Hello friends. The lineup of K Syrahs is vast, deep, and difficult to access. Today we have the gateway drug to that lineup:
The “Milbrandt” bottling is the traditional gateway. Typically priced at $30 or lower, it is a way to introduce tasters to the broader lineup of Syrahs produced by Charles Smith and Andrew Latta. I have always found it to be a fine value.
However… There’s Milbrandt, and then there’s Milbrandt. K uses that label to cover the entire range of vineyards that Butch and Jerry Milbrandt farm. As you can see from their map, the Milbrandt brothers have vineyards dotted all over the Wahluke Slope. So when Charles puts the “Milbrandt” label on a bottle of Syrah, we know which solar system we’re in, but not which planet.
Therefore, whenever we write about or taste this bottling, I make it a point to do my research, and figure out exactly which vineyards we’re dealing with. And for the 2011, that research yielded splendid results.
In 2011, the Milbrandt bottling comes from Sundance and Northridge Vineyards. Sundance is a 1997-planted north-facing vineyard, and like most of the Milbrandt sites on the Wahluke Slope, its geology is all about the Missoula Floods. It is sandy loam over, well, more sand. Northridge is something else entirely, a rare site on the Wahluke Slope above the Missoula floodline, at elevations of 1100 ft; a vineyard that sits on a thin layer of ancient soils above a base of caliche and basalt.
Some more data points: K bottles each of these two vineyards on their own, as single-vineyard bottlings. Sundance is called “The Deal,” and Northridge “The Hidden.” Jeb Dunnuck tasted the 2011 vintage of both in barrel (but not, apparently, the Milbrandt bottling), and ranged out his reviews as (93-95) for The Deal and (94-97) for The Hidden. So we know the components of the blend are strong.
And that jibes with my tasting. This begins with a lovely nose, a core of blueberry and boysenberry fruit lifted by violets and white flowers, and complicated by subtle umami seaweed notes. The palate has a brightness that immediately identifies it as coming from the cooler 2011 vintage, and then a rich plumpness to the mid-palate that belies the same vintage. It’s an attractive combination, a terrific frame to carry the flavors of ripe plummy fruit and savory bacon fat and olive. I’m sure in 2012 and 2013 (warmer years) we’ll be back to the voluptuous fruit that is the hallmark of the K house style, but in the meantime, it’s a real treat to taste that style applied to a cooler vintage.
First come first served up to 24 bottles, and 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.