Sleight of Hand Cellars
Sleight of Hand Cellars is a garagiste wine project .We are dedicated to producing both food friendly wines for everyday drinking, as well as powerful reds for long term cellaring. Mostly, we just want you to have fun with our wines, share them with friends and family, and to not take wine
Located in the heart of Walla Walla, Washington.
- Making Punk Rock Wines for Punk Rock Minds!
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Launched in 2007, Sleight of Hand Cellars has but one focus, and that is to craft exceptional wines from exceptional vineyards here in the state of Washington. The winery has only been in operation for a short time, but in that time, Sleight of Hand Cellars has been named as one of the "The Next Generation" of up and coming wineries in Washington State by Seattle Magazine in July of 2008, as well as one of "The Next Cult Wineries" by the same magazine in August of 2009. These articles, along with some great scores along the way, only push us to strive for making even better wines, year in and year out.
We hope you get a chance to enjoy our wines in the future. For those of you with an adventurous spirit, we have launched the Wine Illusionist Society - The first and only wine club exclusively for screw-offs and cork-pullers.
Wine Advocate 93+ Points 2010 Illusionist
Wine Spectator 95 Points 2008 Illusionist
Wine Spectator 94 Points 2009 Funkadelic Syrah
Wine Spectator 93 Points 2008 Archimage
Wine Spectator 92 Points 2008 Levitation Syrah
Wine and Spirits 94 Points 2009 Funkadelic Syrah (Top WA State Syrah 2011)
Wine and Spirits 92 Points 2008 Archimage
2011 Archimage Red Blend - 91pts
A blend of almost equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the 2011 Archimage comes from vineyards in Red Mountain and Walla Walla. Aged 23 months in 34% new French oak, it offers fabulous complexity with notions of blueberry, plum, smoked peat, lead pencil shavings and spice emerging from the glass. Medium to full-bodied, nicely textured, balanced, with excellent mid-palate depth and ripe tannin, it’s a gorgeous effort to drink over the coming 8-10 years.
2012 Archimage Red Blend - 92-94pts (Pre Release Barrel Sample)
Made from 49% Cabernet Franc, 48% Merlot and the balance Cabernet Sauvignon, that was aged in 39% new French oak, the 2012 Archimage is a medium to full-bodied, forward, supple and already complex effort that gives up plenty of black plum, raspberry, flowers and pepper to go with an overall beautifully pure, elegant style. Another wine that will be ready to go on release, it will cruise for upward of a decade in the cellar.
2013 Magician's Assistant Rosé - 89pts
In addition to his reds and whites, Trey makes a serious rose. Coming from a direct press of Cabernet Franc, the 2013 The Magician’s Assistant Rose possesses a light pink/salmon color to go with crisp, refreshing Provencal-styled aromas and flavors of herbs de Provence, cherry blossom and strawberries. Medium-bodied, beautifully made, crisp and refreshing, enjoy it over the coming summer months.
2012 Black Circle Cabernet - 93-95pts (Pre Release Barrel Sample)
Bottled only in magnum, the 2012 Black Circle is 100% Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon that’s still aging in 100% new French oak at the moment. Showing classic Red Mountain flair with its savory, masculine, mineral laced profile, it offers plenty of black currants, dried flowers and hints of chocolate to go with a medium to full-bodied, structured and nicely concentrated feel on the palate. It will need short-term cellaring once released, yet evolve gracefully for two decades or more.
2012 Sorceress Grenache - 92pts (Pre Release)
The 2012 Grenache The Sorceress is floral and red fruit-driven, with loads of kirsch, strawberry, dried spice and rose petal-like aromas and flavors. Beautifully textured and downright creamy (it has more than a little polish), this medium to full-bodied, balanced effort has no hard edges and a terrific finish. Hard to resist now, it should evolve gracefully for 5 to 7 years.
2013 Magician Riesling - 90pts
Made from 100% Riesling that wasn’t harvested until October, the 2013 Riesling Magician is an impressive, outstanding effort that gives up plenty of juicy citrus, lime and hints of lychee, and subtle minerality in its medium-bodied, lively and refreshing personality. Showing just a hint of sweetness on the finish, it will be versatile on the dinner table and drink nicely for 2-3 years.
