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2006 Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington

cadaretta_cabernet_06.jpgI make it my habit to pay attention to new, small wineries. Generally that means seeking them out at public tastings, perking up my ears when I hear the names of wineries I don't know, and approaching each box of unknown wine I get on my doorstep as the potential to be something new and exciting.

Generally, whatever you might like to call these efforts of mine, if they can be described as efforts, tend to be focused on California. This has nothing to do with my preferences, so much as it does with where I live, who I know, and who generally sends me wine when they first make it. All of which means that I stumble across a small, brand-new winery from somewhere else other than California that has started to make good wine, I get quite excited.

I must admit, I hardly stumbled across Cadaretta winery. My discovery of their inaugural vintage was quite the opposite of chance -- their wines were literally handed to me by a group of folks from the Washington Wine Commission who happened to be passing through town and thought I might not have heard of them yet. They were right.

Since that first taste, literally a few weeks after the winery put some vines in the ground, I've kept an eye out for Cadaretta, as they seem to be a winery that is going places. Or perhaps I mean just the opposite. They're setting down roots.

Cadaretta fulfills the long held goal (and the entrepreneurial drive) of the Middleton family, a family whose roots in Washington State dig back deep into the 19th century, when they made their fortune, like many others, through an admixture of their sweat, their imagination, and the raw natural resources of the coastal-region-eventually-to-be-known as Washington.

The Anderson & Middleton company, formed in 1898, did what a lot of companies in Washington did back then: they cut down trees, chopped them up, and sent them south to California to be turned into houses like mine. The company was successful enough (and smart enough) to get into the shipping business as well so they didn't have to pay others to sail their lumber down the coast for them. They got themselves a bunch of big boats, and they named one of them Cadaretta.

Four generations later, the company is still at it, albeit more greatly diversified. Twenty years ago they started farming wine grapes in California, and perhaps as a result, Rick Middleton caught the wine bug, and Cadaretta winery became the dream that is currently taking shape in the low sloping hills of the Colombia Valley.

Winemaking at Cadaretta is handled by the young, capable, Virginie Bourgue. Bourgue earned a degree in viticulture and another in enology in France, and worked in many French wine regions, including a long stint in Champagne where she worked for Louis Roederer and Bollinger among others. In 2002 she worked the harvest at Chateau St. Michelle in Washington and never left.

Under Bourgue's direction, the estate vineyards are being planted to the primary red and white Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon) with a little Syrah and Chardonnay thrown in for good measure.

It will be another two or three years before the estate vines will yield fruit to make wine, so in the meantime, the Bourgue is sourcing fruit from around Washington State.

This wine is a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Merlot from four different vineyards, including the Pepper Bridge Vineyard, which is one of Washington State's better known sources for Merlot.

This wine was made from grapes that were carefully hand harvested and then fully destemmed into stainless steel tanks where it soaked for some time before fermentation began. During fermentation the cap was punched down daily (a process that takes all the frothy berry bits at the top of the tank and mixes them down with the rest of the juice below to extract color and flavor). After fermentation the wine was aged for 21 months in French oak, of which only 54% was new. About 310 cases were made.

Full disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample.

Tasting Notes:
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherries and plums, with a tiny hint of floral qualities. In the mouth it is bright and smooth with light tannins and a clear dry quality to the wine that allows the black plum, cherry, and cassis qualities to sit nicely clear on the palate and through a nice finish.

Food Pairing:
I'd recommend this wine for any of those late season barbecues that you might be doing, especially as the weather cools off.

Overall Score: around 9

How Much?: $40

This wine is available for purchase on the Internet.

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