In the wine world, consumers are constantly searching for that quality/value nexus—wines that provide high quality without taking too much weight out of the wallet. In recent years, perhaps no Washington producer has excelled at offering such wines as Trey Busch with Renegade Wine Co. and Modern Wine Project.
At Renegade and Modern Wine, Busch—who is also co-owner and winemaker at Sleight of Hand Cellars in the Walla Walla Valley—acts as what is called a négociant, a French term meaning roughly ‘merchant.’ In the négociant model, widely used in France, the merchant purchases everything from grapes, juice, bulk wine or sometimes even bottled wine and then produces and markets the wine under their own label.
Let’s say a vineyard has an overabundance of unsold grapes and is willing to part with them at a fraction of what they would normally cost rather than risk getting nothing for them. Voila! A négociant can step in, buy the grapes, and produce a quality bottle at a much lower cost. Or perhaps a top tier winery has juice that isn’t quite at the quality level they want or that doesn’t fit into their wine program. A négociant can take this juice, sell it for perhaps half the normal price, and still make a profit because the winery is just looking to recoup some costs and is selling it at a steep discount.
This is what Busch is up to at Renegade Wine Co. and Modern Wine Project. Renegade Wine Co. focuses on the lower price tier, with wines retailing at about $11. “It started as a négociant project,” Busch said. “We felt like we were stealing the wine so we called it the Renegade Wine.”
The project has since expanded to include more traditional winemaking as well. The poster child for Renegade is the winery’s rosé, which gets released in early spring and sells out within a matter of weeks. It’s a perfect mix of whimsy and ‘yes more please’ that consumers are looking for in a summer wine.
Modern Wine Project meanwhile focuses on a higher price point, with red wines retailing at $25. Busch named the project after the style of wines he is offering. “They are very modern wines with more new oak and fuller fruit aromas and flavors,” he said. Tasting these wines, it’s clear they were intended for a higher price tier, meaning they saw all of the love and care (and spendy French oak) that expensive wines typically receive. Here, however, they come at a fraction of the cost.
Additionally, several of the Modern Wines have considerably more bottle age than the average wine, allowing consumers to achieve the benefits of aging wine without having to show the patience.
“Everything we put in the bottle we want people to think it’s a great value,” Busch said of the two projects. Yes, you’re still spending money on the Renegade Wine Co. and Modern Wine Project wines, but somehow it does feel a little like stealing.
Renegade Wine Co. Rosé Columbia Valley 2013 $11
This wine comes from the Land of Yum with exuberant notes of watermelon, strawberry, and bubble gum.
Renegade Wine Co. Red Wine Columbia Valley 2012 $11
Fresh and fruit filled with plum, huckleberry, and a touch of dark chocolate. Enjoy at the dinner table or by itself.
Modern Wine Project Red Wine Washington State 2005 $25
A full nine years old, this wine was clearly crafted for a top tier bottle with French oak notes of roasted coffee bean and vanilla playing off fruit notes of cherry and cassis.
Modern Wine Project Red Wine Washington State 2006 $25
An unusually high quality bottle to find at this price with a soft, supple feel and seamless cherry, freshly ground coffee, and blackberry flavors.
Modern Wine Project Malbec Washington State 2009 $25
Five years old, this wine is in a sweet spot with notes of plum, boysenberry, coffee, and spice.
Below is a list of local retail locations offering the Renegade Wine Co. and Modern Wine Project wines.
Delaurenti Specialty Food Market
European Vine Selections
Full Pull Wines
Madrona Wine Merchants
QFC Broadway 887
QFC Westwood Village
Seattle Wine Company
Total Wine Bellevue
Total Wine Southcenter