2012 Flip Side Syrah - 93-95pts (Pre Release Barrel Sample)
A wine that was still in barrel at the time of this tasting, the 2012 Syrah Flip Side comes all from the Lewis Vineyard and is 100% Syrah that will be bottled only in Magnum. Already perfumed and complex, it has a slight funkiness to go with classic Washington State Syrah aromas and flavors of black raspberry, blackberry, ground pepper, bacon fat and hints of truffle. Medium to full-bodied, elegant and seamless, this puppy hits the palate with no hard edges, superb mid-palate depth and building, fine tannin on the finish. Count me a fan, and it will have upwards of 10-12 years of longevity.
2012 Levitation Syrah 94pts (Pre Release)
Kicking off the 2012s and my favorite vintage to date, the 2012 Syrah Levitation is a blockbuster-styled effort that possesses fantastic creme de cassis, blackberry, licorice, graphite and crushed flower-like aromas and flavors. Full bodied, balanced and awesomely textured on the palate, with integrated acidity and building, sweet tannin on the finish, this is the real deal and will dish out loads of pleasure over the coming 7-8 years, possibly longer.
2011 Levitation Syrah - 92pts (SOLD OUT)
Also superb, the 2011 Syrah Levitation has some underlying funkiness in its blackberry, blueberry compote, pepper and wild herb-styled aromas and flavors. Made in a forward, up-front and approachable style, this medium to full-bodied, rich and beautifully textured effort should be consumed over the coming 5 to 7 years.
2012 Conjurer Red Blend - 90pts
Trey’s entry level Bordeaux blend that has impressive Cabernet grip and structure, the 2012 The Conjurer Columbia Valley is a solid value that gives up plenty of black currants, graphite, lead pencil and leafy herbs in its medium to full-bodied, nicely concentrated and classically styled profile. Made from 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc and 24% Merlot that spent 11 months in 20% new French oak (a combination of small and larger barrels), it will have over a decade of longevity.
2012 Illusionist Cabernet - 92-94pts (Pre Release Barrel Sample)
The Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated 2012 The Illusionist (incorporates 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot) gives up classic Cabernet character with its green herbs, tobacco leaf and hints of meatiness being balanced out nicely by core of creme de cassis and black raspberry styled fruits. Showing more floral and violet qualities with time in the glass, this medium to full-bodied, supple, elegant, yet nicely concentrated Cabernet blend can be consumed anytime over the coming 10 to 12 years.
2011 Illusionist Cabernet - 92pts
A blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot that comes mostly from Red Mountain, but also includes a small portion from Phinny Hill, the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon The Illusionist saw 23 months in 56% new French oak prior to bottling. Medium to full-bodied, concentrated, rich and layered, with beautiful precision and focus on the finish, it gives up classic crushed rock-like minerality, dark currant and raspberry fruit, licorice, leather and liquid smoke on the nose. It can be consumed anytime over the coming 10 to 12 years.
July 2013 Wine Advocate - Jeb Dunnuck
"Winemaker Trey Busch has produced a bevy of brilliant 2010s and 2011s that make the most of the cool vintages. Leaning more towards the leaner, more focused side of the spectrum, his 2010s are easily the most traditional wines I’ve tasted from him, and while they will delight Old World wine lovers, they have ample texture and richness, and are all around classy wines. The majority of them will benefit from short-term cellaring. More up-front and near term efforts, Trey’s 2011s show slightly less concentration and depth, yet stay perfectly balanced and textured, with charming profiles. Drink these while you wait on the 2010s. In addition to the 2010s and 2011s reviewed here, I was able to taste through a full lineup of Trey’s 2012s and across the board, they had voluptuous, pure characters, gorgeous fruit and solid concentration. They should be up there with best wines yet from this first rate estate."
