New Washington label aims "to educate [and] please...budding oenophiles."
Master Sommelier turned winemaker Greg Harrington (Gramercy Cellars) and his friend and fellow winemaker Jamie Brown (Waters Winery) have launched a new label and Web site (www.winesofsubstance.com). The inspiration for Wines of Substance, says Harrington, "is to educate, as well as please, the palates of budding oenophiles, and to appeal to consumers beyond the bounds of Washington."
Walla Walla native Jason Huntley (of Waters) is the third partner in the venture.
The Substance labels depict blocky white letters on a black background (a sort of reverse K Vintners design), with varietal abbreviations inspired by the periodic table of elements. Cabernet Sauvignon is represented as Cs, Merlot as Me and Malbec as Mb. These three initial releases will be followed with a 2007 Pinot Gris (Pg) and a 2007 Chardonnay (Ch) later this year.
The vertigo-inducing Web site (images keep wobbling around) lines up a broad cross-section of grapes grown in Washington, organized according to their European origins. Clicking on a symbol brings up a short description of the varietal, some detailed, some cheeky and hip (Viognier: tastes like Fruit Loops).
The first releases, available online and in select Washington wine shops, are quickly selling out. The price point ($18) was chosen, explains Brown, to give consumers a more affordable point of entry into his and Harrington's style of winemaking. The hand-crafted, varietally correct wines are designed to distinctly reflect Washington state's unique viticulture.
Best of the three is the 2006 Substance Merlot, with the Malbec close behind.
88 Substance 2006 Me Merlot Columbia Valley; $18. Best of the three, this ripe and round Merlot is fully loaded with juicy, appealing red and blue fruits. Forward and clean, with excellent palate penetration, its smooth tannins are supported with firm acid.
87 Substance 2006 Mb Malbec Columbia Valley; $18. Initially a bit stiff and acidic, this young, tight Malbec opens to reveal tart cranberry, sour plum and red currant fruit. Its structure and underlying minerality are a bit reminiscent of a Loire valley Cabernet Franc. This improves nicely after a couple of hours breathing time.
86 Substance 2006 Cs Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley; $18. The least approachable of the initial three releases from Substance, this austere and lightly herbal Cabernet is balanced and varietal, but at first seems a bit dull, as if tasted through a screen. That said, it actually improved after 24 hours, with more presence to the tart red and black fruits. It's an elegant style that will probably show best with food.
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