Full Pull Betz

September 13, 2016

Hello friends. Autumn release season is my favorite time of the year for Washington wine. Many wineries save the biggest of their big guns for this time, and it’s all we can do to keep our heads above water and field compelling offer after compelling offer from some of the finest wineries in the state.

And speaking of the finest wineries in the state, let’s kick things off with a doozy: an extremely limited set of Rhone releases from Betz Family Winery. The less said the better, given our quantities, so I’ll repeat what I have said before: Bob Betz’s face would doubtless be chiseled on a Mt. Rushmore of Washington winemakers. He is the only Master of Wine making wine in Washington, having achieved that honor back in 1998. After a 28-year career at Chateau Ste Michelle he launched his eponymous winery in 1997, crushing 150 cases worth of wine in the Woodinville warehouse district.

Since then, production has grown to 3500 cases total, but acclaim has grown more quickly than that, forcing the family to close their mailing list in 2008 and establishing them as one of Washington’s cult wineries. Steve and Bridgit Griessel came on board as managing owners in 2011, and the winery is open to its list members on just two weekends each year: once in the spring, for the release of its Bordeaux portfolio, and once in the fall, for the release of these Rhone-styled wines (that fall release just took place this past weekend).

2014 Betz Family Winery Besoleil
Bob’s ode to Chateauneuf, Besoleil blends 33% Grenache, 24% Counoise, 20% Syrah, 17% Cinsault, and 6% Mourvedre. This mouth-coating 2014, done almost entirely in concrete, hits the holy trinity of Rhone blends – berry and rock and garrigue – and offers a particularly attractive sense of dustiness. Here is what Bob Betz has to say about this vintage, first via video, and here via text:

[TEXT WITHHELD].

2014 Betz Family Winery Syrah La Cote Rousse
Here Bob blends four different Syrah clones (Phelps, 99, 174, 383), all from two vineyards on Red Mountain: Ciel du Cheval and Ranch at the End of the Road. It pours into the glass inky black-purple and offers wonderful earthy-smoky soil tones to go with the darkest of fruits and robust/toothsome tannins. Here is what Bob Betz has to say about this Rousse, first via video, and here via text:

[TEXT WITHHELD].

This one already has a blockbuster review from Jeb Dunnuck on the books as well. Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 96pts.”

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles of Besoleil and 2 bottles of Rousse, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Quilceda Creek

September 13, 2016

Hello friends. The fine folks at Quilceda Creek have offered us a last-call opportunity on one of our most popular wines of 2015:

2013 Quilceda Creek Vintners CVR

Originally offered December 9, 2015. Excerpts from the original:

The reason today’s offer represents a milestone is that the wine comes from the most decorated winery in Washington history. When I wrote up the initial goals for Full Pull back in the spring of 2009, one of those goals was to someday offer a wine from this particular winery. It felt like a dream back then. More than six years later, it is finally a reality.

The story of Quilceda Creek begins with the story of Andre Tchelistcheff. By the time Tchelistcheff arrived in the Napa Valley in 1938 (to take the winemaking job at George de Latour’s Beaulieu Vineyards), he had already seen an eventful 37 years. Born in 1901 to a father who was the Chief Justice of the Russian Imperial Court, Tchelistcheff’s life changed dramatically with the Russian Revolution of 1917, after which he fought for three years in Russia’s Civil War. He was wounded on the battlefield, eventually recovered and rejoined his family, and then fled with them to Yugoslavia, and then onto Czechoslovakia and finally France, where he took up the study of oenology at the Institut National Agronomique.

That’s where George de Latour found Tchelistcheff, and their meeting led to a 35-year partnership. It’s difficult to overstate Tchelistcheff’s impact on American winemaking. A smattering of the techniques he helped to introduce: Cold fermentation. Malolactic conversion. Frost protection in vineyards. Ageing wine in small oak barrels. Basically, if there’s a winemaking technique that modern vintners take for granted, chances are Tchelistcheff helped to introduce it in the United States.

