2007 Modern Wine Project Malbec

Hello friends. Has anyone in Washington wine surfed the wave of the economic downturn more skillfully than Trey Busch?

In addition to his higher-end Sleight of Hand label, he has developed two side labels to take advantage of unusually good opportunities in the bulk-juice market over the past few years. One of those labels is Renegade, which we have featured regularly. The other is Modern Wine Project, which we have only featured twice previously, both times more than a year ago.

While Renegade’s focus is younger wines, Modern Wine Project has featured maturing parcels at eye-opening prices:

Perhaps no winemaker in Washington has feelers out to more corners of the state. Trey seems to know everyone, and he has his finger on the pulse of every gallon of available Washington juice. The likely scenario here is that a higher-end winery had plans to release this wine with a much higher price tag attached, but in today’s economic clime, that price tag became an impossibility. Rather than harm the brand with a price-drop, they sold the juice to Trey, who bottled it, slapped an attractive label on it (see label here), and sold it for a massive discount.

Who wins in this scenario? We do.

Now, some of the fun of these projects is the mystery. I don’t know which winery sold Trey this juice (I suspect he signed an NDA), but clues abound:

First, we actually know the vineyard sources, and they’re excellent: Northridge and Sagemoor. Northridge is a crown jewel in the Milbrandt Vineyards portfolio, a rare site on the Wahluke Slope above the Missoula floodline, at elevations of 1100 ft; a vineyard that sits on a thin layer of ancient soils above a base of caliche and basalt. The Milbrandts frequently refer to Northridge as one of their most important vineyard holdings. Sagemoor is a wonderful old vineyard (original vines planted in 1972) in the greater Columbia Valley that has seen a wildly successful rehabilitation through the efforts of vineyard managers Kent Waliser and Derek Way.

Next, we know the elevage: 80% new French oak for 30 months. That is a lengthy (and expensive!) barrel program, and it narrows the winery field considerably. Vintage (2007) and listed alcohol (14.5%) round out our set of clues.

Getting to taste Washington Malbec at five years past vintage is a rare treat. Given the stats above, this must have been bottled sometime in summer 2010, which means it already has two years in bottle after its two-and-a-half in barrel. Aromatics combine a core of plump marionberry fruit with grace notes of soy and mineral. The bottle age has softened up the tannins, which are ripe and suggestive of cocoa-dusted black cherry and star anise. More complexity comes from chocolaty barrel notes, as well as maturing notes of dust and leather. This is in a very happy place right now.

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

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