Full Pull Northern Rhone

November 9, 2016

Hello friends. Neal Rosenthal is one of the finest importers working in the United States, and has been for many years now (he launched his business in the late 1970s). Here is how he describes the Rosenthal import philosophy: Wine is an agricultural product, and in its best and purest form wine must reflect a specific sense of place. We share the goal of communicating this concept to a growing audience by presenting the finest examples of wine made in the classical western European tradition.

We haven’t worked much with his book, but it has purely been a supply issue. The amounts that come into Seattle tend to be in like the one-to-ten case range: great for restaurants; not so effective for our purposes. We’ve decided to solve this problem by special-ordering direct from Rosenthal in New York. The only downside is a little longer arrival time than normal (these wines should arrive in early December), but the upside is that we get to explore Rosenthal’s glorious northern Rhone book during a time of year perfect for trying these wines:

2015 Yves Cuilleron Roussanne Les Vignes d’a Cote

Excerpts from Rosenthal’s description of the winery: The Cuilleron family domaine, located in the hamlet of Verlieu (part of the town of Chavanay) was founded several generations ago (1920). Yves Cuilleron’s grandfather was the first to bottle wine for commercial purposes in 1947. Antoine Cuilleron, the uncle and immediate predecessor of Yves, assumed control of the domaine in 1960 and significantly increased the percentage of wine bottled at the estate and extended the scope of the domaine. Yves assumed full ownership and direction of the domaine in 1987 and, since that time, has built an entirely new facility while at the same time acquiring additional vineyard property.

The Roussanne is sourced from vineyards in Chavanay and in St. Michel sur Rhone, essentially granite-infused soils. The fermentations (alcoholic and malolactic) are done in stainless steel; then, the wine is racked into a mix of barrels and stainless steel cuves for a six-month elevage before bottling.

This clocks in at 14% listed alc and begins with a nose combining nectarine, marzipan, and chalky mineral. It’s an intense, palate-staining white; a white for red-wine lovers. The fleshy stone fruit is offset by pleasing nutty tones and a bright acid-mineral spine.

Wine Spectator (James Molesworth): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 90pts.”

2012 Domaine Lionnet Cornas Terre Brulee

Excerpts from Rosenthal’s description of the winery: Appellations like Cornas and Hermitage are very small in area and there are very few growers of exceptional quality. I turned to our grower of Cote Rotie in Ampuis, Bernard Levet, and asked him to help in the search. Shortly thereafter, Bernard called and referred me to the young Ludovic Izerable, someone whose wines he had tasted recently and whose work mirrored his own: only manual work in the vineyard, long cuvaison and elevage of the Syrah using everything in the grape (yes, those very precious stems are part of the package) and superbly-sited vineyards full of old vines within Cornas. So begins our liaison with the Domaine Lionnet. Ludovic Izerable, a refugee from the Haute Savoie city of Grenoble, married Corinne Lionnet whose family has been growing grapes in the village of Cornas since 1575 (that’s correct … no typo … almost five centuries ago). Corinne took control of the domaine in 2003 when her father, Pierre, retired and she and Ludovic now run the show.

The domaine is quite small, only 2.2 hectares at the moment. The vineyards are organically farmed and are certified as such by “Ecocert”. The vineyards are divided into four separate parcels across four distinct lieu-dits: Mazards, Combes, Chaillot and Brugeres. The vines are all between the ages of 40 and 100 years! Each parcel is harvested separately and vinification is done parcel by parcel as well. The harvest, of course, is manual with a severe selection being done in the vineyard. The cuvaison is long (three weeks) and the fermentation is completely natural: indigenous yeasts and no other materials whatsoever (no albumin, no enzymes, no gelatins … zero!). The grapes are left intact; they are never destemmed. The fermentation occurs in cement vats; then, the wines are racked into large oak barrels (tonneaux and demi-muids). No new oak is used.

