The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 33 of 148

{ }  33 ever wagon road built in Eastern Washington via the Rockies. The original Mullan Road connected Fort Benton in the Dakota Territory (present-day Montana) with Fort Walla Walla in the Washington Territory. In what can only be called a tour-de- force of construction, U.S. Army Lieutenant John Mullan and a workforce of 200 built the 611-mile road in two years, finishing in 1860 at a cost of just $230,000. Today, Mullan Road is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a historic civil engineering landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Mullan Road bottling would be a Cabernet-based Bordeaux blend made with fruit sourced from top vineyards in the soon-to-be-recognized Royal Slope appellation along with the famed Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley AVA. For onsite help, Dennis chose winemaker Aryn Morell, a Washington native, who had extensive experience in the Columbia Valley as well as exposure to high-profile wineries in Napa Valley. I asked Dennis about the challenges of making wine in Walla Walla vs. Napa Valley. To begin, the soils are unique and were formed by the Lake Missoula Floods—a series of massive floods that took place more than 12,000 years ago. The floods redeposited massive boulders, cut through hillsides and washed sedi - ments throughout eastern Washington, leaving unique soils ideal for high-quality vineyards. Beyond soils, Dennis told me, "The challenges here are completely dif- ferent in terms of weather, wind and heat. With only eight inches of rain a year, irrigation is mandatory. The growing season in Walla Walla also starts a lot later because of the latitude. We can be doing cluster counts in Napa, and we're still in bloom in Walla Walla. You have to pay attention to detail because each year is so different. But in the Frenchman Hills or Royal Slope area of Washington, I'm finding wonderful maturity, balance and resolved tannins that add complexity and mouth - feel without too many tannins, so they add nice balance to our wines." I asked Dennis what the most important thing was about making wine in Walla Walla, and he replied, "The most important thing for making fine wine in Washington is a good truck because everything is so far apart. The guys who have been here the longest tend to have vineyards far apart because of weather issues like sudden storms and hail and are exploring new areas as they are developed." The 2013 vintage of Mullan Road (SRP $44.99) is comprised of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec. On the nose, it displays ripe dark berry and plum fruit with notes of violet, savory herb and oak spice. The palate is concentrated and opulent, finishing with lift from balancing acidity. It is imminently drinkable now but will easily cellar well over the next 12 to 15 years. Mullan Road is available through Kobrand Wine & Spirits. We were curious how Mullan Road was being received in other markets around the country. Bruce Sturgeon of Blueacre Seafood and two other restaurants in Seattle told me that the Mullan Road red blend is selling well in all three restaurants. "Washington red blends are very popular with our local customers and also with visitors wanting to try the local wines they've read about but aren't yet readily available to them at home. Being able to tell the story behind the wine, great Washington vineyards and a world-class team headed by Dennis Cakebread makes for an easy sell. Mullan Road pairs well with our grilled salmon with port-soaked cherries in a smoked almond brown butter sauce on our Blueacre Seafood menu." Chris Miller of American Cut Steakhouse in New York says, "Guests at American Cut have received Dennis Cakebread's Washington label very favorably. Our customers correlate the Cakebread name with quality and value, and Mullan Road Cellars doesn't disappoint. I love it with our famous bar burger and beef fat fries or in the dining room with a filet mignon, wild mushrooms and polenta. —T. G. PHOTO: ANDRÉA JOHNSON Travels with Mullan On-Premise Bruce Sturgeon of Seattle's Blueacre Seafood. Chris Miller of American Cut Steakhouse in New York. Dennis and his dog, Moss, at Stillwater Creek (Royal City, Columbia Valley). PHOTO: OLIVIA BRENT PHOTO: TIMOTHY MURRAY

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - August / September 2016