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2011 Bordeaux-Styled Wines

With many of the 2011 US wines already on the market, there have been reports of cool, wet conditions in many of the west coast growing regions. They are true, but not universally: the 2011 vintage in Washington’s Columbia Valley started off cool, the second year in a row, about 5-10% cooler than average through most of July. But then August hit, with temperatures in the upper 80s to low 90s; it turned the corner on our vineyards as temperatures forced the berries to color up, accumulate sugar and move from a marginal to a very fine vintage. Surprisingly, the warmest temperatures came after Labor Day. While coastal California vineyards slogged through buckets of harvest rain, our September and October turned hot and cloudless.

Autumn carried on the work August had started and yielded wines of definition, vibrancy and texture. The implication for our red Bordeaux varieties was all positive: this radiant autumn allowed them additional hang time to develop plenty of flavor and ripeness: we harvested our last grapes early Halloween morning! We were once again reminded of one of our favorite axioms: It’s not just how much heat you get, but how you get your heat.
 Père de Famille, Cabernet Sauvignon  Clos de Betz, Bordeaux Blend

2011 Père de Famille, Cabernet Sauvignon

Talk about hang time: we harvested 100% of our Cabernet Sauvignon this vintage after October 10, most of it in the final days of the month. This is a record for us and reflects the cool start to the season. Those lazy days of slow ripening led to an intensity of flavor and completeness of Cabernet’s penetrating character. It retains the vitality of a cooler vintage, but with the black currant, plum and black cherry of fully developed Cabernet. Part of that is due to the highest concentration yet of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Pere de Famille, 88%. Merlot and Petit Verdot play minor roles, so this wine is unapologetically Cabernet.

The essential Cabernet fruit is enhanced by floral, rocky notes, dried thyme and anise, spice box, and vanilla oak aromas. It’s sturdy wine, tenacious and promising of long cellar potential, but opens with creamy integration to an elegant, long finish.

Click here to download a PDF version of the 2011 Père de Famille tasting notes

Click here to download a PDF version of ALL the 2011 Bordeaux tasting notes



Blending Detail and Aging Profile
Blending Detail:
  • 88% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 9% Petit Verdot
  • 3% Merlot

Barrel Program:
  • 100% French oak barrels
  • 65% new/35% one fill, for 16 months

Aging Profile:
  • Best from 2016 through 2036
  • Serve cool, 60-62°F
AVA or Vineyard Detail
Vinyard Detail:
  • 69% Red Mountain -  Ciel du Cheval, Kiona, Klipsun
  • 20% Horse Heaven Hills - Alder Ridge
  • 11% Yakima Valley - Red Willow Vineyard
Acclaim
Paul Gregutt, Wine Enthusiast: 95

Intriguing scents focus upon chamomile and Mediterranean herbs, while the fruit flavors are wild and brambly. Cherry candy and red licorice play broadly across the palate, lingering through a beautifully balanced and extended finish.

Jeb Dunnuck
, Wine Advocate, (barrel tasting), 95

As with the 2011 Clos de Betz, the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille is a softer, more approachable version of its 2010 counterpart. A Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend, it offers up a pretty, perfumed bouquet of jammy raspberry, cassis, tobacco and assorted floral nuances to go with a full-bodied, seamless and elegant profile on the palate. Where the 2010 will require cellar time to become civilized, this should be reasonably approachable on release; nevertheless, it should evolve gracefully given its overall balance and purity.

Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:  “… 94+  

Good bright red-ruby. Musky red berries, licorice, thyme, rosemary and pepper on the scented nose. Creamy-sweet, suave and deep but at the same time precise and youthful, offering lovely perfumed flavors of red berries, cocoa powder (from the Taransaud oak?) and anise. Very intensely flavored cabernet with terrific lift and aromatic persistence and remarkably suave, dusty tannins. Betz describes 2011 as a year with lower total polyphenols, higher acidity and lower pHs than 2010.

