2012 Cadence Coda

October 29, 2014

Saturday Pickup ANNOUNCEMENT: Our next bonus open Saturday for TPU members and their invited guests will be Nov 22, 10am-2pm. But you already knew that, so that’s not our main announcement. Our main announcement is that we’ll have Ben Smith joining us in the warehouse to pour Cadence wines, a combination of current release and (woohoo!) library wines. Ben produces some of the most ageworthy wines in Washington, and getting a chance to sample some of his older bottles is a treat indeed. This is part of our ongoing commitment to more pouring events in the warehouse, thanks to the feedback we received during the planning of our fifth anniversary event.

Now you folks know that our regular bonus Saturdays are busy enough, but with Ben pouring, I’m expecting we’ll be totally slammed, so to help us out, please do e-mail us if you’re planning to come in.
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Hello friends. It’s been building, hasn’t it? The first glimmers began appearing earlier this year, in the form of some low-end, early-released wines from the 2012 that waaaaaaay exceeded their usual pedigree. As 2014 has puttered along, a critical mass of 2012s have been released, enough to identify it as an epic vintage in the making for Washington. You can make arguments for the elegant charms of the cool 2010 and 2011 vintages, for the robust generosity of the warm 2013 and 2014 vintages. 2012 – the difference splitter, the needle threader – it speaks for itself.

And I don’t know about you, but on those rare occasions when I can see a great vintage in the making, my mind turns to standard-bearer wines. As in, if this is such a tremendous vintage for wines that are sometimes mediocre, what is going to be like for wines that are outstanding year in and year out? To put a finer point on it, my mind turns to wines like Coda.

And apparently your minds do too! I have been asked about this wine more than any other wine this year. In the beginning, it was mostly over e-mail, but then on one Thursday morning, two list members picking up their wine asked me about when we’d be offering 2012 Coda. Within about ten minutes of each other. And that was about another ten minutes before my meeting was scheduled to taste 2012 Coda. Crazy.

The concern expressed by both of those gentlemen was that we’d wait until January to offer Coda, as we did this year (we offered 2011 Coda on January 13). Traditionally, I’ve thought it worked great as a January offer; a terrific value to kickstart the new year. But what both list members noted is that Coda is a perfect holiday gift choice, always punching well above its price class. And a January offer doesn’t exactly work for holiday gifts. Which brings us to today.

Now then, why is Coda such an incredible value year in and year out? Well, Ben Smith makes exactly four single-vineyard wines for Cadence, all from Red Mountain. Two come from the estate Cara Mia Vineyard, one from Ciel du Cheval, and one from Tapteil. And that’s it. Ben carefully crafts the blends for those high-end ($45-$60) wines, and then whatever barrels aren’t included during those blending trials end up in Coda.

What that means for Coda is that it’s always a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot, always a blend of Cara Mia, Ciel du Cheval, and Tapteil, and always barrels that were raised with the exact same care as the higher-end bottles. And we get all of that for a tariff that is about half the single-vineyard wines.

Fortunately, no reviews have been published yet for this as a finished wine. Tanzer reviews should be released any day now, and if I were a betting man, I would bet on a strong review for this wine. In the meantime, Jeb Dunnuck does have a review from barrel:

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

I was totally smitten when I tasted this wine. To give you the temperature of my notes, the first line says “oh wow baby Bel Canto!” which of course refers to one of Ben’s beautiful blends from his estate Cara Mia Vineyard. And my oh my, if this is a sneak preview of what is to come in a year or so when Ben releases 2012 Bel Canto and Camerata and Ciel and Tapteil, batten down the hatches. But for now we can revel in this marvelous vintage of Coda, a 33/29/29/9 blend of Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petit Verdot that comes soaring up out of the glass with a gorgeous high-toned flower garden of cherry blossoms, roses, and lilacs, overlaying beautiful spiced black cherry and redcurrant fruit and terrific soil-driven earth tones. This really nails the earth-and-flower aspect of Cabernet Franc that can be so exotic, so haunting when done well. At 14.4%, this is positively rich by Ben standards but of course retains Cadence’s signature elegance of texture, briskness of mouthfeel.