His fingerprints are all over California wine, and by the 1960s, he was doing consulting work in the Pacific Northwest as well. When Ste Michelle launched in 1967, it was under Tchelistcheff’s guidance (here is a label from the early days). He also had a nephew, living north of Seattle, and he encouraged his relative to try his hand at Cabernet Sauvignon. That nephew was Alex Golitzin, who proceeded to produce about one barrel per year of Cabernet from 1974 through 1978. The results were encouraging enough that, in 1979, Golitzin launched Quilceda Creek Vintners as a commercial winery, producing 150 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Since then, the production has increased, but the winery’s focus on Cabernet Sauvignon has never waned, even as the next generation (Alex’s son Paul Golitzin) has taken over as Director of Winemaking. The Golitzins’ intense focus on quality has yielded considerable rewards. Perfect 100pt reviews from Wine Advocate for the 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007 vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon. A recent honor from Wine Spectator, as the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon landed at the #2 spot in that publication’s 2015 Top 100 list.

In addition to the flagship Cabernet, Quilceda Creek also produces a single-vineyard wine from their 2001-planted estate Galitzine Vineyard on Red Mountain and a Merlot-based Bordeaux Blend called Palengat that includes a large dose of fruit from their estate Palengat Vineyard (2006-planted) in the Horse Heaven Hills.

And then there’s CVR. CVR has become hugely popular among Washington wine lovers generally (and lovers of Quilceda Creek specifically), because it is a wine that brings plenty of youthful pleasure while we wait for the flagship Quilceda wines to come into their own in the cellar. Here’s how Paul Golitzin describes the wine: [TEXT WITHHELD].

And here is Jeb Dunnuck’s barrel review from Wine Advocate: “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].”

Of course, because this is Quilceda Creek, the barrels that wind up in CVR are outrageously good. For one thing, those barrels are 100% classy new French oak. Furthermore, the vineyards are as you’d expect them to be: Champoux, Galitzine, Palengat, Tapteil, Wallula. For those of us stuck on Quilceda’s waiting list (their main mailing list has been closed for years now), or those just curious about the Golitzin’s house style, CVR represents an unparalleled opportunity.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Temp

September 13, 2016

Hello friends. Today we have the inauguration of a new collaborative project for Full Pull. I’ve been intrigued in recent years by the development of pop-up restaurants. I like how ephemeral they are, and also how experimental. If the experiment fails, oh well, onto the next pop-up. And if it succeeds, maybe it gets its own permanent space, a chance to thrive full-time.

Today’s offer is something like that. Think of it as our first pop-up wine:

2014 Temporal Vintners Tempranillo
I thought about trying to keep our winemaking partner in this venture a secret, but what’s the point? You all are smart enough to know that if we’re partnering with a winemaker to make Washington Tempranillo, there’s only one person it could be.

So yeah, in March, Javier Alfonso and I began to talk about Tempranillo. He had some 2014 juice, all single-vineyard (Dineen, in Yakima Valley), all Tinta del Pais clone (the clone used predominantely in Ribera del Duero). In our first e-mail exchange, Javier said that “this clone and site produces Ribera del Duero styled wine with a high tannin content contributing structure and length,” and asked if I’d be interested in tasting the wine. You can guess what my answer was.

On April 18, I tasted the wine, was blown away, and immediately worked to secure the entire lot for our list. It was bottled August 10, delivered August 11, and now offered September 9. About six months from concept to product. Six months for a pop-up wine.

A good portion of those six months was spent developing the name and packaging. Here’s what the label looks like. And here’s a bottle shot (label design credit goes to outstanding designer and rabid Seattle Sounders supporter Lindell Serrin).

“TEMP” came to my mind right away with this project. It’s Tempranillo of course. But Javier’s first e-mail also mentioned that this is likely a “temporary” opportunity (as in: one or maybe two vintages). And “temporal” is a fantastic word (yes, I have opinions about words), with two major meanings: first, of or relating to time. And second, relating to our worldly affairs.

To condense things, the basic concept behind this wine is: we only have so much time on this earth, so we might as well enjoy it. And this bottle can help!

The juice was raised in a mix of neutral and twice-filled barrels. It clocks in at 14.8% alc and begins with an attractive nose of dusty, leafy black fruit. Black plum and black cherry; tobacco leaf and dusty soil. A just right mix of earth and leaf and fruit. And then it’s the texture of this wine that really excites me. This is not the soft side of Tempranillo. This Tinta del Pais clone is burly, muscular, a real powerhouse, with serious tannic scaffolding. Tempranillo with Cabernet structure. But those tannins aren’t mean or aggro; they’re polished, fine-grained, offering perfect texture to complement all sorts of meals as we move into autumn and winter. Tempranillo is the wine for braising weather: for days indoors slow-cooking a tough piece of protein into something supple and delicious. Pot roasts and short ribs and oxtails. Big messes of root veggies and potatoes.

