Two from Va Piano Bruno’s Series

Hello friends. I remember when Va Piano’s Bruno’s Blend was a single, non-vintage bottling, an oddball blend released each year that was as quirky as it was accessible. In the past few years, Justin Wylie has taken the label to a new level. Now Bruno’s represents a series of single-vintage, single-varietal wines, and this extension of the line has made it one of the stronger value labels coming out of the Walla Walla Valley, a destination for lovely juice that doesn’t quite fit in the upper-echelon Va Piano lineup.

Today we’re able to offer small discounts on both a white and a red from the Bruno’s line:

2012 Va Piano Bruno’s Sauvignon Blanc

Each release of Bruno’s Blend is adorned with a painting by a man named Bruno Segatta (here’s what the Sauv Blanc bottle looks like), a one-man philanthropic whirlwind who travels the world selling his paintings to support a number of charitable causes. As a student at Gonzaga University, Justin met Bruno, who at that time ran the university’s Italian exchange program, and he now supports Bruno’s work by donating a portion of the proceeds generated by the blend.

Normally an $18 bottle, this comes mostly from Roza Hills Vineyard, an underappreciated old vines site in the Rattlesnake Hills of the Yakima Valley. There are a handful of vineyards scattered around Washington where most/all of the fruit is under long-term contract to large entities. As the contracts expire, boutique wineries can swoop in, ask for fruit cropped at lower yields, and express site terroir more forcefully. For example, that’s what has been happening with Red Willow these past few years after its long-term relationship with Columbia Winery. Roza Hills was planted in 1981. ’81! This is a 30+ year old vineyard (methuselaic by Washington standards), but because most of its fruit has gone to Silver Lake for years, nobody has heard of it.

Anyway, that’s a long digression for a $15 Sauvignon Blanc, but the fact remains: winemakers with their thumbs on the pulse of these hidden old vines can offer some pretty cool bottles, and this is one of them. Clocking in at 13.4% alc even in the warmer 2012 vintage, it offers a nose that mixes stone fruit (peach, nectarine) with Sauvignon’s signature grapefruit chord. The palate sees that fruit carried on a zingy-acid frame, interlaced with nice chalky mineral notes. The stone fruit palate reminded me more of an unoaked Chardonnay than a grassy Sauvignon Blanc, but if it’s not the most typical SB in the world, it makes up for it in its overt deliciousness. A fine early candidate for the Thanksgiving table.

2011 Va Piano Bruno’s Cabernet Sauvignon

We haven’t offered many sub-$20 Cabernets (note: this started as a $23 bottle) from the 2011 vintage in Washington, and that’s no accident. The category is a total minefield. Cabernet is a late ripener, requiring plenty of heat, and 2011 was anything but a warm vintage. Cabs from cooler sites, or from vineyards that tried to keep a sizeable crop: yikes. Let’s just say that I prefer to eat my bell peppers. And asparagus. And green beans.

Catch my drift? Now don’t get me wrong. Anyone who is serious about Cabernet knows that a certain green character is part of its charm, a grace note. But when it moves from understudy to leading role, we have a problem, and that has been true for many a 2011 bottle (here’s the painting for this one).

But not this one! Here the aromas offer a clear minty/eucalyptus topnote above the blackcurrants and violets, but it never ventures into vegetal territory. The palate combines floral-dusted dark cassis fruit, earthy soil, and high-cacao chocolate on a frame whose depth and intensity belie the price point. The finish is all rustic Cabernet tannin, lovely in its green-tea chewiness.

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.

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