I always love the Fall Release. It’s a time of change as we move from one vintage to the next. In the past few newsletters and random email blasts, I have been mentioning; I mean shouting, about the 2014 vintage, particularly for Syrah. Jeb Dunnuck was very praiseful of our 2014 Syrahs. Yesterday, as I was sitting at my desk, I received an email from Ian Cauble at SommSelect and Somm the movie. If you are looking for a fantastic place to find new wines, Ian’s selections are amazing. I frequently hit the reply button when he offers wine. I had no idea he was sending a Gramercy offering.
“We knew what to expect, but we were wowed nonetheless when today’s wine made its way around the tasting table…and this 2014 “Lagniappe,” while certainly not the first Gramercy Syrah we’ve tasted, is among the best ever. It’s a case study in the varietal character of Syrah… We know and appreciate how much immense concentration this region’s reds often achieve, but this wine reveals how much soil character and aromatic complexity is possible as well. It is truly impressive… Count Harrington among the West Coast’s next-generation “Rhône Rangers,” as he and Gramercy have clearly found their voice with this variety.” Ian Cauble SommSelect
I mention this one last time because I truly feel we took Syrah and the other Rhône varieties to another level in 2014. Even more good news – I think we stepped up another level in 2015.
The 2015 Fall Release is diverse. There are nine varieties among the wines. The MTA wines are probably the strangest we have offered, but maybe our favorite collection of wines as well.
We start with Pinot Noir – from an amazing vineyard in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. For years, Brandon has asked “Can we make Pinot yet? Can we make Pinot yet?” And the answer has been “Not yet buddy, sit quiet and watch your videos.” However, one day in 2015, the answer was “Ok, put the iPad down and go out and play.” The 2015 Le Pre du Col Willamette Valley Vineyard is monumental. It’s both New and Old World. It’s complex and, like our Syrah’s, unlike much of what’s being made in the surrounding area. And of course – stems.
Here is more on the Le Pre du Col Vineyard: http://www.bergstromwines.com/journal/josh/2016/a-focus-on-le-pre-du-col
Secondly, we are offering a wine that will make a difference. And a wine that has been in our cellar since 2012 – Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Sangiovese. See the wine notes for the story of how we stumbled onto Sangiovese. I was in Napa a few weeks ago with some fraternity brothers from college celebrating a milestone birthday. After a day visiting wineries (make sure you visit Dan Pietrowski and Larkmead when you visit Napa!) and an insane dining experience, we were sitting at the pool drinking more wine. My wine loving friend and fraternity brother Joel said the best statement I have heard in a long time. He said “I don’t know why this world is so hard. It’s really easy. Just love everyone and do some sh#t.” So we are going to love people and do some sh#t by donating a significant percentage of the proceeds to two great Walla Walla charities that feed those in need and house the homeless.
Of course, the box also includes our incredible Fall offerings – 2015 Walla Walla ‘Deuce’ Syrah, 2015 Third Man Grenache and the 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. We are particularly proud of these wines. As these vineyards mature and we convert them to organic viticulture, we are seeing more aromatic expression and complexity.
Thank you for your support of Gramercy. We look forward to seeing you in Walla Walla or at an event soon.
Greg, Pam, Brandon, Robbi and Nichole
2015 Syrah “The Deuce”
Walla Walla Valley
In 2014, we wrote this regarding the Deuce Syrah:
“The 2014 Deuce Syrah is a different wine than usual. In the past, we always explained the wine as blue and black fruit dominant – blueberry, black cherry, etc. However, in tasting this wine over the past year, we kept using red fruit descriptors – raspberry, cranberry, red cherry.”
Ok, I (Greg) admit it. I am having difficulty coming up with an original story for the 2015 wine. In fact, I copied the 2014 release note. Kidding… kind of. In all honesty, we employed the exact same vineyard and winemaking approach with the 2015 vintage as the 2014 vintage. And it worked in 2015 – perhaps even a bit better than in 2014.
We always base the Deuce blend on Les Collines Vineyard, usually blocks 46 and 36 on the steeper upper section of the vineyard. Adding Forgotten Hills to this blend is a natural extension for the wine. The vineyard sits almost at the base of Les Collines and is greatly influenced by the Blue Mountains. The cool air rolls down the Blue Mountains every night and sits directly over the vineyard. With very shallow soils over fractured basalt, Forgotten Hills brings freshness, acidity, and structure to the wine. Les Collines contributes its typical aromatic elegance and complexity. In 2015, we found the best blend to be 51% Forgotten Hills and 49% Les Collines.
The 2015 Deuce is 85% whole cluster. As usual, we didn’t destem the Les Collines fruit. We used about 75% whole cluster for the Forgotten Hills, as sometimes the stems at the vineyard are slightly bitter. We continue to see the switch to organic viticulture giving huge returns. Starting with the 2017 vintage, we do not expect to destem before fermentation.
Tasting Notes: Ripe stems, earthy, green olive, smoked meat, blood, iron, red flowers, saline. Medium + acid and tannins, low alcohol for Syrah at 13.2. Firm, austere, restrained, angular, tart. Huge length and complexity that will reveal more. Needs time. So happy with this wine.
