Ciel du Cheval
Showing classic Red Mountain characteristics of dusty earth, graphite, savory fruits and dried violets, the 800-case 2013 Ciel du Cheval is medium to full-bodied, beautifully balanced, elegant and layered on the palate, with present, savory tannin. More closed, reticent and restrained aromatically, this beauty needs 4-5 years of cellaring and will keep through 2033. Made from 56% Merlot and 44% Cabernet Franc that spent 18 months in 35% new oak, this is one of the cases where the terroir supercedes the variety. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2033.
Another killer wine from Chris, the 2012 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard is made from 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc, all of which spent 18 months in 35% new French oak. It exhibits classic minerality and dried herbs to go with complex leather, lavender, currants and sweet black cherry fruit. This gives way to a full-bodied, big-boned and layered 2012 that has no shortage of tannin and a great mid-palate. From one of the top terroirs in Red Mountain and with roughly 900 cases produced, it’s one of those don’t miss wines, and even at the price, it’s still a great value.
One of the top wines in the vintage, the 2011 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard (52% Cabernet Franc and 48% Merlot that spent 21 months in 35% new French oak) offers thrilling amounts of fruit and texture, with full-bodied richness, excellent mid-palate depth and sweet tannin. Loaded with both red and black currant fruit, dried flowers, damp earth and hints of meatiness, it can be consumed anytime over the coming 10-12 years.
(a 52/48 blend of merlot and cabernet franc): Good bright medium red. Sexy, high-pitched aromas of red raspberry, tobacco leaf and flowers. At once dense and fresh, with a suave texture and enticing inner-mouth aromatic character to its sexy flavors of red plum, blueberry and tobacco. Finishes with smooth tannins and terrific length. With the structure and verve of the vintage, this should age beautifully.
Showing more ripeness and a kiss of sweet oak, as well as the Red Mountain tannin, the 2010 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard (52% Merlot and 48% Cabernet Franc) is a purple-tinged beauty that offers up ripe red plum, black licorice, iron, dried spices and hints of leather along with a medium-bodied, sweetly fruited and chewy feel on the palate. Admirably concentrated, with good tannin, it too will benefit from short-term cellaring and have a decade of longevity. Drink 2015-2020.
Continuing the trend at Andrew Will Cellars, the 2010 Ciel du Cheval bottling is more than a full percentage point lower in alcohol in this vintage than it was in 2009 (13.2 percent versus 14.5 percent) and presents a more reserved and classic profile on both the nose and palate as a result. The cépages this year is forty-eight percent cabernet franc and fifty-two percent merlot and the wine offers up a superb bouquet of cassis, black cherries, espresso, dark soil tones, cigar smoke, fresh herb tones and a sophisticated base of new wood. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and nicely transparent, with fine mid-palate depth, ripe, well-integrated tannins, good acids and excellent focus and grip on the very long, nascently complex and elegant finish. This is going to be a terrific bottle of wine, but give it time in the cellar to blossom! 2020-2060.
In the same ballpark qualitatively, the 2009 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, made from 40% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc, delivers classic Red Mountain aromas and flavors with plenty of tar, licorice, baked earth, toasted spice and hints of chocolate all emerging from the glass. More full-bodied and rich than the 2010, with great back-end structure, it will deliver the goods for over a decade. Drink now-2021.
($60; a blend of 36% merlot and 32% each cabernet sauvignon and franc): Deep red-ruby. Fresh aromas of dark berries, violet and cocoa powder, with a note of blueberries in cream emerging with air. Lovely sweet, generous berry fruit saturates the palate and carries impressively on the lively, very long finish, which hints at espresso. This broad, youthful wine is at once more structured and more friendly than the Champoux Vineyard offering.
It is composed of 36% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 32% Cabernet Franc. Alluring aromas of pain grille, pencil lead, violets, incense, black currant, and blackberry inform the nose of a spicy, layered, impeccably balanced and structured wine that will benefit from 3-4 years of cellaring.
This has a serious grip of tannins around a rumbling core of blackberry, licorice and pepper flavors, pushing through the firm finish. Needs time, but should eventually gain elegance. Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Best from 2013 through 2020.—H.S.