Review of Washington Wines
Silverback Vineyards is the brainchild of Charles Herrold who used to make wine in Canada’s Okanagan Valley. At Taste Washington, Charles introduced me to these wines, and his winery, located in Walla Walla, is one to watch.
2011 Silverback Vineyards Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills, Wallula Vineyard
This is one of the most intense Washington Chardonnays I have run across. All barrel fermented, it displays a deep brilliant gold color and a rich nose of pear, peach, apple blossoms, toasted hazelnuts and vanilla. The white fruit compote flavors are lavish and mouth encompassing, intermixed with peach pit, grape skin (from sur lie aging) and ancient Wallulla Gap flood minerals. The back reveals notes of vanilla oak and a creamy texture (from 92% malolactic fermentation), with bright citrusy fruit acids giving the wine verve on the long, toasty lightly spiced (nutmeg, clove) finish. The wine dances on the palate throughout, showing superb balance, so it gets a plus. 19+/20 points.
2010 Silverback Vineyards Sangiovese, Columbia Valley
Sourced from the Desert Hills Vineyard, this is a highly sophisticated Sangiovese. It exhibits a deep purplish color and aromas of blackberry, cherry and blueberry and vanilla (from American oak) and scents of juniper berries, anise and black roses. The flavors are dark and deep for a Sangio, marked by black licorice, cola, espresso and alluvial minerals. The back picks up notes of crushed berries, kirsch liqueur and squeezed blueberry juices, followed by a lingering typical “old world” dryish tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2010 Silverback Vineyards Syrah, Columbia Valley
Composed of Sara Lee and Shiraz #7 clones, this is an intense, true to variety Syrah. Inky purplish colored, it emits lovely, perfumed aromas of wild blackberry, blueberry, cassis, attar of rose, mulberry, lavender, violets and sweet smoldering incense, all jumping out of the glass. The dark fruit flavors are deep and mouth encompassing, well structured, yet fleshy, intermixed with licorice, cocoa powder, Sumatra roast and gravelly, silty earth. The texture is more svelte than chewy, and the back reveals wonderful varietal purity with lush squeezed fruits, spiced cherries and orange peel, and touches of roasted nuts and suede leather, prefacing a lingering, satiny, lanolin coated sweet-dry tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
What Washington State Sangiovese wines have over their Italian counterparts is an inherent joie de vivre. They are fun to drink and the life of the party while their Old World cousins can come across a tad serious at times. Silverback’s version continues the trend with vibrant acidity, wild berry aromas and captures the essence of biting into a freshly picked green tomato – pure joy.
Aged in 500L American oak puncheons and sourced from the Desert Hills Vineyard near Grandview, Washington, this Sangiovese also shows depth of character with layers of crayon, boysenberry, huckleberry and churchwood (worn, yet cared-for old wood). May not age as long as the fuller-bodied and finely structured Silverback Syrahs and blends, but some further evolution is possible, if not probable. Drink 2013-2017.
A dark, intense, ruby-coloured Syrah with a medium purple rim and a lovely sheen. Pulls you into its web at first sniff with layers of dark fruit, violets, tar, licorice, vanilla, subtle allspice and vibrant citrus notes. An excellent prelude to the concentrated palate that offers superb acidity and balance with fine tannins and long-lasting, spicy dark fruit flavours that role around your mouth with youthful abandon.
Fruit was cropped down to 2.5 tonnes per acre, cold fermented and then aged in 100%, 2nd fill French oak. Will be approachable upon its release in early 2013, but the patient among you will reap the benefits of 2-3 more years of bottle age. Drink 2014-2020+.
A feminine, single-vineyard Chardonnay with layers of dried roses, orchard fruit, citrus and melon aromas on the clean, elegant nose.
Cropped to 3.5 tonnes per acre and aged in both French and Hungarian oak with only minimal lees agitation for 6 months. As a result, the palate is exquisitely balanced with a subtle, ever-present texture allowing the fruit, mineral and oak influence flavours to sing in harmony with the mouth-watering, citrus melody.
Fans of Penfold’s Yattarna Chardonnay should take note as the Silverback matches the elegance and refinement of the “white Grange” at roughly half the expected price of around $50-60. Built to age with further development a guarantee. Sky’s the limit. Drink 2013-2021+.
When winemaker Charles Herrold worked at the Langley based Blackwood Lane winery (he left in 2010), two truly amazing, benchmark Canadian wines were produced under his direction: the 2006 and 2007 “Referènce”. When deciding to go it alone and move his talents to Washington State, Herrold chose to recreate the essence of that ultra-premium blend and even elevate its execution (while correcting the spelling of the name).
The resulting wine is a familiar blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec with Herrold’s signature concentrated-yet-gentle and endlessly-layered graphite and dark fruit flavour profile. Classic Meritage berry fruit and savoury, gun powder and Christmas cake spice flavours add complexity to the finely tuned oak treatment and proprietary yeast program that Herrold employs. Ultra fine tannins and perfect acidity levels create a wine for enjoying in its youth or for aging 15+ years. Drink 2013-2025+.
Tasting Notes: From a barrel sample. Winemaker Charles Herrold decided to experiment with one barrel of his 100% free-run Syrah production from the 2011 vintage using a Bordeaux yeast normally reserved for Cabernet Sauvignon and the results are truly stunning. Violets, tar, cherry, licorice and citrus characters galore. Glaetzer’s Amon-Ra springs to mind but with more concentration and length, if that is even conceivable. Bold, rich and absolutely gorgeous, this inky-purple Syrah is sure to become a cult classic. Only 55 cases have been produced so you may be hard-pressed to get your hands on it. If you do, you’ll want to wait another 1-2 years+ before opening for your investment to pay dividends. Drink 2015-2026+.
Re-tasting Notes: The wine is awaking from its Spring bottling-induced slumber with a roar, though I still recommend another 1-2 years in the bottle before opening. Should you choose to open now you’ll find a powerfully elegant wine bursting with restrained intensity and dense, dense dark fruit flavours effortlessly balanced by its expertly-tuned oak program.
So close to “perfect” that 99 points may seem like a slight to the producer – and truthfully, no change to this wine could truly improve on what’s already in the bottle. Vintage conditions and a presumptive successful track record, however, do leave room for future perfection.