Back in February, some friends and I put together a unique wine tasting – six single vineyard wines from the famed Ciel du Cheval vineyard. All were from the 2005 vintage and were a mixture cabernet-based (Cadence, Mark Ryan’s Dead Horse, Seven Hills, and Januik) and merlot-based wines (Andrew Will, Mark Ryan’s Long Haul).

Jim Holmes’ Ciel du Cheval vineyard is regarded as one of Washington’s best. Located in the Red Mountain AVA, this vineyard provides grapes to many of the states top wineries, including Quilceda Creek, Betz, and McCrea to name a few. However, most wineries blend grapes from this vineyard with others from Red Mountain or Washington’s other AVAs. This tasting therefore gave us a rare opportunity to focus in on this exceptional vineyard as well as the skill of the winemakers.

In rating the top three wines across seven tasters, Mark Ryan’s Dead Horse Red came in first. Cadence and Andrew Will were tied for second and Januik was third.

The wines were all generally in their infancy, and we agreed to do the same tasting again in three years once the wines had additional time to develop.







Andrew Will 2005 Ciel du Cheval

Strong blackberry. Spice. Beautifully balanced. Soft tannins. Light on acid. Light on mid-palate. 40% Merlot; 40% Cab Franc; 14% Cabernet; 6% Petit Verdot.



Mark Ryan 2005 Dead Horse Red Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain

Blackberry. Beautiful light floral aromas. Delicate. Light campfire smell. Subtle wine. Light on the palate but excellently put together. Cabernet; Cab Franc; Merlot; Petit Verdot.



Januik 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard

Beautiful nose. Mineral. Vanilla. Clove. Spice. Good mid-palate and finish. Smooth tannins. Surprisingly refined. Rated it as a single start over time.


Cadence 2005 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain

Sliced black olive. Mineral. Raspberry. Spice. Anise, briefly. Strawberry patch. Up front. Gripping tannins. 51% Cabernet; 24% Cab Franc; 19% Merlot; 6% Petit Verdot.



Mark Ryan 2005 Long Haul Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain

Tar. Violets. Blackberry. Strong black fruit. Starts and ends strong but a little weaker in the middle. High alcohol content. Merlot; Cab Franc; Petit Verdot. Rated it as a plus wine over time.



Seven Hills Winery 2005 Ciel du Cheval

Stargazer lilies on the nose. Floral. Rich, fragrant nose. Rose hips. Superb nose but lighter body and a little sharp on the finish.