Four Madeiras from Blandy’s

April 21, 2014

Hello friends. “What are some of the challenges your winery has faced?” It’s a pretty typical question I ask when doing research on our partner wineries.

This winery’s answers, however, were far from typical: Phylloxera. Wars, in particular the American Civil War, the Russian Revolution, World War I. Prohibition.

From those responses, you can likely glean that this is a winery with a long history, and one that is deeply entwined with American history. The winery, founded in 1811, is Blandy’s. And the wine they make is Madeira.

Our sharp-memoried list members may remember in our Lustau sherry offer from last May that, during the studying that led up to my March 2013 WSET Level 4 Diploma Unit 6 Fortified Wines exam (a step on the ladder towards the Master of Wine qualification), I blind-tasted a *lot* of the three major categories covered. Lots of port. Lots of sherry. And lots of madeira, which was the least familiar to me going in, and my favorite by the time I was finished.

I fell for it in part because it is unabashedly delicious and in part because it has such a uniquely American history.

Madeira (located here) was for many ships in the age of exploration the last port of call before heading for the Americas or the East Indies. To keep the wine from spoiling during the trip, Madeira winemakers fortified their wines with neutral spirit. What happened after that, however, was unexpected. Onboard the ships, the barrels of wine heated up as they traveled through tropical climes and sloshed around, exposing the wines to more oxygen. Winemakers in Madeira didn’t even realize the process was happening until they received some unsold wine that had made the journey to the Americas and back.

But the hearty souls populating this part of the world in those days couldn’t get enough of it. One famous piece of evidence that has come to light is the tavern bill from the founding fathers after they completed the first draft of the Constitution. It included: 60 bottles Bordeaux. 8 bottles whiskey. 22 bottles porter. 8 hard cider. 12 beer. 7 bowls of high-octane punch. And 54 freaking bottles of Madeira!

Please note the number of delegates ringing up this bill: 55. Fifty five! That is a lot of booze.

Now these days, producers in Madeira don’t send barrels off in ships, but their production process (called “estufagem”) replicates the effect by exposing the barrels to limited amounts of oxygen and storing them in warm upstairs rooms left to heat (or “madeirize”). The resulting wines contain a wonderful mix of fresh and cooked fruits, caramel, butter, and spice. They all have some residual sugar, and the range runs from Sercial (the driest) to Verdelho to Bual to Malvasia (sometimes called Malmsey).

Those names refer to the grape varieties used. Sercial, for instance, is mostly grown at the highest altitudes, so it comes in with the lowest ripeness and the highest acidity. All of the grapes grown on Madiera have outstanding acid structure, which helps to keep the finished wines from being too overtly sweet or cloying.

What makes Blandy’s especially interesting is that, of all the original founders of the Madeira wine trade, they are the only family still involved in owning and managing their original company. Chris Blandy recently visited the Full Pull warehouse, and he is the seventh generation of the family to work in the Madeira trade.

The tasting was marvelous, with strong values across the entire spectrum of wines Chris poured. We’ve selected four wines to offer today, one from each tier that Blandy’s offers and one bonus wine:

NV Blandy’s Madeira Malmsey 10 Year (500ml)

The 10 Year here refers to the average age of the blend, which comes from multiple vintages. Vinification according to Blandy’s: “Aged for 10 years in seasoned American oak casks in the traditional ‘Canteiro’ system, whereby the casks of this wine are gradually transferred from the top floors of the lodge, where it is naturally warmer, to the middle floors and eventually to the ground floor where it is cooler. During this totally natural ageing, the wine underwent regular racking before finally being bottled.”

This is a lovely introduction to the category, with a sweet mix of cherry and marmalade fruit alongside loads of dark caramelly/toffee/crème brulee goodness. It has the richness associated with Malmsey, but a lightning bolt of orange-peel acid electrifies the palate, adding tension and grace. Best paired with a cheese course in my opinion, if not simply contemplated on its own.

1998 Blandy’s Madeira Colheita Verdelho (500ml)

The Colheita category is one recently introduced by Blandy’s as a tweener category between blended-vintage and single-vintage wines. They do come from a single-vintage, but whereas Blandy’s vintage Madeiras are aged for at least 20 years in barrel, these Colheitas see 5-18 years.

