Two 2009s from Bunchgrass

Hello friends. We have two beauties today from a list-favorite winery: Bunchgrass.

This is a winery that has been around in the Walla Walla Valley forever, but their wines remain insider gems, quite difficult to source west of the mountains. The Bunchgrass tasting room in Walla Walla is open Saturdays only, from 11am-4pm, and only from April-December. Even with that narrow window, it’s worth the effort to visit, because the winery is steeped in history and the current releases are outstanding.

The history: Roger Cockerline helped to establish a grape-grower’s society in Walla Walla in the 1980s and then founded Bunchgrass as the eleventh winery in the Walla Walla Valley. Roger’s fruit is present in some of the early Leonetti bottles, helped perhaps by the fact that Chris Figgins was a student in Roger’s 8th Grade Social Studies Course (yep; folks wear many hats in the valley; it’s part of the charm).

Roger named the winery after Bunch Grass, a book of poetry by his friend, the northwest poet Robert Sund (1929-2001). Learning about the origin of the winery name led me to Sund’s Poems from Ish River Country, a gem of a collection of Sund’s poetry. I love this little book. I quoted it on Thanksgiving. I built a two-pole for the Sounders celebrating it. And now, when we offer Bunchgrass wines, I like to excerpt it:


Now onto the wines:

2009 Bunchgrass Triolet (BDX Blend) Walla Walla Valley

This is nearly a single vineyard wine, with all of the Cabernet Sauvignon (67%) and Cabernet Franc (27%) coming from Dwelley Vineyard, an under-the-radar site planted in 1999 in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. The remainder (6% Petit Verdot) comes from Frazier Bluff.

It’s thrilling to explore these lesser-known corners of the Walla Walla Valley. Finding what is essentially a single-vineyard BDX blend from the WWV, at this tariff, is extremely rare. Despite making up only a quarter of the blend, it’s the Cabernet Franc that comes through on the nose, with its signature savory/earthy character, all framing a core of pure blueberry fruit. The mouthfeel is superb. There’s just no dip as this wine stains the entire palate with blue fruit and dark-roast coffee and blood-orange acids. The tannins are perfectly-managed. The whole package is a textural marvel, with loads of fruit character and richness. It’s classy, classy juice at this tariff.

2009 Bunchgrass Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley

If Triolet (175 cases) is small production, this is micro-production. Just 92 cases produced, and all Cabernet Sauvignon, with 80% coming from Windrow Vineyard, the oldest commercial Cabernet site in the Walla Walla Valley, and the remainder coming from Tokar, a deeply exciting younger vineyard in the burgeoning Mill Creek drainage area of the valley.

This presents a lovely, high-toned Cabernet nose: cherry blossoms and violets to go with the cherry and cassis fruit. There are minty topnotes here, and some exotic spice, too: saffron? The palate is a mint-tinged laser beam of blackcurrant fruit. Again, the mouthfeel here is just luxurious, well-polished, the tannins present but combed to a fine sheen. The depth of character from those old Windrow vines is impossible to ignore, and Tom Olander has done justice to the fleshy 2009 vintage, crafting a wine that is awfully tough to resist right now. Doesn’t quite taste like any other Cabernet coming out of the valley.

Please limit order requests to 8 bottles of Triolet and 4 bottles of Cabernet, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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