Library: Eyrie Vineyards Reserve Chardonnays, Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve Pinot Noirs

December 23, 2011

Calendar UPDATE: We are *closed for pickups* for the next two weeks, reopening with our normal Thursday hours (10am-7pm) on January 12.
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Hello friends. I always like to begin our final offering of the year with an excerpt from Tennyson’s In Memoriam:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Those are beautiful stanzas, aren’t they? Each time I come upon them at the end of a year, I find myself moved beyond measure. The notion of the year-end as a marker – a chance to decide what we take with us on our next spin around the sun, and what we leave behind – has real resonance for me.

What I will be taking with me into 2012 is a sense of optimism. That’s different from my emotions at the end of 2009 (terrified) and 2010 (hopeful), and it’s entirely thanks to our list members. You all are a special breed of wine-lover. While many in the wine trade are enervated by their clients (I don’t envy the life of a grocery store wine steward), I receive the opposite effect: I’m energized. It’s a dream job, this: writing about wine for people who care. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to do it.

Our biggest change in 2011, I suppose, was marching south out of our Washington-only comfort zone and into the Willamette Valley. You all came along with the enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity I have come to expect, beginning with our first Oregon offering, on May 23.

Remember the producer? It could have been no one but Eyrie Vineyards, and today we come full circle.

My friends, this is as exciting as an offering gets for me, and it is months in the making. The folks at Eyrie have agreed to part with small amounts of their most precious wines: library stock, of their Reserve Chardonnays and South Block Reserve Pinot Noirs, at 10, 15, and 20 years old; the highest expressions of the great white and red grapes of Burgundy, from David Lett, the man whose wines were judged to be as good as the best from Burgundy.

These wines are exceptionally rare, and I’m extremely thankful to Diana Lett, Jason Lett, and Russ Margach for their willingness to share these treasures with our list.

First, a quick word on provenance, courtesy of Eyrie: “All the wines that leave our library now are subject to intense scrutiny to assure premium standards of quality.  Each bottle is tasted, the top quality bottles are re-assembled in a new cuvee, so that every bottle will be the same going forward without variation. The re-assembled cuvees are rebottled and recorked with the new DIAM closure that assures no cork taint. The entire 21-step process takes place under inert gas to prevent any exposure to oxygen during the process.”

Now, let’s begin with the Reserve Chardonnays. Older versions of these are collectors’ treasures. Unlike many other northwest favorites, these never show up at auction (I know; I have tried to find them). People who own them hoard them, because they’re that good.  I have had a few older bottles, always at special tastings, and they never fail to buckle my knees.

The Reserve Chardonnay program was begun in 1987, and it’s a barrel selection program: the best barrels from the old Chardonnay plantings at Eyrie’s original vineyard. Those plantings came from Wente-clone cuttings David Lett got while walking the Draper Ranch vineyard (St. Helena, CA) with the vineyard manager, Joe Torres, in 1964.

The wines age like white Burg, which is what gets folks into such a tizzy about these bottles. Prior to IPNC in 2009, the winery presented a Chardonnay vertical tasting, and the peerless Jancis Robinson was in attendance. In 1984, she became the first person outside the wine trade to earn a Master of Wine. Her books (The Oxford Companion to Wine, which she edits, and The World Atlas of Wine, written with Hugh Jonhson) are the twin bibles of wine education, as far as I’m concerned.

In short, she has a world-class palate, and she went bonkers for old Eyrie Chardonnay (subscribers to her Purple Pages can read her tasting notes), describing the event as “one of the most extraordinary tastings I have ever been lucky enough to experience.” She went on: “I had to go back and alter my suggested drinking dates for the younger vintages on the basis of how well the older wines had lasted. And by the time we had got back to the 1980s and 1970s, I started wondering just how many Burgundian domaines could present an array of white wines that has lasted as consistently well.”

1991 Eyrie Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay

David Lett’s vintage notes from 1991 [note: these are general vintage notes, referring to reds and whites]: “A long, cool spring pushed into late June and early July. The rest of the season was ideal, however, with a long warm fall. As is typical of years in which Oregon experiences a more extended ripening season, quality was excellent, especially for wines intended for cellaring.”

