Hello friends. This autumn has been an embarrassment of riches for those of us who love Washington Syrahs. The quality level has never been higher. I’m just tasting bottle after bottle of exceptional juice. I still hear through the grapevine (heh heh) that Syrah is a soft category for some restaurant/retail accounts, but it isn’t for our list members. As long as we keep tasting remarkable bottles, we’ll keep writing about them and offering them. Here’s the latest:
Bunchgrass has been around in the Walla Walla Valley forever, but their wines remain insider gems, quite difficult to source west of the mountains. A trip to that winery (in Walla Walla; open Saturdays from April-December) is well worth the effort, as this is a producer steeped in valley lore, and one whose current owners are as friendly as their wines are good.
The history: Roger Cockerline helped to establish a grape-grower’s society in Walla Walla in the 1980s and then founded Bunchgrass as the eleventh winery in the Walla Walla Valley. Roger’s fruit is present in some of the early Leonetti bottles, helped perhaps by the fact that Chris Figgins was a student in Roger’s 8th Grade Social Studies Course (no pigeonholing in the WWV; Roger was a farmer *and* a teacher).
Roger named the winery after Bunch Grass, a book of poetry by his friend, the northwest poet Robert Sund (1929-2001). Learning about the origin of the winery name led me to Sund’s poetry, which has been one of my happiest accidents associated with Full Pull, and now, whenever we offer Bunchgrass wines, we include a Sund poem.
I’d like to thank the board of the Robert Sund Poet’s House Trust (holders of copyrights to Sund’s work) for permission to share his poetry with our list members. For more information on the life and work of Robert Sund, and to order books, please visit the Trust’s web site.
A Thousand Windows
– Robert Sund
Bunchgrass’ Syrah portfolio has become extremely popular with our list members, most recently via their outstanding 2007 Lewis Vineyard Syrah, which we offered in January and June of this year. The flavor profiles of that Lewis Syrah and this Walla Walla Syrah (which comes entirely from Morrison Lane Vineyard) couldn’t be more different, but what they share is tremendous quality for the price point, a chance to grab terroir-expressive single-vineyard Syrahs at accessible tags.
Morrison Lane is the oldest commercial Syrah vineyard in the WWV, planted in 1994 by Dean and Verdie Morrison on a soil base of cobbles and deep silt/sand loam (right next door is Forgotten Hills Vineyard, another popular site with our list members). It’s a relative rarity, as there are only a few single-vineyard bottlings from Morrison Lane. Walla Walla Vintners sometimes has one, and K Vintners has consistently made a blockbuster version as well (a bit pricier than this, however). Bunchgrass only got enough fruit in 2009 to make two barrels (48 cases), so this is quite limited.
I’m wild about the nose, which is like the best bloody mary you’ve ever smelled: green olive, tomato paste, juniper, bacon fat. It’s just the right kind of funky, an evocative shape-shifter that seemed to yield different descriptors each time I stuck my nose in the glass. Sometimes floral, sometimes dark soil and asphalt, sometimes blueberry and boysenberry fruit. Always compelling. And the texture management – part of that Lewis Syrah’s deep appeal, I think – is alive and well here. This is supple, silky, palate-staining, with all the ripe deliciousness of 2009. At just about five years past vintage, it’s entering the early phases of a wonderful drinking period. A glorious expression of a special Syrah site in the Walla Walla Valley.
Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. 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.