Friday, June 24, 2016

Todd Alexander joins Force Majeure Winery

Force Majeure Red Mountain Vineyard and Winery - An emerging tour de force in premium Washington State Columbia Valley wines ...

We had the pleasure of meeting Todd Alexander, Head Winemaker and General Manager of Force Majeure, the highly-acclaimed winery from Washington State’s Red Mountain AVA, and his wife Carrie, during their recent marketing trip to Chicago. 

We met with Todd and Carrie to learn about Force Majeure and their work there to produce and market highest quality wines representing the rich and diverse terroir of the Red Mountain appellation. Todd gained notoriety at cult winery Bryant on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley where his wines earned high ratings and critical praise. There he learned the craft under legendary viticulturist David Abreu and winemaking consultant Michel Rolland, following in the footsteps there of such notable producers such as Peter Melka. He also spent time learning the craft at Plumpjack/Cade. Joining Todd was wife Carrie, who will be working in marketing of Force Majeure.

They join proprietors Susan and Paul McBride, who purchased the undeveloped land, that is now Force Majeure Vineyard, in 2004, and since then have developed the Force Majeure brand with their devotion and commitment to meticulous viticulture and exemplary winemaking. They have been sourcing Red Mountain fruit from the finest lots from the well known Ciel du Cheval vineyard, marketing under the branding Grand Reve Vintners. During this time they have been increasingly shifting focus to Force Majeure, highlighting fruit from the estate Force Majeure Vineyard as more and more plots come online. Up to now they produced the Collaboration Series featuring Washington’s leading winemakers and one of Red Mountain’s greatest vineyards, Ciel du Cheval. Now, with Todd at the healm of winemaking duties, they will focus on their estate vineyards starting with the Force Majeure vineyard.

Todd and Carrie moved with their their family from Napa Valley to the Columbia Valley to purse this extraordinary opportunity. Todd joined Force Majeure in 2014 so this year's release will be the first reflecting his craftmanship from the vineyards to the glass.

Force Majeure is growing production from 2,000 cases per year to 4,000 cases as their second 20-acre parcel comes into production. The winery’s focus has been on red Bordeaux varietals with acreage planted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and Rhone varietals Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre with new plantings in Cinsault, Counoise, Viognier and others. This will allow Todd to explore developing product with both Northern and Southern Rhone style wines as well those reflecting the Bordeaux Left and Right Banks. Such is the diversity and of the terroir of the property.

The Force Majeure estate vineyard is in Washington state's Red Mountain AVA (appellation - agriculture viticulturual area. The original vineyard was planted in 13 acres, and an additional 10 acres planted in 2015. Force Majeure Vineyard is up against the hillside abutting Red Mountain.

Todd seeks to emulate the great labels of Pomerol, St Julien, Hermitage, Priorat, Côte-Rôtie and Chateauneuf-du-Pape - such labels as Lalande-de-Pomerol, Chateau Latour, La Ladone, and Chateau Beaucastel as benchmark wines. We're excited to watch the evolution and growth of his work as Force Majeure as he seeks to pursue his vision and realize the potential of this great property, and for him to express and develop his capabilities in a broad portfolio of premium wines.

Todd told of us the unique diversity, and superior terroir and great potential of the property, in the foothill butted up against the Red Mountain range overlooking the Yakima River basin. The diverse property has nine different soil types in a change of elevation from 900 to 1200 feet. The rocky upper part of the property has as much as a 40% slope, well-suited for the Rhone varietals, while the lower elevations of the vineyard's well-drained soils are more ideally suited to Bordeaux varietals, all with a Southwestern exposure to capture the afternoon sun, ideal for ripening the grapes.

The Yakima Valley AVA was the first AVA created in Washington State in 1983. The valley covers 600,000 acres in south central Washington, twice the size of the greater Bordeaux region, and fifteen times the size of Napa Valley. Yakima Valley is home to the largest concentration of vineyards and wineries in the state with more than 60 wineries and 16,000 vineyard acres. Nearly 40% of Washington wines are made with Yakima Valley grapes.

In 1984 Columbia Valley was given AVA status, and Yakima Valley was enclosed within the Columbia Valley AVA. Since that time, several new appellations have been added including Red Mountain AVA and Horse Heaven Hills AVA, which are both contained within Yakima Valley.

Force Majeure currently has a winery facility in Woodinville, WA but will also be developing their own world class winery facility, renovating a historic rustic 11,000 schoolhouse from around 1900. 

Todd left us the Force Majeure Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and Force Majeure Red Mountain Syrah 2013, both sourced from the Force Majeure vineyard. Watch for my update with our upcoming tasting of these wines.

We met with Todd and Carrie at the famous Chicago landmark Italian Village Restaurant with their historic award winning wine cellar, now run by Wine Director Sommelier Jared Gelband who gave us a tour of the cellar featuring in my separate blogpost.