1996 Eyrie Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay

David Lett’s vintage notes from 1996 [note: these are general vintage notes, referring to reds and whites]: “Good ripeness and balance, but from a cooler vintage. Like the 1996 Burgundies, Eyrie 1996s had very firm tannins and higher acidities. The fruit was fully ripe, and a cool harvest meant good aromatic retention. Yields were slightly below normal levels, but not financially threatening as in 1994 and 1998. The 1996 South Block received 3 years in barrel to help resolve tannins that were more aggressive than what is typical for an Eyrie wine.”

2001 Eyrie Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay

David Lett’s vintage notes from 2001 [note: these are general vintage notes, referring to reds and whites]: “The 2001 growing season started out with good flowering and a productive fruit set. A dry and moderate summer followed, with a few days of extremely hot weather in early August. Rain showers (less than 1 inch) came at the end of September. Cool weather, combined with larger berries and clusters than 2000, meant that the 2001 vintage was more suited to wines of finesse.”

The 1975 vintage is the famous one, the one that finished second, two-tenths of a point behind one of Robert Drouhin’s ’59 Burgs, in a blind tasting organized by Drouhin. After that, the wine was made for the next 32 vintages, through the 2007 harvest, David Lett’s last.

But it was never released.

“Never released?!?” I asked, when I visited Eyrie.

“Never released.”

These were David Lett’s crown jewels, from 10 specific rows of Wadenswil clones, in the south block of the original vineyard, and only a few barrels were produced in each vintage. They began to take on an aura of myth, of legend: unreleased works of art, snapshots of time, aging slowly in the Eyrie cellars.

Bottles would appear now and then: one or two sold at an Eyrie holiday open house; a few traded with Ken Wright or Gary Andrus (former director of operations at Archery Summit) so they could showcase the magic of aged Oregon Pinot; a vertical sold to a restaurant that asked nicely (Charlie Trotter’s boasts of an 8-year vertical, and they sell the 1975 for $1250/bottle).

But at some point, even the mythical, even the legendary, have to be released, have to be tasted. And that’s what happened in July of this year, when Eyrie presented a vertical tasting of all the South Block Reserves, from 1975 through 2007. It is difficult to find tasting notes from this event, but here are two (one short one, and then a longer one from Dan Johnson of the Wine Is Serious Business video series).

It’s my understanding that these wines have never been offered at retail before, and they may never be again. These are not inexpensive bottles (unless, of course, you collect fine aged Burgundy, in which case you likely see these as incredible values), but I would encourage you, if you’re wavering: find five friends; split the costs; build a tasting event around one or two of these bottles. No need to wait for a special occasion. The bottle itself is the occasion: as mesmerizing and enchanting as any great work of art:

1991 Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve Pinot Noir

Repeating David Lett’s vintage notes from above: “A long, cool spring pushed into late June and early July. The rest of the season was ideal, however, with a long warm fall. As is typical of years in which Oregon experiences a more extended ripening season, quality was excellent, especially for wines intended for cellaring.”

1996 Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve Pinot Noir

Repeating David Lett’s vintage notes from above: “Good ripeness and balance, but from a cooler vintage. Like the 1996 Burgundies, Eyrie 1996s had very firm tannins and higher acidities. The fruit was fully ripe, and a cool harvest meant good aromatic retention. Yields were slightly below normal levels, but not financially threatening as in 1994 and 1998. The 1996 South Block received 3 years in barrel to help resolve tannins that were more aggressive than what is typical for an Eyrie wine.”

2001 Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve Pinot Noir

Repeating David Lett’s vintage notes from above: “The 2001 growing season started out with good flowering and a productive fruit set. A dry and moderate summer followed, with a few days of extremely hot weather in early August. Rain showers (less than 1 inch) came at the end of September. Cool weather, combined with larger berries and clusters than 2000, meant that the 2001 vintage was more suited to wines of finesse.”

Please limit order requests to 2 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. These wines will be picked up from the Eyrie cellars and should arrive in late January, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

And that’s it, my friends, for 2011! We’ll go dark for a few weeks (no offerings, no pickups) and will return during the week of Jan 9-13. In the meantime, happy holidays to you all, thank you again for a memorable year, and here’s one more New Year’s poem for those of you who had the stamina to make it to the end of this marathon offering, from haiku master Kobayashi Issa:

New Year’s Day–
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.