2011 Clos de Betz, Bordeaux Blend

Our first Merlot grapes ripened nearly two weeks later than average this vintage, and the longer hang time benefited Merlot’s intrinsic rich fruitiness. As the traditional foundation of Clos de Betz (67% this bottling), Merlot always provides its substance and texture, and with the additional hang time, these are highlighted in 2011. The delayed ripening led to a supple mouthfeel, characterful aromas and fine depth of flavor. Ripe black cherry, mocha and wood spice are the hallmarks of this wine and are reflected in the wine.

The additional dimension of this vintage is its ageability. It reminds us of the Clos de Betz from 1999, another cool vintage, which at 12 years old is drinking beautifully. Both the 1999 and 2011 are reminiscent of a well-crafted, top flight St. Emilion. This 2011, with the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, certainly has the vitality and structure to go the distance. During future cellaring, look for emerging aromas of cherry, dark plum and cocoa powder, while the palate softens to a harmonious, creamy texture.

Click here to download PDF version of tasting notes
Click here to download a PDF version of ALL the 2011 Bordeaux tasting notes



Blending Detail and Aging Profile
Blending Detail:
  • 67% Merlot
  • 28% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 5% Petit Verdot
Barrel Program:
  • 100% French oak barrels
  • 65% new/35% one fill, for 16 months

Aging Profile:
  • Best from 2016 through 2036
  • Serve cool, 60-62°F
AVA or Vineyard Detail
Vinyard Detail:
  • 35% Red Mountain
  • 35% Horse Heaven Hills - Alder Ridge
  • 30% Yakima Valley - Red Willow Vineyard
Acclaim
Paul Gregutt, Wine Enthusiast 93

A fine effort in this cool vintage, this Merlot-dominated Bordeaux-style blend is aromatically arresting, with complex flower and herb scents suggesting appealing delicacy. It delivers that in a focused, wine with pretty berry and chocolate flavors.

Jeb Dunnuck
, Wine Advocate, (barrel tasting), 92

Looking at the Bordeaux-styled releases from barrel, the 2011 Clos de Betz is the estate’s take on a right bank Bordeaux and will be a blend of roughly 63% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. Lacking the weight of the 2010, it is a softly textured, elegant effort that has notions of flowers, black fruit, pepper and incense to go with a medium to full-bodied, balanced mouthfeel. Already reasonably approachable, it will be interesting to see how this shows from bottle; if it puts on weight, the score and drink window will be conservative.

Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:  “… 93  

(67% merlot, 28% cabernet sauvignon and 5% petit verdot; aged in 65% new oak): Good bright, deep red. Redcurrant, cocoa powder and musky tobacco on the nose. Gentle and creamy in the mouth for 2011, with harmonious ripe acidity framing the sweet red berry, cherry and cocoa powder flavors. This floral merlot-based wine is supported by firm acids and tannins but comes across as quite feminine in style. Betz notes that 2011 was a very good year for merlot.

2011 Rhone-Inspired Wines

Many years ago during our study in France, we often heard the expression that “August makes the must”, the French way of expressing that August temperatures greatly influence wine quality by building sugar and ripeness in the grapes.

This was clearly the case in Washington’s Columbia Valley in 2011, where April through July saw cooler than normal temperatures, and surprisingly none of the typical mid July heat spikes. August turned the corner on our vineyards as warm to hot temperatures forced the berries to color up, accumulate sugar and move from a marginal to a very good vintage.