After the elevage, the wines are assembled to make a single cuvée known as “Terre Brulée”. The bottling takes place after two winters have passed. All work is done by gravity. The wine is never fined nor is it filtered. There is a single bottling of the entire lot. We have been buying the wines of the Domaine Lionnet since the 2004 vintage. Their Cornas is a true classic: firm, sturdy, rigorously tannic, explosively aromatic, complete and satisfying. We are indebted to Bernard Levet for his wise counsel in leading us to the doorstep of the formidable Domaine Lionnet in Cornas. We have the privilege of purchasing 2400 bottles and 90 magnums per vintage.

This comes roaring up out of the glass with a glorious Cornas nose: smoky minerals, smoky cherries, black walnuts, and an intense meatiness that reminded me of demi-glace. In the mouth, the first thing you notice is the texture. Yes, there is richness and intensity (13.5% listed alc), but there is also something we don’t see much of in new world Syrah: tannin. Those Rosenthal notes about how this is “firm, sturdy, rigorously tannic”? All true. It’s a wine that’s just beginning to relax and unwind, now four years past vintage, but still, this is a robustly structured Syrah, beautiful scaffolding to hold the palate-coating mix of minerals and rich red fruits and meaty savories.

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

2012 Bernard Levet Cote Rotie La Chavaroche

Excerpts from Rosenthal’s (admittedly lengthy) description of the winery: Nicole Levet’s grandfather first purchased vineyards in Ampuis in 1936 and began making wine immediately thereafter. Initially, he delivered his Cote Rotie in barrels to the city of St. Etienne where he sold it to bistros and cafes for consumption by the miners of that city. In 1966, Nicole’s father, Marius Chambeyron, began to bottle a small portion of the production of the estate. I first encountered Marius Chambeyron in 1982 as I prospected in the region. He was a proud and somewhat brazen man who, despite the tiny size of his estate, proudly painted his name on the rocks that fronted the terraces of his small swath of vineyards as in the manner of the seigneurs of the appellation like Guigal, Delas and Vidal-Fleury. As we were preparing to begin our commercial relationship, Monsieur Chambeyron took ill and we never had the opportunity to bring his wines to the States.

Fortunately, his daughter, Nicole, and her husband, Bernard Levet, were prepared to continue Chambeyron’s life’s work. It was with the formidable 1983 vintage that Bernard Levet took over the wine production as well as the management of the vineyard with Nicole. This exceptional couple has now been responsible for the development of the domaine, increasing the vineyard holdings and expanding the cellar capacity so that they can now bottle their entire production. Nicole and Bernard have now been joined by their daughter, Agnes, who has inherited the love for vineyard work and obsession with detail that are essential parts of her parents’ character.

The Domaine’s current total production is 12,000 to 15,000 bottles annually and is exclusively of the appellation of Cote Rotie. We can proudly say that we have imported the wines of this domaine since that fabled 1983 vintage, never missing a vintage and eagerly accepting our annual allocation. The domaine consists of 3.5 hectares of vineyards, all of which are located within the boundaries of the town of Ampuis and are entitled to the Cote Rotie appellation. The vines are dispersed among six separate parcels. The vineyards are all steeply terraced and must be worked and harvested manually. In my entire experience, I have encountered no one who takes better care nor manages a vineyard with the talent of the Levet family.

The grapes are generally not destemmed before passing through a pneumatic press. The primary fermentation takes place in epoxy lined cuves. There is a long maceration and the cuvaison lasts three weeks. The fermentation temperatures reach 30 degrees centigrade. The malolactic fermentation normally finishes by the end of the year. The wine is then racked into large oak barrels where it spends the remainder of its first year. At the beginning of the second year, the wines are racked into medium-sized barrels (“demi-muid”) 10 – 15% of which are new. In the third year, the wines are racked again and left to complete the barrel aging in a mixture of “demi-muid” and small barrels. The wines are bottled after three years of barrel aging with a light fining and no filtration.

