2020 Hundred Suns, Cabernet/Syrah, River Rock Vineyard, The Rocks District, Milton Freewater, Oregon.
A new wine from Grant Coulter and his Hundred Suns label, the River Rock Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend from the Oregon side of Walla Walla is an intriguing blue fruited wine with dense fruit and supple ripe tannins, proving these varietals can play nicely together in an expressive way. This 2020 shows an array of blackberry, plum, brandied cherries and currant fruits along with bay leaf, tobacco, cedar, acacia flower and mission fig accents. Coulter, one of Oregon’s best Pinot Noir specialist, originally left California for Oregon’s Willamette Valley some 16 or so years ago, where he first worked as assistant winemaker at Hamacher wines before spending, as he notes, the bulk of 10 years as assistant winemaker and then (head) winemaker at the legendary Beaux Freres. After which, seeking a new and personal direction, Coulter and his wife Renée Saint-Amour founded their own Hundred Suns label in 2015 as well as buying a piece of land in the Eola-Amity Hills zone, where there was an old vineyard that they are now re-planting in hope to create a special estate for the future. In the meantime Coulter is consulting for Flaneur wines and doing his micro bottlings of single vineyard of regional Pinots, an exciting Gamay, Grenache, Chardonnay and a couple of Syrah offerings, as well as this tasty Cab/Syrah. I hope Hundred Suns continues with this special addition to the lineup for years to come, it is an intriguing effort and a delicious dark purple/garnet nectar that is fabulous with robust cuisine.

This unique Cab/Syrah was sourced from the famed River Rock Vineyard located in the The Rocks District of Milton Freewater, Oregon, an area made famous by Christophe Baron of Cayuse. These soils (or lack thereof), called the Freewater Series, as Coulter notes, are eroded basalt cobbles and pebbles from the Blue Mountains, these rocks, sand, and silt were laid down in layer upon layer forming an alluvial fan on the flat Walla Walla valley floor, leaving us a great terroir. These dynamic soils, Grant adds, require the vines to push roots deep between the rocks to find nutrients while the warmth absorbed by the rocks helps ripen the Cabernet grapes. Coming in at 14% natural alcohol, this is a ripe wine, but incredibly well balanced, or as Grant Says, its a Pinot Noir winemaker’s rendition of noble Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little dose of co-fermented Syrah that adds complexity. These grapes were hand-harvested and brought back to the winery in McMinnville where they were fully de-stemmed into a single one ton open top fermenter. After three days the native yeast took off and fermentation was on. Coulter gently pumped-over the juice twice daily and after ten days the primary fermentation was completed, then the must was pressed to neutral French oak and 450 liter amphora. The Cab/Syrah then was matured, unmoved, for one year and then the wine was gently racked into a bottling tank and was bottled unfined and unfiltered. As readers of grapelive.com know, the Hundred Suns wines are a favorite of mine and I highly recommend chasing some down and I suggest joining their mailing list as soon as possible, as these wines have truly been discovered and sell out fast.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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