Hello friends. We have the spring releases from Force Majeure today. Already difficult to source in any meaningful quantity, they’ve only become more difficult in the year following Jeb Dunnuck’s first set of reviews for Wine Advocate, where he wrote the following intro:
“Focusing on site specific fruit (Red Mountain) and utilizing a variety of top winemakers who each make a specific style of wine, Force Majeure (formerly Grand Reve) is the brain child of entrepreneur Paul McBride and vineyard manager Ryan Johnson. I’ve raved about this producer in the past, and I continue to do so here. If anyone doubts that great wine is made in the vineyard, I urge you to taste through this lineup as the quality of the fruit shows in each wine, regardless of the winemaker. While this estate pulls heavily from the Ciel du Cheval vineyard, their estate Force Majeure Vineyard, which is located at the very top of Red Mountain on very steep slopes (I had car “issues” trying to get up them during my first visit in 2010) is just now coming on line and is already showing ample promise. I’ve put these wines in numerous blind tastings with the best wines in the world and they always hold their own. Don’t miss them.”
For the longer origin story of this outstanding winery, check out our inaugural offering. Now let’s dig into the wines:
2010 Force Majeure Collaboration Series IV (BDX Blend)
Series IV is made by Carolyn Lakewold of Donedei, and it is a right-bank Bordeaux blend, made entirely from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard fruit (location here). What makes this Series special is the Merlot. It’s from the 1982 block at Ciel, among the oldest vines on Red Mountain, and it forms the spine of this wine (75%). The remainder is Cabernet Sauvignon (13%), Cabernet Franc (10%), and Petit Verdot (2%). They only produced 200 cases in 2010, and for me, this is a hidden gem of the lineup. It seems to fly under the radar a bit, perhaps because Merlot is not as sexy as some of the other bottlings (Cab! Syrah!), but this is the fifth vintage of Collab Series IV, and it has proven extremely consistent in its purity, elegance, and finesse.
It is also the most insistently earthy/old-world of the lineup, especially in a cool year like 2010 (13.8% listed alc). There’s a real wildness at the heart of this bottle, a mildly rustic character that holds deep appeal for me. The mix of plum and fig, soil and gravelly mineral is terrific, and seems to me a dead ringer for some quality right-bank Bordeaux. With chew, intensity, and length, this is one beautiful monster.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”
2011 Force Majeure Collaboration Series II (Syrah)
Series II is made by Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew Winery, and it is an homage to Cote Rotie, with 96% Ciel du Cheval Syrah cofermented with 2% Ciel Viognier and 2% Ciel Roussanne. Total production is just 180 cases, and it has been a couple years since we’ve had a chance to offer this Collaboration Series. I’m thrilled that it’s back. The nose is a swirling stew of marionberry fruit and meaty demi-glace, lifted by peppercorn and floral topnotes. In the mouth, the balance of fruit and earth is pinpoint, and this one is notable for the brambly character of the fruit and the elegance of the mouthfeel. Ross’ Syrahs with Boushey Vineyard fruit are legendary, and it’s always a thrill seeing him work with another stalwart vineyard like Ciel.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “(Barrel Sample); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. (93-95pts).”
2011 Force Majeure Collaboration Series VI (Rhone Blend)
Series VI is made by James Mantone of Syncline, and it is a Mourvedre-dominant (47%) Rhone blend, rounded out with 42% Syrah and 11% Grenache. This comes mostly from Ciel, but it also includes some of the Force Majeure Estate Mourvedre from the famous vineyard caper of 2010. 280 cases produced, and listed alc is 14.7%.
Fermented in concrete and then aged in large puncheons, this begins with a nose of black raspberry, hot rock minerality, and lovely underbrush. The palate displays serious Mourvedre character, which means sauvage personality, roasted game notes, citrus pith bitters. You can’t escape the Red Mountain minerality, either, and the entire package hangs together beautifully, all elegance and class, its structure more from juicy acidity than overt tannic heft. The quality of the fruit is undeniable here.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “(Barrel Sample); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. (94-96+pts).”
2011 Force Majeure Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from Force Majeure’s estate vineyard at the top of Red Mountain (location here). I walked (stumbled is more like it) this site with Ryan Johnson way back in April 2010, and it’s a wild place, which makes it all the more thrilling to finally taste wines coming off this site. Here Chris Gorman did the honors of the winemaking (200 cases produced), and it certainly has his stamp: 15.3% listed alcohol and 100% new French oak, all Taransaud. The nose is extremely expressive and downright pretty, offering pure cassis and violet notes complemented by minty topnotes and subtle woodsmoke and cedar and espresso. The palate displays outstanding energy, especially at this level of ripeness, the flavors of fruit and rock positively humming across the palate. It’s really polished stuff, the tannins wonderfully fine-grained, and if it were a cult Napa Cab, it would probably cost $200.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “(Barrel Sample); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. (93-95+pts).”
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.