Hello friends. Nothing gets the heart racing quite like spring release season (I know, I know; mentioning spring in February is optimistic here in Seattle, but every bit of silver lining helps). This period, which runs from now through May, contains some of the most beautiful northwest wines released each year.
Beautiful and scarce. This is the season of allocated wines, which means it’s as good a time as any to review our allocation policy: Our allocations favor breadth over depth, so that everyone gets one bottle before anyone gets two. And our formula for prioritizing allocations includes overall orders, frequency of orders, recency of orders, and list tenure, among other factors.
Always among the earliest wineries to kick things off is Avennia, a winery that launched with loads of buzz and whose star has only continued to rise. You may remember some of the praise during their initial set of releases back in 2012: From Stephen Tanzer (Tanzer’s IWC): [TEXT WITHHELD]. Then from David Schildknecht (Wine Advocate): [TEXT WITHHELD]!
Soon after, I had the chance to write about Avennia for my Seattle Magazine gig, and since they’ve launched, we’ve offered the vast majority of Avennia wines presented to us. Chris Peterson’s winemaking is deeply compelling. The house style retains the character of Washington’s terroir and yet presents this sense of ribald, euro-styled earthiness that is a bit more unusual in these climes. These are beautiful, ageworthy wines, year in and year out.
It is amazing to me that this is only vintage five of Gravura and Sestina. Very quickly these wines have come to feel they’ve been around forever. Very quickly they’ve become indispensable.
I will say: the only way to get our pricing down to that level last year and this year has been to commit to solid chunks of Gravura, but those have been commitments that were easy to make. For list members who usually max out at $20 or $25 per bottle, I’d heartily encourage a splurge here. Gravura seriously over-delivers its price point.
The wine is an homage to Graves, and in 2014 the blend is 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and 12% Cabernet Franc. It comes from an impeccable list of vineyards: Cabernet Sauvigon from Red Willow and Dionysus; Merlot from Klipsun; Cab Franc from Bacchus. That is a lot of classy old-vine material for the tariff. Raised in 50% new French oak, this clocks in at 14.6% listed alc and opens with a nose of blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, smoky coffee, and gravelly minerality. The palate continues the mix of fruit and earthy mineral tones, with noteworthy complexity and intensity. Even in vintages like 2014 that want to be all yumball fruit, Chris finds elegance and sultry earthiness. This finishes all toothsome tannin goodness, redolent of Irish breakfast tea.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91-93pts.”
Valery is among Avennia’s most limited wines, at just 240 cases produced, and it’s the least likely to be available for reorder. It’s now or never. The story behind Valery is that Chris Peterson was looking to make an earthy, rocky, Saint Emilion ringer, and when Dick Boushey offered a block of 1986-planted Merlot on a soil base that is essentially a large Yakima Valley rock-pile, he pounced. That fruit comprises 60% of this blend, the remainder Champoux Cab Franc (itself now 20 years old). It gets 20 months in French oak, 30% new.
This vintage has a significantly higher proportion of Cab Franc than last year, and it shows in the aromatics, adding floral and dried-chile notes to a core of Merlot’s stony black cherry fruit. The palate is a rich, intense, palate-staining mix of rocks and fruit, all framed by serious Merlot tannin structure, redolent of high-cacao chocolate and strong brewed coffee. It’s a deeply satisfying bottle, a classy example of Washington’s strength with these right-bank blends.
I know I get pushback any time I call a wine in the $60s a great value, but compared to its peer group of Washington elites, Sestina is very fairly priced. The vine age is ridiculous, with fruit from Dionysus 1973, Red Willow 1985, and Bacchus 1972 making up a full 85% of the blend. In 2014 that blend is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cab Franc. Sestina spent 21 months in 60% new French oak, and its case production is about half that of Gravura, so this one tends to disappear quickly. It clocks in at 14.6% listed alc and, as usual, is the brooder of the bunch, tightly wound and years away from showing its truest beauty. There is a tight core of graphite and blackcurrant fruit, complemented by barrel tones of woodsmoke and pecan. And then I kept a glass and checked in over the course of the day, and with time and air, some lovely layers of fruit began to emerge, including exotic notes of stone fruit and citrus peel. But right now, this one is all about structure, all about potential. Chewing on the massive black tea tannins that frame the (lengthy) finish, I jotted: built for the cellar.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93-95pts.”
Please limit order requests to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. 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.