Duckhorn releases Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain

By on September 9, 2014
Brian Rudin and Dick Boushey hold a bottle of Canvasback 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain grapes.

Winemaker Brian Rudin, left, and grape grower Dick Boushey hold a bottle of the Canvasback 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon as they stand above the newly planted estate vineyard on Red Mountain. The highly anticipated wine was released this week. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

ST. HELENA, Calif. – Duckhorn Wine Co. has released its highly anticipated inaugural vintage of Canvasback, a Cabernet Sauvignon using grapes from Washington’s Red Mountain.

Here is Great Northwest Wine’s review of the new wine, tasted a few weeks after it was bottled.

Last year, Duckhorn revealed it was making its first venture outside of California and had selected Red Mountain in the eastern Yakima Valley to produce a Cabernet Sauvignon.

“While our roots are in Napa Valley, we have always had a pioneering spirit,” said Alex Ryan, president and CEO of Duckhorn. “This led us to champion New World Merlot at Duckhorn Vineyards, it took us to the Anderson Valley to make Pinot Noir at Goldeneye, and now it’s brought us to Red Mountain.”

The news of Duckhorn’s foray into Washington was revealed in November, just weeks before it would become involved in a high-stakes auction for Red Mountain vineyard land.

Duckhorn started in 1976, the same year as the “Judgment of Paris” tasting put California and the New World on the wine map. But instead of focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley’s signature grape – Duckhorn instead produced Merlot.

Carol Reber, chief marketing and business development officer for Duckhorn, told Great Northwest Wine that while Napa Valley is where Duckhorn is based, the company and its winemakers are intrigued by the new frontier of Washington’s Columbia Valley.

“We like to explore new regions,” she said. “There’s no question that the wines in Washington are spectacular. We are particularly intrigued by the Cabs from Red Mountain.”

The new winery, called Canvasback, launches with the release this week of a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon that uses grapes from such vineyards as La Coye, Klipsun, Shaw and Quintessence. It retails for $40. The wine was made at Artifex, a custom-crush and winemaking facility in Walla Walla.

Duckhorn plants Red Mountain vineyard for Canvasback

Longwinds vineyard on Washington state's Red Mountain is the estate vineyard for Canvasback.

This aerial photo shows the recently planted Longwinds Vineyard, which is the estate vineyard for Canvasback. It is near the top of Red Mountain and is surrounded, from left, by Force Majeure, Col Solare, Heart of the Hill and Hedges vineyards. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

In late November, Ryan and several other interested parties took part in a high-profile auction of 670 acres of land in and around the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area. Duckhorn was part of 18 groups bidding on plots of land. Ultimately, the family that owns the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey Legaue outbid all others. The Aquillini Investment Group paid $8.3 million for the land.

Less than a month later, Duckhorn announced that it had purchased 20 acres from a private land owner high on Red Mountain, next to Col Solare and Force Majeure, for an undisclosed price. It also hired famed grape grower Dick Boushey to plant and farm the land.

In late spring, when it appeared Duckhorn would be unable to plant this year because water was not yet available from the Kennewick Irrigation District, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates stepped in and helped provide a way for Duckhorn to get water to the site. As a result, Boushey was able to plant 18.5 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot at the vineyard, which is named Longwinds. Boushey also manages Col Solare’s vineyard, which is across a dirt road from Longwinds.

In June, Duckhorn also announced that it has hired Brian Rudin as its fulltime Canvasback winemaker. Rudin was the head winemaker at Cadaretta Wines in Walla Walla for four years. The Wenatchee native will continue to live in Walla Walla and make the wines at Artifex for the foreseeable future.

The inaugural vintage of Canvasback led to a production of 2,102 cases. Reber told Great Northwest Wine that as its estate vineyard begins to produce grapes – probably in 2016 – Duckhorn plans to use that to increase its production rather than replace current vineyard sources.

Rudin said the estate vineyard is a key piece to Canvasback’s future.

“This is an important part of our long-term vision for Canvasback and our goal of making a great terroir-driven wine from one of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon winegrowing regions,” he said. “I’ve been given all the tools: one of the finest vineyard sites on the mountain, the ability to establish an estate vineyard from scratch, and access to the finest winegrowing partners in the region.”

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

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