Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Red Mountain Ambassador

While Red Mountain has firmly established itself as one of Washington’s premier wine growing regions, the tiny appellation - Washington’s smallest at 4,040 total acres - continues to grow and expand with additional acreage planted and more and more wineries using Red Mountain fruit. One of those wineries is Ambassador Vineyard.

Ambassador Vineyard’s Michael Towers first became interested in wine when he and his wife attended a winemaker dinner, hosted by Dan Duckhorn of Duckhorn Vineyards, at the Columbia Tower Club in Seattle in the 1980s. The Towers visited Napa Valley shortly thereafter and subsequently became one of three majority stakeholders in Duckhorn.

When Duckhorn was sold in 2007, Towers set his sites on a new wine project, this time in Washington. He invested in a piece of land some friends had purchased in 2004 and had subsequently planted a year later. The Towers' daughter, Allison Engman, who now works at the winery, explains, “In the beginning, the objective was to simply grow fruit to be sold to other wineries but when my dad came on board he brought the necessary knowledge and experience to shift the focus to actually producing wine.” The Towers currently sell half of the fruit from the vineyard and make wine from the rest.

Ambassador Vineyard – named after the road on which it is located - is 24 acres planted to Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Grenache and Merlot. The family and their partners also own a two acre vineyard adjacent to the property where additional acreage of Cabernet Sauvignon is planted and an additional five acre property off of Sunset Road planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Renowned grower Dick Boushey manages each of these sites. “Dick’s reputation precedes him, and we knew we had to have him on our team,” Engman says.

Sarah Goedhart (Goedhart Family) makes the wines, utilizing Hedges Family Estate to crush the grapes. In terms of style, Engman says, with the young vineyard, that’s still to be determined. “I think it is too early for us to zero in on a particular style at this point,” she said. “The goal is simply to produce the best quality wine that we possibly can.” The winery currently produces a Syrah, Bordeaux-style blend, a red blend, and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery uses the Ambassador theme in some of its branding, with wines named Envoy and Diplomat.

Ambassador Vineyards made its first wines in the 2008 vintage and currently produces approximately 1,000 to 1,200 cases per year, with the intention of slowly growing production over time. While some of the 2010 vintage wines sampled below seemed to show some of the challenges of the cool growing season, the 2009 Envoy Red Wine clearly display the potential of this young site and the winery. Stay tuned.

Ambassador Vineyard Estate Grown Envoy Red Wine Red Mountain 2009 $33
(Excellent) Moderately aromatic with red and black fruit, dried cherries, cocoa powder, herbs, and black licorice. The palate is soft, creamy, and seamless with plump fruit flavors and soft tannins that glide off into the distance. 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. 120 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Ambassador Vineyard Estate Grown Diplomat Red Wine Red Mountain 2010 $45
(Decent/Good) A moderately aromatic wine with gamey notes, smoke, dried cherries, and medicine cabinet. The palate is soft with lighter styled fruit flavors fleshed out by oak spices. Tasted twice with consistent notes. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah. 13.7% alcohol. 100 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Ambassador Vineyard Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2010 $35
(Good) Very lightly aromatic with cherry, char, medicinal notes, and light herbs. The palate has light cherry flavors and firm tannins. Give two plus years. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.5% alcohol. 264 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Ambassador Vineyard Estate Grown Syrah Red Mountain 2010 $28
(Good) Lightly aromatic with char, vanilla, bacon, peppery spice, medicinal notes, and cherry. The palate is lighter in style with soft, tart cherry flavors that trail toward the finish. 100% Syrah. Aged in French and Hungarian oak (41% new). 14% alcohol. 407 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

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