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2010 Bordeaux-Styled Wines

Coming off the richly textured, concentrated wines of warm 2009, we all wondered what the cooler vintage of 2010 would provide.  The sensory key is in the heat pattern of the vintage: the cool spring and summer gave way to a splendid autumn ripening for the 2010s.  To punctuate this I need to repeat what I wrote last September: the data show that October 1, 2010, was warmer than September 1, August 1, July 1 or June 1 of the same year!  This stellar finish to the season gave us terrific fruit.

We’ve seen the satisfying results of such vintages, where Mother Nature was more affable: smaller berry size, medium skin density, full phenolic/flavor maturity and lower potential alcohol levels.  The wines show a sensuous balance and harmony, with striking character and expression.

Père de Famille, Cabernet Sauvignon Clos de Betz, Bordeaux Blend

2010 Père de Famille, Cabernet Sauvignon

A wine of unexpected dimension and pleasure, similar in fruit expression to some of the respected hillside Napa versions of Cabernet, where their altitude plays the cooling influence of our overall cooler season. A densely saturated vibrant black/red color leads to a nose of pure black currants, at once inky yet penetrating. Studded with notes of dried thyme, anise and pipe tobacco, the aroma emerges as pure Cabernet. The entry is plump, supple and refined, enriched by blending with small amounts of Petite Verdot and Merlot.

My consistent notes across months of tasting state, “…perfect balance”, where Cabernet’s power is matched by finesse and fruit. The palate is full and round, and not dumbed-down by heavy over ripeness: it maintains its Columbia Valley cut and precision. And there’s no doubt about this wine’s ageability; the balance of fruit and chemistry is right to take this many years in the cellar.


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
  • 86% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 8% Merlot
  • 6% Petit Verdot

 
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  • 73% Red Mountain -  Ciel du Cheval, Kiona, Klipsun
  • 21% Horse Heaven Hills - Alder Ridge
  • 6% Yakima Valley - Red Willow Vineyard
Acclaim
Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate: “… 95 points ... Diversely-sourced, and blended with 8% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot, the Betz 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille leads with classic aromatic expressions of its star player: cedar box, juniper berry, arbor vitae, cassis, blackberry, and dark tobacco, all of which reprise on a luscious, savory palate underlain by ultra-fine tannin and possessed of vibratory energy. The sheer abundance of primary juiciness here – like the energetic ping to its enervating, reverberative finish – strikes me as especially typical of the best marriages of cepage and terroir, which happens to be precisely what Betz is wistfully referring to as “something that happens with Cabernet in Washington.” Something indeed! I would go easy on this for a few years and look forward to at least a decade of high performance.

Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:  “… 94+ pointsBright red-ruby.  High-pitched aromas of blackberry, redcurrant, dried mint and thyme.  Densely packed, tactile and sweet but youthfully bound-up, with brisk acidity giving terrific cut and precision to the wine's dark fruit and spearmint flavors.  Finishes with strong tannic spine and a terrific structure for aging.  As young as this cabernet is, with its inner-mouth perfume it's showier today than the Clos de Betz.  I'd wait at least five years on this one.  Interestingly, Bob Betz told me that the latest pickers got prunes in 2010 waiting for their pHs to go up and acids to come down.  "Still, October saved the vintage," he added.  (The 2009 Pere de Famille, which I rated 93(+?) last year, had gained in fullness and pliancy with another year in bottle, and merited 94 points.  But the 2010 should show an even more eventful evolution in bottle.)

2010 Clos de Betz, Bordeaux Blend

Children of a Common Mother: our two 2010 Bordeaux blends clearly display the growing conditions of the cooler year, in color, aroma, flavor and texture.  With Merlot as the dominant variety in this blend, the color isn’t as inky black s the Père de Famille, but the Clos de Betz still shows the dense color saturation from core to edge of the glass.  Then the aroma takes center stage, with pure, vibrant black cherries, camphor, cocoa and a slight kirsch essence.  Its foundation is a classic, complex expression of Washington Merlot, but since 40% of the blend is made from Petite Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, the aroma takes on additional dimension of anise, rose petal and baking spice.

My tasting notes reflect an on-going satisfaction at the sense of complete ripeness for a cooler vintage: thank you, Washington Merlot.  It enters very supple and plush, with a jolt of black cherry and red berries that stays true to the aroma.  Dried herbs, chocolate and a touch of smoky oak play supporting roles.  The finish dances with a combination of refined tannin and vibrant fruit, the signs of a successful future in the cellar. 



