Full Pull Rhone Syrah Deal

October 22, 2016

Hello friends. In what has become something of a holiday-season tradition, we’ve again been offered an excellent (albeit short-term) tariff on a reference-point Southern Rhone Syrah. Its release price of $16 has held steady (or decreased) for the past eight years, making it a better and better value with each passing year. But let’s aim for something a little lower than that $16 release price:

2015 Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone

Normally we offer this a little later in the year, but the November 15 issue of Wine Spectator is going to include the following review, and I don’t want to take any chances: Wine Spectator (James Molesworth): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

This is a noteworthy review because it is the strongest Spectator has ever bestowed upon Louis Barroul’s CdR. The ratings of previous vintages, from 2006 through 2014: 90, 90, 88, 90, 90, 90, 89, 89, 90. First off, that is an amazingly consistent track record for a decade’s worth of vintages. And second, this 2015 is the first to break through above a 90pt review.

I believe this also sets it up as a slam dunk to wind up on Spectator’s Top 100 list, and I want us to grab our wine and be long gone before that happens. The last time this wine landed on the list was the 2009 vintage on the 2010 list. That 2009 was $18 | 90pts | 3,000 cases. Today’s 2015 has a lower release price ($16), a stronger review (91pts), and more than 8x production (25,000 cases). Yikes.

Quick logistics note before we move onto the wine itself: we only get one shot at this pricing, and it’s volume-based (one of those times when we all benefit from Full Pull’s growth these past few years). We’ll try to build in a buffer for late orders and *some* reorders, but once we exceed that buffer, any reorders beyond that will be at a tariff closer to this wine’s normal $15-$16 range.

Now then, what is rare (and in my view, exciting) about Saint Cosme’s version of Cotes-du-Rhone is that it’s 100% Syrah. Most CdR’s are majority-Grenache, but we already know where Louis Barroul’s Grenache goes: into Little James Basket Press (another list favorite). So that leaves us with 100% Rhone Syrah at a price point that cries out for exploration.

It comes from two of Cosme’s holdings – one in Vinsobres (a bit cooler, on limestone and sand) and one in Gard (warmer, on large terraces of medium-to-large rolling stones) – and it’s done entirely in concrete. The ’15 clocks in at 14% listed alc and begins with a nose of blueberry fruit and mineral, cracked black pepper and hoisin sauce. While the texture is kind of an old-world/new-world tweener, the savory wild flavors are Rhone through and through. There is noteworthy balance between fruit and structure here (which helps explain why this always ages beautifully for an inexpensive wine), and that structure takes both the form of nervy/electric acidity and robust/pleasingly rustic tannin. The depth and complexity, the overall sense of balance and class at this tag: unusual for sure, and the reason why we’ve offered every vintage of this since 2011.

Here is how the always-entertaining Louis Barroul describes this vintage: This wine epitomizes what should always be the essence of a true wine. One of the two properties from which grapes are sourced is owned by a childhood friend and the other belongs to my cousins. We have been working together on this wine for 15 years now. Trust and friendship form its basis. The blend of Syrah from Vinsobres with Syrah from Villafranchian terraces in Gard always produces wonderful balance, fleshiness and finesse. You may get to know the 2015 vintage through this wine – the oxblood colour, the depth, sappy character and wonderful round tannins for instance. You can easily sense the intensity with which fruit was imbued in 2015, a truly superb vintage. Successfully ripened grapes combined with freshness and our Syrah vines loved a hot July in 2015. This is exemplified in the magnificent wines produced in 2015 in the northern Rhone valley. The whole point of our Côtes du Rhône is to offer an early drinking wine that also has very good ageing capacity. I recently tasted the 2007 again which was really complex and still young. Welcome to 2015, the finest vintage since 2010. Blackcurrant, camphor, truffle, rose and blueberry.

Because this wine has a history with our list members, because it’s such a stone cold killer for winter parties/weddings, because I’ve seen it age successfully for five or six years despite its modest price point, let’s open it up to first come first served up to 120 bottles, and 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 Italian Bubbles

October 22, 2016

Hello friends. We tend to taste A LOT of sparkling wine this time of year. Late September and early October are when just about every producer and importer and wholesaler are trying to convince Seattle restaurants to program their particular bubbly for the holiday season. It’s a true embarrassment of riches, especially for an avowed bubblehead like me.

