Washington Wine Club – February 2014

2011 Syncline, Cuvée Elena
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. As with previous vintages, the grapes come from some very different viticultural areas. The Grenache, mostly sourced from McKinley Springs Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills, delivers bright red fruit flavors while retaining good acidity. The Mourvedre, which comes from Alder Ridge and Coyote Canyon, also in the Horse Heaven Hills, provides rich meatiness and spicy blackberry flavors. Firm tannins and structure are added by additional grapes grown in the basalt soils of Ciel du Cheval, Grand Reve, and Heart of the Hill on Red Mountain. For the first time, 5% of the grapes came from Boushey Vineyard in the Yakima Valley (providing richness) and an additional 5% from the James and Poppie’s own vineyard, Steep Creek Ranch in the Columbia Gorge. 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 four to seven year old barrels to maintain its silky texture and rich mouth feel. As with other top wines from the cool vintage in 2011, we recommend giving the Cuvée Elena another three to five years to fully develop in your cellar. It’s $39.50 and there is a bit more available.

2011 Syncline, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Syrah
As much as we enjoy the Cuvée Elena, this Syrah is simply glorious. It starts with rich, spicy dark fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s a clean, graceful wine with, as James and Poppie write on the bottle, “flavors of fresh picked berries, ripe olives, and classic Syrah nuances of smoke.” Ciel du Cheval produces some of the juiciest, most pleasant fruit on Red Mountain, and this wine might be the very best Syrah ever produced from that vineyard. As with the Cuvée Elena, all of the juice is free run, which is then fermented in open top containers, and then put in three to four year old barrels for 16 months. It could age for another three to five years, but it is very appealing today, particularly with pork roast. It is $52.25, a bit more expensive due to the cost of the fruit, and in very limited supply.