Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top Ten Cayuse Wines of 2009

I decided to follow end of the year protocol and publish a Top Ten Wines of 2009 list, but when I started to compile my list it was dominated by a certain winery that loves the rocks. I don't mean Joker vs. Batman domination where each guy gets their licks in. I mean USA vs. Germany (you're welcome England) where we kicked their ass twice in 30 years kind of domination. So, I decided to put together two top ten lists...One completely of the best Cayuse wines I drank in 2009 and a second list comprised of the best of the rest...

10. 2006 Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Syrah
New World, overhyped, love it or hate it, lightning rod syrah...oh, how I've missed you. Typical Cailloux aromas of freshly cracked peppercorns, blue fruit, minerals, flowers, and something I've never noticed before from this vineyard, black tea. As with most bottles of Cayuse, I could sit and smell it for hours and be content but with my friend Rico present, I needed to imbibe prematurely or else risk him bogarting the entire bottle. I know most of you consider me a blind promoter or shill for Cayuse but there just aren't many wines that can wake up your mouth the way these can. Immediate taste of ripe macerated blackberries followed by tart cherries, pepperoncini, pork, and spiciness fill you mouth. Kind of get that sweet vs. savory thing going on that chefs love. No tannins and no oak allow the densly packed fruit to take you to that faraway place we all enjoy...wine nirvana. 94pts

9. 2006 Cayuse Flying Pig
Drank this puppy on NYE after a 2006 Saxum Broken Stones and was blown away with the complexity and uniqueness this displayed. It shouldn't have surprised me as Christophe's bordeaux varietals just keep getting better with each successive vintage as they develop the typical Cayuse personality of being like no other wine on the planet. Darkly red, the initial aroma on this baby flared your nostrils like smelling salts. Dominated by smoke roasted poblano peppers, it felt like I was strolling through an old town Mexican outdoor market. It took some time for the fruit to show up for the party as juicy plums and a bit of almost ripe strawberries made a cameo appearance. Spicy oak enlivened the mid-palate and a lengthy finish with hints of menthol left my homeys and me scrambling to beat the others to the bottle for the last glass. Poblanos, plums, smoke, and menthol...hard to beat in a cab franc! 94 pts

8. 2006 Cayuse Impulsivo
Popped the cork and set aside for about 45 minutes while we drank the Donnhoff. The color out of the bottle was a deep, dark blue accented by blood red edges. Your nose is immediately blasted with the blackest of black cherries, crushed blackberries, olive, woodsmoke, sandalwood, and some sort of rare grilled game meat. The savory qualitites are all Cayuse trademarks and when paired with the ripe fruit, your nose becomes the Valhalla of convergence zones. The palate mirrors the nose as superconcentrated dark fruit fills your mouth eventually yielding to the carnal pleasures of blackened lamb, blood, and a distinctly saline minerality. An impressively heavy finish with Manute Bol like length had my tongue scouring the inside of my mouth for the next hour. 95 pts

7. 2005 Cayuse God Only Knows Grenache
If there ever could be a wine that can overwhelm yet be so restrained and understated, this is that wine. The best analogy I can come up with is this...You have just scored general admission seats to your all-time favorite band's gig (for me that would be Pearl Jam or Alice 'n Chains or Iron Maiden). You camp out a couple days in advance so you'll be one of the first people in and secure your rightful spot in front of the stage. The anticipation from everyone in the arena is palpable--we are about to have our ears drums blown out! The band finally saunters on stage without electric guitars and a huge drum kit but with acoustic guitars and a single drum. They announce tonight will be a special "unplugged" concert. You can tell everyone in the crowd is a bit shocked but once the show begins they are blown away by how powerful, amazing, and moving a stripped down "unplugged" show can be. That's how this wine made me feel.
A gorgeous meduim-dark red out of the bottle. Initial aromas of enriched red fruits, an ever so hint of smoke, rocks, and a floral component that I could never quite pin down. So lush and smooth in the mouth with crushed strawberries, raspberry ganache, and a little tobacco to leaven out the sweetness. All components seemed to be in perfect harmony. I can't mention enough how luxurious yet understated the mouth feel was, simply intriguing. It finishes very strong with some cocoa notes and sweet spice. I think this wine will continue to develop more complex flavors and undertones as it ages. 95 pts

6. 2006 Cayuse Armada Vineyard Syrah
Splash decanted this beast for about 15 mintues and then poured it back into the bottle. Before pouring it back into the bottle I decided some sniffs were in order. Boy am I glad my right hand was firmly planted on the counter as the smell of this wine literally almost knocked me on my ass. 100 point nose for me. Stinky animal fur, rare game meat, cabbage, sour pickles, and even a little raspberry. I showed amazing restraint (generally not a word that describes me) and did not pour myself a glass, instead waiting until dinner. After a Donnhoff and an aged CdP, I was salivating as my glass was filled. Ruby red with flecks of purple, the nose continued its display of perfection. More meat, cabbage, fur, and bacon. I finally took a taste and realized this wine possesses some kind of crazed intensity that reminded me of Mike Singletary, eyes wide, circa 1985 and I was the trembling quarterback across the line of scrimmage. Every note and nuance seems to be magnified in this wine. The fruit and game meat, especially. The length leads me to believe this wine will age for years. As good as this wine is now, it needs some time to settle down but when it does--lookout! 96 pts