Some of the best QPR sparkling wines I’ve tasted so far in 2016 have been from Italy, so today I thought it would be fun to roll together a trio of Italian bubblies: one Lambrusco, one rosé from a Prosecco house, one Franciacorta. These are all in differing degrees of short supply; much like we tend to offer our rosés in March and April (ahead of true rosé drinking season), I want to offer these now, while they’re available, so that we can all stock up and have these ready to pop during the festive months ahead.

NV Cantina di Carpi e Sorbara Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce

I’ve mentioned before that a decent rule of thumb for Italy is: if a region is better known for wine than food, expect to pay top dollar for the wine (think Tuscany and Brunello di Montalcino; think Piedmont and Barolo). If a region is better known for food than wine, expect to find serious value. To wit: Emilia Romagna. Many of the best-loved foods of Italy come from ER. Parmigiano-Reggiano. Prosciutto di Parma. Balsamico di Modena. Lasagne alla Bolognese. All products of this region. But what do they drink? They drink Lambrusco.

And not the crap that was exported to the United States (and became hugely popular) in the 1970s and 1980s. That was sweetened into oblivion for the American Coca-Cola palate. I’m talking about dry, juicy, lightly sparkling, slightly bitter red wine. Lambrusco is squarely in comeback mode, and as serious importers begin bringing in more serious Lambruscos, these wines are only going to grow in popularity. They are well-priced, insistently versatile wines. They go with a whole host of foods, including some categories that are devilishly difficult pairings (hard cheeses, cured meats). Because they’re such killer food wines, people who love to cook (or even just love to eat) tend to swoon when they first try them. This one is chockful of black cherry and raspberry fruit, cherry-pit bitters and loads of minerality. It’s dry, intense, and impressively palate-staining at its very moderate weight (11% listed alc), with just-right scrubbin’ bubbles. I mean, seriously: is there a better pizza wine in the world?

2015 Bortolomiol Filanda Rose

This is the outstanding Prosecco house Bortolomiol applying the same Charmat method used to make Prosecco, but here working with 100% Pinot Noir grapes from one of their neighboring regions to the west, Oltrepo Pavese. It clocks in at 10 g/L dosage and 12% listed alc, and it pours into the glass a pale delicate pink. The nose is a marvelous mix of cherry and blood orange fruit, anise spice, and earth tones. The palate pairs bright acidity with creamy texture, Pinot Noir earthiness with lovely floral tones. This is mouthwatering rosé, with a crisp clean finish and an overriding sense of elegance.

NV Corteaura Franciacorta Saten

Franciacorta is generally regarded as the finest sparkling wine region in Italy. Established as a DOC in 1967 and then as a sparkling-only DOCG in 1995, it puts Champagne-level restrictions on the wines, and produces wines that can act as Champagne ringers in blind tastings. I should know. I incorrectly identified multiple Franciacortas as Champagne during practice sessions for the WSET Diploma Sparkling Wine Unit.

So if the wines are so good, why have we never offered a Franciacorta? The answer is almost always supply-related. These get gobbled up in Europe, with very few escaping the continent in any meaningful number. Even today’s parcel size is marginal. We have a hold on the entire remainder in Seattle, but it’s not much, and I won’t be surprised if we end up needing to allocate.

Non-vintage Franciacorta must spend at least 18 months on lees (compared to 15 months in Champagne), but this particular bottling was aged on the lees for 30 months. A “Saten” in Franciacorta means a Blanc de Blancs, and this is indeed 100% Chardonnay. It clocks in at 12.5% listed alc and offers a head-turning, autumnal nose: apples and cream, woodsmoke and fresh baked bread. There’s so much to love about the palate: the fine mousse, the insistent intensity, the depth and richness, the savory chicken-stock subtleties, the long salty finish. It’s really an awful lot to expect at this price point, but in my experience, that’s Franciacorta for you, a must-try category for lovers of sparkling wines.

For the Franciacorta, please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The other two are first come first served up to 24 bottles total, and all the wines should arrive in the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window

Full Pull Figgins

October 22, 2016

Hello friends. Autumn release season is squarely upon us, and today we have the limited new release of a wine that seems to have achieved cult status in a very short period.