The cuvee that we have imported from the outset (1983 vintage) is from the “Chavaroche” vineyard (Cote Brune/southwest exposure/average age 40 years/1.2 hectare). As explained above, this wine is aged for thirty to thirty-six months prior to bottling. It is, quite simply, a ferocious wine, unique in its uninhibited expression of the smells and flavors of the appellation. No compromise is brooked here. The result is a wine that is controversial, too “wild” for many but, for us, one of the most elite wines in our personal pantheon. We import annually approximately 2400 bottles (a mix of 750mls and magnums).

I’m a huge Levet fan. This is a producer that has stubbornly resisted modern trends (more ripeness, more wood) that, in my opinion, take Cote Rotie away from what makes it so beautiful in the first place. Levet’s is transparent Cote Rotie that revels in traditionalism. I’ve had 5- and 10- and 20-year-old bottles, and each tasting experience has been a total thrill ride. This one begins with a soaring, honest Cote Rotie nose: the full charcuterie plate, wildflowers, miso, huckleberry, sanguine minerality. This region produces such uniquely savory Syrah; there’s just nothing else like it. The lithe (13%) palate nonetheless conveys real, insistent intensity. There’s beautiful inner-mouth perfume here, a fine balance to the smoky meaty funkiness and the long, wild finish.

Vinous (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

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


Full Pull Walla Walla Cabernet Price Drop

November 9, 2016

Hello friends. We have the latest in our annual tradition, thanks to the generosity of Rich Funk, and thanks to our list’s support of Saviah all year long: a holiday price drop on his dazzling Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, from $30 down to something considerably lower:

2014 Saviah Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley

We’ve offered six previous vintages of this wine, and each one has been snapped up en masse by our list members and enjoyed throughout the holidays and then the rest of the year. In some previous vintages, this price drop has coincided with the release of a strong Wine Spectator review (a couple 93pt vintages, one 92pt vintage), which has resulted in serious holiday-season feeding frenzies. Fortunately this year we’re getting in pre-review.

So, list newbies might be asking: why has this wine become such a hit with our members over the years? Three reasons I can think of:

1) It is becoming ever more rare to see Walla Walla Valley Cabernet at a sub-$25 tariff.

2) Even at $30, this is always a strong buy. But at our TPU price today, yikes; this represents exceptional value for Walla Walla Valley Cabernet, and I think our savvy list members know it.

3) It comes from unusual vineyards. So many times when we see Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon it comes from either the king (Pepper Bridge Vineyard) or the queen (Seven Hills Vineyard). There’s nothing wrong with those two vineyards. In fact, they’re among the standard-bearers for the valley. But… it’s a big valley, full of micro-terroirs, and those of us who care about such things get a little extra intellectual jolt from tasting other sites.

The backbone of this wine comes from three estate sites for Rich – Anna Marie and Dugger Creek and McClellan Vineyards – all three converted orchards farmed by the Brown family of Watermill Winery. Here is how Rich describes these sites: Anna Marie offers dark fruit aromas, firm structure, cassis and notes of cocoa, while Dugger Creek lends red fruit aromas, rose petal and refined tannins.  Rounding out this elegant wine is McClellan with blackberry fruit, along with umami soy-like aromas and flavors. It was raised in 35% new oak for about a year and a half, and it clocks in at 14.9% listed alc.

This begins with a nose that is complex and very Cabernet. The fruit is layered, including crème de cassis, berries, and stone fruits like plums and nectarines. Then there are barrel notes (mocha) and subtleties of earthy soil and leafy mint. The best ‘14s are so supple and generous, and this is a terrific example of the kind, offering an easy glide-path from attack to mid-palate and on through the finish.  There’s real density here, real character to the mix of black fruit and earth, all swaddled by warming barrel tones. This is a roaring hearth in winter. This is a joint of beef roasting in a hot oven. This is honest, fascinating Walla Walla Cabernet.

