Full Pull Little James

February 5, 2016

Hello friends. New bottling today of one of the coolest value wines out there: Little James Basket Press from Saint Cosme. In addition, we’ll offer the Little James Blanc, which is another fine value, and one we’ve never previously offered:

NV Saint Cosme Little James Basket Press (2014 bottling)  

A reminder of what Little James is all about: Louis Barruol of Saint Cosme has (rightly) built his public reputation on wines from his home base of Gigondas. But among the wine-trade/insider/sommelier set, there may be even more affection for his least expensive wine.

Because it’s one thing to make a quality Grenache that retails for $30-$100; it’s something else to develop a Grenache that brings pleasure for ten bucks. Much more frequently spotted on restaurant glass-pour lists than on retail shelves, this is as perfect a winter house wine as there is, an easy choice for a drizzly Wednesday night.

Louis began this as a solera project in 1999. It’s a NV (non-vintage) bottling, and each bottle contains about 50% of the most recent vintage (in this case 2013), and 50% from the solera, which at this point contains juice from every vintage from 1999 to 2012. It gets the Vin de France designation, because it contains juice from the Cosme Grenache holdings in the Southern Rhone as well as the Languedoc.

As we all know, there is a surfeit of serious bottles in the wine world. This is not intended to be one of them. The label shows the playfulness at the heart of Little James, but what are we to do when a wine intended for playfulness turns out to sneakily contain a little seriousness?

I suppose the answer is to enjoy it however we want. Little James can be enjoyed for the sheer pleasure it brings, the lovely pure expression of briar-berry Grenache. But there is undeniable complexity here (having a small proportion of juice that is 15 years old doesn’t hurt), and if you want to take your time with this bottle and pay attention, you’ll be rewarded handsomely. It begins with a nose of brambly raspberry, strawberry, mint, and a whole host of Provencal herbs and flowers. What a fragrant, appetizing nose! The palate mixes dried-fruit complexity from the solera with freshness and lift from the younger juice. The overall package is rich, delicious, chockful of character. As it always does, this punches well above its price class.

We bought the entire parcel of the 2014 bottling remaining in Seattle. The 2015 bottling won’t arrive for months, so in the meantime, we have an effective exclusive on Little James Rouge.

2014 Saint Cosme Little James Basket Press Blanc 

Saint Cosme winemaker Louis Barroul always offers insightful notes on his wines. Here’s an example: [TEXT WITHHELD].

Barroul is right, both that Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier are uncommon blending partners, and also that he manages to make a good marriage of the two grapes. To me, this drinks like Viognier with an acid injection. The Sauvignon Blanc seems to influence the texture in a major way (adding brightness and lift via a sturdy acid spine) but not so much the aroma and flavor, which is very much Viognier. Honeysuckle, orange peel, peach, fresh ginger; it’s all there, as is Viognier’s lovely inner-mouth perfume. Another sneaky charmer from the Little James lineup.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests.  The LJ Rouge is already in the warehouse. The LJ Blanc should arrive in the next week or two, at which point both wines will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Cousins

February 3, 2016

Hello friends. I always enjoy trying to identify the year’s theme waaaaaay earlier than I should. And yeah, I get it, it’s just barely February, we’re only 34 days into a 366-day year, etc etc. But still. Sometimes themes emerge early.

And so far, an emerging theme of 2016 is The Year of Oregon Pinot Deals. This is our third Oregon Pinot offer of the year (after 2012 August Cellars Pinot and 2013 Patty Green Freedom Hill), and our third outstanding deal:

[Please note: while Les Cousins will be the main thrust of today’s offer, we also have access to three successive vintages of Beaux Freres’ outstanding “The Beaux Freres Vineyard” bottling, all at fine prices. See the bottom of today’s offer for that trio.]

2013 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir Les Cousins  

Les Cousins is a real rarity. I believe this is only the fifth time since the 2001 vintage that Beaux Freres (known for much higher-end Pinots) has released Les Cousins. When they do release it, they don’t release much. When I heard the amount of 2013 juice that got sent up to Washington, I asked if we could purchase the entire Washington parcel. Fortunately that request was granted, because even the entire Washington allocation is barely enough to warrant an offer (I feel like a broken record, but once again: we’ll set order request limits at 6 bottles, but please don’t be surprised if eventual allocations are closer to 2-3 bottles).

