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Creating an excellent $70 bottle of wine may not necessarily be easy, but it’s significantly easier than creating a wine of similarly high quality at half or a quarter of that price. However, in the current economic climate where consumers are acutely focused on both price and value, it is increasingly important for wineries to not only try to meet expectations but also to beat them. It is equally important to do so at reasonable prices.

One winery that has thus far consistently met this challenge is Tranche Cellars. Tranche Cellars, located in Walla Walla, is the second of three wineries founded by Michael Corliss and Lauri Darneille. The first, Corliss Estates, opened in 2008 to much fanfare, producing some of the year’s best wines. The third winery, RMV Cellars, will have its first release this spring.

Tranche Cellars is named after a French term for slice or section. In Bordeaux, wine is often released in ‘tranches’, with the first tranche typically the least expensive and subsequent tranches priced based on consumer response.

No such shenanigans have occurred thus far at Tranche Cellars. In fact, the winery has offered great value across different price points. Prices have ranged from $16 (Pinot Gris) to $20 (Barbera) to $36 (Red Wine and Cabernet Sauvignon). While some of the wines, such as the ones sampled here, are above the magic $25-and-under mark consumers are focused on at present, each wine Tranche has offered has provided excellent value, drinking like a wine at a higher price point. These wines also benefit from a few extra years of cellaring at the winery.

For people looking to brighten these dark economic days with the occasional $35 wine that drinks like a $50 wine , look no further than two recent releases from Tranche. Both wines sampled here are big and bold in style. The first, the 2005 Slice de Pape, is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape tribute, and what a tribute it is with earth and dusky spices. The second, the 2004 Columbia Valley Syrah, comes principally from two different blocks in Stillwater Creek Vineyard. The first block is located high on a hill that features non-nutritive soils and low yields. The other block is from the bottom of the same hill where the soil and nutrients slide down from above resulting in higher yields. Combined together in this wine - which also features a splash of Grenache – the results provide another example of how well Syrah excels in Washington.

As with previous releases, each bottle contains a bottled-on date and an irreverent description of the wine on the back. While fruit for these wines came from vineyards throughout the Columbia Valley, Corliss and Darnielle’s long-term goal, as with Corliss Estates and Red Mountain Vineyards, is to transition to using estate fruit in the future.

See previous posts on Tranche Cellars here.

Slice of Pape Red Wine Columbia Valley 2005 $35

Rating: * (Excellent) An alluring nose with dusky spices, leather, earth, and berries. Beautifully textured with weighty red fruit across the palate. Hangs on for a long finish. A tribute to the style. 56% Grenache, 38% Syrah, and 6% Cinsault. Northridge, Birch Creek, and Stillwater vineyards. Aged 30 months in neutral French oak. 15.2% alcohol. 143 cases produced.

Syrah Columbia Valley 2004 $35

Rating: * (Excellent) A pretty, aromatic nose with sweet spices, blackberry, earth, and chocolate. A nose to linger over. A lot of red and black fruit on a palate that manages to be simultaneously fruit-filled and restrained. Sweet cranberry flavors emerge at times. Syrah with a splash of Grenache. Stillwater Creek, Stonetree, and Clifton Hill vineyards. Aged 28 months on 70% new French oak. 15.4% alcohol. 80 cases produced.

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