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 is open exactly two days per year – in early April for their Spring Release Party. 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. In addition, there are some delightful appetizers and if you’re lucky you might be able to chat with Christophe.
Usually when I write up release party notes I try to give impressions and scores on each wine. However, Cayuse was packed and the wines came fast and furious. If you really need scores, I’d say only two of the wines would have scored under 95 points: The Widowmaker Cabernet Sauvignon was more austere than what I usually expect, and the Cailloux Syrah was not showing the purity of fruit that it has in recent vintages.
The God Only Knows Grenache, En Cerise Syrah and Bionic Frog Syrah showed gorgeous, pure fruit in spades but at the same time were really tightly wound. These wines hold a ton of promise and will be great with a couple years in the cellar.
The two best Syrahs on this particular day were the En Chamberlin and Armada. Both showed some of those savory, gamy, funky qualities that make the Cayuse Syrahs one of a kind.
The surprise of the day was The Lovers. A new wine in the Cayuse lineup, it’s made of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Syrah. I’ve never been a huge fan of this blend but The Lovers was the real deal and I will add it to the wish list on my next order.
If you are on the Cayuse mailing list, I urge you to consider making the pilgrimage to Walla Walla for the 2014 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!
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