Went visiting last weekend over to Walla Walla wine country, in search of relatives, balloons, and wine.
Found the relatives, weather busted the balloon adventure---seems hot-air balloon festivals don’t work when it is heavy rain and high winds; go figure---and renewed my acquaintance with the excellent wines of Buty Vineyards.
I was supremely impressed with the entire operation last year at the World Wine Bloggers Conference held in Walla Wall. The people, the vineyard holdings, and the wines all combined to make for a promising future for this relatively new winery.
The rosé was a knockout, brimming with bright fruit. The white blend of Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle was likewise shimmery bright and dancing with flavor. And their red wines, both the Syrah-based and the Bordeaux variety blends, were compelling, with the epitome of the brand in their evocative “Rediviva of the Stones” releases.
This visit/tasting showed they continue on that path. All the wines were a pleasure to taste, and there’s not a single one that wouldn’t grace any collector’s cellar or consumer’s table.
The 2010 Beast Rosé of the Stones from their promising young Rockgarden Estate Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley (a site more reminiscent of Chateauneuf-du-Pape than anything else, with its fields of weathered river cobblestones; must have been ever so much fun to put that vineyard in!) was Grenache to the max, exploding with sweet fruit, lush and lovely and perfect for picnics and light summer fare.
The 2009 Semillon/Sauvignon/Muscadelle continued to show tight structure, with lush fruit well-restrained by acidity. Can’t help but wonder why Semillon from Washington State isn’t raved about more; certainly the examples I’ve had over the years puts it up there with Hunter River Valley and the handful of California producers for the variety. Suppose it’s just not a ‘sexy money grape’; more’s the shame, for it’s a grape worth focusing on, and does a fine job here of rounding out the flavor balance of this lovely white wine.
The Bordeaux blends were clamoring for attention in our tasting, though, so we hurried on to them. First was the 2009 Merlot & Cabernet Franc from the Connor Lee and Champoux Vineyards, with purportedly the highest rate yet of Cabernet Franc in the mix. Gorgeous wine; velvety rich and soft from the Merlot but bolstered beautifully (butifully? Sorry.) by the tobaccoey, slightly chocolatey Franc. A lovely combination done well by winemaker Caleb Foster.
Second up was the 2008 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon & Franc---similar to the previous, but with substantially more body; higher acid for structure; noticeably more tannin; denser, tighter blackberry fruit; and a long, extended finish. Short term: Merlot & Cabernet Franc. Longer term: the two Cabernets.
There were two Rediviva reds on the tasting bar. The 2007 Columbia Rediviva from the Phinney Hill Vineyard was excellent, but quite honestly the 2008 Rediviva of the Stones from the Walla Walla Valley was the attention-grabber here with its lush, just short of being over the top blueberry fruit contained within a Bordeaux-ish framework.
Caleb has been upfront in showing the world that the surprising blend of Syrah and Cabernet can be an altogether compelling combination, and this wine showcases exactly why that is. The elements of Syrah are there (more in a new world ripe fruit way, admittedly) to provide fullness and a lush, rich mouthfeel; but the addition of the Cabernet is a masterstroke, adding tight structure and impressive longevity and elegance to the mix.
With the vagaries of varietal trendiness going on these days, and the ups and downs in popularity of Syrah, this combination may show the future of the Walla Walla Valley wine region: two excellent grape varieties characteristic of the region that, combined, create something truly distinctive and enjoyable. This may just be the “Walla Walla Signature” that can vault a region into worldwide recognition.
I left with an even greater appreciation of what Caleb and Nina are accomplishing at Buty Vineyards. I also left with some wine. Buty remains one of the wineries to watch, from Walla Walla, Washington state and the Pacific Northwest.