2013 Figgins Estate Red Wine

This is Chris Figgins’ own project, separate from the Leonetti family of wines. What distinguishes it, and makes it so intellectually interesting, is that it is very much a Bordelaise project. FIGGINS is a winery with one vineyard (planted mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot) and one red wine (anything that doesn’t make the cut gets sold off on the bulk market), which is a real rarity in Washington. Putting all your eggs in one vineyard basket is gutsy indeed, but Chris Figgins has the skill and experience to make it work.

Unsurprisingly, Chris’ emphasis when he talks about the wine is the vineyard, not the winery. Located in the Mill Creek drainage of the Walla Walla Valley, this is as far-east a vineyard as I know of in the Walla Walla Valley, bumping right up against the Blue Mountains. The soils are deep, rich loess, and this area gets enough rainfall that dry-land farming (no irrigation) is possible in some years. It’s a haunting, high-elevation (1750 ft) site, where exactly 17 minutes past sunset each night, a load of cold air from the Blue Mountains comes roaring down Mill Creek canyon. You can feel the air change when you’re standing there, and the grapes feel it too: an instant diurnal shift that helps retain lovely acidity in the finished wines.

It’s going to be a real treat to watch this wine evolve as the vines dig deeper, and even the evolution from the inaugural 2008 vintage to now has been fascinating. To see this kind of quality from eighth-leaf fruit augurs well for the future. As usual, this is a wine built more for ageing than for immediate gratification. If you just can’t wait, I’d suggest a multi-hour decant if opening this any time in the next few years.

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

Washington Wine Blog (Owen Bargreen): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

The size of our parcel is still a little hazy, so I’m going to lean towards optimism, and set upper order limits at 6 bottles. Please know that we may end up closer to 3 or 2 or (gulp) 1-bottle allocations if things get really ugly. And with that note, please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in early November, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull First Call Last Call

October 22, 2016

Hello friends. Quick turnaround offer today. This one was originally scheduled for closer to the holidays, but a strong review in Wine Spectator Insider has moved it up out of necessity:

2014 Old Scratch Cabernet Sauvignon

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

A few of you e-mailed to ask how this fits into our Spectator Top 100 analysis. I’d put the odds at about 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 that this makes the year-end list. Its closest northwest comparable is the 2006 Goose Ridge Vireo Columbia Valley, which landed the #41 spot on the 2010 list. That one was 93pts | $25 | 900 cases; today’s Scratch is 93pts | $28 | 650 cases. It has a puncher’s chance, and if production were a little higher, I’d feel really confident about it making the list.

Across the country, however, folks aren’t taking any chances. The main reason this offer moved up on the calendar is that Chris Gorman very kindly gave me a call to say that his Texas distributor wanted every last bottle available. He wanted to give our list members a crack at it before it all became Lone Star State-bound, but we needed to turn the offer around quickly. So here we are. I’ll be aiming to get numbers to Chris Tuesday morning, so please do try to place order requests by Monday night, and we’ll do our best to fulfill them.

We offered the inaugural 2013 vintage of this wine a little more than a year ago. As a reminder, it features Quintessence Vineyard, a site to file away in the corner of your brain that keeps track of up-and-coming Washington vineyards. Quintessence is a relatively new site on Red Mountain, and I have heard nothing but raves from the winemakers working with the fruit. Eric Degerman of Great Northwest Wine wrote a great article back in 2014 about Marshall Edwards, the gentleman who is managing this site. It was planted in 2010, so it’s still early days for usable fruit from Quintessence. And wow, if it’s this good young, the future is seriously bright for this site.

Quintessence Cabernet makes up the majority of Old Scratch. The young vines give a big crop, and Chris ends up with enough fruit that it makes sense to essentially bottle the vineyard on its own, raising it entirely in used wood. It’s noteworthy right away for its crazy color density: inky red-black. That theme of density/intensity continues when tasting the wine. It’s a polished palate-stainer, coating the mouth with an attractive mix of rich red fruit, minerals, and savory tones of olive and chile pepper. What a provocative expression of Red Mountain terroir this is!

As I mentioned, there’s huge demand out there for this one, so it’s a one-and-done offer. Consider this both first call and last call. Please limit order requests to 6 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 Spain Makes No Sense

October 22, 2016

Hello friends. Sometimes Spain makes no sense to me. Today we have the new vintage of a very popular Spanish import. It spent two years in barrel and then nearly another four years in bottle before release. It was then put into a container, shipped across several oceans, unloaded into an importer warehouse, poured for us, sold to us, and will soon be delivered to us, all that so that we can sell it to our list members. For ten dollars. How is that a thing??!?!