This has a very Madeira nose, sometimes called “rancio,” which I think of as brown-buttered nuts. It’s unique and oh-so-appealing. In the mouth, it’s all intense lemon-butter-caramel, complicated by citrus-pith bitters, quinine, and mineral. The acid-sugar balance is pinpoint, and this just positively hums across the palate. “Wildly good,” my note says, and this is a fine sneak preview of the 1998 vintage wines, which won’t be released for another five years at least.

1968 Blandy’s Madeira Vintage Bual (750ml)

This is something special. Harvested back in 1968, this proceeded to spend 36 years in cask before being bottled in 2004. The nose is wildly smoky and funky, with brown butter moving towards smoky bacon fat and caramel and blood orange. The flavor profile in the mouth is very dark, with more smoky meaty notes married to buttered nuts, black cherry, and fig. The texture is sublime. With all elements in perfect proportion, this nearly half-century old wine just hums across the palate, carrying delicious history in its wake.

1976 Blandy’s Madeira Vintage Terrantez (750ml)

And now a real rarity. Terrantez is rarely mentioned in discussions of Madeira, because the grape is now nearly extinct on the island. But its rarity makes it that much more exciting for Madeira collectors. This ’76 saw 21 years in cask before being bottled in 1997. It begins with a nose of smoke, spice, caramel, braised beef, and lovely tropical fruit note, something like guava or papaya. The tropical notes continue on the palate, drenched in salted caramel and dusted with flower pollen. Again, the balance is beautiful here. This is a singular sticky and would be a fine addition to any cellar. Pair with nothing but a glass and good company.

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles of 10 Year Malmsey, 3 bottles of 1998 Verdelho Colheita, and 2 bottles each of the 1968 Bual Vintage and 1976 Terrantez Vintage, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Two 2012s from Crowley

April 20, 2014

Hello friends. We have a pair of new releases today from an under-the-radar list favorite from Oregon: the beautiful wines of Tyson Crowley.

It was during a research trip to the Willamette Valley back in 2011 that I first learned of Crowley wines. Back then, I had asked a series of Oregon insiders and other in-the-know types for recommendations. And the name that came up with more frequency and more excitement than any other was Tyson Crowley.

After tasting the wines, I could see why. This was a guy who paid his dues in a major way, arriving in the Willamette in the mid-‘90s and spending the next seven years “soaking up Oregon” at classic producer Erath. He followed that with a brief stint in New Zealand, only to return to Oregon and work with outstanding boutique producers like Cameron, Brick House, JK Carriere, and Archery Summit.

Finally in 2005 he launched his namesake winery. Inside Oregon, and with Oregon insiders, the wines had instant cachet and remain hugely popular. Outside of Oregon, they flew somewhat under the radar at first, but at least in Washington, they’re getting harder and harder to source.

Perhaps it’s because Tyson’s pricing has remained stubbornly reasonable, especially by Oregon standards, and extra-especially considering the consistent quality on display. Or perhaps it’s because Tyson has a clear winemaking philosophy that leads to a transparent house style. Here’s how he describes that philosophy:

“Crowley Wines was founded in 2005 with a focus on pure, vintage-driven winemaking. Starting at the source, we favor older clones of Chardonnay and the classic Wadenswil and Pommard Pinot noir clones due to their late ripening nature and acid retention. We work with family owned vineyards and prefer cooler, high elevation sites. Our friends and growers are committed to non-irrigated and low impact farming. We are members of the Deep Roots Coalition and our primary vineyard sources are LIVE certified or certified organic. In the winery our highest priority is to create the most direct evidence of both vintage and place while making elegant and exciting wines. This means (wine geek alert!) not adding acid or extraction enzyme, employing native yeasts, extended aging in mostly neutral oak and no fining or filtration. We value purity of expression over stylized wines and hold essential the belief that we cannot improve on nature.”

I was fortunate enough to taste samples of Tyson’s spring releases, just prior to their being shipped up to Seattle. The 2012 vintage is shaping up to be a truly beautiful year for Oregon, and I suspect demand for these is going to be strong. That’s why we’re not wasting any time here. Let’s stake our claim before most of Seattle even realizes these wines have landed.

2012 Crowley Chardonnay Willamette Valley

Year in and year out, one of the highest QPR Chardonnays produced in the entire northwest. And yet we’ve only ever offered Crowley Chard one other time. It was the 2009 vintage, during our first-ever Crowley offer way back in June 2011. Quantities of 2010 and 2011 just didn’t support an offer, as much as it pained me, but I’m thrilled our list members have access to another vintage of this, since that 2009 was a huge hit among the subset of list members who jumped on it. By the time we reached our second-ever Crowley offer (Sept 2011), I was already apologizing for not being able to fulfill reorder requests for the Chardonnay. And now it’s almost three years later. Yikes!

