I'm certainly not the first person to discover Adams Bench. Actually, I'm late to the game in talking about this upstart Woodinville winery, but I'd be remiss not to correct that situation. That's because these wines are of such an obvious quality that they have quickly skyrocketed to many people's top-winery list. For example, Sean Sullivan at the Washington Wine Report included two of their wines in his poll for Wine of the Year (though as of this writing they're both losing to Reynvaan's In The Rocks Syrah). And though I loathe to cite it, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that The Wine Advocate's infamous Dr. Jay Miller rated five different Adams Bench wines between 91 and 93 points. Therefore, to say that these wines are unknown hidden gems wouldn't be accurate, but they are certainly a new winery, and definitely one to watch.
Adams Bench is literally a garage winery; owners Tim and Erica Blue produce them in the garage of their home in the heart of Woodinville wine country. Having had Chris Camarda (proprietor of the esteemed Andrew Will) as their consulting winemaker undoubtedly affected the style and quality of these wines. Their methods are very reminiscent of the production methods used at Andrew Will: Small lot production, whole berry fermentation, manual punch-downs, indigenous yeasts. They age in primarily new French oak, and while its influence is evident in the wines, it integrates well and adds to their character rather than overwhelming the fruit quality. Of course, there is no filtration on any of their wines.
The Blue's vineyard sourcing is impeccable; some examples include Camarda's Two Blondes vineyard, the historic Red Willow vineyard in Yakima Valley (one of the oldest in the state), and Novelty Hill's Stillwater Creek vineyard. They produce from these grapes wines that are rich in character, but with intriguing character that makes them more than the average monolithic New World wine. The two most readily available to consumers are the Reckoning Red Wine (the 2007 is 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, and 14% Cabernet Franc) and the V Cabernet Sauvignon. Both retail at roughly $40-$45 (though I think the Reckoning is several dollars cheaper than the V), so they fall into that mid-level Washington pricing level. This seems like it can be a black hole that so many Washington wineries fall into, but the quality of these wines make them stand-outs in the category, and the positive press will undoubtedly keep them moving out of the winery.
One of the things that I found most memorable about these wines was the pencil-lead quality that leapt from all of them. For me, this was the most fun and intriguing sensory note in them. Underneath that was classic concentrated and dark Washington fruit: Plums, blackberries, briar fruit. While these wines are extracted, there was little bitterness to be detected, which is a flaw that I think some Washington wineries fall into in their efforts to create big wines. The winery utilizes a small stainless steel basket press, which can be a very gentle method of pressing, and so this probably helps minimize bitter elements and harsh tannins. I'll bet it's a bitch to clean, though.
I'll be interested to see what happens when this passion project goes into larger production; they're currently coming in at about 1000 cases annually, but the excitement in the press and the buying public will undoubtedly push the Blue's towards larger and larger batches. Hopefully they can keep the level of quality at its current high level.
These wines are available at a couple of retail outlets, but most of them are sold out of the winery. Their tasting room isn't regularly open to the public, but I think that if you ask nicely, then you might talk them into opening a bottle or two.