2006 Bunchgrass Syrah Lewis Vineyard

Hello friends. Happy new year, and welcome to new list members who signed up after seeing Full Pull named Best Wine Retailer by the folks at the always-excellent Wine Peeps blog. I’m delighted by the honor.

Let’s start 2010 with a wine that typifies what we’re trying to accomplish with Full Pull. Here we have a boutique winery, with a great story, crafting exceptional wines from impeccable vineyard sources. The tiny amount of wine they do produce is quickly inhaled by their eager mailing list, spurred on by glowing reviews from the media. Bunchgrass is self-distributed and extremely picky about the retailers they work with. The 2006 Lewis Vineyard Syrah is the only wine in their portfolio that is currently available (their next release isn’t until April), and they haven’t made any of that wine available to the Seattle market. Until now.

Bunchgrass has deep roots in the Walla Walla Valley. In the 1980s, Roger Cockerline planted a vineyard on his family farm just west of Walla Walla. Soon after, his grapes began to draw interest from a couple of home winemakers named Gordy Venneri and Myles Anderson, two men who would go on to found Walla Walla Vintners, the eighth bonded winery in the AVA. After having sold grapes from his Cockerline Vineyard for many years, in 1997 Roger decided to jump into winemaking as well, and Bunchgrass Winery was born. For the next eight years, Roger presided over his small-production winery – never the splashiest winery in the valley, but well-loved by its dedicated followers.

So well-loved, in fact, that when Roger started moving towards retirement, he was approached by several people interested in keeping the winery alive. One of those people was Tom Olander, who had served as the lead wine buyer for Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant (a Walla Walla institution) and had been a great admirer of Bunchgrass wines over the years. Another was Gordy Venneri, who had used Cockerline grapes twenty years earlier and whose Walla Walla Vintners had gone on to become a stalwart winery in the region. Gordy recommended his production winemaker, William VonMetzger, as a partner and winemaker in a revitalized Bunchgrass.

And so a beloved Walla Walla winery that looked to be hurtling towards extinction has been revived, and we have the chance to celebrate that revival by tasting the first Bunchgrass vintage crafted by its new team. Fortunately, the wine is as good as the story. You might remember from a recent offering that I included Lewis Vineyard in the pantheon of Yakima Valley sites. This is the same vineyard source that Eric Dunham uses for his $75 Syrah bottling. It is a site that can produce bold, lush, remarkable wines under the steady hand of a great winemaker.

The nose here is full of purple flowers, blackberries, and lovely, herbal, eucalyptus notes. On the palate comes the immediately-recognizable signature of Lewis Vineyard – cola – framed by mint, earth, and espressoey barrel notes. This is a big, well-structured Syrah, and the combination of bright acid and chalky tannins suggests an interesting evolution in bottle for those with enough self-control to resist the immediate appeal of this wine.

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We will be the only source for this wine in Seattle, and it will be unavailable for long-term reorder. If we sell out, the winery is reserving a small parcel that might be available if you contact them directly. Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we will do our best to fulfill all requests. As long as Snoqulamie Pass doesn’t get snowed out, we will receive this wine in our warehouse within two weeks, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping.

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