Blending Detail and Aging Profile
  • 35% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 58% Merlot
  • 7% Petit Verdot

 
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  • 51% Red Mountain -  Ciel du Cheval, Kiona, Klipsun
  • 19% Horse Heavan Hills - Alder Ridge
  • 30% Yakima Valley - Red Willow Vineyard
Acclaim
 Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate: “…93 points…. Diversely-sourced – its Merlot blended with 35% Cabernet Sauvignon– the Betz 2010 Clos de Betz emphasizes black pepper, pungently resinous herbs, and arbor vitae, characteristics I imagine are in part a reflection of its 7% of Petit Verdot, that grape being demonstrably (I’m tempted to say notoriously ) efficacious. Cassis, huckleberry, and walnut offer bitter-edged but sappy fruit satisfaction; a crushed stone undertone adds a sense of intrigue; and mineral salts savory saliva-inducement in a gripping, palate-staining finish. This ought to be worth following for at least the better part of a decade.

Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:  “93+ points. …Bright, full red.  Spicy high notes to the aromas of raspberry, graphite, sandalwood and cocoa powder.  Juicy, perfumed and precise; not a fleshy style but elegant, vibrant and extremely young.  Today the wine's mid-palate flavors and texture are still a bit suppressed by the bottling, but this long, firm-edged wine has the structure and inherent material to be outstanding.  In fact, I retasted the 2009 next to it, and while that wine was silkier and plusher, it is not likely to match the 2010 for complexity a few years down the road.

2010 Rhone-Inspired Wines

 The joke in the Columbia Valley by June 2010, another cool spring having just delayed the vintage, was “So tell me about global warming.” And that tease lingered throughout much of the summer as temperatures throughout all west coast vineyard areas lazed below average. Few sites registered the occasional 100° F reading that is typical, and though we had a few warm stretches, there weren’t as many and they didn’t last as long as average.
 
After 35+ vintages here I’ve come to count on the Columbia Valley as the hero of our story; and it didn’t disappoint in 2010. A late, yet robust Indian Summer came along in mid-late September through mid October and removed any doubts I might have had. The data shows that October 1, 2010, was warmer than September, August, July or June 1st of the same year. That late prolonged, dry, warm stretch gave us the fruit we were looking for.
Syrah La Serenne Bésoleil Syrah La Côte Rousse   Syrah La Cote Patriarche

2010 Syrah La Serenne

 2010 La Serenne
For over a decade we’ve worked with Dick Boushey to grow Syrah for La Serenne from the same rows of vines in his vineyard just north of Grandview. This relationship can’t be overstated in importance for achieving the results we want. As we’ve walked the vine rows during previous growing seasons, kicking dirt and tweaking leaves, we’ve developed an understanding of what each of us wants---growing the best grapes possible that create a wine of character, reflecting the vineyard and compelling the palate. Some of our communication is now unspoken, building on years of discussion of canopy architecture, ruthless fruit selection, irrigation regimes, cluster thinning, crop load, … Yes, we had to dance more in the challenging 2010 vintage, but we arrived at our destination together.
 
This 2010 vintage reflects its source with precision and clarity. That impenetrable black color of classic Boushey Syrah starts the journey down a very satisfying sensory pathway. Next comes the dominant aroma I always associate with Syrah from this site: smoky, candied blackberry, distinctive and seductive. That foundation gives way to notes of licorice (this is a cool site after all), iron, roasted earth and meat. Despite the cooler vintage conditions, there a full, rich, almost powerful overall impression: this is the velvet hammer, the gloved fist: plush, silky and yet jam packed with character. We clearly enjoy walking these rows together….    


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
Blending Detail:
  • 100% Syrah

Aging Profile:
  • Serve cool, 60-62°F.  
  • Best from 2014 through 2020
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  •  Boushey Vineyard
Acclaim
Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar, 93

Bright nose features musky black raspberry, smoke, minerals, chocolate and a whiff of tar.  Bright, delineated and intense, conveying terrific acidity for syrah.  Proprietor Betz describes 2010 as "a return to structure in syrah" and this wine is also extremely primary, with tarry minerality and a cracked pepper quality adding nuance.  Finishes with firm but suave tannins, excellent grip and terrific peppery lift.  In texture, this wine is midway between Cote-Rotie and Saint-Joseph, and wonderfully fresh.