Surprisingly, the warmest temperatures came after Labor Day. While coastal California vineyards slogged through buckets of harvest rain, our September and October turned hot and cloudless. Autumn carried on the work August had started and yielded a very fine vintage, indeed.
Syrah La Serenne Bésoleil Syrah La Côte Rousse   Syrah La Côte Patriarche

2011 Syrah La Serenne

La Serenne is the most reflective of the site/vintage dynamic of our three single-site 2011 Syrahs. Lovers of this wine know that its source, the Boushey Vineyard, is the highest altitude of the three vineyards and is typically the latest harvested. This cool site was accentuated by the cooler season and the results reflect the seriousness of this vineyard and its care. An extraordinary, nearly impenetrable black purple color leads to a concentrated, inky aromatic impression: smoky black cherry and wild blackberry dominate, but a litany of supporting aromas is already emerging: smoke, violet, mushroom, roasted meat, Chinese 5 spice and minerals. It has a full attack on entry and a big, rich mouthfeel that goes on and on.

2011 is our 12th harvest from this site and these rows. We continue to be impressed with the chameleon nature of this vineyard, in cool years and hot, in heat spikes and cool springs: it provides us with surprises and opportunities at every harvest. While the themes of deep black fruits and pliant structure always surface, the nuance of this vineyard and its care (thank you, Dick Boushey) make it some of the most satisfying fruit we work with every harvest.


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
Blending Detail:
  • 100% Syrah
  • Boushey Vineyard, mid Yakima Valley

Aging Profile:
  • Best from 2015 through 2022
  • Serve cool, 60-62°F
AVA or Vineyard Detail
Vineyard Detail:
  • 100% Syrah
  • Boushey Vineyard, mid Yakima Valley
Acclaim
Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate, (barrel tasting) 91-93

".. perfectly balanced, elegant and incredibly fresh, the 2011 Syrah La Serenne is 100% Syrah and comes from the cooler-climate Boushey Vineyard in Yakima Valley. Showing a lively, Cote-Rotie-like perfume of blackberry, pepper, thyme, flowers and clean minerality, it is medium-bodied, beautifully pure and has a seamless texture that keeps you coming back to the glass. While already approachable, it possesses enough ripe tannin and depth for 8-10 years of prime drinking. Drink now-2024."

 

2011 Bésoleil

2011 Besoleil
2011 is the first vintage we were able to introduce another southern Rhone red variety into our Bésoleil blend. The little known Counoise had recently been planted in Washington and we had experimented with it before, but it 2011 it came into its own. It’s fragrant, generous and earthy, contributing nuance to both aroma and flavor, and taking us closer to our Chateauneuf du Pape model. It’s similarly colored to Grenache, which it slightly replaces in the final blend, but has more earth, spice and structure, helping Bésoleil take on more weight and authority.

The wine reflects that influence while retaining the essence of its previous vintages. Vibrant ruby with hints of blue color, opens to an intense southern Rhone character. Black raspberry, smoke, roasted dried herbs, black pepper, and floral notes of lavender and rose petal all play their aromatic role. The Counoise adds a note of garrigue, that exotic aroma of the dried, shrubby plants of coastal Mediterranean vineyards. A silky entry leads to a supple mid palate and a structured finish, reflecting the overall cooler vintage. Flavors are ripe cherry, creamy red licorice and cola, with a spice cabinet backup. There’s vitality and weight, with a structure that dances and will certainly reward cellaring.


Blending Detail and Aging Profile
Blending Detail:
  • 51 % Grenache
  • 18% Cinsault
  • 12% Counoise
  • 12% Mourvedre
  • 7% Syrah

Aging Profile:
  • Best from 2014 through 2020    
  • Serve cool, 60-62°F
AVA or Vineyard Detail
Vineyard Sources:
  • 61% Yakima Valley
  • 27% Red Mountain
  • 12% Snipes Mountain
Acclaim
Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate, (barrel tasting), 91-93

Starting off the Rhone blends, the 2011 Besoleil is a perfumed, supple vintage of this cuvee and offers up lively wild strawberry-driven fruit, white pepper, gunpowder and herbes de Provence-styled aromas and flavors. Made from 51% Grenache, 18% Cinsault, 12% Counoise, 12% Mourvedre and 7% Syrah, it is a medium-bodied, elegant and downright juicy southern Rhone-styled blend that will be ready to go on release and age gracefully for 5-7 years. Drink now-2020.

