I am Justin Neufeld. Since the moment I became interested in wine I knew I wanted to start my own winery. As I learned more about viticulture and enology the more I became obsessed with the process, rather than the product. That’s the inspiration for me as a winemaker, perfecting the process. I would also have to say that my wife was the impetus behind getting our label started. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it or how to begin but my wife, Brooke, convinced me that we would find a way and to just go for it!
One of my favorite aspects about wine is how the same variety, made by the same person, in the same ‘style’, but from two different vineyards, can make two totally different wines. I really don’t like to use the word terroir, but I haven’t come up with a better term yet… I will let you know when I do! This interest became JB Neufeld.
The focus of this project, JB Neufeld, is maintaining that uniqueness of place. It forces me to concentrate much more on the Cabernet Sauvignon fruit than I might normally, in order to find its qualities and how to enhance them and make a more interesting wine. I am fortunate to source our Cabernet Sauvignon from some of the best vineyards in Washington State, which makes this project that much more exhilarating and challenging.
I’m glad to discuss these topics and any other questions you may have. Thanks, Justin & Brooke
JB Neufeld is without a doubt my favorite producer in Washington. Justin and Brooke are also some of the nicest people that I know. I’m very excited for Berserkers to try these wines. Justin has a vision for his wines with this project that really speaks to my palate. If you like WA Cabernet, you will probably really like these.
I’m very excited for my friends (and neighbors) Justin and Brooke Neufeld who are newbies to BD, but not to me and anyone who has heard me sing the praises of their wine for the past 7-8 years. You hear this a lot, but the Neufeld family are first class people, and I am really happy to see them succeed.
brig campbell won a bottle of their wine from me in an OCPFW event ~5 years ago, when the ante was a bottle in the $25-30 range, so he’s a fan too. I’d describe the house style as a restrained and balanced, where the Cab needs a few years beyond release to strut its stuff. If opening young give it 4+ hours or even an overnight slow ox. I know the wine will show well, and for me at least, is in the price range that makes going long on a full case a bargain. I am actually a vintage (maybe 2) behind on stocking their wines, I’m loaded up through 2012 vintage, so will be a buyer on BD.
Just had the 2010 for Xmas. How’s that for saving for a special occasion!
2010 JB Neufeld Cabernet Sauvignon- USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley (12/25/2017)
I picked up this bottle in a poker game. Recommended by Chris as it was his buy-in so I chose it first. Good call. Red/dark maroon color and good clarity. Big fat legs run down the sides of the stem. Cassis aromas and a beautiful baking spice. Medium weight with oaky red fruit and cassis. Medium acidity and fine gritty tannins. Good balance and very long finish. Paired with beef wellington for Xmas dinner.
Glenn, style should be everything! My goal is to show what the fruit has to offer first. I try not to force it to be something that its not. I want the fruit in front of the oak, I dont want a ‘heavy’ wine that feels heavy because its really just sweet. I dont want a wine that makes you smell ethanol when you are trying to taste the food. I could go on, but I will spare you. Essentialy I’m striving to make a complex, balanced wine without being too heavy handed. I hope to hear whether you think I came remotely close to my goals!
Thats funny…I’m a total lurker. I like to keep tabs on what people are saying about various producers. Anyway, to answer your question about oak.
I will start by saying that I love oak…good oak, not bad oak. An analogy I’ve used in the past is that oak is to wine what butter is to food. Please bare in mind that like all analogies, its not a perfect one, but hopefully will help get my point across. Some dishes call for butter, while others do not. Just as some wines call for oak, while others do not. The roll of these components in both situations is to add aromatic complexity, texture, weight and flavor WITHOUT overwhelming the actual food/wine. In some dishes, butter would ruin what they are and would not create a harmonious experience, just as oak can in some wines. However, some dishes become more complex and interesting with butter, just as oak can do in some wines. Ashamedly I admit, I might love Cabernet Sauvignon because of my love of oak. For me, Cabernet Sauvignon is a variety that is enhanced with oak. It can take the oak on and become a more balanced wine, without losing its terroir, identity, sense of place, whatever the kids want to call it these days.
