Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tim and Paige Stevens are the congenial owners of this Woodinville boutique. Though Stevens does not get the press coverage given to such superstar efforts as Gorman, Mark Ryan, and Betz, I would place their wines in that quality vector.

Their first release – 100 cases of a 2001 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Franc – debuted just five years ago. Now up to about 2500 cases annually, the winery sells mostly to a mailing list (not yet closed, but I wouldn’t wait to get on it) and at the cellar door.

Tim’s black and white labels depict paintings and sculptures he’s done himself, often with wine themes and materials (you would be amazed what he can do with old barrel staves). He learned winemaking by apprenticing at Matthews Cellars and later Sheridan, working with Matt Loso, Scott Greer and Chris Camarda. Stevens, like Greer and David O’Reilly, focuses almost exclusively on Yakima valley (Rattlesnake Hills) fruit. Among his fruit sources is DuBrul, the regional equivalent of Ciel du Cheval on Red Mountain or Champoux in the Horse Heaven Hills.

Current and upcoming releases include a StevensDivio 2008 Viognier ($19), bone-dry, fine structure, and perfectly ripe at just 12.7% alcohol. Dineen vineyard grapes show a crystalline transparency, scents reminiscent of lemon tea, with penetrating streaks of lemon and lime.

Stevens 2006 424 Red Wine ($32) is the big production number, at 433 cases. Sourced from Sheridan, Dineen, DuBrul, and Meek fruit, it’s a blend of 43% cabernet sauvignon, 44% cabernet franc and 13% merlot. Beautiful fruit aromas rise from the glass, along with scents of fresh bread dough. It’s broader and less vertical than the pure varietals, but consistent with the house style, showing good concentration, a mix of black cherry, blackberry, plum, and licorice, nicely proportioned, with big tannins perfectly ripe.

Stevens 2006 XY Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($42) is 100% varietal and just under 15% alcohol. Jam-packed with fruit from Sheridan and Meek; it is the most compact and least expressive wine of the current releases, but holds the most potential. Iron, earth, blackberry, black cherry, iodine, smoke, licorice, some heat.

Stevens 2007 BlackTongue Syrah ($30), from Dineen and Meek, is tight, tannic, and loaded with mixed berries, plum, chocolate, some caramel, plenty of smoke and toast. Structured and dense, with fruit and minerality rather than funk or herb.

Slated for December release (but available as pre-orders) are a Stevens 2007 Merlot ($30), also 100% varietal, with grapes from DuBrul and Meek; and a Stevens 2007 Cabernet Franc ($27), 100% varietal, from Sheridan and Dineen. The merlot is full-bodied and still rather oaky, but packed with very firm, compact black fruits, layered with smoke, graphite, black olive. Dense and textural, with fine grip to the tannins. The cab franc is the first varietally bottled since the Champoux; it’s dark and smoky, with an interesting mix of violets and plummy fruit. It carries the Stevens imprint of licorice, clean earth, graphite, black olive – a stiff, tannic, tight wine with the structure to age for decades. All of these wines score in the 91 - 94 point range.

We also tasted a lovely rosé (winery only) and a sold out malbec, that reminded me of a very fine Dry Creek zinfandel. The winery tasting room is open Saturdays 12 to 4:30, Sundays 1 to 4 during crush – a great time to visit.

1 comment:

MagnumGourmet said...

Great wine...But even better people!!!

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