2010 Black Circle Cabernet Sauvignon (Magnum only) - 95 Points
A new release that’s 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Scooteney Flats Vineyard in Red Mountain, the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Black Circle was fermented in stainless steel and then aged 20 months in two new French oak barrels. Bottled only in magnum and sold as a two pack with the Petit Verdot Fifth Element, it’s a full-throttle, awesome Cabernet and oozes aromas and flavors of creme de cassis, wild herbs, graphite, spring flowers and edgy minerality. Inky purple in color and tasting like a barrel sample, with massive extract, incredible purity and a seamless, yet decadent texture, it possesses a massive amount of tannin on the finish and needs a solid 4-5 years or more of bottle age to round into shape. Brilliant on all accounts, it will have two decades or more of longevity! Drink 2016-2030.
2010 The Fifth Element Petit Verdot (Magnum Only) 92+ Points
Also bottled only in magnum and paired with the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon The Black Circle as a two pack, the 2010 Petit Verdot Fifth Element is made from 100% Petit Verdot and comes from the Blue Mountain Vineyard in the northern part of the Walla Walla Valley. Aged 20 months in neutral oak, its inky black color is followed by a masculine, dense bouquet of black fruits, crushed stone, charcoal, tobacco and smoke. This gives way to massive, full-bodied wine that has off the charts extraction, a great texture and a serious amount of tannin that emerges through the mid-palate and finish. Backwards, dense and impenetrable, it is a serious effort that will require a serious chunk of bottle age to become civilized. I’m impressed and can’t wait to see how it evolves over the coming decade. Drink 2015-2030.
2010 Archimage Red Wine 91+ Points
More earthy and gamey, the 2010 The Archimage checks in a blend of 45% Cabernet Franc, 43% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot. Aged 20 months in 50% new French oak, it delivers a wild, Cabernet Franc-dominated profile with loads of chocolate covered red and black fruits, wild herbs, tobacco and damp earth all showing on the nose. Deep, rich and layered on the palate, with a medium to full-bodied, elegant texture, lip smacking levels of acidity and quality tannin on the finish, it will benefit from short-term cellaring and drink nicely for upwards of a decade. I’d like to see more mid-palate depth here, but there’s no denying the overall quality. Drink now-2020.
2011 Archimage Red Wine (Barrel Sample) 91-93 Points
Looking at Trey’s 2011s tasted out of barrel, the 2011 The Archimage checks in as a blend of 54% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Franc and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon that’s aging in 34% new French oak. Scheduled to be bottled in September of this year, it is a rock solid 2011 that has classy spice, plum, underbrush, new saddle leather and violets that flow to a medium to full-bodied, balanced and rich palate. One of the more age-worthy 2011s, with sound underlying structure and tannin, it should flesh out nicely in bottle and have a 10-12 year drink window. Drink 2015-2023.
2010 Illusionist Cabernet Sauvignon 93+ Points
One of the most impressive and age worthy of the 2010 lineup, the 2010 The Illusionist is a smoking blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc that was aged 20 months in 60% new French oak. Deep, awesomely pure and drenched in minerality, it offers up notions of smoked black and blue fruits, herb, chocolate, graphite and layers of crushed stone to go with a medium to full-bodied, energetic and lively texture on the palate that carries superb richness, integrated acidity and masses of finely polished tannin. Not a blockbuster and with a traditional, almost old school feel, this beauty will benefit from 2-3 years in the cellar and impress for 12-15 years. Drink 2015-2025.
2011 Illusionist Cabernet Sauvignon (Barrel Sample) 91-93 Points
The 2011 The Illusionist (96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot) comes from Phinny Hill, Red Mountain and Scooteney Flats Vineyards and sees 56% new French oak. Also with outstanding potential (and then some) and possessing a medium to full-bodied, elegant profile, it’s loaded with sweet kirsch, raspberry, underbrush, cedar, spice box and graphite aromas and flavors. With knockout purity, notable tannin and serious length, it will benefit from a handful of years in the cellar once released and shine for 10-12 years or more. Drink 2015-2023.
