Hello friends. One of the most exciting wineries to hit the Washington scene the past few years has been Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen’s WT Vintners. By evening (and probably a good chunk of day), Jeff is the Wine Director at RN74 in Seattle, which means he basically tastes every important wine that comes into Seattle. That gig came after previous stints at Cascadia, Wild Ginger, and Café Juanita. I’d also lay better than even odds that Jeff is going to be Seattle’s next wine pro to pass the Master Sommelier exam. He has a wickedly sharp palate, and a clear point of view, honed from tasting thousands of wines for his various restaurant gigs. To wit, here is an excerpt from Jeff’s winemaking philosophy:
From our inception I strive to be the conduit from which our vineyards speak. Minimal additions are made in the winery beyond yeast and the occasional racking off solids. I avoid the use of new oak in favor of used barrels, which add a bit of texture and little else. Foremost, I want our wines to serve as the champions of Washington’s extraordinary terroir. By utilizing whole clusters, versus just the berries, during fermentation I attempt to coax both greater structure and more savory flavors and aromas in our Syrah. With each vineyard we work closely with the vineyard’s manager and owner to reduce crop loads and find the optimal time to harvest, which is often weeks before our neighbors. By picking early I ensure the vineyard’s voice is heard and not lost to high alcohols and overtly fruity wines. Ultimately, I am attempting to make the wines I want to drink, wines of place, wines that complement a meal and wines that tell a story. I want them to be delicious as they are interesting.
We’ve offered the main-label WT Vintners wines on a number of occasions (and we’ll include one WT wine as a bonus at the bottom of today’s offer), but today’s focus is on Jeff’s newest project: Raconteur Wine Company. While WT focuses entirely on single-vineyard wines, Raconteur is “a series of multi-vineyard wines at maverick level affordability with unparalleled provenance and quality.” (Somewhere John McCain is applauding the use of “maverick.” Or maybe Tom Cruise.)
Both Raconteur wines from the debut release offer fine value for the price, and a clear introduction to Jeff’s house style.
I will admit, I had my reservations, having never seen Chenin Blanc (75%) and Gruner Veltliner (25%) blended. But what works is that both play on the savory side of the white wine spectrum, and the result is a savory white indeed. The nose offers lentils and sweet corn, earthy honey and peach fruit. The palate is dry and brightly acidic, with a beautiful acid-mineral spine propping up a lovely mix of fruit and savory tones. A unique, complicated Washington white.
I thought this Rhone blend was outstanding when I sampled it, and after learning the vineyard sources, the quality makes sense: Les Collines and Stoney Vine and Destiny Ridge for the Syrah; Olsen for Grenache; Boushey for Mourvedre. That is not a list of vineyards that typically makes its way into sub-$20 wines.
This begins with a nose of cherry, strawberry fruit leather, and subtleties of mineral and fragrant garrigue. The palate possesses serious heft and intensity. You can almost see JLT going through barrels in his winery. All the elegant barriques: into WT Vintners. All the rustic, overtly generous barriques: into Raconteur. The result is that this may be Jeff’s most approachable wine yet. It has burly back-end tannins, and a real sense of charm and character throughout. I continue to believe that the sub-$20 red Rhone blend category is one where Washington can really make a splash, and this is another fine piece of evidence.
Just a quick little bonus here. I wanted to offer it because it’s so rare to see varietal Mourvedre from Washington, and this one was just so damned good. It all starts with the grower, of course, and no one knows Rhone varieties in Washington better than Dick Boushey. Jeff has crafted a glorious wine out of Dick’s farming work, with a super expressive, animal nose of plum, leather, and roasting game birds. Smelled like good Bandol to me. Vibrant, energetic, downright thrilling Mourvedre, with plenty of density and palate-weight on a sculpted 13.6%-alc frame. Really a wonderful take on this variety.
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.