Winemakers often feel the need to stretch their boundaries. While I’ve heard of a number of Sonoma Pinot Noir makers heading to Oregon for fruit, I’ve not heard similar stories about Napa-ites reaching north. Until now. It turns out that in 2012, Dennis Cakebread ushured in a new era for his wildly successful family business. Working with winemaker Aryn Morell, he’s spreading his wings in the Evergreen State’s famed Seven Hills Vineyard as well as the hopefully-next-to-be-recognized Royal Slope appellation in Washington. I’ve often said Washington beats Napa on price and often on balance early on, too. (Napa’s oak tends to be aggressive for just-released juice.) This is Mullan Road Cellars’ second release, showcases Washington’s second warmest year on record. I find it a fascinating combination of Napa meets Walla Walla.

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Day One surprised me. While the structure of the wine was highly approachable, the oak was overbearing. It was American oak in particular weighed on the wine with shavings of coconut and aggressively applied milk chocolate syrup. Day Two surprised me, again. This wine had evolved tremendously and developed a pleasantly smoky nose. Its palate displayed lovely integration, with generous but not overt alcohol, moderate acidity and a pleasantly creamy mid-palate concentration. The solid finish suggests this wine has time, which will allow it the peace of integrating its 40% new oak (French used here as well as American), if only most of its bottles are not drunk up on release. This blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec is certainly ambitious.
Drink: 2017-19