2012 Syncline, Cuvée Elena
As most of our customers know, James and Poppie Mantone are two of our favorite people in the wine trade, and among the very best Washington winemakers. Dollar for dollar, we feel their wines are the best values in elite Washington wines. 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 2012 was a warm year in Washington, James adjusted the blend to put in more of the heat-tolerant Grenache and Mourvedre and less Syrah, which can very quickly get overripe in hot years. Alder Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills provided the Grenache, which delivers bright red fruit flavors while retaining good acidity, and a bit of Mourvedre. Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain supplied the remaining Mourvedre, a source of rich meatiness and spicy blackberry flavors, as well as the firm tannins and structure. As usual, James and Poppie make the wine with the finesse they originally learned in the Oregon Pinot industry. All of the juice is fermented at relatively cool temperatures, and then put in four to seven year old barrels to maintain its silky texture and rich mouth feel. Although you could certainly give the Cuvée Elena another three to five years to fully develop in your cellar, it is very enjoyable now as well. Try it with a spicy beef or lamb dish. It’s $39.75 and there is a bit more available.
2010 Mackey Vineyards, Right Bank
Club members may remember that we put the 2009 Mackey RAC in this club back in July, 2013. Fortuitously, Phil Mackey visited our shop with this wonderful wine just as we were looking for a Bordeaux blend to pair with the Cuvee Elena. In 2007, Phil and his brother Roger “said good bye to a conventional life in California,” in their words, and purchased a small farm in the southeastern corner of the Walla Walla Valley, in a deep canyon on the south fork of the Walla Walla River, with apple orchards and some gone-to-seed grape vines. The two virtues of the farm, from a grape-growing perspective, are a higher elevation, which keeps the frost away, and rock-strewn river soils, which force the vines to go deep to get their nourishment and thus pick up more nuance and character. Since their own vineyards are just beginning to mature, they sourced this delightful Merlot-Cab Franc blend from Echo Ridge Vineyard on the Oregon side of the Columbia Valley and the high altitude DuBrul Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. The result is a highly aromatic and elegant wine, full-bodied, with subtle earthy and mineral tones. Everything is in balance – dark fruit aromas, silky tannins, and a touch of tobacco and cocoa from the French oak barrels. Like most of these “right bank” blends from Washington, it is a more supple food wine than many of the big Cabernets, and it’s especially good with dishes that are grilled or smoked or feature mushrooms or herbs. Unlike the RAC, which was meant to be aged, this wine is drinking extremely well now, although it will likely gain in complexity over the next three to five years. It’s an excellent value at $45, and pretty limited, as only 131 cases were produced.