Part of the fun of being a wine-blogger is the opportunity to sniff, swirl and slurppp through a voluminous amount of different vino each and every month and the added bonus, you get to participate in events with the producers and rub elbows with the decision makers [wine-makers], no longer a spectator or even a garden variety consumer. I get to watch the unfolding of the wine-biz from behind the scenes and take a look under the hood, sometimes even the so-called "romantic" world of vino things can develop into proverbial “fisticuffs” [figuratively speaking] bruised knuckles [bruised egos more like it] smack-down.
In Red Mountain wines I found what some have called “enlightened traditionalism:” or the ability to marry the best of the old and new while producing wines true to their origins, but stay tuned and see for yourself, the fight is on!
Throwing Down the Gauntlet: In "smack-downs" and life there's an art form which can be really informative and it doesn’t always involve snarky language or trash talking. No my friends, sometimes the best smack-down are the ones that take each and every part of what is argued against [for example some folks believe only old world wine styles are best] the backdrop of a head to head, a Mano a Mano showdown pitting enlightened traditionalists in a war between traditionalists and modernists. If you want my two cents, you'll find it between the two, this where you find the ideal balance.
"smack-down" did was take the debate out of the realm of conjecture, and let the wines speak for themselves. Many folks have pre-conceived ideas about what New World and Old World wines represent, but in this smack-down I think many quickly found out, "what it is or isn't" backed up with the facts in the glass [via a little tasting contest].
Rules: What are the rules of any good smack down? This is a good question, as I had no-idea and had to do some research myself to come up with the rules. First must line up the target which is what Hedges did, by having a different Red Mountain wine in a direct face off with another well know wine, which were of a similar weight class. With the target set, time for shot number two, know your product and in this case know your wine to greatly increase the chance for success. Time for the kill shot, show you know something about the other wine’s home turf or the terrior, vineyards, winemaker etc and you may just end-up selling a few cases of vino, instead of a just a few tastings. So yep, all in all it was a smack-down, one as good as you would see on the WWF or on a typical episode of Jerry Springer, but it was a lot more fun and the only trash talking was done by a few unhappy campers.
The Setting: Okay to be honest Hedges didn't refer to it as any kind of Smack-Down, that was just how I viewed it, so as I walked into their barrel room I saw it was filled with red carpets, big red wines, Wine Bloggers and the ambiance of a candle lit room and the combatants [open wine bottles] were ready for the face off. As we entered through the heavy towering doors of Hedges Family Estate Chateau and moseyed into their barrel room [arena] on the Red Mountain AVA, in eastern Washington, located just east of the Yakima Valley AVA, and just north of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA and is the smallest of Washington's AVA's . This part of the trip was for me was the "icing on the cake" I've had some familiarity with their winery before and had written a review of their 2007 Three Vineyards, but never had a full appreciation for all the wonderful wine being made and their Three Vineyards as wonderful as it is, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Round One: In the first match in one corner we had the 2008 Descendants Liegeois Dupont "Cuveé Marcel Dupont" this powerful lip-staining Syrah from Red Mountain weighing in at 14.2% ABV versus the Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz 2008 an assemblage of six different sites of inky darkness weighing in at 15% ABV and both in the $20 - $30 price range.
Winner: While I like both wines, I picked the Hedges, even though their individual score cards were very close, Hedges gave that final kick to win the match.
Round Two: In the second match up we have the 2006 René Rostaing who's the closest thing to a true cult star that Côte-Rôtie has yet produced, this wine is very difficult to obtain and sell for $70 and up most places, weighing in at a mere 13.5% ABV. While in the other corner we have the 100% Red Mountain 2006 Goedhart Family Bel' Villa Syrah an elusive and somewhat exclusive wine with a very small production. Selling for $50 or more.
Winner: Since I found both wines were so evenly matched on their respective score cards, it was just too difficult to call, and the match ended in a draw. Both wines were rich, velvety, deep wines with subtle smoky, bacon fat, flowering aromatics lapping over an opulent base of roasted blackberry and plum fruits.
Third Round: In one corner we had the 2007 Obolisco Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain weighing in at 14.1% ABV a amazing Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (with a bit of Merlot and Malbec) selling for just over $60 and sold out at the winery. In the other corner, the 2007 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley, selling in the neighborhood of $60 described as "Ripe and fleshy, dressed to impress and freshly bathed in the lime-light of a 92 points Wine Spectator and weighing in at 14.8% ABV.
Winner: Checking over the score card, hmmm both wines appear to be mostly sold out and are unavailable, minus points for that, but in the flavor profile category Oblosico Estate got the nod. Both wines were equally matched in weight, color and complexity with lingering finishes and similar price points. This one is tough to call, but if you want to drink a great Napa Cab, there are many on the market, but for it's uniqueness alone the Oblosico Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is the winner on points.
Round Four: Pitted the 2007 and their 2006 Hedges Family Estate, Red Mountain, Three Vineyards, a monster of finesse and layers of flavor, weighing in at a mere 13.6% ABV and selling in the neighborhood of $15 - $25 a lot of wine for the small price. The competitor was the 2006 Chateau Talbot, St-Julien, a savoury and even considered a little juicy in character, weighing in at a flat 13% ABV and selling between $40 and $50, a formidable foe with a rich heritage of distinction, but with limited availability.
The Winner: But alas the poor 2006 Chateau Talbot was no match for the Hedges 2006 Three Vineyards as it lured it in with the old "Rope-a-dope". Sorry Chateau Talbot fans but reading scorecard was even necessary, this decision was made by knock out! The Hedges 3 Vineyards 2006 clearly dominated the entire match, with its great price, clearly layered and nuanced flavor profile, it said Bordeaux even more loudly than its opponent. I left the Chateau [arena] with six bottles of this wine in tow. I could not pass up such a great deal and I would recommend you give their 2007 a swirl as the winery is near the end of the 2006 with only a few cases remaining.
Decision: Well that was a great match up and the in my [not always so humble] opinion Red Mountains wines really won the day and showed the wine-blogging world that, "it's not always the size of the dog in a fight, it's the size of fight in the dog." Well done Red Mountain and congratulations, you really turned some heads this day, as I know many others were very impressed by your wine-making efforts there, in making great juice for reasonable prices and not letting points monster get in your way.