750 mL

An independent, public journal of tasting notes for hundreds of wines from around the world.

Sign up to receive The Short Pour: 750 mL's quarterly newsletter of wine news and notes.


Follow me on Twitter @750_mL or email 750mL.blogspot@gmail.com

October 27, 2009

05 Betz Family Winery, Columbia Valley Besoleil

I swear I recognize your face. I always feel that way with grenache--whether the juicy, dusty red is from Spain, Australia, southern France, or here in Columbia Valley, where I now have suspicion to believe the ground is made of marrow bones and the spirit of some ancient, possibly Aztec, god of cocoa beans. I'm not so sure we're at a place yet to say what Washington wine means--not so much as Oregon might be pinot noir, Germany riesling--and if the retail shops had their way, we'd probably peg it closest to rich, fruity cab. And we wouldn't be wrong. Some of Washington's truly best wines, including Bob Betz's own, are Bordeaux by any other name. If you searched a little harder, had enough geeky friends, you'd quickly be convinced from Charlie Smith, Christophe Baron, and, again, Bob Betz, really the whole point is syrah. Which is maybe why the Betz family has devoted almost its entire portfolio to Rhone-styled wines. But the 2005 Besoleil--young yet still easily the most beautifully aged grenache I've ever had (often the humble varietal goes flat, too grapey, rotten, or overwhelmed by creamy oak)--starts to make the case that Washington is made for grenache. I don't say that lightly, or without knowing what it is to drink cab and merlot from Dubrul, syrah from Cailloux. Instead, it's the terroir that Betz uses to power this fruit, grenache sourced largely from Horse Heaven Hills, Washington's largest and maybe most indicative AVA, that leaves me so convinced. The Besoleil, more than 80% grenache supported by mourvedre and syrah, has the dark, brambly, inspiring raspberry and blackberry fruit that makes me lust after this region. You'll know it well if you've ever been to a great restaurant. It smells like a Michelin kitchen, complex but focused. There's nothing in here we didn't mean. Yes, you smell coal and rosemary. It's because we roast our chickens underground and feed our ducks plums. All I can think of is Alinea. Of course, if you're from Columbia Valley, you just figure I'm some haughty, over-metaphorical writer who's clearly coming close to finishing the bottle already. Because to you, it doesn't smell like Alinea, Tru, or the back table by the service line at Bar Tartine. You probably smell the river, see the view looking out to Oregon. You hear the sweaty echo in the valley and whisper in the cool, stemmy nights through shin-sharpened grass. Haunting, familiar yet you can't seem to place it. But it's in us. Whatever the memory. High-end dinners, first kisses in France's lavendar countryside, the light purple taffy and royal icing you used to eat on your birthday. Whatever that memory, that's what Bob Betz has captured. That's what Washington wine stands for.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Web designer said...

In my fridge right now: a bottle of albarino, one of red burgundy, and several of Bell’s Oberon and Dogfish Head beers. No reports of a food fight.

4:49 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

And for the curious--the Aztec god who discovered cacao is Quetzalcoatl. Ek Chuah is the Mayan patron of cacao.

11:18 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

No surprise at all, it turns out--Bob Betz's Master of Wine thesis was on the interaction of wine and barrels. If that was his paper, this wine is the book.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous FUN & FACT said...

God wanted us to be happy and that’s why he made beer. I won’t be able to live on any other planet because only earth has beer.

DIU

2:49 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

October 26, 2009

06 L'Ecole No. 41, Columbia Valley Merlot

I believe in the goodness of others because of this wine, by far the best of America's Bordeaux-style bottles. Yes, class is in session. There are fuller bodied wines. Fruitier. Sweeter. Earthier. Better with roast beef. But none so evocative. The label is just semantics--a merlot, sure, but calling it one is like calling chicken soup chicken. Yes it's the most important component and drives a powerful punch of silky blueberry and black cherry flavors. But it wouldn't be a meal without the carrots, noodles, and matzo ball. Fortunately, the carrot here is 3% cabernet sauvignon, the noodles 5% petit verdot, and the giant matzo a generous tenth or so of cabernet franc so tremendous that New York should just stop. A lot of things are perfect about this wine from the seizure-enducing cinnamon and leather sole aroma to the elegant balance of fruit and terroir. But what will ruin you for any other merlot is the finish. If you've loved Bordeaux, this will instantly place you in Lalande de Pomerol before you realize that what's happening here--a study in dark cocoa powder, carob, and the enterprising affection of espresso if you insist on knowing the ending--isn't about comparing terroir or having a wine review site. It's about happiness, nothing corny or sentimental, just real downright happiness. That's the lesson. Wash your ears, change your underwear, remember to eat, and try, if you can, to be happy.

3 Comments:

Blogger tagskie said...

hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day! http://kantahanan.blogspot.com/

7:00 AM  
OpenID artpredator said...

I loved this also. Did you get one at the Wine Bloggers Conference in July?

see you on the bus!

1:03 AM  
OpenID artpredator said...

I loved this also. Did you get one at the Wine Bloggers Conference in July?

see you on the bus!

1:03 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

  © 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi