Full Pull American Classic

August 31, 2015

Hello friends. Can you fill in the blank from this Antonio Galloni quote? “[BLANK] remains one of the finest operations I visit anywhere in the world. The total commitment to quality, value and customer service simply has no equal in this country.”

Give up yet? I’m afraid it’s not a northwest winery, but instead one of our neighbors to the south. An iconic California winery. An American classic. Ridge.

2013 Ridge Geyserville

I really only want to write about and offer two types of California wines: 1) the “new California” movement; and 2) true classics. I think it’s clear which camp Ridge falls into.

Geyserville has been produced continuously at Ridge since the 1966 vintage (Ridge began in 1962 and hired Paul Draper as winemaker in 1969), but the winery and vineyard’s histories go deeper than that. The site contains the oldest vines farmed by Ridge, the Geyserville Old Patch, planted in 1882 and as of this 2013 vintage 131 years old. These have to be some of the oldest production vines in North America. Ridge has a wonderful video on their website that shows how massive and gnarly some of those vines are; it’s two minutes long and well worth a watch.

The site contains a large number of varieties (some 28 at last count), but the heart of the vineyard is that most American of varieties: Zinfandel. It thrives in this location (right around here), which has huge diurnal shifts between daytime and night-time temps, and prevailing Pacific Ocean fogs on many mornings. Much of the site is on an ancient riverbed, so the soil is a mix of deep gravelly loam mixed with larger river rocks. Is that what gives Geyserville Zinfandel its famous wet-stone minerality?

The 2013, as usual with Geyserville, is a field blend, in this case 73% Zinfandel, 17% Carignan, 9% Petite Sirah, and 1% Mourvedre. The wine spends 12 months in American oak, a combination of 20% new, 30% one- and two-year old barrels, and 50% older barrels, and it clocks in at 14.7% listed alc. Here is how production winemaker Eric Baugher describes the vintage: Winter rains ended in December, and a warm February prompted early bud-break. Light rains in April saved the day, and let the vines set a full crop. This was the most uniform and evenly-ripe vintage in many years. Fermentations began quickly, and we pressed on day seven. In assemblage, thirty-five percent of the lots were held out—an especially rigorous selection.

This vintage of Geyserville begins with a great nose of brambly Zin fruit (raspberry, blackberry) married to savory complexities of tomato paste and chipotle and insistent salty minerals. That super mix of fruity and savory notes continues on the palate. It’s delicious and supple, a fruit-driven wine to be sure but not a fruit bomb. Complex, expressive, and long, this is American wine through and through. There really is nothing else like it in the world.

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

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 First Call Last Call

August 31, 2015

Hello friends. The 2012 vintage has been so wonderful for Washington, and it has not been always been easy keeping up with the releases of all our list favorites. Fortunately, we have an array of contacts scattered across eastern Washington who are great about letting me know when wines are getting down to end-of-vintage, last-call status.

That’s what happened today, with a pair of wines from Seven Hills Winery, a total Walla Walla gem and a list member favorite. Seven Hills has become a favorite based in large part on Casey McClellan’s clear, dedicated house style: acid-driven, texturally elegant, long-lived. Casey deserves admiration for sticking with that style as fashion trends have waxed and waned. In the early 2000s, he held steady as trends towards alcohol and oak ruled the day. Casey is a grower’s winemaker, well-loved by vineyard owners and vineyard managers, because he picks fruit early and is single-mindedly dedicated to expressing the terroir of their sites.

We have two of those sites today, both wines that have been well-loved in previous vintages. Both wines are down to their last handful of cases available in western Washington, so neither is likely to be available for reorder.

2012 Seven Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Seven Hills Vineyard

This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2012 vintage marks a milestone. Here’s Casey: This wine is drawn from the original Cabernet Sauvignon blocks at Seven Hills Vineyard, planted by my father in 1980. This vintage marks the 25th year I have been making Cabernet Sauvignon from these same, precious old vines. Seven Hills Vineyard is the queen of the Walla Walla Valley, and this particular bottling has proven to yield near-immortal agers even in average vintages. In a vintage like 2012, all bets are off.

