Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and two renowned Rhône winemakers launch new Syrah-focused project
Today Ste. Michelle Wine Estates announced a new project called Tenet Wines, a joint effort with Rhône winemakers Michel Gassier and Philippe Cambie to raise the profile of Syrah and other Rhône varietals from Washington State.
To learn more about Tenet Wines, please visit http://www.tenetwines.com.
Tenet Wines consists of three wines: “Tenet” GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre) and “The Pundit” Syrah from Washington State’s Columbia Valley, and “Le Fervent” Syrah from the Costières de Nîmes in France’s Rhône Valley.
Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker Bob Bertheau and Michel Gassier are co-winemakers for Tenet Wines. Philippe Cambie is consulting oenologist.
The three winemakers first convened in Washington State in the fall of 2012 to taste young wines from that year’s just-completed harvest. While all were impressed with the results – the 2012 vintage has since drawn high praise from critics and consumers alike – they decided to forego starting the project with the 2012 vintage and instead chose to begin their collaboration in the vineyard the following year, in order to align vineyard management and winemaking strategies.
Drawing on their vast experience with Syrah and other Rhône varieties from their respective regions, the three winemakers quickly honed in on vineyard sites with the greatest potential to produce wines in the style they were looking for – expressive yet elegant, reflective of terroir, and with unmistakable varietal typicity. These sites were then farmed to the winemakers’ specifications from bud break to harvest.
This collaborative process continued when the grapes reached the cellar, with Bertheau lending expertise in picking decisions, phenolic profiles and tannin management, and Gassier and Cambie offering experience with stem inclusion and whole cluster fermentation and extended maceration. When the time came to assemble the final wines, the blending process was again a collaboration.
In addition to the two Columbia Valley wines, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates will also import a new wine – “Le Fervent” Syrah – made by Gassier from the Costières de Nîmes, the southernmost sub-appellation of the Rhône Valley, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Due to the moderating influence of the Mediterranean, combined with the selection of cooler, northern-facing vineyard sites, Gassier has crafted “Le Fervent” Syrah to be more akin to Syrahs from the Northern Rhône, the birthplace of the varietal – elegant and fresh, with a vibrant minerality.
From the inaugural 2013 vintage, Tenet Wines produced just 1,069 cases of “Tenet” GSM, 8,113 cases of “The Pundit” Syrah, and 5,000 cases of “Le Fervent” Syrah.
“The Pundit” Syrah and “Le Fervent” Syrah will be available nationally as of June 1. “Tenet” GSM will be available beginning September 1.
“Tenet” GSM will retail for $70, “The Pundit” Syrah will retail for $24.99, and “Le Fervent” Syrah will retail for $21.99.
“By completely rethinking our approach here in the Southern Rhône, we are able to craft wines with more complexity and a truer expression of their terroirs,” said Michel Gassier. “I believe that because of its latitude, basalt soils and access to water, Washington State is the perfect spot in the U.S. to produce Rhône varietal wines that are balanced, vibrant and have a sense of place.”
“Syrah and other Rhône varietals from Washington State are generally closer in style to the wines of the Old World than to other wines of the New World,” said Philippe Cambie. “This is why Michel and I chose to come here and we’re happy to have found the ideal partners in Chateau Ste. Michelle.”
“We’ve been working with Syrah and other Rhône varieties in Washington State for a long time,” said Bob Bertheau, “but Philippe and Michel brought an interesting exchange of ideas that helped us look at Syrah in new ways. We’re very happy with these 2013 wines, and we’re excited to continue our exploration together with future vintages.”
“Syrah and other Rhône varietals from Washington State have proven that they belong on the world stage,” said Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. “We’re very pleased that Tenet Wines will allow more people to enjoy what makes these wines so special.”
About Tenet Wines
Tenet Wines is a collaboration between Washington State’s founding winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, and two renowned winemakers from the Rhône Valley, Michel Gassier and Philippe Cambie, grounded in the belief – or ‘tenet’ – that Syrah and other Rhône varieties can thrive in Washington State’s Columbia Valley. Michel and Philippe provide expertise in traditional winemaking techniques honed through centuries of experience with Rhône varieties in their birthplace, while Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker Bob Bertheau provides expert knowledge of Washington State’s growing regions and the best in modern winemaking techniques. With the addition of a companion wine from the Costières de Nîmes region, Tenet Wines establishes a parallel between Syrah’s cradle and most renowned region and its tremendous potential in Washington State. For more information on Tenet Wines, please visit http://www.tenetwines.com.
About Michel Gassier
Michel Gassier grew up in Southern France on his family’s estate that was established in the 1940s and received a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering from Purpan Engineering School in Toulouse, France. Michel crafts fresh, mineral-driven wines in the warm, dry Mediterranean climate by vineyard site selection, hydric stress management, canopy development and ripeness level choices. His efforts have been recognized internationally and his wines have garnered much attention by both French and international media. Robert Parker wrote, “the various cuvées produced by Michel Gassier and his American wife are quickly becoming the reference point wines for Costières de Nîmes. The quality of the wines is remarkable… They have access to over 175 acres of vineyards which they exploit in a dramatically impressive fashion.” For more information on Michel Gassier, please visit http://www.michelgassier.com.
About Philippe Cambie
Philippe Cambie grew up on his family’s vineyard in the Languedoc. After receiving his diploma in Enology from the University of Montpellier, he settled in Châteauneuf-du-Pape where he makes his own wines and consults for a broad number of wineries. He has quietly earned the reputation of being the ‘nose’ of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, helping his clients produce benchmark wines – he has 15 100-point wines to his credit. Philippe was named Enologist of the Year by Robert Parker in 2010, a nominee for Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast in 2011, and chronicled as “Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s Driving Force” by Wine Spectator in 2012. For more information on Philippe Cambie, please visit http://www.philippecambie.com.
About Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is the third largest premium wine company in the U.S. The company, located outside of Seattle, Wash., has a distinguished history that dates back 80 years to 1934. Wines under the Ste. Michelle label were first introduced in 1967, and since that time the company has expanded its vineyard holdings to more than 3,900 acres in Washington, Oregon and California. Today its ‘String of Pearls’ wine portfolio represents owned or imported brands that demonstrate the producers’ unwavering commitment to creating distinctive, high quality wines from authentic estate vineyards. For more information on Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, please visit http://www.smwe.com.