Washington Wine Club – September 2015

This month we feature two outstanding wines from the warm 2013 vintage in Washington, both of which were featured or will be featured at one of our monthly Saturday Washington tastings.

2013 Buty, Merlot Cabernet Franc, Conner Lee Vineyard, $45

Winery info: One of the top wineries in Walla Walla, founded in 2000 by Nina Buty and Caleb Foster, and source of a long list of wines that we’ve put in this club.

Winemaker: Chris Dowsett, who started working in his family’s vineyard in Oregon in the early 1980s. He studied viticulture in Australia and then worked as a winemaker for such iconic California wineries as Robert Mondavi and Schramsberg. He came to Walla Walla in 1996 to assist the great John Abbott (now winemaker for Abeja) at Canoe Ridge and also makes wine for his own Dowsett Winery.

Grapes: 61% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Franc, all of it free-run juice. The wine was aged for 15 months in French oak barrels, 55% of them new.

Vineyard source: Conner Lee Vineyard, the source for this wine since the inaugural 2000 vintage. As a cool site in a warm region, Conner Lee is known for producing smooth, elegant wines.

Flavor profile: From Buty’s tasting notes: “A rich and juicy cherry cobbler core of merlot is surrounded by layers of blueberry and spice from the cabernet franc, which also contributes to this wine’s excellent acidity and lovely fine-grained tannins. Oak aging has subtly imparted hints of cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg, underscoring the merlot’s body and richness.”

Production/Availability: 301 cases, and still in good supply at the distributor.

Drinkability: Youthful and accessible now, it was a big hit at our May Washington tasting. The intense fruit, high acid, and strong tannins also point to an ability to age for another five years.

Food Pairing: Grilled meat, lamb, or pork.

2013 Sparkman Cellars, Preposterous Malbec, Red Mountain, $39.75

Winery info: Founded in 2004 by Chris Sparkman, who spent over 20 years working as a sommelier in fine restaurants around the country.

Winemaker: Linn Scott started in the Washington wine industry in 2001 and studied viticulture and enology in France and Germany. He teaches at the Northwest Wine Academy here at South Seattle College and will be pouring Sparkman wines at our tasting on Saturday, October 24.

Grapes: Almost all Malbec, with a touch of Syrah from Boushey Vineyard. Aged in French oak barrels, 30% of them new, giving it a lush mouth feel and a long finish.

Vineyard source: The old vine Malbec is sourced from Klipsun Vineyard, one of the oldest and best vineyards on Red Mountain. It was originally planted in 1982.

Flavor profile: Paul Gregutt of The Wine Enthusiast called it ”a sappy, concentrated wine with gorgeous raspberry and blackberry fruit supported by a streak of iron and a whiff of dark chocolate.” A classic Malbec!

Production/Availability: Pretty limited, although there is a bit more available.

Drinkability: Ready to drink any time in the next five years.

Food Pairing: It was paired at a recent wine dinner with Grilled Venison with Celery Root Puree.