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Flat front label of wine
Flat front label of wine

J. Bookwalter Protagonist 2011

Bordeaux Red Blends from Columbia Valley, Washington
  • WS91
  • RP90
  • WE90
15.48% ABV
  • JD93
  • WS91
  • WE91
  • JS93
  • WE92
  • WS92
  • WS91
  • RP91
  • WE90
  • WE92
  • WS91
  • WS93
  • WE92
  • RP90
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15.48% ABV

Winemaker Notes

The sixth release of this highly sought after blend is once again more about finesse than brute force as in previous vintages. A blend of cool and warm site vineyards, the wine is ripe, structured and balanced. Aromas of bright fruits like raspberries, cherries, plums and red currants are surrounded with secondary and tertiary scents of truffles, resin, cocoa, rose petals, graphite and a signature Eastern Washington dustiness. The wine enters the palate sweet and has a medium body that displays the bright red fruits of the cooler vintage wrapped in cola, resin, truffle oil, baking spices, white chocolate and savory herbs. The wine finishes with fine grained yet firm tannins and the signature acidity of the vintage. The bright red fruits coupled with the firm tannins and acidity will allow for greater aging potential with proper cellaring.

Blend: 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 8% Syrah

Critical Acclaim

All Vintages
WS 91
Wine Spectator
Crisp tannins underline the juicy black cherry, tobacco, spice and loamy earth flavors, mingling well as the finish persists expressively on a medium-weight frame. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Best from 2015 through 2021.
RP 90
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
Along the same lines, the 2011 Protagonist is made from 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 8% Syrah, that spent 20 months, on lees, in 87% new French oak. Ripe, mouth filling and nicely concentrated, this medium to full-bodied beauty gives up rocking aromas and flavors of red and black fruits, toast, pencil shavings and hints of dusty minerality. Beautifully layered, with sweet tannin and impressive length, it’s a serious 2011 that will have 15 years or more of prime drinking.
WE 90
Wine Enthusiast
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot split the blend with 8% Syrah in addition. The opening scents are toasty and inviting, and the wine enters the palate smooth and agreeable, with pretty red fruits. There's a lick of licorice and then the flavors seem to lighten up and finish tart and astringent. But decant this and let it breathe, and the wine can surprise with its staying power.
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J. Bookwalter

J. Bookwalter

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J. Bookwalter, Columbia Valley, Washington
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The story of J. Bookwalter Winery is a story of family heritage, deep roots and a centuries-old commitment to the land. Ten generations of the Bookwalter family have been involved in American agriculture. But it was Jerry Bookwalter, generation nine and father of current company president John Bookwalter, who led the family into viticulture. After graduating from UC-Davis in 1963, Jerry spent 13 years farming in California’s San Joaquin Valley before moving his family in 1976 to the Tri-Cities in Washington State.

Once there, he firmly stamped the Bookwalter name on the state’s nascent wine industry. From 1976 through 1982, Jerry helped manage the plantings of three iconic vineyards – Sagemoor, Bacchus and Dionysus.

Columbia Valley

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A large and geographically diverse AVA capable of producing a wide variety of wine styles, the Columbia Valley AVA is home to 99% of Washington state’s total vineyard area. A small section of the AVA even extends into northern Oregon!

Because of its size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which are both further split into smaller, noteworthy appellations. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences extreme winters and long, hot, dry summers. Frost is a common risk during winter and spring. The towering Cascade mountain range creates a rain shadow, keeping the valley relatively rain-free throughout the entire year, necessitating irrigation from the Columbia River. The lack of humidity combined with sandy soils allows for vines to be grown on their own rootstock, as phylloxera is not a serious concern.

Red wines make up the majority of production in the Columbia Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety here, where it produces wines with a pleasant balance of dark fruit and herbs. Wines made from Merlot are typically supple, with sweet red fruit and sometimes a hint of chocolate or mint. Syrah tends to be savory and Old-World-leaning, with a wide range of possible fruit flavors and plenty of spice. The most planted white varieties are Chardonnay and Riesling. These range in style from citrus and green apple dominant in cooler sites, to riper, fleshier wines with stone fruit flavors coming from the warmer vineyards.

Bordeaux Blends

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One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde River, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.

In the Glass

Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines modeled after the Right Bank are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure. Wines from Bordeaux lean towards a highly structured and earthy style whereas New World areas (as in the ones named above) tend to produce bold and fruit-forward blends. Either way, Bordeaux red blends generally have aromas and flavors of black currant, cedar, plum, graphite, and violet, with more red fruit flavors when Merlot makes up a high proportion of the blend.

Perfect Pairings

Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb or smoked duck.

Sommelier Secret

While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties in specified percentages, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, for example. Occassionally a winemaker might add a small percentage of a non-Bordeaux variety, such as Syrah or Petite Sirah for a desired result.

YNG793521_2011 Item# 136570