As I mentioned, this may be a one-off pop-up, or it may find a permanent home and have future vintages. Javier has left the door open, and I’m certainly enamored of this collaboration. So if our list supports the wine as I think y’all will, maybe this is just the beginning. I should also note: this will begin as a Full Pull exclusive, and then we’ll sell whatever remains out into the broad market (mostly restaurant, maybe a little retail, maybe even a little out-of-state distribution).

Because it’s such a great option for autumn and winter weddings and parties, let’s open it up: first come first served up to 120 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Franc

September 13, 2016

Hello friends. Today we celebrate the one-year anniversary of our sublime, earthy 2013 Full Pull & Friends Cabernet Franc from Bacchus Vineyard. We were not able to source this juice in 2014 nor in 2015, so it will be years before we see another vintage. If ever.

2013 Full Pull & Friends Cabernet Franc Bacchus Vyd (FPF-14)

Originally offered in September 2015. Excerpts from the original:

This bottling comes from a partner winery we’ve worked with on many occasions. It’s an outstanding winery, with a wonderful, skilled winemaker at the helm. And then there’s the vineyard. The majority of single-vineyard Francs in Washington seem to come from Weinbau Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope, and they can be outstanding. It’s fascinating, however, to taste terroir-expressive versions from other vineyards as well (Tranche’s Franc from Blue Mountain Vineyard, for example, has been extremely well-received by our list members). Our version today comes entirely from Bacchus Vineyard, a site probably best known for providing the backbone to some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignons in the state (Abeja Reserve comes to mind).

But it’s also a stellar site for Franc. The Franc block was planted in 1997 on sandy/silty loam with pockets of clay. Derek Way (who used to manage the block before moving to China) mentioned that he enjoys working with winemakers who want Cab Franc to taste like Cab Franc: “If we choose certain rows, and intentionally leave a certain crop load and fruit exposure, we can maintain those characteristic intrinsic to Cab Franc.”

Without question, we want our Cab Franc to taste like Cab Franc. What does that mean in Washington? Well, we occupy a lovely middle ground. We’re not the cool Loire Valley, so we’re not going to produce super-vegetal, 12.2%-alc Chinon. But on the flip side, we’re also not going to let Franc get so ripe that it expresses itself only as a half-assed version of Cabernet Sauvignon. That middle ground is fascinating, because it can lead to aromas and flavors that are both ripe and green. That’s what we see with our version today. I’m thinking of poblano pepper. Brambles. Spicy greens like arugula or watercress. Really delicious flavors that are completely unique to Franc.

For this vintage, we used one new barrel and one neutral barrel, and the wine clocks in at 14.7% listed alc. It really does feel like a Goldilocks version of Franc, with dark rich fruits, dark flowers like violets, and plenty of spicy greens. The fruit and earth elements are beautifully balanced, and there is a real insistent earthiness that belies the warm vintage. The mouthfeel is generous and supple, the signature classiness of this particular winemaker. Tannins are fine-grained, ripe and delicious, integrating nicely and offering a finishing lick of espresso. Because of Franc’s unique flavors, it pairs with all sorts of wonderful autumn meals; everything from braised short ribs with mustard greens to a split pea soup studded with shredded ham hock.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Reoffer Trio

September 9, 2016

Hello friends. Reoffers today on a trio of wines that have been popular reorder targets for the past few months:

2014 Cadence Coda

Originally offered May 15, 2016. Excerpts from the original:

So, 2013 Cadence Coda. I loved it. You loved it. We all loved it. Released in May 2015. Sold out by December 2015. And that was with 1300 cases produced. Production for the 2014 Coda: 713 cases. Gulp. The issue, according to Ben, was low yields. They ended up with tiny little buckshot berries on Red Mountain, which means very little juice. It also means high skin-to-juice ratio, which translates to burly tannic structure in the finished wine.

Coda is an incredible value, year in and year out. Why? 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.

