Vino Collabos 1: Grand Reve Vintners and Dreams of Red Mountain

This is part 1 in our Vino Collabos series

The Grand Rêve project is a collaboration between Paul McBride and Ryan Johnson (vineyard manager and co-owner of Ciel du Cheval) and a number of hand selected Washington wine makers. The ultimate goal of Grand Rêve - the Great Dream, as the name translates from French - is to create amazing wines from their estate vineyard on Red Mountain: thirteen planted acres with wildly varying soil profiles that’s as steep as all get out. terroir as sheer terror.

Until those vines fully mature, Grand Rêve is sourcing fruit from Ciel du Cheval vineyard. Grand Rêve wants their current releases to make a statement; namely, that Washington has a number of top-shelf talent winemakers and that Red Mountain AVA is one of the best places on earth to grow wine. The winemakers that McBride and Johnson select to work with the Ciel du Cheval fruit are selected not for their rock star status, but rather how their skills may match with a particular varietal or style of wine. The first releases were pulling down scores in the mid-nineties from the mainstream wine press. These wines show integration of alcohol, fruit and barrel that speaks to the experience and working knowledge of Red Mountain fruit of the winemakers. Typical of Red Mountain, these wines are built to last, probably for 10 to 15 years. But typical of me, I find them pretty damn good right about now.

This spring Grand Rêve released their most recent series, four collaborations with four winemakers. The fifth, coming out this autumn, is a Grenache made by Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery. Each winemaker is given a collaboration number, which will be theirs; Grane Rêve plans to retire numbers for winemakers who are no longer involved. Collaboration I is a Cabernet based Bourdeaux Style Blend made by Ben Smith of Cadence Winery. Collaboration II is a Syrah cofermented with Viognier by Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew Winery, Collaboration III a 100% Syrah made by Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery and Collaboration IV is a Merlot based Bourdeaux blend by Donedei Cellar's Carolyn Lakewold.

As the Collaboration takes hold, the winemakers have dabbled a bit and the fruit has shown some difference over the first release. The blend of the Syrah and Viognier for Collaboration II has been altered a bit from the first year, and the 100% Syrah of Collaboration III seems a bit more balanced and ready to go at this time than it's predecessor did upon release.

At the risk of soundy cheesy, these the Grand Rêve are indeed "dreamy" exemplars of what Ciel du Cheval fruit is known for. With the attention that is given to the fruit and the spirit behind the collaboration, these wines stand shoulder to shoulder with the long held top class of Washington wine.

What will be truly captivating about this project will be the harvest and release of this first vintage - set for 2010. Ryan Johnson will have his hands full with that precariously steep slope on Red Mountain. If they can manage to get the fruit down off of the mountain we may once again see our dreams of Red Mountain come true. Hopefully no one trips, falls and goes through the roof of Col Solare.

For great updates and entertainment follow Ryan on the twitter machine @fierceterroir


Sean P. Sullivan said...

Clive, Great to read about this winery. I believe Paul and Ryan, along with the winemakers they work with on the Collaboration Series, are doing some truly remarkable stuff. Look for an upcoming Focus Report on the winery.

Glass Bottles said...

Sounds like a trip worth making! Great little series!