Hello friends. It remains one of my great professional thrills to get to work with the wines of Betz Family Winery. I’ll repeat what I’ve said before: Bob Betz’s face would doubtless be chiseled on a Mt. Rushmore of Washington winemakers. He is the only Master of Wine making wine in Washington, having achieved that honor back in 1998. After a 28-year career at Chateau Ste Michelle he launched his eponymous winery in 1997, crushing 150 cases worth of wine in the Woodinville warehouse district.
Since then, production has grown to 3500 cases total, but acclaim has grown more quickly than that, forcing the family to close their mailing list in 2008 and establishing them as one of Washington’s cult wineries. The winery is open to its list members on just two weekends each year: once in the fall, for the release of its Rhone portfolio, and once in the spring, for the release of these Bordeaux-styled wines.
The 2011s are lovely, and the cooler vintage means lower yields and more competitive allocations. [As a reminder, our allocation scheme favors breadth over depth, so that everyone gets one bottle before anyone gets two. And our formula for prioritizing allocations includes overall orders, frequency of orders, recency of orders, and list tenure, among other factors.]
Let’s jump into the wines:
2011 Betz Family Winery “Clos de Betz” (BDX Blend)
Clos de Betz is a blend of 67% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot, about a third each Red Mountain AVA, Red Willow Vineyard, and Alder Ridge Vineyard. The barrel regimen is 100% French oak, two-thirds new and one-third once-used. In my experience, Clos is a glorious wine, at its best 8-12 years past vintage, and an exemplar of the power and grace of Washington Merlot.
Here is what Bob Betz had to say about this vintage of Clos, first via video, and here via text: “Our first Merlot grapes ripened nearly two weeks later than average this vintage, and the longer hang time benefited Merlot’s intrinsic rich fruitiness. As the traditional foundation of Clos de Betz (67% this bottling), Merlot always provides its substance and texture, and with the additional hang time, these are highlighted in 2011. The delayed ripening led to a supple mouthfeel, characterful aromas and fine depth of flavor. Ripe black cherry, mocha and wood spice are the hallmarks of this wine and are reflected in the wine.
“The additional dimension of this vintage is its ageability. It reminds us of the Clos de Betz from 1999, another cool vintage, which at 12 years old is drinking beautifully. Both the 1999 and 2011 are reminiscent of a well-crafted, top flight St. Emilion. This 2011, with the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, certainly has the vitality and structure to go the distance. During future cellaring, look for emerging aromas of cherry, dark plum and cocoa powder, while the palate softens to a harmonious, creamy texture.”
Tanzer is the only critic to review these so far. Recall that a 93pt score from the point-reticent Tanzer is a strong review indeed:
International Wine Cellar (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”
2011 Betz Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon “Pere de Famille”
Pere is always Cabernet dominant, this year at 88% of the blend, the remainder Merlot and Petit Verdot. The big three vineyards of Red Mountain (Ciel, Klipsun, Kiona) dominate the fruit sources, representing 69% of the blend (and again, the remainder is Red Willow and Alder Ridge). The barrel regimen is exactly the same as the Clos, and my experience with Pere is that it is one of Washington’s most ageworthy wines, emerging from its shell at about a decade past vintage and drinking beautifully for years after that. This is only the second time we’ve been lucky enough to offer this wine.
Here is what Bob Betz had to say about this vintage of Pere, first via video, and here via text: “Talk about hang time: we harvested 100% of our Cabernet Sauvignon this vintage after October 10, most of it in the final days of the month. This is a record for us and reflects the cool start to the season. Those lazy days of slow ripening led to an intensity of flavor and completeness of Cabernet’s penetrating character. It retains the vitality of a cooler vintage, but with the black currant, plum and black cherry of fully developed Cabernet. Part of that is due to the highest concentration yet of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Pere de Famille, 88%. Merlot and Petit Verdot play minor roles, so this wine is unapologetically Cabernet.
“The essential Cabernet fruit is enhanced by floral, rocky notes, dried thyme and anise, spice box, and vanilla oak aromas. It’s sturdy wine, tenacious and promising of long cellar potential, but opens with creamy integration to an elegant, long finish.”
International Wine Cellar (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94(+?)pts.”
As expected, our allocations are quite limited on both wines. Please limit order requests to 4 bottles of each, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests (I wouldn’t be surprised if allocations end up closer to 1-2 bottles). 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.