As it rolled into its powerfully structured finish (citrus peel, chamomile tea), I remember asking myself two questions: first, have I ever tasted such an honest rendition of Red Mountain at a price point anywhere close to this? And second, what in the world is the aging curve on this? Jeb says at least a decade, and I’d feel comfortable doubling or even tripling down on that. It’s a remarkable wine, a clarion call for the grace, power, and incipient class of Washington’s 2012 vintage.

Since I know several of you have your sights firmly set on this wine for holiday gifts and parties, let’s open it up: first come first served up to 72 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.


2012 Rotie Cellars Northern Blend Red

October 28, 2014

Hello friends. You may recall that Sean Sullivan’s Top 100 list for Seattle Met Magazine is split into a number of different categories. But at the beginning of the article, there remains a best of the best, or as the magazine puts it: “The Top 13 Wines in Washington: The very best of our 100 best wines.”

At #9 on that list (behind wineries like Cayuse/No Girls, Quilceda Creek, Reynvaan) sits a wine that we offered earlier this month. We offered it because Sean Boyd was kind enough to hustle over from Walla Walla for the day to pour it at our fifth anniversary event, and it was included in the anniversary wrap-up offer. I liked it so much at the event that I asked for a proper sample bottle the week after, and after tasting that sample, there’s no question in my mind that this wine deserves its own offer:

What was immediately striking about sniffing and tasting this wine was its clear rocks character: that savory, briny, funkiness that so many of us love. The nose is all salty beef stock on top of brambly marionberry fruit. The charcuterie plate continues on the palate, a swirling stew of umami notes and rich delicious fruit, all lifted by pretty florals from a 3% Viognier coferment. It’s a wildly strong vintage of Northern.

This was also one of those offers where the post-tasting research elucidated why the wine is as good as it is. Let’s start with vineyards. A full 65% of this comes from SJR Vineyard, the Delmas estate site we wrote about back in August (location here, at the far southwestern edge of the rocks). [That Delmas Syrah, it should be noted, landed three spots in front of Rotie Northern, at the #6 spot on Sean’s list.] I believe our max allocations of that wine were 1 bottle per list member, so for those of you under-allocated, here is another rare chance to access this wonderfully funky rocks site (recall that SJR only sells fruit to Rasa, Rotie, and Gramercy). The remainder comes from Dwelley Vineyard (30%; located here in the Blue Mountain foothills) and Patina Vineyard (just 5%, and we don’t have this mapped yet, but it’s somewhere near Forgotten Hills and Morrison Lane).

So, outstanding Walla Walla vineyards, and then of course we have the winemaker. Sean’s working with beautiful fruit, and he stays out of its way, putting it all in second- and third-fill French oak (no new wood) for a little over a year. It clocks in at 14.2% listed alc, which seems just right for down-the-middle 2012. Sean now has multiple vintages under his belt working with rocks fruit. Recall that he is the consulting winemaker for Proper Syrah. This is also his fourth vintage working with SJR fruit, and he has his own vineyard in the rocks that will be coming online in the next few years. The democratization of the rocks is one of the real burgeoning stories in Washington wine, and I for one couldn’t be happier about it.

Seattle Met Magazine (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].”

In addition to his Seattle Met review, Sean will eventually be reviewing this wine for Wine Enthusiast. In much the same way I used to (mostly successfully) try to translate Paul Gregutt’s blog writeups into future Enthusiast scores, I think we can dust off the same old crystal ball and use it here. Based on Sean’s verbiage, and this wine’s spot on the Met list, I’d range out the future score at 93-96pts, and my best guess is 94pts. Of course, by the time that Enthusiast review is published, this wine may not still be around, so let’s not take any chances.  First come first served up to 24 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.


