Believe the Hype...Jon Martinez and Maison Bleue Winery

I'm ashamed to admit I didn't know about Maison Bleue wines before four or five months ago. I learned about them when I did a post on some of the amazing white wines Kana Winery has been making. A reader sent me an email to tell me that if I didn't know the Roussanne that Maison Bleue was making, I didn't know diddly. I hate to admit this, but it would seem that at the time, I didn't know diddly. But I'm a quick learner.

I contacted Jon and asked about buying his Roussanne; they were all sold out in Seattle and I couldn't get my hands on one. Jon did me one better and sent me samples of six wines, opening up a can of elegant Rhone tradition whoopass on my ignorant palate. The wines Jon sent me included two bottles of Syrah, two bottles of Grenache and one bottle each of Viognier and Roussane. Believe me when I tell you that Maison Bleue is making some of the best Rhone style wines at their price point in the state of Washington, and maybe some of the best such wines regardless of price. All of the wines Jon sent me were 2008s. Given that, I can only imagine how Jon's earlier releases are drinking right now.

Jon's wine and his philosophy show a deeply respectful nod to tradition while also showcasing the excellent terroir of Washington. His mission is "True dedication to purity of fruit and distinction of site." That results in single-AVA and mostly single-vineyard varietals from sites within the Yakima Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, and Snipes Mountain AVAs. Jon is using acclaimed vineyards Alder Ridge, Boushey and Olsen Estates, to name a few.

All of this commitment to tradition would lead you to the conclusion that Jon's wine education came from a legendary wine experience in the old world. You'd be close. Jon got his start in Kansas, as a dentist. So it's pretty much the story you're used to.

The two Syrahs, the Liberte ($39) from Boushey Vineyards and La Roque ($25) from Alder Ridge and Wallula Vineyards, were two very different expressions of 2008 Washington Syrah. The Boushey fruit brought the characteristic beauty of Washington Syrah, while the Horse Heaven Hills Syrah was a bolder, spicier exemplar of what is traditionally a hot site, even in a cool year. Jon's Syrahs are more refined than you will often find, and I was very impressed with what he did with this HHH fruit. These are the first of 2008 Syrah that I've had the pleasure to drink and I was really impressed where these wines were in such a short time.

The Grenaches were a real treat. Jon sent the 2008 La Montagnette ($25) from Alder Ridge and the Le Midi ($29) from Boushey Vineyards. Both of these wines were blended with a tiny bit of Syrah for color, which also adds to the structure of the wine. These were two of the most deep garnet and beautiful wines I've laid eyes on. The balance on the wines and the acidity made them incredible with food.

The whites were both amazing wines, the La Vallee du Soleil ($25) Roussanne from Olsen Vineyard and the Notre Vie ($20) Viognier. The Viognier is one of the best I've had, and at $20, it's phenomenally priced. It's got brighter fruit notes, which are typical of the varietal, and hails from a vineyard I've never heard of: Art Den Hoed Vineyard. The Roussanne, which is what prompted me to contact Jon, was really special. The Olsen vineyard fruit recommitted me to my opinion that Roussanne is the quintessential white wine for red wine drinkers. The Roussanne had more savory notes, as opposed to some of the bright fruit you get from other white varietals and the complexity was all there.

Jon set out to "make ultra premium wines from designated vineyards and appellations across Washington." He's certainly accomplished that goal. Jon has done some magic, though, in keeping his wines priced in the $20-$30 range. That's a real treat because while it may not be your budget for an everyday wine, Maison Bleue wines will give you a wine experience that is easily worth two to three times the price, proving that not all wine experiences need come with a hefty price tag.