When REININGER was starting out, Chuck wanted the winery to be Bordeaux-centric.
“Those are the wines I was really first introduced to as far as red wines go. They have a bold character, and Bordeaux grapes grow very well here. I’m a provincial person; I’m proud of where I live and where we’re from, and these grapes really express themselves beautifully here. Not that these grapes are indigenous to Walla Walla, but the Bordeaux red grapes are the ones that have really landed a home here in the Valley. They really are the founding core of the Walla Walla Valley.”
For REININGER’S inaugural vintage, Chuck’s wine portfolio included a 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon. Over the years, Chuck has become known for his REININGER Cabernet Sauvignon and in 2016, Chuck was asked to sit on a Cabernet Sauvignon winemaker’s panel with five other world-class international winemakers, where our 2012 vintage was featured. Although almost 20 years has passed since our first vintage, Chuck’s winemaking style and elevage, or the progression of wine from fermentation to bottling, hasn’t changed.
2012 Harvest & Vintage
For 2012 specifically, the Cabernet Sauvignon ended up being one of Chuck’s favorites. The harvest was really condensed. With fruit coming in on September 21 and ending around October 20, it was the shortest harvest Reininger ever had. Harvest was over in about three weeks whereas a typical Walla Walla harvest is two months.
That year we saw an early fall freeze, but it was an average summer and vintage in terms of heat units. The cooler nights allowed the Cabernet Sauvignon to hang on the vine longer than normal, which allowed for a slow phenolic development. Check out The World of Cabernet Sauvignon with Chuck Reininger, Part I to learn more about phenolics.
After fermentation, we always try to get the Cabernet Sauvignon into new oak barrels, but it depends on if we press off early enough. “In 2012, it was a huge juggling act. Because of logistics and space, we had to press off some of the fruit earlier than we wanted to,” explains Chuck.
That year, Chuck blended the Cabernet Sauvignon with 4% Petit Verdot to create a dark ruby wine with aromas of black cherry, currant, plum and baking spice. Aged in primarily French oak with 7% American for two years, the wine’s vivacious character was perfectly balanced by very fine tannins that extend long into the finish of buoyant cherry fruit.
We sold out of the 2012 vintage right before Chuck’s panel about Cabernet Sauvignon this past June for Celebrate Walla Walla, but we were lucky enough to show off this spectacular vintage for the event.
Our current vintage, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, is one of the first vintages in the last few years made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Chuck’s winemaking style is nothing but consistent and you can see the elevage used in our current vintage is very similar to the award-winning 2012.
Aged in 90% French and 10% Russian oak for two years, our REININGER 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon possesses a generous garnet color, with fragrant scents of black currant, black cherry, savory spice, and hints of crushed rose petals and Sambuca. This is certainly showing its Walla Walla roots by spanning old world and new world supported by its two pillars of earthy, loamy dark fruit and savory herbs and spice while balancing its convivial acids with soft drying tannins.
2016 Harvest Update
The Cabernet Sauvignon rows over at Seven Hills Vineyard looked ideal for the 2016 harvest. The architecture had great air movement, and with an evenness in the vineyard everything ripened at a consistent pace.
When Chuck and Abbie went to visit the vineyards a couple weeks ago, the brix were developing, but Chuck was hoping for more color development and lignification, or the process of the seeds turning brown. “I want to see a little more color and more lignification in the seeds. When they’re brown, there can be more tannins but they’re not extracted as easily and they’re not as bitter. Right now, the seeds still have quite a bit of greenness to them. We’re looking for that lignification and roundness of the seeds.
“Altogether, I’d say the Cabernet Sauvignon from Seven Hills has about another week or so. It’s evolving and getting there. It’s got good flavor. I really like how this vintage is turning out.”
And a week was all the fruit needed. Our Cabernet Sauvignon came in last Friday and the fermentation process is going great. By the end of next week, it should be ready to press and move to our barrel room for aging.