Fall Line 2006 Artz Vineyards red wine

WSU won both of their games today—in basketball over Southern, 86-47 and in football over Oregon State, 31-14. Not so coincidentally, the State Lottery reported record numbers of purchased tickets this evening before the State Liquor Stores ‘fessed up with record sales of Four Loko, while the Pullman police were inundated with calls of Virgin Mary sightings. WSU alumni are so predictable. Next thing ya know, Husky alums will petition to rename the year to 2012. Ya can’t blame the Michigan winners of the $129 million Powerball lottery. After all, can you imagine how it was at the counter? “Uh, I’ll have a couple boxes of Magnums, a blow-up Judy doll, a pack of Marlboros, and twenty in Powerball.” Hey, for $129 million, I’d bet you’d do it, too, regardless of being male or female! A North Carolina sheriff fired his captain after losing to him in the recent election. The incumbent got just 2% of the vote. Sour grapes? Not if you ask Sean over at his wine round-up. Vengeance is a sin, Sean. Get over yourself and be a man for once (I hear John and Barbara’s also waiting…yuck!).

Fall Line Winery was founded in 2003 by Tim Sorenson and Nancy Rivenburgh and belongs to the South Seattle Artisan Wineries group. There are quite a few write-ups on the winery so there’s no need to repeat what’s out there.

The focus is on this wine’s origins…Artz Vineyard, or more specifically, its owner, Fred Artz. Fred’s roots formed in Richland, working on farms and later graduating with an agricultural business degree from the Columbia Basin College. He never wanted to do anything else but farm. When David and Patricia Gelles settled their new plot of land, to be called Klipsun Vineyard, in 1984, they called upon Fred to help plant the vines then manage the vineyard. As a bonus compensation, Fred received one acre of nearby land just north of Klipsun (and visible from the curvy path to Blackwood Canyon Vintners) every year.

In 1989, Fred met Tom Hedges at a 20-year high school reunion and the next day, they visited Red Mountain, where Tom ended up purchasing the 50-acre property where Hedges Family Estate sits today. Fred has also since helped manage that vineyard, along with helping to plant many other Red Mountain vineyards (Shaw, Chandler Reach, Le Coye) and also consulted on the Alder Creek Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills.

Fred was recently honored by the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Just a few more years for the big one…Legends of Washington Wine! Well-deserved kudos, Fred.

Mark my words on this: I love Red Mountain wines. I almost need sunglasses to soften the glare from the fruit. But, it’s the people of Red Mountain, more than the grapes, that shape this AVA. They’re a small, but tightly bonded family of farmers that are slowly becoming organized, thanks to the influx of young-guns like Neil Cooper and his efforts to organize the Red Mountain AVA Alliance.

Most Red Mountain AVA wines I have tasted have been Manny Pacquiao-type knockouts (he pounded Margarito, btw)—think Mark Ryan’s wines as a prime example, but this offering by Fall Line shows bountiful finesse on the palate. There’s no alcohol bloom, over-oakiness, or saliva-stimulating hyperconcentrated fruit. A refined expression that takes me back to Red Mountain time and again. That’s a great wine.

Tonight’s food pairing was beef stew. It’s autumn, what else is there? Sure, a rosemary-infused, triple-cut lamb chop sounds better, but only if you pay for it. A pleasant pairing.

Tasted at 56-64 degrees on the IR temp gun (best above 60). Dark ruby-black cherry with medium clarity in the glass, aromas of pencil shavings, light brown dust, and black cherry predominate. Light-heavyweight on the palate, this wine has a silky, smooth follow-thru with essences of black currant tickling past the voicebox, while up in the attic, scents of coriander, cumin, sweet oak, black plum, Bing cherry, and raspberry puree silhouette over a moderate finish. Balance: just started its peak. Power: solid black fruits, enough for a concussion. Depth: several layers. Finesse: hit a triple on a first-date candlelight dinner. Excellent fruit shaped by a skilled winemaker.

Alcohol: 14.4%. 34% merlot, 34% cab franc, 32% cab sau. 100% Artz Vineyard. Aged in 28% new French oak for 18 months. Bottled on April 13, 2008. Rated: 92. Original retail: $30. Paid: $22. Value: $35. Music pairing: “Old Days” by Chicago. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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