2011 Andrew Will Champoux Vineyard

October 28, 2014

Hello friends. When the back-to-back frigid vintages of 2010 and 2011 arrived in Washington, there were only a handful of Washington vintners who had enough years of winemaking experience to have seen truly cool vintages before. That comfort level has been readily apparent tasting Chris Camarda’s wines over the past two years. It’s clear that he took what the vintages gave him and didn’t try to force over-ripeness on vintages that wanted to be anything but ripe. Instead, he has crafted sleek, elegant beauties, wines likely to have immortal aging curves.

Normally this is the time of year when we send our Champoux-themed offer for Andrew Will, including both Sorella and Champoux. Slight change this year, as the winery has decided to shift to a spring release for Sorella. Perhaps that’s for the best, as it allows us to give the Champoux bottling the attention it richly deserves:

The blend here is 54% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, from Champoux vines averaging 31 years of age. It sees about two years in barrel, all French, 35% new, and it begins with an honest Champoux nose, that unique combination of blackcurrant and graphite, with deep dark soil notes to boot. The palate shows off a terrific bridge wine between old- and new-world styles, with a real sense of earthiness and brightness. The structure here is outrageous: both vibrant acidity and a finish full of toothsome tannins, redolent of black tea and suggesting a long aging curve ahead. Anyone who has tasted Andrew Will wines from other cool vintages (1999 comes to mind) will know that a wine like this has an easy 20-year aging curve.

The 2011 Champoux already has a few positive reviews, including one from Sean Sullivan in Wine Enthusiast. We’re all getting used to moving from Sean’s old five-star review system for Washington Wine Report to a 100pt scale for Wine Enthusiast. As far as calibration goes, I think it’s safe to say that – when it comes to scores – Sean is going to be more like, say, Stephen Tanzer or Allen Meadows than, say, Jay Miller. In other words, we’re going to have to apply a Sullivan curve.

To wit, of the 452 Washington reviews Sean has published in his nascent Wine Enthusiast gig, only two wines have received stronger reviews than his 93pt review for this wine. Both of those have been 94s, one for Andrew Will’s 2011 Sorella (see you in the springtime!) and one for Maison Bleue’s 2011 La Montagnette Grenache. All that to say: Sean’s review below is a strong one indeed.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

Please limit order requests to 24 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. 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.


Seven for Thanksgiving

October 27, 2014

Hello friends. It’s that time of year again; time for our Greatest Holiday of the Year offer (note: per the request of several of our shipping list members, we’re blasting this out a few weeks earlier than normal, in hopes that these wines can make it into your respective homes in time for said Greatest Holiday):

Oh Thanksgiving: take one part solemn occasion to step back with friends and family and give thanks for all we hold dear, one part excuse to drink heavily in the company of loved ones; add a dash of 3am Black Friday shopping; add a pinch of salt and a half cup of heavy whipping cream; stir.

Our uniquely American paean to gluttony, Thanksgiving is, indeed, The Greatest Holiday of the Year. I spend about as much time choosing wines for the Thanksgiving table as film-stars spend choosing outfits for the red carpet. The hemming and hawing, the emotional outbursts, the prima donna behavior: it’s all there.

But what could be more fun?!

Generally, wines for Thanksgiving should display the following characteristics:

1. Low alcohol.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You want to be buzzed enough that Uncle Bruce’s jokes are funny, but you don’t want to be passed out before the cranberry sauce slithers out of the can.

2. High acid.
Have you seen the horrors of the Thanksgiving table? Turkey dark meat next to green bean casserole; corn-bread-sausage stuffing next to sweet potato-marshmallow casserole; Red Hot Jello “Salad” (an optimistic term if ever there was one) next to mashed potatoes. It’s almost enough to make a trained wine professional turn to beer. Or whiskey. But no! Said trained wine professional will then remember that the hallmark of a versatile wine is acidity, and if high versatility is needed on Thanksgiving, then high acid is needed on Thanksgiving, enough acid to cleanse that battered palate right out and prepare it for the next round of culinary abominations.

