2008 Baer Winery, Arctos
Baer Winery in Woodinville was founded by Lance Baer in 2000, and our dear partner Bear loved the wines from the very first release. Soft and approachable, they were always delightful and ready to drink. Unfortunately, Lance Baer died in April, 2007 at the age of 39. It was a giant loss to his colleagues and friends, and a major loss to the Washington wine industry, particularly since Lance worked so hard to keep prices reasonable and to make bright, fun wines that would attract younger or newer drinkers. To build on Lance’s legacy, his father, Les, and his sister, Lisa, chose to continue the winery, and hired the terrific Erica Orr as consulting winemaker. The two main releases are the Cabernet-based Arctos and the Ursa, a Merlot-based blend that is styled to resemble a rich “right bank” Bordeaux and, true to Lance’s style, is meant to be enjoyed upon release.
Under Erica’s supervision, the Arctos has become more complex and sophisticated with every vintage. Made completely from Stillwater Vineyard grapes, it is rich and well structured, with firm tannins and a smooth finish. Showing lots of dark fruit flavors, it has notes of coffee and spices from aging for 19 months in mostly new French oak. We recommend waiting a year or two for all the components to come together, and it could be aged three or four more years to develop further complexity. It would pair well with grilled meats, hearty cheese and rustic bread, but is a great wine just to enjoy on its own. It is $49.75 and there is a bit more available.
2008 Guardian Cellars, Gun Metal
Jerry Riener first discovered the world of wine in the late nineties when, working as a police officer, he checked out a suspicious warehouse in Woodinville, which turned out to be Matthews Cellars. Eager to drive the big new shiny forklift, Jerry soon found himself volunteering forty hours a week. With a college degree in chemistry, he was soon just as fascinated by the winemaking as the equipment, and he started collaborating with Mark Ryan McNeilly in 2001. At first, Jerry made the elegant Gun Metal and juicy Chalk Line blends for Mark’s winery, and then opened his own winery, Guardian Cellars, in 2007. This is the fifth vintage of the Gun Metal under the Guardian label and, in our opinion, the best so far. The fruit is from the top notch Connor Lee Vineyard, well known as a source for Buty’s Chardonnay and Merlot-Cabernet Franc. The wine sees 22 months in 100% new French oak, and it displays a nice balance between dark, brambly fruit, luscious oak notes of cocoa and vanilla, and ample minerality. As with Jerry’s other wines, it should be on the wine list of every self-respecting Washington steak house. It gives a lot of pleasure now (with decanting) or you could let it develop for three to five years in your cellar. It’s $37, and still in pretty good supply.