2010 Levitation Syrah 92 Points
More serious, rich and textured, the 2010 Syrah Levitation, a multi-vineyard 100% Syrah that spent 20 months in 20% new French oak, is inky purple in color and offers up a deep, backwards bouquet of smoked blackberry-like fruits, pen ink, hints of herbs and wet slate-like minerality. Full-bodied and loaded with fruit on the palate, it nevertheless stays beautifully pure and fresh, with solid acidity and focus carrying through the finish. Already delicious, yet benefitting from a decant, it’s a rock solid Syrah that will impress for upwards of a decade. Drink now-2020.
2011 Levitation Syrah (pre-release bottle sample) 90 Points
The outstanding 2011 Syrah Levitation is a 100% Syrah that comes mostly from the Les Collines Vineyard, yet also has smaller portions from the End of the Road Ranch and Funk Vineyards as well. Fermented with 33% whole cluster and aged for 14 months in a scant 12% new French oak, it is a pretty, seamless and supple Syrah that has plenty of ripe black cherry, spring flowers, leather and creamy licorice as well as a medium-bodied, moderately concentrated, yet pure and seamless mouthfeel. Elegant and already delicious, it has enough depth and tannin to evolve for 7-8 years. Drink now-2019.
2011 Funkadelic Syrah (pre-release bottle sample) 92 Points
Also already in bottle and one of my favorite Syrahs from Trey, the 2011 Syrah Funkadelic is a meaty, aromatic effort that’s overflowing with dark cherry, river rock-like minerality, pepper, herbed meat and hints of flowers on the nose. This 100% Syrah comes from the Funk Vineyard (which lies in an old riverbed) and is medium-bodied, supple and gorgeously textured, with good acidity and plenty of ripe tannin. Enjoy it over the coming 7-8 years. Drink now-2021.
2011 The Sorceress Grenache (Upland Vineyard pre-release bottle sample) 91 Points
Already in bottle, the 2011 Grenache Upland Vineyard is 100% Grenache that comes from the tiny Snipes Mountain AVA, which is one of the warmest terroirs in the state. Harvested on November 3 and aged all in neutral oak for 14 months, it offers up a light ruby color to go with perfumed cherry, flowers, strawberry and white pepper-like aromas and flavors. Pinot Noir-like in its perfume and texture, this medium-bodied 2011 has an elegant, yet rich mouthfeel, loads of fruit and a seamless finish. Already complex and evolved, it will drink nicely for 4-6 years. Drink now-2017.
2011 The Conjurer Red Blend 88 Points
Starting off the reds, the entry level 2011 The Conjurer is a Bordeaux blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Franc that saw 14 months in a scant 26% new French oak. Perfumed, classy and with a traditional, herbal slant, it has loads of charm and a juicy, up-front and lightly concentrated feel. Showing plenty of currant bud, underbrush, smoked earth and mineral aromas and flavors, this medium body, fresh, focused and slightly lean 2011 opens up nicely with air and should be consumed over the coming 3-4 years. Drink now-2017.
2011 Enchantress Chardonnay 91 Points
A step up is the old vine 2011 Chardonnay The Enchantress, which comes completely from the French Creek Vineyard, which was planted in 1978. Whole cluster pressed and aged, on lees, in neutral French oak barrels, it is an outstanding, Burgundy-like effort that possesses a slightly cloudy, pale gold color to go with a rich, yet energetic array of ripe apples, vanilla cream, white flowers and lime on the nose. The lees contact comes through on the palate where it shows a medium to full-bodied, rounded and supple texture that’s cut by lively acidity, excellent purity of fruit and building richness on the finish. It benefits from air and opened up nicely over the evening. While not something I would hide in the cellar, it should drink nicely for 3-4 years. Drink now-2017.
2012 Magician Riesling 88 Points
Starting off the whites, the 2012 Riesling The Magician is composed of 100% Riesling that comes from the Evergreen Vineyard which is located just off of the Colombia River. Very lively and fresh, with notions of lychee, star fruit and tangerine, it is a medium-bodied, juicy and crowd-pleasing effort that is very well made. Enjoy it over the coming handful of years. Drink now-2015.
