Though we are always, by definition, at the precise intersection of past and future, from a distance we can offer a more meaningful context; we can perceive a nexus: a game-changing moment where the future is laid out—the possible—as a rethinking and refining of the past.
The threshold can be physical too: a natural manifestation of a metaphysical concept. The long, winding ribbon that runs along the top of Red Mountain is such a place, such a threshold: To the south and west lies Red Mountain’s past, the first vineyards planted nearly 50 years ago. The growth in the past 15 years has been remarkable. From a few tentative vines among the sagebrush, the slopes below are now nearly covered in vines; the wines now widely renowned.
Now turn to the north: a rural expanse, distant vistas of scrub, sage, large farms, and small ranges punctuate the valley. There is no wine history on this side of the mountain—a northern slope notable for its steepness: an unforgiving aspect. As you scan to your right, a gentle bend to the east; a safer haven from the teeth of the trademark Red Mountain wind. This is the future as conceived by Cam Myhrvold and Ryan Johnson. This is the small slice of Washington’s future we are inspired to participate in, to help bring to fruition.
But, as this mental picture illustrates, there is no forging the future, without first understanding the past. Ryan and Chris have together spent almost 40 years involved with Washington wine, and are passionate to help steward it into the future in their own ways. Cam and Marty, too, have a long history of seeing possible futures, and driving to attain them.
At Liminal, we will explore both sides of the mountain—the historical and the theoretical—many of its aspects and soils, and translate them to the glass as dutifully as possible. The High Canyon Blocks, winding along the road up Red Mountain toward its blustery peak, will write its own story. Then to the north: tightly spaced vines, many trained on poles, clinging to the vertiginous slope. Here, a different take on the light, bathed in morning sun, more protected from punishing afternoon heat. The winds still present, but with less momentum than from the valley to the south and west.
It is said that the vine likes to struggle. Leave the rich soils on the valley floor for the food crops, and put the grapes up on the hill. If the inhospitable helps to create finer wines, the future looks incredible for this site. The summers are hot, the soil so rocky in places that plants had to be crowbarred in. The wind rushes up through the High Canyon Block and whistles over the ridge. The landscape recalls the steep slopes of Côte-Rôtie, or the arid crags of Priorat. In this sense, it feels like we are on the cusp of a new expression of Washington. One on which we are betting.
In the early analysis, the wines bear this out. The color is dark ruby in the case of the usually lighter-hued Grenache—and compellingly structured. The Syrah, midnight ink, pulsing with purple fruits, floral elements, wild game. The depth and complexity, the concentrated structural force, all buoyed by a freshening acidity—are all notably present in the most impressive quantity.
In short, the wines are DIFFERENT—reflecting the next level efforts of Cam and Ryan.
At Liminal, our over-arching goal is to reflect this quality, and honestly as possible, in the wines. It is a steep task, but one we feel inspired by. As we see all the effort, passion, and work that was put into the project, we see no alternative but to put all of our resources to bear, to translate this special place into the glass.
To this end, we are exploring the world of wine, as well as challenging our existing views on making wine in the cellar. Though we remain committed to minimal intervention, many options exist to enhance the quality of the wines. Alternative fermentation vessels and techniques, an examination of barrel strategies, for instance, can all be re-visited to search for new expressions.
The 2018 vintage looks to go down as one of Washington’s finest. From bud break and flowering, through to veraison and ripening, the weather seemed to be working right in step with the growers.
A classic warm, but not too hot, eastern Washington summer started to cool down slightly after veraison in late August and early September, with highs in the high-70s/low-80s and blue skies for weeks. As we got into the heart of the ripening period at the end of September, the weather stayed dry and beautiful, cooling to perfect days with highs in the low- to mid-70s, and lows in the high-40s. This allowed the grapes to ripen evenly at a leisurely pace. We were able to pick the fruit at optimal ripeness at yields that were slightly under average.
The resulting wines have some of the most saturated colors we’ve seen, with amazing structure, weight, and balance. These wines are evolving slowly in barrel, and look to do the same in the bottle, leading to what we believe may be some of the most long-lived wines we’ve seen in Washington.