Two Wines from Grand Reve

Hello friends. This is turning into a truly exciting July. First, we had our inaugural offering from Andrew Will, one of Washington’s longest-tenured superstars. And now, we have our inaugural offering from Grand Reve, one of our state’s newest superstars. This offering includes a unique chance to delve into the Grand Reve library and a striking Syrah that many of you have been clamoring for.

Grand Reve has been compared to Long Shadows. While both projects do involve a series of winemakers working with top Washington fruit, that is where the similarities end. The intention of Long Shadows is to match top winemakers from outside of Washington state with exceptional vineyards from all over the state. The intention of Grand Reve is to match top winemakers from *within* Washington state with Red Mountain’s most spectacular sites.

The first item to tackle when explaining Grand Reve is the difference between the short-term and the long-term. The long-term involves one of the most heart-pounding vineyards in the state and a vineyard manager who walks the line between passion and obession. Ryan Johnson, who also manages Ciel du Cheval, Quilceda Galitzine, DeLille Grand Ciel, and Cadance Cara Mia Vineyards (that is one hell of a portfolio), partnered with Paul McBride to purchase and plant a vineyard near the apex of Red Mountain. Inspired by the vertical vineyards of Cote Rotie, Ryan planted a true mountainside vineyard on Red Mountain. Running from 960 to 1230 feet (Red Mountain tops out at about 1400 ft), this site required yeoman’s work with a pickaxe and backfilling with rocks just to get the end posts into the ground.

It is a stunning site to see in person (as I did with Ryan back in April). This first picture should help situate those of you familiar with Red Mountain, as that is Col Solare on the left-hand side of the photo, and well below the Grand Reve Vineyard. These other two pictures (here and here) give a sense of the steepness and rockiness of the site. This is a painful place to go to work: windy, steep, ankle-breaking territory where one block has been designated as “El Terror” by the vineyard workers (the site also includes “El Guapo” and “El Hueso”).

But Grand Reve Vineyards is the future. 2010 will mark the first harvest for the vineyard, so it will be years before we see any bottles from this site. The present is Ciel du Cheval, where Ryan carefully manages selected blocks and then presents them to a variety of winemakers. This is the Grand Reve “Collaboration Series,” and each Series corresponds to a specific winemaker. Collaboration Series I wines are all made by Ben Smith of Cadence; II by Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew; III by Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan; IV by Carolyn Lakewold of Donedei; and V by Chris Gorman of Gorman.

Grand Reve was chugging along quietly and cultily until October of last year, when Jay Miller published the first reviews of Grand Reve wines to appear in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. The scores for the four wines reviewed (all long-since sold out) were 95, 95, 96, and 97, and any chance to continue chugging along quietly dissipated in a flash.

2004 Collaboration Series I (Bordeaux Blend)

Two of the reviews referenced above were for the 2005 and 2006 Collaboration I. This is Ben Smith’s series, and it is always a Cabernet-dominated Bordeaux blend. The 2004 vintage was the first in the series, and only 120 cases were produced. It never had a formal release, has never been reviewed by a major publication, and has been used by the winery as something to pour at the tasting room when all their other wines are sold out. But the folks at Grand Reve have agreed to part with a parcel for us, and I couldn’t be more pleased. This is a chance to see where it all began, and they’re keeping the pricing the same as it was upon release.

The blend here is 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, and 18% Petit Verdot. That is a whopping amount of PV, but the Ciel version of this grape is special. There is a little, 3.5-acre block of this, planted in 1998 and fan-trained, and there is a story (possibly apocryphal, but I doubt it given the number of different people who have told it to me) that Jay Miller tasted a Betz Family Winery Petit Verdot barrel from Ciel and declared that he would score it 97 to 100 points were it to be bottled as a stand-alone varietal.

This saw 70% new French oak and was bottled in mid-2006, so we’re looking at four years of additional bottle age as well. The wine is gorgeously integrated and drinking beautifully. This is one of those wines that unfolds layer after layer with time in the glass: fresh Rainier cherry, blackberry, ginger, orange peel, clove, mocha, and caramel. This is exotically perfumed on the nose and the palate and conveys balance, integration, and serious length.

2007 Collaboration Series III (Syrah)

When we offered Rasa’s Principia last month, many of you read through Jeb Dunnuck’s entire issue of The Rhone Report, and I almost immediately began receiving requests for the other 96-pt wine, Grand Reve’s 2007 Collaboration Series III. Fortunately, Grand Reve has been kind enough to offer us a parcel, and we have it at an excellent price.

This is 100% Ciel Syrah from Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery. It saw one-third new oak; the remainder neutral. This is a dark beauty: a palate-staining road-licker of a wine filled with asphalt and brambles. A combination of elegance and power, this has a silky mouthfeel and streaks of iron, earth, and citrus. The finish brings sweetly luscious fruit tannins. The structure here is noteworthy; this is a wine that has a long, promising life ahead of it.

The Rhone Report (Jeb Dunnuck): “($55); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 96 pts.”

Please give us your maximum request up to 8 bottles of the 2004 Collab. I and 12 bottles of the 2007 Collab. III, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. We should have these wines in the warehouse in 1-2 weeks, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

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