The wine spent about two years in French oak, 40% new, and clocks in at 14.2% listed alc. Casey McClellan has been working with these grapes for many, many years, and that comfort level shows. This Cabernet always revels in the pretty side of the grape, here offering soaring high-toned violet and lavender notes over a core of redcurrant and red plum fruit. There are wonderful spice-note complexities as well, something like pimento dulce, the wonderful Spanish smoked paprika. It’s downright gorgeous in the mouth, both for its texture (intense and elegant in turn, with silky polished tannins redolent of English breakfast tea, and with bright citrusy acidity) and for its insistent inner-mouth perfume. With freshness, stuffing, and a tremendous sense of overall balance, this is poised to be a *very* long lived wine.

2012 Seven Hills Winery Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Blend

In 2012, that blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, and 9% Cabernet Franc. It spent a total of 20 months in new French oak (40% new), and it clocks in at 14.4% listed alc. What happens when you combine a vineyard and winemaker known for elegance with a vintage known for rich intensity? The answer: you get something balanced, breathtaking, beautiful. The hallmarks of Ciel are on fine display here: the inveterate minerality edging towards sanguine/ferrous, the dusty tannins, the citrus-pith complexities. Wonderful. The fruit is red in nature (red cherry, redcurrant), and the herbaceous complexities are fennel frond and sagebrush. This is a lovely, spicy marvel, with fine palate-coating texture and a wonderful balance of fruit and nonfruit (earth/herb/spice) elements.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.” [Sullivan context note: Sean has now reviewed 138 BDX Blends for Wine Enthusiast. Only five have stronger reviews, all at 94pts, with price points of $50, $57, $70, $80, and $120. A 93pt review from Mr. Sullivan is a glowing review indeed.]

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, 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 Eight Bells

August 31, 2015

Hello friends. Our buddies at Eight Bells dropped by the warehouse recently, and presented us with a trio of wines, each with dwindling quantities. One is a new vintage of an old favorite; another a wine we’ve never offered; and the finale a reoffer of a popular reorder target:

2012 Eight Bells Syrah 8 Clones Red Willow 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 Eight Bells!) have begun working with the fruit, the reputation of Red Willow has only grown and grown.

Many of Mike’s plantings over the years were done in conjunction with the late Master of Wine and long-time Columbia Winery winemaker David Lake. Those plantings include a total of four fascinating field-blend blocks, and Eight Bells gets all the fruit from three of those four blocks. The “8 Clones” block, as you probably deduced already, contains eight different clones of Syrah. This is the only place to taste this specific piece of Red Willow terroir, and it has been a beauty every time we’ve offered it (this is the third consecutive vintage).

This year, it is 95% Syrah, cofermented with 4% Viognier from the Chapel Block (the oldest Viognier in Washington, I believe) and then blended with a 1% dash of Grenache. No surprise, I suppose, that the 2012 vintage of this wine delivers in a major way. Right off the bat, the nose is glorious, with meaty bacon fat notes, loads of olive brine, smoky earth tones, and floral topnotes above blueberry and huckleberry fruit. Complex, savory-fruity, wonderful. In the mouth, my first note: “outrageous wine.” I have a feeling these vines are particularly carefully tended, due to their historical significance, and it shows. The silken texture, the insistent sense of savory goodness, the lingering salinity: all combine to form a gorgeous wine, perhaps the finest vintage yet of this outstanding value.

Jeb Dunnuck has been reviewing Eight Bells for Wine Advocate for a few years now, and it’s worth mentioning that this received as strong a review as any Eight Bells wine to date. That’s saying something about a Syrah, coming from a guy who cut his teeth writing The Rhone Report. Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93pts.”

2010 Eight Bells Shellback

Shellback has typically been a CMS blend, and in 2010, it’s heavy on the ‘C’, with a full 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from Ambassador Vineyard, the Boushey-managed site on Red Mountain. The remainder is 16% Red Willow Syrah and 6% Merlot, from both the 1990 block of Red Willow and the North Block of Hedges. Given the proportions involved here, the Eight Bells guys could legally label this as Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, which is worth considering when you examine the price point.

