Full Pull Friday Reoffers

January 14, 2017

Hello friends. Something we like to do early in the year is reoffer some of our most popular wines of the previous year, one more chance to access these beauties before they sell out. I know many of you opened a lot of bottles over the holidays, so hopefully you now have personal impressions to supplement our own notes.

2015 Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone

Originally offered October 21, 2016. In that offer I predicted this would end up on Spectator’s Top 100 list, and sure enough it did, landing the #43 spot. Excerpts from the original:

Normally we offer this a little later in the year, but the November 15 issue of Wine Spectator is going to include the following review, and I don’t want to take any chances: Wine Spectator (James Molesworth): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

This is a noteworthy review because it is the strongest Spectator has ever bestowed upon Louis Barroul’s CdR. The ratings of previous vintages, from 2006 through 2014: 90, 90, 88, 90, 90, 90, 89, 89, 90. First off, that is an amazingly consistent track record for a decade’s worth of vintages. And second, this 2015 is the first to break through above a 90pt review. I believe this also sets it up as a slam dunk to wind up on Spectator’s Top 100 list, and I want us to grab our wine and be long gone before that happens. The last time this wine landed on the list was the 2009 vintage on the 2010 list. That 2009 was $18 | 90pts | 3,000 cases. Today’s 2015 has a lower release price ($16), a stronger review (91pts), and more than 8x production (25,000 cases). Yikes.

Now then, what is rare (and in my view, exciting) about Saint Cosme’s version of Cotes-du-Rhone is that it’s 100% Syrah. Most CdR’s are majority-Grenache, but we already know where Louis Barroul’s Grenache goes: into Little James Basket Press (another list favorite). So that leaves us with 100% Rhone Syrah at a price point that cries out for exploration. It comes from two of Cosme’s holdings – one in Vinsobres (a bit cooler, on limestone and sand) and one in Gard (warmer, on large terraces of medium-to-large rolling stones) – and it’s done entirely in concrete. The ’15 clocks in at 14% listed alc and begins with a nose of blueberry fruit and mineral, cracked black pepper and hoisin sauce. While the texture is kind of an old-world/new-world tweener, the savory wild flavors are Rhone through and through. There is noteworthy balance between fruit and structure here (which helps explain why this always ages beautifully for an inexpensive wine), and that structure takes both the form of nervy/electric acidity and robust/pleasingly rustic tannin. The depth and complexity, the overall sense of balance and class at this tag: unusual for sure, and the reason why we’ve offered every vintage of this since 2011.

Here is how the always-entertaining Louis Barroul describes this vintage: This wine epitomizes what should always be the essence of a true wine. One of the two properties from which grapes are sourced is owned by a childhood friend and the other belongs to my cousins. We have been working together on this wine for 15 years now. Trust and friendship form its basis. The blend of Syrah from Vinsobres with Syrah from Villafranchian terraces in Gard always produces wonderful balance, fleshiness and finesse. You may get to know the 2015 vintage through this wine – the oxblood colour, the depth, sappy character and wonderful round tannins for instance. You can easily sense the intensity with which fruit was imbued in 2015, a truly superb vintage. Successfully ripened grapes combined with freshness and our Syrah vines loved a hot July in 2015. This is exemplified in the magnificent wines produced in 2015 in the northern Rhone valley. The whole point of our Côtes du Rhône is to offer an early drinking wine that also has very good ageing capacity. I recently tasted the 2007 again which was really complex and still young. Welcome to 2015, the finest vintage since 2010. Blackcurrant, camphor, truffle, rose and blueberry.

2013 Kiona Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State

Originally offered September 14, 2016, this wound up as one of our most popular offers of 2016, and a huge target for reorders. No wonder: finding classy estate grown Red Mountain Cab for sub-twenty bucks is rare indeed. Here are excerpts from September:

I’ve come to believe, over many years of wine tasting, that there are no black swans. No inexplicably excellent wines. Every excellent wine is excellent for a reason. Better yet, a number of reasons. Or better still, a number of perils avoided. Winemaking is a Houdini escape act, with danger around every corner, and when someone pulls it off successfully, you can only give them the slow clap they deserve. How this applies to my tasting for Full Pull: when I taste a wine that seems inexplicably outstanding, the job becomes clear. Research until I understand why the wine is as good as it is.

To wit, today’s wine. I recently had a chance to sample Kiona’s Washington State Cab, and the scribbles in my notebook show baffled pleasure: “why is this wine $20??!?!?”; “legit Red Mtn power; how much of this is estate juice?”; “black black black: blackcurrant and black plum and black olive; dark chocolate and loads of earthy soil”; “expensive oak swaddling?”; “real richness and power and generosity”; “serious toothsome finishing chew, fine dusty tannins – what the hell is going on here??!?”

So yeah, I was surprised in a majorly positive way. Not because it was Kiona of course; we’ve offered many a wonderful Kiona wine previously. Two main reasons: first, because you expect certain things of certain varieties at certain price points, and this exceeded just about every axis of evaluation. And second, because they labeled this Washington State, which made me assume it was a pan-Washington mix of some house-vinified fruit and a bunch of cheap bulk wine.

That assumption was wildly incorrect, as I discovered when I dug into the research for this wine. I can guess at Kiona’s reasons for labeling this Washington State (perhaps wanting to keep options open for future vintages, perhaps for ease of selling out of state), but the fact is, this is 100% Red Mountain fruit, and it’s 87% estate (split between 53% Kiona Estate and 34% Kiona Heart of the Hill). It saw some luxe treatment, too: an 80/20 split of French and American oak, 60% new, the remainder once-filled.

So let’s think about this. We’re essentially looking at estate-grown, estate-bottled, carefully-coddled Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, from folks who have been growing grapes and making wine on this mountain about as long as anyone. That the result is an outrageously good sub-$20 Cab no longer seems so shocking. The price itself remains a little shocking to me (release price was $25 – still too low for the quality – and our price is about as good as I can see nationally), but every winery has its reasons, and I’m sure as hell not going to recommend that anyone make the wines we offer *more* expensive! Instead I’ll just stop and say thanks to JJ and the whole Kiona gang for this little beauty.

