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2004 Spring Valley Vineyard "Frederick" Cabernet Blend, Walla Walla, WA

04_frederick_wine.jpgI'm ashamed of the city I live in. Really.

I'm normally so proud at the wine sophistication of San Franciscans. Collectively we support dozens of great wine stores that carry an amazing range of wines, hundreds of restaurants with corkage policies, and we provide a home base for some of the best wine tasting events in the country.

So imagine my surprise when I walked into a very large and very prominent wine store (which shall remain nameless) today looking for a bottle of Washington State Cabernet, and there were only two extremely inexpensive ones on offer. That's not what I'm ashamed about, though. What really makes me embarrassed, is that after accosting the manager of said wine store with the question, "So you really are only carrying TWO Washington Cabs?" he told me that he used to carry several more, but no one ever bought them. In fact, he went on to say, he had tried multiple times to feature Washington state reds in various ways in the store, but they always just sat on the shelf, so he was forced to keep them all in his warehouse and just sell them online, where there seemed to be at least some demand.

Shame shame shame. It's as if us Californian's have gotten so patriotic that we only ever want to buy Napa Cabernet. Shame on us, and what a shame for us at the same time.

The state of Washington has been producing some extraordinary red wines for a couple of decades, though it got a sleepy start compared to California wine country. Just after prohibition it was best known for producing Concord grape wine, but that proved to be a short lived industry and in 1969 there were only two operating vineyards on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains where most of the winegrowing is done. While California began to boom in the early 1970s, Washington slumbered, but by 2005 there were nearly 350 wineries in the state and almost 50 are added each year with no sign of slowing down.

Spring Valley Vineyard has been producing wine in the area of the Walla Walla Valley from which it takes its name for more than 15 years. While growing grapes is a relatively new phenomenon for the family owned enterprise, the Corkrums have been growing crops in nearly the same spot for more than 100 years, almost before the area even appeared on maps. The family's patriarch Uriah Corkrum arrived in the area in the 1800s and began what would be a long and tumultuous career as a farmer in the area -- a career that would see him make and lose more than one fortune at the hands of nature and the broader economic climate.

The family's current farm in Spring Valley was purchased by Uriah in 1910 and two subsequent generations of Corkrums harvested its wheat until they got the inkling that there might be another, more valuable crop to grow. Their initial 2 acre Merlot vineyard and the subsequent 38 acres of vines that have been added since are under the care and direction of family scion Shari Corkrum Derby, her husband Dean Derby, and his brother Gaynor Derby.

Winemaking at Spring Valley Vineyard is a family business, through, and through, and one look at their wine labels makes this abundantly clear. Each wine that they produce is named after a progenitors, and is graced with an often beautiful old photograph of the individual in question.

This wine is named Frederick for Frederick Corkrum, Uriah's son and Shari's father. Frederick grew up in Spring Valley on the family farm, and in addition to his good looks, was responsible for driving the mules in all aspects of their work on the farm.

Made of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petite Verdot all from the family's estate vineyard, this wine was aged in 95% new French oak and 5% new American Oak. Apart from these facts, I do not know much more about the winemaking, nor do I know much about the family's viticultural practices.

Tasting Notes:
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of cedar and cherry cola aromas that with air transform into a lovely milk chocolate concoction. In the mouth it has excellent acidity, bordering on too much, with bright spicy flavors of cherry, incense, and green peppercorns dipped in chocolate. The finish accentuates the spiciness, with a hint of alcoholic heat and lingering flavors of cherry candy.

Food Pairing:
Given the spicy nature of this wine, I might try pairing it with something that might be a little sweeter, like these braised beef short ribs.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: $45

This wine is available for purchase on the internet.

Comments (7)

Catie wrote:
06.13.07 at 11:31 PM

Alder, Thank you for encouraging your readers to open their eyes to Washington wines. As of last month Washington State licensed their 500th winery and there's more on the way.

Also, thank you for participating in WBW #34 and your choice, "The Frederick" couldn't have been any better if I had hand picked it myself. It's one of my favorites. Cheers!

Ken wrote:
06.14.07 at 3:44 AM

Hi Alder,

I had the 2004 Frederick at the Wash DC Wine Expo. I rated it Very Good + (90-92) A terrific choice. I have been reviewing a lot of Very Good WA red's lately. There is a lot of good stuff out there. Look for Syrah to be their big grape down the road. Cheers!

Steve B wrote:
06.14.07 at 4:32 AM


Washington wines, save for the biggest names, were almost completely unknown to me until a few years ago. Perhaps it was the fact that I grew up and lived in northern California: there is, as you suggest, an understandable natural rooting interest in local wines. But when I finally realized the breadth and depth of Washington's wine quality, my interests got transformed.

I'm quite familiar with the Frederick you sampled. It was made by Serge Laville, one of six ex-pat French winemakers now working in the Walla Walla area. Its nearly erotic lusciousness is matched, I think, only by Spring Valley's St-Emilion-style blend, called Uriah.

Ken comments above that syrah will be Washington's "big grape," and already there are some phenomenal Washington wines to support that notion, particularly the syrahs from Cayuse, Forgeron and Long Shadows. But there's also reason to believe riesling will, in the end, be the grape that makes Washington's reputation. Randall Grahm, for one, is banking on it. And available right now is Long Shadows' Poet's Leap riesling, a superlative wine.

Wine-loving Californians should do themselves a favor and take off the blinders. On the whole, the best red wines in North America right now come from Washington state, and that may soon be true for whites as well. And I say that as a California native.

Ben wrote:
06.14.07 at 7:38 AM


Please don't write more posts like this one - otherwise I'll have to change my value strategy to yet another "overlooked" region...

Kidding aside, Washington Cab blends are my favorite and thanks for introducing me to a new one.


Bettina wrote:
06.14.07 at 8:13 AM

Alder - great article. maybe there's a few of us consumers, wine lovers in the bay area that will demand WA wines. we've been very impressed ourselves so the Fishes are headed up to Walla Walla end of August for a roadtrip, taste some great wines, checkout potential vineyard sources.

will have to buy more of this 2004 Spring Valley Cab that's for sure. thanks.

Gene wrote:
06.14.07 at 8:58 AM

Alder, great piece! A few years ago, I did a brief gig selling Washington State wines in the Bay Area. When Californians had an opportunity to taste Washington wines, they sold like hotcakes. Otherwise, it was, at best, a difficult hand sell, or they sat on the shelf buried among better known, more familiar, Napa Valley wine. BTW, the Uriah is a terrific wine, a little softer than the Frederick. I gave it "Best of Show" at a recent Taste Walla Walla event here in Seattle. Gene

Joe wrote:
06.14.07 at 9:27 PM

While Montreal is a bit of a WA wine wasteland, I did manage to scrounge up a L'Ecole No. 41 to try for WBW. Ahh, the infamous Concord grape - only a Canuck (ok, Canuck via Wisconsin) could appreciate that reference - formerly the backbone of our wine industry. Cheers!

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