Special Treat: New Betz Releases
Since we opened our little tasting room back in 2005, we have enjoyed a small allocation of each new release from Betz Family Winery in Woodinville. Little known outside Washington, these wines have been carefully crafted by master winemaker Bob Betz, and have consistently achieved high reviews from all of the top wine publications. In most wine shops lucky enough to carry them, these wines sell out very quickly. But out here on the wine frontier, where these and other wines in the $40-$70 range tend to languish on the shelf, we seem to have accumulated a sizable stash.
Bob has a particular fondness for French wines from both the Bordeaux and Rhone regions. Bordeaux wines are predominantly blends of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot, with Left Bank (of the Gironde River) wines predominantly cabernet sauvgnon, and the Right Bank predominantly merlot. In contrast, Rhone wines are generally blends of syrah, grenache, mourvedre, and cinsault (among others), and are further divided into Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone styles, with the cooler North famous for deep, dark, brooding blends, and the South better known for soft, rich, ripe blends, with some subregions mostly syrah, others mostly grenache. That makes five different wine styles: Bordeaux right and left banks, Rhone north and south, and grenache or syrah-based.
I didn’t realize when I started writing this that it was going to get so complicated! All you need to know is that for many years Bob has lived his love for these regions and these wines by crafting his own versions of all three regions. Each Spring he releases two Bordeaux blends: Clos de Betz (his “right bank, merlot-based blend) and Pere de Famille (his Left Bank, cab sauv blend.) Then each fall he releases three Rhone blends: La Serenne (southern style, syrah based), La Cote Rousse (northern style, syrah based), and Besoleil (southern style, grenache- based).
Where all this leads is that for the next two weekends we will offer two tasting flights, and you can choose either or both. The first will be our regular four-wine tasting for $5. The second will be a sampling of Betz wines. This weekend we will feature the just-released 2009 Bordeaux blends, both of which have garnered truly fantastic acclaim. Then next weekend we will add a second flight of the 2009 Rhone blends, released last fall. Bear in mind that most of these wines will not reach their full potential for several years– fortunately we have several older vintages just hitting their stride…!– but the fact is I haven’t tasted them yet either, and this is my excuse! With any luck, this will be a quiet weekend, and there will be a lot left over!
Spring! Spring! Spring!
Okay, okay, so I took some liberties with editing this photo, which I took a couple of mornings ago out the bedroom window. It is SO NICE to be able to see the sun again, you know, more than a few minutes at a time on tediously gray days, and feel the warmth on your body, albeit filtered by the various layers most of us are still wearing. Today in fact there were several hours of honest to goodness shirtsleeve weather…! Of course it never feels like Florida or Hawaii around here, with all this cold, cold water swishing around us, but we’re getting close to the kind of day when some Vitamin D-craving part of us says, yeah, let’s do it, let’s feel a little more of that radiant warmth on our bare skin, and start letting go of the unconscious shoulder-hunching, breath-holding hunkering down that Winter is all about. And start exhaling…Ahhhhhhh!
Today’s wine Today’s wine Today’s wine
Tonight’s writing started with a small glass of FX Pichler 2005 Loibner Klostersatz gruner veltliner (Austria) that I fear has been in the cellar too long. We actually opened it a couple of days ago. It is somewhat austere and slightly tart, with a bit of effervescence, refreshing but somehow lacking the floral and fruity elements we love in a nice gruner, sometimes known as (I am not making this up) “Gru-Vee.” There was, as the link above points up, the nasty business back in the early 80’s when in a bad vintage year the corporate Austrian wine “suits” conspired to add a bit of ethylene glycol (yes, folks, antifreeze..!) to their export wines (what do those Americans know??) to make it a little sweeter and fuller on the palate (I’m not making this up, either!). As the article points out, “36 million bottles of Austrian wine were destroyed by way of being poured into the ovens of a cement plant as a cooling agent.” As you can imagine, it also had an, um, cloying effect on the Austrian wine export market for a time..!
This week’s wines– two flights!
First flight ($5)
Helix Chardonnay ’10 Washington $14
Nice balance of refreshing acidity and pleasing mouthfeel (20% new French oak); shows notes of tart pear, ripe pineapple, and hints of banana and guava melded all together with a little butterscotch.
Casillero del Diablo Carmenère ’10 Chile WS88pts $9
Aromas of spice box, plum, blueberry, and lavender are followed by a sweetly fruited wine with layered flavors and excellent concentration.
Finca El Tesso Tempranillo ‘09 $10
Already a local favorite–fruity and soft, with scents of violets, raw meat, sea salt and mineral; a perfect match for Serrano ham.
Layer Cake Shiraz ’09 Australia $14 WS89pts
Smooth and round, almost black in color, with the generous currant and black plum flavors poking through a layer of fine tannins on the finish.
Second flight ($5)
Betz Clos de Betz ’09 Washington WS96pts $48
Composed of 65% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Petit Verdot.. Opaque purple in color, it offers up a brooding bouquet of toasty oak, exotic spices, herbs, violets, black currant, and blackberry. Opulent on the palate, the wine has outstanding volume, a laser-like focus, layered fruit, and succulent flavors. This sizable effort will benefit from another 4-5 years of cellaring and drink well through 2028.
Betz Pere de Famille ’09 Washington WS96pts $60
Made up of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, and 8% Merlot aged for 16 months in 65% new French oak. Doing a fine impersonation of a classified growth Pauillac, it offers up a nose of sandalwood, Asian spices, incense, herbal notes, violets, black currants, and blackberry. This sets the stage for an already complex, elegant, smooth-textured, structured wine that will evolve for another 5-7 years. This lengthy, impressive effort will offer prime time drinking from 2016 to 2029.