Specialty Club – May 2013

2010 Pride, Mountain Vineyards Merlot
From the earliest days of viticulture in California, the pioneering wine makers recognized that the vines on top of Spring Mountain were something special. The first winery on the mountain was Summit Ranch, built in 1890 at an elevation of 2100 feet. The original winery building, however, was destroyed by a fire during Prohibition and the property reverted to a wild state. Replanting started in the 1950s, and the 235-acre property was purchased in 1990 by Jim Pride, originally a dentist and gentleman farmer in the Sacramento Valley. Realizing just how good their fruit could be, the Pride family built a modern winery on the property in 1997, and now make a full line-up of estate wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, and Viognier. However, Merlot has been their signature varietal through the years, and this 2010 version is an excellent example. The concentration of fruit was assisted by the incomplete pollination of the flowers during spring rains, which, according to winemaker Carolyn Johnson, promoted “the enhanced exposure of the grape skins to the sun and air.” The final blend included 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rock Arch block to give a bit more weight and structure. The wine is beautifully aromatic and just bursts with blueberry and blackberry fruit. The winery recommends drinking it in the next few years. It would be great on its own or as a complement to roasted meat or veggies. It was $60 and is very limited in this market.

2011 Longshadows, Dance Chardonnay
Some of the most interesting Washington wines we’ve put in this club come from the famous Longshadows project, where former Stimson Lane wine group CEO Allen Shoup has invited winemakers from throughout the world to Walla Walla to produce limited releases of world class wines, reflecting their signature wines back home. The wines keep getting better and better, as the “flying winemakers” refine their understanding of Washington’s climate and soils. But the unsung hero of the whole thing is supervising winemaker Gilles Nicault, formerly of Woodward Canyon, who studied and trained in his native France before venturing to Washington in the mid 1990s to pursue winemaking here. Sometimes Gilles is overshadowed a bit by such famous winemakers as Armin Diehl, Michel Rolland, and John Duvall, but no one in the Washington wine trade doubts that Gilles is the one responsible for the overall high quality of all the Longshadows wines.

As further proof of Gilles’ skill, we offer as Exhibit A this outstanding Washington Chardonnay, which, right from the very first release, joins the top shelf of Washington Chards, with such luminaries as Abeja, Boudreaux, Buty, and Woodward Canyon. The fruit was sourced from a high, windy bluff in the Horse Heaven Hills, giving the wine a cool-climate crispness with a richness from the abundant daytime sunshine. After five years of experimentation, Gilles settled on a Montrachet yeast for fermentation and an equal division of barrels between new and one-year-old. The wine exhibits crisp and bright flavors of stone fruit, such as white peaches and apricots, but also has a nice creaminess. Minerality from the basalt slopes along the Columbia add to its complexity. No matter what style of Chardonnay you favor, we think you will love this one. It’s ready to drink and could pair well with anything from salmon to chicken to fresh seafood. It’s $37 and in good supply, although only 195 cases were made.