This is single-vineyard, entirely from Four Winds (although it doesn’t say so on the bottle), a 1993-planted vineyard in Oregon’s coast range. Aged in barrel (25% new) for 14 months with no lees-stirring, it is a lovely bridge between old world and new. There is densely packed fruit, with layers of citrus (lemon curd), stone (peach), and tropical (plantain) fruits. There are subtleties of smoke and hazelnut and fennel frond. There is a spine of stony mineral and nervy acid, and a texture that manages to pull off the rare feat of conveying ripeness and energy in turn. It’s a marvel of single-vineyard expressiveness, a tickler of the intellectual and sensual sides of the brain, another killer Chardonnay from Tyson Crowley.

2012 Crowley Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

The more 2012 Oregon Pinots I taste, the more I suspect folks are going to really dig this vintage. The wines have a pleasing fleshiness that was simply not possible in the cooler 2010 and 2011 vintages (which admittedly had their ethereal charms), but without the, erm, shall we say, over-fleshiness of a vintage like 2009. Crowley’s version comes from two Dundee Hills vineyards (Tuckwilla, Gehrts), along with Four Winds in the McMinnville Coast Range and Laurel Hood in the Chehalem Mountains. It gets 15 months in almost all neutral barrels (10% new wood), and it clocks in at 13.5% listed alc.

Tyson has one special note for this vintage: “The 2012 received (for the first time) our older vine Pommard from the Four Winds vineyard, the Pinot counterpart to the Chardonnay. As with the Chardonnay, the tendency of the Pinot from Four Winds is to be leaner and exhibit mineral tones.”

The nose betrays the more than 50% Dundee Hills volcanic red jory soil origins, its nose a ringing bell of red raspberry and cherry fruit, resinous forest floor and soil. In the mouth, this mixes flesh with litheness and offers loads of complexity for the tariff, with minty/herbal notes and terrific minerality to complement the red-fruited core. Silky and seamless, in the end I couldn’t decide whether this is a glugger or a wine to contemplate, a weeknight wine or a weekend wine. I guess it’ll have to be both.

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Four from Force Majeure

April 18, 2014

Hello friends. We have the spring releases from Force Majeure today. Already difficult to source in any meaningful quantity, they’ve only become more difficult in the year following Jeb Dunnuck’s first set of reviews for Wine Advocate, where he wrote the following intro:

“Focusing on site specific fruit (Red Mountain) and utilizing a variety of top winemakers who each make a specific style of wine, Force Majeure (formerly Grand Reve) is the brain child of entrepreneur Paul McBride and vineyard manager Ryan Johnson. I’ve raved about this producer in the past, and I continue to do so here. If anyone doubts that great wine is made in the vineyard, I urge you to taste through this lineup as the quality of the fruit shows in each wine, regardless of the winemaker. While this estate pulls heavily from the Ciel du Cheval vineyard, their estate Force Majeure Vineyard, which is located at the very top of Red Mountain on very steep slopes (I had car “issues” trying to get up them during my first visit in 2010) is just now coming on line and is already showing ample promise. I’ve put these wines in numerous blind tastings with the best wines in the world and they always hold their own. Don’t miss them.”

For the longer origin story of this outstanding winery, check out our inaugural offering. Now let’s dig into the wines:

2010 Force Majeure Collaboration Series IV (BDX Blend)

Series IV is made by Carolyn Lakewold of Donedei, and it is a right-bank Bordeaux blend, made entirely from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard fruit (location here). What makes this Series special is the Merlot. It’s from the 1982 block at Ciel, among the oldest vines on Red Mountain, and it forms the spine of this wine (75%). The remainder is Cabernet Sauvignon (13%), Cabernet Franc (10%), and Petit Verdot (2%). They only produced 200 cases in 2010, and for me, this is a hidden gem of the lineup. It seems to fly under the radar a bit, perhaps because Merlot is not as sexy as some of the other bottlings (Cab! Syrah!), but this is the fifth vintage of Collab Series IV, and it has proven extremely consistent in its purity, elegance, and finesse.