The wine begins with a lovely nose of blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, and maturing notes of leather and soy. Shellback has been in bottle for three years now, and that bottle age shows not only on the nose, but also texturally on the palate, where the tannins are softening and integrating beautifully. It’s a rich, delicious mix of fruit and earth notes, with a terrifically plump mid-palate transitioning into an espresso-laden finish. With the oak integrating, the tannins relaxing, and the acidity fresh and lively, this is a fine example of the wonderful ageing potential of a year like 2010.

2011 Eight Bells Cabernet Sauvignon Red Willow Vyd David’s Block

Originally offered on October 19, 2014. The winery is down to their last handful of cases. Excerpts from the original:

We offered the 2010 vintage last July. It received a strong (93pt) review from Jeb Dunnuck and disappeared soon thereafter. The block is named after David Lake, who designed it, and it was developed to test out a number of different clones. It contains rows of all five Bordeaux varietals, and each row contains a different clone. For example, there are twelve rows of Cabernet Sauvignon, which means there are twelve different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon. Mike Sauer’s goal, and the eventual goal of the folks at Eight Bells, is to be able to harvest the entire block in a single day and co-ferment all the grapes together.

Now it would be one thing if this wine just had historical significance. That would be enough to tickle the intellect. But it hits the double-whammy, engaging the intellect and the senses. It’s dynamite Cabernet. And when you look at this wine’s peer group – other Red Willow Cabernets (e.g. Owen Roe at $72) – Eight Bells is coming in well below tariff par for its comparables. It’s an outstanding value, beginning with a nose marrying black cherry and blackcurrant fruit to subtleties of cherry blossom and graphitic mineral. In the mouth, you find a wine true to the cooler 2011, a wonderful bridge between Washington and Bordeaux, with those wonderful BDX qualities of leaf and earth to go with brisk black fruit and espressoey tannins.

First come first served up to 36 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 Baby Raveneau?

August 26, 2015

Hello friends. Chablis from Bernard Raveneau are among the most sought-after unicorns in the world of wine. Expensive, unavailable; you know the drill.

And no, we don’t have any Raveneau to offer today. But we do have a pretty damned good alternative: the Chablis project that Raveneau’s long-time import partner, Kermit Lynch, initiated, and that has Raveneau’s fingerprints all over it. Better yet, it’s three years past vintage, and Chablis only gets more compelling with time in bottle. And better still: we negotiated a deal to buy out all the remaining stock in Seattle, at a price that allows us to offer the wine at the lowest price I can find nationally:

2012 Domaine Costal Chablis Les Truffieres

Kermit Lynch is an American treasure, and a wine like this is a great example of why. It’s his combination of palate and penmanship that I so admire. To wit, here is Lynch writing about this wine: The Domaine Costal Chablis “Truffières” is a unique KLWM collaboration that stems from our long relationship with Bernard Raveneau.  In addition to his busy full-time job at his namesake
domaine, Bernard manages to find the time to take on a few consulting projects in and around Chablis.  One of these projects was helping us purchase a cuve of great Chablis from Domaine Costal, the second label of the well-known Domaine Jean Collet, a family domaine since 1792.  The project began with a simple barrel tasting with Kermit and Bernard and led to the creation of a custom label, a new cuvée, and a custom vinification and bottling process driven by Bernard. The end result was a great new terroir-driven white Burgundy for our customers. The Chablis comes from a single vineyard site called Truffières, or truffles. We decided to use the name of the parcel on the label, which had never been done by the domaine in the past.

The parcel has been worked organically for many years. Kermit and Bernard Raveneau together agree on a blend of stainless steel, foudre, and barrel vinifications. Our bottling is not filtered or cold-stabilized — a true rarity in Chablis. The combined skill of Collet and Raveneau and the excellent terroir of Truffières combine to give us a wine of extraordinary purity and finesse.  There is no mistaking it – one taste and you are in Chablis territory: zesty minerality, wet stone, freshness and nervosity.  And is that a hint of black truffle in the bouquet?  Tasting the three vintages that have resulted from this collaboration, we all noticed an “elusive” suggestion of divine black truffles.   Maybe that is why the vineyard parcel has been called “Truffières” for so long.

