Baer Winery founder Lance Baer first became interested in making wine after tasting a bottle of DeLille Cellars D2. “The light went on,” his sister Lisa Baer remembers. Lance soon began volunteering at DeLille and worked his way up to assistant winemaker.
Baer started his eponymous winery in 2000 in partnership with his sister. The winery started out producing the Ursa Red Wine, a Cabernet Franc-dominant Bordeaux-style blend. Arctos, a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend, was subsequently added. Since 2003 Baer Winery has sourced all of its fruit from Stillwater Creek Vineyard.
Baer Winery made an immediate impression not just for the quality of its wines but also for the experience visiting the winery on release weekends. A large tent would be set up outside the house and live music would be playing. Visits to original winery site remain some of my favorite memories of visiting Woodinville wine country.
Tragically, Lance Baer passed away suddenly in 2007 at age 39. While Lance was the heart and soul of the winery, Lisa Baer says that there was never any serious thought of closing up shop. “We definitely wanted to keep it going as his legacy,” she says of the decision to continue the winery with her father Les, “but not keep it going just to keep it going.”
With the goal of maintaining a consistent quality and style, the winery hired consultant Erica Orr, who had already done work for the winery previously, to assume the position of winemaker. In 2007 the winery moved into the Warehouse district location in Woodinville and is now in its second full year of having a tasting room there.
Baer Winery has not only survived since the passing of its founder; it has thrived. Last year the winery’s 2008 Ursa Red Wine received a 95 point score from Wine Spectator and landed at number 6 on the magazine’s annual Top 100 list. Sales have subsequently surged, and the winery was already close to selling out the 2009 vintage wines at the time of my visit, shortly after their release.
With the winery now entering its thirteenth year, Lisa Baer and her father continue to try to stay true to Lance’s vision. However, they have also evolved it, realizing Lance would have done the same if he were still alive. To this end, the Star Red Wine, a Merlot-centric Bordeaux blend, was added in the 2009 vintage. In 2011, the winery made a Syrah for the first time.
Baer Winery produces 2,400 cases annually.
Baer Winery Star Red Wine Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $27
(Excellent) Dark in color with purple at the rim. An aromatically appealing wine with dark fruit, chocolate, licorice, espresso, and spice. The palate has rich, silky fruit flavors along with abundant oak accents. 77% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 19 months in French oak (74% new). 14.5% alcohol. 273 cases produced. Sample at 61 degrees.
Baer Winery Ursa Red Wine Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $39
(Exceptional) A very perfumed wine with abundant floral notes, chocolate, dark fruit, toasty oak spices, and a light herbal tone. The palate has rich, dark luscious fruit flavors and abundant floral tones with firm, chalky tannins. A long, lingering finish. The oak influence is prominent right now. Give a year or two to integrate to see it at its best. 44% Cabernet Franc, 38% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Malbec. Aged 19 months in French oak (84% new). 14.5% alcohol. 981 cases produced. Sampled at 61 degrees.
Baer Winery Arctos Red Wine Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $43
(Excellent) Dark and brilliant in color. An aromatic wine with abundant dark fruit, toasty oak spices, floral notes, and raspberries. The palate is full of ripe fruit flavors and abundant oak spices with chalky tannins. Finishes a bit dry. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot, 13% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Merlot. Aged 19 months in French oak (88% new). 14.5% alcohol. 391 cases produced. Sampled at 61 degrees.
Please note, my rating system was revised at the beginning of 2012 as follows. Read additional details here.
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