The wine: Abeja, 2008 Heather Hill, cabernet sauvignon
Price: $55 suggested retail. Appearing on local shelves for $66–$80
Introductions: The 2008 Heather Hills cabernet sauvignon is the first exclusively Walla Walla Valley cabernet from winemaker Abeja. It’s also the first made entirely with grapes from Abeja’s Heather Hill estate vineyard. Sure, fruit from Heather Hill has been making appearances in Abeja’s various Columbia Valley wines for years, but winemaker John Abbott wanted to make a single varietal, single vintage, single vineyard estate wine.
The Heather Hill vineyard was planted in 2001, and since then Abbott has been biding his time, waiting patiently to be assured that the estate vineyard could produce the same exceptional wine year after year. Even he was surprised that it took until 2008. The older Abbott gets, he says, the more he likes his wines to show their place, and this wine expresses some serious Walla Walla Valley terroir.
Tasting Notes: The first thing you’ll notice is the incredible intensity of this wine: It’s inky dark, with a pronounced staining of the glass, which connotes the amount of contact the juice has had with the grape skins. On the nose there’s a slight smokiness, an almost gamey, meaty quality which leads quickly to the pencil lead, violet, rose and sandalwood, all layered over tons of voluptuous, dark fruit.
There’s bramble on the palate, on top of layers of dark cherry and blackberry, and again a bit of smokiness. The toasty notes—which are the result of 100 percent French oak barrels—are not overwhelming, but warm. The tannins are serious, almost reminiscent of an Old World red, but not bracing. Rather they give this cabernet backbone.
In a state that makes some seriously fantastic cabernets, this is one of the exceptional ones. It’s intricate. Elegant. Intense, though not bombastic. It is one beautiful bottle of wine.
Drink This Wine If: You like complex, New World/Washington state reds with serious finesse. The care taken both in the vineyard and in the winery are evident in the wine’s structure and ability to age.
Drink Now vs. Drink Later: While the Heather Hill is memorable now, it is going to age very nicely. Don’t hesitate to put it in your cellar. If you just can’t wait to open that bottle, know that this wine benefits from some breathing space. An hour in the decanter will amply reward your patience. The longer the Heather Hill is open, the more those violets and roses come out, both on the nose and palate, and the more the layered fruit comes forward.
Buy the Bottle/By the Glass: This is a wine that merits getting yourself on the Abeja list, not just to track future releases, but because this is the easiest way to track down this first vintage. Because there were only 270 cases produced in 2008 (190 in 2009), few bottles remain on the shelves. Whole Foods Bellevue has a few, as does Wine World Warehouse. Since this cabernet would pair exceptionally nicely with a big fat juicy steak, you’ll also find it on the John Howie bottle list ($135).
You won’t, however, find it at Pike and Western wine shop because a certain famous actor-comedian and Almost Live! alumnus is apparently a fan. He bought the entire allocation before it could even hit the shelves.