Hello friends. The theme tying today’s two reoffer wines together is “Pleasant Surprise” if you’re a wine-glass-half-full kind of person, or “Paul Got It Wrong” if you’re not.
Basically, these are two wines that I thought – and may have (incorrectly) stated – would be one and done offers. And each of them has been “sold out” in the Seattle market for months. But parcels of both have recently appeared, for different reasons (explanations below). And if the drawback of me looking a bit foolish comes with the benefit of having reorder access to two hugely popular wines among our list members, well that’s a bargain I’ll take every day.
We offered the wine on May 5. This one was already popular from the previous 2010 vintage as a baby Chateauneuf-du-Pape for $19.99. And then the winery dropped the price further, such that our TPU for the 2011 was $14.99. Yikes.I set max order requests at 12 bottles, which was way too high. I believe our max allocations ended up being 5 bottles per list member, and I’m counting a dozen folks who ordered too late and got zeroed out completely. We grabbed every. single. bottle available in Seattle, and it still left lots of our members well short.
WHY IT’S BACK
This one is pretty simple. Our importer partner asked for more after we wolfed down their entire stash, but wine doesn’t magically appear in Seattle directly from the Rhone Valley. Picture consolidators, export agents, pallets, containers, trucks, probably a big MAERSK container ship, maybe a train or two. You get the idea. All that adds up, and we go from May 5 into mid-August. I had heard rumors that more of this would be landing in Seattle, but until I heard for sure that the vintage was the same and that we could offer the same tariff, I held off. Now the wine is here, confirmed, ready to go, and I doubt anyone else in town has had a sniff of it. Shall we pounce on the whole stash of this psycho-value again?
WHY OUR LIST LOVES IT
One of the most recently added villages to the eighteen allowed in Cotes-du-Rhone Villages is Massif d’Uchaux, and it’s also one of the most compelling. Why? Because it’s as close a named village as we have to Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Renjarde has its roots in Chataeuneuf. It is owned by the Richard family, proprietors of the outstanding Chateauneuf producer Chateau La Nerthe, as well as Prieure de Montezargues in Tavel. The vineyard is more than 40 years old, majority Grenache rounded out with Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Carignan. In 2011, the blend is 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, and 5% each Mourvedre and Carignan, and it was fermented and aged in a combination of concrete and stainless steel, so there’s no oak influence here whatsoever.
The wine is a great ringer to slip into a Cheateauneuf du Pape tasting. It has the wonderful Provencal scent: the brushy garrigue, the floral lavender and cherry blossom, the resinous mint, all framing a core of pure black raspberry and rocky mineral. What I especially like about this is that it’s a ringer not for modern (over-rich, over-alc’d) CdP, but for classic CdP. Alcohol is right around 14%, and the whole package is balanced, classy, with a great cooling mineral tone to balance Grenache’s fleshy fruit. There’s sneaky back-end chew, loads of complexity, and terrific palate-weight. “Ultra impressive” says my note, and at sub-$15, it’s a house wine candidate.
The list of red wines that ended up receiving stronger reviews from Wine Spectator in 2013 is a short one. It starts and ends with Cayuse/No Girls, Reynvaan, K Vintners/Charles Smith, and Quilceda Creek. Of those wines, a grand total of zero are available on the open market, and pricing runs from $55 to $140.
WHY IT’S BACK
This one is a little hazier. Bunnell recently changed their wholesaler here in Seattle, and sometimes when that happens, wine mysteriously appears. Often the winery will pull some wine back from another state to help jumpstart their new relationship. I don’t know if that’s the case here. Rather than ask too many questions about the wine’s origins, I was busy asking if we could have all of it. We did take the entire remaining parcel, but it’s not a very big one unfortunately.
WHY OUR LIST LOVES IT
Ron Bunnell was with Ste Michelle from 1992 to 2004, and left as the Head Red Winemaker. He launched Bunnell Family Cellar to focus squarely on Rhone varietals, which he does exceedingly well. Syrah really is Washington’s answer to Pinot Noir, in terms of its ability to express a sense of place. And the Horse Heaven Hills are a bit underexplored via Syrah. This is a terrific introduction to the region, via Discovery and Andrews-Rowell Vineyards.
We start off with a gorgeous aromatic medley of mixed berry fruit, coffee bean, and a graphitic minerality that I more commonly associate with Cabernet from this AVA. The mouthfeel is exquisite. It seems to be the first aspect that Harvey noticed (“supple, silky, and succulent”), and it was the same for me. This is confident, polished winemaking, and it shows in the texture. The flavors start with a core of layered berry flavor – blackberry, blueberry, marionberry – interlaced with espresso and cooling streaks of pencil-lead mineral. It rolls seamlessly across the palate, plump on the attack and in the mid-, rolling into an energetic, long finish. I’ve said frequently that Washington Syrahs hit their sweet spot five to six years past vintage. This is another piece of evidence for that argument. With all rough edges sanded away by bottle age, this is a balanced, compelling delight of a wine.
Please limit order requests to 24 Renjarde and 6 Bunnell, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. Both 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.