2009 Ghost of 413 Red

December 21, 2011

Hello friends. Certainly one of the stories in Washington wine in 2011 has been the continued emergence of “ghost labels.”

With all the good bulk juice on the market in a down economy, savvy winemakers and distributors have realized they can buy up the juice, slap a new label on it to avoid brand confusion with their higher-end wines, and fill a niche in the marketplace. That niche seems to be the $10-$20 range, above where Ste Michelle and Columbia play but below the big guns. Trey Busch has done well this year with his Renegade and Modern Wine projects. Acme and Triage (both distributors) have done well with their Brand and Northwest Vine Project labels.

But before all that, there was the original ghost.

Ghost of 413 is a collaboration between these two guys: Chris Gorman (Gorman Winery) and Mark McNeilly (Mark Ryan Winery). Inaugurated with the 2005 vintage (back in headier economic times, actually), this project immediately captured critical and consumer imagination. Paul Gregutt first wrote about Ghost in 2007, explaining the name thusly:

“The unusual name comes with a variety of explanations. ‘Since this is purchased wine,’ says McNeilly, ‘we didn’t know how associated we wanted to be with it.’ So naming them ghost wines was in part an effort to be invisible. The 413, says Gorman, refers to the original bond number of his winery. Or maybe Ricky Schroder’s birthday, which happens to be April 13.”

As it turned out, there was no need to don the invisibility cloak, as the wine was warmly received in the Seattle market as an exceptional value. In fact, Gorman and McNeilly have not been able to produce enough to keep up with demand, and this wine has routinely sold out within a month or two of release.

The 2009 vintage is the biggest yet, at 5000 cases, and it was released on December 1. Based on what I’m hearing regarding sales numbers, this will likely be around until late February or perhaps early March, so there should be some time to sample and potentially reorder if you like it. (No promises, of course; this will be on a number of glass-pour lists over the holidays, and that tends to deplete supplies in a major way).

This is also the most Cabernet-dominant of any of the Ghosts to date; a full 90% of the blend (the remainder is Merlot and Syrah). It’s a ripe, accessible wine, with all those nice Cabernet tannins combed to a fine sheen. There is a generosity to the fruit here that makes this difficult to resist, and it’s meant to be drunk for its youthful pleasures. No need to hold this one. Aromatics of cola and red cherry are lifted by some lovely star-anise complexities. The mouthwatering palate is full of blackcurrant and soy, and with some aeration, this picks up a lovely sense of inner-mouth perfume, not something I typically expect at this price point (usually the violet/lavender side of Cabernet is restricted to the $30-and-up bottles). All told, this is about as friendly a ghost as I can think of. Well, except for this guy.

First come first served up to 48 bottles. I brought some of this in early so that folks picking up today and tomorrow have a shot at it. The remainder will arrive in January, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.


Two Wines from Pepper Bridge / Amavi

December 19, 2011

Hello friends. Jean-Francois Pellet’s winemaking continues to dazzle. No matter the label, the vintage, the price point, his wines always provide exceptional value. And so, to kick off our last week of offerings for 2011, here are two of JF’s recently-released beauties:

2008 Pepper Bridge Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

I consider this one of the reference-point Cabernets for Washington, and it’s always a true expression of a particular vintage in the Walla Walla Valley. It comes from the old blocks at Pepper Bridge (42% of this vintage) and Seven Hills (58%) Vineyards, and while it is labeled as Cabernet Sauvignon, it contains all five Bordeaux varietals (10% Merlot, 4% Cab Franc, 4% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot).

This gets the luxury treatment at the Pepper Bridge facility, which is one the finest in the state. The latest innovation is an addition to the sorting line: a machine that sorts grapes optically (see an article on this new technology here). What you end up with in the fermenting bin is less plant matter, insect matter, and other undesirable vineyard detritus, and more pristine, plump berries.

Just another indication that this is a winery looking to craft a benchmark Washington state Cabernet. And 2008 is turning out to be a fine vintage for the king of Bordeaux varietals. As I have tasted through more wines from 2008, the vintage is starting to take shape in my mind, and what stands out is the structure.

