Full Pull Cabernet Value

February 27, 2017

Hello friends. Today we have outstanding pricing (down from an $18 release) on one of the best value Cabernet projects to emerge out of Washington in the past few years:

2014 Balancing Act Cabernet Sauvignon

(Note: the main thrust of this offer will be the Cabernet Sauvignon, but Balancing Act also has an outstanding Chardonnay, and we’ll offer that below.)

This is vintage number two for Balancing Act. I wanted to offer the debut vintage, but I slept on it a little too long, Wine Spectator published a 90pt review, and that was all she wrote. I don’t want to make the same mistake this year, and I just learned that the March issue of Wine Enthusiast is going to contain the following review from Sean Sullivan:

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEST WITHHELD]. 90pts.” [Sullivan context note: in his time with Wine Enthusiast, Sean has published 121 reviews of Cabernets at $20 and below. Only a single wine (2012 Goose Ridge g3) wine has earned a higher mark (91pts). All that to say: a 90pt review for a Cabernet at this price point is a fine review indeed from Mr. Sullivan.]

The most important thing to know about Balancing Act are the folks behind the project: Ron Coleman and Danny Gordon of Tamarack Cellars. For years, they have been producing their Firehouse Red, consistently among the finest values in Washington. Now they’re applying their considerable talents to producing similar value in Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The intention with the Cabernet is that it’s a blend of Tamarack-vinified house juice and carefully-selected purchased juice. Ron has been making wine in Walla Walla for a long time. He knows everyone, and that means access to very good juice indeed.

But in 2014, I actually wonder how much purchased juice the winery needed. After all, this is the high-quality/high-yield vintage in the northwest that led to the “grand cascade effect” (thanks again to Erica Landon of Walter Scott for this pitch-perfect term). The deal with the grand cascade: let’s say a winery normally gets enough fruit to make 100 cases of their expensive single vineyard Cabernet. But in a year like 2014, they get enough fruit to make 150 cases. One option, of course, is to just produce 150 cases of expensive wine and hope the market can bear it. Another option: “cascade” those extra 50-cases worth of single-vineyard juice into a lower-priced label, and make it that much better.

This drinks very much like expensive fruit given the careful coddling typical for everything that comes out of Tamarack. It clocks in at 14.2% listed alc and offers a wonderfully expressive Cabernet nose: crème de cassis and black plum paired to smoky/earthy peat moss tones and savory beetroot. The palate is rich, inviting, downright luxurious, and that’s not an adjective I find myself tossing around much for fifteen-dollar Cabs. There is a core of dense, layered fruit, swaddled in smoky/spicy barrel tones. The finish, awash in fine-grained Cabernet chew, leaves an impression of cocoa powder, a lengthy final note confirming a wine that punches well above its price class, drinking like many Cabernets in the $20s or $30s. What fun to have a Cabernet priced for Tuesday night that drinks like Saturday night!

2015 Balancing Act Chardonnay
This too has an upcoming Enthusiast review in the March issue: Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 89pts.” [Sullivan context note: in his time with Wine Enthusiast, Sean has published 87 reviews of Chardonnays at $15 and below. None have earned better than an 89pt mark, and in fact only three others share that 89pt score.]

This one clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and offers a nose of honeycrisp apple, citrusy pineapple, and crème fraiche. A real fruit yumball on the palate, with nary a shred of barrel influence, but with plenty of fruit intensity. The fruit is rich and layered: tree fruits, stone fruits, even a little tropical character. We haven’t offered many ten-dollar Washington Chardonnays, and there’s a reason for that. Most of them are anonymous at best, technically flawed and/or oak-powdered into oblivion at worst. This is a rare exception: clean, fruit-driven, and appealing.

Party and wedding planners, take note. Your guests will like you if you serve these wines. First come first served up to 120 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and 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 Exclusive Cabernet

February 27, 2017

Hello friends. Because of our list’s ongoing support for Michael Savage’s wines, we’ve been offered a treat today: exclusive access to a new wine in the Savage Grace portfolio, a killer Cabernet from one of the finest vineyards in Washington.

2014 Savage Grace Cabernet Sauvignon Red Willow Vineyard
First, a note on how this exclusive will work. A small parcel of this wine just landed in Seattle, and we basically have one months’ worth of dibs. For the next month, Full Pull is the only account that can touch this wine. After that, it’s open season. If there’s anything left.

