a glorious vertical tasting of beresan cabernets

Monday, November 07, 2011

It is almost always a good start for any winery when the principal owner is a time-tested vineyard manager. In the case of Beresan, vineyard owner/manager Tom Waliser and winemaker Tom Glase, celebrating their tenth anniversary and 11th harvest, have taken their collaboration well beyond its promising beginning. Beresan makes my short list of the most important, consistent, stylistically riveting small wineries in Washington. It is also among the state’s best value plays, along with such gems as Fielding Hills, Soos Creek and Nefarious.

In celebration of their 10-year partnership, the two Toms opened a vertical tasting of Beresan cabernets, spanning their first six vintages. Every bottle was a delight, and it was clear that the polish, elegance, balance and power that each of these wines showed when first released had in fact played out well over the intervening years.

Washington cabernet, from great vineyards, is a contender for my favorite of all this state’s wines, and tasting a flight such as this one of the great pleasures of my vocation. Here are my original notes, scores, and the suggested retail upon release, along with updated comments (and scores) from this recent tasting.

91 Beresan 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley; $25.
Balanced and supple, it shows streaks of red berries and currants, some pepper and herb, and a good concentrated mid-palate, that finishes with a pleasing kick of oak.
NEW: Gorgeous nose – I could drink this all night. Smooth, rich, maturing but vibrant. Mixed fruits, toast, a hint of smoke, baking spices, and amazingly long finish. (94)

90 Beresan 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley; $25.
Extremely likeable and accessible, this cab includes 15% syrah and 5% cab franc. It’s loaded with butterscotch and mocha, but the ripe, not over-ripe fruit gives it a clear, clean focus right down the middle.
NEW: Darker than the 2001, a bigger wine all around with purple/black fruits, and earthy, thick tannins. (92)

92 Beresan 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley; $25.
Fragrant with scents of berries, red currant and spicy plum, it’s a substantial and thickly tannic wine. All the Beresan wines seem to gain weight as they breathe; these should all be decanted. Initially the cab sports strong barrel flavors of chocolate and smoke, but just a little breathing time and they unwrap into appealing layers of spice, coffee and toffee through the finish.
NEW: Lovely blueberry pie fruit flavors, still fresh, but rounded out with spicy highlights and a whiff of herb. (93)

87 Beresan 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley; $29.
Well made but much lighter than previous vintages. The fruit is light strawberry/cherry with a hint of bell pepper; the oak adds a dusty cinnamon and mocha note to it; all proportionate, but the fruit is light and a bit simple. Very well made, just not showing the depth and weight of previous versions.
NEW: From the freeze year. I missed the boat on this one originally. Deceptively light, with delicious boysenberrry/blueberry fruit, a delightful bouquet, baking spice highlights, and wonderful structure. (95)

92 Beresan 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley; $35
This is the vinous equivalent of a high-wire acrobatic performance – pure Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yellow Jacket and Waliser vineyards. Bright, impeccably clean red currant and raspberry fruit is sculpted into a tight and balanced wine underscored with black olive. Everything is ripe and polished and, most importantly, proportionate, including the alcohol, a moderate 13.8%.
NEW: Once again lovely aromatics. The most youthful of the flight, with bright boysenberry, raspberry and black cherry fruit. Spice, acid and light herbal notes, all balanced and showing pure varietal character. (91)

93 Beresan 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley; $29
Pure Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yellow Jacket, Waliser and Pepper Bridge vineyards, this supremely rich and expressive wine is riveting for its depth and detail. Tasted just ahead of the official release, it was already supple and packed with red, blue and black fruits. Whiffs of smoke, graphite and stone add complexity, the hint of bitter chocolate in the finish is the capper.
NEW: My favorite of the night. Tight, focused, pure cabernet with floral notes, blue and black fruits, and lots of smooth chocolate. Lovely structure and depth, seamless and complex. I took this bottle home and drank it happily while watching Game 6 of the World Series. (96)


Plymale said...

Thanks, Paul

Anonymous said...

Sure wish more Washington wine was sold here locally in Portland.

PaulG said...

Anon, maybe a trip to Wallyworld would be a good idea! Or, sign up for the winery's club. If they can't ship to you in Portland, I bet one of the Col. Gorge or Vancouver wine shops, restaurants, or tasting rooms would be willing to receive wines for you. Just a suggestion.

Anonymous said...


fruit in walla walla is terrible for the 2012 vintage. rick small says it is the worst he's seen since 1985. what rave reviews are you going to manufacture for walla walla valley ava when they get released. in the past 12 issues of wine enthusiast you have rated walla walla wineries an average of 5 points higher than those outside walla walla. you are so transparent it's sad

PaulG said...

Well let me take a wild guess here, Anonymous. You are a winemaker located outside of Walla Walla. Perhaps I have not given your wines the reviews you feel they deserve. Therefore, you march to the ridiculous conclusion that I am biased (oh and transparent). Well, hooray for you. I will announce my retirement right after Joe Paterno.

Plymale said...

Anon, I believe that the majority of Walla2 wineries get the majority of their fruit from outside the Walla2 AVA. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

PaulG said...

Plymale, absolutely correct. I didn't bother trying to fix all the lies and misstatements in that particular (oh so brave!) anonymous comment. But the resentment aimed at Walla Walla vintners (directly and through my supposed bias) is just petty jealousy. Success is earned in this business, whether you grow grapes, make wine, sell wine, or write about wine. No one gets a free ride. Except maybe, anonymous gripers on public blogs.

Anonymous said...

What WA wine can't you find in Portland. I've never had an issue finding a wine I might want (but I do get most of my wine via mail)

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