Washington Wine Club – September 2012

2010 Maison Bleue, Gravière
For the second year in a row, we are happy to get enough of this wine to put in the club. For those of you new to Maison Bleue, winemaker Jon Martinez started out as a dentist in Kansas City, but soon found himself studying enology at Virginia Tech, UC Davis, and Washington State. He made an immediate impression on wine writers with his very first vintage, with his 2008 Grenache and 2009 Marsanne garnering high scores and critical acclaim. He has a particular affinity with the Rhône grapes of Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain, originally planted in 1917 and so the oldest vineyard in Washington. After working exclusively with individual varietals for his first vintage, Jon started making this Mourvedre-dominant Rhône blend in 2009. The wine shows a beautiful range of aromas and flavors, including dark fruit, spices, the white pepper characteristic of Mourvedre and what Paul Gregutt appropriately calls “a whiff of animal” from the Syrah. It would pair well with beef, lamb, wild game, rich-flavored stews, and mild, firm, savory cheeses. As 2010 was a bit cooler vintage, we’d recommend cellaring the Gravière for two or three years to give it a bit of time to mature. It is $47 and in pretty good supply, although Jon made only 245 cases.

2008 Tre Nova, Seccopassa
This could quite well be the most unusual wine we’ve ever put in the Washington Club. Gino Cuneo started making wine in the Pacific Northwest in 1989, and he has been a pioneer in exploring how Italian red varietals, particularly Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, express themselves in Washington and Oregon. In 2002, he introduced the Sangiovese Grosso clone, well known for the Brunellos of Montalcino, to the Northwest. The next year he began working on producing Appassimento (Amarone) style wines, where the grape clusters are laid out on drying racks for three months and then fermented on their skins. We’ve seen the wines he made through this process continually improve, and we thought the 2008 Seccopassa was worthy of this club. It’s important to note that there are three major differences from Italian style Amarone. First, Gino understands that the warm climate of eastern Washington is very different from Tuscany, and so this wine is definitely “fruitier” than its Italian counterpart. Second, instead of using Corvina and the other grapes of Valpolicella, Gino uses 50% Sangiovese Grosso and 50% Barbera (all from Ciel du Cheval vineyard on Red Mountain), which produce nice bright fruit flavors instead of the dense dark fruit of Amarone. Third, Gino ferments this wine all the way to dryness (the “Secco” in its title), while Amarones are traditionally left with quite a bit of residual sugar. The result is a uniquely Washington wine that goes wonderfully with traditional Italian meats, such as salame and mortadella, or traditional Italian meals such as braised veal or braciole. It’s $39.75 and ready to go for this holiday season.