There are few uber-ultra boutique commercial endeavors in the Pacific Northwest that focus on Columbia Valley fruit. Portland-based winemaker Robert Bailey’s project, which he limits to one or two tiny lots each vintage, continues to earn our attention. Here, he doted on two barrels of Clone 8 Cab off historic Sagemoor’s Dionysus Vineyard, specifically Block 18. Although it’s in the recently established White Bluffs appellation, portions of Sagemoor will turn 50 years old in 2023. Bailey pulled his grapes on Oct. 6 and devoted 22 months to French oak — one barrel new Quintessence and the other a neutral Darnajou. He bottled this unfined and unfiltered in Walla Walla, and the results exhibit finesse rather than a blustery fruit bomb. While it does lead with black cherry, blackberry and cola, there are complex underpinnings of moist earth, leather and pencil shavings. The craftsmanship makes for easy drink backed by pliable tannins, racy raspberry acidity and a fleck of minerality. Bailey has sent our panels four of his first efforts, starting with his 2017 Cab, and this is the third bottling to receive our top rating. (He’s suggested pairing is this recipe for Extra Dark Chocolate Cocoa Nib Cookies with Madrona Smoked Sea Salt.) Next up is his release of Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2020 vintage featuring historic Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain.
Rating: Outstanding! — 92 points
Production: 50 cases