southard bound

Thursday, June 21, 2012

OK blogophiles, raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of Southard winery...

That’s what I thought. Please read on.

One of the great pleasures – perhaps the greatest pleasure – that I have found in being a wine writer is the occasional diamond that is uncovered in a garage sale full of costume jewelry. It is absolutely thrilling to be the first to write about a new venture that seems to hold immense promise. There’s a bit of risk involved also. If you sing the praises too loudly, too soon, and the winery turns out to be a one hit wonder, a one trick pony, then you begin to doubt yourself.

But I think my track record has been pretty good. Among the wineries I have covered early on are Leonetti Cellar, Quilceda Creek, Betz Family, DeLille, Cayuse, K Vintners, Fielding Hills, Beresan, Rulo...

Southard has the potential of being that good.

This family-owned and operated winery is located a few miles north of Selah, Washington. A small estate vineyard grows a bit of riesling, while other grapes are sourced from the Lawrence vineyard (on the Royal Slope) and select locations in the Yakima valley.

Scott Southard wrote me a bit of his history when he was first starting the winery. “I graduated from the University of Washington in 2003 with a BA in drama,” he explained, “but I couldn’t bring myself to move down to L.A. and start auditioning for commercials and bad television pilots. [Good call!] Eventually I decided that I wanted to work in the wine industry and so I apprenticed at Kana and Yakima Cellars in 2005 and was hired as an assistant winemaker by Coyote Canyon (who had purchased Yakima Cellars) in 2006.

In the summer of 2007 Kana hired me and Ben Grossman to replace the previous winemaker and at that time I started making wine for my family’s label as well. In the spring of 2009 I left Kana to focus solely on my family’s wine and in the fall of 2010 my parents and I built a small winery by their vineyard north of Selah. We farm without using chemicals (with the exception of sulfur) and use some biodynamic techniques, although we are not certified bio. I would love to grow more wine, but we can’t afford to purchase more land just yet. Right now we buy most of our fruit from our cousins, the Lawrences, who farm on the Royal Slope and produce wine under the Gärd Vintners label. We’re slowly increasing our production as I’m still learning which cultivars best express the character of each of the vineyards we work with.”

I have tasted three or four vintages of Scott’s wines and quite honestly they were outstanding from the very beginning. Noteworthy for their elegance, finesse, balance and depth, they have gone from strength to strength. As far as I know, they remain completely under the radar of other wine critics (even my hard-working friend Sean Sullivan seems to have missed them). Quite honestly, Southard is the winery of the year as far as I am concerned when you factor in quality, price, and the extra bounce that the thrill of discovery offers. Here’s a look at upcoming releases.

Southard 2010 White Wine; $16
413 cases; 14.5% alcohol
Two thirds Viognier, one third Roussanne, this humbly-labeled white is a revelation. In the mouth it has the style and sleekness of fine Burgundy, with flavors running through a spectrum of herb, citrus and tree fruits. Polished and seductive.

Southard 2011 Lawrence Vineyard Le Paon Rosé; $20
44 cases; 13.5% alcohol
Put this into a blind flight of French rosé and it will seem like one of the crowd. Crafted from 65% Grenache, 29% Syrah and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s a gorgeous onion skin shade, bone dry, dusty and detailed. The elegance and length are exceptional. This is the best Washington rosé I’ve had this year.

Southard 2010 Lawrence Vineyard Red Wine; $22
116 cases; 14.5% alcohol
Though labeled simply Red, this is 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah, from a single vineyard. The fruit is very tart, rather light, with pretty cherry highlights. Tannins are firm and hint at stem flavors.

Southard 2010 Sugarloaf Vineyard Red Wine; $20
206 cases; 14.5% alcohol
This bone dry, southern Rhône-style red blend consists of 61% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, 12% Cinsault and 9% Counoise. Elegant and detailed flavors of light berry and Bing cherry are dusted with cocoa accents.

Southard 2009 Lawrence Vineyard Syrah; $25
337 cases; 14.5%
The star of the show. You can pay four times as much for comparable Royal Slope projects, or grab this jewel. Dark and bloody, this fascinating Syrah masterfully mixes layer upon layer of detail. Red meat, black olive, cassis and earth roll across the tongue, while hints of floral scents and chocolate linger in the nose.

The website lists back vintages of different wines for sale. Reviews of those wines may be found online here. The Southard website lists retail locations to find their wines. The winery is open Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5, and by appointment.


Sean Gilbert said...

Great article! Its great to see Scott get the press he deserves for his awesome wines. Thanks for posting.

Sean P. Sullivan said...

I can say I've heard of them but can't say that I've tried the wines. Look forward to checking them out!

Corey Fish said...

I don't drink wine, beer, spirits as a general way of life. Wine, in particular, always gave me headaches. I always assumed it was because there were some unnatural chemicals or additives.

I once experienced what the Real Thing was in 1970 when visiting Spain. Our gracious host busted out a dusty old bottle of some kind of red wine that must have been worth several hundred dollars at that time. It was virtually a spiritual experience! I know that if wine like that was readily available I would probably say yes to it often.

In the last decade I've had occasion to sample some of Southard's wines and did NOT get headaches from it -- a crude standard of measure, but the only one I can go by. I knew right away there was something different about their process, that they were going extra miles to make their wine special.

I have met the Southards, toured their facility and concluded there were "Holy Works" going on there, above and beyond the norm. I believe they operate on a much higher set of standards.

That is all I have to say!

Anonymous said...

I've known the Southards since the 90s when I used to walk my dog by their property in Selah. After they planted their vineyard and I was working at the Yakima Valley Business Journal, I wrote a two-part story on their new endeavor. The past three years we've had fun helping them with harvest and at least once with bottling. Not only does Scott make great wine, but they are fine people. Visit them at their winery if you can.

Lisa Lawrence said...

So pleased to see some great comments for our cousins, the Southards. Scott is a very talented winemaker, and we're pleased that he sources grapes from our vineyard. He's a fantastic partner in the grape growing process. If you haven't tried Southard wines, track them down asap. You'll be pleased you did!

Anonymous said...

I visited in April. Liked it before, and more after the visit. Bought the syrah. Thanks for the article.

Chris said...

I've tried Southard a few times, Whipping Boy Cab is a treasure and great value and the new GSM from Sugarloaf was my favorite at Taste Washington. At $20 it's a case worthy wine. Thanks for giving them a nice write up Paul!

Katherine said...

Congratulations Scott! Cheers, Kana Winery

Anonymous said...

We had the pleasure of stopping by Southard this past April. I encourage others to do so.

We had always wanted to stop at several locations in Selah, but they were difficult to find. This time, using GPS, we went right to Southard; we were disappointed to find they were closed, but Scott saw us walking back to the vehicle and invited us in.

Scott answered all our questions and was a gracious host as we tasted their wines for well over a half hour. It was a great experience, being treated like a guest in his tasting room.

We'll always be fans of Southard and look forward to many visits in the future.

Anonymous said...

Currently eating at Poppy in Seattle and enjoying tue delicious sugarloaf vintage red. The complex flavor bursts on the tongue. High quality wine! Wish we could get it in Pittsburgh pa

Anonymous said...

Paul, thanks for sending us on our first visit to Southard in three years. Scott clearly has grown as a winemaker in that time. We were very impressed with the Euro-style finesse and restraint in the wines. Doug, Scott's father, did a terrific tasting for us of just about the whole line of wines, including the latest Riesling, which you didn't review, and the Mourvedre/Syrah blend, which we loved. Terrific quality and value. A real pleasure.
--Harris Meyer, Yakima

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