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The 2012 Mullan Road Cabernet Franc is gorgeous wine made by the talented hands of Aryn Morrell. As it begins to open it brings highly perfumed aromatics of cherries and black raspberries followed by rose petals, bell pepper, smoke, sagebrush and milk chocolate. The palate has a lovely round, polished texture with excellent structure, depth and concentrated flavors of cassis, anise, sage, and black olives. While this is already extremely appealing now, this has the makeup to cellar beautifully for a decade or even longer. Best 2017-2028.
~ April 2017 (OB) | Rating: 93
Coming more from the Seven Hills vineyard, the 2012 Columbia Valley Red Wine has an old-school, classic Cabernet feel in its lead pencil, tobacco, dusty pebble and assorted dark fruits. Full-bodied, elegant and layered, with both texture and structure, this beauty will hit maturity around age 4-5, and drink nicely through 2027.
~ Jeb Dunnuck, June 28, 2015 Issue 219 | Rating: 91
(51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc): Bright dark red with ruby highlights. Aromas of currant, plum, licorice and spicy oak. At once supple and cool, showing a suave texture and noteworthy intensity and depth to the slightly medicinal plum, redcurrant, mineral and menthol flavors. Much more than just a fruit bomb. Finishes with serious but suave tannins and excellent rising length. This classy, firmly structured blend should age gracefully. This is the new Washington project of Napa Valley’s Dennis Cakebread, with Aryn Morell responsible for the winemaking. An early look at the 2013 confirms that this is an emerging star.
~ Stephen Tanzer, November 2014 | Rating: 91
Firm tannins and a sleek structure support the black currant, savory spice and coffee flavors as they glide into the finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2017 through 2022. 3,000 cases made.
~ (HS) August 31, 2015 | Rating: 90
A blend of cabernet sauvignon (51 percent) with merlot and cabernet franc, this has a pretty spice that hints at the wine’s complexity. With air, the core of dark cherry fruit starts to plump up the middle, a mingling of cedary oak tannins and fruit tannins lending complexity to the finish. Give it a bit of time to integrate in the cellar.
Famed Napa Valley producer Dennis Cakebread marks the debut of his investment in the Washington wine industry with this reference to the historic wagon path across the Rockies to Fort Walla Walla. Cakebread’s collaborative effort with Columbia Valley winemaker Aryn Morell proves to be a wise choice for several reasons, starting with Morell’s experience with Royal Slope fruit through the Lawrence family as well as Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley — near where Morell lives and works. Both sources formed this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (51%), Merlot (37%) and Cabernet Franc, an 81-barrel lot that spent 17 months in oak. The fluid is remarkably perfumy with sweet baking spice and cocoa powder amid plum, blueberry, bittersweet chocolate, chalkboard dust and violet. There’s a bold juiciness to the entry with pomegranate, black cherry and red currant, followed by underlying tannin making for a well-balanced structure. It turns darker on the finish with flavors of blackberry and more plum.
~ January 21, 2015 | Rating: Excellent
The 2013 Mullan Road Merlot is a plush and silky wine, which opens with inviting aromatics of ripe black cherries, dark chocolate, wet stone and sagebrush notes all taking shape in the glass. This leads to concentrated flavors of black cherries, black olive, mint, gravel and allspice. The round texture and dense mouthfeel transition beautifully into the lingering finish. Overall, this is an excellent showing which should continue to evolve for close to a decade. Best 2017-2027.
~ April 2017 (OB) | Rating: 92
While the 2013 Columbia Valley Red Wine showed better from barrel than bottle, it’s still an outstanding effort. The focus with this cuvee is always higher elevation sites with the goal to make a fresh, elegant wine. Checking in as a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and the rest Malbec, it has a classic Cabernet perfume of crème de cassis, spring flowers, sappy underbrush and menthol. Medium to full-bodied, balanced and elegant on the palate, drink it anytime over the coming decade.
~ Jeb Dunnuck June 29, 2016 Issue 225 | Rating: 90
Bright red-ruby. Musky aromas of dark raspberry, black cherry, chocolate and spices, lifted by a floral note. Smooth and fruity but also firm on the palate, with a complicating hint of coffee torrefaction. Tannins are a bit youthfully dry and oaky but this wine shows more charm than the 2012 release. A second bottle showed strong, building tannins but plenty of supporting fruit and excellent persistence.
