featured winery – àMaurice

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I’ve always felt that àMaurice was a really awkward name for a winery. Sorta French, sorta not, really confusing. But there is nothing awkward about the wines that Anna Schafer has crafted since the 2005 vintage.

Situated across the road from Walla Walla Vintners, and sharing a hillside with Leonetti’s Mill Creek Upland vineyard and a new and very interesting vineyard called Yellow Bird, àMaurice has the terroir and the talent to be a major player in Walla Walla.

I don’t think there is anywhere in Washington more prone to trendy, flavor-of-the-month hipness than Wallyworld. I get asked constantly by friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers, the same question. “I’m coming to Walla Walla for the weekend. What are the hot new wineries I should see?”

You know, this year’s hot new winery has only a modest chance of being next year’s fashion favorite. Long term excellence is what really counts. The wineries that have been doing exceptional work for the longest runs are the must-see wineries. Woodward Canyon and L’Ecole, Waterbrook and Leonetti, Dunham and Walla Walla Vintners – these wineries and their peers in the first 15 to make wine in the region are where you should always focus your visits.

But among the newish wineries, àMaurice is well worth exploring. As the estate vineyard comes of age, you’ll find some excellent, limited, estate bottlings cropping up. Meanwhile the Columbia valley offerings have never been better. Here’s a look at the latest vintages. Full reviews and scores will be published in a future edition of Wine Enthusiast.

àMaurice 2011 Viognier
Columbia Valley; $25
Here is a smooth and supple Viognier, with a dynamic mix of citrus and tropical fruits. It’s well-proportioned, and the phenolic edge to the skin flavors puts a nice frame around the finish.

àMaurice 2010 Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay
Columbia Valley; $28
Still youthful and showing a fair amount of barrel in the nose, this unfined and unfiltered, single vineyard Chardonnay will reward another few years of cellaring. Fresh apple and peach fruit flavors anchor a solid mid-palate.

àMaurice 2010 Boushey Vineyard Syrah/Grenache
Yakima Valley; $34
The addition of 28% Grenache brings a punchy, upfront fruitiness to the umami-soaked Syrah. Tangy orange/raspberry fruit is concentrated and fills the mouth; then the peppery, earthy Syrah backbone brings flesh to the finish.

àMaurice 2010 Gamache Vineyard Malbec
Columbia Valley; $35
Single vineyard, 100% varietal Malbec can be spot on, and this succeeds with a balanced flavor profile of mixed berries and earthy tannins. There’s a hint of volatility, that quickly blows off. Decanting for an hour or so is advised.

àMaurice 2010 ‘The Graves’ Red Blend
Columbia Valley; $35
The Graves is the newest àMaurice Artist Series release – 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Cabernet Franc and 23% Merlot. It’s reticent at first, and actually blossomed a full 24 hours after it was first opened and tasted. Tightly-wrapped cassis and dried cherry fruit carries a whiff of sweet tomato. With generous airing, the wine gains in both complexity and mass.

àMaurice

Pick of the Week: A to Z Wineworks 2012 Pinot Gris; $13
A fine effort, this has juicy flavors of apple and pear, lightly dusted with cinnamon spice. An astonishing 46,000 cases are made.

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