These are architectural wines. The best Cabernets and BDX blends from 2008 are tightly wound, with a core of fruit currently locked up behind a wall of tannin and acid. Not as easy to access or understand as the universally-hailed 2007 vintage (popular, I believe, because it had a fine balance of up-front fruit and background structure), 2008 is a vintage that I suspect will begin to surpass the 2007s somewhere around 7-10 years post-vintage.

If you’re a patient drinker (or decanter), 2008s promise untold glories ahead. Right now we’re only watching the trailer; the full film is yet to come:

Seattle Met Magazine (Sean Sullivan): “($55); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. #23, 100 Best Washington Wines 2011.”

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19/20pts.”

I can only echo the themes above: complexity and elegance, power and beauty. There are layers here, to be sure, of fruit and earth, of coffee and tea, of flower and gravelly minerals, and only the gentle hand of time will allow each layer to unfurl. Right now, they are obscured by a beautiful, imposing wall of dusty tannins.

2009 Amavi Syrah

JF also makes the Amavi wines at the Pepper Bridge facility. They get much of the same TLC as their high-end brethren, but are crafted to be more accessible in their youth, and with more accessible tariffs to boot.

Jumping back into the vintage discussion, I look at 2009 as the least ageworthy vintage of 07-09 (true for Willamette Pinot as well). Do I mean that pejoratively? Hell no! It’s nice to occasionally have an exuberantly-fruited, softly-structured vintage: one that can be enjoyed for its youthful energies, without need for cellars or decanters or aerators or breathable glasses or other assorted stocking stuffers.

So, a label made for accessibility, in a vintage becoming known for accessibility. Guess what: this wine is accessible. Broad, generous, and unabashed in its come-hither glances, this is almost too easy to glug.

Almost.

Amavi Syrah has always come predominantly from three WWV vineyards: Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge, and Les Collines. In 2009, the proportion of Les Collines (47%) is as high as it has ever been, which is a positive development as far as I’m concerned. Les Collines is the great, “sauvage” vineyard of the Walla Walla Valley, adding a wildness to the aromatics of any Syrah it touches. In this case, we get wild mountain fruit, savory notes of pine nut and mushroom, and a dusting of black peppercorns. Dark, rich, and conveying a real sultry smokiness to the meaty, blackberry flavors, this is a joyful, balanced, knockout, one of the strongest 09 Syrahs I have tasted to date, and a remarkable achievement at this tariff.

The remainder is 43% Seven Hills and 10% Pepper Bridge, and this barely gets a whiff of new French oak: just 16%. Listed alc is 14.1%.

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($29); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: ** (Exceptional).”

First come first served, up to 18 bottles total (mix and match as you see fit). The wines should arrive on Wednesday, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.


Two 2006s from Beresan

December 16, 2011

Hello friends. Because of our list’s enthusiastic response to Beresan’s 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, we have been granted access to two more pristine parcels of wine from their 2006 vintage. Both are now five-year-old wines, and both come to us at reduced tariffs. Happy holidays:

2006 Beresan Merlot

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($29); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 90pts.”

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($29); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: * (Excellent).”

Just 190 cases produced, and this is 100% Merlot, from two vineyards: Candy Mountain (the neighboring “mountain” just to Red Mountain’s southeast), and Beresan’s estate Waliser Vineyard, planted in 1997 down in the rocks region of the southern Walla Walla Valley. Aged in 30% new French oak (the remainder neutral) for 21 months and then left alone to develop in bottle.

From PaulG’s review above (published in May 2009), you can see he noticed a kernel of something ageworthy in this wine. He was onto something, as this is aging beautifully, the primary black fruit now streaked with maturing notes of green olive, grain, and loam. The tannins have softened up but are still present, adding a finishing lick of complex espresso. This has class and length to spare; it’s a tremendous value.

2006 Beresan Syrah

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($29); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

While this bottle has the broader Columbia Valley designation, it could bear the Walla Walla Valley name, as it comes entirely from two WWV vineyards. The majority (60%) comes from a fascinating vineyard: Yellow Jacket. Planted by Tom Waliser in 2001 on land where the Waliser family formerly grew peaches and apples for years, it sits literally across the street from the Cayuse Vineyards production studio and many of the Cayuse estate vineyards. To say there’s potential for Syrah in this area of the rocks would be a severe understatement.

