Three from Syncline

Hello friends. “I think these are going to be our two white varietals going forward.” Hmmm… what could those two varietals be?

Chardonnay and Viognier? That would make sense. Both popular, marketable grapes.

Riesling and Pinot Gris (or, better yet, Grigio)? Sure, we’ve all heard of those.

Chenin Blanc and Semillon? Okay, getting geekier, but still reasonably accessible.

As it happens, today’s winemaker is James Mantone of Syncline, and the answer is none of the above. Instead, we’re going to have to go more obscure. Much more obscure.

If you’re James Mantone, the grapes you’re referring to could only be Gruner Veltliner and Grenache Blanc.

[Note: for those of you less inclined towards overt geekery, see the bottom of the offering for a bonus red from Syncline, set to receive a nice review in the July Wine Enthusiast.]

2011 Syncline Gruner Veltliner Underwood Mountain Vineyard

For those of us who love Syncline, today’s offering helps explain why. While many wineries are reactive, hewing to the whims of wine fashion, James and Poppie have always been proactive. They make wines that excite them, and trust enough in their instincts to feel confident that buyers will follow.

To wit: Gruner.

The great, savory white grape of Austria has found a home in Washington, on the southern slopes of Underwood Mountain Vineyard (location here). The vines first came online for production in 2008, and we have offered every vintage since. As far as I know, it’s still the only Gruner produced in Washington.

James is a talented winemaker, and it has been a real pleasure watching the evolution of Syncline’s Gruner. The acidity, which in the early years could border on shrillness, has here been tamed into something beautiful. Gruner’s savory character is here expressed in aromas of straw and hay, lovely counterpoints to the citrus and apricot fruit. The body is beefed up a little compared to previous vintages, too, and the whole package is notably more accessible. As a summer/autumn white, this is tough to beat, and because of its savory side, it pairs with tough-to-complement foods like artichokes and asparagus. It’s also a beautiful oyster wine, for those of you so inclined.

2011 Syncline Grenache Blanc Boushey Vineyard

This is the new addition to the lineup, and it comes entirely from Boushey Vineyard. Dick Boushey is, of course, a man who knows a thing or two about Rhone varietals, and he has been planting some of the more obscure white Rhone vines (Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Picpoul) over the past few years.

James used all neutral barrels with occasional lees stirring and no malolactic conversion. The result is a wine that manages to combine a sense of richness with fine acidity. But more than anything, this wine is earthy, and that’s not something I usually say for whites. There is a rich earthiness here, and it interplays with fruit flavors of nectarine and green papaya. A revelatory bottle.

2010 Syncline Syrah McKinley Springs Vineyard

From Block 11 at McKinley Springs Vineyard, fondly known as the Espresso Block for the lovely espresso/coffee/mocha character it imparts to its Syrahs. Here James includes 25% whole clusters (stems and all) and ferments mostly in concrete (Syncline is one of the few wineries in Washington to have concrete vessels on hand).It’s a gorgeous expression of this fine Horse Heaven Hills site.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

The Gruner usually goes fast, with only 200 cases produced, and the Grenache Blanc is even smaller (135 cases). But we’re catching these right on release, so for now it’s first come first served up to 12 bottles total (mix and match as you like), along with 12 bottles of the Syrah. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

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