2010 Torre Oria Gran Reserva

Long time list members might remember that the Torre Oria story is one of our former FP team member Matt Tessler’s enduring legacies. Matt was a big fan of Torre Oria’s Cava. He sold it on our warehouse shelves. He drank it at home. He sold us all on its big QPR. And so, a couple years ago, when Torre Oria’s local importer asked if we were interested in tasting the winery’s red lineup, I was predisposed to say yes. Thank goodness.

This is a 70/30 split of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, grown in DO Utiel-Requena. U-R (located here) is near Valencia, and it occupies this wonderful transition zone between the Mediterranean climate of the coast and the continental climate of Central Spain. It’s a lovely place for grape-growing, but a lot of it is still planted to the traditional Bobal grape, which tends to produce less-than-thrilling wines. I’ve tasted my share of insipid Bobal from Utiel-Requena, which is why I may well have passed on even tasting this wine if it hadn’t been for the Matt-Torre-Oria connection.

I’ve posited previously that Utiel-Requena has the potential to be Spain’s Super Tuscan region (Super Valencia?) It obviously gets the heat units to ripen Bordelaise varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, and the affinity between Tempranillo and Cab is clear in a wine like this. I could see a future where they rip out some Bobal, replant with Cab and Merlot, blend with Tempranillo, slather with new wood, and charge $80/bottle. In the meantime, we’ll continue enjoying these wines in the $10-$15 range.

Another aspect to point out is vintage: 2010 was generally considered an outstanding vintage across Spain (in Rioja, it earned the first “Excellent” rating from the Consejo Regulador since the 2005 vintage), and I think it really shows in this wine, which is a step up over the 2009 we previously offered. It begins with a wonderful nose balancing fruit (black cherry, black raspberry), savory (mushroom, beef stock), and oak (cocoa, woodsmoke) elements seamlessly. The palate has depth, intensity, and above all, an enduring sense of balance. This drinks very much like a complex, maturing Tempranillo, gussied up with some Cabernet heft and length and pleasingly leafy structure. “Wildly good,” says the last line in my notebook. Seriously, Spain makes no sense.

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 The Rocks District

October 22, 2016

Hello friends. I was already a little nervous about allocations for this one.

Buzz has been building for this project, as last year’s vintage secured strong reviews from Stephen Tanzer (93pts; great for the exacting Mr. T.) and Jeb Dunnuck (95pts). And then I found out that our allocation this year, out of necessity, has been cut down by a few cases compared to last year. Gulp.

2014 Delmas Syrah

Before going any further, I’ll say what I said last year: give serious consideration to heading over to the Delmas website and joining their mailing/waiting list. This is an extremely exciting project coming out of the Walla Walla rocks, and I fully expect them to wind up selling most or all of their wine through their list.

We’re fortunate to be receiving any allocation of this wine at all. Outside of us and our colleagues at McCarthy & Schiering (consider contacting Dan and Jay if we under-allocate you), pretty much the only place to source this wine is at the winery door. Few restaurant sales. No other retail sales. It’s an extremely limited wine.

What makes Delmas so exciting is that this is the estate winery for SJR Vineyard. You can always judge the quality of a vineyard by who is working with the fruit, and in SJR’s early years, owner Steve Robertson sold fruit to exactly three wineries: Rotie, Rasa, and Gramercy. That is a murderer’s row of Syrah producers.

Delmas made 45 cases of 2010 vintage, 45 cases of 2011. I inquired after both, and in both cases, there was only enough wine to sell to friends, family, and mailing list members. Then, in summer 2013, I got the chance to meet Steve in person and walk the rows at SJR. Unfortunately, my best picture from that trip has my fat fingers all over it, but you still get the idea: this is squarely in the rocks. And on that front, it’s also worth noting that Steve was one of the real champions of applying to the TTB for approval of a new sub-AVA within the Walla Walla Valley: The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater (I wrote about this development under my Seattle Magazine guise). That meeting led to more conversations and eventually an agreement that Full Pull would receive a small allocation of the 2012 vintage. And the rest is history.

