As exciting as any winemaker to enter onto the stage in Washington in the last few years is Jon Martinez at Maison Bleue. Martinez left behind a promising career in dental surgery to pursue his passion for winemaking (read a previous post on the winery here). We should all be thankful.
Across the Maison Bleue lineup, the focus is on vineyard-designated wines. Martinez explains by saying, “I’m all about terroir, and I express it through vineyard designates.”
Earlier this year I reviewed Maison Bleue’s outstanding 2009 red wine releases from Upland Vineyard. Here we take a look at the winery’s 2009 reds from acclaimed Boushey Vineyard, as well as two new white wine releases from the 2010 vintage (read a review on Maison Bleue’s excellent 2010 French Creek Vineyard Chardonnay here).
The first of the 2010 whites, the Notre Vie Viognier, comes from Arthur Den Hoed’s vineyard in the Yakima Valley (K Vintner’s uses the same source). Viognier can be a finicky grape to work with, often coming off as flabby, alcoholic, and oily if it gets overripe. The Maison Bleue Viognier is far (far) to the left of that, carried along by the vibrant acidity that is the hallmark of the 2010 vintage.
Of the 2010 vintage Martinez says, “It was difficult in the vineyard and a lot of work in the cellar but was the most rewarding vintage for me.”
For an example of the vintage’s rewards look no further than the 2010 Petite Joie Marsanne from Boushey Vineyard. This wine pairs compelling flavors of honeydew melon and marzipan with a textured mouthfeel that sails off into the distance on the finish. The 2010 Petit Joie is nothing short of an accomplishment – the best Washington white wine that I have had this year and one of the best wines overall.
The first of the two 2009 Boushey Vineyard reds is the Le Midi Grenache. This wine, which includes 20% Syrah, provides a fascinating counterpoint to the winery’s La Montagnette Grenache from Upland Vineyard reviewed here. Both are as good as any Grenache being produced in the state and display the winery’s hallmark freshness, purity, and intensity.
The final new release – yet another exclamation point for Washington Syrah – is the 2009 Liberte. This wine is full of mineral and pomegranate flavors that coat the palate and shimmer with intensity – an emphatic expression of Boushey fruit. Expect this wine to age gracefully for as long as you’re willing to hold it.
Taken together with the releases earlier this year, Maison Bleue is making a lineup of white and red wines as compelling as any to be found in Washington. Quite simply, these are the types of wines one dreams about.
Maison Bleue Notre Vie Viognier Arthur’s Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010 $25
Rating: * (Excellent) Far from a fruit bomb aromatically, this wine has fascinating, alluring aromas of floral notes, creamsicle, and spice. On the palate it is tart but with a weighted feel full of minerality and with a steely acidic spine. A beautiful wine that is completely unique for Washington. Enjoy with food to bring out its best. 100% Viognier. Fermented and aged in two to three year old French oak barrels and stainless steel (30%) sur lie for 9 months. 50% malolactic fermentation. 13.5% alcohol. 305 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Maison Bleue Petite Joie Marsanne Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010 $35
Rating: ** (Exceptional) Intoxicating, compellingly complex aromas of honeydew melon, marzipan, crushed almonds, and spice. Hard to get past the nose and take the first sip. The palate is textured with incredible body and weight with lemony acidity and an exceptionally long finish. Nothing short of an accomplishment of a wine that is the best Marsanne I have had from Washington by a long stretch. 100% Marsanne. Whole cluster pressed and fermented and aged in French oak (30% new). Aged sur lie for 9 months. 100% malolactic fermentation. 13.9% alcohol. 143 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Maison Bleue Le Midi Grenache Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2009 $35
Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) Compellingly fresh, perfumed aromas of raspberry, milk chocolate, spice, mineral, and wild blueberries on an aromatically complex wine. Tart and textured with great depth and body, game notes, and fine grained tannins. The flavors are incredibly pure with the oak far, far in the background. This wine will only improve with some additional bottle age and promises to have an extremely long life in front of it. As with the La Montagnette, among a small handful of the state’s best Grenache. 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah. Aged in 3 to 4 year old French oak for 10 months. 14.5% alcohol. 126 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Maison Bleue Liberte Syrah Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2009 $45
Rating: ** (Exceptional) An incredibly complex wine with mineral notes, high toned violets, pomegranate, dark fruit, and what I can only describe as a savage feel. Completely coats the palate from end to end with pure, rich, intense fruit flavors. A beautifully structured, pure wine with restrained oak and a seemingly endless finish. Though drinking well now, this wine will age gracefully for decades. 100% Syrah. Aged in French oak (20% new) for 10 months. 14.7% alcohol. 196 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.