I know what you’re thinking. Here’s Gregutt with another rant, this time he’s going after splits. Well, rest easy, I’m not going there. In fact one of the recommended wines below is available only in a 375 format.
Short bottles is a term invented by Mrs. G some years back, when it became clear that on certain occasions we had to enforce strict guidelines as to who/when/how much wine could be poured from a particularly excellent bottle. The normal situation in the Gregutt home is to have a surfeit of good wines open, and no need to fight over that last pour. But once in awhile there’s a wine that captures a certain je ne sais quoi – call it the “It Factor” – and magically turns a once-full bottle into a cage fight over the dregs. That is what is known in these parts as a short bottle.
Short bottles seem to sneak up on you. They are unpredictable. Some truly excellent, very well made, high scoring wines do not turn into short bottles. While some less showy, less expensive wines do. What’s the secret?
Truth be told, I don’t think there is one. It’s a matter of personal taste. If my kitchen counter, usually covered with open bottles of very good wines, were an art gallery, I’d happily wander from room to room, artist to artist, taking it all in, but waiting for that one piece of art that leaves me gobsmacked. You know – the one you’d take home if price were no consideration and you could have any one you wanted, but just one.
Short bottles are like that. They grab hold of your senses and hang on like a dog with a bone. Or maybe they’re more like a song that gets stuck in your head – the proverbial earworm – except you can finish a bottle of wine and you can’t dislodge an earworm except with another earworm. But I digress.
In the course of a week I will usually open 30 or 40 wines, some new, some old, some for review, some from the cellar. During the holidays that number climbs as the number of parties we attend climbs. No matter – there will still be just one or maybe two short bottles in any given week. This past week the wine that sticks in my mind was a single vineyard 2014 Chardonnay from Ponzi. I apologize for not getting a photo of it but the bottle was drained so quickly I quite forgot to memorialize it. But that bottle was short!
“Short people got no reason to live” sang Randy Newman in the song of the same name. Short bottles got no chance to live… they simply disappear.
As 2023 disappears I want to point my local readers to the upcoming Holiday Barrel Weekend here in Walla Walla. This three-day celebration pretty much caps the year with an abundance of food, wine, art, music, and many chances to sample upcoming wine releases directly from the barrel. Wineries, hotels, and restaurants get into the holiday spirit with a splendid array of special events, and you can find a good resource for all of the above here. If you’re staying on the west side, here’s a link to the festivities happening in Woodinville.
Here in Walla Walla county we’ve had a cold snap and some foggy days but the weekend is supposed to warm up enough to be reasonably comfortable. I’ll be visiting a handful of tasting rooms with some good friends arriving from out of town. Wine, food, friends and some exciting football (Dogs vs. Ducks) – what’s not to like? It’s not too late to do some planning but I would get after it if you are on the fence about visiting.
Apart from my short bottle I’ve enjoyed a number of other wines this past week. As always, everything posted here has been thoroughly tested and is recommended.
This past week I tasted just-released 2022 red wines from Sineann. They are always right among the very first releases of full-bodied red wines from the previous vintage. It sidesteps (at least for a moment) any problems with the wines shutting down, which can happen when they are put through a more common practice of taking an extra year in barrel and bottle prior to release. The website has not been updated so if you want to acquire these new wines you will need to contact the winery directly.