What’s important to note about Les Cousins is that it comes entirely from barrels in the Beaux Freres cellar (no purchased juice here), and it includes barrels of estate vineyard fruit. A delicate pale ruby, it explodes out of the glass with high-toned aromas of red cherry and strawberry, rose petals and minerals. It’s an old-world/new-world bridge kind of nose, the kind you hate to see in a blind tasting, because you’re like “Restrained Oregon? Fleshy Burgundy? Oregon? Burg? Argh!” The palate continues the theme, with the kind of earthy/mineral core more often associated with French Pinot Noir, but just enough kiss of ripeness to lean you into the new world. It’s a balanced package that hangs together beautifully, and it offers a rare, well-priced glimpse into the Beaux Freres lineup.

2010 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir The Beaux Freres Vineyard
 

Here are the winery notes on this bottling, true for all three vintages: [TEXT WITHHELD].

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

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

2011 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir The Beaux Freres Vineyard
 

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Vinous (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

2012 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir The Beaux Freres Vineyard 

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

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

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles of Les Cousins. For The Beaux Freres Vineyard bottlings, please limit order requests to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull 4040

February 1, 2016

Hello friends. I know there is huge interest among our members in well-priced Red Mountain wines. I also know that it isn’t easy to find examples in the $20s. Over the years, we’ve basically whittled it down to two wines each vintage: Cadence Coda and Fidelitas 4040. I love offering these two because they exist at very different locations along the stylistic spectrum, but each is expressive of Red Mountain in its own way.

Last year was the first time we offered the 4040, and that one took months of back-and-forth e-mails and price negotiations. Fortunately, those efforts continue to pay dividends. Last year’s offer was such a rousing success that we’ve been able to secure the same pricing for the 2013:

2013 Fidelitas 4040
 

If we can offer Coda each summer and 4040 each winter, I will be a happy man. The 4040 is a fascinating counterpoint to Coda, because Charlie Hoppes is a winemaker that knows Red Mountain as well as Ben Smith does, but who has a completely different house style. It’s also a fine value, negotiated down from its normal $32 price in hopes of getting more folks to dip their toes in the Fidelitas waters.

A quick primer on Charlie Hoppes and his winery: Hired by Mike Januik after finishing the UC-Davis program in 1988, Charlie spent a decade at Ste Michelle, eventually ascending to the Head Red Winemaker position, where he had great influence over Ste Michelle’s successful high-end projects, including Col Solare on Red Mountain.

That project must have influenced him, because Charlie eventually set up shop on Red Mountain himself. I had a chance to visit Charlie at his Fidelitas tasting room during my research trip for the “Destination Wineries” piece I wrote for Seattle Magazine last year. It is a terrific spot to visit: one of the few tasting rooms on Red Mountain with regular open hours, one of the few tasting rooms anywhere in the state to aim for modern architecture, and maybe the only tasting room with a certified baby whisperer available (Charlie made it a point to call me after that article was published and let me know that multiple visitors to their tasting room had asked about his skills in baby whispering; it definitely worked for our daughter).

This 2013 vintage marked Charlie’s 26th year working in Washington. This is a winemaker with deep experience, broad expertise, and an impeccable lineup of vineyard partners. Here he is blending six separate sites on the mountain (which, by the way, contains 4040 acres; hence the name) in this Cab-dominant (68%) cuvee, rounded out with 29% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. It saw 20 months in a mix of French and American oak, about 20% new barrels, and it clocks in at 14.3% listed alc.

We begin with a deep, expressive nose of crème de cassis, high-cacao chocolate, smoky/earth peat, and barrel notes of pecan and woodsmoke. All of my initial palate notes referred to the texture: “Powerhouse.” “Immediately notice palate-staining satiny mouthfeel.” “Glides across palate.” You get the idea. This is a polished, classy charmer with outstanding intensity and heft. I love how it grew more and more complex with time in the glass, a beautiful streak of ferrous Red Mountain minerality revealing itself over time. It’s a very delicious, very primary wine right now, and it should have years of positive evolution ahead. A glorious expression of Red Mountain generosity from one of the masters; a rare 2013 that may outshine its 2012 counterpart; and like last year, an overall package that drinks like certain Red Mountain blends (who shall remain nameless) that cost twice this much.

Our pricing might end up being one-time only, so I’m inclined to open this one up a little: first come first served up to 36 bottles, and the wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Glaze

February 1, 2016

Hello friends. We have the new vintage today of one of the most popular value Cabernets we’ve offered over the years: Ross Mickel’s Glaze.

2013 Ross Andrew Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon 

A brief history of Full Pull and Glaze: I tasted the first vintage of Glaze (2006) in the very early days of Full Pull and was all ready to offer it, only to have a restaurant swoop in and grab the entire remaining parcel. Moderately epic fail. The 2008 vintage we jumped on nice and early, and it became a hit, a low-weight/high-intensity Cabernet perfect for mid-week drinking. Then Glaze returned for the cool 2010 vintage, and much to my surprise (I didn’t realize Ross even submitted Glaze for review), Harvey Steiman of Wine Spectator released a positive (90pt) review towards the end of 2013. That made the 2010 a one-and-done offer. Continuing the even-number-vintage theme, the next release was the 2012, which we offered in September 2014. That was also a one-and-done offer, no surprise given the overall interest in value 2012s from Washington.

