The former Boeing engineer takes a deep dive into Bordeaux-style blends.
AT THIS POINT in the development of the Washington wine industry, it takes a focus on place to reach the next level of maturity in discovering exactly what we have.
This will take winemakers with the courage to concentrate on one region, to dig into a region’s sandy soils and see the roots of the vines to discover what they reveal.
One Seattle winemaker has that courage, a zeal to explore one style of wine from vineyards within the same region, with a thirst to see what one special plot of land in the eastern Yakima Valley has to offer. It is this kind of singular focus that has made Bordeaux a legendary wine region and turned places like Napa’s Stag’s Leap District into legend.
Ben Smith was an engineer at Boeing when he was caught up in the fermentation arts, first as a home brewer and then as a home winemaker. He joined the legendary Boeing Wine Club (from which so many Washington wineries have emerged). Once he caught the winemaking bug, he couldn’t shake it, eventually buying and planting an estate vineyard on Red Mountain with his wife, Gaye McNutt.
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In fact, Smith gets all of his grapes from Red Mountain, crafting Bordeaux-style blends that are vineyard-designated wines. His first experience with Red Mountain was legendary Klipsun Vineyards. He began bringing in grapes from Tapteil and Ciel du Cheval in the late 1990s, and hasn’t wavered from that since.
Smith’s style tends toward the Left Bank, an area of Bordeaux that uses cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. The use of cabernet franc gives Smith’s wines a distinctive Old World feel, a style that tends to accentuate the aromas of sage that are typical of Red Mountain.
Cadence isn’t regularly open to the public, though his winery southwest of Boeing Field in South Seattle is open by appointment, and well worth the effort to sip and purchase some of Washington’s classic wines.