Friends, we have something very special for you today on WWB. About a month ago I had the very special opportunity to taste with eminent vigneron, Christophe Baron and his talented assistant vigneronne, Elizabeth Bourcier, as we sampled some very special back vintages of his wine. We all chatted about the wines and the vintages, as I have included original commentary about each wine and vintage from both Christophe and Elizabeth as they provide you with a journey through time, followed by my review of each wine. Please enjoy this exclusive content, as we take you through from vintages 2012 all the way back to one of Christophe’s first vintages, 1999. Cheers!
Christophe: I really enjoyed this summer, with no real heat spikes. This was our first vintage of this wine so I really love this wine. I tried this. After some time here I saw that we were really after something. We went back to France in June as there was rain throughout April and May. It was really weird, not normal at all. We were three weeks behind schedule in terms of picking in almost mid-October. Yields were down 80% which was super low. We did a lot of thinning to really concentrate the wines. This wine is still so young. The vineyard was planted in 2008 so this was the first wine we produced. This is seven years old but it is remarkably fresh right now.
Elizabeth: This was a cold vintage, the coldest on record. The summer didn’t have many days over 90 degrees and we never got to 100 degrees. That was a challenge for growing. There was some frost as well which make this difficult. We got more fruit in the vineyard and ripening was an issue for our first vintage of Horsepower. We love 2011 and think that the wine is so distinct and expressive from this special vineyard.
2011 Horsepower ‘Sur Echalas Vineyard’ Grenache- There is a wonderful Asian spice character to this wine with hoisin sauce, white pepper, red cherry candy and pomegranate seed aromatics following in the glass. The citrus quality to this wine is truly fantastic with mnarveoius tension with wild strawberry, kumquat, bulls blood and pomegranate seed flavors that come together remarkably in the glass. I am crazy about the range to this silky, feminine style wine. I can see this cellaring remarkably well for another decade Drink 2018-2028- 95
2011 Cayuse Vineyards ‘God Only Knows’ Grenache
Christophe: This wine shows like a lot of cooked fruits on the nose like strawberry coulis. For me what I like about the 2011 Grenache is I know that we will never be able to grow Pinot Noir at our location in Milton-Freewater but 2011 came as close to creating Pinot Noir as I will ever do because of the coolness of the vintage. I wouldn’t mind to have 2011 every year other than the really long growing season.
Elizabeth: I haven’t had this wine for a while but I love the vintage and I love that you get some of those savory and mineral driven aspect of the wines from that vintage. A smoky character is noted in the wines as well as the wonderful texture. It has been a while now since we have had a cool vintage, It shows the care that we put into the vineyards and shows that you can make great wines from this cool vintage. I like how these wines are aging, the really good freshness that was created from the cold vintage.
2011 Cayuse Vineyards ‘God Only Knows’ Grenache- I have not reviewed the 2011 ‘God Only Knows’ for several years but I am simply amazed with what is in the glass. This cool vintage Grenache starts off with wonderfully smoky character on the nose with red currant jelly, blood orange, Umami, horse manure and a touch of smoked brisket. The aromatic range really excites the senses. This wine shows wonderful verve and tension. Rose water, satsuma orange, Umami and forest floor character mark this outstanding wine. This is truly one of the great wines from this challenging vintage. Drink 2018-2028- 96
2007 Cayuse Vineyards ‘The Widowmaker’ Cabernet Sauvignon
Christophe: 2007 was a classic vintage. To me it was pretty classic other than being touch cooler than what a classic is. 2007 was as long growing season for us and had phenological ripeness the third week in September. The vintage had a little bit of rain at harvest but not much — it was just enough rain to delay harvest for a week. The cool nights gave this wine some wonderful acidity. For me 2007 is a vintage that I really love.
2007 Cayuse Vineyards ‘The Widowmaker’ Cabernet Sauvignon- This begins with smoked pork shoulder, Umami, black tea and peat moss with a lovely stony character. The wine shows good ripeness with sage, blood orange, pomegranate seed and smoked brisket flavors that come together nicely in the glass. There is a marvelous salinity to this Cabernet that makes it unique from anything else in the state. Showing good, lip-smacking acidity, this is drinking at its peak. Drink 2018-2022- 94
2009 No Girls ‘La Pacencia Vineyard’ Syrah
Christophe: 2009 was a classic vintage because we didn’t pick until the third week of September. We picked the Bionic Frog late and this vintage reminded me a bit of 2012. This wine is 14.1% alcohol so it is clearly riper than most No Girls Wines. Ripening for the wine took a lot of time and then the grapes seems to ripen all at once. The No Girls wines are as special as our Cayuse wines as we take the same level of care into these wines.
2009 No Girls ‘La Pacencia Vineyard’ Syrah- This seductive wine has an incredible aromatic range of peat moss, smoked brisket, black olive tapenade with bacon fat and black truffle oil. The palate is not even close to being oxidized as there is wonderful freshness still in the glass. Parma ham, blood orange, red currant and white truffle favors all come together in the glass. A stunner, this is drinking at its peak. I can see this cellaring well for the next six plus years but it is impossible to resist right now. Drink 2018-2024- 96
1999 Cayuse Vineyards ‘Cailloux Vineyard’ Syrah
Christophe: This older wine I think is one notch ahead many of my other older wines as this shows some wonderful freshness. 1999 as a vintage was a bit cooler up until late August as people were concerned that 1999 was going to be similar to 1993, which was a very late vintage. 1999 was worrying for people because harvest was going to be super late. For three weeks in a row after labor day we had 90 degree days. It was sunny all of the time and that really helped the vintage in terms of ripening. This being said, I almost ruined the crop because early September people were worried that I was already having a lot of color. Then I stopped irrigating because I was trying to figure what would work best in the vineyard. The Cailloux Vineyard was planted in ’97 so I stressed the vineyards hard and then I realized that it was too much stress on the vine. But by not watering and then watering again later I gave great natural acidity in the wines. This being said from being ahead of everyone in verison I was the last person in Walla Walla to pick my fruit. I picked some Cabernet on Halloween.
