2 from Bunchgrass

Hello friends. It’s Bunchgrass day! Which means our offering begins with a Robert Sund poem:

“Friends Make Us Fuller”
Friends make us fuller.
When friends leave, their light stays behind.
It is like the blue sea
that supports the white breakers
that come and go.

No matter how far I go,
I long to return and be with friends.
It is never the same fire I left,
but beneath it are the ashes
of all our meetings that have gone before.
Robert Sund

The history, for list newbies: Roger Cockerline helped to establish a grape-grower’s society in Walla Walla in the 1980s and then founded Bunchgrass as the eleventh winery in the Walla Walla Valley. Roger’s fruit is present in some of the early Leonetti bottles, helped perhaps by the fact that Chris Figgins was a student in Roger’s 8th Grade Social Studies Course (no pigeonholing in the WWV; Roger was a farmer *and* a teacher).

Roger named the winery after Bunch Grass, a book of poetry by his friend, the northwest poet Robert Sund (1929-2001). Learning about the origin of the winery name led me to Sund’s poetry, which has been one of my happiest accidents associated with Full Pull, and now, whenever we offer Bunchgrass wines, we include a Sund poem. I’d like to thank the board of the Robert Sund Poet’s House Trust (holders of copyrights to Sund’s work) for permission to share his poetry with our list members. For more information on the life and work of Robert Sund, and to order books, please visit the Trust’s web site.

Bunchgrass was never the splashiest winery in the valley, but it was well-loved by its dedicated followers. So well-loved, in fact, that when Roger Cockerline started moving towards retirement, he was approached by several people interested in keeping the winery alive. One of those people was Tom Olander, who had served as the lead wine buyer for Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant (a Walla Walla institution) and had been a great admirer of Bunchgrass wines over the years. Tom has been making Bunchgrass wines since the 2009 vintage, and the releases have been an unbroken series of beauties.

Despite the long history in the valley, these remain insider gems, well-priced, and as delicious as they are difficult to source west of the mountains. In other words, perfect for the Full Pull model.

2011 Bunchgrass Triolet

The first thing to note about this vintage of Triolet is its tiny production: just 103 cases. Always a fine value, I expect this to move quickly with such a small amount produced. As usual, it’s about a two-thirds, one-third blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with a splash of Petit Verdot. Main vineyard sources are Windrow (the oldest commercial Cabernet Sauvignon in the Walla Walla Valley), Dwelley (a terrific site in the Blue Mountain foothills), and Frazier Bluff.

Despite its smaller proportion, the Cabernet Franc is prominent on the nose, adding lovely tea-leafy subtleties and earthy soil notes to a core of redcurrant and red plum fruit. The palate has deep earth tones shaded by plush fruit. The generosity of that fruit belies the cool 2011 vintage, as does the 14.4% listed alc. I love how this picks up steam across the mid-palate and rolls into a long, espresso-laden finish. And I especially love the insistent earthy character on the nose and the palate. As usual, this is classy juice indeed for the tariff.

2011 Bunchgrass Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley

If Triolet is small production, this is microscopic. Just 66 cases produced, and 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from a trio of wonderful valley Cab sites: Windrow, Dwelley, and Yellow Bird (that last one has been the source of many a well-loved bottle from Tulpen Cellars).

It clocks in at 14.3% listed alc and offers a lovely Cabernet nose: blackcurrant fruit, smoky chile pepper, bay leaf, and coffee bean. It really ticks all the aroma boxes. The palate is tightly wound, exhibiting impressive depth with not a shred of excess weight. The mix of fruit and earth elements is outstanding, and there are some exotic characteristics to the palate (dust, eucalyptus) that I found deeply compelling. A marvelous Walla Walla Valley Cabernet.

Please limit order requests to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. 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.

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