Now Ross has finally bucked the trend and is offering an odd-number vintage, and it’s a beauty. I’ve felt for some time now that the 2013 vintage in Washington will be remembered more for youthful charm and early-drinking pleasure than age-worthy profundity, and this is a fine example. It comes from vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills and the greater Columbia Valley, and that’s all I know. Purposely vague, I suspect (usually because the vineyards are either really nice or really unremarkable; let’s hope for the former). That’s okay anyway. For a midweek glugger like Glaze, I try not to get too wound up in research knots and instead enjoy the wine for its simple pleasures.

The 2013 kicks off with a nose of blackberry and beet, complicated by tarry mineral streaks and herbal eucalyptus topnotes. It’s a lovely mid-weight Cabernet (13.3% listed alc) that starts off fresh and airy, but seems to put on weight and density with time in the glass. Many Cabernets at this price point are bludgeoned with oak chips and oak powder. Glaze always takes the opposite path, eschewing oak notes in favor of the fruit/earth/leaf combo that Cabernet provides so beautifully. The winery notes contain a line I love: “Just enough structure to let you know this is Cabernet Sauvignon, but not so much that it needs time in the cellar.” Very true. Soft tannins sneak in on the finish, but ultimately this is an easy-drinking chugger. Cabernet as a vin de soif. A perfect winter-into-spring house red.

First come first served up to 48 bottles, and the wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Educated Guess

January 29, 2016

Hello friends. We’ve been offered a terrific tariff on a well-loved wine that we first offered in June 2014.

2011 Result of a Crush
 

While I don’t know the exact scenario here, I can make an educated guess. 2011 was a cold, challenging vintage in Washington. I suspect that the Reynvaan family, hoping to keep the buzz and praise going for their main-label Reynvaan wines, had to declassify a lot of fruit in ’11.

If that was the plan, it worked. From Jeb Dunnuck (Wine Advocate): 94pts In The Rocks, 95pts Contender, 96pts Unnamed, 97pts Stonessence. But that plan also would have meant a high production level for the family’s Result of a Crush label. Which would explain why the wine is still available 18 months after we offered it, and why it’s now being offered to us at a significant discount.

Now then, excerpts from the original offer:

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: “Result of a Crush is a Walla Walla winery started by Amanda Reynvaan and Angela Reynvaan Garratt, sisters of consulting winemaker Matt Reynvaan. We want to make a wine that is both affordable and distinctive. Our goal is to produce wines that are consistent in quality, but also reflect our sometimes whimsical attitude towards wine.” It’s also worth noting that they’ve recently opened a tasting room in Walla Walla, so sampling these wines in Wallyworld is now an option.

Here is what we know about the 2011:

1. Unlike the previous two bottlings (which had been NV), this is single vintage, coming from 2011.
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.

This has immediate rocks Syrah character on the nose, with super umami notes, sanguine/bloody character, briny green olives, smoked meat, smoky charcoal, and loads of huckleberry fruit. The palate continues the wonderful balance of savory elements and richly fruited elements, all carried along by the lively acid of the cool 2011 vintage. I can’t imagine that there’s very much Cab in this – maybe just a little bit to buff up the texture – because it really drinks like a lovely Syrah/Viognier conferment from the rocks, all funky goodness.

Because this is such a good option for parties and weddings, we’ll open this one up: first come first served up to 60 bottles, and the wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Some Days Are Stones

January 27, 2016

Hello friends. The main focus of today’s offer is the new vintage of a hugely popular wine among our list members: Morgan Lee’s funkystunning Syrah from Stoney Vine Vineyard. But we’ll also have a pair of bonus wines: Morgan’s other single-vineyard Syrah that completes the John Denver lyric, as well as his wackadoodle Orange Gewurztraminer/Original Gangster.

2013 Two Vintners Syrah Some Days Are Stones 

This is just about to be released at the winery, so we’re not wasting any time. The past few years, the entire production run has sold out in the first month or two after release. We offer the wine once, and all subsequent reorder requests are (sadly) zeroed out. Considering the small production level again (just 150 cases), I expect a similar pattern this year.

There is also more excitement than ever about wines from “the rocks” area of the Walla Walla Valley, or as I should be writing from now on, “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater,” which was approved as a new AVA in February of last year. It’s a sub-AVA of the Walla Walla Valley, and I wrote about The Rocks for one of last year’s issues of Seattle Magazine. This is a special place in northwest wine, and it deserves to have its geographical name on the label.

