2008 Côte Bonneville, DuBrul Vineyard Carriage House
Regular Washington Club members are undoubtedly familiar with this wine, as this is the fourth consecutive vintage we’ve put in the club. Although DuBrul Vineyard was put on the map by single vineyard wines made by Owen Roe, the Côte Bonneville label is the personal project of the vineyard owners, Dr. Hugh and Kathy Shiels, who bought the vineyard in 2001 and continue to do most of the cellar work themselves. The original winemaker was Stan Clarke, the founder of the Walla Walla Community College wine program and a true force in Washington wine. After Stan’s untimely death in November, 2007, the winemaking was taken over by Kerry Shiels, Hugh and Kathy’s daughter and a pretty impressive force herself. Trained as an engineer, she worked for Fiat in Italy (learning Italian on the job) among other projects, until she came home to work with Stan and her family in the winery. The vineyard itself is one of the most impressive sites in Washington, towering 1375 feet over the Yakima Valley, and has a unique blend of exposed basalt rock mixed with sedimentary soils and volcanic ash. Unlike warmer areas, DuBrul Vineyard wines seem to retain marvelous acidity while producing intense, powerful wines. The 2008 edition is gorgeous and pretty ready to drink now, although it is clearly capable of aging another five years. It’s an elegant wine, with distinct floral aromas, a core of cherry fruit, lots of spices, moderate tannins, and a touch of chocolate. As the reviewer for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate put it, it “finishes with lusciously lingering fruit in a vibrant exchange with floral, herbal and mineral elements.” Try it with a steak or pork chops with cherry sauce. It’s $49.75, and in good supply.
2011 Guardian Cellars, Gun Metal
Here’s another old standby, as it’s the fifth year in a row that we’ve put the Gun Metal in the club. Jerry Riener first discovered the world of wine in the late nineties when, while serving as an undercover detective, he checked out a suspicious warehouse in Woodinville, which turned out to be Matthews Cellars. Eager to drive the big new shiny forklift, Jerry soon found himself volunteering forty hours a week. With a college degree in chemistry, he was just as fascinated by the winemaking as the equipment, and he started collaborating with Mark Ryan McNeilly in 2001. At first, Jerry made the elegant Gun Metal and juicy Chalk Line blends for Mark’s winery, and then opened his own winery, Guardian Cellars, in 2007. This is the eighth vintage of the Gun Metal under the Guardian label and, in our opinion, the most polished and best so far. (I know – we say that every year!) Since 2011 was a bit cooler year, Jerry supplemented the fruit from the top notch Connor Lee Vineyard with grapes from the somewhat hotter Stonetree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope. Aging in new French oak for about 20 months is a trademark of the Guardian wines, and it helps give them a unique smoothness. This vintage displays a classic balance between dark, brambly fruit, luscious oak, notes of cocoa and vanilla, and ample minerality. As with Jerry’s other wines, it should be on the wine list of every self-respecting Washington steak house. It gives a lot of pleasure now (with decanting) or you could let it develop for three to five years in your cellar. It’s $39, and a recent release, so still in pretty good supply.