2010 Buty Winery Riesling The Beast Sphinx Wallula Vineyard

Year: 2010
Appellation: Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley
Country: USA - Washington
Wine Advocate: 90
White Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 12.9%
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"From a biodynamically-farmed section of its well-known vineyard source, Foster’s 12.9% alcohol, tank-raised 2010 Beast Riesling Sphinx Wallula Vineyard was allowed to reach nearly absolute dryness, which Washington State received opinion considers stylistically radical if not radically misguided. So much for received opinion! Tart, juicy grapefruit, lime and white currant are tinged with fresh ginger and possess strikingly concentrated salinity. This initially firm but sappy and by no means austere exemplar of its noble grape takes on a faintly honeyed, oily cast with aeration and warming, finishing with the sort of energetic ping and mouthwatering refreshment that one too seldom finds in “New World” exemplars. The grapes weren’t picked until November 4, “with about 5% botrytized berries, which is something that we like,” notes Foster, his “we” referring to Nicolas Quille who farmed this block (and whose own extensive Pacific Rim project is also covered in the present report). There were only 150 cases of this first-of-its kind Beast Riesling, but it seems likely that there will be larger volumes of Riesling under the Beast label in future. Meantime, if you’re lucky enough to get hold of some of this fine value, follow at least a bottle or two for at minimum 2-3 years because it deserves time in order to be given a chance to show what it might do in bottle.

Buty is the project, begun in 2000, of Zelma Long protegee and veteran Washington winemaker Caleb Foster with his wife Nina Buty Foster. While their only public facility is located in Walla Walla and they recently bottled the first wine from their estate on the famously cobbled nearby soils of Milton-Freewater (a project on which Foster’s viticultural go-to guy, Phil Freese, consulted), most of their fruit is sourced from farther west, for red wine notably from the Beightol family’s impressive and manifestly impeccably-farmed Phinny Hill Vineyard whose slopes overlook the immediately adjacent and much more famous Champoux Vineyard that Dick Beightol helped plant and managed in its years as part of the surrounding Mercer Ranch. Foster, incidentally, reports very seldom adding tartaric acid to any of his musts, white or red; yet brightness and juiciness characterize most of the wines I tasted on my first visit with him. For reds – portions of which ferment in wooden uprights – he utilizes various means of extraction, including air-injection. Beast represents a parallel label to Buty (hence the prefacing of those wines descriptions with “Beast;” but reference to Buty does not appear on their labels.)." (WA)

Winery Notes:
Though this Sphinx is as pure and dry as a cool desert night, with a classic steely-eyed stare, beneath its timeless reserve is an oasis of exotic flavors. On the nose, vibrant notes of peach, gooseberry and green apple are supported by elements of minerality, fennel and savory cooking spices. As this Riesling evolves, the botrytis will bring power and depth to its natural honeyed tones, while the lovely acidity will ensure that it ages with grace.