Hello friends. The 2014 vintage is an important one for Force Majeure. The first vintage with new winemaker Todd Alexander fully on board. The first vintage with no Collaboration Series wines. The first vintage entirely focused on their otherworldly estate vineyard high up in ankle-busting territory at the top of Red Mountain. New packaging.
If the first 2014 wine I’ve tasted from this estate is any indication of what’s to come, well then, the sky is the limit. If a wine can be a statement of intent, then the intent here is clear: to be nothing short of world class.
2014 Force Majeure Estate Syrah
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 97-99pts.” Note: this was the single strongest 2014 barrel sample review of Jeb’s entire Washington report last summer. Bar none.
Let me go back to summer 2010, when I first wrote about this project. Here’s what I said then: The long-term [plan] involves one of the most heart-pounding vineyards in the state and a vineyard manager who walks the line between passion and obession. Ryan Johnson, who also manages Ciel du Cheval, Quilceda Galitzine, DeLille Grand Ciel, and Cadance Cara Mia Vineyards (that is one hell of a portfolio), partnered with Paul McBride to purchase and plant a vineyard near the apex of Red Mountain. Inspired by the vertical vineyards of Cote Rotie, Ryan planted a true mountainside vineyard on Red Mountain. Running from 960 to 1230 feet (Red Mountain tops out at about 1400 ft), this site required yeoman’s work with a pickaxe and backfilling with rocks just to get the end posts into the ground. It is a stunning site to see in person, and a painful place to go to work: windy, steep, ankle-breaking territory where one block has been designated as “El Terror” by the vineyard workers (the site also includes “El Guapo” and “El Hueso”).
Paul and Ryan (who has since moved on from the project) have to be gratified by seeing their vision come to fruition so fully. And Todd Alexander, who left a plum gig at cultish Cali producer Bryant Family Vineyard, must feel justified in his decision to head north. This particular partnership of special vineyard site and special winemaker has yielded, perhaps unsurprisingly, a very special wine.
Syrah from the top of the vineyard was cofermented with 1% Viognier (also from the estate), and a portion of that fermentation took place in concrete. The wine was aged in a mix of French oak barrels and larger puncheons, mostly used. It clocks in at 15.1% listed alc and pours a glass-staining inky black-purple. The aromatics are glorious and savory and very Syrah: huckleberry fruit, mineral and violet, dried black olives and roasted marrow bones. But where this really dazzles is texturally, offering these qualities of intensity and palate presence and extract on what seems like a gravity-defying weightless frame. I feel like this is Todd Alexander opening a door and welcoming Force Majeure into the upper echelon of Washington wineries.
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles (that’s probably optimistic; more likely allocations are in the 3-6 bottle range), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.