~ Stephen Tanzer, November 2015 | Rating: 91
A big red drawn mostly from Seven Hills in Walla Walla, this blends cabernet and merlot with a little franc and malbec. Its dark red plum flavors have a weighty richness, though, with air, the wine becomes juicy and lively, the tannins supple. Decant and serve with lamb chops.
This wine is principally Cabernet Sauvignon (57%) and Merlot (34%) along with dashes of Cabernet Franc and Malbec. A blend of Royal Slope and Seven Hills Vineyard fruit, it opens with aromas of black cherry, cigar box, green herbs, dried mint and potpourri. The herb and dark-fruit flavors are ripe and expressive, with the tannins combed to a fine sheen.
This project winery, headed by Dennis Cakebread of Napa’s Cakebread, utilizes fruit from the soon to be recognized Royal Slope appellation along with the famed Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley appellation. The wine is a blend of 57% Cabernet with 34% Merlot and 8% Cab Franc and 1% Malbec. The wine has a very strong Merlot component, showing its softer side. The wine begins with aromas of prune, oak and red cherry with blackberry overtones. This leads to flavors of blackberry, red cherry, dill and dried sage. Lovely structure here but would prefer a bit more richness, considering the warmth of the vintage. Best 2016-2026.
~ February 2016 (OB) | Rating: 90
A blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and the rest Malbec, the 2014 Columbia Valley Red Wine offers an impressive bouquet of black raspberries, toasted spices, licorice and integrated toasty oak. Ripe, rounded and beautifully textured, it has loads to love and should drink nicely for 7-8 years, probably longer.
~ Jeb Dunnuck June 30, 2017 Issue 231 | Rating: 91
The 2014 Mullan Road Cellars Red Wine is a beautifully structured new release from this estate. Sourced from the Seven Hills Vineyard, the Lawrence Vineyard and the Stillwater Creek Vineyard, the wine shows a nice combination of poise and dark fruit flavors from this hot vintage. Currently displaying aromatics of red bell pepper, red cherry, black raspberry and cola, the wine has notable mid-palate viscosity and coats the glass. There are ripe flavors reminiscent of red cherry, blackberry and sagebrush. This forward style red wine is drinking beautifully right now but will also continue to evolve with some additional bottle age. Best 2017-2027.
~ March 2017 (OB) | Rating: 91
Medium red-ruby. Aromas of cassis, blackberry, licorice, violet, smoky oak and a whiff of tomato sauce that quickly blew off. Very rich, thick and savory but shows lovely acidity for the vintage. The blackberry, cassis, black tea, herb and potpourri flavors reveal less of the whiskey lactone quality of previous vintages (some Canton American oak was used in the first vintage, 2012, but not since then). Nicely savory, juicy and penetrating, finishing with plenty of dusty tannins to support aging. This venture established by Napa Valley veteran Dennis Cakebread is a bit less obviously New World in style than his wines under the Cakebread label. Winemaker Aryn Morell has upped the percentage of new French oak to 40%.
~ Stephen Tanzer, November 2016 | Rating: 91
Precise and trim, with appealing currant, mineral and bittersweet chocolate accents that persist toward big but refined tannins. Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Drink now through 2024. 3,500 cases made.
~ TF, September 30, 2018 | Rating: 90
Bright medium ruby. Very dark aromas of blackberry, cassis, licorice and cocoa powder, lifted by an ethereal spicy top note; unlike the 2014 release, this wine does not include any Malbec but I would have guessed it had some. Concentrated, brisk dark berry and spice flavors are complemented by smoky, chocolatey French oak and lifted by a floral quality. Conveys a restrained sweetness but not at all austere owing to its chocolatey ripeness and considerably stuffing. Still a bit inky but quite long on the back end, finishing with the ripe tannic structure to evolve gracefully in bottle. I’m not sure I would have identified this rather primary Bordeaux blend blind as coming from Washington.
~ Stephen Tanzer, October 2017 | Rating: 91+
The 2015 Columbia Valley Red Wine opens in the glass with aromas of cassis, plums, sweet spices and burning embers. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied, deep and layered, with lovely concentration, an abundance of fine-grained tannins and a pure, penetrating finish. A blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 17% Cabernet Franc. 3,570 cases of this excellent red were produced.
~ William Kelley, June 29, 2018 | Rating: 94
The 2015 Mullan Road Red Wine falls slightly behind the 2014 bottling. This great wine starts out with red cherry, prune and cigar box on the nose. The palate is plush showing Jolly Rancher cherry candy, roasted date and mocha flavors that sit with good minerality. Best 2018-2026, March 2018 (OB)