However, as I alluded to above, there is good oak and bad oak. The analogy to me would be like trying to substitute margarine for butter. For me and what I like, I’ve found ‘good oak’ to be a barrel that typically has a lighter toast. Its less aromatic and sweet, but it offers up a wonderful tannic spine. Oak has tannin, albeit they are slightly different molecules than those tannins found in grapes. That tannic spine goes right down the middle of the palate and extends out into the finish, helping to lengthen it. Then imagine putting down on top of that, the fruit of the wine. The two meld and the oak fuses into the palate of the wine, filling in any gaps that may have been present. With time, that fusion becomes almost seemless, and the result is a Cabernet Sauvignon that is smooth and balanced. At least thats how I picture it in my head…
On average, I use about 60-80% new french oak, depending on the vineyard. My coopers are Boutes, Sylvain and Taransaud. The wines are in barrel for about 22 months and are blended about 4 months prior to bottling. When my budget allows, I want to start replacing some of the neutral oak barrels with cement tank. Hopefully I will begin that transition this year. The goal there is retention of aromatics and purity of fruit.
It seems these days there is more talk about the negative impacts of oak in wine and it seems, in some cases, easier to just say you dont like oak. I guess thats kinda like saying you dont like butter…period. Who doesnt like butter??
Unfortunately it’s a rarity for a winemaker to use substantial new oak well (for my palate). Burgundy seems to manage substantial new oak just fine but those wines are meant to seriously go the distance and are at times inaccessible for the first ten years.
Are your wines made for long term aging? Short term enjoyment? Somewhere in between?
I love Washington Cab but I don’t like smelling sweet, toasty chocolate etc on wine usually.
Hey Brandon, thanks for the question. I would say, based on what I like, my wines will drink at their prime around 4-6 years after bottling, so I guess that would mean somewhere in between. My 2014 vintage, which is what will be offered, is probably my most approachable vintage right out of the gate. I’ve found the best way to drink my current releases is to pour myself a small glass, then put the cork back in and let the bottle sit over night, the wine will be drinking better the following day thru the 3rd day. I would describe my wines as being more floral, than fruit driven and the oak as being more structural, than aromatic. I would consider toasty chocolate a flaw. Hope that helps. Thanks for looking!
To piggy back off of what Justin said, I’ve never tasted chocolate notes in his cabs. I think chocolate belongs in milkshakes and would not enjoy that. A characteristic I find very appealing in Justin’s wines are the aromatics and while they do have some ripe fruit character, I’d say they are much more intriguing because of the other herbal and floral layers.
Each of the Cabs have different qualities and even though the Red Mountain fruit gets the most attention, but his wines from the Yakima valley have very nice aromatics and make very lovely Cabs.
Thanks for the comment Scott. That brings up a point I never mentioned earlier. Typically, my blended Cab. Sauv. has about 40%-60% Red Mountain fruit. Red Mountain is known for its broad, somewhat grippy, tannin profile. I use that fruit as the foundation for the blend. The upper valley sites are typically cooler sites, which offer up some herbal and floral notes. Their tannin profile is somewhat chalkier and it helps round out the edges of the Red Mountain profile. The goal is that you end up with a more balanced cab on the palate and more complexity and dimension in the aromatics.
Thank you for your detailed take on oak. I am a frequent “oak-basher”, but I’ve enjoyed a few Cabs that did not show obnoxious oak levels even though they spent many months in large percentages of new oak. Your explanation and analogy help a bit with putting things into perspective. Curious to try your wines now…
Well I’m game to try! I’m glad you see oak as a tool for structure rather than aromatics. I don’t mind fruit, I just don’t want oak masking what the varietal or site provides. Sounds like you’re not doing that so I’m on board, excited to try them.