Avennia’s release party in the south warehouse district of Woodinville is coming up soon, so here’s the primer on what you need to know about this fascinating new winery.
First, some background on the founders.
Martin R. Taucher, 55, lives with his wife Colleen, a district sales manager for The Worth Collection, (and two sons—Matthew and Kevin) in the wealthy Laurelhurst district of north Seattle and is the winery’s managing partner (read: daddy warbucks) and brings an expertise of marketing strategy and technological background. He’s a Beaver (OSU ’77) who hooked onto Microsoft in 1984, two years before it went public, and spent 15 years in various capacities ranging from marketing and brand strategy for Office and the third rendition of the Operating System to becoming the Director of the division. He got infected with the wine bug while on his many business travels to promote the company’s products. Upon “retirement,” he delved into winemaking, among other misadventures, and enrolled in South Seattle Community College’s enology program. There, he interned at DeLille Cellars where he met an up-and-coming assistant winemaker in Chris Peterson.
Chris Peterson (wife-Lauren) is the winemaker/partner for the winery and brings a solid wine pedigree to Avennia. He’s a Husky, graduating with a degree in Comparative History of Ideas. With the lack of workplace demand for his academics, he took courses at UC-Davis before enrolling in the first class of Walla Walla Community College’s Institute of Enology and Viticulture in 2001, studying under 2008 Legend of Washington Wine honoree, Stan Clarke. He then became the assistant winemaker at DeLille Cellars, working with Executive Winemaker Chris Upchurch. The pair expanded the DeLille Cellars’ offerings, adding labels such as Grand Ciel, and Doyenne’s Aix and Metier brands, while nurturing DeLille’s Red Mountain estate Grand Ciel Vineyard. Also during Chris’s time at DeLille, production increased from 5,000 cases to 12,000 cases. He takes a great deal of pride in being part of the team that produced two wines on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the World list with the 2004 D2 and the 2005 Doyenne Aix.
The link between Marty and Chris, while working amongst the barrels, was their shared vision on the potential of Washington wines and how to run a profitable business in a notoriously difficult industry.
The vision of Avennia is to create both a business and its wines that exude artistry and elegance. The goal is “to make wines that evoke clarity: clarity of place, clarity of type, clarity of purpose” with a foundation of working with Washington vineyards that distinguish themselves through the romantic concept of terroir. In their words, “terroir is only readily appreciable in a well-formed, harmonious wine.”
Avennia refers to the Roman name for the city of Avignon in southeastern France and implies a link to Old World-style winemaking. Avignon (written as Avennio in ancient texts) is derived from the Avennius clan (a Gallic tribe) some 1500+ years ago and is best known in the Catholic world as the seat of seven French popes dating back to 1309 with Pope Clement V and continuing through Pope John XXII, Pope Benedict XII, Pope Clement VI, Pope Innocent VI, Pope Urban V, and ending with Pope Gregory XI in 1377. This period is known as the “Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy.” Black Death (the epidemic, not the heavy metal group) passed through in 1348. Sur le Pont d’Avignon is the traditional dance song that made the Bridge of Avignon famous.
Avennia has five wines to debut, with three to release in September (Arnaut, Oliane, and Parapine) and two in February of 2013 (Gravura and Sestina).
Arnaut (2010)—named after Arnaut Daniel de Riberac, the 12th century Provencal troubadour, who is credited with inventing a form of poetry called sestina, which is a structured 39-line poem made of six stanzas each of six lines and ending with a three-line envoi. Arnaut (2010) is also a tribute to Dick Boushey, who Marty and Chris call on as Washington’s finest syrah grower. The 100% syrah is fermented (15% whole cluster) from native yeasts and bottled unfined and unfiltered from Boushey Vineyard plantings from 1994 to 2000. Aged in 20% new French oak for 16 months. Tasting notes: “riveting nose of black cherry, pomegranate, jasmine, iodine, bacon fat, and mineral. The palate hits with hedonism: juicy black fruits, licorice, flowers, grilled meat, and iron. The mouthfeel is silky and unctuous, with a long finish of herbs, flowers, and minerals.” Yakima Valley AVA. 170 cases. Retail: $45. Alcohol: 15.1%. “One single swath of earth, telling its unique story. We just listened, and passed it on.” As a side note, Arnaut is the Ottoman Turkish word referring to the people of Albanian descent, at the time, specifically mercenary soldiers from Albania.