2014 Cadence Coda

Originally offered May 15, 2016, this recently earned fine reviews from two tough scorers: Stephen Tanzer of Vinous and Sean Sullivan of Wine Enthusiast. That’s putting sales pressure on an already-short vintage, so I’m going to say this is likely last-call time for Coda.

Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

Excerpts from the original:

Coda is an incredible value, year in and year out. Why? Well, Ben Smith makes exactly four single-vineyard wines for Cadence, all from Red Mountain. Two come from the estate Cara Mia Vineyard, one from Ciel du Cheval, and one from Tapteil. And that’s it. Ben carefully crafts the blends for those high-end ($45-$60) wines, and then whatever barrels aren’t included during those blending trials end up in Coda. What that means for Coda is that it’s always a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot, always a blend of Cara Mia, Ciel du Cheval, and Tapteil, and always barrels that were raised with the exact same care as the higher-end bottles. And we get all of that for a tariff that is about half the single-vineyard wines.

The blend in 2014 is 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, and 9% Petit Verdot, and it clocks in at 14.4% listed alc. The ’14 is much more reminiscent to me of the structured, serious 2012 than the more charming, approachable 2013. It kicks off with a glorious nose, all perfumed and exotic with its notes of star anise and juniper over dark blackcurrant and black plum fruit. The palate balances the richness of the vintage with Ben Smith’s deft hand and somehow still conveys textural elegance and earthy minerality, even in the warm year that wanted to be all fruit. But it’s the structure that really shines on the palate. “ROBUST tannic structure,” says my notes, and I tend to use all-caps sparingly. But truly, this is a muscular, powerful wine, without question cellar-worthy. The long, long finish is awash in black-tea tannins, a final grace note on a deeply impressive wine.

First come first served with no upper limits, 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 Way Forward

January 14, 2017

Hello friends. I recently had the chance to taste the new vintage of a list-favorite Syrah: Morgan Lee’s Columbia Valley bottling for Two Vintners. In my notebook, I wrote: “this is the way forward for Washington Syrah.” Let me explain what I mean.

[But before I do, let me also say that while the Syrah will be the focus of today’s offer, down below we’ll also have a chance to access the strangest wine in Morgan’s lineup: The O.G.]

2014 Two Vintners Syrah Columbia Valley

What I mean by the way forward. Okay, so currently, Washington Syrah is beloved by Rhone-heads within Washington. Outside of our state’s confines, it ranges from complete unknown to tough sell. Syrah in general is a weak category right now; Washington still an immature region in terms of national sales. And to some degree that’s fine. We could be like Switzerland. The Swiss have this beautiful wine producing country, and they consume the vast majority of it in-country. I’m sure many Swiss vignerons make an honest living this way. So that’s one way forward for Washington: root root root for the home team.

But I feel like a wine like this, priced like this, presages another way forward, where Washington Syrah could be competitive on a national level, and maybe eventually a global level. What Washington has – and this is rare outside the Rhone Valley – is the ability to produce Syrahs with earthy, fecund, funky character. But in most cases, the wines that display this character command steep prices – $40 and up, often $50 and up – and come in small quantities. What’s getting more and more exciting by the year with Morgan’s Columbia Valley bottling is that it offers funky nuance at a $20 price point, and in decent quantity.

That price point is important. Important not only for retail, where many of us put $20/bottle as our purchasing ceiling, but also for restaurants, where it translates to a $13 or $14 glass-pour. That means broad distribution. That means spreading the word that Washington can make this kind of Syrah at this kind of price.

In my opinion, this type of well-priced Syrah – ripe berry fruit combined with earthy/brinky/funky nuance – is a niche waiting to be exploited, and Washington can do it. There are plenty of Walla Walla and Yakima Valley Vineyards that can bring the funk; plenty of vineyards from across the greater Columbia Valley that can bring the plush berry fruit.

This wine is a fine blueprint of how to proceed. Knowing what I know about some of these vineyards, I’d guess the savory threads (earthy, meaty, briny, etc.) come from the 6% Rocks fruit (Stoney Vine and Yellow Jacket), the 8% Boushey fruit, some of the 30% Olsen fruit, definitely the 8% Dineen fruit; then the yumball fruit comes from the 20% Discovery fruit, the 11% Stonetree fruit, the 10% Pepper Bridge fruit. It’s one blueprint, but not the only one.

Anyway, I’m not even sure why I’m pushing this. After all, if more people learn about how good these Washington Syrahs can be, won’t it just make our allocations that much more competitive? Maybe I should just shut up. But I’ll admit: I’m biased towards my home region and eager to see it get the attention I think it deserves.

So, this Syrah, which also sees a 3% Olsen Roussanne coferment, has a wonderful, piercing core of marionberry fruit, complicated by a whole host of savory tones that are clear as a bell on the complex, attractive nose: smoky bacon fat, castelvetrano olive, warm dusty earth. The palate is a plush, rich, easy drinker, with just-right acidity to balance all that tasty fruit. Balanced, polished, and above all else complex, this is a dynamite $20 Syrah, and if it’s the ambassador for pan-Washington juice, we have a bright future ahead.

You may remember the previous (2013) vintage of this garnered some serious local accolades. A mention as Sean Sullivan’s weekly wine pick in Seattle Met Magazine. Then Seattle Magazine’s award for Best Syrah, $20-$40, besting several bottlings nearly twice as expensive. No press yet for this vintage; let’s get in and grab our share nice and early.

