For aficionados of Washington’s most prestigious AVA for Cabernet Sauvignon, this tasting in Seattle was a delicious retrospective of Hedges top wine from 1996-2019. Few Washington wineries are old enough to provide a vertical set of wines spanning 25 years or more, so this was a unique chance to see how one ‘terroir’s wines reflect both the land and the evolution of the family’s response to it. Although we enjoyed tasting all the vintages, our tasting notes below focus on our favorites.
Hedges Vineyard and Winery, founded by Tom Hedges and his wife, Anne-Marie Liegeois (from Champagne) in 1987, was just the third winery at Red Mountain after Kiona and Blackwood Canyon, Hedges’ vineyard planted in 1989. From the very beginning, the goal was to make expressive wines with as little input as necessary to allow the vineyard character to shine forth. Today, Tom’s son Christophe oversees the front of the house, while daughter Sarah Hedges Goedhart has been winemaker since 2009. From the beginning the Hedges have incorporated organic practices. Importantly, Hedges is the first vineyard in Washington to convert to biodynamic practices in 2008; it was Demeter Certified in 2015.
The occasion for this retrospective of their Cabernet-dominant top red, originally called Grand Reserve, and since 2012 La Haute Cuvée, was their offering to the trade 3 bottle packs of the newest releases of La Haute Cuvée 2017-2019, as well as another featuring the Library Vintages 1996, 2000 & 2008. While Red Mountain AVA is the warmest overall in Washington, and most producers make rather ‘large’ powerful wines, we have long admired the Hedges’ ability to make a more restrained, lower alcohol yet densely flavored Cabernet-based wine. During our tasting, Christophe Hedges noted that they try not to pay attention to scores or to seek the ripest expression. Rather, they prefer to pick a little sooner, have good acidity and craft a more tensile wine. Red Mountain’s climate takes care of the power, no matter what, he notes! This tasting demonstrated how well they have succeeded over nearly 30 years. All shared similar traits magnified or diminished according to the vintage climate. The current La Haute Cuvée price is $75 retail (from the winery).
Hedges 1996 Red Mountain Reserve Red Mountain AVA 94 Ruby and garnet colored. Fresh cabernet fruit and oak to the fore in the nose. The palate is firmly structured with balanced freshness. Still firm tannins frame the cassis-herbal flavors nicely. Leaning into mature Haut Medoc character. A blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Franc. Can easily last another 3-5 years. 13% alc. Drink now. (If you are fortunate enough to still have a bottle!)
Hedges 2000 Red Mountain Reserve Red Mountain AVA 93 Still youthful-looking, dark ruby with a glint of garnet. Rich herbal bouquet of juniper and roasted red pepper. Muscular, dense solid core with well defined dark fruit flavors accented by herbal and cedar spice notes. Fine if firm tannins. 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot matured 14 months in 70% new French and American oak. 14% alc. Drink over the next 5 years.
Hedges 2012 La Haute Cuvée Red Mountain AVA 94 Solid ruby with flecks of garnet. Powerful bouquet of dark cherry, roast pepper, coffee, dried herbs and a touch of vanilla oak. Fine plush plum and dark cherry fruit on a velvety palate with fine integrated tannins, good freshness and excellent length. Reminiscent of the 1996. Complete and long, ripe finish. All biodynamic certified Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.8% alc. Drink by 2029.
Hedges 2016 La Haute Cuvée Red Mountain AVA 91 Medium dark ruby with a garnet tinge. Ripe aromas of dried herbs, roast black cherry, pepper and leather. Supple, rich dark fruited flavors with a dense mid-palate. Full bodied with a compact texture and moderately firm but integrated tannins and acidity. Finishes with a hint of bitter chocolate and still youthful fruit. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot, matured 18 months in 21% new French (33%) and American (67%) barrels. pH 4.09, 14.5% alc.
Hedges 2018 La Haute Cuvée Red Mountain AVA 95 Dark ruby with flecks of violet-black. Bouquet of assertive dark black cherry and Red Mountain roasted pepper accompanied by new vanilla oak sweetness. Plush, velvety and deeply fruited of black currant, cherry and even some bitter chocolate flavors. Supple if strong tannins envelop ripe fruit on the mid-palate. Mouth-coating fruit on a firm finish of excellent length. Virtually all Cabernet Sauvignon matured 26 months in 50% new American (64%) and French (36%) oak barrels. pH 4.03, 13.5% alc.
Hedges 2019 La Haute Cuvée Red Mountain AVA 93 Similar in style to the 2018 vintage but a bit lighter in weight and less opaque violet-ruby color. Finely perfumed, black raspberry bouquet with dark cherry notes. A refined wine showing deep cassis and floral flavors with fine, polished tannins and red fruit on the finish. Evokes St Émilion in style and generosity, if more black fruit character than red of a merlot-dominant blend. A blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.5% Petit Verdot and 3.5% Merlot matured 27 months in 78% new French (76%) and American (24%) oak. pH 4.0, 13.5% alc.