The remaining 40% comes from the older blocks of Syrah at Pepper Bridge Vineyard. The treatment here is similar to the Merlot: 30% new French oak for 21 months. The blend hangs together nicely. The gamey funk of the rocks is a grace note here, not the main player, and it’s complemented by the plush, pure, plum-and-blueberry driven fruit from valley-floor Pepper Bridge. I like the sanguine complexities here, and the interplay of blue fruit and liquefied rock. A sturdy spine of tannin and acid suggests this will continue maturing in compelling directions.

First come first served up to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you see fit). These should arrive at some point on Wednesday,  at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.


2008 Adams Bench “Reckoning”

December 14, 2011

Hello friends. Today we have a real insider gem: from a winery you may have never heard of, but one whose stylistic and vineyard influences include Andrew Will and Quilceda Creek, with wines that are rarely sold outside the winery (let alone outside of Washington), and that come with a strong critical pedigree from across a broad swath of reviewers:

I wrote in depth about Tim and Erica Blue’s Adams Bench project back in April 2010, when we offered the 2006 vintage of this same wine. The short version is that the pair began with a strong focus on grower partnerships, and those partnerships have paid dividends. They source outstanding fruit from the Horse Heaven Hills (Discovery Vineyard), Red Mountain (Artz Vineyard), and the greater Yakima (Red Willow, Two Blondes) and Columbia (Stillwater) Valleys.

Reckoning is the Merlot-dominant wine of the Adams Bench lineup: about half Merlot, rounded out with 38% Cabernet Sauvignon (mostly Stillwater) and 11% Cabernet Franc (Two Blondes Vineyard, which is Andrew Will’s estate site). The Merlot is something special indeed, coming almost entirely from the 1989-planted block at Red Willow Vineyard. Those old vines present yet another example of a fine, muscular Washington Merlot. A gorgeous nose portends the wine ahead: plum, kirsch, golden raisin, and then this even ventures into stone fruit territory, with a lovely peach note that adds lift to the aromatics. There are layers of fruit and barrel on the palate, a lovely mix of blackcurrant, apricot, and cocoa powder. The tannins are wonderfully chewy, and the overall package presents itself as big and balanced, no easy feat.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($39); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($39); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19.5/20 pts.”

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. I’m hoping to secure the wine on Friday so that it will be available for pickup on Saturday or thereafter, and it will ship during the spring shipping window.


2007 Brian Carter Cellars Byzance

December 12, 2011

Hello friends. In our weekend offering, I discussed which wineries and vineyards were coalescing in my mind to represent 2011. Well, how about varietal?

To my mind, it would have to be Grenache, and it’s easy to judge, simply by the number of e-mails I have received over the course of the year, asking for good examples of Washington Grenache. This is a grape that has been on the scene in Washington for a number of years, but something seems to have clicked in 2011, and the interest level is off the charts.

So, before the year is up, let’s sneak in one more Grenache blend, a Chateuneuf/Gigondas/Vacqueyras ringer from master blender Brian Carter that has just experienced a nice little price drop (I’ll also include a reorder link below for those of you who want more of Brian Carter’s port-style “Opulento” for the holidays):

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 90pts.”

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5/20pts.”

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Stephen Tanzer): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 90pts.”

Two out of three critics agree: this wine is sexy. [Note: you have to love Steve Tanzer. I would take about half of his reviews as potential epitaphs. Yes to: “Here lies Paul Zitarelli. He was at once sexy and serious.” No to: “Here lies Paul Zitarelli. He had very ripe, musky aromas.”]

But okay, enough sex and death. Isn’t this supposed to be wine writing? Better get back to barrel regimens and other esoterica:

Brian Carter’s motto: “A Passion for the Art of Blending.” Indeed. The Grenache comes from four different vineyards; the Syrah from three; the Mourvedre two; and the Counoise and Cinsault, mercifully, one (well, one each; they’re not the same). I envision blending trials at Brian Carter Cellars looking something like the inside of Willy Wonka’s Factory (hopefully without Oompa Loompas; those guys are creepy).