It has been awhile since we’ve included our primer on Chablis. If you already know the Chablis story, feel free to skip a few paragraphs ahead. Chablis is the northernmost part of Burgundy, so far north that it is frequently left off Burgundy wine maps altogether, so far north that it is as close to the Champagne region as it is to greater Burgundy. And in fact, stylistically, Chardonnay from Chablis falls somewhere on the spectrum between Champagne and traditional white Burgundy. The fruit gets ripe enough for still wine (unlike even colder, screaming-acid Champagne), but not so ripe that it can handle the new wood that is frequently used in the Maconnais (some Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chablis does see a little new oak, but the proportion is rarely very high).

But Chablis is not just ordinary high-acid unoaked Chardonnay. Its soil is special, unique. The Kimmeridgean soil that underlays much of Chablis is a combination of clay, limestone, and marine fossil (mostly oyster). There are also chalk veins similar to what is found in Champagne. Rarely is a specific terroir more clearly expressed through its wines. In Chablis, that means the famous flinty, steely notes associated with Chardonnay from this region.

Now Americans have had a… how do I say this… tricky relationship with Chablis. The worst atrocity we’ve perpetrated on the region is, of course, this. Yikes. It’s no wonder there remains some brand confusion about what exactly Chablis is, and while that’s sad for Les Chablisiennes, it has had the consumer-friendly impact of suppressing prices on this lovely category of Chardonnay.

This particular wine is a fine entry point into what makes legitimate Chablis so compelling. The fruit (apple, lemon) plays supporting roles to the star player of flinty, savory minerality. Lynch says truffles. I’m not so sure, but there’s definitely something smoky/savory/naughty going on here, and it’s dazzling. So too the texture, which is textbook Chablis: all nervous energy, tensile strength. The finish is salty and mouthwatering, inviting the next sip of this honest, expressive beauty.

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 Reoffers: The Outrageous 2012s IV

August 24, 2015

Hello friends. This is our fourth missive this year featuring reoffers for 2012-vintage wines from Washington. Our list has really embraced the 2012s, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least. It was a beautiful, down-the-middle vintage in the northwest, and coming as it did after the two ridiculously cool years of 2010 and 2011, it could not have been more welcome. These days, I’m seeing way more 2013 reds (and even a few ‘14s), which only makes these ‘12s that much more poignant.

2012 Result of a Crush

We originally offered this on April 19. This new pricing for today’s reoffer is based on a discount from the winery set to begin on Labor Day and run through the end of the year. It makes an already good value that much better. Excerpts from the original:

This is the gateway drug into the gloriously funky world of Reynvaan, and I apologize in advance if tasting this leads you to spend way too much money on auction sites trying to track down the main label. It’s a family project for the Reynvaans: Since 2011, sisters Amanda Reynvaan and Angela Reynvaan Garratt have been producing approachable red blends and Rosés from elite vineyards throughout the Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley in conjunction with their brother and consulting winemaker, Matt Reynvaan. The family started out in the wine business in 2004, launching Reynvaan Family Vineyards in Walla Walla, which quickly developed into a Washington State cult winery. With the Result of a Crush project the family aims to produce wines that are distinctive, affordable, consistent in quality and showcase the owners’ sometimes whimsical attitude toward wine.

Here is what we know about the 2012: 1) Unlike three of the previous bottlings we’ve offered (two NVs and the Christmas Cuvee), this is single vintage, coming from 2012. 2) It still has the smooching lips label that belies the seriousness of the juice inside. 3) It is mostly Syrah and Viognier, with some Cabernet Sauvignon.

I’ll begin my note with the last sentence written in my notebook: “spectacular vintage for this wine.” And indeed it is, beginning with a funky, no-doubt-about-it rocks Syrah nose: smoked ham, green olive, flowers, boysenberry fruit. The umami/savory character is just outrageous on the nose. It’s so appetizing, and the palate delivers, with a mouthful of plush red and purple fruit paired to loads of bacon-fat. The swirling stew of meats and olives and fruits is just glorious, and the texture has a level of richness and polish that was just not possible in the cooler/leaner vintages. As far as I know, this remains the most accessibly priced entry point to Syrah fruit from the rocks of the Walla Walla Valley, and it continues to punch well above its price class.