The reason I think we might end up snagging the entire parcel? Well, it’s a combination of factors:

FACTOR 1: THE WINEMAKER
Michael Savage is about as buzzy as a winemaker gets in Washington circles these days, and that buzz turned into a roar last summer when Savage Grace was named Best Emerging Winery in Seattle Magazine’s annual awards. Here’s an excerpt of what I’ve written about Michael previously:

[TEXT WITHHELD].

FACTOR 2: THE VINEYARD
Red Willow Vineyard is one of Washington’s most important sites; the defining vineyard, in my opinion, of the far western Yakima Valley. It was originally planted by Mike Sauer in 1973, and for many years, the preponderance of the fruit went to Columbia Winery. In recent years, as Columbia contracts have loosened and as boutique, sterling-reputation wineries like Betz and Owen Roe and Gramercy (and Savage Grace!) have begun working with the fruit, the reputation of Red Willow has only grown and grown.

This Cabernet comes from the first usable harvest (third leaf) from a 2012 block planted on the Marcoux side of the vineyard. I reached out to Michael to ask him about working with Red Willow fruit, and here is his (excerpted) response: I started getting excited about the possibility of working with [Red Willow Cabernet] fruit and finding a way to express it in a style that matched the winery philosophy of making more restrained, old-world, balanced and terror-driven wines. Also, I thought of some of the older David Lake cabs that I’d tasted that were balanced and much lighter-bodied, lower alcohol. So this gave me a place to start to approach the fruit.

One of the main goals of the winery is to make balanced wines that speak of place and I feel like this is one of the truly great vineyards in the state, one where terroir really shows through in the wines. And I want people to know when they are drinking wine from this vineyard, how much the Sauer family respects their vineyard and what great people they are to work with. The terroir here is so unique. The aromas and flavors that show up in the wines are so specific to Red Willow and I feel like it shows across all varietals. Kind of a smoky, gamey, minerality, with brine and brilliant fruit.

2014 was a very warm year and I typically pick earlier, looking for more varietal character, lower-Brix, less “winemaking” needed, etc., so we discussed how early we could pick to get the right balance for that style. Leaner-bodied but balanced. So this was the first pick from that cab block, about 1-week earlier than the next pick that year. The 2014 Cab Sauv was picked on Sept. 25, berries were small, and it was fermented using a combination of destemmed, lightly-crushed, along with some whole-berry, for tannin management. Mostly punch-downs were used. Knowing that the cabs from that vineyard do not generally suffer from lack of tannins, it was aged in 18% new French Oak, which is rare for us to use, and the rest 1st and 2nd-use barrels. It was bottled after 1-year.

FACTOR 3: THE VARIETY
We’ve offered a lot of Michael’s wines over the years – Chardonnay and Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec and Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc – but never a Savage Grace Cabernet Sauvignon. This is as approachable a Cab as I can remember tasting from Michael; hell, maybe as approachable a Savage Grace wine, period.

It clocks in at 14% and has a nose that caused me to pause and jot a note to myself that “Michael has a real gift when it comes to purity.” Purity is the watchword for Savage Grace wines, and this is a fine example. The nose is a precise, expressive mix of black cherry fruit, cherry blossom, and loamy earthy notes. With time and air, lovely subtleties of cedar and tobacco emerge, like a Washington-Pauillac cross And then on the palate, it’s a marvel of intensity with nary a shred of excess weight. The sense of balance is impeccable, and the components (fruit, earth, exotic spice liked smoked paprika) coexist seamlessly. Acidity is bright and vibrant, tannins polished and supple, the entire package compelling as can be. It is really difficult to believe that this is third-leaf fruit, but that combination of skillful grower and gifted winemaker can make magic, even with youthful vines.

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 Kevin White

February 27, 2017

Hello friends. For the first four years that we offered his wines (2012-2015), Kevin White had one release per year. We’d offer his ridiculously excellent La Fraternite and En Hommage, immediately sell out, and set the clock 365 days forward.

Fortunately for us, beginning in 2016 Kevin inaugurated a second release, with one well-priced gateway-drug wine and one rare single-vineyard gem. Last year we had to scramble a little, and offered them separately: the red wine in March and the DuBrul in April. As usual when it comes to Kevin’s wines, both sold out instantly, and I recall DuBrul allocations being especially rough.

