2008 Bunnell Family Cellar Syrah Horse Heaven Hills

Hello friends. Each summer we seem to have a Sauron wine: a wine requiring the full attention of Full Pull’s great lidless eye. Last year it was Maison Bleue’s 2010 Graviere, which had a long delay between reviews and release. This year’s comes courtesy of Ron Bunnell:

First, a word on logistics, because I know this is going to be an *extremely* popular wine. We’re going to place our order on Tuesday morning, so please submit requests by end of day Monday. You’ll see that we’re keeping the upper allocation limit relatively high (12 bottles). Apologies in advance if I have to under-allocate, but I suspect we’re going to snag a decent parcel of this wine, both because of our list’s long-term support for Bunnell and RiverAerie, and because I’m not sure anyone else knows this wine is about to hit the market.

How, you ask, do we know it’s about to hit the market?

Why, the Sauron-style lidless eye of Full Pull, of course! It has been trained on the Yakima Valley for months now, awaiting word of this wine’s imminent transit. Our network of spies is vast and talented, and reliable sources tell me that Ron was waiting until after his winery release party to send the wine west. That release party was yesterday. We might be jumping the gun a little, but I’d rather be too early than too late.

The great eye first turned towards the triple-H Syrah on April 3, when Wine Spectator Insider hit my inbox with the following review: Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

The list of wines that have received stronger reviews from Wine Spectator in 2013 is a short one. It starts and ends with Cayuse/No Girls, Reynvaan, and Quilceda Creek. Of those wines, a grand total of zero are available on the open market, and pricing runs from $55 to $135. You can imagine, then, the level of interest that today’s wine will command.

I’m thrilled to see Ron Bunnell get this kind of national acclaim, although it likely vaults another list-favorite under-the-radar producer firmly into the limelight (home of more competitive allocations). Ron was with Ste Michelle from 1992 to 2004, and left as the Head Red Winemaker. He launched Bunnell Family Cellar to focus squarely on Rhone varietals, which he does exceedingly well.

Syrah really is Washington’s answer to Pinot Noir, in terms of its ability to express a sense of place. And the Horse Heaven Hills are a bit underexplored via Syrah. This is a terrific introduction to the region, via Discovery and Andrews-Rowell Vineyards. Discovery is a real up-and-coming site (located here), although most of the bottles I’ve seen have been Cabernet Sauvignon (Andrew Will’s being the most prominent, and it’s worth nothing that no less than Quilceda Creek buys fruit from this site).

We start off with a gorgeous aromatic medley of mixed berry fruit, coffee bean, and a graphitic minerality that I more commonly associate with Cabernet from this AVA. The mouthfeel is exquisite. It seems to be the first aspect that Harvey noticed (“supple, silky, and succulent”), and it was the same for me. This is confident, polished winemaking, and it shows in the texture. The flavors start with a core of layered berry flavor – blackberry, blueberry, marionberry – interlaced with espresso and cooling streaks of pencil-lead mineral. It rolls seamlessly across the palate, plump on the attack and in the mid-, rolling into an energetic, long finish. I’ve said frequently that Washington Syrahs hit their sweet spot five to six years past vintage. This is another piece of evidence for that argument. With all rough edges sanded away by bottle age, this is a balanced, compelling delight of a wine.

Now, let’s jump in and grab this beauty before anyone knows it’s here. Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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