The blend in 2014 is 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, and 9% Petit Verdot, and it clocks in at 14.4% listed alc. The ’14 is much more reminiscent to me of the structured, serious 2012 than the more charming, approachable 2013. It kicks off with a glorious nose, all perfumed and exotic with its notes of star anise and juniper over dark blackcurrant and black plum fruit. The palate balances the richness of the vintage with Ben Smith’s deft hand and somehow still conveys textural elegance and earthy minerality, even in the warm year that wanted to be all fruit. But it’s the structure that really shines on the palate. “ROBUST tannic structure,” says my notes, and I tend to use all-caps sparingly. But truly, this is a muscular, powerful wine, without question cellar-worthy. The long, long finish is awash in black-tea tannins, a final grace note on a deeply impressive wine.

2012 Baer Arctos

Originally offered June 8, 2016, and we bought out the remaining handful of cases in Seattle, so it’s last-call time on this one. Excerpts from the original:

We’ve had a lot of really great deals lately. And today we have another one. Outstanding winery; one of their top wines; from a smashing vintage; with a great review. For a good primer on Baer, whose story is one of tragedy and renewal, I highly recommend Andy Perdue’s article from August in Great Northwest Wine.

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

All Baer wines are 100% from Stillwater Creek Vineyard. Arctos is their left-bank blend, and I believe it is the winery’s highest-priced wine at its normal $43 tag. The wine spent nearly two years in French oak (a mix of new and used) before bottling in summer 2014. It has now had another two years to mature in bottle. Listed alc is 14.5%, and this begins with a nose combining blackcurrant and black plum fruit with notes of dark mineral, spice (clove and anise), and smoky notes of grilled bread. It’s downright succulent wine, offering a supple silky attack and lovely plump mid-palate, all with a dark brooding core of fruit. English breakfast tea-tannins take over on the middle of this one and hold on through the long, potent finish.

I can see why Mr. Sullivan suggests waiting another five years to crack one of these. The brooding nature of the fruit, the prominence of the powerful tannins: both suggest a wine whose best years are ahead. Still, for those of us comfortable with chewy Cabernet or comfortable using a decanter, this is already balanced, classy, and well-proportioned. For list members whose usual buying ceiling is $20, I’d heartily suggest a splurge here, as those extra seven bucks get you a wine that drinks every bit like its $43 release price.

2013 Gramercy Cellars Syrah Lower East

Originally offered January 8, 2016 (our first offer of the new year), and since then, it received a sparkling review in Wine Enthusiast. Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Now then, excerpts from original offer: What makes this particular wine so exciting is that it’s the lowest-priced, most accessible Syrah I’ve ever seen from Gramercy. It’s a chance for those interested in Greg’s Syrahs to see what all the fuss is about, and it’s a chance for the Gramercy true believers to grab a wine that doesn’t need to be hoarded for special occasions.

I tasted this late in 2015 and was immediately seduced. Smoky bacon, briny Castelvetrano olive, brackish umami nori, brambly marionberries: this offered the kind of aromatic complexity and savory character I associate with the upper tier of the Gramercy lineup. So then I followed up with Brandon Moss (Gramercy’s wonderful Partner/Assistant Winemaker), to figure out where all this good fruit was coming from.

The answer: the 2013 combines the freshness and acidity of Minick and Upland Vineyard, sitting at 1300 ft in the Yakima Valley, with the funk and meatiness of the rocks at Stoney Vine and SJR Vineyards in Walla Walla. There’s also a smidge of Gramercy’s Estate Vineyard in the mix, finishing off a quintet of seriously excellent Syrah sources. Greg’s tasting note captures the palate beautifully: Raspberries, blackberry, plum, gravel and clove. Rocks funk and bacon, saline.  Some baking spice and tar. Medium to full bodied wine with medium plus acid and silky tannin. Very fresh.

Please order with no upper limits, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two (except Arctos, which is already in), at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Oregon

September 9, 2016

Hello friends. Three Oregon Pinot Noirs today, representing the best of our tastings over the past few months. Two are from the beloved (and rapidly dwindling) 2012 vintage; the third a single-vineyard Pinot from a producer whose only Pinots we’ve previously had access to have been more generic Willamette Valley bottlings.

