Hello friends. Autumn release season is my favorite time of the year for Washington wine. Many wineries save the biggest of their big guns for this time, and it’s all we can do to keep our heads above water and field compelling offer after compelling offer from some of the finest wineries in the state.
And speaking of the finest wineries in the state, let’s kick things off with a doozy: an extremely limited set of Rhone releases from Betz Family Winery. The less said the better, given our quantities, so I’ll repeat what I have said before: Bob Betz’s face would doubtless be chiseled on a Mt. Rushmore of Washington winemakers. He is the only Master of Wine making wine in Washington, having achieved that honor back in 1998. After a 28-year career at Chateau Ste Michelle he launched his eponymous winery in 1997, crushing 150 cases worth of wine in the Woodinville warehouse district.
Since then, production has grown to 3500 cases total, but acclaim has grown more quickly than that, forcing the family to close their mailing list in 2008 and establishing them as one of Washington’s cult wineries. Steve and Bridgit Griessel came on board as managing owners in 2011, and the winery is open to its list members on just two weekends each year: once in the spring, for the release of its Bordeaux portfolio, and once in the fall, for the release of these Rhone-styled wines.
Bob’s ode to Chateauneuf, a blend of 49% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 16% Cinsault, 9% Mourvedre, and 6% Counoise. Here is what Bob Betz had to say about this vintage of Besoleil, first via video, and here via text: Grenache speaks loudly in the Bésoleil with notes of pomegranate, red raspberry, and strawberry leaf. The Counoise and Cinsualt bring bing cherry fruit and blueberry notes to the table, complicated by pepper and garrique. Mourvedre donates a wild meatiness to the blend, and a purple hue. Syrah rounds things out, adding texture, and flesh to the palate.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 92pts.”
I agree with a lot of Jeb’s notes, and with his drinking window, but that score seems a little conservative. I found the 2013 to be a lovely, charming vintage of Besoleil. The nose opens with raspberry fruit, lavender florals, and wonderful savory notes: garrigue moving towards olive, with Mourvedre’s signature gamey subtleties ratcheting up the complexity. The palate is supply-textured, carrying waves of brambly berry and cooling cut-rock minerality that fan out to coat the entire mouth between the mid-palate and finish. This is classy juice from a classy house.
Here Bob blends four different Syrah clones (Phelps, 99, 174, 383), all from two vineyards on Red Mountain: Ciel du Cheval and Ranch at the End of the Road. Here is what Bob Betz had to say about this vintage of Besoleil, first via video, and here via text: Red Mountain is the Source of our “biggest” Syrah, which is often described as brooding, structured, and inky. La Cote Rousse is not necessarily made from a single vineyard, instead hailing from 2 different vineyards adjacent to each other in the very heart of red mountain. But this wine may be our strongest case for the uniqueness of site expression in Washington Syrah. The non fruit aromas are strong here: Smoke, roasted meat, dusty gravel, and bacon fat all ride above the fruit. Blackberry and black cherry come through in waves. The wine is full bodied, with a palate impression of great power. The elegance of the 2013 vintage has endowed La Côte Rousse with an unusual combination of power and refinement.
Ridiculous color density kicks things off here: inky black-purple in the glass. The nose is full of mineral tones, complementing dark fruits, violets, exotic spices, and threads of smoke. It’s a glorious, complex nose to be sure. The palate is perfectly weighted, with density and intensity to spare. It’s a powerhouse, to be sure, but it retains a certain elegance, a certain grace. This is about as approachable a vintage of Rousse as I can remember tasting since, hmmmm… 2009 maybe? It broods a little, but not nearly as much as the past few vintages. Lovers of immediate gratification should find plenty to enjoy here. And while I wouldn’t hold this vintage as long as Jeb recommends below, I think a 10-year positive evolution can be expected with this beauty.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 95+pts.”
Please limit order requests to 6 bottles of Besoleil and 3 bottles of Rousse, 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.