Cadence Vertical 1998-2015, mostly Bel Canto

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john stimson
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Cadence Vertical 1998-2015, mostly Bel Canto

#1 Post by john stimson » January 14th, 2018, 3:29 pm

Our wine group decided this month to leave Europe and circle back home to do a vertical of Cadence wines. This was especially convenient as Gaye McNutt and Ben Smith, who are Cadence, happen to be members of the group (and very generously provided the wines at no cost.) After months and months of choking down untold French and Italian wines, they finally got to showcase their own. Despite tasting most all of the wines on release, and pre-release, and owning and drinking them quite a bit, I learned all kinds of things last night.

Just a sideline on the accompanying food--braised lamb shanks (one for each of us) with polenta, prepared by Mila (McCarthy) Chistoserdova--absolutely delicious.

Bel Canto is the flagship wine of Cadence, made since 2001. Previously sourced from various red mountain vineyards, after the 2005 vintage it flipped over to their own red mountain land, Cara Mia vineyard, so 2006 is the first year from this source (third leaf fruit.) They have a love affair with Cabernet Franc, and Bel Canto is almost always a Cab Franc dominant wine, modeled after Cheval Blanc. The only exception is actually 2015, which has more Merlot than CF. (56% vs 44%). The ratios can vary widely--often cab franc at 80 or more percent, but some years quite even, and merlot varying from 8% to 56% (petit verdot 4-10%). I asked why this was the case, and it turns out that their primary goal in blending the wine is finding the mix that provides maximum energy. Whatever blend of these components that gives the most energetic wine wins.

They have always had a preference for the wines from cooler years (if you don't know Washington wines, this is the secret clue--go for the cool years). The grapes get more hang time and more of a chance to develop complexity, and the wines don't get overwhelmed by bold fruit flavors. It's a real challenge to make wines in the hotter years, which are getting more and more frequent. This is becoming so much of a problem that they are planning to interplant rows of vines between their current rows (now 8ft apart). The grapes will be a little more stressed and get a little more shade during parts of the day.

The younger wines were double decanted 5-6 hrs before the tasting. middle age, 2hours. Oldest were decanted when the tasting began.


2015 Bel Canto--Scheduled for release this fall. The only Bel Canto that's more merlot than CF, as the Merlot in 2015 was outstanding. More of a lush feel than usual, bright gorgeous Merlot fruit. Mr McCarthy was comparing it to a certain Pomerol that costs 50 times as much. Still a little disjointed from short time in bottle.

2012 Bel Canto--This is a year where everything was good, and everything in the 2012 is in perfect balance. A beautiful spherical wine. Has a little brighter, red fruited character than some other years. Drank well on release, and continues so now.

2011 Bel Canto--Cooler year with longer hang time. Reflected in the wine, which has a cooler feel, with wonderful spice and tobacco components to complement the suave fruit. Might have been my favorite wine of the night.

2009 Bel Canto--Bigger, riper year, darker fruit, slight VA, a bit more noticeable oak. A very good wine but not quite my style.

2006 Bel Canto--a bit lighter wine, which interestingly allows more aromatics and lighter fruit components to come forth. First year that the wine was sourced from Cara Mia vineyard. 3rd leaf fruit.

2005 Bel Canto--Darker, denser, bigger wine, with darker fruit. Seems younger and more closed, fruit not as well defined.

2002 Bel Canto--Starting to see some secondary/tertiary characteristics. Sweeter, rich wine with nice balance, a pleasure. Feels like a warmer year wine.

2001 Bel Canto--First year of this wine. Again, beginning to see some aging (in a good way). A little more restrained fruit with other non-fruit components coming forth. B-vitamins, tobacco. I like this one a lot.

1999 Reserve--Clearly a great wine, but unfortunately corked. (Cab Sav based)

1999 Spring Valley Vineyard-- (83% merlot, 17% petit verdot)--This has aged really nicely--Washington Merlot can do great things. Still transitioning and not fully mature.

1998 Spring Valley Vineyard--(70% M, 17% PV, 13% CF)--Seemingly at peak maturity, basically a gorgeous right bank Bordeaux. Has taken on a little of the rose quality you find in aged Bordeaux. Gives you a feel for what these wines will become. This was their first commercial year.

1998 Tapteil vineyard-- (49% Cab Sav, 25% M, 23% CF, 3% PV)--Another nicely mature wine, again a bit of that rosey quality. A pleasure.

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Cadence Vertical 1998-2015, mostly Bel Canto

#2 Post by Scott Everson » January 14th, 2018, 7:49 pm

Bravo, good notes. I do wish some of you other guys ponied up and bought a few extra bottles, the '14s are everywhere in PDX and '13s can be tracked down too. Did Team BenGaye say anything about the '14 Bel Canto? Wine Advocate seemed to like it a lot, I have yet to try it.

john stimson
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Cadence Vertical 1998-2015, mostly Bel Canto

#3 Post by john stimson » January 14th, 2018, 8:44 pm

I loved the 2014's, although it's also a year where the merlot and the cab Sav showed very well, so the Camerata and tapteil are very nice. Bel Canto not quite as showy, but still very good. Of course, you can ask Ben's opinion as well. I'm sure he'll eventually chime in here. And then there's of course Gaye's opinion, which is generally the correct one.

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Kris Patten
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Cadence Vertical 1998-2015, mostly Bel Canto

#4 Post by Kris Patten » January 14th, 2018, 8:52 pm

Mila and Dan are two of my favorite people on planet. Cadence wines are great too.....especially 1999, 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2011.

Curious how you can decipher a great wine thru TCA, skill I don't have as corked is corked in my mind and palate.
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john stimson
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Cadence Vertical 1998-2015, mostly Bel Canto

#5 Post by john stimson » January 14th, 2018, 9:24 pm

It's not hard, kris. You know this as well. Some wines are stripped and much reduced when corked. But some strong wines retain their primary character and can be very impressive, yet marred by TCA. This was one of the latter type of wines.

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Cadence Vertical 1998-2015, mostly Bel Canto

#6 Post by Kris Patten » January 14th, 2018, 9:51 pm

I am really sensitive to TCA....I can go back to a 1982 Cheval Blanc and 1990 La Chapelle that were undrinkable for me, and I said corked, but everyone sipped and sniffed for 30 minutes before agreeing they were corked.

I may never get to try either again, but all I could smell was TCA and I don't taste corked wines as I can't rid my palate of the tinny taste.
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john stimson
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Cadence Vertical 1998-2015, mostly Bel Canto

#7 Post by john stimson » January 15th, 2018, 8:01 am

I never do more than sniff and occasionally a single taste with a corked wine (then you almost have to burn your glass), but I could tell it was a very good wine with that one sniff and taste.

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Brandon R
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Re: Cadence Vertical 1998-2015, mostly Bel Canto

#8 Post by Brandon R » April 15th, 2019, 3:31 pm

Over the weekend, I opened up a 2002 and 2003 Bel Canto to compare and enjoy. Initially, right out of the gate, the 2003 impressed with its shockingly full fruit. However, I ended up preferring the 2002 due to its superior balance and complexity. The fruit on the 2003 started to turn slightly porty by the end of the evening. My takeaway for both, though, was that these were at peak and were such a joy to drink. Hats off to the folks at Cadence once again.
B. Redman

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