2015 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 40 days) 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 I’ve had, like the old Viuras from Lopez de Heredia: that oddly alluring, slightly oxidized character of fruitcake spice and caramel. Here those notes are combined with soaring Gewurz topnotes of rosewater and lychee fruit and peach. The palate is dry and full (13.3% listed alc), exotic and spicy. This is so perfumed in the mouth, it just calls out for bold-flavored foods. A Thai green curry would be divine.

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 Devona

January 9, 2017

Hello friends. Today we have extremely limited parcels of the second release from John and Molly Abbott’s new winery, Devona. Vintage two of their Freedom Hill Pinot and the debut vintage of Devona Chardonnay.

I cringed a little as I wrote the word “Chardonnay,” because I know how much people *loved* John’s Chardonnays at Abeja, and I also know how miniscule our allocation is. It’s so limited, in fact, that I decided these had to wait until January to offer. The feeding frenzy that is the holiday season in the wine trade would have destroyed our allocation. I’m hopeful that maybe by pushing the offer into sleepy January, we can avoid under-allocations that are too painful. And I’m fearful that even the sleepiest wine buyer might wake up when John Abbott’s winemaking is on offer.

2013 Devona Pinot Noir Freedom Hill Vineyard
We have close to a retail exclusive on this release (one other retailer in Seattle received a case of each wine, and I’m not going to name them, as I’m certain they’re already sold out). Outside of the Devona mailing list (which you should join) and a handful of old restaurant friends, Full Pull (and nameless other retail account) is the only other source for Devona wines to date. No surprise: our allocation is (I’ll say it again) extremely limited. Like max-4-bottle-order-request limited. (Sneak preview: the Chardonnay max orders will be worse.)

John Abbott is one of my favorite winemakers in the northwest, and John and Molly are two of the best people in the trade, period. I would write about jug-wine White Zinfandel if that’s what they decided to make. But it is a real pleasure, a real jolt of excitement, to see what John is doing with Pinot Noir. It still feels very much like the start of something special.

Last April, I made a very speedy trip to Walla Walla (with our two babies at home, the luxury of multi-day road trips is on hold for the moment). Instead it was fly out Tuesday night, fly back Wednesday afternoon. Just before getting onto the plane back to Seattle, I visited John and Molly at their new winery space at the Walla Walla airport to taste the new Devona wines (in bottle and in barrel) and to grovel (successfully, as it turned out!) for allocations.

To some degree, the feeling in the winery was that of ex-pats returning home. Home to Pinot Noir. Over the years I have known John Abbott, he has made a lot of really divine Cabernet Sauvignons for Abeja. But it was never Cabernet Sauvignon that he wanted to talk about. It was almost always Pinot Noir (and sometimes Chardonnay). Much of John’s early winemaking career was spent making Pinot, and I sense he has long desired to hear its siren call again.

Freedom Hill Vineyard is a 1982-planted site in the foothills of the Coast Range, on soils of marine sedimentary uplifted sea bed. The 2013 vintage represents 32nd leaf for this site, getting squarely into old-vine territory. I believe fewer than ten wineries get access to this fruit, and the list is a who’s who in Oregon, including St. Innocent, Patty Green, and Walter Scott. John’s version comes from a mix of Pommard and Wadenswil clones (13.4% listed alc) and begins with a nose deeply evocative of this part of the world, with real earthy undergrowth notes (soil, mushroom, mossy pine bough) adding attractive fecundity to a core replete with black cherry and raspberry fruit. This is very much a palate for grown-ups, with attractive Aperol bitters adding complexity and balance to the mix of fruit and smoky/earthy flavors. Audacious Pinot Noir from a confident, skilled winemaker.

2015 Devona Chardonnay
It’s John Abbott making Chardonnay that mostly (80%) comes from Celilo Vineyard, and we barely have any of it. Should I stop there? Here’s what John says: I have worked with Celilo Vineyard fruit for more than twenty years, and I feel this is one of the best white wines I have made. If you have known our Chardonnay of vintages past, you will recognize the pretty, fragrant, restrained, and balanced style.

I’m not even going to include my tasting note. Suffice it to say that I thought it was excellent, and the last note in my book reads “practically oozes class and grace.” Max request 2 bottles, but I’m guessing max allocations will end up 1 bottle, and I have a bad feeling some folks are going to get shut out entirely. Apologies in advance.

Please limit order requests to 4 bottles of Pinot and 2 bottles of Chardonnay, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. We’ll do our allocations sometime Tuesday afternoon, so to be safe, get your requests in by Tuesday noon pacific time. 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 Power

January 9, 2017

Hello friends, and happy new year! I hope you all had a festive, restful, rejuvenating couple of weeks. As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed a little time away from the e-mail machine, but as the calendar ticked over from December to January, I began to get the itch. The itch that can only be scratched by writing about wine; by trying to figure out what is new and interesting (or classic and outstanding) and bringing it to our list members.

So I’m happy to be welcomed back into your inboxes, and for our first offer of the year, I want to expand on a category that we debuted in 2016: the 3L bag-in-box. We offered two of them in 2016: both rosés, both imports. I was thrilled with our list’s response to each offer, because I am a big proponent of this format. It keeps the wine fresh for three weeks after opening. It’s also waaaaaay light-weight compared to glass bottles, which makes it more portable and more environmentally-friendly.

I see this packaging facing some of the same challenges screwcaps did a decade ago – perception that the wine inside is cheap and/or awful – and I suspect it will eventually overcome that in much the way screwcaps subsequently have. The positives are just way too positive.

What’s exciting to me about today’s offer is that it comes not from some progressive European nation, but right from our own backyard, from a terrific Washington winery we’ve worked with on numerous occasions: Powers.

Before we get into our two box wines, please note: we’ll also have a last-call reoffer below on a well-priced 2012 Powers Champoux Cab.

2015 Powers Chardonnay (3L BAG IN BOX, Pickup Only)

[Please note: this is a 3-liter bag-in-box, so it’s the equivalent of four 750ml bottles of wine at $5/bottle. Please also note: because of our uniform shipping boxes, we will not be able to fulfill any shipping orders for this wine; these will be pickup-only.]

