Grand Rêve Collaboration series is worthy wine
Grand Rêve's Collaboration series of wines comes from the esteemed grapes of Ciel du Cheval vineyard of Washington state's Red Mountain. The wines in all six of the series' releases are worthy of drinking right now, but also hold promise of aging well.
Special to the Seattle Times
Pick of the WeekForgeron Walldette White Wine ($15)
Walldette is the companion white to Forgeron's everyday red, Walldeaux Smithie. This nonvintage blend could legally be labeled chardonnay; also in the mix are small amounts of roussanne and orange muscat. Aged in Burgundy oak barrels, with a hefty percentage of new oak, this drinks like a much pricier chardonnay. The snappy fruit reaches from green apple into light tropical, and there is even a lick of butterscotch in the refreshing finish. (Elliott Bay distributes)
WINE REVIEWERS are almost always tasting very young wines, which presents certain challenges. Though many young wines are made to be consumed quickly — especially rosés, some unoaked white wines and lighter reds — often the most complex and cellar-worthy bottles are difficult to assess.
They may have recently been blended, from disparate barrel lots of different grapes. Just before release they were bottled, then shipped, which leads to a condition called bottle shock, in which scents and flavors may be muted for several months. Some wines are made to minimize exposure to oxygen, which can also lead to very tight and compact flavors during the first year or two after being bottled.
So one of the tricks of the trade, in order to get a better read on a young wine's potential, is simply to leave a half-finished bottle out on the counter, with nothing done except to push the cork back in, and retaste it over a period of hours or days. Most wines will fade quickly, as oxygen does its work, but in some cases they may drink well for another day or two, or even improve.
Such was the result of a recent tasting of new releases from Grand Rêve. Grand Rêve, which means great dream, is headquartered on Red Mountain. Conceived by business partners Paul McBride and Ryan Johnson, it consists of a recently planted vineyard (the highest on the mountain) and a portfolio of six wines numbered as Collaboration Series I through VI. But there's more to the story.
Ryan Johnson happens to be the vineyard manager at Ciel du Cheval, an exceptional site, also on Red Mountain, whose grapes are featured in many of the best Washington cabernets and Rhône blends. Johnson certainly knows the vineyard inside and out, and owner Jim Holmes has made fruit available to Grand Rêve while their own vineyard is being established.
"Ryan already had a shortlist of which winemakers had a good handle on Ciel du Cheval fruit," McBride explains. "We decided to present them with some outstanding fruit and let them create the best wine they could — sort of a Long Shadows of Red Mountain. Except here it's the grower choosing the winemakers, and the fruit all comes from a single vineyard and AVA."
Beginning in 2004, the first Collaboration Series wine was produced. Collaboration Series I, made by Ben Smith of Cadence, is a Bordeaux blend. Collaboration Series II, made by Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew, blends grapes of the southern Rhône. Collaboration Series III is Mark McNeilly's project, a clonal mix of pure syrah. Collaboration Series IV (another Bordeaux blend) is produced by Carolyn Lakewold of Donedei. Collaboration Series V (not yet released) is a grenache made by Chris Gorman. And the newest addition to the lineup, Collaboration Series VI, is also a southern Rhône blend, this one crafted by Syncline's James Mantone. They are priced at $45 to $55, not out of line for the quality.
The first wines were released in the spring of 2009, and the current releases include new vintages of I, II and III, along with a very limited 2007 reserve cabernet sauvignon. This last wine, due out in the fall, is a blend of two barrels from Mark McNeilly and two from Ross Mickel. It is one of the finest Washington cabernets I have ever tasted.
All of these new releases were tasted over 48 hours, and I was drinking them by the glass with great pleasure on the third day. Age-worthy? I would say so. But already so delicious that it will take some discipline to consign them to the cellar.
About Wine Adviser
My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.
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