Three from Waitsburg Cellars

Hello friends. Since the announcement on his blog back on March 25, I have received a number of inquiries about Paul Gregutt’s new wine project: Waitsburg Cellars.

For those of you who missed that post, allow me to excerpt:
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Waitsburg Cellars came about as the result of a conversation exactly one year ago, with Andrew Browne and Alex Evans, principals at Precept Wines. Their proposal was breathtakingly simple. Would I be interested in designing and creating a wine, using the resources of their vineyards and facilities?

This simple proposal set in motion a very busy year, initiated some sweeping changes in my work life, and brought me to this exciting moment, when the wines make their public debut… My goal has been to design and create wines that are unique in some way. I did not want to do yet one more version of wines that already are widely-seen in the marketplace. At the same time, I wanted to showcase some strengths here in Washington state, strengths that had occurred to me but that had been overlooked by the market.
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I can say that this is kind of a dream gig for anyone who tastes and writes about wine for a living: a chance to taste through countless samples, identify the best of the best, assemble compelling blends. It’s like being given the golden ticket to the chocolate factory.

The name of the label comes from the terrific little town where Paul has settled. Waitsburg is about a twenty minute drive north of Walla Walla, through oceans of wheatfields. It’s a magical little place, containing one of the best bars on planet earth (jimgermanbar) as well as the Waitsburg Cottages, terrific vacation rentals that Paul and his wife Karen purchased, refurbished, and now rent out to visitors looking for a departure from the bustle of Walla Walla (bustle bring relative, of course).

Waitsburg Cellars launches with five wines, and we’re offering three of them today: two Chenin Blancs (any label that launches with not one, but *two* Chenin Blancs was always going to be an easy yes for me) as well as the lone red in the lineup.

2012 Waitsburg Cellars Chenin Blanc “Cheninieres”

From the names of the two Chenins, it’s clear that Paul’s head is in the Loire Valley, in the famous Chenin-producing regions of Savennieres and Vouvray. It’s fascinating to taste the two side by side, because both were harvested from the same vineyard (Upland, on Snipes Mountain) on the same day. On the sorting table, the greener berries went into stainless steel and eventually became the Cheninieres; the yellower into neutral oak for the Chevray. When they measured the two lots, the sugar levels were a full 2 Brix apart, just from the sorting table. Amazing.

This is the drier of the two Chenins, at just 0.2 g/l residual sugar, and it comes in at 12.6% alcohol. Only 148 cases were produced. It offers a rich, full mouthful of honeyed melon, apple, and honeysuckle, dusted with malt powder. There’s a dense, palate-coating character to this that makes me think it would pair with all manner of spring and summer rich seafood dishes. Crab and corn chowder and a glass of good Washington Chenin? Yes please.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($17); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5/20pts.”

2012 Waitsburg Cellars Chenin Blanc “Chevray”

Again, this one had more natural sugar to begin with. Some of it fermented into higher alcohol (14.8%), and some if it was left as higher residual sugar (3.7 g/l). This leads to a profile that is quite different from the Cheninieres. Autumnal aromas of musky apple give way to a palate with a kiss of sweetness to the tree-fruit (apple, pear) flavors. There’s plenty of mouthwatering acid to balance the sugar, and I loved the overall crepuscular character here. Nothing wrong with drinking this over the summer, but I’ll be saving my bottles for those days when autumn’s crisp twilights lead us to seek heartier fare, and richer wines to go with it.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($17); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5/20pts.”

2011 Waitsburg Cellars “Three”

Again I’ll let PaulG introduce this one: “The first wine I conceived of was a red blend. It existed on paper before I had sampled a single barrel… It’s a blend of 65% Merlot, 20% Malbec and 15%Mourvèdre – a mix I have never seen before… Together, they create a wine that has classic fruit, a fine focus, great structure, perfect proportion and crisp detail.”

Well said. The core of this is Merlot from Canoe Ridge Vineyard, one of the gems of the Precept portfolio. The other two grapes assert themselves on the nose, adding cooling minerality (Malbec) and leathery spice (Mourvedre) to balance Merlot’s luscious red cherry fruit. “Three” embraces the energy of the colder, acid-driven, 2011 vintage, and the flavors of redcurrant and espresso dance across the palate. This is eminently gluggable on pop-and-pour, but perhaps shows its best on day two, when it picks up weight and complexity. That augurs well for Three’s future evolution in bottle.

Many congrats to PaulG on this new phase of his wine career. He has been enormously influential on Washington wine generally, and on Full Pull’s development particularly, and I’m really pleased that our list can support this venture. 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.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($25); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5+/20pts.”

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