2010 Tranche Cellars Sangiovese Estate

Hello friends. I’m crazy about Tranche Cellars. Originally intended as a sister winery to Corliss Estates that would focus on white wines, it has since evolved into a compelling exploration of the Corliss family of estate vineyards (and some carefully chosen purchased fruit) through the prisms of a number of different varieties (note: while there is overlap in the ownership of the two wineries, they are separate entities, with separate winemaking facilities).

It also seems like a place where winemakers Andrew Trio and Griffin Frey are allowed to riff a little, to be a little more experimental. If Corliss is the straight-laced older sibling (three wines released each year, like clockwork), Tranche is the exuberant youngster, and a precocious kid at that.

In my August trip to Walla Walla, the Tranche lineup was a total thrill ride, but the one drawback was that none of the wines we tasted were, at that time, released. Since then, we’ve been carefully tracking the progress of these beauties, and today we have the first of the bunch:

Let’s begin with a review:

International Wine Cellar (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

I’ve said plenty of times that we need to apply a curve to any Tanzer reviews, and this is a fine clarifying example of why that’s the case. To wit, Tanzer has only given stronger reviews to four Washington Sangioveses. Ever. And they’re named Leonetti, Leonetti, Leonetti, and Leonetti. No joke. Three 92pt scores and one 93(+?) for the 03, 07, 08, and 10 vintages of Leonetti, and that’s it. With Tanzer, it’s always better to focus on the text – which is typically eloquent and cogent in turn – than the score.

And his text for this review is glowing, as it should be, and remarkable considering this is Tranche’s first release of Sangiovese. It’s killer Sangio, and it comes entirely from Blue Mountain Vineyard, a terrific estate site in the foothills of, well, the Blue Mountains (location here). This was the old Nicholas Cole estate vineyard, source of many great bottlings under that label, and subsequently purchased when that winery sadly went out of business. Tranche has produced many wonderful wines from the site, and we can add this Sangiovese to the list. It starts with a nose of bright red cherry fruit, smoke, cocoa powder, and angostura bitters; very Sangio. The palate combines the bright acids of the cool 2010 vintage with a surprisingly silky/supple texture. This one glides across the palate with its mix of cherries and earth, rolling into a potent finish with lovely black-tea tannin chew. A strong debut indeed, immediately entering the conversation about the most compelling Sangioveses coming out of the Pac-NW.

It’s tiny production, too, at just 168 cases. We’re getting in early, but I’d say the prospects for reorders on this one are foggy. For now, please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. 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.

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