It is also the most insistently earthy/old-world of the lineup, especially in a cool year like 2010 (13.8% listed alc). There’s a real wildness at the heart of this bottle, a mildly rustic character that holds deep appeal for me. The mix of plum and fig, soil and gravelly mineral is terrific, and seems to me a dead ringer for some quality right-bank Bordeaux. With chew, intensity, and length, this is one beautiful monster.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

2011 Force Majeure Collaboration Series II (Syrah)

Series II is made by Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew Winery, and it is an homage to Cote Rotie, with 96% Ciel du Cheval Syrah cofermented with 2% Ciel Viognier and 2% Ciel Roussanne. Total production is just 180 cases, and it has been a couple years since we’ve had a chance to offer this Collaboration Series. I’m thrilled that it’s back. The nose is a swirling stew of marionberry fruit and meaty demi-glace, lifted by peppercorn and floral topnotes. In the mouth, the balance of fruit and earth is pinpoint, and this one is notable for the brambly character of the fruit and the elegance of the mouthfeel. Ross’ Syrahs with Boushey Vineyard fruit are legendary, and it’s always a thrill seeing him work with another stalwart vineyard like Ciel.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “(Barrel Sample); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. (93-95pts).”

2011 Force Majeure Collaboration Series VI (Rhone Blend)

Series VI is made by James Mantone of Syncline, and it is a Mourvedre-dominant (47%) Rhone blend, rounded out with 42% Syrah and 11% Grenache. This comes mostly from Ciel, but it also includes some of the Force Majeure Estate Mourvedre from the famous vineyard caper of 2010. 280 cases produced, and listed alc is 14.7%.

Fermented in concrete and then aged in large puncheons, this begins with a nose of black raspberry, hot rock minerality, and lovely underbrush. The palate displays serious Mourvedre character, which means sauvage personality, roasted game notes, citrus pith bitters. You can’t escape the Red Mountain minerality, either, and the entire package hangs together beautifully, all elegance and class, its structure more from juicy acidity than overt tannic heft. The quality of the fruit is undeniable here.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “(Barrel Sample); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. (94-96+pts).”

2011 Force Majeure Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from Force Majeure’s estate vineyard at the top of Red Mountain (location here). I walked (stumbled is more like it) this site with Ryan Johnson way back in April 2010, and it’s a wild place, which makes it all the more thrilling to finally taste wines coming off this site. Here Chris Gorman did the honors of the winemaking (200 cases produced), and it certainly has his stamp: 15.3% listed alcohol and 100% new French oak, all Taransaud. The nose is extremely expressive and downright pretty, offering pure cassis and violet notes complemented by minty topnotes and subtle woodsmoke and cedar and espresso. The palate displays outstanding energy, especially at this level of ripeness, the flavors of fruit and rock positively humming across the palate. It’s really polished stuff, the tannins wonderfully fine-grained, and if it were a cult Napa Cab, it would probably cost $200.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “(Barrel Sample); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. (93-95+pts).”

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Two from W.T. Vintners

April 16, 2014

Hello friends. Canlis. The Herbfarm. Wild Ginger. The Metropolitan Grill. These are some of the most competitive restaurant wine lists in Seattle. Wineries beg, plead, cajole and give up significant margin to distributors in order to make inroads in places like these. So how did a self-distributed newbie make it into those accounts?

The answer: because Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen has years of experience buying and selling wine for some of Seattle’s finest restaurants, and he’s now applying his formidable palate to WT Vintners.

By evening (and probably a good chunk of day), Jeff is the Wine Director at RN74 in Seattle, which means he basically tastes every important wine that comes into Seattle. That gig came after previous stints at Cascadia, Wild Ginger, and Café Juanita. I’d also lay better than even odds that Jeff is going to be Seattle’s next wine pro to pass the Master Sommelier exam.

He has a wickedly sharp palate, and a clear point of view, honed from tasting thousands of wines for his various restaurant gigs. To wit, here is an excerpt from Jeff’s winemaking philosophy:

“From our inception I strive to be the conduit from which our vineyards speak. Minimal additions are made in the winery beyond yeast and the occasional racking off solids. I avoid the use of new oak in favor of used barrels, which add a bit of texture and little else. Foremost, I want our wines to serve as the champions of Washington’s extraordinary terroir. By utilizing whole clusters, versus just the berries, during fermentation I attempt to coax both greater structure and more savory flavors and aromas in our Syrah. With each vineyard we work closely with the vineyard’s manager and owner to reduce crop loads and find the optimal time to harvest, which is often weeks before our neighbors. By picking early I ensure the vineyard’s voice is heard and not lost to high alcohols and overtly fruity wines. Ultimately, I am attempting to make the wines I want to drink, wines of place, wines that complement a meal and wines that tell a story. I want them to be delicious as they are interesting.”

