Two dozen senior wine writers (aka zombies) marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC today in a publicity stunt to promote the AMC tv series, “The Walking Dead.” Gawd, that was just way too easy. Speaking of zombies, Paul has died! No, not that Paul, but somewhat related was the octopus that correctly predicted the outcome of all seven of Germany’s matches in the World Cup and the final, won by Spain. See, there were pundits out there named Paul that were worth following. Michael Jackson strikes back as the top-earning dead celebrity this year with $275 million in royalties. Farther back in the Forbes pages was the top-earning, banjo-strumming, book-prostituting “wine journalist” at $15.24 in earnings. Who sez it doesn’t pay to write on wine?? And lastly, the head spud of the Washington Potato Commission is now regretting his egocentric claim to exclusively diet on potatoes for 60 days. He’s reported to have eaten them boiled, baked, steamed, grilled, fried, marinated, mashed, pickled, and spiked with Ellensburg’s finest Four Loko beverage. A local convenience store was rumored to have offered free potato-slurpees only to have been rejected with a response of, “Why would I eat something that looks like what I’ve been crapping out the last month?” Ah, there’s no advertising like free advertising to stink, er… sink your own cause.
Larry and Jane Pearson’s estate vineyard was born in 1985 on a 3 and ½ acre plot of cheatgrass at the end of Sunset Road on Red Mountain and planted with Bourdeaux specialties—cabernet sauvignon (1985), merlot (1994), and cabernet franc (1994). Their backgrounds subliminally aided both the vineyard and the winery Larry later built in 2000. Larry’s background in civil engineering supported the nuts-and-bolts of vineyard layout and management, while Jane’s strong arts influence is exhibited in both the label design and tasting room interior. The two did not actually meet until 2001, during an autumn event at the winery. They later married and moved to their vineyard full-time in 2004. Their estate portfolio now encompasses 25 acres at various locations. Among the first-class list of wineries that contract with their fruit are: Quilceda Creek’s flagship cabernet, Cadence’s single-vineyard select, Woodward Canyon’s Artist Series (2002-5), Pedestal merlot, Robert Karl, Kiona Vineyards and Winery, and Tamarack Cellars merlot.
My first exposure to the Tapteil name came from Ben Smith’s Cadence 2004 Tapteil Vineyard bottle. Nice start, eh? Cadence had two other single-vineyards on the shelf, Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun, so without knowing anything else about the name, I already had this vineyard mentally placed among the top vineyards in the State.
As a refresher, Tapteil is in reference to the indigienous people, speaking Sahaptin, who once thrived in the area, next to the Yakima River. Spilya is the local native’s word for coyote, which is the symbol that artfully appears on Tapteil’s “artist series” syrahs, featuring artwork by Jane. Spilya Vineyard is located just off the northwestern border of Red Mountain AVA. The winery has a second label, Spilya Cellars. I just think it’s cool that fans of the winery are called “Tapteilians.” And who said there’s no place to stay in the Red Mountain area? The Pearsons also own a couple of comfortable retreats, Spilya House and Bella Luna, at affordable prices.
During my visit to their tasting room overlooking the western section of Red Mountain AVA, I was graciously welcomed by Mary and tasted true Red Mountain juice going back to their 2004 cabernet. What was most surprising about partaking in their wines was the cost. Here on the “wet side” of the State, single-vineyard Red Mountain wines will set you back a U.S. Grant-plus, so when I noticed the prices for their wines were sub-$40, I could financially justify my little road-trip to this 4,040-acre plot of red heaven.
This wine is a rare testament to how a wine can supercede its tasting-room performance. And, this winner rose above its AVA-renowned cabernets both in price and profile. The fruit is clear and forward with balanced support and integration from its resident barrels. There’s nothing too oaky or jammy in the glass at any time after opening. A decadent syrah that is sure to please even the older folks at the holiday dinner table.
The food pairing was a challenging, sub-optimal partner of ground-beef and vegetable curry. Going in, I already had this wine running with a pack of grilled cow, honey-infused ham, and herb-roasted turkey, so I was curious to see its interplay with a non-traditional common fixin’. My report confirmed a smooth co-mingling of exotic Indian spices without any over-muscling of fruit against any component of the curry. An excellent discovery.
Tasted at 48-68 degrees on the IR gun. This gorgeous syrah shows dense garnet-black in glass with dominant aromas of blue fruits and flowers. A luscious meal in the mouth, with an ideal presentation of blueberries and blue plum, followed by chocolate then cocoa-infused tannins.
Alcohol: 14.5%. 200 cases. Released October, 2009. Front label artwork: “Tapteil Harvest” by Jane Pearson. Rated: 91. Value: $30. Music pairing: “Jane” by Jefferson Starship. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.