Full Pull Cat Herder In Chief

Hello friends. Chris Sparkman (a native of Tennessee) started Sparkman Cellars in 2004 after a long restaurant career as a sommelier, wine buyer, and general manager. In addition to growing the winery over the past decade, he also now serves as Chairman of the Washington State Wine Commission. That is no easy job. It may sound great, but the gig is effectively Cat Herder In Chief. Getting 900 Washington wineries pulling in the same direction is brutally difficult, and we’re lucky to have someone of Chris’ skills and knowledge and personality in that role.

Somehow, even with that extra gig, the Sparkman wines just keep getting better and better. I recently had the chance to taste through the extensive Sparkman Cellars lineup. The first thing that jumped out is the consistent quality that Chris Sparkman and Linn Scott are producing across a seriously broad lineup of varieties and blends. Whites, rosés, reds: delicious. I was especially delighted by the expansion of Sparkman’s Rhone portfolio, and we’re going to feature a pair of those wines today. Each of these two began as wine club wines for Sparkman and have only recently graduated to the big time.

2013 Sparkman Cellars Apparition

A blend of 55% Roussanne, 27% Marsanne, and 18% Grenache Blanc, this comes from a pair of outstanding Yakima Valley vineyards: Boushey and Olsen. It was done entirely in neutral oak, and it clocks in at 14.4%, which seems about right for the warmer 2013 vintage.

The nose has that wonderful nutty Roussanne/Marsanne quality, a mix of almonds and hazelnuts over a core of cream-soaked peaches and pears and nectarines. Rich and ripe in the mouth, it’s a polished white, gliding across the palate seamlessly with its plush mix of fruit and almond paste. It’s a palate-stainer, with a great sense of dry extract and that wonderful fruit-and-nut flavor combo that only these Rhone whites seem able to produce. This is a burgeoning category in Washington, and Sparkman’s bottling is a classy example of the type. Anyone in a Chardonnay rut should pay close attention here.

2013 Sparkman Cellars Grenache Wonderland

With Chris having made wine in Washington for more than a decade now, he has established some wonderful connections with growers, and perhaps none better than with Dick Boushey. This wine is a full 55% Boushey Vineyard, the remainder Olsen (22%), Lonesome Spring (16%), and Oasis (7%). Done mostly in neutral barrel and clocking in at 14.5% listed alc, it is a delicious Gigondas ringer, with dried cherry and brambly berry fruit, underbrush/garrigue notes, and lovely wet-stone minerality. Ripe, supple, and eminently drinkable, this one perfectly balances its fruits and rocks, its richness and soft acidity.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].”

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in the next 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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