The 2012 vintage proved to be a classic and age-worthy one for many Northwest producers, slotting in beautifully between the back-to-back cool vintages of 2010-2011 and the first warm-to-hot growing season of 2013.
Reds from 2012 achieved ripeness and balance, and they were pegged for cellaring along the same lines as the 2005 vintage, which is the year Dennis Murphy established his first estate vineyard — Eleanor.
This bottling by Murphy offers a snapshot of the fifth commercial vintage for Caprio, and it marks a transition. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (76%) with Cabernet Franc (14%) and equal shares of Merlot and Malbec. And while it was not labeled “estate,” it would qualify because Murphy has an ownership stake in Octave Vineyard in the SeVein development.
Octave formed the foundation for this Cab at 90% with Eleanor rounding out the bottling. And the French oak barrel program featured 30% new wood. The rest was in neutral barrels, fitting in the tradition at Caprio.
Beginning with the 2013 vintage, Murphy brought more involvement from Eleanor and within two years, the vines nearest to the winery contributed more than a third of the blend. For the 2014 vintage, Cabernet Sauvignon merely led the blend at 58%. He’d also essentially doubled this wine’s production and increased the asking price.
This library wine shows the trajectory and approach that has driven Murphy’s winemaking, an expression of Left Bank Bordeaux similar in style and execution to efforts that have helped built and define the reputations of Walla Walla Valley leaders such as Marty Clubb at L’Ecole N° 41, Seven Hills Winery founder Casey McClellan and Jean-François Pellet of Pepper Bridge, vintners who continue to thread the needle on enjoyment not long after release as well as long-term investment.
It’s a classic red with remarkable approachability while still teasing at the future. There’s a suave structure bringing a steady stream of black cherry, black currant and fine-grained blueberry skin tannins, a dusting of cocoa and pinches of violets and thyme.
One of the biggest compliments anyone could pay to Murphy would be to say this reminds them of McClellan’s 2012 Pentad, a select Left Bank-inspired blend some critics pegged for enjoyment starting in 2022.
And the 2020 Sanitella ($88) recently received an Outstanding! rating and 92 points from Great Northwest Wine’s tasting panel.
Production: 322 cases