2012 Scott Paul Pinot Noir “La Paulee”

La Paulee is the entry-level wine for the lovely Scott Paul Pinot Noir lineup, and it offers fine bang-for-the-buck at its $39 release price. Today, however, the winery is offering our list a pretty significant discount off release price, a discount that gets us lower than I’ve seen this wine priced in years, and lower by a few bucks than anything else I see nationally. Please note: this is a one-time offer for this pricing. Any reorder requests would likely need to be fulfilled at something closer to $39.

This 2012 comes from four outstanding vineyards: Maresh and Nysa in the Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge Vineyard in Ribbon Ridge, and Azana in the Chehalem Mountains. The fruit was native-yeast fermented, and then aged in older French oak barrels for 10 months. After bottling in August 2013, it has now had an additional three years of bottle age to soften and mature.

It’s worth noting that this vintage was made entirely by Kelley Fox when she was still at Scott Paul. I know we have many Kelley acolytes on the list, and with good reason: her Pinots always offer a visceral thrill, a sense of being very much living things in the glass. This begins with a dark aromatic profile: black cherry, threads of smoke, and lovely resinous forest floor notes, pine needles crunching underfoot. Oh, bottle age: there’s nothing like it for sanding down rough edges. This is a supple, seamless wine, with fleshy fruit, yes, but ultimately an earth-driven wine, very much in keeping with Kelley’s style. A lovely late-release ’12, from a vintage that continues to offer untold pleasures.

2012 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Belle Pente Vineyard
Vinous (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Brian O’Donnell launched Belle Pente in 1994 after many years of home-brewing and home-winemaking. It’s one of Oregon’s hidden gems, open only twice per year (Memorial Day, Thanksgiving) and producing a series of earthy, terroir-expressive Pinot Noirs. In my opinion, Belle Pente still does not receive a level of attention commensurate with the quality of wines Brian crafts. Probably because he’s as nice and unassuming as a winemaker gets, and just quietly goes about his business, making vintage after vintage of haunting, ethereal Pinot Noir.

Here is how Brian describes this wine: “[TEXT WITHHELD]e.”

The estate site for Belle Pente sits on marine sedimentary soils in Yamhill-Carlton, and this 2012 fruit (with yields of 2.2 tons/acre) was harvested in early October 2012, then aged for 18 months in a combo of 33% new French oak, 40% 1-2 year old, and 27% 3-5 year old barrels. It was bottled in June 2014 and has had a subsequent two-plus years to evolve in bottle. Listed alc is 13.8%, and this begins with a nose of black cherry and raspberry, kirsch, and earthy notes of fresh ground coffee and silty minerals. The palate possesses a gorgeous minerally core, shaded by rich black cherry and black plum fruit and continuing notes of black coffee. This still nurtures subtle finishing chew, a remnant of the powerful tannins of 2012, but much of that tannic structure has integrated beautifully, and this drinks very much like a wine about to enter its peak window. Right now it is perfectly poised, offering both power and elegance.

2013 Crowley Pinot Noir Gehrts Vineyard

We’ve offered Tyson Crowley’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir four times. His Entre Nous Pinot Noir another four times. But we haven’t had access to any of his single-vineyard Pinots. At least not until today. Prior to this month, I hadn’t even tasted any of them; I only knew of them via their sterling reputation, and by the fact that the tiny quantities produced rarely left the borders of the state of Oregon.

I loved all three single-vineyard Pinots I tasted, but none more so than Gehrts. And there’s extra poignancy here, because in 2014, leading Burgundy producer Louis Jadot purchased the vineyard (it literally shares a fence line with Domaine Drouhin Oregon; I suppose the French will follow the French), so 2013 is the last vintage where Tyson will be able to produce a single-vineyard bottling from this lovely site.

Gehrts was planted in 1999 on the red volcanic jory soils of the Dundee Hills, to a mix of Dijon-clone Pinot Noir vines. Here is how Tyson describes what happened in the vineyard in 2013: [TEXT WITHHELD].

Aged for 19 months in neutral French oak, this comes roaring up out of the glass with rose petals, red cherry fruit, and warm dusty soil notes. The rosewater tones were so beautiful that I wondered if, smelled blind, I might have called this as Nebbiolo instead of Pinot Noir. It is austerely fruited, with such a deeply mineral core, that it’s no wonder Burgundian powerhouse Jadot swooped in and purchased the site; it must have felt like home.