3. Moderate price.
Thanksgiving is, statistically speaking of course, the most likely day of the year to host someone who will drop an ice cube (or two) into their wine, someone who will mix their wine with Sprite, and/or someone who will mix their red and white to make “moonshine rosé.” This is not the day to bust out the Grand Cru Burgundy; this is the day to seek out values.

Given all that, here is this year’s mix of Thanksgiving wines. Open these on that magical fourth Thursday, and you’ll end up with as much Thanksreceiving as Thanksgiving, amirite?

2013 Ameztoi Txakolina Txakoli

Many of you are familiar with Rubentis, the rosé version of Ameztoi’s Txakolina. This is its more traditional white-wine cousin, made almost entirely with Hondaribi Zuri. Like the Rubentis, this is bottled with some residual CO2, which lends the wine its signature semi-sparkle. To date, we’ve only sold this through the extras shelf in the warehouse, and I think Pat and Matt and I have ended up buying most of those bottles. 2013 just seems to be an outrageously good year for Txakolina, and our team can’t get enough of this stuff. Racy and nervy, saline and mineral, this is a perfect wine to kick off a long day of drinking.

Of course the geeks from Tanzer’s IWC managed to publish a review of this: International Wine Cellar (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

2012 Domaine Bruno Cormerais Muscadet Chambaudiere

Remember earlier this year when we did an offer based entirely on wines from Thomas Calder Selections? He’s an export agent (see this Wine Spectator article for a great primer on Calder’s role) who has an uncanny ability to find well-priced, terroir-expressive, low-impact wines that outperform their respective tariffs and always turn up more frequently in restaurants than at retail. No surprise then, that when I went looking for a Muscadet to include in this offer (I have a tendency to guzzle Muscadet on Thanksgiving from the moment the clock strikes noon, and yes, sometimes even a little before), it was a Calder Selection that rose to the top of the heap.

This is Bruno Cormerais’ entry-level Melon de Bourgogne, and it has everything I love about this category: nervy intensity, a sturdy mineral-acid spine (think chalk and lemon), fruit as a bit player, an alluring leesiness, and a resolute drinkability. I know lots of folks are playing with longer aging for Muscadet, or more expensive oak elevage, but for me, this is a category beautiful for its simplicity, its neutrality. It’s a blank canvas that is painted by the colors of your meal, perfect for a day like Thanksgiving.

2013 J.K. Carriere “Glass” White Pinot Noir (Rose)

We’ve offered the 2011 and 2012 vintages of this intriguing Oregon rosé, but both times at $23.99 ($21.99 TPU). Trade folks tend to get a little jittery when summer turns to autumn and they’re still sitting on mountains of rosé, so we get offered a number of good deals on the pink stuff this time of year. In this instance, we took the entire remaining parcel of Jim Prosser’s lovely wine in order to secure the best possible tariff.

Jim starts out with single-vineyard Pinot from the 30+-year-old vines of Temperance Hill Vineyard. He whole-cluster presses it, ferments to dryness with wild yeasts, and tosses it into neutral French barrels. Then it gets weird. He adds dead Chardonnay lees into those barrels, which has two effects: it strips color (making the wine an even paler pink), and it adds an earthy broadness to the mid-palate. According to Jim, these are techniques that were used in fin-de-siècle Champagne. Well, if it’s good enough for dead Champenois, it’s good enough for us! The result is wild: a wine that looks like rosé but acts more like a still Blanc de Noirs Champagne, with leesy bready notes paired with strawberry and peach fruit. It puts supple flesh on a sturdy acid spine and rolls into a mouthwatering, minerally finish.

2013 Elemental Cellars Passe-Tout-Grains

Domestic Gamay Noir is rare to begin with, and most of it is crap. Too harsh? Maybe it would be kinder to say that most of it lacks varietal typicity. But a tasting of Elemental’s Passe-Tout-Grains (an homage to the Burgundian word for blends of Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir) back in September was a head-turner, and at that moment, I penciled this one in for our Thanksgiving offer. We’ve offered one Elemental wine in the past, their 2009 Auxerrois way back in mid-2011. I think it’s safe to say that this winery (a personal side label for the folks who make Witness Tree wine) focuses on non-mainstream wines.