When I tasted this out of box back in December, I just sort of shook my head and chuckled, because I knew right away it would be our 2017 debutante. Having tasted more Chardonnays from box than I’d care to admit, I can say that most of them are adulterated with a) oak powder; b) residual sugar; or c) technical issues. It’s clear that many producers still see this format as a destination for deeply flawed juice.

Fortunately, Powers has gone the complete opposite route, putting a clean, fresh, honest Chardonnay into box. I was pleased right from the first sniff: apple and plantain and melon fruit, light apple blossom florals: expressive and unadulterated Chard. The palate continues the theme: this is clean, easygoing, fruit-driven Chardonnay, with zero oak influence, but with plenty of flesh (13% listed alc) balanced by lemony acidity and leesy nuance. You don’t really expect palate presence from a $20 bag-in-box, but there you have it.

And when I learned a little more about the wine, its quality made even more sense. A full 80% of the grapes for this bottling (boxing?) come from the excellent Goose Ridge Vineyard; the remainder from Champoux (!), Nine Canyon, and Arete. All fermented and aged in stainless steel. These are experienced winemakers who know what they’re doing putting good unfussy Chardonnay in a big old box. Seems like a beachhead to me.

2014 Powers Cabernet Sauvignon (3L BAG IN BOX, Pickup Only)
[Please note: this is a 3-liter bag-in-box, so it’s the equivalent of four 750ml bottles of wine at $5/bottle. Please also note: because of our uniform shipping boxes, we will not be able to fulfill any shipping orders for this wine; these will be pickup-only.]

This time I’ll start with the vineyard and technical information. Again it paints a picture of purpose-made wine, not cast-off juice. The vineyard material again begins with Goose Ridge, here making up 50% of the blend (note: Goose Ridge is also the main source behind Charles Smith’s Substance Cs Cab, so those of you who liked that wine might pay attention here). The remainder comes from Sheridan (can I use another exclamation point?), as well as three fine Wahluke Slope sites: Coyote, Clifton Bluff, and Katherine Leone. Not a dud in the mix. All that good Cabernet juice (and this is indeed 100% Cab) gets 14 months in 2- and 3-year old French oak. French freaking oak! How this wine costs what it does is beyond me.

It begins with a lovely Cabernet nose: redcurrant and fig fruit, earth tones of soil and beetroot, and an herbal anise kick of tarragon. Juicy and pure in the mouth, this begins with a supple attack but picks up some medium-grained tannins in the mid-palate that carry through to the finish. There is just nothing spoofy or questionable about these wines. Pardon me my low expectations, I suppose, but both boxes way over-performed my preconceived notions. I would like to believe that if you served this wine to me blind, I would easily call it out as Cab based on both flavor and structure profiles. That’s high praise for a wine that essentially costs five bucks a bottle.

2012 Powers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard
Originally offered January 11, 2016, it was our third offer of the year last year and a popular reorder target thereafter. Now the winery is getting low on stock, and has offered us one more chance to access this beauty.

Excerpts from the original: Four Washington wineries have ownership stakes in Champoux Vineyard, undeniably one of Washington’s cru Cabernet sites, in the heart of the Horse Heaven Hills. Those four wineries naturally have access to the filet of the vineyard. Quilceda Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon ($140) and Woodward Canyon’s Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon ($110) both contain a backbone of Champoux Cab. Andrew Will’s Sorella ($83) comes entirely from Block One Champoux fruit. Today’s wine comes from the fourth partner: Powers.

Powers is now in its second generation, with Greg Powers taking over the main winemaking role from his father Bill. Greg was in his late teens when he helped his dad plant their 80-acre family estate, Badger Mountain Vineyard. They were visionaries when it came to organic viticulture, becoming the first Certified Organic vineyard in Washington State in 1990, waaaaay before the notion of organics was trendy.

In 1992 they launched Powers Winery, and in 1996 they formed the partnership that purchased Champoux (then called Mercer Ranch). They’ve been working with Champoux fruit for more than two decades, and it shows. This particular bottling is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, rounded out with 5% each Merlot and Petit Verdot. It spent 30 months in French oak, 75% new, and clocks in at 14% listed alc. The fruit source, the classy barrels, the length of time in oak: all suggest a Cabernet that could command a considerably higher price. That it comes from perhaps the best Washington vintage of the new millennium is the capstone.

This offers an unmistakable Champoux nose, its wonderful graphitic minerality weaving through blackcurrant fruit and smoke and cedar. The balance is pinpoint, with just-right acidity and tannin structure to frame a core of delicious, mineral-tinged black fruit. There’s even a light note of black olive to ramp up the complexity a little further. After a plush mid-palate, this moves into a serious, grippy, toothsome finish, very true to Cabernet in texture. This is classy, classy juice, punching well above its price class, and it is a textbook introduction to an important Washington vineyard.

First come first served up to 36 bottles/boxes 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 Ring Out (Final Offer of 2016)

January 3, 2017

Hello friends. This is our final offer of 2016. We’ll plan to stay out of your inboxes until about January 8 or so, when you can expect our first offer of 2017. In the meantime, we are CLOSED for pickups for the next few weeks, and our first TPU pickup day in 2017 will be Thursday January 12.

Today’s offer will mostly focus on reflections from a busy, (mostly) happy 2016. At the end of the offer we’ll include reorder links for what few Full Pull & Friends we have in stock (just 3, out of 19 wines released to date), as well as reorder links for a pair of wines from our house winery (Block Wines) and a “popup wine” from October (Mountain Queen). And at the beginning we’ll do what we’ve done every year since 2009: excerpt Tennyson’s In Memoriam.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

I love quoting these particular stanzas, because they speak to the cleansing grace of the end of a year, the power of first remembering and then letting go.

