Sunday, July 4, 2010

Buty Winery: Rediviva of the Stones

When Caleb Foster and Nina Buty-Foster started Buty Vineyards in 2000, they were firmly grounded in the Walla Walla AVA of Washington.  Both were Whitman grads (although at different times), and both had developed a connection to the land and the wines that was deeply felt.  Caleb was familiar with the oenology of the region after working for eight years with one of the legendary pioneers of Walla Walla, Ric Small, at Woodward Canyon.  Nina brought inspiration and artistic vision to their partnership.

It's been a good partnership.  And it just keeps getting better.  And so do their wines.

When Caleb and Nina began, Walla Walla AVA was still 'finding its way' as a wine region.  Actually, despite all its justified fame and acclaim, it still is; it takes a while for a region to discover what its most likely destiny will be, and Walla Walla hasn't determined that yet.

Noted French oenologist and arbiter of taste, Jaques Puisais, recently commented that it takes at least 30 years before one can really begin to talk about the terroir of a place. So amidst the eternal discussions of what to plant where, and what styles to follow, Caleb caused a bit of buzz when he began working on red blends of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

At first that seemed like an unusual combination.  But his initial releases showed tremendous promise and attracted the attention of several other winemakers, and the Syrah/Cabernet Blend became a Walla Walla tradition.

Caleb and Nina also became increasingly fascinated with the different soil types of the Walla Walla region, and especially so with the cobblestone stretch, marked by the broken basaltic ancient riverbeds.

They were also smart enough to team up with Zelma Long and Phil Freese, two of the best in the business (as winemaker and vineyard consultant respectively), to advise them in the development of their own vineyard.  The two even joined Zelma and Phil for a season in South Africa to study the viticulture and winemaking there.

The culmination of their experiments with both varietal blends and soil types resulted in their purchasing and developing their Rockgarden Estate Vineyard, and focusing even more on one particular release, what they dubbed "Rediviva of the Stones."
Rockgarden Estate Vineyard,
with the oldest (and still operating) wind fan in the Walla Walla Valley.

Rediviva of the Stones 2007 is a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from the cobblestone soil of the ancient riverbed of the Walla Walla River.  The Syrah brings a lush blueberry richness to the center of the wine, with a touch of earthy, gamy nuance, and the Cabernet adds a brambleberry tone---with blackberry dominant---some chocolatey notes, and a good, solid tannic structure.

The Rediviva is NOT, however, a jammy, over-the-top wine.  It's restrained, well-structured and balanced in all its components.  That is a hallmark of all the Buty wines I've tried thus far, and I believe that speaks as much to Caleb and Nina's philosophy as to the grapes and the climate.

Caleb uses 100% French oak barrels, but thankfully no more than 30% new oak, so the wine retains its balance superbly and isn't bludgeoned with too much sweet vanilla/caramel spice.  Rich in fruit, but not at all over-ripe or jammy, the Rediviva is a fully harmonious blend that shows the best element of each of the varieties used.

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