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Woodward Canyon Wines

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Washington's Woodward Canyon is Walla Walla's second-oldest winery (just behind Leonetti). It is also one of the Northwest's most prestigious wineries, producing wines that consistently garner top ratings and awards. Rich Small bottled his first Cabernet in 1981. Then, as now, Woodward Canyon has offered compelling wines with the emphasis on structure and balance. In a world where big, over-extracted wines too often command attention, Small's wines are as refreshing as they are age-worthy. It's balance, not bravado that gives a wine long life. The winery also has a nice Idaho connection. Kevin Mott, Albertson College graduate, former Ste. Chapelle winemaker and consummate gentleman, is now working his magic at Woodward Canyon. Thomas Woodley, their national sales coordinator, was in town recently tasting through these amazing wines. Here are a few standouts:

2002 Woodward Canyon Chardonnay, $29

This Chardonnay has ample but well-integrated oak that contributes flavor rather than overwhelming it. The ripe and creamy peach and apricot fruit is nicely balanced by crisp acidity. Enticing flavors explode in the mouth in this richly textured Chardonnay. Notes of vanilla and spice come through especially on the finish that lingers nicely.

2001 Woodward Canyon Merlot, $30

Leonetti Merlot gets a bit more attention, and while it is an outstanding wine, I prefer the elegance and impeccable structure that is Woodward Canyon. Floral aromas pour from the glass with rich currant and soft blackberry backed by vanilla, caramel, coffee and smoke. The tannins are soft, the berry fruit smooth and supple, and the finish long and lush.

2001 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon, Old Vine, $57

Rich and creamy texture with plush fruit flavors (blackberry, cherry, plum), silky cassis and ripe tannins. Dark fruit flavors fill the mouth along with enticing herb, mineral and hints of thyme. The smooth oak and tannins are nicely integrated in this wine with impressive length. Buy a few bottles for the cellar and in four or five years, you'll be congratulating yourself on how smart you were. An outstanding Cabernet.

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