WT is a buzzworthy winery that is just starting to pick up momentum. They celebrated the grand opening of a new tasting room in Woodinville on April 5 and 6 with the release of four new wines (we’re offering two of them today). Right now, the wines are sold almost exclusively through restaurant channels (check out their list; we’ll be happy to sidle on up next to our esteemed colleagues at McCarthy & Schiering as the only retailers listed)

Stephen Tanzer has written some positive press in the past year, but this remains a winery flying well under the mainstream radar. For now.

2013 W.T. Vintners Gruner Veltliner Underwood Mountain Vineyard

What, did you think the sommelier was going to make a 15%-alc Viognier? Not bloody likely.

Jeff has zeroed in on probably the most exciting place in Washington for white wines: the Columbia Gorge (yes, Ancient Lakes can make a compelling argument too). Gruner Veltliner grown on the southern slopes of the extinct volcano Underwood Mountain is one of the hidden treasures of the northwest. Syncline is the only other Washington winery I’ve seen to vinify these grapes.

This clocks in at 13% listed alc, and it nails Gruner’s savory character that is so unusual for white grapes, with lovely green pea vine notes to go with lemony fruit. There’s a smoky/flinty character, too, almost reminiscent of Chablis, and awfully compelling. In the mouth, there’s Gruner’s signature lemony acid, savory green lentil notes, overt minerality, and plenty of dry extract. This is a balanced beauty, varietally correct and with plenty of rippin’ acid even in the warm 2013 vintage.

Here’s Jeff’s note: “Drawing inspiration from Gruner’s homeland, the Wachau region of Austria, we divide the fermentation between stainless steel and a small amount of neutral oak barrels to coax the austere mineral and spicy elements from the steel and a weightier mid-palate from the permeable oak. The end result is a Gruner Veltliner with medium body, brisk acidity and notes of green apple, meyer lemon, under-ripe peach, nectarine, spicy arugula and an undercurrent of minerality not often seen in new world wines.”

2012 W.T. Vintners “Dalliance” (Rhone Blend)

And here are Jeff’s notes on where this one comes from: “In 2012, W.T. Vintners formed a new partnership in one of the world’s most unique vineyard areas, the Walla Walla Valley’s sub-region known as ‘The Rocks.’ Unlike the dominant soils of Washington’s flood affected vine growing areas, ‘The Rocks’ are an ancient alluvial fan of river tumbled basalt cobblestones formed by the Walla Walla river. ‘The Rocks’ area shares it’s soil structure with only a couple very rare and special regions, evoking visions of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in France’s Southern Rhone Valley or New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay sub-region known as the ‘Gimblett Gravels.’ While Chateauneuf’s famous ‘galet roulés’ are just surface stones, the Walla Walla Rocks are deep; well over 200 feet deep in some spots. The lower hanging fruit benefits from the radiant heat being absorbed by the cobblestones throughout the sunny days. More importantly, the heat that is absorbed by day continues warming the root system and assisting in ripening well into the night. The resulting flavors from the region are decidedly very different from anywhere else in Washington. Flavors and aromas of wild game, earth and deep heady fruits pervade the wines made from fruit grown in this small area, regardless of varietal. It is truly a special place and worthy of the critical honors the region’s wines continue to garner each year.”

This is a 41/36/23 blend of Mourvedre/Syrah/Grenache, all from a single vineyard in the rocks (I’m not allowed to reveal, but I do know which one it is, and I can tell you: it’s a good one). The nose is very pretty, with lovely strawberry fruit lifted by cherry blossoms. The bass notes of briny olives and marine/kelpy funk help remind us that we can only be in one part of Washington. Perhaps most impressive for its fruit intensity, this possesses real purity to its mix of fruit, meat, and brine. Jeff says he likes to go for the savory side of Rhone varieties, and he nails it here. This is balanced and downright delicious.