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.


Full Pull Greatest Holiday of the Year

November 9, 2016

Hello friends. That time has come again. Today we present our “Greatest Holiday of the Year” offer.

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; a dash of 3am Black Friday shopping; add a pinch of salt and a half cup of heavy whipping cream; stir.

Our beautiful American paean to gluttony, Thanksgiving is, indeed, The Greatest Holiday of the Year (at least it is for me). Before I had kids, I would choose wines for the Thanksgiving table the way film-stars choose outfits for the red carpet (hemming and hawing, emotional outbursts, etc.). Nowadays, the process is streamlined somewhat, but still: this has to be one of the most fun pairing exercises of the year.

I tend to have pretty strict rules about Thanksgiving wines. Ignore them at your peril.

1. Low alcohol.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You want to be buzzed enough to hear Uncle Bruce’s opinions about the election without losing your mind, 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 and prepare it for the next round of culinary abominations.

3. Moderate price.
Thanksgiving is, statistically speaking, 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. You won’t see a TPU price above $20 today.

Given all that, here is this year’s six-pack of Thanksgiving wines.

2015 Ameztoi Txakolina

Many of you are familiar with (and in love with) Rubentis, the rosé version of Ameztoi’s Txakolina. We offer that rosé every spring, but this white version is more of a rarity. We did offer the 2013 vintage (as part of another Thanksgiving offer), but the 2014 earned a 92pt review from Josh Raynolds in Vinous, and that vintage disappeared (no review yet for the ’15, thank goodness). Like the Rubentis, this is bottled with some residual CO2, which lends the wine its signature semi-sparkle. At just 10.5% alc, this is almost too easy to put away. The austere alpine fruit, the rippin’ acid, the salty-mineral-oyster-shell finish: all add up to a thrilling, racy way to kick off Thanksgiving day.

2015 Vigno del Lauro Sauvignon Collio

I continue to be seduced by the white wines of Northern Italy, which can offer outrageous value. This one comes from San Floriano del Collio (location here), about as far east as you can get in Italy, just adjacent to the border with Slovenia. From a 25-year-old single vineyard, this is done entirely in stainless steel to preserve the fresh Sauvignon Blanc fruit, which expresses itself aromatically in grass-tinged grapefruit, kiwi, and chalk. The plump fruit (on the mid-palate especially) is balanced beautifully by this wine’s natural grapefruity acidity. The overall package drinks like baby Sancerre, and with a lot of Sancerre moving into the $30s, this is a fine value indeed for lovers of Sauvignon Blanc.

2015 Abbazia di Novacella Pinot Grigio

Is it an accident that it took as more than seven years in business before offering an Italian Pinot Grigio. Uh, no. Because if you want to slug back a bottle of Santa Margherita PG to ease the pain of a long workday, you probably don’t need Full Pull for that. Well, leave it to the Abbazia to change my mind. This winery has already appeared in two previous GHotY offers: Schiava in 2013, Gruner Veltliner in 2015 (we also offered their Sauvignon last summer). This is one of those wineries that gives folks that where-has-this-wine-been-all-my-life kind of vibe. I know we’ve had at least two list members visit Abbazia since we began offering the wines. The winery sits in a part of the Alto Adige closer to Munich than to Venice. Founded in 1142 as an Abbey for the Augustinian Order of Canons Regular, Abbazia is justifiably famous for a series of piercingly beautiful white wines. This year, the PG was the star, with beautiful honeyed apples and pears, apple blossom floral notes, and plenty of alpine minerality. The texture and weight (13.5% alc) are so pleasing here; there’s a sense of palate presence that belies Italian PG’s dullard reputation. This is closer to Alsacian Pinot Gris than to what many of us would associate with Italian Grigio. If you’re a PG curmudgeon like me, you owe it to yourself to let this wine change your mind.

