The profound and pristine wines of Buty (pronounced “beauty”) Winery in Washington reflect the uniqueness of the rugged, desolate Columbia Valley where days are warm, nights are cool; soils are sandy and volcanic, and irrigation is needed to combat the low rainfall.
Because of this stress, wines are rich and full of flavor with well-mannered alcohol levels.
I’ll be honest: I never had heard of Buty wines until they arrived on my doorstep with an invitation to review them. And they are not sold in Michigan, but you can bet enthusiasts find ways of accessing them.
What sets them apart? The palate-blowing blends and the quality of the juice and soft tannins. Buty marries Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Muscadelle with Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The wines are rich, aromatic, complex.
Nina Buty founded the winery in Walla Walla in 2000; Zelma Long joined the team in 2001 and to this day serves as consulting winemaker; Chris Dowsett is winemaker — one publication called this accomplished and creative crafter “Washington’s Best Worst-Kept Secret,” a convoluted way of saying everybody knows he’s good.
Here’s a taste:
Buty Semillon, Sauvignon & Muscadelle Columbia Valley 2011, $25
Muscadelle, not to be confused with Muscat, usually plays a minor role in dry and sweet white Bordeaux blends. Buty gives it more respect for its aromatic qualities and bumped it up to 21 percent of the blend for its focused fruit and aromas. The blend is a cocktail of white flower, grapefruit, lime and pineapple with plenty of mouthfeel and body. It’s aged in a combination of concrete tanks and mature Burgundian and Bordeaux barrels. Some lots were given skin contact; others pressed as whole clusters. This is just the beginning of Buty’s creative blends.
BEAST Wildebeest from Horse Heaven Hills and Walla Walla Valley 2010, $25
Buty calls its special BEAST wines its “alter ego” — its chance to try something different and be spontaneous. Most releases are one of a kind. They are usually released on Halloween or April Fool’s Day. The “Wildebeest” is a blend of 77 percent Syrah, 14 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 9 percent Cabernet Franc. It has delicious, youthful, approachable fruit. It’s the real deal with great body, acidity, supple tannins and refined and focused flavors. It’s not sweet and jammy — but complex with all the puzzle pieces fitting nicely. It offers up notes of strawberry and white pepper, cherry and cranberry, and cassis and blueberry.
Buty Rediviva of the Stones Walla Walla Valley 2009, $60
Syrah plays the star role in this blend with Cabernet Sauvignon. The earthy, savory Rhone varietal dominates the wine, with lovely spice and black fruit notes from the Cabernet. The fruit gets the stage here, as no new new French oak is used in the aging. Grapes area grown in the ancestral riverbed of the Walla Walla River.
Buty Columbia Rediviva Phinny Hill Vineyard Estate Grown, Horse Heaven Hills 2009, $50
Cabernet Sauvignon gets the lead role in this red beauty with support from Syrah. It’s like dark chocolate that melts in the mouth — tannins are velvet, fruit is dense, dark and intense: Think cherry, black plum, blueberry, strawberry and cassis.
Buty Merlot & Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2010, $45
This is my kind of red — a blend that lets the Cabernet Franc sing! Of course, Merlot is a prime grape in Washington too. But what a fine marriage: the dark plum, dark cherry, sweet clove of the Merlot holding hands with the intense cranberry, herbal tones and bittersweet chocolate of the Cab Franc.
Learn more about the wines of Buty.
You can reach Sandra Silfven at firstname.lastname@example.org.