David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate, 92

Originating in Boushey Vineyard, Betz’s 2010 Syrah La Serenne is scented with cassis and blackberry, sage and fennel. As it takes on air, a delightfully bitter-sweet, iris-like floral dimension emerges. Palpably dense and finely tannic, it displays a sense of constriction and firmness, although its dark berry flavors are very ripe and its herbal aspect expressively pungent. Saliva-inducing salinity, an invigorating bite of black pepper, and a note of tar complement tart-edged, juicy fruit and herbs in a finish more exuberantly energetic, expansive and engaging than this wine’s mid-palate presence had led me to anticipate. This should be a delight to follow over the next 6-8 years and I would advise simply leaving it untouched for the first couple as it works through a relatively reduced (and, metaphorically-speaking, tightly-wound) condition.

2010 Bésoleil

 2010 Besoleil
“Closer and closer every vintage.” That’s what we say about Bésoleil as it approaches the style of its model, Chateauneuf du Pape, that Southern Rhone gem that captures the heart with charm. Not as powerful as Bordeaux reds, not as mysterious as Burgundy, and not nearly as dark as its Northern Rhone brethren from Cote Rotie or Hermitage, CNDP, for short, brings immediate sensory pleasure yet has the stuffing to be intellectually challenging. That’s our goal for Bésoleil.

And the 2010 comes closer yet. Since 2003, our first vintage of Bésoleil, Grenache has been the dominant grape variety, its sweet, vibrant black raspberry forming the foundation flavor and aroma. Every year since we’ve been able to source small amounts of high quality classic Southern Rhone varieties typically used for CNDP. Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah now all play their part in creating the aromatic layering and palate impression. The 2010 vintage comes closest yet: the concentrated black raspberry is expanded by notes of cream, white pepper, lavender blossom and a toasted earth. Silky and full on entry, the mid palate expands while still remaining plump and supple. And with the cooler vintage characteristics, this vintage will continue to create nuance for another 5-8 years.


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
Blending Detail:
  • 65 % Grenache
  • 18% Mourvedre
  • 11% Cinsault
  • 6% Syrah

Aging Profile:
  • Serve cool, 60-62°F. 
  • Best from 2013 through 2018
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  • 69% Yakima Valley
  • 20% Snipes Mountain
  • 11% Red Mountain
Acclaim
Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar, 93

Bright red.  Captivating nose offers strawberry, animal fur, garrigue, black and white pepper and flowers.  Wonderfully aromatic and smooth in the mouth, with excellent sappy lift to the raspberry and cherry flavors complicated by wild herbs and pepper.  Finishes structured and long, with suave, slowly building tannins.  Very Old World in style (and specifically southern French) but with distinctly Washington red fruit flavors.  This was the first year Bob Betz added cinsault to the blend, and that variety has certainly added another element of red fruit perfume.

David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate, 91

Representing the sole Betz bottling to incorporate Grenache (here 67%) and inaugurated in 2003, the 2010 Besoleil incorporates also 18% Mourvedre, 11% Cinsault, and 6% Syrah, its sources ranging from the western Yakima across Snipes Mountain to Red Mountain; and was matured for a year in once-used barriques. A tart-edged expression of strawberry and rhubarb preserves is laced with white pepper as well as lemon and orange rind, which contribute delightfully to the sense of invigoration conveyed by this infectiously juicy, polished blend. I suspect that this will show well for at least another half dozen years.

2010 Syrah La Côte Rousse

 2010 La Cote Rousse
Our vinous neighbors in Oregon maintain that a mix of Pinot Noir “clones” (genetically identical vines but with different cultural/sensory expression) is essential in producing complex wines; Tuscan winemakers argue the same for San Giovese in constructing remarkable Chianti Classico. The same may be true for Syrah, the wine whose clones may dictate more of the wine’s final character and expression than where the grapes are grown.
 
Fans of our Syrah La Côte Rousse know that it’s unique in our portfolio in that it’s made from four different clones of Syrah, all grown on Red Mountain within a mile or so of each other. Each of the four has different growing traits and certainly different flavors and aromas. Syrah is the grape variety that challenges my belief that “site trumps clone” because each varies significantly from the other three: Phelps clone/fundamental black fruit, clone 99/plump structure, clone 174/meat and smoke, clone 383/layered complexity.
 