2011 Syrah La Côte Rousse

Classic Red Mountain character defines the Syrah La Côte Rousse, despite being the product of a cooler vintage. The warm site vineyards, Ciel du Cheval and Ranch at the End of the Road accumulated more heat than our other sites and ripened the four Syrah clones to a greater extent; we’ve never seen Red Mountain deliver less than full physiological maturity, every vintage. Nevertheless this vintage retains a vibrancy and energy that isn’t often found on Red Mountain.

That vigor expresses itself from color to finish. There’s the black core, a purple edge and a bit of glass coating color. Sweet, savory aromas lead the way, sort of a mineral-laden black fruit---dark berries and plums. Smoke, dried herbs, violet, meat, wet stones and a hint of ironstone complete the package. It penetrates yet is a broad fragrant expression. I’ve always felt the aromatic range of this wine has its foundation in the four clones we use.

The black fruits continue on the palate, with black cherry, dark plum and spices echoing the aroma. While it’s rich, almost luxurious, there’s a tannic foundation and a structured acidity. Floral and earthy, the dried herbs and stones emerge here too, along with tobacco, thyme and lavender. This is a food-lover’s Syrah, with weight, brightness and dimension.



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

Aging Profile:
  • Best from 2015 through 2022+
  • Serve cool, 60-62°F
AVA or Vineyard Detail
Vinyard Detail:
  • 65% Ciel du Cheval
  • 35% Ranch at the End of the Road
Acclaim
Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate, (barrel tasting), 92-95

Always more structured and burly than the La Serenne, the 2011 Syrah La Cote Rousse is no exception and exhibits classic blackberry, currant, iron, wild herb and cracked pepper-like aromas and flavors to go with a medium to full-bodied, balanced and exceedingly pure mouthfeel. Also 100% Syrah, yet from the warmer Red Mountain AVA (which excelled in 2011), this elegant, yet concentrated Syrah will drink nicely for upwards of a decade. Drink now-2024+.

 2011 Syrah La Côte Patriarche

When preparing these notes I tasted the 2010 and 2011 vintages of this wine side by side, and not surprisingly, could have written exactly the same description for this new release as the prior year. 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.

Slight differences are inevitable, but the same density and sense of ripeness emerge in both wines. The list of aromatic descriptors is lengthy: deep blackberry, plum, meat, smoke, rose petal, rock, roasted grain and earth. Even a bit of black licorice or cola.

This is the velvet hammer on the palate, brooding, deep and weighty. Loads of tannin without excess astringency make this a pleasure to enjoy already, but years of cellaring lie ahead. It’s supple, chewy from entry to finish with tobacco leaf, smoked meat and black olive flavors. Bring me a plate of roasted venison….



Blending Detail and Aging Profile
Blending Detail:
  • 100% Syrah from the Red Willow Vineyard, west end of the Yakima Valley

Aging Profile:
  • Best from 2015 through 2024    
  • Serve cool, 60-62°F
AVA or Vineyard Detail
Vinyard Detail:
  • 100% Syrah from the Red Willow Vineyard, west end of the Yakima Valley
Acclaim
Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate, (barrel tasting), 92-94

The most dense, meaty and black fruit-driven of the 2011 Syrahs, the 2011 Syrah La Cote Patriarche (100% Syrah all from the Red Willow vineyard) delivers a first-rate bouquet of smoked blackberry-styled fruit, pepper, bouquet garni, spice box and licorice as well as a medium to full-bodied, balanced and rich palate. Showing the same overall elegance and freshness that can be found in the other 2011s, it has the most mid-palate depth as well as the most age-worthy, structured feel. It should hit prime drinking at 4-5 years after the vintage and have 10-15 years or so of ultimate longevity, possibly more depending on how it develops. Drink now-2025.
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