Hello friends. Our first Full Pull offer for a Dusted Valley wine took place in month two of our existence: the 2006 Stained Tooth Syrah, way back on November 19, 2009. Even back then, Corey Braunel and Chad Johnson were producing outstanding wines. But their progress in the subsequent seven-plus years has been staggering.
They’re now serious players in the Walla Walla wine scene, with three separate estate vineyards (including Stoney Vine, a special special site in the rocks), a badass 12,000 square foot production facility, and an outstanding portfolio of wines under their entry-level Boomtown label and their higher-end Dusted Valley label. That’s an awful lot of progress in a short period of time.
Chad and Corey are two Wisconsin natives who married a pair of sisters (Janet Johnson and Cindy Braunel are both deeply involved in Dusted Valley too), abandoned jobs in medical sales, and settled in the Pacific Northwest to make delicious wine for a living. The connection to the cheese-head state is still evident in their sometime use of Wisconsin oak barrels, and in the name of the estate vineyard closest to the winery (Sconni Block).
I recently had the chance to taste through the Dusted Valley lineup, and the entire portfolio was dynamite. For today I chose my favorite pair from that tasting: one white and one red.
Note: this is normally going to be a $34 Chard, but it’s a new wine for Dusted Valley, and we’ve been offered special launch pricing for today’s offer.
One of the best recent developments in Washington wine has been boutique wineries embracing Chardonnay vineyards and blocks released from contract by Ste Michelle when natural yields fell too low to make sense for their program. I know this is the foundation for the Sixto Chardonnays that Brennon Leighton makes for Charles Smith. And it is also the foundation for today’s wine, which comes entirely from old blocks at Olsen Vineyard.
What do I mean by old? A mix of plantings from the mid-1980s through the mid-‘90s, which by Washington Chardonnay standards is old indeed. Olsen is a fairly high-elevation site in the Yakima Valley – about 1100’-1300’ – and fairly cool too. Just right for Chardonnay. The fruit was fermented and aged mostly in French Oak (85%; 20% new), the remainder concrete and stainless. It saw regular battonage during its 10 months of sur-lees ageing.
The result is dynamo of texture with zero excess weight. It clocks in at 13.6% listed alc but still conveys a real sense of richness and heft (all that lees stirring probably helped). The nose mixes peach and nectarine fruit with hazelnut and leesy bready subtleties. But really, it’s the palate and the texture where this shines the most, where it’s most expressive of its old-vine material. There’s a palate-staining intensity here that simply dazzles, especially on such an energetic, brightly-acidic frame. The creamy mid-palate, the long finish, the mix of fruit and bread and mineral; I was totally seduced and began looking for crab recipes as quickly as possible.
Now then, a quick story, and I swear this really happened. My first closing paragraph for this Chardonnay was as follows: This is a new wine for Dusted Valley, and they’re just beginning to launch it. I suspect as more folks taste it, and as reviews roll in, it will join the discussion of the finest single-site Chardonnays from this recent Washington wave.
And then literally one day later, the first review of this wine appeared. Great Northwest Wine: “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].”
Even at $34, this is an easy buy for Washington Chardonnay lovers. At today’s TPU price, and considering the ageing curve for good Chardonnay, I have two words: Go. Long.
As the father of a just-turned-three-year-old, I’m beginning to understand the significance of a really excellent chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’ve lately been riffing on this Christina Tosi version, which has the benefit of only requiring a bowl and wooden spoon for equipment. Very three-year-old friendly.
Why the hell, you might be asking, am I talking about chocolate chip cookies? Because the original V.R. Special was just that: a chocolate chip cookie. Specifically, the cookie made by Vernon Rhodes, Chad’s grandpa. It obviously made an impression on young Chad, who calls the cookie “miraculous,” and the memory lingers. It’s a good window into the folks behind this winery: a funny, family-focused group of people.
What makes the wine special, again, is the old vine material. This comes predominantly from the 1972 block at Dionysus Vineyard, one of the finest old-vine Cabernet sites in Washington. It sees 35% new oak and clocks in at 14.7% listed alc. The fruit here is intense and tightly layered: black plums and black cherries, redcurrants and mango, beets and rhubarb. Star anise spice and silty minerals complete the picture, all on a pillowy-soft frame. At least through the attack and mid-palate. After that, the liquid silk grows teeth, and finishes with serious tannic chew, all green tea goodness. There’s just no substitute for old vine character, and it’s on fine display here, contributing length, complexity, and – ultimately – head-turning density.
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.