Hello friends. We’ve had some requests come in recently for Milbrandt wines after a bunch of positive press in Wine Spectator, so now seems like a good time to visit this outstanding value producer.
The core of Butch and Jerry Milbrandt’s operation is grape-growing. They dominate the Wahluke Slope and Ancient Lakes AVAs, farming at least a dozen different sites (they have great maps of their Wahluke Slope and Ancient Lakes properties), including the incomparable Evergreen Vineyard, perhaps the best site for white wines in all of Washington. They have a multitude of winery clients, but it’s probably the Charles Smith family that has put the vineyards on the map more than any other, both at the low end (Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Eve Chardonnay) and the high end (a whole series of single-vineyard Syrahs, from Sundance, Clifton, Northridge).
In addition to selling grapes (which they’ve done since the late ‘90s), the Milbrandts also make wine under their own label. In recent years, they’ve been pioneers in the burgeoning China export market, flying the Washington flag in this growing region. As you’d imagine, they have access to about as much pristine fruit as they want, and they also have a fine winemaker, Joshua Maloney, in charge of the vinification side of things. Josh has a deep and varied wine background, but most recently before the Milbrandt gig, he worked for Ste Michelle Wine Estates from 2005-2011, so he knows a thing or two about coaxing value from Washington state wine.
It has been almost three years since we’ve had a Milbrandt-themed offer, so I thought we’d hit a trio of wines, to show the breadth, depth, and quality-for-money represented by the Milbrandt family’s operation:
Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 90pts.”
Of course, when it comes to any Milbrandt wine, my interest right away is in the vineyards. This Chard is a nifty combination of cool, minerally/chalky Evergreen (37% of the blend) with two of the Milbrandts’ warmer Wahluke Slope sites (39% Purple Sage, 24% Sundance). Those warmer sites contribute lush fruit, with layers of tree fruit (honeycrisp apple, pear) and stone fruit (nectarine) balanced by the mineral-acid spine of Evergreen. Listed alc is 12.5%, and this saw 6 months aging, mostly in neutral barrel with just a kiss of new French oak, a subtlety of spice and smoke. Really all the components are balanced nicely here. Harvey called it right when he used the word “polished,” certainly rare when it comes to domestic Chard at this price point. The finish lingers, a last lick of crushed pineapple and leesy biscuit inviting the next sip.
I haven’t been as crazy about this wine in the cooler vintages. And in fact, looking back through the archives, the last time we offered this particular Milbrandt wine was the 2007 vintage (way back in January 2010), an awfully similar year stylistically to 2012.
There are dollops of Merlot and Malbec, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot in the mix here, and it comes from six of Milbrandts’ sites on the Wahluke Slope: Clifton, Clifton Bluff, Sundance, Purple Sage, Katherine Leone, and Wahluke. This clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and was raised in 20% new oak, again just a kiss of new wood. It kicks off with a complex, inviting nose of plum and coffee bean, shitake and star anise. The mouthfeel is silky and seamless, balancing notes of fruit and oak, earth and herb. The plump mid-palate rolls into a finish with fine-grained, espresso-flavored tannins offering just enough chew for an honest, approachable, beautifully-priced Cabernet from a stellar vintage.
For the first time with the 2012 vintage, the Milbrandts have released a series of single vineyard Syrahs. I know of three (Clifton Hill, Northridge, and Katherine Leone), but this is the one I’ve been seeing the most requests for, likely because it’s the lowest-priced of the three and the only one to show up in a recent Wine Spectator Insider: Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”
Here is what the winery has to say about this vineyard: [TEXT WITHHELD].
“Drinks like K” is my first note on this one, and this does indeed seem to mimic the K Vintners style. It clocks in at an unapologetic 15.5% listed alc and is a hedonist’s delight to be sure. It spent 18 months in 15% new French oak puncheons, and it offers a delicious mix of marionberry fruit, loads of savory/meaty/bacon fat notes, and cracked black pepper. Ultra intense on the palate, it’s chewy, meaty, and plenty impressive for a tariff that starts with a ‘2′.
The Cab and Chard are both first come first served up to 36 bottles. For the Syrah, please limit order requests to 6 bottles, 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.