World-class Washington State

Corliss Estates is a family run winery with a strong perfectionist bent. Founded by Michael Corliss in 1999, it has long been the toast of critics and consumers alike. Their top tier Cabernets command massive scores and triple digit price points. Fruit from the same organically farmed Red and Blue Mountain vineyards is used here in their second label, Secret Squirrel. Both areas feature windblown loess soils, not unlike some areas near the feet of the Alps, a result of glaciers grinding down rocks over time. All the grapes are harvested by hand, and the wineries are gravity-flow – gentle handling is the crux of the entire operation.

The results of their precise approach show in the glass: the wines showcase the ripeness that made the west coast the envy of the wine world, but are fully dry, resolved, and tempered in manner. And despite their considerable pedigree, the pair of offerings from Secret Squirrel still manage to embody the whimsy of their label – fun and congenial. In the vein of a great Bordelais Chateau bottling a second wine for more immediate consumption (often with the benefit of more bottle age than the classified bottling), Secret Squirrel is an opportunity to enjoy world-class Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon at a bargain price.

What to Expect: The Secret Squirrel Cabernet Sauvignon brims with the richness and opulence necessary for a great domestic Cab without a preponderance of oak and sugar: pure and black-fruited with varietal weight and fine tannins. It shows pronounced baker’s cocoa on the nose with alluring raspberry preserves and cassis – simply delicious. Their Rhône style blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache is fruit forward yet paradoxically elusive with hints of lavender, tea, and potpourri lurking beneath layers of juicy reds. Fleshy and vibrant with a touch of savory spice, this red is suitably warming on a winter’s night to be sure.