This year. Man oh man, this year. When I wrote this same offer last year, I talked about how my motto was “embrace the chaos.” And that was with one kid! This year – with two children under 3 years old at home and with a business growing in wonderful and fascinating new directions – this year was unlike anything I’ve experienced in my life.

My son Solomon was born in February, and I distinctly remember a Thursday pickup day, probably in March or April, definitely still within the sleep blast radius of a newborn, where before noon, three different list members told me I looked tired. So I turned to Pat and RhiAnnon and said: “three different list members have already told me I look tired today; do I look [bleeped] up?” They assured me that in fact I did not look that bleeped up, and the very next moment another list member walked in the door, walked right over to my desk, and said: “how are the babies? you look tired.” I’m sure they didn’t know what to make of the delirious laughter that followed. And that pretty much encapsulates my year!

FULL PULL HIGHLIGHTS
2016 was a busy year. We sent out 212 e-mails to our list members (that’s just a tick over 4/week), including wines ranging from 7.99 (Corvidae Chardonnay) to 1699.99 (Chateau Lafite Rothschild). We tasted tirelessly, kissing a lot of frogs in 2016 so that our list members didn’t have to. By my calculations, we offer somewhere between 2% and 4% of all the wines we taste. I hope that sense of strict curation shines through in all of our wines.

This was a year filled with highlights, but three items stand out. The biggest change took place in October, when we expanded our open hours and launched our “tasting room” within Full Pull. After seven (!) years of only being open on Thursdays (and occasional Saturdays), we’re now open every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

What are we pouring on those open pickup days? That touches on the second highlight, which was the expansion of our house winery Block Wines this year to include our first two reds: a Syrah from Stoney Vine in the rocks, as well as a Boushey Vineyard Grenache that wound up on Sean Sullivan’s Top 100 list for Seattle Met Magazine and is scary-close to being sold out already. I continue to adore working with Morgan Lee on this project, as well as the many talented farmers who grow our beautiful grapes.

The third highlight: getting to offer the sophomore vintage of Elizabeth Bourcier’s extraordinary La Rata. No offer over the course of the year generates more e-mail traffic, more anxiety, and more happiness than La Rata, and I’m thrilled that I continue to have the opportunity to write about this special wine.

WASHINGTON WINE TRENDS
We’re in the middle of a series of average to above-average to screaming-hot vintages, so we’re seeing plenty of rich, delicious, generous reds come out of our home state. White wines have been a little more challenging these past few years. I think white wine lovers long for vintages that look more like ’08 and ’10 and ’11. Perhaps 2017 will return to a cool year.

The most exciting trend I’m seeing is out in the vineyards, where a lot of new purpose-planted sites are coming online. This feels very much like Washington v2.0, where growers are being really careful about site selection, aspect, clonal material, etc. When the results make it into bottle, they can be breathtaking. A great example is the Sevein project out in Walla Walla. We offered a number of wines from Sevein vineyards this year, including L’Ecole No 41’s much-lauded Ferguson Estate wine.

TEAM FULL PULL
When we expanded our hours in October, it allowed us to hire Dylan Joffe to help out with our new the tasting room within Full Pull. Those of you who have met Dylan will surely agree that we hired well. Dylan is also an outstanding food writer, and as we move into 2017, you can expect to see her expand her role at Full Pull to include some writing duties as well.

Pat and Dennis put in another honest year’s shift on our operations team; likewise RhiAnnonn and Nick with list member services. I know many of you enjoyed when my father David made celebrity guest appearances at the tasting bar as well. Any stories he told about my youth are 60% true, but you’ll have to figure out which 60%. All these folks make Full Pull look really good when I’m not around, which was a lot this year. Thanks to our entire team, which also includes our winery and wholesale and import partners. This region has a vibrant, sometimes exasperating, always dedicated wine trade, and I enjoy the hell out of being a part of it.

PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS
I spent another year as Seattle Magazine’s wine writer, and I want to thank my editor Rachel Hart for allowing me to pursue a series I’ve been wanting to write for years about seasonal wine drinking in the pacific northwest. Here are the winter, spring, and summer entries (autumn has yet to be posted online).

I served as a judge for Seattle Magazine’s annual wine awards, the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, and – for the first time – the British Columbia Wine Awards. There are some eye-opening wines north of the border, and if we ever begin direct-importing, you can bet we’ll look to offer BC wines.

Thanks to both team Full Pull and my family at home for the support that allows me to do all these extracurricular activities. And many thanks to our wonderful, supportive list members! You folks are the engine that cranks the virtuous cycle that Full Pull has become; I don’t ever forget that.

Now then, let’s do what we do. Let’s offer a few wines, try to convey some sensory experiences through the power of language, and then let’s close the door on this tumultuous 2016:

2013 Full Pull & Friends Syrah Angelas Vyd (FPF-12)

For a full explanation of FP&F, this page has you covered. That page also shows the 16 sold out FP&F wines. I will say, having looked through our inventory while putting together this offer, some of those wines are legitimately sold out, and some are “sold out,” which means they’re down to such a small handful of bottles that it doesn’t make sense to include them in an offer. You can always reply to this e-mail with the wine you’re interested in and the number of bottles. If we can make it work, we will.

This particular FP&F, #12, was originally offered on July 29, 2015, and we’re down to 29% remaining. Angela’s is a site on Red Mountain owned by Efeste Winery, and it was planted in 2008 by none other than Dick Boushey, who continues to manage it. This is 100% Clone 383 Syrah which, according to our winemaker, “is a great clone on red mountain, emphasizing the meatier side of the grape.” To keep the focus on that meaty fruit, this is done entirely with native yeasts and aged entirely in neutral French oak for 18 months. As you’d expect from a warm region (Red Mountain) in a warmish vintage, this is a powerhouse, perhaps the richest/most openly delicious wine we’ve put under the FP&F label.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].18.5+/20pts.”

