I had a call with Rob Griffin last week, regarding an article I’m writing about him. I’m always impressed with how down-to-earth and relatable the masters of the wine industry can be. There’s something of a paradox that dwells within the farmers who work in a multi-billion dollar industry, and Rob Griffin reminded me of so many other wonderful people I’ve met over the years. A UC Davis grad, Griffin is amiable, relaxed, and easy to talk to. He set about making wine in the Columbia Valley against the advice of his professors many decades ago and, well, just look where it got him. I suppose a rebellious streak is something that serves an artist well. I enjoyed his stories and the time we spent talking, and I sincerely hope I’ll have the chance to speak with him again soon.
Preparing for my article has been arduous, and has included, in addition to talking to great people, sipping at a number of Rob’s fantastic wines over the past few weeks. Barnard Griffin wines are known throughout the wine writing world as flagships of the concept of “QPR” or Quality Price Ratio. Rob’s wines are outstanding, among the most consistent in the industry, and most of them come in under the $20/bottle mark. In writing this piece, I’ve also had the opportunity to taste a few of the reserve wines that Rob sells only at his winery, and they have been an absolute delight. Last night, I had a glass of the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon while I cooked dinner for my family, and I was absolutely impressed with the wine.
Notes of deep purple fruits, licorice, and baking spice abound upon the nose and transition into the palate, where they eventually give way to notes of black cherry with hints of raspberry. Subtle flavors of vanilla and leather appear as it opens up. Smoky characteristics and perhaps some meaty flavors add depth, while the baking spice and delicate hints of cinnamon persist through to a relatively clean finish for a full-bodied Cabernet. Well-balanced and well-structured, this vintage has some nice bottle age on it already and is drinking beautifully now. That said, I’d bet my cellar that it will lay down successfully for another decade if not two.
By now, a lot of people have figured out what Rob Griffin has known for a very long time: Washington State is a wine mecca, and a grape growers dream. Thousands of people have followed in his footsteps, benefiting from his risks all the while, and many of them make pretty good wine. For my part, I try often to stick to BG. I find something enticing about the idea that I’m drinking a wine that was crafted not just by a fine winemaker, but by a visionary and the pioneer who took the risks to make the Columbia Valley what it is today. All of Rob’s wines are very good in my experience with them, but if you can find it, this Reserve stuff is pretty damn extraordinary. I highly recommend it.