Library Vintages

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2009 Bordeaux-Styled Wines & Chapitre 3, Syrah

So much has been written about Washington’s 2009 vintage, the first of three roller-coaster years. For us there were three critical periods, the cool spring, a torrid heat streak mid-summer, and the October 10 deep freeze. At the end of the ride we felt like we lived a blessed life since we came through with stunning results. Spring delayed development and limited yields; summer temperatures built rich ferments and gave us our earliest harvest on record; and we picked our last grapes on October 8, two days before a devastating freeze pretty much stopped all grape development throughout the Columbia Valley. The wines show common threads of the vintage: full flavor, rich mid palates and a long-structured finish.
Pere de Famille, Cabernet Sauvignon Clos de Betz, Bordeaux Blend  Chapitre 3, Syrah

2009 Pere de Famille, Cabernet Sauvignon

This vintage of Père de Famille is consistent with the past several years, heavy on Cabernet character, with Petit Verdot playing a key supporting role and a bit of Merlot adding fleshiness. There’s a notable development, however: an increase in the Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1973 block at Red Willow Vineyard. I love wines from older vines: there’s typically an added dimension from deeper roots, thick trunks and shy bearing buds. Among the oldest plantings in the state, this vineyard’s contribution brought additional richness and complexity to the blend, without added astringency. The 2009 is full blown, with a powerful aroma of black currants, plum and blackberry. Completing the aroma are scents of violet, smoke, rock and vanilla bean. Classic Cabernet structure is reflected in its firm grip of tannin, but there’s enough fruit density to make it lush and pliant. This is another vintage where it’s easy to use the word “complete” to describe the overall character of this Cabernet.


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
  • 82% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 10% Petit Verdot
  • 8% Merlot

 
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  • 66% Red Mountain
  • 18% Horse Heaven Hills
  • 16% Yakima Valley
Acclaim
Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate: “… 96 points. … a fine impersonation of a classified growth Pauillac, it offers up a nose of sandalwood, Asian spices, incense, herbal notes, violets, black currants, and blackberry. This sets the stage for an already complex, elegant, smooth-textured, structured wine…”

Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:  “… 93 points. Cassis, crushed blackberry and violet on the nose. Intensely flavored and juicy, with terrific cut and lift to the flavors of blackberry and licorice. Boasts plenty of acidity but there's nothing hard about this cabernet….”

2009 Clos de Betz, Bordeaux Blend

 2009 Clos de Betz
Mid-summer heat built Merlot power in 2009. The thicker grape skins caused by higher summer temperatures create one of Merlot’s splendid sensory traits, the smell of sweet chocolate. And it’s here in the 2009 vintage of Clos de Betz. Add subtle creamy vanilla oak from French oak barrels, rich baking spices, saddle leather and black pepper and you have the nuance of this vintage, all playing out on sweet black cherry and mulberry foundations.

There’s plumpness to the mid-palate, broad and expressive, while the finish lingers, lively and satisfying. Despite the addition of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is structurally Merlot, pliant, supple and with enough spine for moderate to long cellaring.


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
  • 65% Merlot
  • 29% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 6% Petit Verdot

 
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  • 51% Red Mountain
  • 30% Yakima Valley
  • 19% Horse Heaven Hills
Acclaim
Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate: “…96 points…. Opaque purple in color, it offers up a brooding bouquet of toasty oak, exotic spices, herbs, violets, black currant, and blackberry. Opulent on the palate, the wine has outstanding volume, a laser-like focus, layered fruit, and succulent flavors.

Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:  “92 points. … hints at cassis, licorice and aromatic oak. Broad, sweet and tactile on entry, then plump and sweet in the middle, showing a distinct cocoa powder quality from its very ripe merlot component…”

2009 Chapitre 3, Syrah

 2009 Chapitre 3
We’ve been making Syrah for 13 vintages at Betz Family, but only once before, in 2005, did we make this wine. Any special blend must be different from, and even better than, the wines we craft each vintage. By definition these wines are made in small amounts, and yield an expression that is unique and compelling.

It all came together once again in 2009, when we saw something special in a blend of barrels that stopped us in our tracks. Unlike the three Syrahs we craft each vintage which are expressions of single sites, Syrah Chapitre 3 (Chapter 3) focuses on the grape character itself, rather than the vineyard origins. I typically view Syrah as a chameleon, expressing itself best as a wine that reflects its vineyard origin. But, hey, we’re not in France, and there are no rules, so we can blend to make the best wine we can.

And that’s what the 2009 Syrah Chapitre 3 is, a blend from three vineyards in two AVAs that sing together to make a most persuasive wine. Two barrels hail from Red Mountain, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard and Ranch at the End of the Road, and two from Boushey Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. We know these vineyards well; we’ve been farming most of the Betz Family rows since the 1999 or 2000 vintage. During our frequent barrel tastings several barrels stood out in 2009; but these four fit together seamlessly.