Jeff’s note: “Dalliance exudes ‘The Rocks’ intensely aromatic wild cherry, black plum, boysenberry, white pepper and distinct earthy minerality. Flavors including smoked meat, stony earth, cherry, raspberry, lavender, violets and sage carry the long supple tannins through the persistent finish.”

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2009s from Produttori del Barbaresco

April 14, 2014

Hello friends. Last year’s offer for the 2008 Riservas from Produttori del Barbaresco was a hit, and we’re back today with the 2009s.

This time, however, I also want to offer the gateway drug to the lineup, so let’s dig into that first:

2009 Produttori del Barbaresco DOCG

For those of you curious about the Produttori house style, their Barbaresco DOCG bottling (sometimes called Torre) is a great introduction. A blend of the cooperative’s vineyards all over Barbaresco, this is vinified in an accessible style, and in an early-drinking year like 2009, it’s going to be ready to go right about now. The original idea was to offer the Riservas today, and this in a few months. That idea was blown up by Wine Spectator, who will be publishing this review in their April 30 issue:

Wine Spectator (Bruce Sanderson): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

With the combination of score, release price ($37), and production level (a staggering 23,333 cases), I’d bet dollars to donuts that this will land on Spectator’s Top 100 list for 2014 when it’s released in December. I know it muddies the water a little to include this one with the Riservas, but waiting any longer just didn’t seem to be an option. For this one, please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best.

Now, onto the Riservas. While they lack the stratospheric scores of the 08s, they do have the appealing counterweight of being an early-drinking vintage. And demand is still quite high for these, both because the allocation for Seattle is smaller than the 08s, and because Produttori has announced that it did not bottle separate Riservas for the 2010 vintage (which means it will be 2016 before we see the next set of releases).

First, some notes on logistics:
1. We should be able to send allocation notices towards the end of April.
2. As usual, we will not charge for the wine until it has arrived in the warehouse.
3. One advantage to pre-ordering is that we can lock in better tariffs than landed pricing.

Again this year, I feel fortunate that we have a chance to access these beautiful wines. Allocations will be small (and might be zero in some cases; we have no guarantees here), but we’re building a track record, and they should continue to get better with each vintage.

2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94+pts.”

Please limit order requests to 1 bottle.

2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Please limit order requests to 2 bottles.

2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montefico

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Please limit order requests to 2 bottles.

2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Ovello

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Please limit order requests to 3 bottles.

2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Muncagota

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Please limit order requests to 3 bottles.

2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Asili

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Please limit order requests to 1 bottle.

2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Pora

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Please limit order requests to 3 bottles.

2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91+pts.”

Please limit order requests to 3 bottles.

2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Paje

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 90pts.”

Please limit order requests to 3 bottles.

All these wines should arrive in late April, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

NV German Gilabert Cava Rosat Brut Nature

April 13, 2014

Hello friends. We have the return today of our most delicious debacle from 2013:

Let’s start with the debacle.

We offered the wine on August 13, saying in that offer that “the wine should arrive from California in two or three weeks.”

Did the wine arrive in two or three weeks? No it did not. Had I only said “months” instead of “weeks,” I would have been considerably more accurate. The final parcel of the wine arrived on (gulp) November 6. I still feel a profound sense of chagrin just writing that.

The long delay was the result of a miscommunication, such that the bulk of the parcel had to come direct from Spain, which, as it turns out, is a titch further away than the Golden State.

But there’s another side to the story: the wine was worth the wait. After all, the subject of today’s offer isn’t “Desultory Debacle” or “Detestable Debacle;” it’s “Delicious Debacle,” and this is indeed a painfully delicious bottle of wine. Few wines that we’ve offered have inspired as many unsolicited positive comments from list members.

So we’re reoffering this wine today, and can you believe what I’m about to say? The parcel is going to be special-ordered from California. Not “California” (read: Spain). California. And yes, it’s shame on me if this goes awry again, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Now, a reminder of what this beauty is all about, excerpted from our original offer:

One of the most appealing aspects of jumping into imported wines was the opportunity to write about the wines of Jose Pastor Selections. JPS plays for Spain the role that Louis/Dressner plays for France: discoverer and importer of exceptional, natural, vineyard- and farmer-driven wines. Especially for Spain, which seems to see many of its gloopiest, most cynical wines imported to the United States, having JPS as a counterweight is very important.

I was introduced to this lineup through the well-loved and well-missed importer/wholesaler Triage Wines, but by the time we moved into imports, Triage was sadly out of business, and JPS was no longer being brought into Seattle. Last June, however, JPS announced that they had partnered with a new Seattle wholesaler to pick up their portfolio.

