3 from Eyrie + 2 from Forge

March 4, 2015

Saturday Pickup UPDATE: We will have bonus pickup hours for TPU members on Saturday March 14, from 10am-2pm. We’re also going to use the occasion of our first open Saturday of the year to continue our efforts to tidy up the warehouse, so this pickup day will double as a bin-ends purchasing opportunity. You might remember that our “Hoarders” offer from Feb 25 included wines where we had between 4 and 28 extra bottles kicking around. On March 14 we’ll tackle the list of wines with just 1-3 extra bottles. As you’d imagine, there are a handful of real gems among the list.

Because it’s our first open Saturday of the year, we expect it to be a busy one, so please do e-mail us if you’re planning to come in.
Hello friends. As the calendar ticks over to March, our thoughts turn to spring. And that means white wines. We’ve been tasting a bevy of whites in the warehouse lately, and today’s offer features five of the best: three from a classic Oregon producer, and one from a place whose wines rarely leave their home state: the Finger Lakes of New York. Because it’s so rare to be offered New York State wines, I’m throwing a red monkey wrench in our whiteworks; we’re going to include a Pinot Noir from the same Finger Lakes producer at the bottom. No worries: it drinks largely like a white wine anyway.

Without further adieu, onto the wines:

2013 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris

This is a big year for The Eyrie Vineyards, as they’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the winery. There will be celebrations in Oregon (of course), as well as other parts of the United States, and also locales in Europe and Asia. These wines have developed an international reputation over the years for clarity, transparency, and honest expressions of Willamette Valley terroir. I have written about Eyrie often, and at length. Our inaugural Oregon offer was for Eyrie wines. Our final offer of 2011 was a thrilling dip into the Eyrie library caves.

One of the real treats of attending Oregon Pinot Camp a few years ago was walking the original Eyrie Vineyard plantings with Jason Lett (see picture; I’m second from the left; Jason is dead center, back row, hat, shades, turquoise shirt; the tree from Eyrie’s iconic label, the one that hosted the eagle’s nest that gave the winery its name, is right behind us). Jason knows that piece of land the way a parent knows a child, and treats it with the same tenderness. He’s managing the near-impossible dual feat of carrying on a family tradition while carving out space for his own vision, and doing it with a preternatural sense of calm and equanimity.

Now certainly, the winery’s star has risen on the back of its Pinot Noirs, but Eyrie whites are wonderful little gems, and today we have a trio of them. Beginning with this Pinot Gris, which is a bone-dry, austere, mineral-driven bottle of wine (12.5% listed alc). The fruits (citrus, tree fruits, kiwis) and flowers are grace notes here, and this is a fine reminder that, of all the Pinots to pair with salmon, one can make a compelling argument that Gris is king of the heap, above even the more traditional Noir.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

2013 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Blanc

A true hidden gem of the Eyrie lineup, this beauty rarely leaves the clutches of Oregonians, and it’s one we’re lucky to source. Pinot Blanc is a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. In other words, you have a vineyard full of Pinot Noir, and all your vines have red grapes, except for one cane, whose grapes are all white. Weird, huh? And then a few geneticist/vigneron types propagated these mutant vines into vineyard blocks all their own. Voila Pinot Blanc!

This one kicks off with an alluring nose of honeydew melon, white flowers, and fennel frond. It conveys a wonderful sense of fullness and silken texture at a low weight (12.5% listed alc). The mid-palate is creamy, leesy, a wonderful transition point from the fruity attack into the more minerally finish. For those of us chugging too much Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc like this is a fine alternative. Find some fresh scallops, give them a nice hard sear, and crack a bottle of this.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

2012 Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay Original Vines

Eyrie Chardonnay from the Original Vines is a leap of faith, a trust in a multi-generational tradition of stewardship of a small piece of land, trust that these caterpillars will become butterflies if you let them sleep. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste a number of older vintages of this wine. They are among the most ageworthy wines in the Pacific Northwest, and I include both reds and whites in that statement. At that Oregon Pinot Camp a few years ago, I had the chance on the last day to taste the 1983 vintage. Pushing 30 years old, it was still very much alive, a deep-golden hazelnut-mineral-earth nectar, one of the most compelling liquids ever to pass these lips.

