SPRING 2014 MTA* RELEASE
2011 Grenache ‘Alder Ridge’, Horse Heaven Hills – MTA Exclusive
Alder Ridge was our first Grenache source starting in 2007. Originally, we didn’t intend to make Grenache. We instead wanted some Grenache to blend in with our Tempranillo, which is a common practice in Rioja. Sitting on the hills overlooking the Columbia River in the Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge is a warm site, perhaps a bit too warm for our style of wine. But it has an intensity and strength that we don’t find in our other Grenache blocks. Every year is always a sheer panic to make sure we pick the Grenache here at the exact right moment. If the Grenache at Alder Ridge is left too long on the vine, it develops a cotton candy, confectionary flavor. It may be fine for 16.5% Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but it’s not to our liking. But the coolness of the 2011 vintage gave us full ripeness at much lower alcohol than we typically see at Alder Ridge. This wine was partially destemmed and aged 15 months in 500 liter puncheon. This, along with the Olsen MTA bottling, is our favorite Grenache we have made to date. 100 cases.
Tasting notes: Red fruit. Cranberry and sweet raspberry. Provence herbs (lavender, rosemary, thyme), orange blossom, white pepper. Medium plus body, firm tannin. Medium length on palate.
2011 Syrah ‘Les Collines Block 50’, Walla Walla Valley – MTA Exclusive
We frequently take visitors to the winery to see Les Collines. It’s a very pretty vineyard with sweeping views of Walla Walla and Oregon. Block 50 sits at the upper part of the slope, above Block 46, which always goes into John Lewis. Not sure why it’s not called Block 47, but… People always ask about the strangeness of Block 50. It’s set up in a sort of 7-ft. bush training. It looks like vineyard management at its laziest expression. Just a huge nest of vines, leaves with clusters all over the place. The differing factor of the block is two-fold – very small, loose clusters and berries and much more slow ripening than the adjacent blocks, sometimes up to 2 weeks. Then there is Block 50’s chameleon-like fruit profile. It starts out with ripe rhubarb, stewed plum, roasted cherry flavors. Yum, right? The flavor profile is so strange (and un-Gramercy like) that we tried to drop the block in both 2006 and 2007, but were told to “just wait and see” by the vineyard manager. (Thanks Shane!) But, almost as if on cue, on November 1st the following year it morphed to black olive, red cherry, smoked meat and brine. As in previous years, we never destem the Block 50 Syrah. And, as with the Grenache, it was also aged in 500 L puncheons for 15 months. This is the first time we have bottled it on its own. Usually some winds up in John Lewis and some goes into the Walla Walla Syrah. But it is very special in 2011. Please note this wine is backward and needs some time. Wait until you see Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom on the TV again dominating the NFC to drink this wine. 100 cases.
Tasting notes: Black olive, leather, mushrooms, brine, venison, smoked meat. Super high acid. Black fruit. Dried plum, black licorice. Lavender and red fruit on the palate. Intense.
The 2011 Lagniappe is our second release with Red Willow Vineyard. Each year, we have become more amazing with the fruit from this vineyard. It is simply world class. In terms of style, it’s more Hermitage, while Les Collines is more Cornas-like. The fruit is brighter, crisper, and more red focused. The wine needs time to resolve and integrate. This is what Jeb Dunnuck had to say about the wine:
“A step up in terms of complexity, depth and richness, the 2011 Syrah Lagniappe is Greg’s cooler climate focused Syrah. Coming from the Red Willow, Olsen and SJR Vineyards and fermented with 50% whole cluster, it offers a brilliantly complex bouquet of violets, peppered steak, blackberry, stem and exotic spices along with a medium to full-bodied, focused and balanced mouthfeel. Really stretching out on the finish, it’s an overall classy, elegant Syrah that will age gracefully for 12-15 years. Drink 2016-2026.” Jeb Dunnuck The Wine Advocate (94-96)
In 2011, we blended Red Willow with SJR in the rocks area of Walla Walla and Olsen near Benton City. All should be familiar with both vineyards, as we have bottled MTA wines from each vineyard. However, this is a first appearance for Olsen Syrah in one of our high-end bottlings. In fact, the Olsen Syrah was so good we desperately wanted to do a separate MTA bottling of it. But, unfortunately there wasn’t enough of it and it greatly enhanced the Lagniappe wine. For the past 2 years, we have been begging Leif Olsen for more of this block. If you know Leif, please tell him we need more! (Actually Leif is fantastic. As I write, he is probably planting our head trained Grenache block for us at his property. But tell him more Syrah anyway.) This wine was fermented 50% on stems and aged in a mix of older 225L and 500L puncheons for 18 months. 501 cases.
