Dusted Valley Vintners is playing both ends of the Washington wine spectrum as well as anybody right now.
On one hand, owners Chad Johnson and Corey Braunel are making some of the best high-end wines in the Pacific Northwest, as evidenced by their best-in-show award at the Northwest Wine Summit this spring for their 2009 Petite Sirah ($42).
And on the other, they are growing their value-priced Boomtown label into a larger brand.
Their premium Dusted Valley Vintners wines hovering around 4,500 cases, while Boomtown has grown to 25,000 cases -- with plans to double that within five years.
All of this started less than a decade ago when the two corporate refugees moved their families from Wisconsin to the Walla Walla Valley and focused on making some of the state's finest Syrah. At the time, there were 50 wineries in the valley, a number that has nearly tripled.
Not the types to stand still, Johnson and Braunel expanded quickly, adding Boomtown to their repertoire, though they don't actually make the wine themselves. Instead, it is produced under their direction by the Wahluke Wine Co., a custom-crush facility owned by the Milbrandt brothers. Josh Maloney, former red winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle, took over head winemaking duties last summer.
"We're really excited about the transition with Josh," Johnson said. "The Milbrandts are definitely one of the big players up there (on the Wahluke Slope) with 1,600 acres of estate vines, and they are continuing to invest more in the viticulture side and the production side. We love those guys. They've been great partners and are growing with us. They seem to have a lot of faith in what we are doing."
The plan for Boomtown is to sell 80 percent of the production outside of Washington, and it isn't sold at Dusted Valley's tasting rooms in Walla Walla or Woodinville, so look for it in groceries and liquor stores.
Here are two Boomtown wines we've tasted in recent weeks, along with some new releases from Dusted Valley Vintners.
Boomtown 2009 Merlot, Washington, $15: Diminished oak, a balanced structure and nice fruit best describe this consumer-driven Merlot. It opens with plum, red cherry, pomegranate, a bit of meatiness and cola. Flavors of fresh-picked president plum, raspberry and more pomegranate give this a clean and bright approach.
Boomtown 2011 Pinot Gris, Washington, $15: The nose of this luscious white is loaded with Honeycrisp apple, pineapple, canned pear and dry mustard. Everything comes elegantly on the palate, starting with Granny Smith apple, lemongrass and lime juice. Spritely acidity allows the drink to keep giving and giving. Serve with ceviche.
Dusted Valley Vintners 2009 Malbec, Columbia Valley, $42: This is a fruit-forward red that opens with black currant, sarsaparilla and portabello mushroom. Boysenberry and blueberry take stage on the palate with a slice of fresh ginger and a late welcome of tannin. Suggested fare includes beef, chorizo or pork.
Dusted Valley Vintners 2010 Stained Tooth Syrah, Columbia Valley, $32: Aromas of blueberry milkshake, dark boysenberry, minerality, tar and orange Creamcicle are propelled from the glass. The theme continues in the mouth with tantalizing midpalate acidity that elevates the drink well beyond flabbiness. It finishes with burst of black cherry, plump cranberry and garam masala.
Dusted Valley Vintners 2011 Stoney Vine Vineyard Ramblin' Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, $24: This is a blend of Grenache (46 percent), Cinsault (18 percent), Syrah (15 percent), Mourvédre (15 percent), Petite Sirah (5 percent) and Viognier. It's a serious, food-friendly rosé that opens with aromas of white strawberry, dusty peach, celery and a whiff of smoke. The dry entry leads with peach and rhubarb, backed by pink grapefruit and lime in the finish.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a website that provides news and information about the wines of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.