2013 La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica

Most Verdicchio that gets imported to the US is Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, but there is a second DOC in the Marche for Verdicchio, and that’s Matelica (yes, pronounced like the band). Further inland and at higher altitude, Matelica is just one-tenth the size of Castelli, but the quality is considered better, due to lower permitted yields and better hillside vineyards. What I love especially about this wine are its green notes – fresh herbs and celery leaf – that pair perfectly with a traditional stuffing. They complement a core of intense grapefruit and passionfruit mineral. Vinous (Ian D’Agata): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

2015 Chateau Thivin Rose

Each of our past two Thanksgiving offers has contained Chateau Thivin’s Cote de Brouilly, a fantastic Cru Beaujolais. That one is sold out across Seattle right now, but Thivin’s brilliant, somewhat rare, Beaujolais-Villages rosé is available, and at summer-is-over-we-need-to-move-this-rosé pricing. It is all Gamay Noir, given about 24 hours on skins before direct-pressing. It begins with a nose of strawberry, blood orange, and cucumber. The palate offers a fresh, clean, transparent expression of Gamay. There’s just-right weight (13.5% alc) and old-vine intensity here (this comes from a 1-hectare plot of 50-year-old vines), and a perfect vein of blood-orange acidity to balance the flesh. Rosé is wonderful on the Thanksgiving table, and this is a special rosé.

2013 Colene Clemens Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

As you’ve probably noticed, I like to mostly drink white and pink wines on Thanksgiving. But I always make room for a light red or two, and this year that comes in the form of Colene Clemens. This is a winery that has been on my radar for some time. The great wine writer Neal Martin has been effusive in his praise in Wine Advocate, and we were all set to offer this winery’s 2012 Margo Pinot Noir last year until that one landed on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list and disappeared. I’ve been itching for a chance to offer a Colene Clemens wine, and the timing is perfect here, as they’re offering a year-end discount that takes this wine considerably lower than its $28 release. Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.” I love this wine for its fragrant, evocative nose, which marries rose petals to cherry fruit and anise and underbrush. And on the Thanksgiving table, I love it especially for its propulsive energy and robust acid spine. It’s among the stronger $20 Pinots I’ve tasted so far in 2016.

No upper limits on orders, but I will say: the two we may need to allocate are the Ameztoi and the Thivin. For both of those, we bought out the remaining stock in Seattle to support this offer, and that wine should be arriving Tuesday. For the remaining wines, we’re going to place an initial order tomorrow, so those too *should* arrive Tuesday and be available for pickup as early as this upcoming Thursday, or for shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Best In Show

November 4, 2016

Hello friends. I generally only serve as a judge for two local wine competitions each year. The first is Seattle Magazine, since I do the wine writing for the mag. The second is Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman’s Great Northwest Invitational, held each October in Hood River, and including a field of wines from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia.

What’s special about the GNI (aside, of course, from the fact that each judge receives a giant wheel of Cougar Gold cheese; oh, and the fact that the competition takes place in a haunted hotel) is the invitational aspect. Wineries can only submit wines that have been specifically nominated by a competition judge. Because the caliber of judges at the competition is high, the concomitant caliber of the wines tends to be high too.

At this year’s competition, I tasted a number of truly excellent wines, none better than the wine that was the eventual winner of Best in Show. Out of 2000 wines nominated, and 600 wines entered in the competition, only one wine earns the Best in Show tag. And this year, it came from a winery that will be plenty familiar to our list members:

2013 Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon XIX

Here is the full article from Great Northwest about Dunham’s big win, and here are some pertinent excerpts:

[TEXT WITHHELD].

This is a terrific honor indeed for Dan Wampfler’s winemaking and also for the quality of our pal Kenny Hart’s growing. Our list members know Kenny more for his own Tulpen label, but in Washington wine circles, Ken Hart is known first and foremost as one of our state’s truly formidable farmers (and as one hell of a cook).