2012 Magician's Assistant Cab Franc Rose' 89 Points
The 2012 Rose The Magician’s Assistant is a unique rose made from 100% Cabernet Franc. Coming all from the Blackrock Vineyard and light salmon in color, it seems almost Provencal in style at first, with crisp melon, mineral, orange rind and spice qualities showing on the nose, yet turns surprisingly savory and herbal on the palate, with crisp acidity, good fruit and plenty of length. Interesting and certainly worth the price of admission, it will be versatile on the dinner table and drink nicely for 1-2 years. Drink now-2014.
Wine Spectator 2013:
2010 Funkadelic Syrah- 92 Points
Fresh and vibrant, wrapping rose petal and violet notes around a bracing core of black cherry and black olive flavors, pushing aside a veil of fine tannins to persist disarmingly. Best from 2013 through 2020. 160 cases made. –HS
2011 Enchantress Chardonnay - 91 Points
Fresh and vibrant, showing nice tension between the pineapple, quince and spice flavors. The structure relies on fine acidity and moderate alcohol, holding everything in a refreshing frame. Drink now through 2017. 199 cases made. –HS
2010 Illusionist Cabernet Sauvignon - 92 Points
Dark, firm and focused, with fine, tightly wound tannins surrounding a core of black cherry, bay leaf, licorice and black pepper flavors, lingering intently on the expressive, graceful finish. Best after 2015. 425 cases made. –HS
2010 Archimage Red Blend - 90 Points
Chewy, with ample tannins around a core of blackberry and spice flavors that float through the finish. Delivers depth without excess weight, but this needs time for the tannins to loosen up. Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Best after 2014. 325 cases made. –HS
March and Dec 2013 Review of Washington Wines - Rand Sealey
2012 Sleight of Hand Cellars “The Conjurer” Red Blend, Columbia Valley ($28) 18.5/20 Points
Composed of 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc and 24% Merlot, this young red displays a brilliant ruby color and aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum and cassis, with scents of rosebuds, mulberry, tobacco and incense. The flavors are thick and chewy, yet with depth, marked by notes of red licorice, cocoa, French roast and earth minerals. The back picks up notes of roasted berries and nuts, plum liqueur and crème de cassis, followed by herbal touches and grainy tannins on the chewy textured finish.
2011 Sleight of Hand Cellars “Levitation” Syrah, Columbia Valley ($45) 19/20 Points
This 100% Syrah is sourced from the Les Collines (65%), End of the Road, Red Mountain (23%) and Funk (12%) vineyards. It exhibits a purplish ruby color and entrancing aromas of wild blackberries, blueberries, cherries and black currants, with scents of black roses, lavender and violets. The dark fruit flavors are thick and endowed with sensations of black licorice, bittersweet chocolate, dark roast coffee beans and stony earth and minerals. The back picks up notes of roasted berries and nuts, anise, squeezed blueberry juice, kirsch liqueur and cinnamon bark. The long fine-grained sweet-dry tannin finish is dusted with subtle spices herbs.
2011 Sleight of Hand Cellars “Funkadelic” Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($60) 19+/20 Points
With one-third whole cluster fermentation and aging in all neutral oak, this wine is a fruit and terroir driven Syrah. It displays a brilliant purplish color and a perfumed nose of of blackberry, blueberry and cassis, with scents of black roses, lavender, violets, and whiffs of white pepper. The red and blue fruit flavors are mouth encompassing, underlain with licorice, cocoa, French roast and “Rocks” minerals. On the back, the wine turns finely textured, with sensations of squeezed berries, toasted nuts and touches of kidskin leather, dried orange peel and cinnamon bark. Never racked, the wine shows deep concentration on the lingering sweet-dry tannin finish.
2011 Enchantress Chardonnay - 18.5/20 points
Sourced from the French Creek vineyard, northeast of Prosser, this is a crisp, true to variety Chardonnay. Brilliant gold colored, it offers an attractive nose of Asian pear-apple, peach and citrus. On the palate, the flavors are full and focused, intermixed with notes of peach pit, grape skin and flinty minerals. The back picks up a creamy, leesy texture (from full malolactic fermentation and sur-lie aging), accented by lemon zest and light oak on the lingering, crisp finish.