This year we’re better prepared. Both wines are scheduled to be released March 1, and we’re offering the pair of them together today so that I know exactly what our list’s desires are when it comes to Mr. White’s wines. That will allow me to advocate as forcefully as I can for as much of these gorgeous wines as possible.

2015 Kevin White Winery Red Wine

Most winemakers, when they’re as trendy/buzzy as Kevin, find ways to *raise* prices, not introduce wines at lower tags. Just one of many reasons to admire what Kevin is doing with this winery, which has to be viewed as one of the most exciting to launch in Washington in the past decade.

This is commercial vintage number six for Kevin, and I’m pretty sure we’ve offered every single wine he has ever released to retail. His pricing is ridiculous, his bottles easily competing with wines at twice the tag. Kevin seems determined to offer exceptional value as he builds his brand, and I’m thrilled that our list members can continue to be the recipients of his efforts in that direction. The reason we continue to get competitive allocations of these scarce wines is in part due to the fact that Kevin himself was a long-time Full Pull list member (we first talked about this potential winery project way back in 2010).

As far as logistics go with this particular wine, the first thing I should say is that we’re likely to only get one shot. Unlike Kevin’s higher-end wines, which are carefully allocated and doled out, this red is being offered in open inventory. The good news: we can ask for whatever amount our list members want; the bad: so can every other account in town. And that includes restaurants, because this wine comes in at a price point that allows for glass-pours (always scary when it comes to depletion pressure).

Probably the most important thing to know about the wine itself is that it comes entirely from Kevin-vinified juice. He’s not purchasing any bulk juice to fluff this wine up. And while he’s not revealing the exact vineyards or breakdown involved (wisely, so as not to aggravate the excellent growers he’s working with, who might not be so crazy about seeing their grapes end up in a sub-$20 bottle), we can intuit the suspects: Upland and Olsen, Boushey and Elephant Mountain: fantastic sites for Rhone varieties in Washington.

And this is indeed a Rhone blend: 44% Syrah, 31% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre. It clocks in at 14.9% listed alc and begins with an exuberant nose, all fresh youthful goodness. Blackberry fruit, berry flower blossoms, and emerging threads of olive and mineral. This is the most openly delicious wine I can remember tasting from Kevin. It still possesses his trademark textural elegance, but here it’s paired to fruit character squarely in line with warm-vintage generosity. The overall package is one of the strongest sub-$20 Rhone blends I can remember tasting from Washington, punching well above its price class, and another data point arguing that this is a real growth category for our state going forward. Pair with a sausage and white bean stew for transcendence.

2014 Kevin White Winery Heritage DuBrul Vineyard

Heritage is an unusual wine for this Rhone specialist, as it is a squarely Bordeaux blend of Merlot (53%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (47%), raised in 40% new French oak for about two years. I suspect Kevin could not resist the siren call of DuBrul Vineyard, one of the finest sites in the state. After all, a bottle of wine from DuBrul and an eventual visit to the vineyard are parts of the winery’s origin story, as richly recounted by Sean Sullivan in an old posting on Washington Wine Report.

You may also remember what Mr. Sullivan wrote about last year’s debut (2013) vintage in Seattle Met Magazine: [TEXT WITHHELD].

I think Sean is right. As DuBrul’s reputation has grown, so too have prices, and it has become more and more difficult to source wines from this outstanding vineyard. The only other DuBrul wine we offer with any regularity is Rasa’s Creative Impulse, and that one generally goes for about a hundred bucks. As you can imagine, DuBrul fruit plus buzzy winemaker plus moderate pricing plus small parcel equals, ahem, allocation challenges. Hence the need to get in and stake our claim nice and early.

This vintage immediately blasts out of the glass with signature DuBrul exoticism: anise and smoldering Indian spice, orange peel and smoky grilled bread. All that over a core of blackcurrant and black cherry fruit. It’s a thrill-ride nose, deeply complex and attractive. In the mouth, the silky, polished texture provides just-right framing for those continuing exotic notes, as well as a spicy note on the finish that reminded me of jalapeno. This is complicated, pleasurable wine; a fine introduction to an important, difficult-to-source Washington vineyard

Please limit order request 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 Blanco Tinto Inexpensivo

February 27, 2017

Hello friends. One of our biggest hits of last summer was a $20 3L Bag-in-Box from La Nevera in Rioja. I recently had the chance to try the other two wines in the lineup, and I just found myself shaking my head and chuckling. These are ridiculous values, and I’m convinced this packaging is going to own the future.

