Hello friends. Syncline is perhaps Washington’s most quietly thrilling winery. Quiet only because of their location (the Columbia Gorge, where they’re the flagship winery; an amazing region that any serious student of northwest wine would do well to visit), and because James and Poppie Mantone are such unassuming, salt of the earth types.
James and Poppie have been part of the Washington vanguard since they launched their winery. They were early adopters of Rhone varietals, are one of the few producers able to coax something lovely out of Washington Pinot Noir, and in recent years have pushed the boundaries of white varieties and sparkling wines in the state. For freshness, for purity, for transparency, Syncline is tough to beat. Not to mention consistency. There’s a reason we’ve offered a whopping 43 wines from Syncline in Full Pull’s history; there never seems to be a dud in the bunch.
Today I’ll try to contain myself and only offer three wines:
I think we can all agree that one of the best trends to come out of the past decade of Washington winegrowing and winemaking is the emergence of Rhone blends as a very strong category for the state. But price point has been a serious challenge. I guess how I’d put it is: we have our Chateauneufs and our Gigondas, but where are our Cotes du Rhone Villages? Fortunately, in recent years, we’ve seen some movement on that front. Ryan Crane’s Majestic for Kerloo (and more recently, Wingman for his Sodo Cellars label), Sean Boyd’s VdP for Rotie, Kevin White’s outrageous blends for his eponymous label, Jon Meuret’s Metis Rouge.
But before all of those: Syncline’s Subduction Red. We’ve been offering it since the 2009 vintage, but I think it had already been around for at least five years then. In 2014 it is a six-variety blend: 46% Syrah, 27% Mourvedre, 14% Grenache, 8% Carignan, 3% Cinsault, 2% Counoise. It is fermented and aged in a combination of French oak (10% new) and concrete Nomblot cube tanks, bottled after just about a year to capture the freshness and vitality of the vintage. The nose is fresh, floral, high-toned, with red cherry and strawberry fruit complemented by lavender and licorice. Plump (14.4% listed alc), juicy, and complex, this shows a lot of Mourvedre character on the palate, all spicy plum and mineral. There is Syrah’s earthiness, Grenache’s fleshy fruit, Carignan’s wildness; each grape plays its role, and the overall result is a totally charming wine, one that seems at first glimpse to be an easy drinker but over time displays sneaky complexity. Sean Sullivan’s 92pt review of the 2013 vintage in Wine Enthusiast made that one disappear. Fortunately he has not yet weighed in on the ’14.
The great, savory white grape of Austria has found a home in Washington, on the southern slopes of the extinct volcano Underwood Mountain (home to both Celilo and Underwood Mountain Vineyards, the two sources of this Gruner). The vines first came online for production in 2008, and we have offered every vintage since. When David Schildknecht, the great lover of Austrian wines, first got his hands on Syncline’s Gruner (the 2011 vintage), he called it “as good as any I have witnessed from a North American Gruner Veltliner.” High praise from a man not prone to it.
Gruners are outstanding food-pairing wines. Because of their savory side, they pair with tough-to-complement foods like artichokes and asparagus. They’re also beautiful oyster wines, for those of you so inclined. Picked in mid-October and still only coming in at 13.1% alc, this was fermented in a combo of concrete egg, acacia barrel, and stainless steel tank. The nose is wonderful: grapefruit and mineral and then Gruner’s signature savory tones of green lentil and celery and hay. A total live-wire in the mouth, this is both intense and precise, offering enamel-stripping acidity that electrifies the Gruner fruit. This is mountain wine, to be sure.
We have offered this wine in two previous vintages. It comes from Block 11 at McKinley Springs Vineyard, fondly known as the Espresso Block for the lovely espresso/coffee/mocha character it imparts to its Syrahs. Here James includes 40% whole clusters (stems and all) and ferments mostly (80%) in concrete (Syncline is one of a handful of wineries in Washington to have concrete vessels on hand). It begins with a nose of pure blueberry fruit, crème fraiche, mineral, and (wait for it!) espresso. I love the beautiful earthy coffee ground notes on the palate, and the laser-like purity of blue fruit. This is achingly fresh and perfumed in the mouth, a gorgeous expression of a fine Horse Heaven Hills site.
I just learned this one is going to receive the following review in the March issue of Wine Enthusiast: Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”
To put that review into context, Sean has bestowed 93pt reviews on 23 other Washington Syrahs during his time with Wine Enthusiast. They’ve ranged in price from $40-$85, with a median of $55. For the tough-but-fair Mr. Sullivan, a 93pt review for a wine at this price point is a strong review indeed.
First come first served up to 36 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.