We’ve talked a few times in previous offers about the magic going on in the Mill Creek drainage of the Walla Walla Valley. This area is high-elevation, and also high enough rainfall that dry-farming without irrigation becomes a possibility. A number of vineyards have been planted in this area over the past decade, and many of them are just now coming online with usable fruit. Kenny Hill is one such site, and it’s thrilling to see its fruit already making Dunham’s Cabernet bottling on its second commercial vintage. That bodes extremely well for the future.

This 2013 spent just shy of two years in barrel (two-thirds French, one-third America, a mix of new and used) and then another year in bottle before its release. It clocks in at 13.9% listed alc and offered immediate charm in blind-tasting circumstances. My notes begin with the wine’s aromatic complexity, offering rich berry and currant fruit swaddled in smoky, espressoey barrel notes, along with notes of cedar and cola spice. This stood out in a flight of excellent Cabernets for its intensity and above all its balance: balance of fruit and oak and earth elements; balance of rich fruit to sturdy structure (bright acid and pleasingly chewy tannin). I believe it won best in show because it is an honest expression of Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is a deserving winner to be sure.

First come first served up to 12 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 Barbaresco Season

November 4, 2016

Hello friends. Autumn is peak Barbaresco season as far as I’m concerned. Bubbling pot of polenta on one stove. Chanterelles and lobsters and other assorted mushrooms cooking down on another. Glass of Nebbiolo at the ready.

Today we have a pair of Piemontese beauties: one a deep discount on a well-reviewed beauty from a classic vintage; the other a value reoffer play.

2010 Albino Rocca Barbaresco Ronchi

 
Wine Advocate (Monica Larner): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

So much to like here. The $17 drop off release price. Larner’s drinking window, which puts us in early peak territory. And access to a classic vintage rarely seen on the market these days, and from an old-school producer no less.

The only thing not to like is our parcel size, which isn’t huge. I purchased every bottle available in Seattle when I learned about the price drop, but that’s still a marginal amount. So I won’t wax on at too much length here. I’ll just say that this drinks as close to traditional Barbaresco as anything I’ve had in a while. The imposing structure (bright acidity and wonderful toothsome tannin). The insistent leafiness so evocative of autumn. The complex, evolving mix of tar and roses and menthol. If you’re against modernity and over-polishing in the Piedmont, this is the wine for you. (And for me).

2012 Tintero Barbaresco 

Originally offered August 15, 2016. Excerpts from the original: We’ve offered every Tintero Barbaresco ever made (it began with the 2008 vintage; this is our fifth in a row), and I’m sure we’ve sold the majority of all the bottles of Tintero Barbaresco that ever made it into the US. Our list members know a good value when they see one, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that a Kermit Lynch-imported Barbaresco, at a tariff more often seen for Langhe Nebbiolos, is a fine value indeed. (Ed note: we’re still the best price nationally by a few dollars.]

The winery was founded when Pierre Tintero, a Frenchmen, moved to Piedmont in the early 1900s and married the widow Rosina Cortese, owner of a small estate near Mango (location here). Whether Tintero married under the aegis of Cupid or Bacchus is lost to the sands of time. Regardless, the estate with his name has lived on, and it’s now run by the third (Elvio) and fourth (Marco and Cinzi) generations.

Back when we accessed that inaugural 2008 vintage, here’s what the inveterately-knowledgeable Lyle Railsback (of Kermit Lynch Imports) had to say: [TEXT WITHHELD].

This clocks in at 14% listed alc and begins with a killer nose, evocative and expressive. Black cherry and rose petals, smoky minerals, menthol and cinnamon spice notes. The palate perfectly balances a trinity of fruit and mineral and leaf, and offers real approachability, not often the case for Nebbiolo, let alone Nebbiolo from Barbaresco. It’s robustly structured, with bright acid and toothsome tannins. This is such a clear step up from Langhe Nebbiolo in terms of complexity and textural polish.