This one is a 70/30 blend of Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir. The entire production is a mere 49 cases, and only a handful were sent from Oregon up to Washington. This nails Gamay character, with its ethereal mix of bright red fruits and dark minerals and exotic spice. The Pinot fruit adds some good Oregon black cherry flesh to the proceedings, but ultimately this is a mouthwatering vin de soif, clocking in at 12.5% listed alc and humming across the palate like a spark on a live wire.

2010 Chateau Thivin Cote de Brouilly

For what it’s worth, I may well have more bottles of this vintage of this wine in my personal cellar than any other. Cote de Brouilly is one of ten “Cru” sub-regions in Beaujolais, and it’s a tiny Cru encompassing the slopes of Mont Brouilly. More specifically, here is where Thivin is located, on the southwestern slope of the mountain, a slope with a 48% grade (note: here is what 50 year old Gamay Noir vines on a 48% slope look like).

Kermit Lynch, who has been importing Thivin since 1979, describes the wine as “…a country squire who is not afraid to get his boots muddy. Handsome, virile, earthy, and an aristocrat.” Well said. For me, Thivin represents an unparalleled translation of earth into wine, an ethereal mix of volcanic minerals and the brightest red fruits. We offered the 2011 vintage back in 2013, and somehow through a stroke of serious luck, our importer in town has ended up with the (better, and earlier) 2010 vintage, with another 18 months in bottle, and at a lower tariff.

2012 Ross Andrew Meadow Pinot Noir

It has been really difficult to hunt down good domestic Pinot Noir at a $15 price point. We’ve had some success with John Albin’s Lorelle Pinot, and otherwise it has mostly been crickets. But man oh man, does Ross’ new bottling cut through the clutter. A pan-Willamette Valley blend aged for a year entirely in French oak (20% new), this clocks in at a nervy 12% listed alc. It presents a swirling mass of blackberry and rhubarb fruit, loamy earth, fresh thyme, and barky birch-beer notes. The mix of briskness and palate weight is spot on here, and the insistent earthiness is unexpected at this price point. A total live wire, this possesses all the versatility we need for the turkey table. Ross has proved he can produce incredible bang-for-the-buck Cabernet with his Glaze label; how thrilling to see him apply the same principles to Oregon Pinot.

2010 Maison Joseph Drouhin Rully Rouge

Originally offered back in April, and deserving of a reoffer because of what a perfect Thanksgiving wine this is. From a family with deep connections to the PacNW comes this Pinot Noir from Rully, at the gate of the Cote d’Or. Many of the soils are similar to the fancier neighbors to the north, but the pricing is quite different. 2010 was a glorious, crystalline vintage across Burgundy, yielding Pinots ethereal, appetizing, and characterful in turn. That’s certainly true of this little beauty, with its precise, expressive aromatics of black cherry, silty minerals, and star anise. The nose evokes fruit and spice and soil in turn (the influence of new wood – just 10% here – is within a rounding error of zero). The palate contains a core of pure cherry fruit, framed by insistent citrusy acids and earthen/mineral bass notes. A marvel of verve and nervy energy, this rolls into a finish redolent of cherry-pit bitters, eagerly inviting the next sip.

Please limit order requests to 42 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines that aren’t already in the warehouse should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


2012 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon H3

October 23, 2014

Hello friends. I’ll admit: I did not envision a future where Full Pull would feature a wine from Columbia Crest. Not that the wines are bad; in fact they’re quite remarkable values. As a brand ambassador for Washington, it’s hard to imagine much better. It’s just that they’re readily available at most supermarkets, and I don’t think you need a service like Full Pull to buy grocery store wines.