Sineann 2022 Abondante Red – A near-equal blend of Zinfandel and Merlot, this is sourced from vineyards just east of the Columbia Gorge AVA, where the Columbia Valley AVA crosses the river into Oregon. It’s a generous and versatile red blend, with flavors of red currants, strawberries and peppery herbs. Despite its youth there are no rough edges, the overall balance is spot on, and the tannins have a gentle graininess from aging in neutral wood that adds some texture to the finish. 500 cases; 14.8%; $20 (Columbia Valley) 91/100
Sineann 2022 Old Vine Zinfandel – There’s an interesting story behind these vines, which were abandoned for decades and then revived back in the 1980s. It’s the roots that are ancient; the vines (planted from cuttings) are now reaching old vine maturity. The mixed berry fruits are adorned with espresso beans, red licorice and dark chocolate flavors that coalesce in a deep core that extends on through a seamless, almost silky finish. There are only a handful of Zinfandel vineyards planted across the entire Pacific Northwest; this is the best of them. 225 cases; 14.8%; $39 (Columbia Valley) 93/100
Sineann 2022 Oregon Pinot Noir – Though labeled simply “Oregon” this is actually all Willamette Valley Pinot from choice vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton and Eola-Amity Hills AVAs. The result is a juicy mix of raspberries, tangerines and hints of chocolate-covered cherries. The acids keep it fresh, and the lush jumble of tangy fruit flavors carries on through a clean finish with light, tea-flavored tannins. One barrel was new; the rest neutral. 180 cases; 13.4%; $30 (Oregon) 91/100
Sineann 2022 Daffodil Hill Pinot Noir – The overall lightness of this wine does not in any way sacrifice detail or length. It’s dappled with pepper and cinnamon accents around moderately-ripened red fruits. Elegant, balanced and clean all through the finish, this should continue to improve over the rest of this decade. I’m told it is already sold out unfortunately. 48 cases; 13.6%; $36 (Eola-Amity Hills) 93/100
Sineann 2022 Hirschy Vineyard Pinot Noir – Pure and lovely aromas of classic Pinot Noir introduce this wine. It’s firmly anchored in pretty cherry fruit, framed with ample acidity, and leading on into a strong finish with earthy tannins and a thread of cold metal. In short, to quote Dolly Parton, it wears a “coat of many colors.” The question with such a young wine is where does it go from here? This could be a long term ager, one that might reach its peak in another 15 years. For now, decant! 48 cases; 14.4%; $36 (Yamhill-Carlton) 94/100
Sineann 2022 TFL Pinot Noir – Sineann bottles this reserve (winemaker’s choice of the best three barrels of Yates Conwill fruit) only in splits. Tight red fruits with an earthy minerality come up at first. Tasted repeatedly after lengthy aeration it broadens out, nicely textured and layered, but I’m rating it just below the ‘regular’ Yates Conwill. The listed abv on the TFL is lower, though the impact of alcohol is more evident, and the lightness of the ‘regular’ bottling is sacrificed in favor of 100% new barrels and heavier tannins. 100 cases; 14.2%; $30/375ml (Willamette Valley) 93/100
Sineann 2022 Yates Conwill Vineyard Pinot Noir – Always a top vineyard in Sineann’s portfolio, this lovely new release is supple, powerful and dense. In 2022 it also carries with it a sense of lightness and elegance that illuminates hidden details. Red and blue fruits, citrus, touches of tea and tobacco and more are in play. The texture and balance are superb, and as it breathes open it seems to add more and more details and layers. 100 cases; 14.4%; $42 (Yamhill-Carlton) 95/100
Sokol Blosser 2022 Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir – New to Sokol Blosser, this non-estate selection is a nice addition to the lineup. It punches through with spicy flavors of brambly marionberry, thistle, cherry, clean earth and a touch of anise. I love the concentration and subtle power of this wine. Drink it young (it’s from a great vintage) or set a few bottles aside to watch it develop. 3000 cases; 14%; $45 (Yamhill-Carlton) 93/100
Winegrower Craig Camp writes that “the re-concepted 2022 Druid’s wines reflect the new biodynamic era at Troon. Each vintage they will be estate biodynamic blends produced exclusively from our range of twenty Southern French varieties in the tradition of Côtes du Rhône, Languedoc, and Provence. Joining the Druid’s Red and White will be Druid’s Pink, starting with the 2023 vintage.”
As an aside, and to their credit, this eco-sensitive Biodynamic winery will soon put QR codes on their labels that will link to complete technical/nutritional information.
Troon 2022 Druid’s White – A shortened name and redesigned label for this Southern French style blend, which varies from vintage to vintage. This new release is principally Vermentino and Marsanne, and brings the same wild, almost feral mix of flavors I first noted in the previous vintage. Highlights of bee pollen, clover, citrus skin and a touch of tarragon run through the wine from start to spicy, lingering finish. 590 cases; 12.5%; $25 (Applegate Valley) 92/100
Troon 2022 Druid’s Red – Fans of Côtes du Rhône reds should love this wine. Winemaker Nate Wall notes that “in the past, the Druid’s wines were a hodgepodge fueled by a jumble of purchased grapes and cellar manipulation – no more. The Druid’s Red is a GSM–styled Rhône blend from multiple blocks across our estate and is intended to reflect each vintage.” The 2022 is primarily Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Spicy, fruit-powered and instantly flavorful, this delicious wine marks a new high point for the Druids. The mixed citrus and berry fruits are set against moderate acids, light tannins and persistent highlights of spice that trail out through an extended finish. 495 cases; 13.9%; $25 (Applegate Valley) 92/100