Robert Karl Cellars
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Washington: Columbia Valley
What We Say
If you are visiting us for the first time, Welcome! The Wine Spies feature one exceptional wine each day – and we only bring you wines that we ourselves seek out and love. Always, the wines are great. Sometimes greater than great, as is the case with today’s wine from Winery.
Mission Codename: North By Northwest
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Explore the Columbia Valley AVA for a spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Robert Karl Cellars
Wine Subject: 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Joe Gunselman
Backgrounder: The Columbia Valley AVA is the largest appellation in Washington state and is located just east of Seattle. Being inland from the coast, the Columbia Valley actually enjoys more days of sunshine than Napa Valley and is quite dry with regard to rainfall. Within the Columbia Valley are the Yakima Valley AVA and Walla Walla Valley. The bulk of the wine production in the region is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark purple in color with a medium inky quality and purple edges. The legs on this wine are thick and slow indicative of a fuller-bodied wine.
Smell – Medium intensity of nose with subtly balanced red fruit, oak and floral rose petals. As this wine opens up a distinct aroma of fresh sweet figs emerges.
Feel – Dry but very smooth and full-bodied with solid tannic structure that doesn’t overpower the layered flavors.
Taste – Subtle red and black fruits, including ripe cherries and blackberries with a hint of oak, black pepper and bay leaf. As this wine opens up, hints of cocoa emerges
Finish – A fantastic long and smooth finish with its composite flavors slowly fading with a touch of cinnamon.
Conclusion – This is a delicious Cab that belongs on your personal wine list. The Wine Spies loved the 2003 vintage of this same wine and during the review, we compared the two. The 2004 is quite different from the 2003, showing increased sophistication and elegance in its flavor and presentation. This wine is fully worthy of its awards and accolades, and personally, we would rate this wine higher.
Guest Review by Agent Baco Noir:
This Columbia Valley Cabernet blend is gentle on the fruit, where blackberry and cinnamon aromas predominate. Overtones of rose, asparagus and bay leaf linger and a top note of oak hints at the use of new French barrels, but does not distract from the overall fragrance. On the palate, tannins and acidity appear only on the long dry finish where flavors of cocoa, black pepper and dried fig linger. This is an excellent wine to be sipped and explored.
Given the world situation as of recent, we haven’t had that luxury of a relaxing mission, we are always having to counter the O.D.S.W. (Only Drink Supermarket Wines – our arch nemesis in the wine world). This has kept us busy mostly in California, but also in France and Italy.
When H.Q. suggested I visit Spokane to investigate the latest vintages of from the Columbia Valley I jumped at the opportunity. Finally, a mission that I could let my guard down for a few minutes to enjoy the wine… and perhaps a nice bike ride through the rolling hills outside of Spokane. It would be the perfect opportunity to see the terroir up close and personal while blowing off a little stress.
A few miles southwest of town, I hit some vineyards. The scenery was terrific. Most folks don’t realize that the Columbia Valley area gets less rain than Napa with an almost perfect growing climate. I was lost in the moment, pure joy, outside surrounded by freshly harvested vines, cool clean air. Perfect, or so I thought.
Why just then I decided to look back at the road from which I came, I can’t say. Call it intuition, or perhaps luck. Bearing down on me was a pack of cyclists, wearing all black. It wasn’t until they got closer that I saw the O.D.S.W. logos. Instinctively knowing this was going to turn out bad, I quickly sprinted off and rode as hard and fast I could.
Coming across another cyclist, as I speed away, he indicated to follow him. Skeptical, but under severe pressure of the O.D.S.W. peloton behind me, we worked together and paced ourselves away in a solid breakaway.
It was not until we were long clear of the O.D.S.W. that I realized I was saved by Dr. Joseph Gunselman from Robert Karl Cellars. Dr. Joe was familiar with the O.D.S.W. for his great wines are the antidote to the boring and always less than spectacular wines that are commonly available.
After tasting the 2004 vintage of the Robert Karl Cabernet Sauvignon, I can’t see how anyone would be satisfied by lesser wines. This is a fantastic wine, even better, in this spy’s opinion than the amazing 2003.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Robert Karl tasting room in Spokane Washington can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
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Awards & Accolades:
Gold Medal – NorthWest Wine Summit
Double Gold Medal – Wine Press NW
91 Points – Wine Enthusiast
Paul Gregutt – It’s supple and juicy, loaded with berry flavors and blended with small amounts of the other four Bordeaux grapes. The flavors are tightly woven, showing purple fruits, butterscotch, mocha, moist earth and baking spices.
Wine Press NW – Joe Gunselman reaches into four vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills for this big red wine that is mostly Cab but also blends in a bit of the four other main red Bordeaux grapes. It opens with complex aromas of sweet herbs, black olives, dark fruit and a whisper of smoke, followed by broad flavors of ripe plums, blackberries and a touch of toastiness. A well balanced, well crafted wine.
About This Wine:
The 2004 vintage was somewhat unpredictable; influenced by 2 winter events. A sudden freeze occurred in October, followed in February by a very deep freeze of –20° temperatures for three days. This was the first deep freeze we had experienced in our blocks and we were concerned our vines may have been damage and need to be pruned back to the ground. Thankfully, our vines didn’t sustain any damage due in large part to the good cold drainage down to the Columbia River. The vines cropped heavier than we expected; maybe a natural phenomena resulting from the shock of the sudden and severe cold. The summer ripening season held no surprises and harvesting occurred at an average time. We also noted darker than usual color in the fermenting wines.
About The Winery:
Robert Karl Cellars is a boutique, Spokane winery producing handcrafted, premium, Cabernet Sauvignon, Claret, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and a dry Cabernet Franc Rosé. The grapes are from Horse Heaven Hills, an American Viticultural Area (AVA) of the Columbia Valley in Washington State by physician winemaker, Joseph Gunselman.
Although Joe Gunselman is a physician by day, his passion is winemaking. He views winemaking as an art but draws on his science background and applies it to winemaking science. Joe is a self taught winemaker but continues his education through classes at Walla Walla Institute for Enology & Viticulture and UC Davis. Joe makes every effort to preserve the varietal flavors in his wine. When young, the classical flavors beam through. As the wine matures in the cellar, the flavors of cedar, tobacco, and leather will develop.
Dr. Gunselman chose Washington because he believes the terrior, with the variable of irrigation, combines to give one of the best (if not THE BEST) places in the world to grow vitis vinifera. He feels there are 4 major components to the terrior. The first is the number of sunny days coupled with the length of the day, the second is the unique east-west ridges of the Columbia Valley which provides an excellent south facing slope. Third is an ideal diurnal variation (night to day temperature variations) and the 4th is our unique soil composition.
Joe is assisted in the winery by his wife, Rebecca and his 3 sons, Joe (20), Sam (18), and Karl (15). Family & friends frequently lend a hand.
Dr. Gunselman is aware that classical teaching does not include wine as one of the basic food groups. He does believe, however, (wholeheartedly) that wine is an essential part of every meal.
Varietals: 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, and 3% Malbec.
Vineyards: The fruit was sourced from Andrews Horse Heaven Ranch, Gunselman Bench, McKinley Springs and Phinny Hill vineyards.
Aging: It was aged in 75% new French and 25% American oak for 24 months.
Alcohol by volume: 14.6%.
Bottled: January 19, 2007