Cayuse was founded in 1997 by Christophe Baron, a native of France who grew up in family of winemakers in Champagne. Baron studied viticulture in Burgundy and Champagne, and had ambitions to make Pinot Noir in Oregon. However, on a visit to Walla Walla, he found property that he believed would be perfect for growing grapes and decided to purchase the land.
Cayuse Release Weekend is traditionally the first Friday and Saturday of April. I find it worth the 4 hour trek from Seattle because it is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to taste through almost all of the wines that will be released the following year. The doors open on each day at 10am and the line starts forming even earlier. Christophe greeted us at 10am with glass in hand!
Usually when I write up release party notes I try to give impressions and scores on each wine. However, Cayuse was packed, the wines came fast and furious and I was busy catching up with fellow Cayuse devotees. If you really need scores, I’d say all the wines would have scored at least 93 to 94 points. The following wines were being sampled this year:
2011 God Only Know Grenache
2012 Camaspelo (84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot)
2012 Cailloux Vineyard Syrah
2012 En Chamberlin Vineyard Syrah
2012 En Cerise Vineyard Syrah
2012 Bionic Frog Syrah
2011 Armada Vineyard Syrah
2012 Impulsivo Tempranillo
The standout in the Cayuse lineup was the 2012 En Chamberlin. The wine had great floral qualities, amazing purity of fruit and was at the same time supple and savory. I’d ballpark this at 96 points but definitely need to do further research. For that matter the entire Syrah lineup including the Armada, Cailloux, En Cerise and Bionic Frog was exceptional. Note to self: wish list even more wines next year.
The 2012 Syrahs continued the trend of moving away from that Cayuse funk of years past. These are rich, acid driven wines with great purity of fruit and minerality. They will all benefit from many years in the cellar.
It is also worth noting that the 2012 Camaspelo was exceptional. Clearly the best Camaspelo to date and no longer the weak link in the Cayuse lineup.
Although they were not part of the tasting I also had the opportunity to taste the debut Grenache and Syrah from Horsepower Vineyards. This is a new project from Christophe Baron and the mailing list will be opened to existing Cayuse members sometime in the month of May. The Grenache had mind blowing floral characteristics. Both wines had structure and a tannin profile that sets them apart from Cayuse and No Girls. I sincerely hope I am in front of my computer when the release email arrives in my inbox.
If you are on the Cayuse mailing list, I urge you to consider making the pilgrimage to Walla Walla for the 2015 event. Unfortunately, if you’re not on the mailing list, the wait is very long, and you need to be well-connected to get a bottle via retail.
This tasting only confirmed my opinion that Cayuse is one of the best wineries on the planet and current vintages are worth the hunt!
I’ve blogged about Cayuse previously in Winery Mailing Lists: The Fab 5.
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