2013 Full Pull & Friends Merlot Red Willow Vineyard (FPF-15)

Originally offered October 7, 2015, we’ve sold through two-thirds, with 33% remaining. 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).” After writing my own tasting notes on this one, I asked our partner winemaker what he likes about this vineyard’s 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.” For me, the savory character is a mix between roasting meat (almost like demi-glace) and smoky peat, lovely and unusual for Merlot.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19/20pts.”

2014 Full Pull & Friends Merlot Klipsun Vineyard (FPF-19)

Originally offered August 22 of this year. Klipsun Vineyard was planted in 1984 by Patricia and David Gelles, and they continue to own and manage the vineyard today. Over the years, the vineyard has developed a reputation for raw power, imposing structure, and exotic beauty. That reputation is well deserved. The grapes in today’s wine come from the oldest Merlot blocks in the vineyard, planted in 1990 and nearing a quarter-century in age, enough time for the roots to dig well into that sandy Red Mountain soil. They saw two French oak barrels, one new and one neutral, and the juice matured in there for just shy of two years before going into bottle.

The goal here is the expression of Red Mountain terroir, and specifically Klipsun terroir, through the prism of Merlot. This begins with a nose of exotic spice – think star anise and bergamot – over a core of blackberry and kirsch fruit. Barrel tones of high-cacao chocolate and earthy soil notes complete a complex, attractive nose. Texturally, this is what I like to call a reverse-mullet wine: party in the front, business in the rear. The attack and mid-palate are all plump, charming Merlot goodness. And then sometime in the mid-palate, that inherent Red Mountain structure takes over and rolls into a long, chewy finish. The lingering notes on the finish evoke earth and espresso. This is a Merlot that can certainly be drunk young for that initial whack of rich fruit, but the balance and structure are in place for a terrific evolution in bottle. Anyone who, like me, had a baby in 2014 could seriously consider this for a 21st birthday birth-year present. I suspect it’ll still be kicking in 2035. That is if we’re still drinking wine in 2035 and not stuck inside our virtual reality helmets and haptic suits.

2015 Block Wines Semillion Tauro Block Boushey Vineyard

Our house winery has a website! Check the main site out for more info on the Block Wines project in general. Each wine also has its own page, including this lovely Boushey Semillon, which we offered on June 19, 2016.

Dick Boushey is a wonderful man and a terrifically dedicated grower, and it is a real thrill to be working with his Semillon. He has two blocks of Semillon, and we have chosen the Tauro Block (planted in 2008), which has more northern exposure and therefore ripens later and retains loads of beautiful natural acidity.

Our stylistic goal bends more towards a Hunter Valley (Australia) Semillon than a Bordeaux version (although in hot vintages like ’15, it really ends up as a tweener). What that means is limey acidity, and the ability to age in profound directions. To achieve our style, we harvested the grapes nice and early, on September 1, which kept acids fresh and bright and alcohols low (13.3%) despite the warmer year (it also helps that Dick’s vineyard is in the cooler part of the Yakima Valley). Morgan then cold soaked the grapes on their skins for 48 hours to help build texture and mouthfeel. We used three neutral French barrels, and then just a little bit of stainless steel for the extra juice that wouldn’t fit in those barrels. After seven months in barrel (with weekly battonage and partial malolactic conversion), this went into bottle a few months ago. Our overall production was 94 cases.

One of the things I love most about our Semillon is how it pairs with the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest. Pan-seared spot prawns, Dungeness crab cakes, sockeye salmon shioyaki-style; the list goes on. It kicks off with a layered-fruit nose: citrus (lime), tree (pear), and more exotic notes like date and fig. Subtleties of hay and crème fraiche complete an inviting nose. That extra skin contact works wonders on the palate, offering just-right textural heft, a pleasing sense of plumpness, especially in the mid-palate. The lovely finish lingers with notes of chamomile. Crack a bottle of this with seafood for some serious northwest nirvana.

2014 Block Wines Syrah Ankleroller Block Stoney Vine Vineyard

Here is the info page for our Syrah from Stoney Vine in the rocks, which we originally offered on November 14. We’re already hearing a lot of positive feedback on this one and seeing robust reorders; no surprise considering the rocks love among our list members.

Stoney Vine was planted in the rocks in 2007 after an old apple orchard was pulled out. I think you’ll agree the name is apt if you check out this trio of pictures taken during a vineyard trip a few months ago:

•    One of our rows, showing the extreme rocky nature of the site.
•    A close-up shot of the “soil” at Stoney Vine.
•    One of our row end-posts, showing that we’re actually pulling from the original plantings at Block 1. We chose to use some poetic license with the name of the block, and I don’t think anyone who has walked a row at Stoney Vine would argue with our choice.

It is a unique, remarkable part of the world for growing grapes, and I’m absolutely thrilled that we have access. We fermented our Syrah grapes entirely with native yeasts, and left a full 50% as whole-cluster (stems and all). We then pressed into one single second-use French puncheon, and aged the wine for 21 months before bottling in summer 2016. The finished wine clocks in at 14.1% alcohol. One of the reasons I wanted to work with Morgan on this project is that he knows how to coax just-right funkiness out of rocks fruit. His capability with rocks Syrah, which our list members have known about for some time, made national press this year when his own rocks Syrah received an eye-popping 95pt review from Harvey Steiman in Wine Spectator. I probably won’t submit a sample of today’s wine to Spectator; at 55 cases total production, every bottle is just too precious.

The core of fruit is squarely in the berry family – marionberries and huckleberries – but you’re not here to hear about the fruit, are you? The savory elements are many and varied: sanguine minerality, glorious briny notes of olive and caper, and a host of cured meats. It’s a wonderfully difficult nose to pin down, because it seems to evolve by the minute. Now meaty, now bloody, now floral; what a thrill ride! The palate features the silky, high-pH mouthfeel many of us adore from rocks Syrah. That pillowy texture carries waves of fruity/savory goodness across the palate. It’s a total umami bomb, seamless and charming. And I don’t know if you know this, but “umami” is derived from the Japanese words for “delicious” (umai) and “taste” (mi). Delicious taste indeed, and a perfect pairing for so many winter braises.