1999 Cayuse Vineyards ‘Cailloux Vineyard’ Syrah- This takes on a wonderful floral quality with rose water and lavender with lighter smoked meats. The palate shows good freshness and minerality, with a lovely savory edge and citrus side with red fruits. This has remarkable poise, considering its age. It is currently drinking at its peak. Drink 2018-2022- 92
2012 Cayuse Vineards ‘Cailloux Vineyard’ Syrah
Christophe: I think this was the last vintage where we picked up cassis notes. We picked our Syrah later into September. I never thought that this vintage would shed some baby fat and show what is going on but it has evolved quite nicely. The tannins are still there, this is still really young. The wine is a bit riper, at 14.2% alcohol, but it doesn’t show that right now.
Elizabeth: 2012 was a classic vintage. It was not too hot during the summer and not too cold. ’12 is great and I think these wines show wonderful balance. To me this wine is still tight. That vintage will keep going for a very long time.
2012 Cayuse Vineyards ‘Cailloux Vineyard’ Syrah- The nose is simply intoxicating with bacon fat, Umami, white pepper and suggestions of hoisin sauce. The nose is lifted from the Viognier co-ferment which adds a lovely floral element to the wine. The palate shows phenomenal texture and range with gobs of mouth-watering acidity with blood orange and red fruits. A touch of pomegranate seed marks this exceptional bottling. The balance is exceptional as this still has a long life ahead of it. It is currently drinking marvelously. Drink 2018-2028- 97
2006 Cayuse Vineyards ‘Armada Vineyard’ Syrah
Christophe: This vintage was a bit warmer than a classic year. Wines from this vintage typically came out massive and decadent open release. There is a lot of asphalt character to the wine as it is at 14.8% alcohol. There was wonderful earthy character as well as licorice as well as black and dark fruits. This was the dark side of the moon. It was dark but the wines showed good balance, not as hot as ’03 where we had some wines that didn’t show as much tension. This vintage ends up being liquid decadence in the glass.
2006 Cayuse Vineyards ‘Armada Vineyard’ Syrah- This fantastic 2006 Syrah shows wonderful smoky character on the nose as well as creosote, bacon fat and blackberry pie. The palate shows remarkable freshness and wonderful dark fruit flavors. Black fruits rather than red fruits dominate with a silky mouthfeel and light tannins. This is cellaring remarkably well right now but still has a long life ahead of it. It is worth noting that this bottle is currently showing better than another bottle that I enjoyed at a Seattle restaurant roughly one year ago. Drink 2018-2026- 95
2010 Cayuse Vineyards ‘Bionic Frog’ Syrah
Christophe: I love the 2010 vintage. In 2010 mother nature was beyond our control. We were not three weeks behind like 2011 but roughly ten days behind schedule for harvest. We didn’t check the brix but we picked based on tasting the fruit. The fruit looked really good. Also the wines ended up being one percent higher alcohol which was intriguing, and that was an issue from the yeast that we used. That was the combination of the yeast combined with mother nature because we were not using commercial yeast in the ferments.
Elizabeth: 2010 was a cold vintage, and for me this was my first cold vintage that I worked. That was really interesting and we had some rain during harvest. Then strangely we had warmer weather through ripening and the heat didn’t seem to stop. We had interesting things going on with yeast strains, so this was one of the higher alcohol Bionic Frogs we have made from a cool vintage. It is really intriguing how we get such good balance from this cool vintage. We love this vintage like we love 2011. The 2010 wines are dark and rich and show wonderful terroir.
2010 Cayuse Vineyards ‘Bionic Frog’ Syrah- This inky colored 2010 Syrah shows Hoisin sauce, black tea, Asian spice and horse manure. It is remarkably rich aromatically considering the obvious heat issues of the vintage. There is a wonderful purity to this nose that shows some insanely good range. The palate shows remarkable freshness with white truffle oil, black tea, blackberry cordial and horse manure with wonderful stony character. The lip-smacking acidity to this wine is simply stunning. I can see this cellaring well for the next decade. This might be the best 2010 wine that I have ever tasted out of Washington. Drink 2018-2028- 97
2008 Cayuse Vineyards ‘Impulsivo’ Tempranillo
Christophe: 2008 would have been a classic vintage until the rain came. We harvested Viognier and Merlot but then one day it rained hard, like in a few hours an inch and a half. That stopped everything. I was pretty mad about that. We were worried about the rain affecting our harvest. Most of all the Syrahs and everything would have been picked and then there was too much rain. But this truly was a remarkable vintage. You had to embrace what you had even though we were ready to pick and we had to wait. The next day there was good wind that came throughout the valley. There was some beautiful fall weather and then we had to wait again but our fruit turned out nicely. Wind made sure there was no rot on the vines and we achieved even better flavor profiles because of the hang time. For me that is what 2008 is all about.
Elizabeth: This was my first vintage working in Walla Walla and it was a challenge for me. We were all worried about all the rains which was considerably more than normal but we were lucky with the weather following the rain. If it would have remained cool then we could have had considerable more problems but 2008 ended up being a great vintage.
2008 Cayuse Vineyards ‘Impulsivo’ Tempranillo- The smoky character is powerful on this nose with blackberry jam, Hoisin sauce, black tea and mocha. The freshness to the wine is lovely considering that it is ten years old as the wine reveals lovely earthy terroir, smoked meats, and a wonderful salinity. This shows remarkable power and is drinking at its peak currently. Drink 2018-2025- 94