Over the years there have been a number of different ways that I have benefitted from having written my Vinotology blog. One of the main ways has been through developing relationships with a number of really awesome people in the wine world. I quickly got to know a lot of industry people upon my arrival in Washington, many of whom I encountered originally through my blogging and social media usage. That’s how I originally met one of the nicest guys I have gotten to know in the wine industry around the state, Brandon Kubrock- who, with his wife, Emma, also happens to now be the owner of one of the state’s up and coming wineries – Ardor Cellars.
Brandon and I have crossed paths many times over the years that I’ve been in Washington. There was even a time when he offered to help my wife and I get back home to the Tri-Cities on a Sunday afternoon when our car had broken down in Walla Walla. Fortunately, some of our good friends from the Tri-Cities were kind enough to make the hour trip to Walla Walla to come get us. Anyway, suffice it to say, he’s good people.
When I first met Brandon, he was working as the tasting room manager for L’Ecole 41 in Walla Walla. I had been invited to the winery to taste through some wines and had the opportunity to chat with Brandon for quite a while. I quickly realized that we had similar wine tastes, especially when it comes to Syrah. At that time he was starting to play around with some of his own winemaking projects. I ended up visiting with him a few times during that first year or so that I was living here, and eventually got to taste a Syrah that he had made on his own, and already it was clear that exciting things were in the future. The vision of what would become the single vineyard Syrahs that are currently being produced by Ardor Cellars was already present in that wine.
Brandon and I haven’t talked as often since I moved to Spokane. Sadly, I have made Walla Walla trips far less frequently since the move north, so I was glad to hear from him when he contacted me recently about trying some wines to see if we were interested in carrying them at Nectar. If you know how I feel about Syrah, you know that there is no way I was going to refuse the offer to try some of his fantastic Syrah that I had been hearing so much about.
Ardor Cellars is focused on producing terroir driven Rhône style wines, with a special focus on single vineyard Syrahs. The wines have received some great accolades over the last couple of years, including being named as one of Washington’s top 5 Syrahs in the Seattle Met by Sean Sullivan both of the last two years, including a #1 rating for their 2012 Stoney Vine Vineyard (2015 edition – 2016 edition). Tasting through the lineup of wines really shows the diversity of character that you can get from Washington Syrahs, with the wines produced in the various different parts of the state yielding remarkably different wines, but all of great quality. When I discussed the wines with Brandon, he told me that they even attempted to use the exact same process in the production of the wines to get a feel for what each of the individual vineyards had to offer. Brandon and his consulting winemaker, Aryn Morell, have attempted to take a minimal intervention approach to the Ardor Cellars wines, choosing to emphasize place over manipulation to a specific style. The resulting wines allow the dirt of their home vineyards to speak through the juice.
The current lineup that we tasted through included two white blends, a rosè of Mourvèdre and Grenache, a red blend, and four single vineyard Syrahs. The whites were both Rhône style white blends, one a Roussanne and Viognier blend and the other a blend of Picpoul and Marsanne. Both whites were nice, but I was especially taken with the Picpoul and Marsanne blend, as the brightness of the Picpoul really made for a crispness that seemed made for food pairing. The rosè was also quite nice, and I feel that Mourvèdre is an underused rosè variety in Washington. The 2014 red blend is a fantastic value at its $25 price point, outperforming many Washington blends that come in at that price. Of course, the real stars of the show are the Syrahs. Ardor currently has single vineyard Syrahs from Stoney Vine Vineyard in the Rocks area of the Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain’s Red Heaven Vineyard, the Art den Hoed Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, and the Lawrence Vineyard, which is situated just outside of Othello, on the Frenchmen Hills. I instantly fell in love with the Lawrence Vineyard and Stoney Vine Syrahs. Both wines had that gamey funk that has always been the key to my little Syrah lovin’ heart. The Stoney Vine Syrah is a powerful wine that demands to be consumed with friends who will appreciate the underlying earth and minerality that you find in The Rocks. The Lawrence Vineyard Syrah is everything I love in a Syrah. It combines notes of spice, leather and smoked meat with savory black olive and well balanced fruit, all in an elegant package that belies its 15.3% ABV. The wines all come in at $50, and each are worthy of the price point. The question of which to buy depends on your personal stylistic preference in Syrah.
Wineries like Ardor Cellars are an example of everything I love about this time in the Washington wine scene. There are so many young wineries who are producing amazing wines, and whose best days might still be in front of them. When you are already producing wines of this quality, that is an exciting prospect.