2011 Maison Bleue “Jaja Red” (Rhone Blend)

Hello friends. Today we have what is surely one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of the year among our list members: the first red of a new vintage from Maison Bleue:

This Jaja, however, is no ordinary Jaja. It would more properly be called “Super Jaja.” Or even better: “Baby Graviere.”

The big news to share with this offering is that there will be no Graviere in 2011. Here’s winemaker Jon Meuret: “[Jaja] contains all of the declassified fruit that is usually destined for the highly touted Graviere… Some say that I could have left it separated; I wasn’t comfortable with that decision. You will find some similarities when comparing the 2011 Jaja with past vintages of Graviere, but I will let you be the judge.”

This news is in turns disappointing/admirable/exciting.

Disappointing because there were many huge fans of the 2010, both among our list members and among the critics (96pts Paul Gregutt [Wine Enthusiast], 95pts Jeb Dunnuck [The Rhone Report], #7 on Sean Sullivan’s Seattle Met Magazine list, 20/20pts Rand Sealey [Review of Washington Wines]).

Admirable because Jon easily could have left the lots separated and pocketed the higher price point that the Graviere commands. It’s never an easy decision for a winery to forego cash flow, but Jon is building for the long term here, and the mantra is quality quality quality.

And exciting because, without question, this drinks more like previous vintages of Graviere than like previous vintages of Jaja and immediately enters the conversation for one of the top values of the year from Washington.

Along with fruit from Graviere’s source (Upland Vineyard), this also contains Boushey, Olsen, and Arthur’s Vineyard fruit. It’s 43% Syrah, 35% Mourvedre, and 22% Grenache, all raised in older (three-to-five year old) barrels. I suspect it will be reviewed more like previous vintages of Graviere than like previous vintages of Jaja, as well, and on that note, Sean Sullivan has been kind enough to share with our list members his pre-publication review (it will appear in a future Washington Wine Report post), which contains his highest rating:

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: ***** (Exceptional).”

I just went back and checked our records, and the last time we offered a new-release red wine from Maison Bleue was all the way back on August 13, 2012. It has been awhile since Jon Meuret’s last release of a new red wine, and in the interim, the buzz has only continued to build for what may be the hottest winery in Washington right now. What has been especially impressive about Maison Bleue is the speed with which Jon has developed a house style – Rhone-focused, vineyard-focused, transparent, expressive – during a string of vintages that have run the gamut of conditions.

This 2011 Jaja starts with a nose that sings out notes of freshness, all crushed rock and a bowlful of mixed berries, overlain with minty topnotes. It smells extremely appetizing; you just want to get this wine into your mouth. And when you do, you get all the purity and freshness and youthful berry vibrancy we’ve come to expect from Jaja, but this time with extra depth and layering, complexities of mineral and meat and brine that cement this wine’s title as Baby Graviere.

We’re getting in nice and early on this, in hopes of allowing folks to taste in plenty of time to facilitate reorders. I expect Sean’s review above will be the first of a string of accolades, but we’re still in the calm before the storm, so for now, it’s first come first served up to 36 bottles, and the wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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