Bonair 2008 Yakima Valley chardonnay

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on April 11, 2010:

Special edition of odd news as I was recently turned on to a blog from a winemaker with a long history in the Washington State wine scene.

The blog of curiosity is written by Gail Puryear, the owner/winemaker/janitor for bonded winery of Washington State, number 121. He and his galpal, Shirley, fell in love with wine while as exchange students in the country of Chile back in 1967. They graduated from WSU and moved to SoCal (cue Beverly Hillbillies theme), where they witnessed first-hand the explosive growth of the California wine industry. As they nurtured their careers and children, Gail kept his nose in wine books, instead of bell bottoms, and chose to return to his roots in the Yakima Valley and bought five acres just above the winding Yakima River in Zillah, with Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier in the backscape.

The sentinel year of 1980 saw the Puryears build their Chateau Puryear and sow 100 plants each of chardonnay, white riesling, and cabernet sauvignon. By Spring, 1982, the cabernet succumbed to winter damage and white riesling was popular with other growers so the decision was made to completely plant the estate with chardonnay. Later that year (1982), they vinted their first wines and, a year later, their wines won awards at the Central Washington State Fair. The first crop from their 1982 block was sold to another winery that also produced an award-winning chardonnay.

In the summer of 1985, Gail and Shirley pursued establishing their winery and took six non-stop weeks to equip the facility. The Feds approved the winery one day before crush and the first official 1500 gallons of Bonair juice became reality (Bonair currently produces 7000 cases). In 1987, they began the first of annual purchases of grapes from nearby Morrison Vineyard. Shirley quit her teaching job in 1987 and Gail quit his elementary school principal position in 1992.

In 2002, Sid Morrison (yes, former State Rep. Sid Morrison) sold the vineyards, which included the 1968 plantings of riesling (the Rattlesnake Hills AVA’s oldest wine grape plantings), to the Puryears. They also acquired their neighbor’s 25 acres of fruit trees and converted the land over to wine grapes. A storybook tale of how to grow an estate family winery.

Some background on the “RattHills”: Gail penned the application to the TTB for the AVA designation. There are 1500 acres under vine (out of 68,500 total acres), which is approximately twice what Red Mountain AVA has. The AVA is situated as the “baseball cap” of the Yakima Valley AVA, which sits left-central within the gynormous Columbia Valley AVA (only Red Mountain and Snipes Mountain can also say they are a sub- sub-appellation). There are 17 wineries (and 29 vineyards) enlisted in the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trails, although I also counted 3-4 other wineries that did not opt-in (dumb move?). Learn about the fascinating history of this place as you read Gail’s “The Grumpy Winemaker” blog.

Which brings me to this cherished moment. Gail started his blog on October 30, 2009 with a simple warning that the 2009 Yakima Valley reds will be vegetative, due to the cool season in the Prosser-Grandview-Sunnyside area. His unverified facts support his claim that the RattHills is quite a “hot” area, hotter than Red Mountain was for 2009. But, surprisingly, so was south Lake Chelan.

Gail’s favorite sayings are these: “2 hours and 15 minutes from Issaquah”; “(I) don’t really give a shift”; things that go piss– dog, hog, Clydesdale…, most Rattlesnake Hills are estate wineries (true); and 20 point rating scale (of wine raters). One sentence you DO NOT want to blurb in his tasting room to him: “I only want to drink your award-winning wines.” Who’s lame enough to say that in any tasting room?

His blogs provide an alternate view to many unscratched topics, such as: apparent preferential treatment by the Wine Commission, the true costs of making wine ($0.98-39.88), rating the wine raters (Gail, please give me a “79” or a “minus-1”!), marketing advice, the lameness of wine competitions, and wine blogger advice.

For pure entertainment, his blog is a 20/20. Overall, I give it a 19/20 as he blogs less often than I blog about wines. I have bookmarked his site in my top three wine-related sites (#1 is mine, and #2 is Washington Wine Report). Astonishing information that you will not find anywhere else, unless you are part of the inner-core.

Gail’s blog inspired me to go out today and buy his wine. I remember seeing it at QFC supermarket. This and his 2007 Yak cab sau are on sale for $9.99 (reg. $12.99). Tonight’s food pairing was hearty imitation beef Bourgogne, after watching “No Reservations—Techniques” episode. Burgundy white wine and Burgundy food…yep, a really good match.

Color: buttery, yellow gold. Nose: faint hints of mango/banana, green apple. Mouthfeel: some honeyweight. Tail trail: 4 seconds. Flavors: lemon peel, peach, nectarines, blood orange, jabong. Balance: all components kept in check. Power: not a typical New World chard (more crisp than bloom). Depth: straight and honest. Finesse: I’m thinking Burgundy here simply because this doesn’t whack me.

Gail, if you were 4 decades younger, and with your tacky faux-Hawaiian shirt, this would be your song: “I’m Awesome” by Spose. Hybrid pressed cork. Alcohol: 12.5%. Rated: 90. Value: $15. Paid: $10. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

Happy 25th anniversary to Bonair Winery (“good area”)!

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