All that to say: please don’t drink this wine too young. Yes, right now it offers lemon curd and smoky hazelnut notes. Yes, there is already a flintiness reminiscent of great Chablis. Yes, it already has a solid core of tangy minerality. But it’s tightly wound, as this wine always is, and the beauty will be in watching this unfurl over the years. Only 112 cases produced, and from a fine vintage; figure we’ll only get one shot at this, especially with this review turning up in the February Enthusiast:

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

2013 Forge Cellars Riesling Les Allies

This is a very cool project in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, a part of the United States near and dear to my heart, since I spent a memorable six months living there as a 23-year-old, in the throes of an early romance that eventually turned into a marriage. As you can see from their Purchase page, these wines are rarely seen outside the confines of the east coast. We’re lucky to have access to them.

This nice little six-minute video is a great intro to Forge, which is a collaboration between Louis Barroul of Saint Cosme (a name that will be plenty familiar to our list members) and two grower/winemakers in the Finger Lakes. The project kicked off with the 2011 vintage, but it was the 2012 vintage of this particular wine that put the winery on the map, after it earned a 92pt review from Wine Spectator, including this alluring last sentence: “This is a step ahead of the pack.”

I’ll let the winery introduce the 2013, since this is a region I still don’t know a ton about: When the vintage allows it we make a selection in the spring of certain barrels that we feel will benefit with longer aging.  In 2013 we had two vineyards that comprised Les Alliés, Sawmill Creek and Harvest Ridge. Sawmill Creek is on the “slope” and is mostly grey shale and contributed great power and length.  Harvest Ridge is on more limestone/clay vineyards and shows the wet-stone and round mouth feel we come to expect.  The combination of these two sites and with nearly a full year in barrel show an expression of Riesling from the Lakes that is unique and exciting.

This was done entirely in neutral barrels, and it clocks in at 12.5% listed alc. The nose is just great: golden apple, lime leaf, and terrific wet-stone minerality. Bone dry in the mouth, it is immediately noteworthy for its palate-coating sense of extract. There is loads of minerality paired to alpine fruit, and the acidity is pitch-perfect: mouthwatering and delightful. This shows a cool-climate American region with enormous potential, and it lights up both the intellectual and sensual areas of the brain.

2013 Forge Cellars Pinot Noir

We had to include this, right? I mean how often are we going to be able to offer Finger Lakes wines? The Pinot also clocks in at 12.5% listed alc, and it drinks like it comes from someplace cooler than Burgundy; maybe more like an Alsace Pinot or a Spatburgunder from Germany. It’s a pale, pale ruby in the glass, almost delicate to look at. The nose is terrifically expressive: cherry and anise, woodsmoke and smoked meat. The palate continues the theme, a lovely mix of cherry fruit and continuing smoky/meaty notes. It is perhaps at its best on the compelling finish, which lingers impressively for a wine of this weight, and which conveys cherry-pit bitters and a sanguine/bloody minerality.

What lover of terroir expression can resist the chance to taste this patch of American soil through the prism of Pinot Noir?

Let’s put a max of 12 bottles on each wine. I’m confident we’ll have plenty of the Pinot Gris and Blanc. The Chardonnay and both Forge wines may end up being allocated; our parcels are borderline. All five 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.

2012 Mark Ryan Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines

March 2, 2015

Hello friends. Today the wine is new and the vines are old:

This is the inaugural release for this new Cabernet for Mark Ryan, and it comes from completely different parts of Washington than their other Cabs. Both Dead Horse and Lonely Heart are, traditionally, based largely on Red Mountain fruit. Phinny, on the other hand, is Horse Heaven Hills (in the Champoux Vineyard neighborhood); and Red Willow is the far western edge of the Yakima Valley, about as far away as you can get from Red Mountain and still be in the Yak at all.The Old Vines bottling was just released on Feb 13, and it is already generating buzz, helped along by a fine barrel review from Jeb Dunnuck: Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93-95pts.”

Combine that review, the outstanding vintage, the small production (300 cases), and the rabid Mark Ryan following, and you get a wine that I sense is best offered within a couple weeks of its release, so as not to see it slip through our collective fingers.

