Washington Wine Club – October 2011

2009 Betz Family Wines, Bésoleil
A highlight of every fall at West Seattle Cellars is our opportunity to taste the wonderful Rhone-inspired wines of Bob Betz. This year was particularly fun, as Bob and his daughter Carmen hosted a nice tasting at their winery on the Woodinville-Redmond Road, complete with rock samples from different vineyards and a great map of Red Mountain. We have such respect for Bob and his wines (he’s the only Master of Wine currently making wine in this state), and, though we are happy for him, we are a bit sad that he will retire in five years. And that makes these last few Betz vintages all the more special and collectible.

Although the Cote Rousse and La Serenne Syrahs have both gotten too pricy (and too limited) to put in this club, we were overjoyed when Carmen and Bob offered us enough of the Bésoleil, their classic southern Rhone blend, for this club. Bob’s strategy with this wine has been to raise the concentration of Grenache to take advantage of the increasing varietal purity of our state’s Grenache vines, although this year he’s introduced Cinsault from Olsen Estates to add freshness and suppleness to the blend. The 2009 has a little more “Old World” feel than the 2008, with spicy black raspberry flavors supported by minerality and a touch of “garrigue,” the earthy, dried herb-lavender note typical of these southern Rhone blends. While the Bésoleil has good structure and can age for another five years, we were struck by how approachable it is already. It is $49.75, and we could only get enough for the Club. However, we do have a few verticals available at $150 of the last three vintages of the Bésoleil, 2007-2009, which are all ready to drink and would provide a fascinating comparison of the last three vintages of Washington wine.

2009 Syncline, Cuvée Elena
Anyone searching for the next Bob Betz in Washington doesn’t have to look much further than James Mantone of Syncline, ably partnered by his wife Poppie. This gem, one of our favorite wines and a club perennial, is a delicious and carefully constructed southern Rhone style blend of their very best grapes and clearly their flagship wine. Grapes come from three very different vineyards. The Grenache, most of the Syrah, and the drop of Carignan comes from McKinley Springs in the Horse Heaven Hills, a warm site with enough altitude (1100 feet) to maintain very balanced fruit. Half of the Mourvedre comes from the basalt soils of Red Mountain’s Ciel du Cheval, providing a bit of tannin and great structure. The rich meatiness and spicy blackberry flavors come from the Mourvedre grown in Coyote Canyon in the Horse Heaven Hills. As usual, James and Poppie make the wine with the finesse they originally learned in the Oregon Pinot industry. All of the juice is free-run, fermented at relatively cool temperatures, and then put in 4-7 year old barrels to maintain its silky texture and rich mouth feel. While drinking beautifully now, particularly if paired with hearty stews or complex holiday meals, the 2009 Cuvée Elena will easily continue to develop for another 3 to 5 years. It’s $39.75 and we still have a decent amount available.