Hello friends. Beyond the beauty of turning leaves and the lively feeling of chilled air, Autumn brings us much more than weather-related happiness. Autumn release season is a magical time of year for Washington wine. Many wineries save the biggest of their big guns for this time, and it’s all we can do to keep our heads above water and field compelling offer after compelling offer from some of the finest wineries in the state.
And speaking of the finest wineries in the state, let’s get right to it: the annual extremely limited set of Rhone releases from Betz Family Winery. The less said the better, given our quantities, so I’ll repeat what Full Pull has said before: Bob Betz’s face would doubtless be chiseled on a Mt. Rushmore of Washington winemakers. Until this year, he was the only Master of Wine making wine in Washington, having achieved that honor back in 1998. After a 28-year career at Chateau Ste Michelle he launched his eponymous winery in 1997, crushing 150 cases worth of wine in the Woodinville warehouse district.
Since then, production has grown to 3500 cases total, but acclaim has grown more quickly than that, forcing the family to close their mailing list in 2008 and establishing them as one of Washington’s cult wineries. Steve and Bridgit Griessel came on board as managing owners in 2011, and the winery is open to its list members on just two weekends each year: once in the spring, for the release of its Bordeaux portfolio, and once in the fall, for the release of these Rhone-styled wines.
2015 Betz Family Winery Besoleil
In the winery’s own words: Bésoleil is our Spanish/French whimsy for “kissed by the sun”. It alludes to the warm, sunny days in the south of France that impart an intensity of character to the Grenache grape and its southern Rhône relatives. Imagine the windswept vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the inspiration for this wine, where Grenache thrives alongside a dozen or more other grape varieties. The story of Bésoleil begins with our long-held belief that a precise marriage of soil and site can produce a profound expression of Grenache in Washington. We put that belief to the test with Bésoleil’s first vintage in 2003.
Bob’s ode to Chateauneuf, Besoleil blends Grenache, Counoise, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvedre. This year, the Grenache used in Besoleil is sourced from Upland Vineyard, the oldest planting of Grenache in the state. 2015 marks an uptick in Cinsault, Counoise, and Mourvedre, a trend that began in 2014 for the winery. As the winery continues to work with these varieties vintage after vintage, they become more precise and intensely flavorful, lending ample positive influence to the finished product. This is a powerful, rich wine that hits the holy trinity of Rhone blends – berry and rock and garrigue. The wine is 100% fermented and 94% aged in concrete, which brings out this dusty minerality. It’s robust, with silky texture, and a charming freshness from bright acidity. The star of the show, Grenache, takes on a gemstone-like quality that is shining, smooth, and brilliant. Listed alcohol is 13.7%.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91-93 pts.”
2015 Betz Family Winery Syrah La Cote Rousse
Here, we move from Southern Rhone to Northern Rhone in influence. Made from 100% Red Mountain Syrah, La Côte Rousse represents the warmest growing region Betz works with. Red Mountain is known for its soil—loess and granitic gravels from the Missoula Floods and volcanic basalt. Again, what’s most present is unwavering freshness throughout all of the 2015 Betz offerings. This acts as a sign of a maturity in winemaking for a hot vintage. The Rousse pours deeply inky into the glass, and opens with dried florals, smoked meat, and pencil lead minerality. On the palate, it’s structured yet silky, powerful yet tender. An all around standout bottling.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 96pts.”