Its purple black color hints at its density, confirmed by the penetrating aroma. This is like a classic from the northern Rhone, with a deep cassis, blackberry foundation. Layered atop are smoke, wild game, and roasted meat aromas, with saddle leather, rock and spice-rack completing the picture. It enters full, has a dynamite mid-palate and simply lasts on the palate. It’s as smooth as baby skin until the steel spine subtly reveals itself. It will be hard to cellar this, but lay some away, at least for a couple years, to bring to light why we make this so infrequently.

 

Note that we didn’t release this wine in September 2011 with our other 2009 Syrahs. We thought its structure and depth merited additional cellaring before release.


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
100% Syrah
 
AVA or Vineyard Detail
Two barrels hail from Red Mountain:
  • Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
  • Ranch at the End of the Road
Two barrels from Yakima Valley:
  • Boushey Vineyard
Acclaim
 

2009 Rhone-Inspired Wines

The 2009 growing season started cool for the second year in a row.  By mid-May, the season had recorded the lowest “heat accumulation” in the previous 10 years. The pendulum then swung back, and by mid-June, the season was the warmest in the prior decade. Oh, agriculture! What followed was a very hot summer, with some historic temperatures in July and August.

We were fortunate the heat came mid-season when it did, advancing ripening early on. Our last picking day for Betz Family was October 8, seven to ten days earlier than average, and we were glad: the night of October 10 temperatures plummeted for the earliest and deepest autumn frost that I can remember. The freeze caused widespread damage to the leaf canopies, and for most sites, ripening through photosynthesis was done for the year. We dodged a big one!

Besoleil Syrah La Serenne Syrah La Cote Rousse Syrah La Cote Patriarche

2009 Besoleil

2009 Besoleil
Cinsault is a minor player in the wines of the Southern Rhone, yet its contribution is a part of many appellations of Southern France. Washington has embraced the variety, albeit in a minor way: a few acres are scattered throughout the Columbia Valley. We’ve watched its performance here and tasted the results for a number of vintages, and it makes its debut as part of our Bésoleil blend in 2009. It brings freshness and suppleness to the 2009 vintage.

The 2009 Bésoleil is still Grenache dominant, with its black raspberry, strawberry preserves and spicy note taking center stage. Vibrant, intense and penetrating, the 2009 is less “new world” than the 2008, with mineral, sagebrush and olive playing supporting roles. The mouthfeel is polished and yet has ample grip to reward aging in the cellar.

Serve cool, 60-62°F. Best from 2013 through 2018


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
  • 66% Grenache, 14% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, 10% Mourvedre

  • 100% French oak, 100% 1 fill (1 year)
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  • 50% Yakima Valley, 27% Snipes Mountain, 23% Red Mountain
Acclaim
From Jeb Dunnuck's Rhone Report June 2011: "...southern Rhone like bouquet of kirsch and strawberry styled fruits, lavender, wet stone, licorice, and spice, the wine is medium+ bodied on the palate and beautifully put together, possessing pure fruit, solid acidity, and a focused, classically styled finish. Superb now.." 91 points

2009 Syrah La Serenne

2009 Syrah La Serenne
The heat we experienced in July and August built skin thickness and density, driving flavor and tannin development earlier than usual, and deepened color as well. The affects are clear in this year’s Syrah La Serenne: while it’s typically the softest and most approachable of our three Syrahs, the 2009 La Serenne is a blockbuster. Black red with a vibrant magenta edge, this vintage is “big” in every dimension and will probably live longer than many of the recent La Serenne vintages.

Blackberry, black cherry, liquid smoke and meat are the dominant flavors with a good measure of spice and blueberries in the background. There’s a full mouthfeel, with more tannin than typical, but without excess astringency, thanks to the specific Boushey Vineyard site we farm. As usual, this Syrah shows refinement and elegance, but this year they are backed up with power and a certain “wildness” that happens in this vineyard in warm years, reminiscent of the 2003 and 2005. It expresses itself mostly in the aroma, with crushed herb, iron and black olive notes.

