95 points Jeb Dunnuck: "Lots of classic Red Mountain tannins and minerality as well as notes of cassis, currants, dried herbs, graphite, and loamy soil define this beauty, and it's medium to full-bodied and wonderfully balanced, with a round, expansive mouthfeel and a great finish. Well worth seeking out, it’s going to deliver the goods for a solid two decades. Ciel Du Cheval is based on 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, and the rest Petit Verdot. It comes from unquestionably one of the top vineyards on Red Mountain and spent 18 months in French oak."
Again Dunnuck nailed the note–this wears its Red Mountain heart on its sleeve. It shares some of the fruit silkiness of Camerata and Bel Canto but has a more classic Ciel du Cheval structured profile, calling for some protein if drinking in the early years. -Marcus
2016 vintage notes
94 point Jeb Dunnuck: "A deep purple-colored effort and offers a concentrated, focused, firm style as well as loads of crème de cassis, graphite rocks, and graphite. Medium to full-bodied, concentrated, and balanced, it's one for the cellar and a good 3-5 years or bottle age will do it well."
2013 vintage notes
94 points Tanzer, Vinous: “Knockout nose combines medicinal black cherry, cassis, crushed-rock minerality, violet and black pepper. Wonderfully suave, deep blend with a layered texture and restrained sweetness. This called to mind a superb Right Bank style with density and ripeness but also tautness and savory soil notes. A wine of outstanding nobility and a compelling example of Red Mountain elegance. Spreads out to saturate the palate and vibrates on the very long, slowly mounting finish, where the very fine-grained tannins reach the front teeth. Saline and firm but seamless and not at all dry. (Smith also showed me the 2006 version of this wine and this evolving but still-energetic wine was in a very happy place, displaying captivating spicy energy and lift to its sexy flavors of dark berries, musky minerals and flowers. This ripe, concentrated, tactile wine finishes with broad, mouthcoating tannins and a suggestion of chocolatey ripeness.)”
Cadence wines represent a stylistic departure from the prevailing trend of Washington wineries, and they always have. Driven more by balance, with an emphasis on earlier grape picking, lower alcohol, less new oak, and no fear of youthful tannins, they are among the most Bordeaux-like wines in Washington. There is plenty of power, fruit, and muscle in their wines — but it’s all wrapped in a finesse-driven package.
We tasted their Ciel du Cheval Vineyard ’13 recently and found it to be superb, possibly the best vintage we’ve tasted of that bottling. A beautiful nose, saline and savory, with sweet fruit lurking beneath. Black currants and red berries are pungent and resin-accented. The tannins are flavorful and carry the long and pure finish. Best now when decanted for 30 to 60 minutes and paired with roast beast. - Marcus
Some insightful notes from one of the world’s leading wine critics, Steve Tanzer: “In recent vintages, Ben Smith has taken his Cadence wines to the top echelon in Washington. Cadence wines always had energy but recent vintages have brought denser, sweeter wines without any loss of vibrancy. Smith is routinely an early picker, and he noted that the harvest of 2013, the second warmest vintage on record at the time, was a bit rushed for him as he wanted to bring in the fruit before potential alcohol levels skyrocketed. Still, he emphasized the 2013s exhibit drive and thrust that can only be compared to 2011, but with richer more forward fruit than 2012. The ’13s along with the ’11s are Ben’s favorite vintages of the past 10 years.”
2012 vintage notes
94+ points Wine Advocate: "A blend of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot and 12% Petit Verdot that spent 18 months in 40% new French oak, the 2012 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard has lifted notes of black raspberry, black cherry, violets, spring flowers and vanilla bean. This gives way to a full-bodied, thrillingly balanced and concentrated palate that has building tannin, a stacked mid-palate and a great finish. Short-term cellaring is advised here, and it will have two decades or more of longevity. Lovers of Bordeaux variety wines need to get on this estate’s bandwagon ASAP."
When wine experts consider Washington State's great vineyards, one name that consistently appears near the top of any list is Ciel du Cheval Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA. Famed for the elegance and complexity of the wines it produces, Ciel du Cheval has become near-legendary exemplars of what Washington wine is all about.