So today we head back to La Nevera, with a chance to access the Blanco and the Tinto:

2015 La Nevera Blanco (3L BAG IN BOX, Pickup Only)

Olé Imports has been a source of many incredible values for us, but perhaps none better than these boxes. You may recall from the Rosdao offer last year that Olé chooses not to put Rioja on the labels because “not showing the name Rioja on the label allows La Nevera to pay a lesser tax making these wines greater values than they otherwise would be.”

Nevertheless, this is indeed from Rioja, and more specifically from a single vineyard in Rioja Alta planted in 1973 and farmed organically at more than 2000 feet. Soils are clay and limestone, and the vineyard looks like this. Those grapes: 100% Viura, the great white of Rioja. After crush, the grapes get five hours of skin contact before pressing into stainless steel, where they age for a whopping two months before going into box.

Listed alc is 12.5%, and this kicks off with a fresh nose of lime and tangerine fruit complicated by salty sea-air. It’s like Viura-meets-Albarino on the nose. And then on the palate it almost drinks like Vinho Verde: clean, green, and pristine. There’s loads of zippy acid, and a lingering, salty, mouthwatering finish that really is more than we have any right to expect out of a twenty-buck box. What a refreshing treat for springtime picnics or road trips, or just to stash away in your fridge for weeks on end. Not to mention one hell of a seared scallop pairing.

2015 La Nevera Tinto (3L BAG IN BOX, Pickup Only)

What we get for those extra fifty cents: a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and Viura from another organically farmed vineyard, this one planted in 1978 at 1800 feet in Rioja Alta (here’s a pic). Soils, as you can see from that picture, are sandy clay.

Treatment for the Tinto resembles the Blanco: just two months in stainless steel before “boxing.” (Although this one sees a full five-day cold soak and then ten days of post-fermentation extended skin maceration). Listed alc here is also 12.5%. The nose is pure and lovely, offering red cherry, earth, and wonderful leafy tones of eucalyptus and tobacco leaf. It’s a clean, complex nose at this price point. “I love subsidized winemaking!” was the first comment from La Nevera’s Seattle rep when we tasted this wine. And it’s true: it seems impossible to imagine this level of quality at this price without some friendly government intervention. For me, this drinks like totally honest young Rioja, like good Joven. It has that familiar leafy/dusty cherry fruit, and brings plenty of pleasure and palate-weight at such a moderate alcohol. I want to put a slight chill on this and order some legit Mexican takeout.

Please limit order request to 6 boxes 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 Pinot Bargain

February 27, 2017

Hello friends. We got to know the wines of Matello last year through their outrageous Cote Rotie ringer from Oregon, Deux Vert. That wine, however, is a real outlier in the lineup, which is focused mostly on Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay). So today, we have our first Matello Pinot Noir offer, and it’s a doozy: their Tête de Cuvée, the finest Pinot in the Matello lineup, six years past vintage and just entering a beautiful drinking window. Release price on this wine was $45, but we’re able to do a lot better today:

2011 Matello Pinot Noir Souris

Vinous (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

That’s a fine review from a tough grader, and underscores what a fine deal this is. Marcus, and his partner Gaironn Poole, are discontinuing the Souris label after the 2012 vintage, so at this point, they’re willing to offer excellent pricing to move significant volume. Perfect for the Full Pull model.

As a reminder, Matello was launched by Marcus Goodfellow in 2002 after he spent time working with the folks at Evasham Wood and Westrey. For the first few years, he made wine tucked away in a little corner at Westrey (good place for wine-knowledge osmosis!) before moving to a co-op facility and then his own facility in 2011.

Just in time to make this particular Pinot, which is a 58/42 blend of Whistling Ridge Vineyard in Ribbon Ridge and Durant in Dundee Hills, two excellent sites. It clocks in at 12.9% alc, very true to the cool 2011 vintage and approaching Burgundy Brix levels. One truism I’ve found about cooler vintages in Oregon is that they need time to unfurl. But my, the glories that await those of us with patience.