2012 Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Red

Originally offered December 16, 2014, and an extremely popular reorder target ever since, which makes sense, considering how scarce the main-label Long Shadows wines have been of late. Excerpts from the original:

Nine Hats purportedly refers to the nine different winemakers involved in the Long Shadows project, but what I think of when I see it is the number of different hats Gilles Nicault has to wear as the resident winemaker for all the Long Shadows wines. The John Duvals and Michel Rollands of the world fly in and fly out, but it’s Gilles who remains behind and cares for their babies.

Since the 2007 vintage, Nine Hats has been one of the best value labels in Washington. Here’s what the winery says about the label: The nine renowned winemakers of Long Shadows’ signature wines discover after each harvest that a percentage of their resulting barrels are more than they require to achieve that perfect balance in their final blends. These extra barrels produce Nine Hats. For folks curious about wines like Feather, Pedestal, Pirouette, Sequel, Nine Hats presents an accessible entry point to Gilles Nicault’s polished, expressive winemaking. It has been a wonderful wine even in mediocre vintages. In a vintage like 2012, you’d expect it to be exceptional, and it does not disappoint. The blend is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (55%) and Merlot (21%), and by fruit from The Benches at Wallula and Weinbau Vineyards. It kicks off with a nose that smells like a bottle of expensive Cabernet: cassis fruit and violets notes swaddled in classy oak: smoke and coffee and sweet spice. The density and intensity are outrageous for a wine in the low-$20s. Smoky and sultry, classy as hell, wildly good; if this isn’t quite at the level of the top-tier Long Shadows wines, it’s awfully close.

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD.”

2012 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley

Now, excerpts from the original: 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.

First come first served up to 36 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 The Grand Cascade

August 24, 2015

Hello friends. Despite our neighborly status, Washington has a not-uncomplicated relationship with Oregon wines. Many of the better Oregon Pinot producers send just a tiny amount over the border into Washington, and those wines can be extremely difficult to source, with allocations based on long-time historical relationships. Cameron is a good example. I would *love* to write about Cameron more often than we do, and to offer more Cameron wines. But the truth is: the majority of Cameron’s Washington retail allocation each year goes to our colleagues at Pike & Western. Does it pain me to write that? Yeah, a little. But I get it. And I respect it. Michael Teer and his gang were there for Cameron in the early years, and they earned the right to some dibs on these wines.

How I see my role, then, when it comes to Oregon, is not to spend my time begging and pleading for one more bottle of Cameron, but instead to spend my time trying to identify the next crop of outstanding Oregon producers, and to get in on the ground floor. And right now, there’s one winery name that comes up again and again in conversations about outstanding young producers. That name is Walter Scott.

2014 Walter Scott Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

This is the winery of husband and wife team Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon, and they’re as buzzy as a winery gets in Oregon right now. Ken and Erica have tons of industry experience, he on the winemaking/sales side (stints at St. Innocent, Patty Green, Evening Land), she on the restaurant/somm side. The winery began in 2009, but it’s only in the past year or two that the wines have escaped the clutches of the winery mailing list and the state of Oregon, and they still turn up more frequently in restaurants than at retail. A lot of the early buzz came from positive press from exacting publications like Tanzer’s IWC and Burghound. Then the excellent wine writer Neal Martin arrived in 2015 to write about Oregon for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, and the buzz turned into a roar, thanks to these (excerpted) notes:

[TEXT WITHHELD]

In my communications with Ken and Erica, one of my favorite quotes comes from Erica: “Becky Wasserman was once quoted in spectator saying that you can always tell a great domain by their Bourgogne.  These are words we LIVE by.  We put the same care and attention to detail in these two wines as our single vineyard selections.  It is our reputation and our life.”

Hell. Yes. Erica is quoting the great Burgundy importer Becky Wasserman, who was saying that a great Burg domain can (should) be judged by their entry-level Bourgogne Rouge. The equivalent in Oregon is an entry-level Willamette Valley Pinot, and Erica is intimating that she and Ken are comfortable being judged on the merits of their WV Pinot. Perhaps especially so in a vintage like 2014, which seems like it’s going to be that rare year in Oregon that allows for both high yields and high quality.

