’s just the sleeping in until 10 a.m. The drinking window has opened here, and the portal leads to tannins that are sweet, pliant, broad, and marginally powdery, the body more deft than expected. Wonderfully fruit-forward but I suspect this will persist into the 2020s. The hedonist and the scholar both approve. One more of these write-ups to go for me…for this calendar. See you fine folks tomorrow.

91- points

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