5. 2006 Cayuse En Chamberlin Vineyard Syrah
Wow, another over-oaked, over-extracted, manipulated Aussie bomb from Cayuse. Hardly (that was just a quick shout out to the haters!). Hamburgers are to Wimpy as Cayuse En Chamberlin is to me. Except I'll pay you any day of the week not just Tuesday. Pop and pour was the serving style du jour for this beast. The anticipation is palpable as you know exactly what this wine will smell like, but then it delivers an even stronger Mike Tyson Punch-Out styled KO. Immediate aromas of animal fur, blood sausage, pepperoncini, herbs, pulverized black raspberries and blackberries, and a surprise of violets. 100 point nose for me, all the way. Unctuous and dense in the mouth at first, leading the way to huge, extracted (not over, mind you) dark fruit. I felt like Chaka on Land of the Lost sitting around with black cherries and blackberries the size of Drew Carey's head. Luckily, the savory components never let this fruit get out of control as sauvage, rare beef, iron, and stony minerality keep it in check. Everything is in balance. No presence of oak with seamless and plush tannins. As any great wine should, it finishes as it begins with length and an aftertaste that I could chew on for days. This wine was a 5 course-dinner and then some. 97pts

4. 2004 Cayuse En Chamberlin Vineyard Syrah
Essentially popped and poured. There was a time when I thought the odd number years of the En Chamberlin were kickin' ass and taking names and now after drinking both the 06 and 04 recently, we seem to have a legitimate fight on our hands. Grimace purple (yes, as in the Mickey D's dude), this wine needs no introducion. The aromas of this wine I've chronicled numerous times in the past so I won't bore you with the details other than to say if you enjoy sticking your nose deep into a pot of provencal stew, then you will certainly love the smell of this wine. When you finally gather the nerve to take a taste, your mouth is reminded why one aspect of being a human is so great--the thirst for blood and meat. You feel like a caveman squating on a boulder digging into a nicely cooked leg of some animal. An Ivy League educated caveman, mind you, as this wine gives you plenty to think about. Not for the wine drinker who just enjoys plush, ripe fruit but for the adventurous wine drinker who searches out both the savory qualities of meat, blood, and vegetables as well as the sweet-tooth satisfying berries. When you finally swallow this beast, then hunt is on for a piece of wood to pick all of the meat out of your teeth as this wine builds a fire and plans on staying the entire night. 97pts

3. 2006 Cayuse Bionic Frog
Ah, the liquid nectar of the gods. One of the true pleasures in this world is drinking someone else's Bionic Frog so you don't have to lessen your own personal stash by one. Thanks Dad, and thanks to the sucker who let this go for $85 at silent auction! Deep purple with ruby red edges, this wine exuded Cayuse class from the get go. Now Cayuse class may be different from the dictionary definition of class, i.e. Sophia Loren or Jackie O. Cayuse class is down and dirty. Intial aromas of crumbled earth, smoked meat, picked fennel, some black raspberry, and a heavy dose of minerality. Christophe's wines are starting to show such a depth of minerality that I now believe we need to add another element to the periodic table--Cayusium--with the symbol Fg for f*@king good. Not quite as intense as the 03 I had recently, but maybe a touch more complex. Sweet layers of dark fruit interwoven with briny olives, soy, umami, pepper, and even more minerality. The balance this wine achieves with sweet vs. savory is bordering on genius. No noticeable oak or tannin on the back end allows the finish of brown spices and blueberries to linger on your palate for minutes. Free Bionic Frog rocks. Dad, let's open that 05 this weekend! 97pts

2. 2003 Cayuse Bionic Frog
Sh#t. This was the three D's...dark, dense, and dominating. For me, most of the funk has blown off this wine and a lean, mean fighting machine is left. Tons of iron, blood, soy, and game accented by concentrated blue fruits. Hefty and lengthy finish. So close to perfection. 99pts

1. 2005 Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Wallah Wallah Syrah Neutral Barrel
This is when the party really got started. Christophe was generous enough last year to send us a mag of this mythical beauty but decided we needed three mags this year. Thank you! As much as I liked this wine last year, it is in another league this year. The first whiff buckled my knees like a Dwight Gooden curveball circa 1986. It possessed every smell I love. Herbs, seaweed, dried pineapple, roasted berries, rare meat, sausage, blood, soy, violets. I literally sat there and smelled it for an hour. At this point, people were threatening to kick my ass if I didn't finally take a drink. I acquiesced and was blown away. Layers of flavors. Pineapple, smoke, dark fruit/berries, black pepper. Makes you think it's massive but conveys no excess baggage. Seamless and silky tannins along with the layered flavor and aromatics make the finish last for what seems to be hours. Otherworldly. 100pts

Tomorrow I'll post my top ten wines other than Cayuse...

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