In a year like ’14, you get something Erica refers to as “The Grand Cascade.” What that means: well, let’s say a winery normally gets enough fruit to make 100 cases of their expensive single vineyard Pinot. 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 your Willamette Valley Pinot program, and make your entry-level wine, your gateway drug, that much better. I think it’s obvious which option is better for we the consumers.

So that helps explain why this ’14 is a complete knockout. The fruit was almost all (95%) from the Eola-Amity Hills, and is primarily made up of Eola Springs, along with Freedom Hill, Temperance Hill, Ingram Lane (owned by Bethel Heights), Bieze, and Lewman vineyards (outstanding sites all, and several of them end up in single vineyard Walter Scott bottlings for $45-$55). The wine is 100% destemmed, fermented with ambient yeast, and aged in barrel for just shy of a year, 30% new.

Partway through the note in my notebook, there’s an underlined passage: “wow; this is like Cotes de Nuits meets Oregon.” There is a darkness to the fruit character, an insistence to the mineral tones, that caused me to jot that opinion. This is a gorgeous wine, mixing black cherry and blackberry fruit, loads of minerality, resinous forest notes, and exotic spice. It’s amazingly complex for such a young wine. Texturally, it’s lively (13.5% listed alc), propulsive, with real live-wire intensity to the mix of fruits and crushed rocks. Eminently drinkable/approachable, food friendly for all manner of autumn-season meals, and ultimately balanced above all else, this is an outstanding Pinot Noir for its price class. I’m really pleased our list members will have the opportunity to try this one.

2014 Walter Scott Chardonnay Willamette Valley

And a bonus Chardonnay to boot, which is probably even rarer than the Pinot. Here’s Erica: Our Chardonnays are picked with a potential alcohol of 13% and with low PH, high acid.  We ferment with ambient yeast, in barrel (mostly puncheon) and stir the lees as little as possible, only to stir them into suspension to assist them with fermentation.  Once finished they are not stirred again.  Malolactic is 100%, and then the wines sit in barrel for about 11 months, then blended and bottled.  There is roughly 15% new oak on the Willamette Valley.

Vineyard sources for the Chard are Clos des Oiseaux, Bieze, Eola Springs, and Freedom Hill, again including vineyards that go for considerably more when bottled as single-site wines. Listed alc here is 13.0%, and this begins with a beguiling nose of pear, lemon curd, and threads of smoke and mineral. Elegant, mouth-coating, and minerally, this again charms with its intensity. The sense of extract, the mouth-filling texture, the endless length: all delight. Those of you who have enjoyed Tyson Crowley’s Chardonnays over the years should pay close attention here.

First come first served up to 24 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 2012 Finale

August 21, 2015

Hello friends. Today we celebrate the end of the 2012 vintage for one of the most consistently-thrilling lineups in Washington right now: the wonderful Spanish varieties from Javier Alfonso’s Idilico. His just-released 2012 Tempranillo will be the focus of today’s offer, but we also have reorder opportunities on the other three 2012-vintage wines from the Idilico portfolio, as well as a bonus reorder on his delicious 2014 Albarino.

As a reminder, Javier developed Idilico as a sister label (his main label is Pomum Cellars) to highlight Spanish varieties grown in Washington. These wines are rarely reviewed, but even without the critics weighing in, the label has developed serious buzz, spurred on by the sommelier set and other insider types who know value when they see it. The sales focus for Idilico is mostly restaurant wine lists, and the wines are priced accordingly. That makes them terrific values at retail.

2012 Idilico Tempranillo

In a small field of Washington Tempranillos, this is always a standout, offering terrific value for the tag. It’s a sign of the grape’s recent success that Javier can now source from sites across our state, including Snipes Mountain (Upland Vineyard), Horse Heaven Hills (Elerding), and the greater Yakima Valley. Some of these plants are Ribera del Duero Tinta del Pais Tempranillo clones imported from Spain and custom-planted and farmed for Javier.

