2008 NW Vine Project Red Splendor

Hello friends. Navigating through the wine industry is a little like steering an oil tanker: it’s best to begin turning well before you think it necessary. Many were caught turning too late when the economy soured in the past few years, ran aground, and spilled oil (wine) all over the local fauna (consumers).

Okay; I might have gotten carried away with that metaphor, but the fact remains that there have been new and excellent opportunities to buy grapes and bulk juice in the past few years, and those opportunities have been pursued by an intelligent few. One of the best of these ventures to emerge has been the Northwest Vine Project, begun by Triage Wines. Triage is a wonderful, progressive distributor and importer that operates in Seattle and Portland. If you’re buying European wines at retail shops, look for an “Imported by Triage Wines” sticker on the back, and you will guarantee yourself an intellectually-stimulating bottle of wine that, more likely than not, comes from a family of vignerons using traditional, sustainable growing practices.

Triage teamed up with a collection of outstanding Pac-NW vintners (examples include David O’Reilly of Owen Roe, James and Poppie Mantone of Syncline, and Andrew Rich of, well, Andrew Rich) to make well-priced, accessible wines from premium grapes looking for a happy home in a recession. One of those wines is the 2008 Red Splendor (made by Andrew Rich).

Here’s the rub: I can’t tell you the vineyard source(s) for this wine. Why? Because I don’t know myself. Why? Well, my best guess (pure conjecture alert!) is not that these grapes are low-quality. Instead, I suspect they’re from excellent vineyard sources that don’t generally want to be associated with sub-$15 bottles.

But here’s what we do know: This is Horse Heaven Hills fruit. The blend is 44% Mourvedre, 36% Syrah, and 20% Grenache. No new oak was harmed in the making of this wine. And this is more likely to show up in restaurants (where it’s a killer glass-pour option) than in retail shops.

The Mourvedre is dominant on the nose, with white-pepper-dusted plums and streaks of brine. Medium-bodied, acid-driven, and juicy, this is bottled young and ready to be drunk right now. Flavors are bright and plummy, with background notes of pepper, mineral and forest floor.

It’s great (and all too rare) to see a Southern Rhone-styled blend at this price point, and we have access to a nice-sized parcel. First come first served on up to 36 bottles per person. We should have the wine in our warehouse next week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping.

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