2013 In The Hall of the Mountain Queen

We originally offered this special one-off wine as our second anniversary-week offer back in October, and this wine has also been flying out of the tasting room when RhiAnnon and Dylan have it open. We’ve sold through about 60% of our original stash now.

You may remember that this project began with an e-mail from a very, very good Washington winemaker:

I have [REDACTED] barrels of a 2013 [REDACTED] Vineyard Cabernet blend that I made for an east coast distributor who has flaked out. It is about 75% Cab, the rest Merlot and Petit Verdot, and it has been in about 2/3 new French oak. Very high end all the way and much in the style of the [REDACTED WINE]. Do you have any interest? If we did it, I would have to have [REDACTED WINERY] and [REDACTED VINEYARD] remain anonymous. Let me know if you would like a sample.

The wine comes from a top-notch single vineyard on Red Mountain, and astute long-time readers might be able to spot a hint about which one. There are no hints about the producer, which required absolute anonymity. As the quote above mentioned, this wine was originally intended as a special collaboration with one of this winery’s east-coast distributors. The distributor reneged on the deal, and we’re the beneficiaries of this particular flake-out.

This is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, given two-plus years in 65% new French oak, and it clocks in at 14.8% alc. The expressive nose combines black plum and redcurrant fruit, savory tones of beetroot and rhubarb, earthy peat moss, and barrel tones of cocoa powder and woodsmoke. It’s a complex, multilayered nose. The palate offers a pillowy-soft attack and a similarly supple mid-palate. Then the polished tannins begin to take over just past the middle and carry the relay over the finishing line. The finish is all toothsome tannin goodness, redolent of Irish breakfast tea. Given the track record of the growers and winemaker involved here, I suspect this will age in fascinating directions for a decade or two with no problem. But it’s glorious right now with a medium-rare New York strip steak, if you’re so inclined.

Please give us your requests, with no upper limits, and we’ll do our best to fulfill those requests. These wines are all in the warehouse already and available for pickup, or for shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

The end of a year is always a reminder to me of what a dream job this is: writing about wine for people who are willing to slow down and think, slow down and care. Thank you all for another year of allowing me to do this beautiful job. My holiday wish to our list members is the same as ever: that our wines bring the same happiness to you that this endeavor brings to me. On behalf of the whole merry Full Pull family: happy holidays, happy new year, and onwards to 2017.


Full Pull Eliminator 11

January 3, 2017

Hello friends. The Eliminator is back! Version 11 is a buffed-up holiday Eliminator, with ten wines in total, including: two never-before-offered wines; two beloved private label wines coming to the end of their stock; three Oregon Pinots from the generous ’14 vintage; a Cote-Rotie ringer from the northwest and an honest-to-goodness Cote Rotie with a few years of bottle age.

As usual, these will be allocated as they’re ordered, and since all the wines are already in the warehouse, that means if you want to pick these up during our final two pickup days of the year (Thursday Dec 22, Friday Dec 23), we can absolutely facilitate that. Need last-minute gifts? Need ample alcohol to maintain sanity around unwelcome family members? The Eliminator has you covered.

Based on the name of the final American Gladiators challenge (see link for an excellent example of the original Eliminator, and also for an epic blond ‘80s mullet), this is where we eliminate extra bottles that have accumulated for one reason or another (some reasons purposeful; others accidental/stupid/I-don’t-wanna-talk-about-it).

A reminder: we handle this offer a little differently than most. 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 the old-heads will get a bit of a head-start (much like the Gladiators Eliminator, but with fewer tassels), but list newbies will be nipping at their heels!

Godspeed. And good luck.

2014 Block Wines Chenin Blanc Block V10 Rothrock Vineyard

RhiAnnon and Dylan have been pouring this one at the tasting bar lately, and we’re suddenly getting low on the first Chenin release from our house winery. It seems to just keep getting better with each passing month, adding weight and earthy/honeyed/malt-powder complexity. 77 bottles remain of this old-vine Chenin (40-year-old vines), and if Loire Chenins are our guide, this should continue to evolve in fascinating directions for another five years at least.

2011 Covington Cellars Syrah

You may remember this one as our fifth and final anniversary-week offer back in October. The notes from my tasting notebook: wonderful funky nose! fecund, naughty. bacon fat. brackish sea funk. what the hell?!? No mistake that it served as the finale; we got such outstanding pricing on this Funk + Funk Syrah (50% Stoney Vine = Rocks Funk; 25% Boushey Vineyard = Yak Funk) that I would characterize it as one of our best QPR offers of the year. To get that price required a substantial volume commitment. That volume has been steadily whittled away by reorders as folks got this wine home and opened it, such that we now have exactly 6 cases remaining.

2014 60 Souls Pinot Noir

We barely have enough of this left (37 bottles) to warrant its inclusion, so I’ll keep this brief and remind you that this is essentially the continuation of the old Evening Land Blue Label Pinot, from winemaker LJ Brimfield, who had worked with Dominque LaFon and Isabelle Meunier at Evening Land before striking off on his own. Targeted more for restaurant glass-pour than for retail, but we managed to wrangle some through our connections to the Oregon wine scene.

2012 Matello Fool’s Journey Deux Vert Vineyard (Syrah/Viognier)

One of the most shocking and eye-opening wines I tasted in 2016, this Cote Rotie ringer from Matello has to be tasted to be believed. A lot of northwest Syrah producers talk the talk about Cote Rotie, but I’ve never seen something walk the walk quite like this, both in stats (listed alc of 12.8%; a full 10% Viognier coferment; 100% whole cluster) and in profile (huckleberry and bacon fat, charcoal and smoky earth, and oh the flowers). I went long precisely so that we’d have a little left to offer the folks that have become smitten with this beauty. We have just over 4 cases in stock.