Aged all in neutral French oak for a year, this clocks in at 13.9% listed alc and begins with a nose of deep black cherry fruit, autumnal leafy notes, and spices like anise and clove. Texturally this is immediately noteworthy for its balance. Tannins are well-managed and fine-grained; acids bright and juicy; all the components coexist harmoniously. The overall picture is of a complete Washington Tempranillo, impressively expressive of the variety at this price point. It’s a rich, delicious mix of supple fruit and savory/brothy notes. That autumnal charm I mentioned in the aromatics continues on the palate. This seems very much like a wine made for the season speeding ever-closer towards us. Pumpkin patches, burbling pots of braising meats, and a bottle of Idilico Temp. Yes please.

2012 Idilico Garnacha

This is the fourth vintage of Garnacha (aka Grenache) for Idilico, and we’ve offered all of them. At this price point, the wine tends to get snapped up by restaurants looking for exciting glass-pour options (and with only 225 cases made in 2012, this will likely move fast). It’s a 50/50 split of two vineyards: Elerding in the Yakima Valley and Upland on Snipes Mountain (evidence continues to mount that Upland is the finest site in the state for Grenache).

Aged entirely in neutral puncheon, this clocks in at 14.3% and offers a lovely nose melding bright floral rose petal notes with brambly raspberry, black cherry, and the dusty wild herbs the French call garrigue and the Spanish call… well… I don’t know; I’ll have to ask Javier next time I see him. In the mouth, it carries all the palate-coating qualities of a beautiful vintage like ’12, with depth and density to burn. It has a real sense of weight and presence through the mid-palate, and a supple fine-grained tannin finish. What a charmer, and certainly one of the finest values in the burgeoning category of Washington Grenache.

2012 Idilico Monastrell

Originally offered November 11, 2014. Excerpts from original offer: I feel lucky that we have access to this one. The inaugural 2011 vintage saw an 80-case production run. For 2012 it’s all the way up to… 93 cases. That’s not very much, especially considering how rare it is to see single-vineyard Washington Mourvedre (the French synonym for Spanish Monastrell) at a sub-$20 tag. This may be restaurant-only outside of Full Pull. I think Javier is doing us a favor because of our list’s long support of Idilico. Like last year, it comes entirely from Upland Vineyard, and it was done entirely in neutral oak for 15 months. It offers a nose of wild Mourvedre, with its mix of plum and cherry fruit, citrusy grapefruit tones, peppered game, and leathery spice. On the palate, it is a spicy, intense live wire, humming along all juicy and delicious. The end of my tasting note asks a question: is there any variety 2012 can’t do well?

2012 Idilico Graciano Riserva

This is such a terrific Cabernet Sauvignon alternative, with much of the texture and structure we all love in good Cabs but with a completely different, and exotic, array of aromas and flavors. Star anise, slatey minerals, briar and raspberry, warming Indian spices like cardamom, and an insistent wildness all characterize the nose, one complex enough that it sent me back to the glass over and over again during the course of a few hours. Intensity is the watchword here. Everything is dialed up to 11. Big bright acid; big chewy green-tea tannin; big rich fruit that grabs the palate and won’t quit. It’s a memorable experience, drinking a glass of this wine.

2014 Idilico Albarino

Originally offered November 11, 2014. Excerpts from original offer: This is the fifth vintage of Albarino (we’ve offered all of the previous four) under the Idilico label. To the best of my knowledge, there are no more than a handful of Albarino vineyards in Washington. Javier’s comes from Dutchman Vineyard, a DenHoed-planted site in the cooler part of the Yakima Valley, north of Prosser. The wine moves from those vines to bottle with little intervention: stainless steel fermentation and aging; moderate lees contact; no malolactic fermentation. It’s pure Albarino, 12.5% alc and awash in mineral-soaked lemon-lime and peach-fuzz fruit. Eminently refreshing, this is all bright acid on the attack, then transitions into a mid-palate with surprising plumpness before gliding onto a finish with lingering citrus/rock notes. I’m not sure there is another Washington white more evocative of our long northern-latitude summer days, with those blue twilights that last for hours.

First come first served up to 60 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.


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