Please limit order requests to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Southern Hinterland of the Northern Rhone

September 9, 2016

Hello friends. Do you want the good news or the bad news first? (Doesn’t everyone always choose bad first?)

Okay, the bad news: our allocation of the 2014 vintage of Charles Helfenbein’s Brezeme is 25% lower than our allocation of his ’13, and max allocations of that ’13 ended up being I think just 2 or 3 bottles. Gulp.

The good news: to help mitigate the pain, Helfenbein’s Seattle importer offered us a similarly-sized stash of his Syrah from the opposite bank of the Rhone, in Saint-Julien-en-Saint-Alban. And because of some bureaucratic snafu, that SJeSA had to get the more generic Cotes-du-Rhone label, which means we can offer it for exactly the same tag as the Brezeme.

The wonderful Eric Texier (whose wines we have offered in the past) is the most prominent producer putting Brezeme and SJeSA in bottle. Think of him as the established player, and Charles Helfenbein as the young whippersnapper (a nice review from Eric Asimov in the New York Times back in 2013 helped on the buzz front). Helfenbein generally picks a few weeks after Texier, so his Syrahs are a bit riper, a bit more approachable in their youth.

As far as I can tell, up until this year, there was only one importer bringing in Helfenbein. They were New York based, and so the only places to purchase the wines were excellent shops like Chambers Street and Astor. For what it’s worth, when I’ve seen east coast parcels of these wines, I’ve always seen them at $24 or above, and usually closer to $28. Fortunately, we now have a direct-import partner bringing this wine straight to Seattle, which helps explain why our pricing today is so competitive.

2014 Charles Helfenbein Brezeme

Of course, I would argue that even at $28, this is undervalued wine. It’s only because nobody has heard of Brezeme, and because it still has the price-dampening Cotes du Rhone on the label, that this wine costs what it does. If Brezeme becomes its own AOC, I fully expect pricing to look more like Cornas soon after. But that’s another story for another day. Today we can glory in funky Northern Rhone Syrah for twenty bucks.

Brezeme is kind of the little Rhone appellation that could. As you can see on this lovely hand-drawn Rhone map, Brezeme takes up the northwest quadrant of the corner formed by the intersection of the Rhone and Drome rivers. That basically makes Brezeme the southern hinterland of the Northern Rhone.

The vaaaaaaast majority of wines labeled Cotes du Rhone come from the Southern Rhone, and are predominantly Grenache. Brezeme CdR is in the Northern Rhone, and so this bottle is 100% Syrah. And in fact, I suspect at some point in the next decade or two, Brezeme will drop the CdR and will just become Brezeme AOC (reading a series of French websites garble-translated through Google Translate leads me to believe this, so take that with a grain of salt).

Grown on limestone soils and raised in big 400-liter oak casks (mostly neutral, some new) for 18 months, this offers a wonderful Syrah nose, terrifically meaty with its notes of bacon fat and charcuterie. There are threads of smoke and brine in supporting roles, and all of those savory goodies swirl around a core of blackberry fruit. This is the plumper, the fuller-bodied of the two Syrahs, offering real generosity and succulence. The finish is all salty umami goodness, like a dollop of miso paste to invite the next sip or next bite of food.

2013 Charles Helfenbein Cotes du Rhone

Brezeme is on the eastern bank of the Rhone, and Saint-Julien-en-Saint-Alban is directly across the river on the west bank (location here). Despite the proximity as the crow flies, the soil types are completely different: limestone in Brezeme, granite in SJeSA.

Otherwise, the two Syrahs are treated pretty much identically, so the differences are all related to terroir and to vintage. Both wines are savory/funky in different ways. If the Brezeme is predominantly about meat, this one is predominantly about mineral and about brackish notes of saltwater and nori, beautifully complementing fruit tones of huckleberry and floral tones of violet. This offers real inner-mouth perfume, and a wonderful kick of cracked black pepper spice. Texturally, this is a marvel of density without a shred of excess weight. It’s perfectly proportioned, palate-staining, northern Rhone Syrah, seemingly carved out of one of the slabs of granite on this bank of the Rhone. What a wonderful wine to complement the Brezeme, and what an impressive pair of wines to display Helfenbein’s skill with Syrah.

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 a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.