Search & Distill Addendum: Doug the Lionne Hearted


Search & Distill Addendum: Doug the Lionne Hearted

  • Search & Distill Addendum: Doug the Lionne Hearted

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    Sometimes 600 words isn't enough for one column. In the case of Doug Graves ("A Rookie Winemaker in France," Oct. 6, 2009) that was certainly the case. Graves was an amateur winemaker in Seattle for almost a decade before he left it all behind and bought a vineyard in the south of France. I got tons of email about his story, so here's more of his story:

    When Graves started in Seattle, he was a Boeing engineer, and that meant he was able to take advantage of the famed Boeing winemaking club's connections with some of the best grape sources in the state to procure his fruit. The few vintages of syrah he commercially produced as Graves Cellars were well received. I actually found my tasting notes from his first vintage, a 2005 Walla Walla syrah:

    Morrison Lane fruit shines -- sweet spice, excellent red and black fruit, plummy, raspberry, great acidity, so elegant and sumptuous, more than typical butch, over the top Walla2 syrah. Winemaker??

    When Graves took over Mas de la Lionne in Sergues, France, last year, he had only participated in the winemaking process from harvest to bottle -- he had never grown grapes. "The plowing, pruning, spraying, fertilizing, and replanting have turned out to be way more work than I had envisioned," said Graves. "I don't know how I would have fared without the help of the previous owner, Mr. Marignane, who has come every couple of weeks over the past 14 months to make sure I know what to do, who to go see, and how to use the equipment that he had sold to me as part of the deal."

    The biggest transition for Graves has been that of going from Seattle to a sleepy French country town. He said, "I went from a long-hour, relatively high-stress management position at Boeing (after 34 years) -- which involved a lot of travel, living in the middle of the city (Greenwood), surrounded by friends and activities -- to a rural farming community where I am 2 miles outside town. My nearest neighbor is across the vineyard, the sidewalks roll up at 9:00, people all go home to their families, and the loudest noises at night are the frogs in the river. Quite a cultural shift to take on alone."

    Graves also pointed out that the 2008 vintage, which was the subject of my article, was not exactly ideal. "There was way too much moisture and, as a result, lots of mildew and oidium [mold]. Both of these severely impacted the yields (for this domaine, the yield was half of a 'normal' year) and the quality of the grapes. So I am quite pleased that the 2008 red turned out as nicely as it has."

    So, this means 2009's wine could be even better?

    Fun fact about the property: The vineyard name Mas de la Lionne comes from an old story. In the early 1900s a lion escaped a traveling circus and lived in the area for several years.

    Again, you can order Doug Graves' 2008 Mas de la Lionne Cotes du Rhone at your local wine shop; tell them it is distributed by Noble Wines. If you'd like to taste the wine before you buy it (what, you don't trust me?), Tamara Murphy, a dear friend of Graves, will host a release party next week, October 22, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Elliott Bay Café at First Avenue and Main in Pioneer Square.

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