2008 RiverAerie Syrah

Hello friends. Today’s offer will be the last time we’re able to feature a wine from Ron Bunnell’s RiverAerie line, as I’m hearing that the label is being discontinued. I find myself unexpectedly sad writing that line. There’s really no reason to be blue, I suppose; we’ll continue to have access to Ron’s wines through the Bunnell Family Cellar label, and we can always visit the excellent family restaurant in Prosser (Wine O’Clock).

And yet: a note of melancholy remains. I guess it’s because I grew very fond of this label over the years. Looking back, we offered our first RiverAerie wine in February 2010, when Full Pull was only four months old. This was the label where Ron used his connections with growers (formed during his many years at Ste Michelle) to locate one-off deals, frequently from single vineyards, frequently in small amounts, and always at low prices. The result was a broad (as many as a dozen wines in the portfolio at any given time), fascinating, well-priced portfolio. Tasting through the lineup always felt like a treasure hunt and it always yielded treasure.

But okay, enough maudlin moping. The label is not quite gone yet. We have one more wine to remember it by, and I grabbed the entire remaining stash in Seattle after tasting it:

These wines have never lacked for strong reviews, and that includes this one: Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “($22); Supple, seductive and beautifully defined, this plays blueberry, plum and exotic spice flavors on a well-delineated frame, with fine tannins wrapping around the extended finish. Drink now through 2018. 91pts.”

For me, what is especially compelling about this one is its age/quality/price combination. I’ve said on multiple occasions that Washington Syrahs hit their stride at 5-6 years past vintage, but sometimes it can be difficult to have the patience to cellar them for that long. No problem here. This is an immediate gratification play. Harvey put the drinking window at now (which was 2013) through 2018, and I’m inclined to agree.

Over the years, this wine has typically come from the same Milbrandt-farmed sites on the Wahluke Slope (Milbrandt, Sundance, Northridge) that comprise Syrahs with considerably higher tags (a few K Vintners labels come to mind), and I suspect this one does as well (information has been hard to come by on this wine; perhaps no surprise, since the label is disappearing).

It’s listed at 14.5% alc, and it comes from the lovely 2008 vintage, oft-overshadowed by its showier 2007 neighbor but to my way of thinking an even stronger vintage for aging. It begins with a woodsy, maturing nose, with earth and mushrooms married to blackberry fruit. That fruit character is beginning to take on the exquisite dried-fruit notes that so many of us love in our aged wines. That note repeats on the palate, and if fruit can be both rich and dried, this is it (think fig newton). There are continuing earth tones, a beautifully polished texture (bottle age certainly helps there), and this finishes long and lovely, a lingering note of espresso-bean our last memory of the RiverAerie label. Oh nostalgia.

What a delicious wine. Thanks, Ron, for all the lovely RiverAerie bottles over the years, and congrats on going out on such a high note! Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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