Dark as night. An absolutely explosive nose of ripe red and black fruits, licorice, coffee, cassis and pine boughs. Palate is gorgeously plush, rich, dense, long, and loaded with fruit. Tannin is smooth and ripe, finish lasts forever. A very flamboyant yet balanced Cabernet.
"Smooth and vibrant, this red offers rich blackberry and black tea flavors on a sinewy frame, lingering easily on the expressive finish."
"This is the best bottling of a very fine lineup from Leonetti. Dense, textural and complex, it showcases exceptional blending of flavors from the addition of just 7% Merlot, 4% Carmenere and 1% Malbec. Notes of plum, cassis, coffee grounds, dark chocolate and a hint of herb run through a complete and engaging finish, retaining both elegance and power. Cellar Selection."
"The Leonetti 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon - which incorporates some Merlot and Carmenere along with a smidgeon of Malbec - surprisingly evinces blueberry as well as cassis and cherry, in sweet but neither cooked nor confitured fashion, shadowed by suggestions of their high-toned, distilled counterparts. Ginger, cinnamon, toasted pecan, black tea and mint accents add to the appeal of lush fruit on a finely-tannic, full-bodied (14.6% alcohol) yet buoyant palate, and this finishes with an invigoratingly tart fruit skin edge and positively vibrant "ping" of sheer juiciness and energy that leave one's attention focused on a quivering tongue and the next sip. What a terrific example of how to achieve richness and sweetness of fruit while remaining fleet of foot! This beauty is unlikely to take a misstep for at least the next 12-15 years. Just shy of two decades on in the history of Walla Walla's first bonded winery and one of Washington State's greatest vinous success stories, pioneer Gary Figgins and his son Chris (who had just gotten his horticultural degree and joined the family business) embarked on a path of re-directing, indeed re-creating Leonetti Cellars as an estate bottler and farmer of the local terroir. In the summer of 1996, the Figginses became partners in the emerging Seven Hills Vineyard south of Walla Walla. The following winter, severe frost drastically cut their supply of fruit from established Yakima Valley vineyards, encouraging a decision to invest in sites of their own nearer home. Chris Figgins chose the spot that the following year became Mill Creek Upland Vineyard - then the rare instance of a family wheat farm for sale, and at a price that raised not just locals' eyebrows but ire; and in 2002 Loess Vineyard was planted 17 miles away and adjacent to the winery, with lay-out and clonal diversity predicated on the family's by then extensive experience at Seven Hills and Upland. (For an account of Chris Figgins's next expansionary step, see my coverage of Figgins Family Wine Estates in this report.) These three Leonetti estate vineyards offer a vivid example of Walla Walla microclimatic diversity (and that's without even venturing across the line into Oregon and the cobbles of Milton-Freewater or the as yet largely undeveloped higher Blue Mountain foothills), which make for a typically month-long harvest, not to mention for a corresponding diversity of raw materials from which to achieve wines of balance and complexity or - if desired - site-specificity. (Figgins gave me a chance in March to sample unblended lots from barrel that confirmed the striking differences of personality accruing to each site.) The younger Figgins officially took over as winemaker from his father in 2006, and even a very occasional taster of Leonetti wines - as I was until this year - could not fail to detect a change in style over the past decade, one Chris Figgins is quite willing to directly address. "In the '90s, I'd say my dad made Michel Rolland wines before Michel Rolland (influenced Washington winemaking). People loved them. Here was something that was so ripe, so evolved, so in-your-face. Honestly, that's kind of what initially made the name of Leonetti to (the point of) a cult-like status were these wines that drank great out of the gate. When I gradually took over, I said 'Look, we're doing all this stuff in our vineyard. I don't want to be a style-driven winemaker; I want to be vineyard-driven." American oak is now down to a tiny fraction of our cellar. We've gone from 100+% new oak to 70-75% on the Cabernet, and even then I'm looking for coopers whose barrels are super-fruit-respectful.- Extraction has become less aggressive as well. "It was nerve-wracking making the adjustment" in style, he confesses. Not only that, Figgins explains, "I've changed my agricultural paradigm, composting in a big way and trying to build a complete, enclosed system where nothing - no stems, no seeds - leave the facility." (Figgins's form of so-called thermophilic aerobic composting is taken to a scientific degree of attentiveness and rigor.) Extensive berms of wild flowers; encouragement of predators; minimizing of sprays; tough viticultural love but a compromise between control and sprawl in pruning and training - all are designed to build a healthy, low-level tolerance in the vine for pests, diseases, and heat spikes." -David Schildnecht
"Bright ruby-red. Bright aromas of black cherry, cassis and licorice. Sweet and lush in the mouth, with a sexy exotic spice element lifting the powerful flavors of dark berries, bitter chocolate and cocoa powder. Creamy and very ripe but showing excellent energy for 2009. Impressively concentrated and long on the finish. A superb 2009."
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