Hello friends. We have outstanding pricing today on a pair of peak-drinking wines from Walla Walla stalwart Chuck Reininger. Both wines come from Reininger’s Helix line, launched to represent the greater Columbia Valley (the main Reininger line contains Walla Walla Valley fruit).
Getting to check out six-year-old, single-vineyard Washington Sangiovese is a pretty cool, pretty rare opportunity. Stillwater Creek (an outstanding site on the Royal Slope; don’t be surprised if Royal Slope is Washington’s next designated AVA) has a proven track record of growing rustic, full-blooded Sangiovese, and this 2010 is a wonderful example of its kind. It spent about two-and-a-half years in neutral French oak, before being bottled in May 2013. So it has also had another three years to mature in bottle. I love how the winery’s notes on this wine begin: “We have cellared this wine for you. It is ready.”
It is ready indeed! The nose very much suggests a Sangio on its path to maturity: dried cherries to go with the more primary pomegranate and cranberry notes; lovely tertiary tones of earth and mushroom. The palate (13.6% listed alc) continues the theme. It’s a dry, earthy mix of cherry fruit and attractive savories. And my oh my, the structure! Of course because it’s Sangiovese, there’s loads of natural acidity to begin with (this is, after all, the grape that evolved in Tuscany to pair with the acidic tomato-based dishes of that region), and that’s only ratcheted up by the cool 2010 vintage. And then this is also full of rustic, toothsome tannins. Those tannins are beginning to unwind and soften, but they’re still plenty present, plenty burly (I can’t imagine what a chew-monster this was in its first year or two after bottling). They contribute to a lovely note of Aperol bitters on the finish, and an overall sense that this is a wine for adults, and definitely a wine made for food.
Those sites are Phinny Hill, in the Horse Heaven Hills, and Stonetree, at the top of the Wahluke Slope, both of which have burnished reputations for quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Chuck ages that good Cabernet juice in a mix of French, American, and Russian oak, with just 8% new barrels, for about a year and a half. This was bottled in June 2014, so it too has had a significant amount of time to mature in bottle (nearly two years).
It’s a glorious expression of Cabernet from a singular Washington vintage, and it kicks off with a nose of crème de cassis, violet, soy sauce, and lovely graphitic pencil-lead minerality (we can thank Phinny for that note). There’s real electric fruit intensity in the mouth, a sense that the Cabernet fruit was perfectly extracted here. The oak notes are subtleties, wafts of smoke that wend and weave through the delicious fruit and mineral. And the finish is all English breakfast tea tannins, grippy but polished. This is complex, classy Cabernet for the tag. The last note in my notebook asks the question: is this a twenty-year-Cab for twenty dollars?
First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and 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.