Two from Efeste

Hello friends. Big changes have been afoot at Efeste. Beginning with the 2012 vintage, Peter Devison took over winemaking duties from Brennon Leighton, who was hired by Charles Smith for a Chardonnay project (for more details, see Sean Sullivan’s piece from December).

But before we get to evaluate Peter’s work, and whether the Efeste style will remain consistent, we can sit back and enjoy Brennon’s final two vintages at this winery where he burnished his reputation.

2010 Efeste Cabernet Sauvignon “Big Papa”

Big Papa is 100% Cabernet, and it’s where Brennon blends the best old-vine blocks that he works with. The average vine age is between 30 and 35 years, from Red Mountain (Klipsun and Kiona) and Sagemoor properties (Sagemoor and Bacchus). It sees 80% new French oak, contributing notes of woodsmoke to a lovely nose of dark fruit (blackberry, blackcurrant), fresh herb (bay leaf, rosemary), and green tea. The palate is truly succulent; clearly Brennon had no trouble getting ripeness in the cooler 2010 vintage. An attack of mint-tinged blackberry fruit gives way to a plump mid-palate, and then the powerful tannins take over, carrying the finish in a wash of black- and green-tea chew.

This is the most massive wine in the Efeste lineup, and typically takes years to fully unfurl. No reviews yet for the 2010, but the previous three vintages have received strong reviews (93pt and 94pt) from a number of critics.

2011 Efeste Chardonnay “Lola” Evergreen Vineyard

We’ve had a lot of trouble sourcing this in previous vintages. For years, it was a winery-only wine that would occasionally show up on restaurant lists, but not really at retail, so I’m pleased that we have access to a large enough parcel this year for a proper offering.

One thing that Brennon did well at Efeste was identify the importance of Evergreen Vineyard early on. Located here, in the newly-designated Ancient Lakes AVA, this is among the most important vineyard sites for white wines in Washington. I made the pilgrimage a few years ago, and it’s an incredible spot; essentially an uplifted bed of caliche rolling down to a series of pocket lakes. No vineyard in Washington is better at imparting insistent minerality to white wines. It happens in Evergreen Riesling, Evergreen Sauvignon Blanc, and yes, Evergreen Chardonnay.

Lola is 100% Evergreen Chardonnay, and has been a little culty/hard-to-source since Paul Gregutt’s glowing 96pt review of the 2009 vintage. This 2011 clocks in at 13.4% alc and presents a lovely, complex nose of pineapple, peach, wet-stone minerality, and leesy oatmeal. The palate is an intense, palate-coating mix of pineapple, lemon curd, and chalky minerals. The fruit is clearly new-world, but that kiss of minerality is an attractively old-world nuance.

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

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive at the warehouse in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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