Among Rocks Syrahs, is there a better value than Two Vintners? I’m hard pressed to think of one. It comes entirely from 2007-planted Stoney Vine Vineyard, an estate site for Dusted Valley that looks like this. Morgan fermented with all native yeasts and 35% whole cluster, and then this went into barrel (all French, 15% new 500L puncheon) for 18 months. It clocks in at 14.7% listed alc and comes roaring out of the glass with all the savory funkiness you’d expect. Huckleberry fruit, yes, but then green olive and a sanguine meaty minerality that reminded me of nothing so much as morcilla, the wonderful Spanish blood sausage. Rich and meaty in the mouth but balanced by juicy acids, this is a meal in a glass. Morgan’s mastery of this vineyard continues to impress and delight.

2013 Two Vintners Syrah Some Days Are Diamonds 

The treatment here is nearly identical to Stones, and the vintage is the same, but the vineyard is entirely different, this time Discovery Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. Discovery is a site with a burgeoning (and deserved) reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon, but this bottling shows its credibility with Syrah as well. It begins with a nose of deep black cherry, espresso, and orange peel, moving to a palate with fresh berry fruit and notes of brewed coffee. The earthiness here is completely different than the Stones bottling. With Diamonds it’s more like dusty broken sagebrush; very eastern Washington. Drink the two side by side for a showcase of the stylistic breadth of Syrah in Washington State. A mere 80 cases produced.

2014 Two Vintners O.G  

By far the weirdest wine in Morgan’s lineup and among the weirdest produced in Washington, this is an “orange wine” style. What that means is that white grapes (in this case, all Gewurztraminer from Olsen Vineyard) are left to macerate on the skins for weeks at a time (in this case six weeks) before pressing, imparting a bit of color pigment (between that pigment and the oxidation that takes place, the wine turns a bit orange), considerable textural weight, and usually a bit of tannin to the juice. There are similarities aromatically to some of the older white Riojas (made with Viura) I’ve had; that oddly alluring, slightly oxidized character of fruitcake spice and caramel. Here those notes mix with exotic fruit (lychee especially), floral notes, and dustings of nutmeg. At 14.3% listed alc, this is rich, long, and fascinating. Fly your geek flag proudly if you purchase this one. Just 60 cases produced.

I’m going to set the upper allocation limit high, since I suspect like in previous years we’ll only get one shot at the Stones. Because of the low production level of the Diamonds and OG, those are likely one-and-done also. So, 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 the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Sangiovese Price Drop

January 25, 2016

Hello friends. January can be a wonderful time of year for sourcing wine values. In October and November and December, wineries and importers can convince themselves that this just might be the holiday season where their sales explode. Deals are a little hard to come by.

There’s no such magical thinking in January. And what’s especially wonderful about January is that the deals are often being offered on wines just entering their peak drinking window. A new vintage is coming in, and the old vintage needs to move out. Of course the backwards thing about the wine industry is that the old vintage is likely the better drinking of the two, and yet *that’s* the one being offered on discount.

Mind you, I’m not complaining, and I’m all too happy to take advantage on behalf of our list members. Today’s wine, for example, began its life at a $20 price point, and it was a good deal even at two sawbucks. But today, we can do better:

2009 La Maialina Chianti Classico 

[TEXT WITHHELD]

That was Antonio Galloni, writing about the Maialina project a few years ago. High praise indeed, and to be able to access this wine at seven years past vintage seems just right.

I continue to be thrilled with the way our list members have embraced Chianti over the past few years. It is a terrific value-hunter’s category, but it requires legwork, a lot of frog-kissing to find the princes. And that’s the Full Pull model: we kiss the frogs so you don’t have to.

Chianti’s fortunes are improving in the US market, but it’s still walking the line between fashionable and unfashionable, still burdened by the days of swill-in-straw-baskets. But no matter. We know better. Fashion or no, we know that Chianti remains one of the world’s beating hearts of Sangiovese, and that the good bottles are really, really good.

This is indeed very very good for a $15 tag. It begins with a nose of smoky peat, mushroom, and sour cherry fruit: classic maturing Sangiovese. That savory fungal note continues on the palate, and it makes this just such an appetizing food wine. Insistently earthy, it has bright blood-orange acid and lovely cherry-pit bitters. The whole thing feels very true to Italy, and there’s way more complexity and intensity than we’d normally expect at this price point. I’d put this right in the middle of its peak drinking window, and I suspect it will continue to offer loads of maturing pleasure through 2019 or 2020.

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


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