Hello friends. When I was driving around the southern half of the Walla Walla Valley last week – the Oregon side, the rocks side – I saw crate after crate of apple box with “Brown” stamped on them in bold black letters. It was a good reminder that the Browns are the most important family in the Walla Walla Valley you’ve probably never heard of.
The family has been farming in the rocks since the 1970s, but it wasn’t until 2001 that they began converting some of their orchard land into wine. They’re still an apple family, with about a 10:1 ratio of orchard to vineyard, but above all else, perhaps, they’re becoming a fermentation family. They make a boatload of terrific hard cider under the Blue Mountain label. For wine, they use the Watermill label, and that will be the focus of today’s offering. We have modest discounts on two well-reviewed, well-aged wines; fine examples of the developing house style.
2011 Watermill Viognier
This comes from a newer vineyard for the family called XL, and it produced a mere 53 cases in 2011. A cool vintage like 2011 is great for a variety like Viognier that can err on the side of plumpness and richness. Here it’s a well-balanced, intense mouthful of orange creamsicle and peach fruit, with lovely spice (crushed ginger, nutmeg) and mineral nuance. The richness of the fruit is complemented by refreshing cool-vintage acidity.
Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($16); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”
2008 Watermill Syrah
Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($24); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”
This comes entirely from the rocks; mostly from Watermill Estate Vineyard (location here, across the street from the Cayuse production studio), with some fruit from Stone Valley Vineyard as well. Production was a meager 162 cases, and at five years past vintage, this is in a lovely spot for drinking. It starts with a beautiful nose, meshing bright blueberry fruit with white flowers, earthy notes, and cocoa powder. The palate is a swirling mass of berry fruit, beef stock, and chocolatey barrel notes. All the edges have been sanded down by bottle age; this positively glides across the palate.
First come first served up to 12 bottles of each wine, and the wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.