Hello friends. Without question I consider James and Poppie Mantone’s Syncline to be in the upper echelon of Washington wineries. They’ve proven it vintage after vintage with consistent expressions of freshness, purity, and transparency. If others overlook them in discussions of best Washington wineries, I can only chalk that up to Syncline’s out-of-the-way location in the Columbia Gorge.
They’ve been flying the flag for this special appellation (for my money, the most breathtakingly beautiful region in the northwest for wine touring) for years now, and today’s offer is going to focus on a pair of new releases that come predominantly from the Gorge. And more specifically, from the southern flanks of extinct volcano Underwood Mountain, one of the most exciting places to grow grapes in Washington.
[Note: we will also include two reorder opportunities: one for a popular, well-priced Rhone blend; the other last call on a killer rosé.]
On the vineyard front, there is some sad news and some happy news this year. The sad news is that the Gruner vines have been pulled out at Celilo Vineyard, so this will be Syncline’s final Gruner vintage containing Celilo fruit. The good news: a new Gruner Vineyard came online with the 2015 vintage. Here is what James and Poppie have to say: At 1,000′ in elevation, Bloxom Vineyard lies East of Yakima and North of the Rattlesnake Hills. This cooler site with loess soils is an exciting new planting of Gruner Veltliner. 2015 was the vineyard’s first crop, and we are thrilled to be part of this new venture.
The overall vineyard mix for the 2015 is 38% each Bloxom and Underwood Mountain Vineyards, and 24% Celilo. Ageing took place in a wide variety of vessels: concrete eggs, neutral oak, stainless steel, and acacia barrels. Nifty! Total production in 2015 was 440 cases, and listed alc is 13.7%. The nose kicks off with wonderful savory notes of green lentil and sweet corn, paired to a core of peach fruit. The palate is dry, potent, and *very* earthy/savory. The evolution of this bottling has been dazzling to watch, and it has now reached the point where you could legitimately confuse it for one of its Austrian brethren. I love Gruners like this because they are such 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.
This beauty begins with an extremely fragrant nose, with lifted rose-petal notes covering a core of tarry black cherry fruit and loads of crushed-rock mineral character. Truly a very appetizing nose. The palate dazzles with its depth and intensity, all on a moderately-weighted frame, and especially with its inner-mouth perfume. Stylistically, I’d put this somewhere on the spectrum between Cote des Nuits and Oregon. It’s a singular Washington Pinot Noir, nakedly expressive of the special place where it’s grown.
No surprise that these Rhone specialists would produce a rosé that is a blend of 39% Cinsault, 36% Carignan, and 25% Grenache. One change this year: the bottling gets a single-vineyard designation, coming entirely from McKinley Springs in the Horse Heaven Hills. The grapes are picked specifically for rosé (13.9% alc), and produce a wine with lovely pale salmon color. The nose is fantastic, combining notes fruity (strawberry, kiwi, honeydew), green (cucumber, celery leaf), and mineral in turn. The palate offers a deftly balanced mix of supple fruit and juicy acidity, and the finishing lick of Aperol bitters adds complexity and an adult touch to a truly lovely rosé. One of Washington’s standard-bearers in this category, to be sure.
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.
First come first served up to 48 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.