Sunday, December 19, 2010
Wineries to Watch: JB Neufeld
Hopefully I can tell you about a winery you've never heard of.
The name Justin Neufeld might ring a bell to some of you; he's been the winemaker at Gilbert Cellars since 2007. Justin (great name!) and his wife Brooke now have a new project: JB Neufeld, a winery so young that it doesn't even have a functional website yet.
Taking his experience from his time at an array of Washington wineries- including Chateau Ste Michelle, Glen Fiona, Silver Lake, and of course Gilbert Cellars- he has produced wines of distinction and quality, remaining true to the Cabernet grape but still providing the extravagance we've come to expect from premium Washington wine.
Their winemaking style seems simple, but in fact requires more dedication than many winemakers are willing to provide: Source your grapes from the absolute finest vineyards, and treat them gently and with respect (something of a trend in my favorite wineries, it seems). In this regard, JB Neufeld has done superbly. The two offerings are single-vineyard wines, one from the esteemed DuBrul vineyard (think Owen Roe's stunning DuBrul Cabernet as well as the highly-rated Cote Bonneville estate wines) and one from Artz Vineyard (owned by one-time vineyard manager at Klipsun, Fred Artz). Both are left in French barriques, 60% new, for 18 months, and are completely unfined. This noninterventionist method of winemaking has produced two wines in two very distinct styles.
2008 Dubrul Vineyard Cabernet
This is a wine with terrific tannin and grip, certainly one for the cellar. Those of you familiar with the top-end Cabernets (and this is 100% varietal Cabernet) of Washington will find familiar notes here. Black currant, black tea, vanilla and hints of anise spice are held up by a wonderful acid structure. I can tell you that this is one that I will be putting away and forgetting about for some time; it is a true example of what Washington can do in a New-Meets-Old-World style. In true garagiste, micro-production style, only three barrels were produced.
2008 Artz Vineyard Cabernet
Out of the two wines, this is the one that is most accessible at this juncture. It is richer, juicier, and more in line with what we have come to expect from Washington wine. While also 100% Cabernet, this Red Mountain vineyard gets so much more ripeness that the grape gets the chance to show its fleshier side, with blue fruits and chewier tannins. While I firmly believe that this wine will evolve over the next five to seven years as well, this is so pleasurable now that you have to ask the question: why wait?
At $30 retail, these wines are no-brainers. Go, find them, enjoy them!