“This is good. Is it a Bordeaux?” one of our usual panelists asked.
That’s high praise around here because we’re biased in favor of Bordeaux when it comes to wines made predominantly from the cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes. We generally prefer the lighter body weight and better balance between fruit and non-fruit flavors of the French offerings.
In this case, however, the wine in question – a Cadence 2004 “Ciel Du Cheval Vineyard” Red Wine ($38) – was made from grapes grown in Washington State’s Red Mountain appellation.
I purchased some of this wine several years ago and recently pulled a bottle out of the cellar to see how it was doing. The answer: exceptionally well.
The tannins had softened and merged with the fruit and all the rough edges were gone. The result was a very interesting mix of fruit and non-fruit flavors – a great companion to some fairly hearty fare.
This wine was distinctive in the best possible way. There was nothing generic-tasting about it.
Moreover, it appears to have a very long life ahead of it if you happen to have any and would like to cellar it for an extended period of time. I can say that because after we consumed about half the Cadence with one dinner, I resealed the bottle and left it sitting out for about five days. That was not intentional: events simply intervened.
But, to my surprise and relief, the wine was just fine when the bottle was reopened. The fruit had faded only very slightly and the overall balance of flavors was still very appealing. Quite a performance and a real tribute to both the grapes and the winemaker.
This wine is what is known in Washington as a “Bordeaux blend.” In California, such blends are often called Meritage wines.
While the Cadence offering contains the usual mixture of grapes associated with Bordeaux, the relative proportions are a little different than most. In this case, cabernet franc, at 39%, is the leading component followed by cabernet sauvignon, 32%, merlot 21% and petit verdot 8%. More typically, cabernet franc would be, say, around 10% and petit verdot about 5%.
I don’t know enough about winemaking to say why Cadence winemaker Ben Smith decided to emphasize cabernet franc in this blend, but whatever the reason, it was an inspired choice.
For the record the Cadence red is listed as being 14.4% alcohol by volume. That’s higher than what one would expect to find in a comparable French-made blend.