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Uncorked: Winemaker offers low prices for high quality

Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The black label and skull on the Renegade Wine Company label are reminiscent of a wanted poster from the Wild West.

There are times winemaker Trey Busch feels a bit like a bandit. The marauders from the Wild West helped inspire the label because it feels like thievery to pay such astonishingly low prices for the high quality final product.

Perhaps he’s more like a Robin Hood, as he provides consumers with a lower price point than his flagship label, Sleight of Hand Cellars, without sacrificing much in quality.  

Winemaker spotlight

Trey Busch felt like he’d just pulled off a solid caper when he bought the juice for the Walla Walla Valley Grenache 2010.

“It really felt like we were stealing the wine,” Busch said. “That’s where the name came from. We couldn’t believe the price we paid for such high quality juice.”

Utilizing his contacts in the industry and branching out to meet new growers with excess secondary-market product after they’ve already made wine for their labels has been a way for Busch to occupy the downtime for a winemaker, the post-harvest months when wine is maturing in barrels for its eventual bottling. 

He’s also branched out to new varietals and, because he’s buying excess juice, can tap into more consumer demand than with Sleight of Hand.

“It’s been a super successful program that has been fun and kept me on my toes,” Busch said. “As a winemaker you make wine once a year. Now I can stay busy with this negotiant program and put feelers out to all my winemaking neighbors in the state.”

A perfect spring-time wine will be the Renegade Rosé. A blend of Syrah, Mourvede and Cinsault. Busch said it’s been fashioned in a Provence style. 

What to buy

Renegade Wine Company, Walla Walla Valley, Grenache 2010 ($19): An absolute fun wine experience. It starts with a dark, sour cherry flavor. There’s a fresh acidity that keeps it light in weight. But a rose petal nose that provides a beautiful depth. As it opens bolder, plum and dark fruit flavors begin to emerge. This wine is excellent quality at an inexpensive price point. 

Where to go

If you aren’t headed to the Sleight of Hand tasting room in Walla Walla, Wash., follow Busch’s maiden wine company on Facebook. Busch frequently posts pictures of new bottlings, harvest and equipment around the winery.

Last week he hosted an old-fashioned pin-up girl photo shoot in the tasting room and shared the photos. Look at his Chicago schedule for a July visit to be posted soon as well. 

Wine 101

As a huge music fan, Busch keeps a turntable and a vinyl record collection in his tasting room and Sleight of Hand takes its name from his favorite Pearl Jam song. Busch is venturing back into a partnership that pays homage to Spinal Tap and unites a pair of top winemakers. 

As if Sleight of Hand, Renegade and The Modern Wine Project weren’t enough labels to manage, Busch has returned to work on the One Louder Wine Co. project with Washington winemaker Mark Ryan. The duo is the winemaking version of a rock ‘n’ roll supergroup such as Cream or Temple of the Dog. They collaborated on a Syrah in 2007. 

After a six-year hiatus, the two will soon return with a Red Mountain Syrah in October ($28).

Like his favorite band, Pearl Jam, Busch knows how to put on a great encore with his many wine projects. 

• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for the Daily Chronicle. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at news@daily-chronicle.com.

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