However…

Two forces have combined to flip the script and have me hitting send on a Thursday offer for Crest. The first is that – as part of my Destination Wineries article for Seattle Magazine – I got to visit the outrageous production facility in Paterson, the scale of which is hard to fathom without seeing it live. Beyond the connection that any visit to a friendly winery cultivates, I’m even fonder of the folks at Crest, because they were extremely helpful when my car (which also happened to be carrying my wife and our at-the-time four-month-old baby) broke down in their parking lot.

Okay, so my stance was already softened by that episode. And then, when yesterday’s Wine Spectator Insider was released, I immediately starting getting inquiries about a high-scoring, low-priced wine, from none other than Columbia Crest:

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

This is the second time this year that we’ll play the “is this going to end up in Spectator’s year-end Top 100” game. The first was Mark Ryan’s 2012 Board Track Racer “The Chief,” which I pegged at 60/40 odds to make the list. Well, let me just say that I’m considerably more confident about this one. I’d put the odds at 95% that this ends up on the list.

The data just doesn’t lie. To wit, every 92pt wine from the northwest that has made Spectator’s Top 100 in the years covered by our analysis (2007-2013) is more expensive ($22-$48) *and* less available (1519-5800 cases, compared to a staggering 162,000 cases for the 2012 H3 Cab). Another comparable data point is Crest’s 2007 H3 Merlot, which landed on the 2010 Top 100 list. Its price was the same ($15), but its review was weaker (91pts) and its availability was much weaker (30,000 cases).

This is the kind of score/price/availability combo that doesn’t just earn a spot on the Top 100 list; it earns a high spot. Considering how recently Crest earned the #1 spot on the list (in 2009, for their 2005 Cabernet Reserve), I don’t think the top spot is in play. But this is yet another fine achievement from a winery that manages to coax impressive quality out of mind-bogglingly high production numbers. They’re pulling from a stellar vintage, and from arguably the best part of Washington for Cabernet (H3 stands for Horse Heaven Hills), and they’re knocking it out of the park. First come first served with no upper limit, 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.


Three from Kerloo

October 22, 2014

Warehouse Design UPDATE: One of the surprises we were able to pull off for our 5th Anniversary celebration was the completion of a large art installation on our south wall. I’m elated at how it turned out, and it was the talk of the party, so I want to briefly thank the folks involved and include links to their various ventures. If anyone is interested in large- or smaller-scale projects, I’d be happy to make connections to any of these folks.

First, thanks to once-upon-a-time Full Pull contract employee and longtime Full Pull muse Emily Resling. Emily connected me to Kathleen Warren of Urban ArtWorks, who became the driving force behind the project. Kathleen then collaborated with Jon Gentry of goCstudio to come up with the design, and they began by charring a series of cedar planks in the Japanese shou-sugi-ban style. Those planks were then mounted to our wall by Mike Stuntz and his team at Sparrow Woodworks. The left-hand wall is our bar-back, with plenty of room to display whatever bottles are currently striking our fancy. For the right-hand wall, Kathleen and Jon routed a mesmerizing grapevine root system using a series of different-sized routers. Here are the results (pic 1, pic 2, pic 3, pic 4).
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Hello friends. And speaking of our warehouse, I’m pleased to announce that we’re about to gain a winery neighbor, none other than Ryan Crane of Kerloo Cellars. I’ve been peeking in his space regularly over the past few weeks. It looks beautiful in there, and it also looks like they’re getting close to being open for business.

I’m thrilled to have Ryan as a neighbor, because we have a long history together. A Kerloo wine was the third ever Full Pull offering, way back on October 9, 2009. It was the first Syrah we ever offered. It was also Ryan’s first vintage (2007), and it has been a pleasure watching our ventures grow in tandem. As good as Ryan’s wines were back in 2009, they have only gotten better in the intervening years. And they haven’t gotten any easier to find. He has kept his production levels ruthlessly low, such that you can set an annual clock to Kerloo’s rhythm: released in autumn, sold out by year’s end. Given the simmering acclaim of the 2012 vintage in Washington, these may go even faster than that.