On the viticulture front, Steve’s daughter Brooke is getting more and more involved. She has been cutting her viticulture teeth in a small California region called the Napa Valley (working at Harlan Estate) after finishing her viticulture master’s at Cal Poly. Right now, she’s winging back and forth between Northern Cali and the Walla Walla Valley, but starting in 2017, she’ll be onsite at SJR full time.

For winemaking, Steve has chosen Billo Naravane from Rasa Vineyards as Demlas’ consulting winemaker, and what a joy it is to see Billo – who is a Rhone savant – working with rocks fruit. Here’s what the always-eloquent Billo has to say about the site: “[TEXT WITHHELD].”

The vineyard (located at the far southwestern edge of the rocks) is 9.6 acres, of which 7.9 are planted, mostly to Syrah (5.9 acres) and then an acre each of Grenache and Viognier. That Viognier is a full 8% of this 2014 Syrah, cofermented, and the whole thing is aged for 14 months in French oak, about 50% new. To me, this is the most successful vintage of Delmas Syrah to date, and certainly the most aromatically arresting. Charcoal and smoked ham hock. Castelvetrano olive and violet, all swirling around a core of huckleberry fruit. Glorious. Billo is a master of texture, and that is on fine display here with this supple, pillowy beauty. It rides a seamless glide path from front of palate to finish, awash in a swirling pastiche of fruit and meat and brine. For those of us who love our Syrahs with a healthy dose of umami, this is seductive as can be.

Washington Wine Blog (Owen Bargreen): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 96pts.”

Please limit order requests to 6 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 Pleasant Surprise

October 22, 2016

Hello friends. I received a pleasant surprise a few weeks ago when a member of Full Pull’s Vast Network of Wine Spies™ told me they’d been offered a parcel of Abeja’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, and had set it all aside for our purposes.

PAUL: You mean 2013, right?

SPY: 2012.

PAUL: Wait, what? Really?

SPY: Really.

The reason I was confused is that, to my knowledge, the 2013 vintage was sold out, and the 2012 was looooong sold out. But parcels like this seem to occasionally wander their way home, whether it’s via an inventory mishap in a warehouse or some dopey east-coast distributor not paying their bills or refusing an allocation.

It matters not. All that really matters is that one of the most popular Cabernets we’ve ever offered is – against all odds – available one more time:

2012 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley

Originally offered April 24, 2015. Excerpts from the original:

We’ve talked on numerous occasions now about benchmark wines for our list members, and the breathless anticipation for the release of the 2012 vintage. One such wine is Abeja’s Columbia Valley Cab, and I’d been chomping at the bit to try the new vintage. I finally had the chance to taste it during a visit to Walla Walla a few weeks ago, and my already-sky-high expectations were exceeded.

The very most important thing to know about Abeja’s 2012 Columbia Valley Cab is that John Abbott decided not to bottle a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve in 2012. Was I surprised? Yes I was. Was I delighted? Yes I was, because many of the barrels that were involved in their right-down-to-the-wire, go/no-go decision making process on the Reserve ended up in the Columbia Valley bottling.

And it is a marvel.

Let’s start with vineyard sources: Abeja’s Heather Hill Estate, old-vine Bacchus and Dionysus (often the backbone of the Reserve program), Weinbau, Kiona Heart of the Hill, Ciel du Cheval, Destiny Ridge, Gunselman Bench. That is a pan-Washington all-star Cabernet lineup (note: there is also 14% Merlot, and 1% each Cab Franc and Petit Verdot in the mix).

Elevage was two years in 60% new French oak, 40% one- and two-use French oak. It clocks in at 14.8% listed alc, and it aromatically comes jumping right out of the glass, with soaring cassis, violet, high-cacao chocolate, and wonderful eucalyptus topnotes. A complex, honest, serious Cabernet nose. John Abbott is the king of Cabernet texture, and his skills are on fine display here. The palate is velvety, seamless, luscious, with no apparent holes. Strong on attack, plump in the middle, and toothsome in just the right way on the back end, this is a completely charming wine. I know Abeja’s Cabs age beautifully, but they never seem to survive for very long in my cellar because they’re so damned generous and seductive in their resplendent youth. This is a flagship Washington Cabernet in any vintage. In a vintage like 2012, and with reserve juice in the mix, my thoughts run to two words: go deep.

I’m not sure exactly how much wine we’re looking at here, so go ahead and place requests with no upper limits, and we’ll do our best to fulfill. 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.