Regardless, we couldn’t be more pleased with their blended results this vintage. The 2010 Syrah La Côte Rousse coats the glass with a teeth-staining black color. Sweet candied berries are the dominant fruit, enhanced by a pungent smokiness, roasted meat and wet stones. It enters plush and thick, and is backed up with a full mid palate and a powerful yet supple structure. Its finish is wrapped in super-fine tannin, especially for a wine from Red Mountain.  


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
Blending Detail:
  • 100% Syrah
  • Clones 174, 383, 99 and Phelps

Aging Profile:
  • Serve cool, 60-62°F
  • Best from 2014 through 2020 
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  • Ciel du Cheval
  • Ranch at the End of the Road
Acclaim
Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar, 93

(from a warmer site than the La Serenne):  Bright red-ruby.  Black raspberry, flowers, minerals and spices on the nose, plus a hint of black walnut that reminded me of Hermitage.  Juicy on entry, then sinewy and penetrating in the middle, and clearly less pliant and sweet today than the La Serenne.  The dark fruit and bitter chocolate flavors are supported by obvious Red Mountain structure.  For all its power, the minerally, spicy, peppery finish displays very fine-grained tannins and lovely subtle persistence.  Actually a bit higher in pH than the La Serenne but this is likely to need at least as much time in the cellar--say five or six years.

David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate, 92

Originating half each in Ranch at the End of the Road (source of this bottling’s first appearances in 1999 and 2000) and neighboring Ciel du Cheval (tapped since 2001) on Red Mountain, the Betz 2010 Syrah Le Cote Rousse features ripe but tart-edged dark cherry and plum accented by smoky, carnal, saline, mouthwateringly savory notes that (idiosyncratically, granted!) put me vividly in mind of pan scrapings from a roasting goose. This feels firmly tannic but that doesn’t keep it from displaying generous primary juiciness in a sustained finish. As with a number of wines tasted on this occasion, I’d be inclined to leave it in peace for a couple of years and then anticipate at least 6-8 years of bottle development.

 2010 Syrah La Cote Patriarche

 
 A surprising sense of ripeness and depth belies the 2010 vintage of Syrah La Côte Patriarche; its expression doesn’t seem like that of a cooler vintage. There’s a concentration, richness and grip typical of a warmer growing season. We attribute this expression to the 25 year old vines we source it from at the Red Willow Vineyard (the oldest Syrah planted in Washington), where the vines show an element of stability and consistency; solid, even, perhaps more forgiving of vintage variation.
                              
The litany of descriptors for the 2010 vintage all center on substance and density. Solid blackberry, plum, meat, smoke, rock, earth all apply. Even a bit of black licorice. In the background there’s a bramble note, and a little aromatic buoyancy from black raspberry aromas.

La Côte Patriarche is the most ageworthy of our three Syrahs. The fruit, tannin and grape chemistry all balance toward brooding when young, splendidly expressive with time in the cellar. Syrah has a serious capacity to develop “bottle bouquet” over the years, as the 2010 will reveal. In time even more of its smoked meat, black pepper and earthiness will emerge.


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
Blending Detail:
  • 100% Syrah

Aging Profile:
  • Serve cool, 60-62°F
  • Best from 2014 through 2022    
AVA or Vineyard Detail
  •  Red Willow Vineyard
Acclaim
Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar, 95

Good full red-ruby.  Pungent aromas of black raspberry, flint and licorice, lifted by an exotic white fruit quality.  Very dense and pliant but with a light touch to the flavors of dark berries, tar and smoke lifted by minerals, peach and orange peel.  Extremely closed and youthful but balanced from the start.   Very elegantly styled and impressively intense wine with exotic high notes that remind me of a top Cote-Rotie.

David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate, 93

Sourced from the 1986 block at Red Willow – to whose proprietor, Mike Sauer, its cuvee name alludes – the Betz 2010 Syrah La Cote Patriarche is pungently and tartly scented and flavored with purple plum, rhubarb, sage, horehound, and licorice. Tight and firm in feel, it, nevertheless, displays ample abundance of tart fresh fruit juiciness allied to a striking depth of charred, roasted red meat savor as well as tar and black pepper. The finishing effect is of sappy clinging yet at the same time invigoration and full-massage of the salivary glands; and the wine’s strong herbal elements all contribute positively to a glowing sense of persistence. “No variety reveals its terroir as much as Syrah” on his Red Mountain vineyard, notes Sauer, and this particular block certainly displays a recognizable and profoundly carnal personality. I would anticipate more than a decade’s excitement.

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