2012 Kerloo Cellars Syrah Les Collines Vineyard

This is the wine that started it all. It was the 2007 vintage of this wine that we offered back in October 2009. We cracked a bottle of that 07 to celebrate the five year anniversary, and it was drinking beautifully. Ryan has always known how to coax the best out of this Walla Walla Valley site. He does a full 50% whole-cluster fermentation (stems and all), which tends to elevate the wild character already inherent in the site. This sees almost no new wood (14%), and it clocks in at a reasonable 13.9% listed alc. The aromatics are immediately alluring: violet and pine nut, blueberry and woodsy mushroom. On the palate, this is lithe, bright, with mouthwatering acidity and a terrific wild mountain fruit character. It has length to spare, and a real sense of autumnal charm. With just 161 cases produced, this won’t be around for long.

2012 Kerloo Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley

Ryan makes otherworldly Syrahs from the Walla Walla Valley. In my opinion, it’s those Syrahs (the Les Collines bottling and this WWV bottling) that have burnished Kerloo’s reputation. This vintage combines two terrific valley Syrah sites. The first (53%) is Va Piano Estate (Va Piano Winery is where Ryan cut his teeth in the industry, so he knows his way around this fruit). The second (45%) is Blue Mountain Vineyard. BMV is the Tranche estate vineyard, located here, formerly the estate site of Nicholas Cole Cellars. What about the remaining 2%, you ask? That would be Viognier from Les Collines, cofermented. Ryan threw in whole clusters (stems and all) for a borderline-insane 75% of the grapes, and this matches the LC Syrah in listed alc (13.9%), new French oak (14%), and production level (161 cases; tiny).

Inky black-purple in the glass, this comes soaring out of the gate with orange blossom and violet topnotes (thank you Viognier), deep marionberry, and mouthwatering steak au poivre. It’s a palate-coater, silkily seductive with its minerals and florals married to rich blue-purple fruit. Perfumed, insistently pretty, and downright delicious.

2012 Kerloo Cellars Grenache Upland Vineyard

To the best of my knowledge, this has heretofore been a club wine for Kerloo, so I’m thrilled that we have access to Ryan’s single vineyard Grenache from a superstar Grenache vineyard (if you’re thinking Upland Grenache sounds familiar, it is also the source of the much-loved La Montagnette Grenache from Maison Bleue). Ryan includes 35% stems and does his Grenache entirely in neutral barrel. I found the nose extremely evocative, openly pretty with its bright boysenberry fruit lifted by pollen dustings and minty topnotes and complicated by hot-rock minerality. Fresh, lithe, and velvety on its 13.8%-alc frame, this follows an easy glide path across the palate, inviting the next sip. Just 161 cases produced (noticing a theme yet?), and given the fact that this hasn’t before been available for public consumption, I suspect it will disappear quickly.

Please limit order requests to 24 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.


Three Pinots from Oregon

October 20, 2014

Hello friends. I recently walked into the grocery store and was greeted with the dirtygood aroma of wild mushrooms. Following my nose to the produce section, I found a riot of fungus: piles of golden chanterelles, sunset-orange lobster mushrooms, outrageously expensive Matsutakes.

Is there anything more evocative of autumn than peak mushroom season? I stood there transfixed by thoughts of cleaning and slicing armloads of shrooms, throwing them into a smoldering pot with knobs of butter and garlic and fresh parsley, maybe deglazing the pan with a little amontillado sherry if I was feeling frisky, and then opening bottle after bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir.

For me, autumn isn’t just peak mushroom season; it’s peak Pinot season. Autumn is, for me, the season of earthy meals, and Pinot is just the thing for pairings, with the right palate weight and right flavor profile to suit this time of year. Here, then, is a selection of recent highlights from a slew of Oregon Pinot tastings:

2013 Walter Scott Pinot Noir La Combe Verte

Walter Scott is a very buzzy Oregon producer whose wines are only now escaping the clutches of the winery mailing list and the state of Oregon. The husband and wife team of Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon have tons of industry experience, he on the winemaking/sales side (stints at St. Innocent, Patty Green, Evening Land), she on the restaurant/somm side. These are wines that are turning up more frequently in restaurants than at retail, and they have received nice press from exacting publications like Tanzer’s IWC and Burghound.

