dusted valley

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dusted Valley joined the Walla Walla winery stampede early in this new century. At first they were just another recently-arrived newcomer – two young couples who’d met at the University of Wisconsin, where they individually studied Food Science and Tourism & Hospitality.

They immediately showed a flair for marketing, with cheeky slogans (“as we say in the Dusted Valley, open that bottle. The first two glasses are for your health; the second two for ours!”) and catchy names such as Barrel Thief red and Stained Tooth syrah. But as time has gone on, Dusted Valley has shown much more than just attitude.

Tasting through their 10 most recent releases, I was struck by the fact that in a remarkably short time, Dusted Valley has found a style that is consistent, appealing and identifiable across the entire lineup. That is no small feat, especially when you factor in the mix of owned, purchased and managed vineyard sources, the challenging run of vintages, and the leased (not owned) production facility.

The consistency comes in the form of bright, perfectly-ripened fruit, that is showcased with natural acids and moderate use of new oak. An added nuance is the addition of tight-grained, cold climate Wisconsin oak barrels – more delicate, less overt than Appalachian oak, with richer vanillin (and none of the dill flavor).

Here’s a quick run-through of the current releases from Dusted Valley, many produced in limited quantities, and available direct from the winery.

2008 Viognier ($26). One of the best decisions the owners have made is contracting this excellent viognier fruit from Kestrel View vineyard. Bright, spicy, with plenty of citrus and phenolic grip, it’s a penetrating, textural, thirst-quenching wine.

2008 Old Vine Chardonnay ($30). Wente clone, again Kestrel View fruit, from vines planted in 1972. There’s a green streak suggesting not quite ripe banana and papaya – not a bad thing – along with fresh baked bread, vanilla and almond. Unfortunately, the last vintage for this wine.

2007 Grenache ($28). Not an easy grape to ripen in Washington, but this is perfect, juicy with fresh berry and rhubarb fruit, and notes of marjoram, rosemary and cracked pepper. Full-bodied and pushing close to 15% alcohol, this is A+ pizza wine.

2007 Malbec ($35). You know I love Washington malbec, and this is a fine bottle. Labeled Columbia Valley, but it’s got a fair amount of Walla Walla fruit in it, notably a 5% component of Spofford Station syrah. Sharp-edged, tight and spicy, this just hints at earth and seaweed, and has not yet shed its baby fat. Ageworthy for sure, or decant it for a couple of hours.

2007 Cabernet Franc ($35). Here again the focus is on varietal purity, but the careful blending (adding 10% merlot) expands the mid-palate and adds complexity. Green coffee and oak-driven coconut and vanilla custard flavors dominate, with dark fruits holding down center court.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26). An outstanding value, this Walla Walla Valley cab is awash in black fruits and black flavors – toast, coffee, smoke, licorice, graphite, black olive. Tannins are silky and the length suggests a wine that will age gracefully. I’d put this up against many a California cab costing three times as much.

2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($45). A wine club only offering, from an excellent vintage, with 10% merlot and 10% malbec in the blend. This is Dusted Valley’s first-ever estate wine – a big, thick, and yes, dusty/earthy cab, for those who want more fruit, more oak, and more tannin.

2006 BFM Red ($35). Blow your Freaking Mind (or make up your own slogan) is what BFM stands for. It’s a Bordeaux blend, mostly merlot, with sharply-defined berry-flavored fruit, bright acidity, and a fine focus. The mix of Wisconsin and French oak (60% new) gives it a pleasing, chocolatey finish.

2007 Stained Tooth Syrah ($26). The Columbia valley blend is right up there with its companion Walla Walla syrah in terms of quality. Firm, dense and juicy, a beguiling mix of berries, pomegranate and spice. Some good tannic bite intensifies and lengthens the finish.

2007 Syrah ($28). Though syrah has become a hand sell, one taste of this and people buy it by the case I am assured. It’s easy to see why – this is a juicy, sappy, grapey, penetrating, peppery bottle of ripe fruit flavor. Young and tart, vivacious and powerful, it’s delicious now or ready for another 6 to 8 years of cellaring.

Final note: the Stained Tooth Society is the name of the Dusted Valley wine club. “Purple is our favorite color,” they write. “You know you’re drinking the good stuff when your teeth develop that unmistaken hue. Life is too short to stain your teeth on cheap wine.”

http://www.dustedvalley.com

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