Serve cool, 60-62°F. Best from 2013 through 2020


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
  • 100% Syrah

  • 12 months 100% French Oak barrels, 50% new oak, 50% one fill (1 year)
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  • 100% Boushey Vineyard (Yakima Valley)
Acclaim
From Jeb Dunnuck's Rhone Report, June 2011: "...a gorgeous wine and easily the most approachable of the ’09 Syrahs. Possessing a vibrant, opaque purple color, as well as captivating and brilliantly pure aromatics of blackberry and raspberry liqueur, charred meat, violets, ground pepper, and serious minerality, the wine is medium+ bodied on the palate and possesses an elegant, perfectly balanced, streamlined profile. Far from a fruit bomb, this opens up over the evening and highlights a supple, seamless texture, fantastic integration of acidity, fruit, and tannin, and a long, structured finish. Given the balance and purity, this is no doubt superb now. However, I think it will be even better with bottle age. I would give bottles 2-4 years in the cellar, at which point this should drink well for a 10-15 years. 94 points."

2009 Syrah La Cote Rousse

2009 Syrah La Cote Rousse
This year’s blend of Syrah La Côte Rousse is nearly equal portions of our two Red Mountain Syrah vineyard sources, Ciel du Cheval and Ranch at the End of the Road. Once again the synergy between these two sites and the four clones creates a blend of power, complexity and completeness.

The mid-season heat was a factor with these Red Mountain vineyards, as the berries can easily sunburn or become “heat affected” so that they never quite ripen right. We shade the clusters with the leaf canopy, especially on the western-facing side, to avoid these problems. It worked well, yielding small berries that actually needed very little hand-sorting. The result is a wine that’s the runner-up for blackest of the Syrahs (see La Côte Patriarche below!), with super density, yet an approachability that’s uncommon for this blend. Very sweet in the nose, with big black cherries, smoke, floral spice and an earthy/truffle note. This is Red Mountain at its best, with dimension yet elegance, packed black fruits, yet a creamy, plush impression.

Serve cool, 60-62°F. Best from 2014 through 2020




Blending Detail and Aging Profile
  • 100% Syrah

  • 12 months 100% French Oak barrels, 50% new oak, 50% one fill (1 year)
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  • 49% Ciel du Cheval, 51% Kiona Vineyard (Red Mountain)
Acclaim
From Jeb Dunnuck's Rhone Report June 2011; "...masculine, edgy aromas of black fruits, dusty minerality, dried beef, graphite, and licorice on the nose. Serious and firm on the palate, this is a Vin de Garde for sure, with medium to full body, a concentrated, rich mid-palate, a savory, grippy texture, edgy acidity, and a chewy, long finish that’s loaded with dusty, earthy tannin. Possibly more approachable than this note would have you believe, with lots to love now, I would still advise cellaring this beauty for 3-5 years, at which point, it should drink well for two decades. Gorgeous stuff and getting up there with benchmark status. 95 Points"

2009 Syrah La Cote Patriarche

2009 Syrah La Cote Patriarche
This gets the nod as the blackest of the 2009 Syrahs, with an impenetrable, dense core of color nearly to the very edge of the glass; swirl it and it coats the glass. This old Syrah planting at Red Willow Vineyard showed its stuff in 2009, creating a blend that’s somewhat a cross between the suppleness of La Serenne and power of La Côte Rousse. It makes sense: although Red Willow lies at the far west end of the Yakima Valley, nearer to the Cascade foothills, it’s warmer than the Boushey Vineyard (La Serenne) in the mid Yakima Valley, but not as hot as the vineyards on Red Mountain (La Côte Rousse).

The 2009 is deep, brooding and dense, a massive combination of fruit, earth and barrel. Yet it’s still seamless and plush. There’s a rich, silky entry and huge mid palate, with great grip and length in the finish. Its aroma is extraordinary, with profound black fruits, blueberries, Asian spice and black cherry candy. Smoked meat, game and a slight floral note round things out nicely.

There’s so much stuffing to this vintage of La Côte Patriarche that I’m hesitant to offer a drinking window. The Sauer family has been farming these vines since 1986 when they planted Washington’s first Syrah here: stories are still told of the earliest vintages (made by David Lake MW at the Columbia Winery) and how successfully they’ve aged over time. I haven’t tasted many of them, but I’m eager to track this wine as it matures over the next decade or more.

Serve cool, 60-62°F. Best from 2013 through 2022



Blending Detail and Aging Profile
  • 100% Syrah

  • 12 months 100% French Oak barrels, 50% new oak, 50% one fill (1 year)
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  • 100% Red Willow Vineyard (Yakima Valley)
Acclaim
From Jeb Dunnuck's Rhone Report June 2011. "Yielding a deep black, opaque color, as well as smoky, layered aromatics of chocolate laced black cherries, spice, leafy underbrush, roasted meats, and big minerality, the wine is just beautifully made and shows a dense, concentrated, and age worthy personality. Very pure, with loads of fruit (possibly the most up front fruit of the ‘09s), a firm, focused texture, and a tannic finish, this beauty should be approachable in 2-4 years, and age effortlessly for 15-20. 95 Points"
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