2010 Archimage Red Wine - 19+/20 points
This vintage is composed of 45% Cabernet Franc, 43% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot from the Blue Mountain, Red Mountain and Va Piano vineyards. It exhibits a brilliant ruby color and enticing aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed roses, mulberry, sandalwood and anise. The dark fruit flavors are thick and fleshy, yet deep and focused, underlain with black licorice, bittersweet chocolate, French roast and stony minerals. The back reveals sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts, spiced cherries and plums, leading into a integrated oak (50% new French) and satiny tannin finish that lingers on and on.
2010 Illusionist Cabernet Sauvignon - 19.5/20 points
Blended with 5% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc, this is a classically styled Cabernet Sauvignon. It displays a brilliant ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of wild blackberries, Bing cherries, black currants, attar of rose, sandalwood, cigar box, olive, rosemary and sage. The dark fruit flavors are wrapped around a deep core, underlain with black licorice, dark chocolate, Sumatra roast and scorched earth minerals. The back reveals notes of squeezed berry juices, cherry liqueur, crème de cassis, roasted chestnuts, mocha, pencil lead and toasty integrated oak (60% new) and leads seamlessly into a deep, penetrating finish that shows fine fruit acids (.61 g/100ml) and fine grained tannins on the lingering, well defined finish.
December 2012 Wine Advocate:
2009 Archimage Red Blend - 92 Points
A 50-50 Merlot-Cabernet Franc bottling whose 2010 rendition won’t be released until next spring and Busch preferred not to show me until next summer, the Sleight of Hand 2009 The Archimage is sourced from several geographically diverse sites including Seven Hills and Red Mountain vineyards. Lightly-cooked elderberry, dark cherry, and blackberry retain an invigorating, seed-like crunch and pit bitterness as they move from the nose to a palate that introduces tobacco; a medicinal expression of herbal essences; and savory salinity that makes for a memorably saliva-inducing persistence. I imagine that this cuvee, matured in half new barriques (but not noticeably so), will be worth following for at least the better part of a decade.
2007 The Archimage – 91 Points
Sourced from three sites in Walla Walla, Sleight of Hand’s 2007 The Archimage contains negligibly more Merlot than Cabernet Franc. Elderberry and mulberry, toasted almond and pecan, fennel and buddleia team up for a performance at least as savory as that of the 2009 Archimage, considerably brighter in personality; but also less ripe in its expression of berry fruit. Juicy, sappy, tartly fruit skin-edged; herbally bitter; and invigorating in its impression of berry seed crunching, this finishes with vibratory intensity and impressive sheer cling. It may well be more expressive at a later stage and I would not feel worried about revisiting it up to 3-4 years from now.
2011 Magicians Assistant Rose' – 88 Points
An amalgam of watermelon and blackberry tinged with mint and fennel, Sleight of Hand’s 2011 Cabernet Franc Rose The Magician’s Assistant is soft and loose on the palate but infectiously juicy and quite lusciously long. Enjoy it over the coming year, and chalk up one more piece of evidence for the mounting suspicion that Washington is a wonderful place to make pink wine, too, if one just remembers to go about it seriously.
2010 The Enchantress Chardonnay– 90 Points
Sourced from 1978 plantings at the French Creek vineyard of Jon Martinez (for more about which see under Martinez’s own label, Maison Bleue, in this report), Sleight of Hand’s 2010 Chardonnay Old Vines The Enchantress is a model for its genre – barrel-fermented, partial malo – and as impressive as any Chardonnay I tasted this year from Washington. Lees-stirring in used barriques has conveyed a subtly seductive creaminess that in no way fights with juicy lime, tangerine, and apple, while hints of musk and brown spice typical for old Wente Selection vines add interest, and a long, sappy finish preserves simultaneous lees-enhanced richness and sheer refreshment. It will be interesting to discover what this does with a few years in bottle, but, tentatively, I would plan to drink most of any I bought within two years.
