Well, it's the first Saturday in October, which of course means it's Cellar Saturday, that wonderful day when I open up a bottle of wine that's had ample time to mature. And being the first Saturday in October that means it's starting to feel like Autumn, with a chill in the evening air and plenty of leaves coming down all around me. So tonight I've opened a special bottle from one of my favorite Washington wineries, L'Ecole No. 41, in this case the 1998 Apogee, a classic Bordeaux style blend of Merlot (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (34%) and Cabernet Franc (6%) sourced from the Pepper Bridge Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. Full disclosure, I decanted this bottle for about an hour before pouring.
For being nearly old enough to vote, this wine seems quite vibrant, with a lovely garnet color in the glass with just a hint of amber at the edges. The nose presents aromas of leather, cedar, oak and just a hint of musty peat reminiscent of a classic Bordeaux "funk." The taste brings forth some bright fruit flavors of blackberry and cherry cola which transition to some wonderful mineral and dark chocolate notes midpalate. The finish is divine, with well structured tannins supporting a long, velvety and exceptionally dry finish that leaves you wanting another glass!
Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 9, it's definitely one of my favorite vintages of Apogee, which shouldn't be surprising given it's reliance on Merlot and my affinity for the oft disparaged varietal. Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a classic pairing of a rare cowboy cut ribeye grilled Pittsburgh style along with a baked potato and some fresh green beans from my Amish farmer friends. This is a wine that just makes steak taste even better! Cheers!