Tasting notes: Nose of pepper, smoked meat, salami, black olive. Bloody. Raspberry and blackberry. Red currant. Firm acid, tightly wound, more open than the 2010 at this time.
2011 Mourvédre ‘L’Idiot du Village’, Columbia Valley
If there is any wine in this release that we are excited about, this is it. The L’diot du Village has been a bit of a redheaded stepchild for us and has morphed a few times. It was originally planned to be a Lower East type wine for Syrah and Grenache Blends. Then we turned it into a rocks vineyard Syrah/Grenache blend. While we were very pleased with it, Brandon and I came to realize, while blending L’Idiot as well as The Third Man, that we were consistently amazed by the quality of the Mourvédre in our vineyards. In 2010, we bottled Olsen Mourvédre for the MTA, which is most likely my favorite wine we have made at Gramercy. We knew we needed a Mourvédre-based wine. Not wanting another wine, we decided this is the future of L’Idiot.
When I was in Bandol this summer, the one thing I noticed was that our Mourvédre in barrel tasted very similar to the wines we were sampling in the cellars. While I feel our Syrah and Grenache are very Rhône-like, I don’t get the same familiarity when tasting in barrel in the Rhône. Mourvédre is at home in Washington. It needs a warm site and low yields. To sum it all up – I think that perhaps Mourvédre has more potential than any other variety in Washington. But Mourvédre is a wine-geek grape. You have to love smoky, earthy flavors. You have to be willing to age the wine. What I love about Mourvédre is that it keeps a red fruit profile while still being extremely dark and earthy.
The 2011 L’Idiot is 90% Mourvédre, 5% Syrah and 5% Cinsault from Alder Ridge and Olsen Vineyards. We destemmed all the fruit and aged the wine for 20 months in old oak. 421 cases.
Tasting notes: Well-cooked pot roast, leather, smoked meat, red flowers, plum, raspberries, currant, sweet cherries. Extreme length.
What can we say about Tempranillo? It continues to impress us, especially our estate vineyard on JB George Rd. One major change we first made in 2010 and continue in 2011, is that we now hold the Tempranillo an additional six months in bottle before release, allowing the wine to resemble more of a Reserva than a Crianza style. We feel the wine greatly benefits from the extra time. The 2011 is a well-structured wine with firm tannins and continues our tradition of Rioja style. The flavor is a combination of red and dark berries, with mushrooms and earth. As always, the wine is aged in 2- to 7-year-old American oak. The blend of the 2011 Tempranillo is 90% Tempranillo, 6% Syrah and 4% Grenache.
Tasting notes: Cocoa powder, red-black fruit on nose, restrained and backwards, cedar box, medium plus acid, strong tannins. Will take time to resolve. Oak well integrated.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
In 2006, Pam and I got a call from Jean Francois Pellet of Pepper Bridge Winery. Norm McKibben wanted to put a vineyard partnership together for some people in the wine business who he thought had potential. He had just purchased the 1000+ acre Servein property, above Seven Hills Vineyard in Oregon. Norm had 7 partners selected, including us and was giving us pick of pretty much any block on the property. Immediately, we said yes. We selected a parcel on the high slope, at 1350 ft. elevation, to be planted with Bordeaux varieties. While not stated on the label, the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Octave Vineyard fruit. Octave is a unique site in the valley. It has the heat of Seven Hills, but because of the elevation, ripens much more slowly, with typical harvest dates in early October. The Cabernet from this property is intense with ripe black fruits and gravel. We think this wine shows the earthy side of Walla Walla Cabernet. The makeup of the wine is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petite Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot. 159 cases.
