Three 2010s from Bunchgrass

Hello friends. We have three new releases 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. In fact, one of today’s three wines has, up until today, only been available direct through the winery.

A trip to that winery (in Walla Walla; open Saturdays from April-December) is well worth the effort, as this is a producer steeped in valley lore, and one whose current owners are as friendly as their wines are good.

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 (no pigeonholing in the WWV; Roger was a farmer *and* a teacher).

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 poetry, which has been one of my happiest accidents associated with Full Pull, and now, whenever we offer Bunchgrass wines, we include a Sund poem (or two).

Better yet: the great wheel continues to spin, as we now have a board member from the Robert Sund Poet’s House Trust on the Full Pull mailing list. I’d like to thank those lovely folks (holders of copyrights to Sund’s work) for permission to share his poetry with our list members. For more information on the life and work of Robert Sund, and to order books, please visit the Trust’s web site.

Today we’ll share a gift from one of the Trust’s board members: an unpublished poem from the late 1960s:

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As someone who tends to sit a long time in seemingly-fruitless contemplation of what to write, this notion that “A certain waste seems indispensable” is something of a salve, and certainly resonates.

Now, onto today’s wines:

2010 Bunchgrass Malbec (Frazier Bluff Vineyard)

A single vineyard Malbec from Frazier Bluff in the Walla Walla Valley. This site is planted mostly to Petit Verdot but has nine rows of Malbec, and Bunchgrass gets all of it, so this is their little Malbec monopole and represents the only opportunity to taste Malbec from Joe Frazier’s vineyard. I love the nose, which is extremely expressive, with fresh, pure aromas of plum, violet, and crushed rock/asphalt. The palate combines purity of fruit with a real suppleness of texture. It’s silky in the mouth but carries no excess weight. There is a precise sense of balance; it’s classy winemaking on display.

The only time I have seen this reviewed by one of the major magazines was the 2007 vintage, by Paul Gregutt in Wine Enthusiast. He scored it 93pts, which was his strongest review for a Washington Malbec for many years (aMaurice’s estate Amparo Malbec received 94pts in the April Enthusiast). I’m guessing Bunchgrass stopped submitting Malbec for review, since there’s just so little of it (72 cases for the 2010).

2010 Bunchgrass “Founder’s Blend” (BDX Blend)

This is our second opportunity to offer the Founder’s Blend (the 09 vintage was our first access), and I’m thrilled to have continued access for our list members. It has always been among my favorites in the Bunchgrass portfolio, but quantities prior to 2009 just weren’t high enough to warrant an offering. And even now, there’s just barely enough: again 72 cases.

It’s Tom’s homage to Cheval Blanc, and the proportions of Cabernet Franc (about two-thirds, from Dwelley Vineyard) and Merlot (about one-third, from Seven Hills Vineyard) are true enough. There is even a splash of Malbec in the mix, which is true for the great Saint-Emilion producer as well. All of it comes from the Walla Walla Valley. It’s a lovely pairing of Merlot’s lush red cherry aromas with Cabernet Franc’s exciting savory character (beetroot, red chile). Silky-textured (again, attention to mouthfeel seems paramount here) and insistently earthy, this adds up to well more than the sum of its parts. The mix of rich Merlot fruit and pollen-dusted, soil-driven Franc savories is a fine example of why these two grapes make such beautiful lovechildren.

2010 Bunchgrass “The Bard” (Syrah Blend)

This is an exclusive to Full Pull (outside of the winery, of course, where you should buy direct if we sell through our whole allocation). A new wine for Bunchgrass, it’s mostly a Rhone blend (50% Syrah from Nostra Terra Vineyard and Walla Walla Vintners Estate Vineyard and 25% Nostra Terra Grenache) that cheats with Bordeaux by adding a whack of Seven Hills Merlot.

The Merlot adds a layer of plushness to the texture, but doesn’t really figure in the aroma/flavor profile, which is classic Washington Syrah/Grenache: plump strawberry, loads of broken sagebrush, and topnotes of white pepper. 2010 was a cool vintage, but the folks at Bunchgrass had no trouble coaxing ripeness out of this fruit. This is a rich, lush, generous mix of red fruit and fresh herb.

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles each of the Malbec and Founder’s, and 4 bottles of the Bard, 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 next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

And for those of you who made it to the bottom, one more piece of Sund-ian magic, from Notes from Disappearing Lake: The River Journals of Robert Sund, written 35 years ago Friday:

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