It was raised in about 80% new French oak and clocks in at 15.2% listed alc. The Old Vines bottling presents a completely different profile than any other Cabs in the lineup, beginning with a beautiful, very Cabernet nose of blackcurrant, mint, and graphite. That graphitic pencil lead note is especially noteworthy. Almost never seen in Red Mountain Cabs, it is a hallmark of the neighborhood in the Horse Heaven Hills in which Phinny resides. I can’t remember getting that note in a previous Mark Ryan wine, so it’s exciting to see it turn up here. Terroir will win out, I suppose. The palate keeps that earthy/mineral core alive, offering serious density and gorgeous pure fruit. Despite the high proportion of new wood, any oak notes here are subtleties, just one of the four corners of this Cab. What a fine vintage to debut a new Cabernet. And what a balanced, characterful Cab it is.

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.

2014 Seven Hills Rose

March 1, 2015

Hello friends. I never thought I’d see the day. Beautiful brisk local rosés that sell out entirely through pre-sales? On March 1? I mean, come on. Yesterday was February. And we’re talking about rosé, that great ephemeral drink of summer.

I love it. The ongoing development of Washington rosé is one of the most exciting things going on in the state as far as I’m concerned. And I know “cult” is a loaded word when it comes to wine, but let me offer evidence:

Last year’s 2013 vintage was the first commercial rosé release for Seven Hills, which seems crazy,  because Casey McClellan’s house style – low alcohol, acid-driven, texturally elegant – seems perfectly suited to dry, crisp rosés. Something tells me that in a few years, it will be difficult to remember a time that Seven Hills didn’t make a rosé. And no surprise: that inaugural release was an instant classic.I was lucky to be on it early (in large part because during my August 2013 Walla Walla trip, I had the chance to walk vineyard rows with Casey and Erik McLaughlin and clip clusters of rosé-intended Petit Verdot for lab analysis, so I knew it was coming, and I knew it was going to be good), but even still, our allocations were a bloodbath. Looking back at our records, a handful of list members got 2 bottles, the vast majority who ordered got 1 bottle, and dozens of list members ordered too late and got shut out entirely.

So what to do this year? Work harder. Start earlier. My first e-mail to our friends at Seven Hills inquiring about rosé went out on January 9. The initial response: Glad you reached out to me. We divvied up the allocations around the country and we are currently over-allocated and I have to cut some back.  Washington State was originally slated for [REDACTED; scary small number] cases, but I am going to have to cut that back some.  Ultimately, we will end up sending [REDACTED; even scarier, even smaller number] cases. We are bottling the wine the first week of February and will be ready to ship by March 1st.

Seven or eight e-mails later, we had a deal: first dibs on as large a parcel as I could talk them into, which, as you might imagine, is still not very large. And knowing the wine would be ready to ship on March 1, this moved immediately onto the offer calendar, where it has been sitting since. Like last year’s version, this is predominantly Cabernet Franc (84%), with dollops of Malbec and Petit Verdot (8% each). It comes from grapes picked specifically for rosé (about 2-3 weeks before the red wine harvest), was done entirely in stainless steel, and clocks in at a just-right 12.5% listed alc. Delicate pale pink in the glass, it kicks off with a wonderful summery nose: strawberry and kiwi and green papaya fruit, mineral notes, and lovely hay and floral subtleties. The palate is complex and nervy, energetic and invigorating. I love the green subtleties that Franc can import in rosé: a kiss of sweet pea to balance the citrus and berry fruit.

I’m going to set the upper allocation limit higher than last year, since we’re sure to only get one shot at this (apologies in advance if our allocations come in short again). 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.

2006 Bodegas Penalba Lopez Ribera del Duero Carravid

February 27, 2015

Hello friends. Today’s offer checks a lot of boxes. It’s beautiful Spanish Tempranillo from a terrific region (check); nearly a decade past vintage, it’s smack in the middle of its peak drinking window (check); it comes to us as an exclusive (check); and it comes with a significant price drop (check).

We pwned (that’s “power-owned” for those of us over the age of 30) a sample bottle of this Carravid in the warehouse recently, and it wasn’t long after that tasting that the entire remaining stash of this in the country (it was an east coast parcel) was heading west towards our warehouse on a truck. I wanted to get greedy and take the entire remainder because this is such a rare opportunity. I don’t know about you, but I hardly ever see mature Ribera offered at all, let alone at a discount (from a release price of $28).

