Retrospectives are part of an occasional series on how Washington wines are aging. See other posts in this series here.

Winemaker Ben Smith of Cadence Winery has made his reputation making single vineyard wines from some of Red Mountain’s finest vineyards. Through the years, these vineyard sources have included Ciel du Cheval, Taptiel, Klipsun (recently phased out), and Cara Mia, the winery’s estate vineyard.

Smith’s commercial experience with Red Mountain goes back to his first vintage in 1998 when he made a wine from Taptiel Vineyard. While Red Mountain has since become Smith’s focus, in his first three vintages he also made wine from what would become one of Walla Walla Valley’s finest sites, Spring Valley Vineyard.

Spring Valley Vineyard is unique compared to many of the vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley in that it is situated farther north, about twelve miles northeast of Walla Walla. The area, which features rolling hills and wheat fields, is among the most picturesque locations in the Walla Walla Valley. The Derby family planted two acres of Merlot at the site in 1993. The family began making estate wines under the Spring Valley Vineyard label in 1999. The vineyard has since been expanded to 115 acres.

I recently had the opportunity to try Cadence’s 1999 wine from Spring Valley Vineyard at the launch of the Food and Wine Pairing Network. Despite being almost eleven years old, the wine seemed young and vibrant. Impressively, this wine also displayed what would become Spring Valley’s and Cadence’s characteristic styles. The high-toned herbal aromas of Spring Valley were apparent on this wine despite the youth of the vines. For Cadence, even in Smith’s second commercial vintage, his beautiful, structured style shines through.

Cadence Red Wine Spring Valley Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 1999 $30

Rating: * (Excellent)
Nose marked by blueberry, chocolate, and the light herbal notes classic to this vineyard. On the taste, the wine seems youthful with a firm tannic backbone and beautiful cranberry flavors. Has a long life ahead of it. 83% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc. 13.9% alcohol. Approximately 300 cases produced.