Tasting notes: Soft vanilla, rose, gravel and pencil lead. Red and black fruit: currant, plums. Red/green. Vanilla, baking spices. Cedar and mushrooms. Acid for days. Needs longer cellar time.
2013 Viognier ‘Antoine Creek Vineyard’, Lake Chelan
We continue to be extremely impressed with Viognier in Lake Chelan. Even in the warmest vintages, as 2013 was, the Viognier at Antoine Creek held its acidity. More importantly, Viognier, especially in the more southern areas of Washington, tends to have a very ripe side and an under ripe side to the cluster. This forces the winemaker to make a compromise of having both ripe and under ripe flavors int he wine. As in 2012, we found consistent ripeness throughout the entire cluster. And, we were also encouraged that in a warm year, we were still able to leave the grapes on the vine until early October.
The Viognier in 2013 is a bit riper than the 2012, but we also feel it has a better mouthfeel. We fermented a portion in neutral oak, not for oak flavor, but for texture and richness.
Tasting Notes: honeydew melon, lanolin, lemon rind, pineapple, mango. Crisp, acid driven, but substantial.
2013 Rosé ‘Olsen Vineyard’, Columbia Valley
What can we say about Rosé? We love making it. Olsen Vineyard is perfect for it. As always, we macerated the Cinsault, Syrah and Grenache for 6 hours, achieving the perfect salmon color. We definitely prefer to be on the orange side of the spectrum instead of pink for our Rosé. This Rosé is more substantial than previous vintages. It’s a bit riper, as is the trend for all varieties in 2013. More on that in a couple of years. Its a wine that will take some time to open. Its more of an intellectual wine instead of a back yard quaffer. Brandon and I have been thinking a lot of the texture of our wines – the mouthfeel. Its one of those things that is very hard to explain, but “you know it when you see it.” We want mid palate intensity, but we also want the wines to have fantastic texture. We started really thinking about this in the 2012 vintage, which, as a preview, is absolutely incredible. I think I will let Pam write the 2012 newsletters. I’m always saying to her “Don’t use so many exclamation points!” But the 2012’s deserve them. Maybe we will do a release party with !!! (geeky indie band reference, for those that will email and ask) Back to Rosé…the 2013 may last well into the football season. We may have to amend the rules just this year. It may be a wine to drink while watching the Seahawks in the Super Bowl in 2015. Give this bottle a bit of time. Should be coming well into its own by the time the Germans are dominating World Cup.
Tasting Notes: Rich, ripe, great mouthfeel. Ripe cherry, strawberry, mineral, smoke, earth, those honeydew-ish melons in Japan that are ripe and cost $75(the melons, not the rose). Insane length.
2013 Picpoul, Columbia Valley
Ok, so what is Picpoul and why are we making it? Well, first of all, Pam loves it. But there’s an even better reason. As many know, we have been partnering with our best growers to plant specifically for us. One of our main goals was to get some Grenache in the ground, specifically head trained Grenache. Head training is the standard for the best Grenache vineyards in the Southern Rhône. To my knowledge, no one has used that system for Grenache in Washington. Leif Olsen, our top Grenache grower, enthusiastically agreed to plant for us. Leif had a block of Picpoul that he would take out and plant Grenache, but he really wanted to see us do something with the Picpoul for a year. We saw it as a great trade and an opportunity to try something different. So this is the one and only chance to try this wine. The Picpoul vines have been removed and Grenache is in the ground.
Picpoul is a blending variety found in Southern Rhône white wines. These vines were brought to the US by Tablas Creek in California from Château Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Picpoul is an acid monster. As Brandon said last week when we tasted it “Yup, no acid missing there.” This is a fantastic summer wine. Perfect for oysters, shellfish, or anything caught by guys wearing rubber overalls. (Did anyone ever hear the story of how Pam broke her wrist fishing?)
Tasting Notes: lemon, lime, grapefruit, mineral, brine, white flowers, green herb. Insanely crisp and refreshing. Anyone want to meet at Walrus and the Carpenter?
*What is the MTA, you ask?
It’s Gramercy Cellars’ Wine Club, known as the Master Tasting Association. To request information, please email Robbi at email@example.com for complete details on joining the MTA. We look forward to having you join us!