This wine has not been reviewed yet. But every vintage since 2012 has gotten 93 pts from Jeb Dunnuck. No whammies, no whammies, no whammies.
Whole Cluster 85%
Les Collines & Forgotten Hills
Drinking Window: 2019-2035
2015 Grenache “Third Man”
If you read our social media posts, we love giving insight into not only what’s happening at Gramercy, but also what’s happening around the wine world. As we travel to various cities, especially in the United States, we keep hearing people saying “I’m really getting into Rhône blends.” Remember this five years from now.
We are definitely into Rhône blends, especially Grenache based blends. We love Mourvèdre too, but shhh. Don’t let that secret out yet. Grenache blends are a winemaker’s dream, especially if you like to tinker with wines. If you are slightly obsessive compulsive, these wines are a nightmare for the winemaker. When we first started making Third Man – or is it the Third Man? I’m thinking about my disdain every time Tom or Padma say “See you at Chef’s Table.” Uh – you mean THE Chef’s table. When we first started making Third Man, it would take us the same amount of time to blend the Third Man as every other wine combined. To begin, we always start with the basics, established in France a long time ago – 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah. What does the wine need? Black fruit and mid palate? Add Mourvèdre. Freshness? Add Syrah. A little something else? Carignan. We are not, however, wedded to this ratio. I can easily see a blend of 33% each Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Did I turn the sink off when I left the house today? I better go check.
With Grenache, we are always seeking red fruit. We want the overall feeling of the wine to be fresh and alive. That being said, Grenache has to be ripe. Riper than any other grape in our cellar. However, Grenache can easily display pink cotton candy and confectionary sugar flavors if it gets even a bit too ripe. These flavors develop extremely quickly, sometimes in twelve or so hours. When Olsen or Alder Ridge Grenache is approaching the harvest date, we go to the vineyard every day, sometimes twice a day. The goal is to push ripeness to the very last hour, before the Grenache carnival flavors arrive. If we miss, the vintage is lost. The flavors are set and can’t be covered up with other varieties.
The 2015 Third Man is 75% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre and 5% Carignan from Olsen, Alder Ridge, and Minick Vineyards. Alder Ridge Vineyard contributes power and structure. Olsen Vineyard varieties lend elegance and grace to the blend. A small bit of Minnick Syrah adds freshness. In 2014, the finished wine was 75% whole cluster. In 2015, we upped the stem percentage a bit to 85% whole cluster.
Tasting Notes: So, Grenache – cranberry, Bing cherry, bright, fresh, alive in the glass, primary fruit. Some white pepper, red flower, dense and elegant on the palate, fresh acidity, Provence herb, rock/mineral, black and blue fruit on palate. Maybe the most complete ever? Tannin!
75% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre, 5% Carignan
Whole Cluster 85%
Olsen, Alder Ridge & Minick Vineyard
Drinking Window: 2018 – 2028
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
Each year, we feel that we kick our Cabernet program up a notch. (Miss you Emeril…)
Jeb Dunnuck said of the 2013 Cabernet
“I compared the 2013 Cabernet to a top Margaux last year when I tasted it from barrel, and I stand by that comparison today.” I’m thinking of tattooing that on my arm. Jeb perhaps likes the 2014 even more “the inky colored 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon offers classic Cabernet notes of black currants, lead pencil shavings, tobacco leaf and damp earth. Beautifully layered on the palate, with full-bodied richness, solid mid-palate depth and a touch of graphite on the finish, this is a sensational Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon that will have 20-25 years of longevity. (94-96 pts)”
The Cabernet Sauvignon always contains two vital parts – Phinny Hill and Sagemoor Vineyards. They are like chocolate and peanut butter together. However, as in 2013, we found that we liked adding a bit of estate fruit to the mix. Like chocolate and peanut butter, but with a pour of 1963 Quinta do Noval Nacional. Drink more Port people! The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is about 55% Phinny Hill, 25% Sagemoor and 15% Octave Estate Vineyard. Each vineyard contributes vitally to the final blend. Phinny is backbone and elegance, Sagemoor is all about power and complexity and Octave is the closer. Always be closing…
The varietal composition of the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon also puts us on a different path this year. Traditionally, the wine combines Cabernet with a bit of Merlot and Petit Verdot. But in 2014, Merlot took its ball and went home. We felt Cabernet Franc fit better in the blend, adding freshness and life to the final blend. Of course, Petit Verdot always hangs out for a while. The final blend is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.
Tasting Notes: Red and black fruit, gravel, deep, elegant, complex, almost like old skool CA Cabernet. Mineral, medium + acid, firm tannin. Almost the perfect Cabernet for us. Chocolate, pencil shavings, red flowers, forest floor, mushroom, cedar.
