What follows is a section of my 2010 Walla Walla Spring Release Report. The report will be published in its entirety in .pdf form after the last entry is posted to the blog. See previous posts here.
As I drove to Bunchgrass Winery, I listened to a message from co-owner Tom Olander on my cell phone. Look for the…what was that he said? Dragon? I listened to the message again. Sure did sound like dragon. I’ve seen a lot of things in Walla Walla but…then there it was – a steel sculpture of a dragon by the side of the road. And a good thing too as Bunchgrass is otherwise modestly marked and set back far from the road.
Bunchgrass was founded by Roger Cockerline in 1997. Cockerline’s interest in wine started in the 1980s when he planted a small vineyard, selling grapes to local wineries. He also saved some grapes to make wine with friends Gordy and Venneri and Myles Andersen, who would go on start Walla Walla Vintners.
After retiring from teaching, Cockerline began making wine commercially. His first vintage was in 1997 when he made twenty-five cases of estate wine. Since then, the winery has continued to focus on small production wines, making approximately six hundred cases annually.
As time went on, Cockerline looked for someone to pass the winemaking torch to. As fate would have it, his old friends at Walla Walla Vintners had a winemaker, William VonMetzger, who was looking to start his own winery. When two of Cockerline’s friends, Tom Olander and Barb Commare each approached him about continuing the Bunchgrass brand, a partnership was born.
VonMetzger, a product of Walla Walla Community College’s Enology and Viticulture program, began making wines for Bunchgrass in 2006. The 2006 through 2008 vintages were made at Walla Walla Vintners. Starting with the 2009 vintage, the wines were once again made at the winery’s facility on the way in to Walla Walla.
Bunchgrass makes five wines. Three are released in the spring – The Triolet, a Bordeaux-style blend named after an eight line poem where the first, fourth, and seventh lines are repeated; a Morrison Lane Vineyard Syrah; and a Lewis Vineyard Syrah. Two are released in the fall, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Malbec. The winery will be adding a sixth wine, a Right Bank inspired Bordeaux-style blend, with the 2008 vintage.
Each of the 2007 Bunchgrass wines sampled below are noteworthy. These are bold but nuanced wines layered with fruit. Due to the limited quantities produced, these wines will be somewhat hard to come by but the reward will be more than worth the effort.
Bunchgrass Winery Triolet Walla Walla Valley 2007 $28
Rating: * (Excellent) Beautiful aromatics of high toned sweet cherries, dust, chocolate, and currant. Lush and full on the palate with velvety tannins and focused fruit. Glides along to a smooth finish. 73% Cabernet Sauvignon (Dwelley, Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge), 18% Cabernet Franc (Dwelley), and 9% Petit Verdot (Frazier Bluff). Aged 22 months in French oak (40% new). 14.2% alcohol. 130 cases produced.
Bunchgrass Winery Syrah Morrison Lane Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2007 $32
Rating: * (Excellent) Richly aromatic with black licorice, blueberry, cherry, milk chocolate, and light game. Gorgeously textured with gauzy fruit flavors and zippy acidity. 100% Syrah. Morrison Lane Vineyard. Aged 23 months in French oak (30% new). 14.5% alcohol. 50 cases produced.
Bunchgrass Winery Syrah Lewis Vineyard 2007 $28
Rating: * (Excellent) Classic Lewis Vineyard aromas with cherry cola, tea leaves, and light herbal notes. Rich and full of fruit on the palate with barely a trace of oak. Hangs on and on at the finish. 100% Syrah. Lewis Vineyard. Aged 23 months in French oak (20% new).14.6% alcohol. 260 cases produced.