Please limit order requests to 18 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 Willow

November 4, 2016

Hello friends. Today we celebrate the belated one-year anniversary of our supple, complex 2013 Full Pull & Friends Merlot from Red Willow 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 Merlot Red Willow Vineyard (FPF-15)

Originally offered in October 2015. Excerpts from the original:

Washington often does Merlot right. You could argue that no region in the United States, and maybe even in the entire new world, grows better Merlot than certain pockets of the Columbia Valley. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste a lot of Washington Merlot over the years, and the bottles that have been especially profound are the older ones. Late ‘90s Merlots from Seven Hills, from Andrew Will, from Woodward Canyon: breathtaking. And so our not-entirely-economically-rational quest continues: to serve as Washington Merlot’s hype man until the winds of fashion again blow in this particular direction.

Mike Sauer planted his first vines at Red Willow in 1973, and for many years, his vineyard was deeply tied to the fate of Columbia Winery, and especially its talented winemaker, the late David Lake MW. This particular Merlot block was planted in 1991. According to our partner winemaker: Mike Sauer says it was always David Lake’s favorite block and is one of the first things to be picked at the vineyard every year. It has a gentle south to southeast slope to get the morning sun (and a little less of that late afternoon heat blast). Soil is the typical nutrient poor silty loam with good drainage.

Our winery partner here is outstanding, with a wonderful, skilled winemaker at the helm, and our shared goal with this bottling is the expression of Red Willow terroir through the prism of Merlot. This spent just shy of two years in French oak, 50% new, and it clocks in at 14.9% listed alc. One funny note: after writing my own tasting notes on this one, I asked our partner winemaker what he likes about Red Willow Merlot. He specifically mentioned “the savory complexity of the old vines at Red Willow,” and then I looked down to my note, which begins with “real sense of savory character.”

I think we are both so delighted because savory complexity is not necessarily associated with Merlot. Red-fruited fleshiness is, and that’s here too, but it’s so much lovelier as a supporting actor than it is playing the lead role. For me, the savory character is a mix between roasting meat (almost like demi-glace) and smoky peat. Mix that with strawberry and brambly raspberry and cocoa powder, top it off with cherry-blossom florals, and you have a glorious, complex Merlot nose. This winemaker is a master of texture, and that’s on fine display here. This is palate-staining Merlot, seamless and charming. It doesn’t have the Klipsun bottling’s brawny tannins; instead the tannins are present and polished, supple and delicious. This is for certain another Merlot to put in the cellar and watch unfurl into its truest beauty, but in the meantime, it’s plenty generous if you’re in an immediate-gratification state of mind.

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 Ex Umbris

November 4, 2016

Hello friends. Smashing new vintage today of one of the most popular Washington Syrahs we offer. Fortunately, we’re able to continue at the same pricing we had for the 2012 and 2013 vintages, down considerably from the $28 price point of vintages past:

2014 Owen Roe Syrah Ex Umbris

Whenever we offer Ex Umbris, I like to quote the inimitable Jon Marvin from Cavatappi. Jon represents Owen Roe locally, and he has a unique perspective on this wine, having worked at Pike & Western when the first vintage was released:

[TEXT WITHHELD]

As many of our list members who have accessed the past few vintages know, it’s true: this wine really is better than ever. The vineyard sources for the 2014 are a fantastic quartet of Yakima Valley all-stars: DuBrul, Outlook, Red Willow and Union Gap. All that good fruit was aged in mostly neutral French oak for 16 months, and the finished product clocks in at 14.1% listed alc. The nose contains Ex Umbris’ signature smoky/earthy/woodsy note: a mix of woodsmoke and chipotle, clean soil and mushroom, just-right complements to a core of dark blackberry fruit. In the mouth, this presents a palate-coating mix of salty savories and rich fruit. Intense, delicious, and ultimately, balanced, Ex Umbris continues to represent one of the most compelling Washington Syrahs released near a $20 price point.

First come first served up to 60 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.