95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot
Phinny Hill, Sagemoor Vineyard, Octave Estate Vineyard
Cases Made: 1421
Drinking Window: 2017- 2037
2012 Sangiovese “Sola Gratia”
Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
Sangiovese – really? So, let me tell you a story. Some years back, we were begging the great people at Ciel du Cheval Vineyard to sell us Cabernet Sauvignon. We feel it is iconic Cabernet and wanted into the party. However, let’s just say acquiring Ciel Cabernet is difficult. After numerous years, it was starting to feel like my clubbing days in NYC. The red rope, the beautiful people, the clipboard…sorry no. However, in 2012, they suggested we take some Sangiovese. The idea is when a Cabernet block became available, we will have developed a feel for the fruit produced in the vineyard.
The name Sola Gratia loosely translates to “a free gift,” a philosophy that aligns with the name Gramercy. Gramercy, some think is French slang for “Grand Merci” or a “big thank you.” Through the course of our journey, we always want to remember to say thank you and to improve the lives of others.
The winery has afforded us the ability to help others in our community and world through supporting various charities, primarily education and human need based charities. As in many other communities, Walla Walla is currently battling a large homeless crisis. We seek to make a difference here in 2017 – 2018. Gramercy will donate a substantial portion of the profits of this wine to the Walla Walla Food Bank and the Walla Walla Alliance for the Homeless.
What do Greg and Brandon know about making Sangiovese? Not much. So we got on the phone with a few friends from far off espresso laden places. We learned two things. 1) Sangiovese has huge tannins that need to be managed 2) the wine needed extensive aging in both barrel and bottle. To manage tannins, we employed a Pinot Noir mindset, which involves gentle handling to create silky tannins. Afterward, we put the wine in barrel for almost three years, by far the longest we have ever aged a wine. We are astonished by the results. It’s varietal. It’s earthy and reminiscent of the Old World. It makes me want to pick up the phone and call Jim Holmes at Ciel du Cheval.
So whatever happened to the Ciel du Cheval Cabernet? Kent Walliser of Sagemoor is what happened. When he offered us their incredible blocks of Cabernet, we felt we had the necessary components to make absolutely world class Cabernet.
Tasting Notes: Tart red fruit, forest floor, sandalwood, rose petal, and tomato leaf. Moderate plus acid, moderate tannins with some secondary aromas starting to emerge. Balanced, earthy, and sweeter on the palate.
Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
Drinking Window: 2017 – 2035
2015 Pinot Noir
Le Pre du Col Vineyard
Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley
Bandwagon /ˈbændˌwæɡ·ən/ noun 1. a particular activity or cause that has suddenly become fashionable or popular.
We know we may be accused of bandwagoning making Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. But in our defense, we did make wine in the Willamette Valley from 2006 – 2008 – one barrel each vintage. In 2008 as Nero played his fiddle, we decide to refocus on the core business.
We loved making Pinot Noir and have wanted to re-enter the game. Put me in coach! For a number of years, we were seeking the right vineyard. As these things usually go, when you stop looking, that’s when it happens. Brandon happened to be at a tasting with Josh Bergstrom. We have always loved and respected Josh’s wines. Josh mentioned to Brandon that he had started a small Syrah project and was looking to source some Washington fruit. Brandon said we were seeking Pinot Noir and suggested a trade. Nice one, BMoss! In early 2015, we took a trip down to Oregon with a massive heap of Syrah samples. After many hours of tasting Pinot Noir and Syrah, we had a fantastic plan worked out. Josh agreed to let us work with the amazing Le Pre du Col Vineyard and we would send him one of our best blocks of Les Collines Syrah. We highly advise seeking out the Bergstrӧm Les Collines Syrah.
Although I am not the typical Pinot Noir above all else (former) sommelier, I have huge respect for Pinot Noir done well. To me, my greatest inspiration and some of my most special tasting moments have been via Henri Jayer of Burgundy. I have been lucky enough to have his wines frequently throughout my career. If I were to list the top 10 wines I have ever tasted, Jayer’s wines would have at least three spots. Henri is likely the most talented Pinot Noir practitioner ever to live. Henri hated any the use of stems in Pinot Noir, thinking they made the wine herbal and overly tannic. He eschewed the benefits of 100% new oak from small barrels. I have studied his methods for making Burgundy. So when we started our own journey with Pinot Noir, we fermented the wine on 75% stems and aged the wine in a large neutral barrel. This is the Willamette Valley, not Vosne Romanee.
The Le Pre du Col Pinot Noir is old school, restrained, austere, earthy Pinot. The vision in my mind were the older school California Pinots of Joseph Swan, Mount Eden Estate and Calera. There were wines that needed time in bottle. Le Pre du Col wine needs some time. Its backward and angular. This wine will greatly benefit from 6 months to a year in the cellar. It is definitively not a pop and pour as the FedEx driver walks down the driveway.
Figuring out exactly when to drink Pinot is tricky. Pinot Noir is like that person in the bar that rejects you over and over but finally speaks to you after the fifth try. And you end up getting really lucky.
Tasting Notes: Explosive nose. Takes some time to open. Raspberry, dark cherry, blackberry, not sweet, dark, Provence herb, green olive, rock, stone, forest floor, potting soil, red flowers, stems, orange blossom, and spice. Medium plus acid, medium bodied, tart on palate, angular, firm tannins, and elegant. It will need time to resolve.
100% Pinot Noir
Whole Cluster 75%
Drinking Window: 2018 – 2028