They began their winery in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the wines were distributed in Washington. I couldn’t nail the timing last year and only ended up with a few bottles for the personal stash (sorry).This year we’re getting in nice and early. La Combe Verte (named after Patty Green Cellars, where the winery got its start) was just released last month, and it is a blend of well-regarded Freedom Hill fruit (in the greater Willamette Valley) as well as three excellent Eola-Amity Hills sites (Bieze, Clos des Oiseaux, Eola Springs). It spent about a year in 30% new French oak and clocks in at 13.5% listed alc, and is honest to the warm 2013 vintage in Oregon, with plenty of rich flesh on its bones, a mix of ripe red cherry fruit and savory meat-brothy notes. The texture is supple, the overall wine a delicious sneak preview of the 2013 vintage. This offers fine depth, intensity, and complexity for the tag, and it’s not an easy wine to find at retail in Washington.

2012 Crowley Pinot Noir Entre Nous

For details on Tyson Crowley, check out our offer from back in springtime for his 2012 Willamette Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I’ll keep things shorter here, but Tyson is another guy who doesn’t let very much wine slip out of Oregon. He’s become a list-member favorite over the years, I suspect because his wines always offer outstanding class for their price points.

This is the third vintage of Entre Nous we’ve offered (we offered the 09 and 10, and then I missed out on 2011, since this is blink-and-you’ve-missed-it wine), distinct from the Willamette Valley bottling in a few ways: first, because it is an autumn release instead of spring, and so gets an additional 3-4 months in barrel; and second, because it is Crowley’s “flagship blend, comprised exclusively of Pommard and Wadenswil clone Pinot noir from our best vineyard sites. Each barrel is hand selected resulting in a quintessential Oregon Pinot noir with extreme purity and depth of character.” That about sums it up.

In 2012, it is predominantly (70%) Four Winds Vineyard fruit, a Coast Range site planted in 1993, rounded out with Chehalem Mountains AVA fruit from Laurel Hood Vineyard. It spent 19 months in 20% new oak, and it blasts out of the glass with aromas of pomegranate and cranberry fruit, brambles, floral topnotes, and some great Oregon forest floor bass notes. The texture is silky and polished, with a plump mid-palate and a rich, lingering finish. The 2012s from Oregon don’t reveal their wares as quickly as the 2013s, I think. This has a core of minerality and structure that is going to take some time to fully unfurl. For those of us with patience (or with a decanter), there are glories ahead.

2012 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

This was poured at our fifth anniversary shindig, and we included it in the post-anniversary offer, but I wanted to call it out one more time. Eyrie is a special winery, both in Oregon generally where it has some of the richest history in the Willamette Valley, and for Full Pull specifically, where it was our first Oregon wine offered and one of our list members’ favorite Oregon wineries. Jason Lett is doing a remarkable job both honoring his late father’s legacy and stamping his own indelible mark on Eyrie wines.

This remains predominantly (93%) Eyrie estate fruit, but it does include small amounts of three outside sources (hence the WV label). Russ Margach of Eyrie, who was kind enough to come up from Oregon and pour at our event, has this to say: “In 2012 there are small amounts of three outside sources included, one in Dundee right next to our Sisters Vineyard, another from Yamhill Carlton that Jason used to manage before he was our winemaker, and one in the Eola-Amity Hills that Jason calls a twin of our Eyrie Vineyard in terms of height and direction, organic farmed, non-irrigated, own rooted plants, same clonal material, old vines, etc. The wine is still, however, predominantly our own estate fruit.”

It clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and is so insistently earthy and minerally that it’s hard not to toss the word Burgundian around. The black cherry and sour cherry fruit is there, but in the role of supporting actor. This lingers with a mouthwatering salinity for what feels like forever. It’s a classic Oregon Pinot from a classic vintage, and unsurprisingly, it already has its first strong review:

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

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, 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.


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