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Originally published Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 7:02 PM

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Entrancing wines from Washington's Tranche

Tranche is the sister winery of Walla Walla's Corliss Estates and it has evolved into a fully realized winery with its own production facility and vineyards set in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.

Special to the Seattle Times

Picks of the week

Domaine Notre Dame des Pallières 2009 Rasteau; $15

Abel Clément 2009 Côtes du Rhône; $9

THE WINES of the Côtes du Rhône are among the world's greatest values, as this outstanding pair shows. The syrah-based Rasteau is a mineral-soaked marvel, tight, dense and expressive. The Clément is its opposite, a vibrant, juicy, fruit-driven blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre. (Both distributed by Grape Expectations)


TRANCHE, WHICH loosely translates from the French as "a piece" or "a slice," is the name given to the sister winery of Walla Walla's Corliss Estates. When first released a few years ago, the Tranche wines, made at Corliss, were introduced as a showcase for Rhône-style reds and whites. Since then, Tranche has evolved into a fully realized winery with its own production facility and vineyards set in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.

Leonetti Cellar is the closest neighbor. Initially planted (in 2002) to Bordeaux reds, sangiovese and syrah, the Blue Mountain vineyards have been expanded with plantings of cabernet franc, petit verdot syrah and, most recently, white grapes — grenache blanc, picpoul and clairette.

The winery points out that its winemaking philosophy is distinctly different from Corliss, more a pure expression of varietal character. Almost all wines are made in neutral oak, including large uprights called foudres. There are two programs:

The first: Slice of Pape wines, including both a red and a white blend styled after Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and a more limited (but delicious) rosé. The second program is focused on mainstream varietals, wines designed to express the typicity of the named grape, in part by keeping a light hand on the oak. These include cabernet franc, tempranillo, sangiovese and barbera.

The newest releases from Tranche will launch officially March 1 and April 1. I tasted through them all late last year and was blown away. Note that every one of the wines recommended here rated 91 points or higher.

These wines, made in modest quantities, are self-distributed. Look for them at leading wine shops, or through the winery's website ( and wine club.

Tranche 2009 Pinot Gris; $16. Sourced from a cool site in the Columbia Gorge, this super value displays luscious fruit flavors of grapefruit, Meyer lemon, orange, orange peel and pear.

Tranche 2009 Slice of Pape Blanc; $30. Formerly labeled simply as a roussanne/viognier blend, this is a polished, focused, seductive blend dominated by the roussanne, but with viognier contributing brightness and a floral top note.

Tranche 2008 Chardonnay; $30. One of the best Washington chardonnays I have ever tasted, this intensely concentrated, deeply extracted wine explodes with pure fruit flavors of citrus, citrus peel and crisply defined tree fruits.

Tranche 2007 Barbera; $25. Scents of dark fruits, smoke and espresso open into a wonderfully complex, smooth and creamy wine with no rough edges. Pretty red fruits, seductive and lingering, are matched to enticing hints of chocolate.

Tranche 2007 Slice of Pape Red; $35. Syrah, grenache, mourvèdre and cinsault are included in this blend, giving flavors of brambly berry and plum. It finishes with threads of graphite and cola, showing lovely balance throughout.

Tranche 2008 Estate Syrah; $35. Dark and smoky, with streaks of herb and compact berry fruit flavors. As it expands aromatically, it weaves in highlights of cured meats, bacon and clean earth. Elegance along with exceptional power.

Tranche 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; $40. Toasty, smoky and precisely defined dark fruits anchor a muscular mix of black cherry, cassis, dried herb and leaf. It perfectly balances Euro elegance with New World vitality.

Tranche 2008 Estate Cabernet Franc; $25. Whether or not you consider yourself a fan of varietal cabernet franc, this is a wine to explore and savor. Pure fruit is set amid generous streaks of herb and earth, with firm tannins.

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About Wine Adviser

My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.