2011 Betz Family Winery, Clos de Betz, Columbia Valley Red Wine
Of the many spring releases we look forward to each year, the arrival of the Betz wines is always especially exciting. Winemaker Bob Betz is one of about 275 people in the world who have passed the rigorous exams to be awarded the degree of Master of Wine. But it takes much more than knowledge and prestigious honors to make exquisite wine and Bob clearly has that passion and skill as well. This is evident in all of his wines, especially in his two Bordeaux blends, his Père de Famille, a Cabernet-based blend, and the Merlot-dominant Clos de Betz. Several years back we were able to fit both of these wines into the Washington Club, but ever-increasing acclaim, limited allocations, and rising costs make that impossible now.
While the 2011 vintage in the Columbia Valley started off cool for the second year in a row, warm temperatures after Labor Day allowed the grapes enough additional hang time to develop plenty of flavor and ripeness, producing, in Bob’s words, “wines of definition, vibrancy and texture.” This year’s Clos de Betz is two-thirds Merlot, with one-sixth each Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. It has a supple mouth feel, enticing aromas of cherry, dark plum, and cocoa powder, and a harmonious, creamy texture. It’s a complex wine, worthy of being held in your cellar at least a couple of years and quite capable of developing another ten to fifteen years. In fact, it reminded Bob of the Clos de Betz from 1999, another cool vintage, which at fifteen years old is drinking beautifully. When you do open it, try it with a nice strip steak. It is $60 and we do have a bit more available.
2009 Nota Bene Cellars, Conner Lee Vineyard Merlot
While you are waiting for your Clos de Betz to reach full maturity, we did find a beautiful ready-to-drink Merlot at this month’s Washington tasting. Our friend Tim Narby has been making wine since 1986, first in the Boeing Winemakers Club and then, starting with the 2001 vintage, at his own little winery in South Seattle. Since we first began carrying his wines, with the 2005 vintage, we’ve noticed that they have gotten more sophisticated and nuanced every year. This wonderfully smooth and elegant Merlot is his best effort yet, along with another Conner Lee blend of two-thirds Cabernet and one-third Merlot that he also poured at the tasting. Conner Lee is one of the top cool climate vineyards in Washington and the resulting smooth berry flavors have been a hallmark of many top Washington Merlots, including Buty and Guardian Cellars. Paul Gregutt has summed it up nicely: “Only in Washington can you find pure varietal, single-vineyard Merlot at this price that shows such power and depth.” Even better, it’s only $29.75 at our shop, a bit less than the $35 Tim charges at his tasting room. Although only 84 cases of this wine were made, we have a good supply and can get more. So you definitely don’t have to put off that steak dinner until the Betz is ready . . .