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.
The first weekend in April is unofficially known as Cayuse Release Weekend in Walla Walla, Wa. Members of the Cayuse mailing list make the pilgrimage to Eastern Washington for the two single days all year when you can taste wines at Cayuse Vineyards. This past weekend was the first time I have been able to attend since 2014.
In regards to logistics the Release Party runs from 10am-5pm on Friday and Saturday at the facility in Milton-Freewater, OR. The event itself is bigger than ever. Reservations at any restaurant in downtown Walla Walla need to be secured at least 2-4 weeks in advance. Hotel rooms are at a premium. Lastly, the staff at Cayuse is diligent about monitoring traffic into the winery to keep crowds under control.
This weekend nine wines were being poured and there were ample passed small dishes designed to complement the wines. Below are my notes, albeit brief, on the various wines:
Camaspelo – A Bordeaux style blend. More structured and tannic than recent versions. Lots of promise but needs 5+ years in the cellar.
God Only Knows – Grenache. Big and smoky with lots of fresh strawberries. I like this wine better than most.
Lovers- Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Once again bigger and more structured than I am accustomed to. I’ve always liked the packaging more than the wine.
Cailloux- Syrah co-fermented with Viognier. Flowers, stones, cherries. One of the highlights of the day.
En Cerise- Syrah. Cherries and more cherries. Super wine but outclassed by the other Syrahs being poured today.
En Chamberlin- Syrah. Brings just a little of that Cayuse funk that we know and love. My second favorite wine of the day.
Bionic Frog- Maybe one of the best Frogs ever. Clearly the highlight of the wines being poured.
Armada- Syrah. Cherries, olives and game. Really tight but this wine always shows well with time in the cellar.
Impulsivo- Tightly wound and a bit of palate fatigue at this point. What is lurking under the surface shoes promise.
As it should be the Syrahs stole the show this weekend.
In addition to trying the wines the Cayuse Release Party is always a great chance to catch up with old friends. I got a chance to chat briefly with Trevor Dorland who is the General Manager at Cayuse. Christophe is not one to rest on his laurels and it sounds like the Hors Categorie project is set to launch next spring and Christophe’s Champagne project in 2019 or so. More to come here I am sure.
The waiting list for the Cayuse mailing list is huge and you need to be well-connected to get a bottle via retail. Either way, current vintages are worth the hunt!
Christophe Baron continues to do everything right at Cayuse and I am thrilled to be on the mailing list. Props to him and his team.
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