Three from Syncline

Hello friends. One item that may have skipped through the cracks during the general hullabaloo of the holiday season was the publication of David Schildknecht’s first set of Washington reviews for Wine Advocate. The “Weekly Update” hit my inbox on December 31 at 8:01am, and at that point I was fully engaged in the all-important decision of whether to make curried peanut sauce, or cucumber ajad, or both, to go with my New Year’s Eve pork meatballs (eventual answer: both).

I didn’t end up delving into David’s reviews until recently, and wow, what reviews they are. His 5000-word introduction on the history and present state of Washington is a must-read, as are his capsule descriptions of each winery reviewed. But it’s his tasting notes that will be the true gifts for northwest wine lovers for years to come. We’re fortunate to have David, with his rare combination of razor-sharp palate and ability to convey sensual, aesthetic experiences through words, covering Washington wines.

No doubt he is a sterner grader than Jay Miller was, and most wineries will see their scores decrease, but the tradeoff is well worth it in my opinion.

Perusing this initial round of Schildknecht reviews, one producer that seems to have piqued his interest is Syncline. Our long-time list members are no strangers to James Mantone’s work at this Columbia Gorge stalwart, and it was wonderful to see Syncline’s breadth and depth of quality highlighted in such an extensive manner.

Today, then, let’s delve back into three previous Syncline offerings that caught the palate and pen of David Schildknecht:

2011 Syncline Gruner Veltliner Underwood Mountain Vineyard

Originally offered on June 22, 2012.

Original offering text: 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. 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.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (David Schildknecht): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 89pts.”

2010 Syncline Syrah McKinley Springs Vineyard

Originally offered on June 22, 2012.

Original offering text: 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.

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

2009 Syncline “Scintillation” Blanc de Blancs Celilo Vineyard

Originally offered on May 4, 2012.

Original offering text: Since 2005, James Mantone has been working with Rick Ensminger of Celilo Vineyard on a sparkling wine project. It makes sense. Celilo is perhaps the finest cool-climate vineyard in Washington, sitting on the southern flanks of the extinct volcano Underwood Mountain in the Columbia Gorge AVA. And better yet, both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are planted in Celilo.

For years, though, these were micro-production wines that were sold exclusively to Syncline’s wine club members… Finally, with the 2009 vintage, there is enough for a commercial release. But only just enough: 200 cases total production, and much of it still snapped up by the lucky-grubby mitts of the Syncline wine club… This is a Blanc de Blancs, a 100% Chardonnay, and it smells like it (and a lot like BdB Champagne), all lemony and leesy. All that lees contact imparts the bready, biscuity aromatics that those of us who love Champagne hold so dear. The palate has a fine mousse, and there is wonderful length and intensity here. This is a fine opportunity to taste a collaboration between a vineyard manager and a winemaker deeply committed to making as fine a sparkling wine as Celilo’s terroir will allow.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (David Schildknecht): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

First come first served up to 18 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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