Ribera del Duero is probably the second best-known region in Spain after Rioja. It sits here, in Spain’s northern plateau. The Duero river eventually flows into Portugal, where it is called the Douro, the famous river of the Port houses, that eventually drains into the Atlantic in the city of Porto. Ribera is one of the twin hearts of Tempranillo in Spain (it’s called Tinta del Pais in this neck of the woods), and although there is frequently a little Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon blended in, today’s wine is blended with the more traditional Garnacha and Graciano.

Vinuous/Tanzer’s IWC (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 90+pts.” As usual with Tanzer and his point-reticent colleagues, I’m more focused on the tasting note here. And few things make me happier than seeing a review where the author says “this should be held for another couple of years,” and we’re now more than six years after that review was published.

The Carravid project is a terrific one, and fans of Washington’s Tulpen Cellars should pay attention here, because the story is similar. Is Miguel Angel Peñalba the Kenny Hart of the Ribera?  Miguel’s main gig is as a vineyard manager. He began making his own wine in the mid-2000s, from vineyards he farms that he finds particularly interesting. For example, the Tempranillo here comes from a 60-year-old vineyard that yields less than one ton per acre (yes, I’d call that particularly interesting). This wine spent about a year in barrel, all French, half new. It clocks in at 14.5% listed alc, and it kicks off with a wonderfully mature Tempranillo nose: mushroom and leather and demi-glacé comingling with deep black fruits, loads of slatey minerals, and dustings of cocoa powder. Endlessly complex and compelling, the nose gives way to a rich, intense palate, with a mix of fresh and dried fruits and continuing savory/earthy/mineral tones. It’s a killer, in peak drinking form and a wonderful expression of modern Ribera. What a pleasure bringer!

The entire remaining stash is on the way, but it’s not particularly large. Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in less than a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2011 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir Laurene

February 26, 2015

Hello friends. Thursday offers are rare for us. We’re usually too busy dealing with Thursday pickup traffic to make Thursday a wise day for sending offers, so you know when we hit your inboxes on a Thursday, something’s up.

In this case, it’s weeks of scratching and clawing, pleading and cajoling, and ultimately working with a pair of wine pros who share the same first name (thanks, J and J) to piece together an allocation just barely large enough to warrant an offer of one of Oregon’s benchmark Pinot Noirs:

Can you believe the year was 2012 the last time we were able to offer Laurene? This is a wine with a devoted – and national – following (come to think of it, an international following, considering the Drouhin family’s deep connections on the Continent), and there’s never very much of it. Also, considering the stratospheric pricing of some Oregon Pinot (I’m looking at you, Archery Summit), and considering the solarsystemic pricing of Grand Cru Burgundy (even from this very Drouhin family), Laurene suddenly seems like a comparative value.

Laurene is DDO’s flagship Pinot Noir, a selection of the finest barrels from the Domaine’s estate vineyards. Veronique Drouhin never gussies Laurene up with too much oak (it’s just shy of 20% here); it’s always the fruit and the Dundee Hills land that come to the fore.

Here are Veronique’s notes on this vintage of Laurene (13.9% listed alc): 2011 was Oregon’s latest growing season with a cool and wet September turning into a dry and moderately warm October. Harvest lasted into November, allowing for full maturity and excellent flavor development. The 2011 Laurène is an essay in balance. Its color is both brilliant red and deep ruby. The nose has the spice character of 2011 – anise, clove & tea – with further notes of baked fig, rhubarb and pomegranate. On the palate, the texture is both light & viscous, with mouth coating tannins, and flavors of spice & ripe raspberries with a touch of tartness. The exceptionally long finish leaves you with sweet, lush fruit & wonderfully bright layers. While intensely woven now, a couple years of cellaring, or decanting, will reveal silk, elegance and an expressive depth of texture. Enjoy now, and over the next 8-10 years.

Please note: I have not had a chance to sample this yet, but the track record of the winery and Laurene particularly gives me plenty of confidence. And this offer just won’t wait. 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.

2012 Two Vintners Syrah Stoney Vine Vnyd “Some Days Are Stones”

February 23, 2015

Hello friends. We have the new vintage today of a hugely popular wine from last year – Morgan Lee’s funkystunning Syrah from Stoney Vine Vineyard – and it comes with a new, John Denver-inspired name:

This was just released at the winery over the weekend, so we’re not wasting any time. Last year, the entire production run sold out in five weeks. We offered it once in February, and it was gone, with all reorder requests (sadly) zeroed out. Considering the small production level again (just 160 cases) and the excitement of the 2012 vintage, I expect a similar pattern this year.

