Greetings from wintery Walla Walla! We are finishing up what has been an incredibly exciting year for Sleight of Hand Cellars. New tasting room, new winery, some killer press for our latest wines, and a nail biter of a harvest to close out the year! 2011 kept us on our toes for sure, but thanks to you, our faithful customers and wine club members, everything has been worth it! We just wanted to share some news about this year’s harvest, and make sure that our new releases are on your radar for next year so you don’t miss out on these exceptional wines. We also have 2 winemakers dinners scheduled in December that we hope you can make.
If you have been keeping up with Washington State wines, you have probably already heard about the challenging growing season that was presented to us in 2011. This years harvest was thrown a curve ball starting LAST year in late November, when a very early freeze (-8 degrees F here in Walla Walla) damaged the buds that were to be this year’s crop. Site selection played a key role in what vineyards suffered the most damage. Fortunately, we only lost one key vineyard for the year (Va Piano Vineyard, where we source Merlot, decided to cut their vineyard back to the ground for the long term health of the vineyard, which of course we are all for…we are on track to get fruit from them again starting next year). This freeze event was followed by a very cool, wet spring, and a very late bud break, anywhere from 3-4 weeks behind normal bud break. Flowering and fruit set were pushed back, and although we had a healthy set in most vineyards, we knew at this point that we would have to reduce yields proactively in order to get certain vineyards ripe. August and September were fantastic, with perfect growing conditions, never too hot to shut the vines down, and from a heat unit perspective, we actually caught up with 2010 numbers by the end of September in certain sites. We started picking in early October, about 6 days later than last year. October remained relatively dry, but cooler, and we finished picking around November 6th.
Overall, we think that this cooler vintage will turn out to be a classic vintage for Washington State. we see some similarities to 2010 (which is one of our favorite vintages ever) so that is a good thing. We have some really exciting lots, some experimental lots as well (100% whole cluster Syrah, for example), and we added a few new varieties to play with (Grenache from Upland Vineyard and Petit Verdot from Phinny Hill). Our Magician’s Assistant Cab Franc Rose’ is stunning, and the Chardonnay from French Creek Vineyard is already showing well in barrel. As always, we love the Blue Mtn. Vineyard Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, although our yields were miniscule on both of these, so less wine for the Archimage and Illusionist, but quality will be high!
Speaking of the Archimage and Illusionist, you have undoubtedly heard about our Wine Spectator scores (93 points for the 2008 Archimage, 95 points for the 2008 Illusionist). We were pleasantly surprised in the Dec 15th, 2011 edition with a small article on the winery (New Faces in Washington Wine), as well as having the 2008 Illusionist Cabernet Sauvignon picked as a Spectator Selection. As you can imagine, we sold out of these wines in about 2 days after word got out, so we hope you have some stashed away in your cellars! We plan on releasing the 2009 vintage of both of these wines in April, so mark your calendars now. We do not anticipate either of these wines to last long. For those of you in our Wine Illusionist Society, you have nothing to fear as these wines are scheduled to ship to you this Spring! If you feel you want more than your scheduled shipment, just email us and we will take care of you.
A few other small production wines are releasing this Spring (with much anticipation from you all), including the 2010 Funkadelic Syrah (160 cases) and the 2010 Enchantress Chardonnay (150 cases). We will send out an email this March with more information on all of these fantastic wines.
Finally, we wanted to give you fair warning about the remaining inventory on the 2010 Magician (6 cases left), 2010 Spellbinder (120 cases left), and the 2009 Levitation Syrah (60 cases left). The 2009 Levitation just received a great write up from The Rhone Report. They also tasted a barrel sample of the 2010 Levitation.
A serious Syrah that took the better part of the evening to open up, the 2009 Sleight of Hand Syrah Levitation is 100% Syrah that comes from both the Lewis Vineyard (Yakima Valley) and the Les Collines Vineyard (Walla Walla). Aged for 17 months in 42% new French oak, it boasts tight, yet fantastically pure notes of black and blue fruits, graphite, crushed rock, leafy herbs, lavender, and ground pepper on the nose. Medium to full-bodied on the palate, with a lively, elegant texture, good concentration, and a clean, focused finish, this needs a fairly substantial decant if drinking anytime soon, but should benefit from 3-4 years of bottle age, and have upwards of 12-15 years of longevity. (92+ pts.)”
“2010 Sleight of Hand Syrah Levitation (USA, Washington, Columbia Valley) $NA
Tasted as a barrel sample and chewy and rich, with impressive structure, the 2010 Sleight of Hand Syrah Levitation delivers a serious aromatic profile with loads of crunchy berry and plum styled fruits, crushed rock like mineralality, ripe herbs, and a meaty, bacon like quality all showing. Opening up in the glass over the evening, with a medium to full-bodied texture, integrated acidity, and ripe tannin, this impeccably put together wine should benefit from 2-3 years of bottle age, and drink beautifully for a decade or longer. (91-94 pts.)”
EVENTS:December 20th – Aqua by El Gaucho
8th Annual Holiday Dinner with Sleight of Hand Cellars, Mark Ryan Winery, and Sparkman Cellars. Only 50 seats available. Call 206-956-9171 for reservations.
Dec 21st – Doc’s Marina Grill on Bainbridge Island
Sleight of Hand Cellars Winemakers Dinner for 36 people. Call 206-842-8339 for reservations.
That’s all folks!! Have a great holiday season, from all of us here at Sleight of Hand Cellars!
Cheers!Sandy, Jerry, Trey, and Keith