2012 Mark Ryan BTR Cellars The Chief

Hello friends. One of the fun things we’re able to do on occasion is to gaze into our crystal ball and predict which northwest wines will end up on Wine Spectator’s year-end Top 100 list. Long-time list members know that our track record is pretty good on this front. Our most recent prediction was the 2010 Spring Valley Uriah. We offered it on November 1 of last year, and a few weeks later it landed at #27 on the 2013 list.

Today, courtesy of an advance review in last week’s Wine Spectator Insider, we have the chance to play the game again:

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Now when I look into our “crystal ball,” what I’m really doing is what any applied-math-major-turned-wine-retailer would do. A statistical analysis. Yes, that’s right. Flick me in the spectacle and call me nerd; I care not!

We have seven years of data on northwest wines that have landed on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 lists. And Spectator makes no secret of the four factors used to develop the list: quality (score); value (release price); availability (cases made or imported); and the “X-factor.” That last one is qualitative, and therefore unmeasurable, but we can gather a lot from the first three factors.

So when we look at The Chief, we see 92pts | $25 | 3000 cases. There have been two other Washington wines with that 92pts | $25 combo: 2006 Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, which landed at #33 on the 2009 list, and 2005 Amavi Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley, which landed at #42 on the 2008 list. Those had production levels of 3888 and 4910 cases, a bit higher than The Chief. But we could also look at 2004 DeLille D2 Columbia Valley, which landed at #70 on the 2007 list. That one was 92pts | $36 | 2600 cases, so The Chief is same quality, better value, better availability.

I’d say this one is close to a toss-up. Because I haven’t seen many other good Washington candidates yet this year, I’ll tip it into the positive column and put the odds at 60/40 that The Chief makes the list. If it does make the list, it will likely disappear instantly (nothing moves wine like a spot in Spectator’s Top 100). And the folks at the winery, when they brought me a sample, mentioned that their national distributors are all asking for pallets of this wine. They’re no fools, and neither are we!

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but this is yet another shining example of the quality of the 2012 vintage at reasonable price points. The Board Track Racer (BTR) label has been a great success for Mark Ryan, combining unused juice from the main label with purchased fruit when required. This particular bottle contains a good chunk of Mark Ryan juice from its younger vineyards (I know there’s some Phinny Hill juice here, as well as a newish site on Red Mountain), and it’s a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, clocking in at 14.6% listed alc. It’s a riot of Cabernet cassis and poblano tones, lifted by beautiful cherry-blossom floral notes. Intense on the attack, this palate-coating beauty rolls seamlessly across a plush mid-palate and into a grippy finish, all toothsome ripe tannins redolent of green tea. With loads of intensity and complexity for the price point, I’m not surprised Harvey Steiman was seduced, and I won’t be surprised if this ends up on Spectator’s year-end list.

First come first served up to 36 bottles, and 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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