But the results are undeniable: disparate elements coming together to form a balanced whole. This gets a moderate oak treatment (20% new French) and comes in at 14.5% alc (not shy, but far from the 16% monsters that roam the 2007 vintage landscape in Chateauneuf-du-Pape). First come first served up to 12 bottles. The wine should arrive on Wednesday, at which point it will be available for pickup during our remaining December dates and thereafter, or for shipping during the spring shipping window.


Two from Cote Bonnville

December 11, 2011

Hello friends. The end of the year is a natural time for reflection. For me, it’s a time to think through which wineries and vineyards emerged out of the ether in 2011 to capture our list’s imagination. These things are never planned; they just happen. On the winery side, Maison Bleue in Washington and Crowley in Oregon are the two that leap immediately to mind.

And on the vineyard side, it would have to be DuBrul.

What really vaulted the vineyard into public consciousness was the news that Quilceda Creek had contracted with DuBrul to purchase Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in 2011 to replace their freeze-damaged Champoux fruit.

And then our list members had opportunities throughout the year to sample DuBrul fruit. There was Stevens 2008 Merlot (half from DuBrul) and JB Neufeld’s 2008 DuBrul Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (both in March); then the bombshell of Rasa’s Creative Impulse (all from DuBrul) in August. And then more recently, Ron Coleman’s single-vineyard DuBrul bottling for Tamarack Cellars.

To put a capstone on a fine year for this vineyard, today we head to the source: Cote Bonneville, the estate winery attached to DuBrul Vineyard:

2009 Cote Bonneville Chardonnay DuBrul Vineyard

Hugh and Kathy Shiels are meticulous farmers. They planted DuBrul in 1992, in a cool section of the Yakima Valley, and they have been nurturing the vineyard ever since. They had help from the legendary Stan Clarke, who helped develop the vineyard site and then became the founding winemaker for Cote Bonneville when the winery was launched in 2001.

Beginning in 2009, Hugh and Kathy’s daughter, Kerry, took over winemaking duties, after receiving her masters from UC-Davis. Before coming back home, Kerry made wine at Tahbilk (Australia), Tapiz (Argentina), and a trio of Napa wineries (Joseph Phelps, Mondavi, and Folio).

The Napa influence is on display in this Chardonnay, from Kerry’s first full-time vintage, and it’s actually kind of refreshing, because it’s rare. There is a tendency here in Washington to want to carve out a very separate space from California, and that means luxury Chardonnays like this one are out. That’s all well and good, but then you taste a wine like this, and it’s a good reminder that there is room at both ends of the spectrum. There’s room for the steely, lean, unoaked Chardonnays. But there’s also room for this style: luscious, luxurious, alluring.

This gets a year and a half in 50% new French oak, with regular lees stirring, and it goes through full malolactic conversion. The impact on mouthfeel is as expected: it’s supple and smooth; positively creamy. It manages to be extremely full-bodied without an overabundance of alcohol (14.1%). There is plenty of hazelnutty oak and honey framing some truly generous fruit: mostly in the stone-fruit family (peach and nectarine), but edging out towards the tropical realm of pineapple.

I have a plan for this wine. Mid-afternoon, on Christmas Day, when I’m sitting by a crackling fire and grandpa brings out his clam dip (which I suppose contains a clam or two but is 93% cream cheese and milk), I’m going to grab this from the fridge and bask in the luxury (maybe I’ll share; remains to be seen). This is not a crisp white for summer. It’s a winter white; a fireplace white; a white to slip into your next Napa Chard tasting to see if your friends can peg it for 700 miles further north and half the price.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($50); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

2007 Cote Bonneville “Carriage House” DuBrul Vnyd (BDX Blend)

Sad to say it, but we’re getting down to the end of the releases from the fine 2007 vintage in Washington. For those of you who dug Rasa’s Creative Impulse, the blend here is not so very different; about two-thirds Cabernet; the remainder Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Harvested in the morning and wheeled a few hundred yards to the winery, this is a fine expression of this little piece of the Yakima Valley. Ripe, rich, and succulent, this has plenty of exotic spice to layer onto the raspberry mocha flavors. There is structure here for aging (juicy acidity and fine-grained tannins), but why wait when the fruit is so delicious right now?

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($50); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].  93pts.”

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles total (mix and match as you see fit), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines will arrive on Wednesday, at which point they will be available for pickup during our remaining December dates and thereafter, or for shipping during the spring shipping window.