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CasaSmith Cervo Barbera 2015
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
In 1999, he moved back to the United States, specifically to the Pacific Northwest, opening a wine shop on Bainbridge Island, just across the Puget Sound from downtown Seattle. On a road trip in late 1999, he passed through the small town of Walla Walla and met a young Frenchman and winemaker. The two men discovered their common passion for great Syrah and Charles was eventually convinced to move to Walla Walla and make his own juice. On December 2nd, 2001, Charles released his first wine, 330 cases of the 1999 K Syrah. The Walla Walla Valley was now his home.
After a devastating freeze in 2004, Charles brought to life a label he had once in a dream: HOUSE WINES. Low and behold, the label concept had never been created or trademarked, so Charles launched the legendary brand before selling it to Precept Brands in 2006. That same year, Charles started a second brand, Charles Smith Wines. The brand was themed as “The Modernist Project,” which focuses on the way people generally consume wine today: immediately. As the collection grew in popularity, Charles wanted to provide even more people around the globe access to the exceptional wines, so he sold the collection of five wines —Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Eve Chardonnay, Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon, The Velvet Devil Merlot and Boom Boom! Syrah—to Constellation Brands in October 2016 in order to bring them to consumers around the world through their global distribution network. The intent was (and still is) to create wines to be enjoyed now, but with true typicity of both the varietal and the vineyard. His story continued with the creation of Charles & Charles, CasaSmith ViNO, SIXTO, and Substance. The constant innovator and his restless nature ensure that the story doesn’t end there.
In 2015, the Charles Smith footprint broadened to Seattle with the opening of Jet City, the largest urban winery on the west coast, that has attracted tens of thousands of visitors since its debut.
In 2017, he unveiled a new name for his international company and vast portfolio – Wines of Substance, which is defined as the quality of being important, valid and significant. Wines of Substance illustrates Charles’ philosophy of producing exceptional wines to be enjoyed by everyone around the globe.
Charles Smith is the only person to have received Winemaker of the Year distinctions by both Wine Enthusiast (2014) and Food & Wine (2009). In 2008, K Vintners was recognized by Wine & Spirits magazine as one of the “Best New Wineries of the Last Ten Years,” and as “Winery of the Year” in their annual buying guide. His wines continue to receive broad recognition from leading wine publications such as Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine & Spirits with 98 scores of 95 points and above, and 386 scores of 90 points and above.
Charles currently resides in Walla Walla and Seattle with his daughter, Charlotte.
An important winegrowing state increasingly recognized for its high-quality reds and whites, Washington ranks second in production in the U.S. after California. Washington wines continue to gain well-deserved popularity as they garner higher and higher praise from critics and consumers alike.
Washington winemakers draw inspiration mainly from Napa Valley, Bordeaux and the Rhône as well as increasingly from other regions like Spain and Italy. Most viticulture takes place on the eastern side of the state—an arid desert in the rain shadow of the Cascade mountains. Irrigation is made possible by the Columbia River. Temperatures are extreme, with hot and dry summers and cold winters, during which frost can be a risk.
Washington’s wine industry was initially built on Merlot, which remains an important variety to this day, despite having been overtaken in acreage planted by Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Bordeaux blends and Rhône blends are common as well as single varietal bottlings. Washington reds tend to express a real purity of concentrated fruit. The best examples have a bold richness, seamless texture, plush or powdery tannins and flavors such as licorice, herb, forest floor, espresso and dark chocolate.
In terms of white wine, Riesling is the state’s major success story, producing crisp, aromatic examples with plenty of stone fruit that range from bone dry to lusciously sweet. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc perform nicely here as well, and Viognier is beginning to pick up steam.
Friendly, approachable and full of juicy red fruit, Barbera produces wines in a wide range of styles, from youthful, fresh and fruity to serious, structured and age-worthy. Piedmont is the most famous source of Barbera, but it is also planted in a few nearby Italian provinces and remains one of the most widely planted varieties in the country. Barbera actually can adapt to many climates and enjoys success in California—particularly in the Sierra Foothills—and some southern hemisphere wine regions.
In the Glass
Barbera is typically marked by flavors of red cherry, raspberry or blackberry and backed by a signature zingy acidity. Warmer sites produce Barberas with intensely ripe fruit and complex notes of cocoa, savory spice, anise and nutmeg. Cooler sites will produce a lighter Barbera with more finesse and intriguing notes of cranberry, graphite, smoke, lavender and violet.
Barbera’s prominent acidity makes it a natural match with tomato-based dishes, making it an easy pairing with a wide array of Italian cuisine. It works just as well with lighter red meat dishes, hamburgers or barbecue.
In the past it wasn’t common or even accepted to age Barbera in oak but today both styles—oaked and unoaked—abound, at least in Piedmont. In fact, many Piemontese producers today still make a deliciously pure, fruity and unoaked version, intended for earlier consumption. The wine world didn't realize Barbera's potential until the work of Giacomo Bologna in Asti in the 1960s. His debut of the barrique-aged Barbera called Bricco dell’Uccellone revealed this grape's true potential. Many of the better bottlings of Piemontese Barbera can age gracefully for 10-15 years or more.