This one begins with a nose of blackberry and dried cherry, woodsmoke, and some lovely emerging tertiary notes of earth and leather spice. With just a little time and air, a wonderful mineral core emerged here, bestowing a terrific crushed-rock character to this Pinot. With plenty of nervy acidity and no shortage of robust tannin, this could easily be confused structurally for an old-world wine, and all that structure is perfect scaffolding for a dense core of rocks and fruit. There’s nothing better than hitting a wine right as its peak drinking window is beginning to open, and I think that’s just where we are with this wine, with a peak likely to stretch from 2017-2022 or so. It’s a taut, thrilling Pinot, and you can bet I’ll have a few bottles set aside for when the salmon start running in a few short months.

First come first served up to 24 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 Renegade

February 27, 2017

Hello friends. We have the return today of a wine that has become a list mainstay; a killer Grenache (mostly) from the rocks of the Walla Walla Valley:

2014 Renegade Grenache

I believe we’ve offered every vintage of this wine that has existed, beginning with the 2009 vintage and continuing through today. Why? Because it is exceedingly rare to find Washington Grenache at $15, especially one with a backbone from rocks district fruit.

Now then, a quick reminder of what the Renegade program is all about. So, imagine a winery sitting on barrels of wine that they don’t want to release under their own label. There are a myriad of reasons why this could be the case. Regardless, Trey Busch (whose main label is Sleight of Hand Cellars) purchases the barrels, bottles the wine under his Renegade label, and frequently signs a non-disclosure agreement regarding the source of the juice. Here’s what we can disclose about this Grenache:

1. It mostly comes from a youngish vineyard in the rocks district of the Walla Walla Valley (same vineyard source as previous vintages), blended with a little bit of fruit from Snipes Mountain. Hence the Columbia Valley designation this year.

2. The rocks vineyard sells fruit to a very small number of wineries, all of them among the finest Rhone producers in Washington. The majority of this juice came from one of those three wineries.

3. This was fermented with 100% stems and aged for 16 months in neutral barrels.

4. This is delicious Grenache, evocative of its unique origins: the ancient cobbles of the Walla Walla River. And as I’ve mentioned so many times you’re probably bored of hearing it, 2014 was an outstanding vintage for value wines. Because it was both high-quality and high-yield, a lot of excess juice normally destined for higher-end bottlings was cascaded down to the value tier. The biggest winners in this situation: us.

It clocks in at 14.5% listed alc and pours into the glass pale ruby, a reminder that Grenache in Washington can look quite delicate (almost like Pinot Noir), especially if it’s not blended with deeper-pigmented Syrah. That paleness, however, belies the power and richness inherent to this wine. It begins with a nose of raspberry and Kalamata olive, pink pepper and herbes de provence (with extra lavender); an attractive nose, and very evocative of Grenache. In the mouth, what you notice right away is the complete lack of rough edges. This is a soft, easy drinker, such a charming wine texturally that you could be forgiven for missing its complexity. But it’s there in spades. This is characterful, well-priced Grenache, and it put me in mind of an olive-studded lamb tagine.

We’re catching this one at its end of vintage, so this is likely to be a one-and-done deal, with no reorders possible. 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 Eliminator 12: Barbaresco Edition

February 27, 2017

Hello friends. v12 of the Eliminator is a small version – just three wines – and entirely Barbaresco focused. Lovers of ethereal Nebbiolo, rejoice!

A reminder: Eliminator offers work a little differently than our norm. These will be first-come first-served, and the upper order limits will be the number of extra bottles in the warehouse. So, if we have 15 bottles left, and you want all 15, and you’re the first to jump in, they’re yours. This gives slight advantage to longer-term list members. Our offers are throttled, and it takes about two hours to send offers to the entire list. So list old-timers do get a (small) head start.

Let’s dive in.

2012 Tintero Barbaresco

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. We’re still the best price nationally by a few dollars, and we have 90 bottles remaining.

2010 Veglio Barbaresco

Well-priced Barbaresco from a producer exported regularly to northern Europe, but very rarely to the US. From a gorgeous vintage too. And I’ll stop there, since we have a mere 30 bottles remaining, and this one comes with a nice review attached. Wine Enthusiast (Kerin O’Keefe): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

2010 Albino Rocca Barbaresco Ronchi

This too comes with a shiny review. Wine Advocate (Monica Larner): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

So much to like here. The $17 drop from the $57 release price. Larner’s drinking window, which puts us in early peak territory. And access to a classic vintage from an old-school producer. 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. 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. 84 bottles available.

All three wines are in the warehouse and available for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.