spirit world

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The discussion of Washington wine terroir – the what, where, how and if of it – lies a bit outside the constraints of a blog; in fact, it’s a significant part of my upcoming book. But Dr. Alan Busacca and winemaker Robert Smasne have taken the terroir bull by the horns and stuffed it into a project dubbed AlmaTerra.

AlmaTerra (which means spirit or soul of the earth) is, says Smasne, “an educational project” designed to concentrate on varietals with “a true sense of place.” Busacca and Smasne picked viognier and syrah. Syrah makes perfect sense to me; the grape grows well almost everywhere in Washington, and clearly expresses itself differently in different places. The viognier choice is a surprising one, but we’ll reserve judgment until the wines come out.

For vineyards the two chose Ciel du Cheval, Coyote Canyon and Minick (Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills and Yakima valley respectively). For the project Smasne made a single vineyard bottle from each, with fruit brought in at a brix level that is mature for the vineyard; all using the same yeast, the same fermentation style, the same cooperage, the same aging, racked and filtered and bottled on the same days.

Each lot is topped with its own wine, so it’s truly 100% single vineyard. The 4th bottle (the wines come in 4-paks) is labeled Coéo (coming together), and is a blend. AlmaTerra was begun in 2006 and the first release includes those wines (all syrah) and the first of the viogniers, the 2007 Coéo. The 4-pak ($220) comes in a hand-made wood box, with the logo burned in, produced by handicapped workers in Oregon. The ’07 Coéo Viognier is available separately for $26.

Beginning next month, says Smasne, he and his partner will offer a workshop with a talk/presentation by Alan, appetizers, a private 4-bottle tasting for 40 people, and credit the cost back on a purchase. See the website for details.


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