In a way, Tom Hedges backed into winemaking. It was the 1980s and he was marketing American wine in Taiwan. Next, he sold an American Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend he’d purchased to the Swedish government. From there, it was not long until he and his French-born wife, Anne-Marie, thought about making their own wine. To start, they bought 50 acres on the southwest slope of Red Mountain in his native state of Washington; nothing had ever been planted on it. Today, the Hedges Family Estate is celebrating its 25th vintage of wines made from grapes grown on their now 125 acres of Red Mountain. Daughter Sarah is the winemaker. Son Christophe is general manager and director of sales. It is, as its name says, a family affair.
Considering the grapes their vineyards are best suited to grow, the Hedges specialize in red wine, their acreage planted mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with some Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. With 40 percent of the vineyards already certified biodynamic, the remainder are currently being switched to that method. As the family often says, they are farmers first, winemakers second. They believe a wine must express the land on which its grapes grew. Capturing the terroir, they say.
The winery’s flagship wine, Hedges Family Estate Red Mountain ($30), combines all five varieties grown on the estate. Its 2012 vintage, composed of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, is the current release. A dark-shaded wine with an intense, forward nose and a lively taste that speaks of its grape base, it should age well and long.
There are older vintages of Hedges Family Estate Red Mountain also on the market, among them the 2007 vintage ($35). On a base of 55.6 percent Merlot and with eight years of age, it is a wine of finesse with the aroma of a much younger wine and still a touch of tannin in its finish. Some markets offer still older vintages.
Hedges’ newest and top-of-the-line wine is La Haute Cuvée 2012 ($175 for a magnum). From 100 percent biodynamically grown Cabernet Sauvignon, it presents an intriguing, rich varietal character and delicious fruit.
An added compliment to Hedges wines: Their alcohol content sits between 13.4 and 14 percent, the better to enjoy their more elusive and subtle qualities, often masked in higher-alcohol wines.
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