2012 Baer Arctos

We bought the remaining Seattle parcel of this outstanding vintage of Arctos, and we’re left with 74 bottles. Our TPU price is nearly 40% off the $43 winery-release, and this wine comes with a strong review from Sean Sullivan: Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[TEXT REVIEW WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

2009 Full Pull & Friends Cabernet Sauvignon (FPF-16)

Our first ever FP&F wine was a 2007 vintage of Cabernet from this same winery, back in 2013. We followed that up with the ’08 vintage in 2014, and then this ’09 in late 2015. The trio of Cabs from this stellar winery (who by necessity remains nameless) have been among our most popular FP&F wines. We have 76 bottles remaining of this beauty, which deftly melds primary and tertiary Cabernet tones, and I’ll be very surprised if any of them survive today’s offer.

2014 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir Les Cousins

We grabbed a little extra of the ’14 Cousins, just because it’s so rare to see wine from Beaux Freres (whose 2014 Pinot from their estate vineyard just grabbed the #3 spot on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list) at anything approaching this tag. We have less than 4 cases remaining, so I think I’ll stop there.

2014 Betz Family Winery Syrah La Serenne

Never offered, because we got so little of it. Just 30 bottles, all available today. Year in and year out, an unparalleled expression of Boushey Vineyard Syrah. Year in and year out, brutal allocation landscape. I’ll stop there, since we have so little, but for more info, here is a video from Bob Betz and co.

2014 Cameron Pinot Noir Clos Electrique

It’s rare enough for us to access Cameron Pinot that I snagged some extra bottles when we brought the wine in. Some of those were for my personal cellar, and now that those are set aside, we have about 3.5 cases extra remaining. The first time we’ve ever had access to Cameron’s estate vineyard, farmed organically and yielding a miniscule 1.5 tons/acre. This is haunting, ethereal Pinot Noir from one of Oregon’s masters.

2011 Saint Cosme Cote Rotie

We do so well with Saint Cosme’s 100% Syrah Cotes-du-Rhone each year (which, as predicted, landed a spot this year on Spectator’s Top 100 list; #43) that we were offered a tiny jewel of a parcel: 3 cases of Louis Barroul’s Cote Rotie, his highest expression of Syrah, and better yet, with a few years of bottle age. I tasted this at a lunch with Barroul earlier this year, and it was the star of the show, with dazzling funky/meaty/floral aromatics and breathtaking purity. I only wish we had more so we could have featured it in a proper offer. Alas, it will instead serve as the finale for our holiday Eliminator.

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


Full Pull Mysterious Margaux

January 3, 2017

Hello friends. We have the continuation of what is turning into a mid-December tradition: well-priced Margaux seasoned with a healthy dash of mystery:

2014 Maison Sichel Margaux

In 2014 our Sichel Margaux offer was on December 15. In 2015 it was December 18. We’re a tick later this year as I wanted to make sure we had our full parcel in the warehouse and available for pickup this week. It’s the smallest parcel we’ve had of any vintage of Sichel Margaux, so it may end up needing to be allocated. If that’s the case, we’ll allocate on Tuesday at noon so that the wine is ready to go for our two remaining pickup days on Thursday and Friday. Apologies in advance if we have to under-allocate, but I’m confident everyone who orders should be able to get at least a few bottles.

The December timing for this wine makes sense, as it is a near-perfect wine for any holiday dinner involving a large hunk of roasting red meat. As for the healthy dash of mystery, you might remember the story from previous offers, the one where we’re essentially getting fifth-hand information, and even that info has to be redacted. Not exactly the height of journalistic integrity, I know. Sorry. But the wine is so damned good that I’m inclined not to care, and feedback on previous vintages tells me y’all don’t care much either.

Here is that fifth-hand info:
1. At the spring 2014 Bordeaux En Primeur tastings, one of the Sichel brothers…
2. …told the owner of their Seattle import partner…
3. …who told the representative of that import partner who calls on Full Pull…
4. …who told me (Paul Z)…
5. …who is now telling you…
…that today’s wine is declassified juice from world-class winery Chateau [REDACTED] in Margaux.

Could something have been lost in translation at some point? Certainly. But cursory internet research seems to confirm the story, and the wine itself has been phenomenal each time I’ve tasted it. Basically, to get access to this wine, I have to promise not to reveal any Chateau names, and that was a deal I was willing to make. Furthermore, this is not an easy wine to find in the United States. I’m not sure if any markets outside the northwest even have the 2014 yet, and I believe the parcel we have is all we’re going to get.

Maison Sichel is into its fifth generation in Bordeaux. They’ve done a little of everything over the years: negociant, distributor, merchant, exporter, owner of properties, winemaking. They’re woven into the fabric of Bordeaux, and they’re only going to put their family name on something they’re proud of. They have a few different partners in Margaux, and this bottle comes entirely from one of those partners. And it’s a damned good one. As in: a bottle will cost you multiple hundreds of dollars good.

The blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot (more clues!), and listed alc is 13%. What I’ve loved about all the vintages we’ve offered is that they represent terrific, honest Bordeaux, not over-polished but instead proudly earthy, throwing the kind of come-hither glances that only top-notch BDX can. This one begins with a nose of black plum and cassis fruit, earth, and savory notes of tarragon and black olive. Barrel tones are represented by this smoky cedary aroma that I associate with preparing a cedar plank on a charcoal grill. The overall effect is one attractive nose indeed. We’re accessing this ’14 a bit earlier in its evolution than previous vintages, and how that translates to the palate is more emphasis on velvety primary fruit. Of course because it’s Margaux there is still a sturdy scaffolding of tannin, toothsome and redolent of english breakfast tea. That structure will support a slow-and-steady evolution in bottle, and this is one of those wines that will bring myriad pleasures any time you access it over the next 20 years.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles (warning: actual allocations might end up more in the 2-4 bottle range), 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.