There is also more excitement than ever about wines from “the rocks” area of the Walla Walla Valley, or as I should be writing from now on, “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater,” which was approved as a new AVA on February 9. It’s a sub-AVA of the Walla Walla Valley, and its designers did a wonderful job of keeping the appellation as tightly defined as possible by the terroir of ancient river cobblestones. I wrote about The Rocks for the February issue of Seattle Magazine and was thrilled when the timing of the AVA approval dovetailed with the article. This is a special place in northwest wine, and it deserves to have its geographical name on the label.

Among Rocks Syrahs, is there a better value than Two Vintners? I’m hard pressed to think of one. It comes entirely from 2007-planted Stoney Vine Vineyard, an estate site for Dusted Valley that looks like this. Morgan fermented with all native yeasts and 35% whole cluster, and then this went into barrel (all French, 15% new 500L puncheon) for 18 months. It clocks in at 14.8% listed alc, and it offers a soaring, killer, honest-to-rocks funky nose: smoked sausages and olives, seaweed and savory stock; it’s just layer upon layer of umami. Is there rich mixed berry fruit there as well? Yes there is, but it’s a grace note to all that savory/earthy goodness. In the mouth, this is a total palate-stainer, outrageously rich and bloody, intense and delicious. There’s nothing quite like the funky complexity of a well-made rocks Syrah, and Morgan has done real justice to the area with this bottle. I suspect our days of any rocks Syrahs with price tags starting with a ‘3’ are numbered, but let’s enjoy them while they last!

I’m going to set the upper allocation limit high, since I suspect like last year we’ll only get one shot at this wine. Please limit order requests to 24 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.

2012 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon

February 22, 2015

Hello friends. I just received confirmation that we will be receiving “some” of this wine. And that’s good enough for me:

This is an extremely limited wine. Over the years since its launch with the 2008 vintage, it has received terrific press from a broad range of sources (massive reviews from Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and Wine Advocate), and it has only grown more and more difficult to acquire. And as you all know by now, 2012 has been an extremely well-received vintage in Washington, which only ups the allocation pressures.

So, then: a word about allocations and timing first. I’m going to set max orders at 4 bottles, but the truth is, I only know right now that we’re getting “some” of this wine. In my (probably optimistic) mind, that’s a decent-sized “some.” If it turns out to be a (probably more realistic) miniscule “some,” I apologize in advance for under-allocation and sold-out notices. Now timing. Please try to get order requests in by the end of the day on Monday. We should hear final word fairly quickly (like later this week), at which point we’ll send our allocation notices. And then the wine should arrive quickly too (probably this week; next week at the latest).

Many of you already know about this project. For those who don’t, this is the rare Washington celebrity project, from the football-worn hands of one Drew Bledsoe. (Note: Drew deserves extra accolades this year, as he helped to finally open up Massachusetts to direct shipping. I lived in MA from 1996 to 2004, and I wasn’t sure this day would ever come.) Drew chose about as strong a consultant as you can find in the Walla Walla Valley: Chris Figgins of Figgins Family Wine Estates/Leonetti Cellars. For the full scoop, check out Sean Sullivan’s Focus Report from April 2010.

This 2012 is the sixth vintage for Doubleback, the third to contain fruit from Drew’s estate McQueen Vineyard (planted in 2007; 40% of the blend), and the second to contain fruit from his other estate site, Bob Healy Vineyard (20% of the blend). The remainder comes from three Walla Walla Valley stalwarts: Seven Hills, Waliser, and Lefore, (a vineyard in the rocks; Chris Figgins has said of this site: “Cabernet Sauvignon from the LeFore vineyard, grown in gravels, builds complexity and adds a savory minerality to the finish of the wine.”)

I sampled this at the kind of tasting that does not lend itself to writing detailed notes, but my general impression was knee-buckling positive. Because of the increasing prevalence of estate fruit in the mix, this project is just getting more and more interesting. Chris Figgins is crafting a beautiful wine from these exciting raw materials: powerful and elegant, balanced and clearly built for the long haul. It spent about two years in barrel, 83% new French oak, and it clocks in at 14.4% listed alc.

Here are Chris Figgins’ notes on this vintage: [TEXT WITHHELD].

And here is the only published review to date, a barrel sample review from Jeb Dunnuck: Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].

Please limit order requests to 4 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.


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