Hello friends. New vintages today of two wines from a list-favorite winery: Bunchgrass.
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:
Spring Poem in the Skagit Valley
— Robert Sund
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.
And now, onto today’s wines:
2010 Bunchgrass Triolet Walla Walla Valley
The 2009 vintage was the first where Tom Olander took over production duties, and it formed an impressive set of releases. These 2010s confirm that initial promise. It’s one thing to succeed in one vintage; something else entirely to prove your mettle two vintages in a row, especially two vintages as different as 2009 (warm, fleshy) and 2010 (cool, cooler).
Triolet is nearly a single vineyard wine, with all of the Cabernet Sauvignon (68%) and Cabernet Franc (28%) coming from Dwelley Vineyard, an under-the-radar site planted in 1999 in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. The remainder (4% Petit Verdot) comes from Frazier Bluff. It’s thrilling to explore these lesser-known corners of the Walla Walla Valley. Finding what is essentially a single-vineyard BDX blend from the WWV, at this tariff, is extremely rare.
It’s the Cabernet Franc that comes through on the nose, despite its relatively smaller percentage, a zesty/brambly riot of raspberry fruit and poblano pepper and soil. This is texturally gorgeous, its silky/creamy mid-palate the star of the show. The fruit and earth components glide across the palate on a pillow. As it always is, Triolet is a graceful bottle. Classy winemaking, classy juice at this tariff.
2010 Bunchgrass Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
If Triolet (175 cases) is small production, this is micro-production. Just 72 cases produced, and all Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% from Windrow Vineyard, the oldest commercial Cabernet site in the Walla Walla Valley (location here).
This piece of terroir is just outstanding for Cabernet. We’ve seen it in Tero Estate bottlings, and we see it here. The nose offers so many of the elements that make Cabernet special: lovely crème de cassis fruit, savory beetroot and olive, earthy graphitic mineral, minty topnotes, coffee barrel notes. It’s complex, and all elements are finely-tuned, in exquisite balance. In the mouth, this is again precise in its textural mastery, but because it’s all Cabernet, there is considerably more back-end chew, as we’d expect. The depth of character from those old vines shines through brilliantly in the cooler 2010 vintage. This is a Cab I’d expect to age gracefully for many years. It’s a singular Cabernet bottling from Washington, and no surprise it’s developed such a strong following among our list members.
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.