At that point, Chris Barnes from JPS came down to the warehouse and poured a terrific group of wines, but it didn’t include this Cava Rosat. I always had a vision for what our first JPS offering would be – German Gilabert Cava Rosat Brut Nature – and when I inquired about it, the response was: “we’re not bringing that one into Seattle.”

Fortunately, several weeks and more than several e-mails later, we settled on a solution: JPS would allow Full Pull to special-order the wine from their Northern Cali warehouse and bring it into Seattle as an exclusive (note: I don’t know whether it remained exclusive; I promised not to raise a fuss if other retail/restaurant accounts wanted to special-order their own parcels).

Why, you might be asking, did I have this stubbornly burrowed into my brain as a necessity for our first JPS offering? Well, there’s the simple reason and the more complicated reason.

The simple reason: because it’s a terrific wine. A total standout in a sea of forgettable Cava, it’s a bubbly, pink, bone-dry, minerally, beautifully-proportioned, focused, perfect-acid palate-washer. Isn’t that enough? No? You want the more complicated reason?

Okay, the complicated reason: well, you may remember that sparkling wine holds a special place in the Zitarelli household, and in Full Pull lore (see here for the full story). And you may remember the agreement my wife and I developed at Full Pull’s launch: her responsibility to supply several years of steady income and health insurance, and my responsibility to keep at least one case of sparkling wine on hand at all times. But what you may not know: a Triage sparkling wine tasting was one of the first trade tastings I attended for Full Pull, and the German Gilabert Cava Rosat was the first case I brought home. It was a bellwether of my commitment to our arrangement, and so it has always held special resonance.

So, Cava. Okay. The problem with Cava is that the Catalans send us all their worst dreck while the tapas bars of Barcelona overflow with cheap, delicious bubbles. Any of us who have visited Barcelona know the drill: we drink amazing Cava in every tavern and restaurant we visit, then we get home and try to recreate the experience, only to be sorely disappointed. It’s a frustrating category, a minefield, one where I think Full Pull can play a role, in that we can taste through all the disappointments (and they are legion) and discard those in favor of the gems.

German Gilabert is a gem. A pink blend of 80% Trepat (a red grape indigenous to northeast Spain) and 20% Garnacha (considerably more familiar), it comes from 40+ year old vines grown on limestone and sand and is made using the methode champenoise (called metodo tradicional in Spain to avoid the wrath of French wine bureaucrats). Most importantly, it is Brut Nature, which means it is bottled with no dosage (with zero additional sugar) after 18-20 months on the lees. That puts it in the driest category of methode champenoise wines. For those of you looking for lush richness, look elsewhere. This is all ethereal litheness.

It starts with a complex nose combining fruit (strawberry pastille), floral (lilac), and savory (chicken stock) notes. As expected, it is bone dry, a nervy mouthful of crushed rock and electric acid framing notes of baked bread and bright red fruit. It’s amazing as a cocktail, and it’s amazing as a food wine, where it has a character that just wipes your palate clean after every sip. The only characteristic this shares with the sea of crappy Cava is its compelling, accessible price point.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in two to three weeks (should!), just in time for summer glugging, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2010 Gorman “Evil Twin” (Cab-Syrah)

April 11, 2014

Hello friends. We have a new vintage today of a wine that has been popular with list members and critics alike:

After working in the wine trade for more than 10 years (on the import and distribution side) Chris Gorman launched his eponymous winery in 2002 with a focus on Red Mountain and a clear house style. That style is a hedonist’s dream: ultra-ripe fruit, heady levels of alcohol, and luxurious oak treatment. Gorman’s wines are unapologetic givers of pleasure, and critics always respond favorably, as they have here:

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

I won’t add much, as that’s already plenty of tasting-note goodness, but this is indeed a big wine (especially for cooler 2010), clocking in at 15.2% listed alc, staining the glass with its opaque purple-black color, and presenting plenty of smoky/nutty barrel notes to complement the massive purple fruit. The cool vintage weighs in only in the form of floral/violet topnotes. Gorman has become one of the masters of the Cab-Syrah blend in Washington, borrowing the plush fruit and mineral tones of Syrah and pairing them to the massive structure of Red Mountain Cabernet. The result is a palate-staining monster, a black-hearted beast.

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


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