2013 Buty, Rockgarden Estate, $48
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, including the 2013 Merlot-Cab Franc in September.
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: 75% Mourvedre, 13% Syrah, and 12% Grenache, all from their estate vineyard in “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater,” Walla Walla’s new AVA. The wine was aged on its lees in neutral barrels for 17 months.
Vineyard source: Buty’s Rockgarden Estate is in the very highest part of the new AVA. The site was originally an apple orchard, and features massive basalt cobblestones, much like the Rhone River Valley in France.
Flavor profile: The Mourvedre provides meaty and minerally notes, with abundant layers of spicy black pepper, citrus, and smoke. The Grenache adds ripe Kirsch cherry flavors and the Syrah puts in some dark berries. Easily the most complex and interesting wine we’ve seen from The Rocks so far.
Production/Availability: 120 cases. It was just released in September and so is in very good supply.
Drinkability: Could use a year or two to come together.
Food Pairing: Excellent match for grilled meats, lamb chops, roasted wild mushrooms, or similarly hearty food.
2010 Bunnell Family Cellar, Fete, Snipes Mountain, $41
Winery info: Founded by Ron Bunnell in 2004. The Bunnells also own Prosser’s very popular Wine O’Clock restaurant well known for their excellent thin crust artisanal pizzas from their wood-fired brick oven.
Winemaker: Ron Bunnell started at Chateau Ste. Michelle back in 1992, and rose to become the director of their red wine program.
Grapes: An unusual blend of 30% Merlot, 26% Syrah, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 16% Malbec, aged for 31 months in oak, two-thirds of it new barrels.
Vineyard source: Sourced from some of the oldest vines in the state at Upland Vineyards. The Snipes Mountain AVA is a warm and dry region just north of the Yakima Valley; the soils are mostly composed of gravels from the Missoula flood.
Flavor profile: From the menu at Wine O’Clock: “The aromatics are of dried fruits and earth combined with fresh cherry, blackberry, and cedar. The deep flavors of the Bordeaux varietals are brightened by a plummy punch of Syrah, all with the perfect balance of tannin and acid.”
Production/Availability: Only 125 cases but still in good supply at the distributor, although the 2011 has already been released.
Drinkability: Like the Buty Rockgarden, it could use a year or so to fully integrate.
Food Pairing: The Wine O’Clock menu pairs it with artisan cured meat pizza, featuring salame, shaved onion, and fresh mozzarella.