2009 Levitation Syrah– 89 Points
Sleight of Hand’s 2009 Syrah Levitation – sourced from Lewis and Les Collines vineyards – offers a distinctively smoky nose suggestive of tallow and charred red meat. Expressing itself well below the bar line, this tannic, brooding bottling displays its dark berry fruit with a decidedly bitter edge. Impressively persistent, it may well just need a couple of years to become more engaging, and I can’t imagine it fatiguing inside of six.
2010 Levitation Syrah – 90 Points
The Sleight of Hand 2010 Syrah Levitation – sourced from Lewis, Les Collines, and Funk vineyards – mingles cassis with smoked meat tinged with sage and bay laurel. Expansive and generously juicy without a hint of heat or roughness from its 14.8% alcohol, this finishes exuberantly with a saliva-liberating lick of salt and an invigorating twist of black pepper accenting its lasting ripe fruit, un-obscured by oak, only 20% of which was new. Having not tasted the first two vintages of Syrahs from this winery – which were 2007 and 2008 – it’s really only possible to suggest on intuition that this wine of purity and stamina will probably remain delightful for at least 6-8 years.
2009 Funkadelic Syrah– 92 Points
Bacon, sausage, sage, and diverse floral aromas in the nose of Sleight of Hand’s Funk Vineyard 2009 Syrah Funkadelic point toward a kinship with Cote Rotie, while salt, mint and sage mouthwateringly and pungently inflect dark berries and smoked meat on an expansive, finely tannic, incessantly juicy palate. The fruit was foot-trodden here, incidentally This will leave you licking your lips and eager for the next sip. I suspect it will perform well for another half dozen years.
2010 Funkadelic Syrah – 93 Points
After initially intending on blending the contents of what became Sleight of Hand’s 2010 Syrah Funkadelic into their Levitation (which also receives some of the Funk Vineyard fruit), Busch decided not only that its influence on that blend would be too dominant, but also – quite rightly – that there were the makings here of 160 cases of spectacular, separate single-vineyard wine that was co-fermented with 2% Viognier and, like its immediate predecessor, incorporated around one-third whole clusters. Strikingly perfumed with flowers and high-toned herbal essences as well as fresh black fruits, this comes to the palate impressively rich, dense, and finely tannic, loaded with cassis, fresh dark cherry as well as Cornas-like calf’s liver larded with bacon. Persistent inner-mouth perfume; brown spices; and espresso roast are mingled with mouthwateringly savory salinity to further complicate a long finish whose undulating, dynamically interactive fruit, herb, mineral, and carnal strands point to a very Washington-typical purity of fruit and sheer energy. This will be exciting to follow over at least the better part of the next decade.
2008 The Illusionist Cabernet Sauvignon – 92 Points
Blended with only 8% Syrah and thus varietally-labeled, the Sleight of Hand 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon The Illusionist is diversely sourced, inter alia from Phinny Hill in the Horse Heaven Hills, where the winery team is involved with a new planting project. Ripe, fresh cassis is inflected with charred red meat as well as hints of mint and fennel. Like the corresponding 2009, this was raised in 60% new wood but doesn’t show it. Mint and thyme delightfully tinge a juicy, polished palate and a lick of salt serves for memorable and welcome saliva inducement in the finish.
2009 The Illusionist Red Wine– 91 Points
Given 23 months in barrel (which explains why Busch elected to hold-off showing me the corresponding 2010 until next summer), Sleight of Hand’s 2009 The Illusionist – sourced from Red MOUNTAIN Vineyards, Walla Walla’s Blue Mountain Vineyard and Lewis Vineyard near Prosser; and mingling 27% Syrah and 8% Cabernet France with its Cabernet Sauvignon – was treated to 60% new barrels, the highest percentage in any of the wines I tasted from them on this occasion. Yet, I wasn’t aware of the oak as such. Cassis and herbal essences, juniper berry and black pepper offer a pungent aromatic display, then team up with bitter dark chocolate, carob, and an undertone of crushed stone for an engagingly mouthwatering but metaphorically dark finish. This seamless, polished and powerfully expressive cuvee ought to be worth following for at least the better part of a decade.