Hello friends. Today we present another portfolio from a small, self-distributed Walla Walla producer (Note: This will not be the last of the Walla-Walla-winery-new-release-themed offerings either. It’s the legacy of the old Cayuse release weekend, which used to be the first weekend of November, and which became the de facto fall release weekend for much of the valley).
Here is the list of places where you can source Bunchgrass wines west of the mountains:
Compass Wines (Anacortes)
Water to Wine (Gig Harbor)
The Herbfarm Restaurant (Woodinville)
And, of course, Full Pull Wines. To the best of my knowledge, we are the only source for these wines in the Seattle market. We got in early on the Bunchgrass revival, writing about them as our first offering of 2010. As a reminder, this is a winery started in 1997 but recently energized by a new winemaker, Bill VonMetzger (the production winemaker at Walla Walla Vintners). Since Bill has taken over, the wines have begun turning heads.
Paul Gregutt blogged about Bunchgrass last October, noting that “very little wine is made, but it is exceptional.” And then Stephen Tanzer, a man not prone towards effusive praise, wrote the following in his blog: “Bunchgrass Winery, which has rarely impressed in my past tastings, caught my attention with its 2007 reds this year following a change in ownership and winemaking.”
I’m not surprised that Tanzer found the Bunchgrass portfolio compelling. His is a palate that favors restraint and elegance over hedonism, and these wines are classy indeed. I tasted a sommelier friend of mine on the three wines and posited that they displayed a clear house style. While I hemmed and hawed on what exactly that style was, my somm buddy nailed it: “Graceful,” he said, and graceful they are.
2007 Bunchgrass Syrah Lewis Vineyard
I know the 2006 vintage of this wine was well-loved by many of our list members, and the new vintage is equally delightful. The palate displays wonderful intensity with no rough edges. The signature Lewis Vineyard note of Dr. Pepper is alive and well here, framed by notes of roast beef and black cherry. This is probably the chewiest of the three wines with its fine-grained, black-tea tannins It’s 100% Syrah; 100% from Lewis Vineyard.
Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($28); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5/20pts”
2008 Bunchgrass Malbec Frazier Bluff Vineyard
Paul Gregutt loved the 07 vintage of this wine, scoring it 93pts in Wine Enthusiast and placing it #29 on his Top 100 list for 2009. As far as my research goes, that is the highest score Paul has bestowed upon a Washington Malbec; strong praise to be sure. Like the 07, the 08 comes entirely from Frazier Bluff Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. This site, owned by Joe Frazier (no, not the one who said “Boxing is the only sport you can get your brain shook, your money took and your name in the undertaker book.”), is mostly planted to Petit Verdot. Exactly nine rows are planted to Malbec, and Bunchgrass gets the entire lot, which translates into a whopping 75 cases of wine.
Washington Malbecs have a tendency towards blueberry pie. This bottling avoids that. There is a sleekness and a high tone to the boysenberry fruit, and a lovely interplay between that fruit and the grace notes of iron and stone, leaf and bark. Soft and silky in the mouth, this is almost too easy to drink. An entire glass is gone before you know it.
2007 Bunchgrass Cabernet Sauvignon Windrow Vineyard
I’m sipping this wine as I write the offering. It has now been open for 48 hours, and it remains on the ascendancy. Windrow Vineyard Cabernet is a real treat. You may remember from our Tero Estates offering that this is the oldest commercial Cabernet vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley, and it shows in the depth and weight this wine possesses. The blend contains 80% Windrow Cab, and the remainder is Cab from Tokar Vineyard, another site gaining rapid prominence in the valley (it’s not too far away from Leonetti’s Mill Creek Upland Vineyard).
The wine strikes a remarkable balance of fruit, earth, herb, and barrel. Layers of crème de cassis, composted earth, and dried sage are interwoven in this acid-driven Cabernet (the tannins are there, but not prominent). This has years of gorgeous, useful life ahead of it. The production level here is another miniscule 75 cases , so this is another limited wine (frequently sold out by the end of the year).