Part 2, Washington State: visiting one of North America's leading wine growing regions

Bob Betz is a master of wine, and one of the leading figures in the Washington State wine scene. For many years, he was the brand ambassador of Chateau Ste Michelle, and he began the Betz Family wine brand in 1997. He's now into his 19th vintage, after starting with just 150 cases, building gradually to the current size of 5500 cases. 65% is sold direct to private customers on the mailing list.

In Washington State, most of the famous vineyards are owned by growers who don't make wine. So Betz own a few key vineyards, but then pay a premium for special rows and blocks in the vineyards they buy from. Production here is exclusively red, save for a bit of saigne ros.


Four years ago Steve Griessel (above) bought the winery from Bob and Cathy Betz. 'They needed a succession plan,' says Steve. He had previously looked in Napa, Sonoma and Oregon, but the appeal of Washington State was the collegiate nature of the industry here. 'The Washingtonians are so into the wines.' He also likes the pioneer phase that the industry is in here. 'You are not going to surprise anyone with a Napa Valley Cabernet.' Bob is still the winemaker and calls the shots.

Steve highlights one of the advantages of the region. There's a big diurnal shift in temperature: after very hot days the temperature plummets and this helps retain acidity in the berries. This means there's no need to acidify. He favours short macerations.

Southern Rhne varieties are well suited to this region.


Betz La Cte Rousse Syrah 2006 Red Mountain, Washington State
14.5% alcohol. Rich, warm, sweet and spicy with a slight green edge. Nicely focused with a bit of spiciness and some creamy black fruits. There's a hint of earth, too. 90/100

Betz La Cte Rousse Syrah 2012 Red Mountain, Washington State
Fresh, sweet black cherry and plum fruit with some green notes, and also a bit of blackcurrant. Stylish with pure sweet fruit. Quite linear with hints of pepper and cinnamon, and some warm spicy notes. 90/100

Betz Besoleil 2012 Columbia Valley, Washington State
50% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 15% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah. 14.7% alcohol. Sweet, open black cherry fruit nose is dense and rich and direct with some blackberry and cherry fruit on the palate. Good structure with some hints of green. 91/100

Betz Cuve Frangin 2012 Columbia Valley, Washington State
14.7% alcohol, a Bordeaux blend with a bit of Syrah. Supple and ripe with black cherry and blackberry fruit. Smooth, textured and with nice finesse. Supple and easy but with a hint of seriousness. 91/100

Clos de Betz 2011 Columbia Valley, Washington State
14% alcohol. Merlot-dominant blend. Powerful, fresh and supple with black fruits and a hint of mint. Bright and structured with a fresh, focused core of dark fruits. A cooler year. 92/100

Betz Pre de Famille 2011 Columbia Valley, Washington State
Labelled Cabernet Sauvignon, but it has some Merlot and Petit Verdot in there. Very stylish, pure and supple with focused sweet black cherry fruit. Silky black fruits here with smoothness and texture. Impressive. 93/100

Columbia Winery
De Lille
WT Vintners
Savage Grace
Chateau Ste Michelle
Andrew Will
Airfield Estates
Milbrandt Vineyards
Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
Col Solare
Powers/Badger Mountain
J Bookwalter
Pacific Rim
Gordon Estate
Long Shadows
Seven Hills
Charles Smith
Geology with Kevin Pogue
Woodward Canyon
Gramercy Cellars
L'Ecole No 41
Columbia Crest
Memaloose/Idiot's Grace
COR Cellars

Wines tasted 06/15  
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