Oliane (2011)—refers to an old name within the Peterson family. This 100% sauvignon blanc, also from Boushey Vineyard, is barrel fermented in 10% new French oak with native yeasts, aged sur lies for 8 months, and bottled unfined to maximize expression and complexity. Tasting notes: “the aroma is pure sauvignon blanc, with tangelo and grapefruit aromas highlighted by wisps of savory herb, mineral, and straw. The cool 2011 vintage brings food-friendly verve to the palate, and a rich, creamy mouthfeel, with citrus and herb notes peppered throughout.” Yakima Valley AVA. 225 cases. Retail: $25. As a side note, Oliane refers to the French/Hawaiian name for Oliana, or oleander, a toxic evergreen shrub commonly mistaken for the olive tree. Oliana is also the name of a municipality in central Catalonia, Spain.
Parapine (2010)—I’m guessing it refers to a character in the 1932 book, “Journey To The End of the Night.” This 100% syrah is a blend from the first crop at Force Majeure Vineyard (clone 174) and Boushey Vineyard’s highest elevation site. Fermented with native yeasts. Aged in 17% new French oak for 16 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. Tasting notes: “dark, brooding nose of black fruits, rocks, and just a hint of candied roses. This wine nevertheless stays light on its feet with cherry, mineral, and charred meat on the palate. There’s a grip on the finish that anticipates a nice life in the cellar, or to be enjoyed earlier from the decanter.” 47% Boushey Vineyard, 53% Force Majeure Vineyard. Yakima Valley AVA. 170 cases. Retail: $35. Alcohol: 15%.
Gravura (2010)—salutes the left bank of Bourdeaux. The name is a play on the rotogravure type of intaglio printing process and on the Bourdeaux region of Graves, which is southeast of the city of Bourdeaux and situated on the left bank of the Garonne River, which feeds into the Gironde River. The winery notes contradict by inferring the wine features more merlot and the label appears to list “Red Mountain” when it should be Columbia Valley. Aged in 50% new French oak for 20 months. Tasting notes: “forward nose of Red Willow fruit, with pencil lead, fresh herbs, espresso powder, and mocha. The palate is focused and generous, with freshening mint and herb notes along with black raspberry cassis, and mocha flavors. A deliciously complex, balanced wine.” 54% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, 6% cabernet franc. Sources: 31% Red Willlow Vineyard 1985 cab, 24% Bacchus Vineyard 1972 cab, 24% Red Willow Vineyard 1985 merlot, 15% Klipsun Vineyard 2000 merlot, 6% Bacchus Vineyard 1998 cab franc. 350 cases. Retail: $35. February, 2013 release.
Sestina (2010)—the poetic form invented by Arnaut Daniel de Riberac. As with any contemporary poet’s ability to utilize this ancient poetic structure for expression, this wine was crafted as a traditional Bourdeaux blend to express modern Washington fruit. This is an “old vine” blend to focus on the wine’s structure, balance, and complexity. Aged in 70% new French oak for 20 months. The winery notes again mislead as this is really a Columbia Valley AVA wine, as opposed to the listed “Red Mountain” appellation. Tasting notes: “complex nose of black cherry, jasmine, saddle leather and minerals. The palate is rounded and complete, with fresh herbs, leather, black raspberry, currant, and black cherry notes. The finish is complex and long, giving much to think about,” 73% cabernet sauvignon, 18% merlot, 9% cabernet franc. Sources: 55% Bacchus Vineyard 1972 cab, 18% Red Willow Vineyard 1985 merlot, 9% Bacchus Vineyard 1998 cab franc. 250 cases. Retail: $50. February, 2013 release. Avennia’s flagship wine.
To the wine…
Food pairing was Sunday night ‘shake-n-bake’ pork chops. Excellent.
Tasted at 50-67 degrees on the IR temp gun. Opaque magenta in the Riedel with garnet edges and a mellow set of aromas of smoky black- and purple-fruits, this two-vineyard syrah felt silky and plush on the palate, leading to a lengthy residence and expressing black licorice, black pepper, olive, black cherry, cola, black plum, tar, crushed rock, dried herbs, and blackened tip of grilled ribeye. Soft on entry, rising on mid-palate, then a long, slow fade.
Power: 3/5. Balance: 3/5. Depth: 4/5. Finesse: 3/5. Rated: 93. Music pairing: “First Night of My Life” by Lucas Prata. This is WAwineman… uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.