2007 Sleight of Hand Cellars “Spellbinder”

April 30, 2010

Hello friends. The first time I walked into Sleight of Hand’s tasting room, an album was just finishing up on Trey Busch’s record player, and he told our group to pick the next one. After perusing his tasteful, eclectic vinyl collection, we settled on Steely Dan. During my most recent visit, Trey was playing Everywhere at Once by The Plimsouls. Okay, so there’s no hard evidence that taste in music equates to taste in wine. But on some level, taste is taste, right?

It was actually music that helped get Trey Busch out to Walla Walla in the first place. He first met Jamie Brown (winemaker at Waters) when Jamie owned a record store in Seattle, and it was Jamie who introduced Trey to Eric Dunham, who gave Trey his first winemaking job as assistant winemaker at Dunham Cellars. His next stop was at Basel Cellars, where he spent five years as Basel’s winemaker, crafting well-received wines that garnered plenty of critical acclaim. At that point, he was looking for his own gig, and he found willing partners in Sandy and Jerry Solomon. Together, they started Sleight of Hand Cellars in 2006.

Sleight of Hand’s portfolio includes several limited-release, higher-end wines, but the real focus is on red table wines like the Spellbinder. Since the winery’s inception, Spellbinder has represented excellent quality for the price, and the 2007 vintage is the strongest yet. The blend here is 57% Cab, 29% Merlot, and 14% Sangiovese. Although the Sangiovese comprises a small portion of the blend, it seems to dominate the pure, expressive nose with its lovely notes of dusty cherries and red licorice. The palate brings black licorice, black cherries, brown spices, and more dusty red fruits. Juicy, vibrant, and lithe, this is far from the fruit bombs that dominate this price segment for red wine. The structure here comes from acid; there is barely a hint of tannin on the back end.

Rober Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($19); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 90 pts.”

Review of Washington Wine (Rand Sealey): “($19); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18+/20 pts.”

First come first served up to 24 bottles. This wine should arrive in the warehouse in less than a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping.

2008 Sineann Cabernet Franc Champoux Vineyard

April 29, 2010

Hello friends. On May 1, the new issue of Wine Enthusiast will be released, and it will include the highest score ever given to a Cabernet Franc made from Washington fruit:

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($40); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95 pts.”

When I learned of the glowing review, I attempted to source a sample bottle, only to learn that none of this wine is currently in Washington. Sineann is located in Oregon (note: I take the broad view of what constitutes a “Washington wine,” and Oregon winemakers working with Washington fruit fall within that view).

That there is no Sineann Cab Franc currently in Washington brings a drawback and a benefit. The drawback is that I have to offer this as an untasted wine, so there is an element of caveat emptor in play (mitigated by the quality of the winemaker, the divinity of the vineyard, and the palate of the reviewer). The benefit is that we are special-ordering the wine and will be the exclusive source for this Cab Franc in Washington (for now, anyway; others may follow, but they better hurry – with just 180 cases produced, this won’t last long with reviews like the one above).

Peter Rosback is a remarkably flexible winemaker with an expansive portfolio. Here is a smattering of wines he produces: a Block 1 Champoux Vineyard Cab; Pinot Noirs from Oregon and New Zealand; Sauvignon Blancs from Washington and New Zealand; two different Napa Valley Cabs; an old-vine Washington Zinfandel; a late-harvest Gewurztraminer made in Vin Santo style and dubbed “The Precious” (that one is a mind-boggling nectar of the gods that we have opened on occasion in the warehouse). Wow.

Peter is actually in New Zealand right now, working a southern hemisphere harvest in Marlborough. But he took a quick break to confirm that his colleagues can send some of this wine our way.  Please limit order requests to a maximum of 12 bottles, and we will do our best to fulfill all requests. Since we are bringing this wine in from Yamhill County, it might be as long as 3-4 weeks before we have the wine in our warehouse. At that point, it will be ready for pickup or shipping.

Pomum Cellars 2006 Shya & 2007 Red Wine

April 27, 2010

Hello friends. Two wines today from Javier Alfonso of Pomum Cellars, who we first profiled in our Tinto offering in November. Today’s offering presents an interesting dichotomy, as we have wines at opposite ends of the spectrum: Shya is Pomum’s flagship wine, and the Red Wine (new for the 2007 vintage) is Pomum’s entry-level bottling.

2006 Shya

The 2005 vintage of this wine put Pomum Cellars on the map when Gary Vaynerchuk went bonkers about it on Wine Library TV. When Gary Vee says things like “really reminds me of a classic Bordeaux,” and “the elegance of this wine is really unparalleled,” buyers pay attention. I have had a few bottles of the 2005, and it is indeed a glorious wine; so when I started Full Pull in October 2009, I bought a case of the 2006 vintage to help build up to the minimum inventory required by the Liquor Control Board, fully intending to offer the wine in autumn of 2009.

When I opened a bottle for tasting-note purposes, the wine was very good. And very young. Upon pop-and-pour, the wine was impenetrable: a dark sea whose opacity swallowed any light that tried to enter. It took hours of aeration for the wine to begin to show its beauty. So I decided to wait a bit and hold the wine until it became more approachable (a delicate dance, of course; if I wait too long, the wine will sell out and I will be left holding my 11 bottles). That time is now.

Tasting this recently, the quality of the vineyards shines immediately through. Javier has access to some of the Yakima Valley’s finest sites, including DuBrul, Elerding, Dineen, and Upland. The blend here is 45% Cab, 30% Merlot, 22% Cab Franc, 2% Malbec, and 1 % Petit Verdot. The nose is dark and spicy, with plenty of licorice notes, both black and red. This has a refined mouthfeel that brings flavors of bright red raspberries, Dr. Pepper, and brown spices. The oak has integrated nicely, and this finishes with round, black-tea flavored tannins.

2007 Red Wine

You might remember our Dumas Station Cow Catcher Red offering from a few months back, when I explained how wineries can end up with a “Red Wine” in their portfolio (this was also where I invented a winery named after my cat; many of you have since clamored for the initial releases from Domaine de Smoke Bomb). Pomum’s new Red Wine is a classic example. Prior to the 2007 vintage, Javier would select the best blend of his Bordeaux varietals for Shya and then sell the remaining juice on the bulk market. Now he has decided to keep all that delicious juice for himself, and we’re the beneficiaries. The blend is not so different from Shya: 65% Cab, 21% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc. The Red Wine sees less new oak (33%) and is released a bit younger, but the quality of the fruit remains outstanding, and this is immediately, joyfully approachable.

Big, beautiful nose of kirsch, crème de cassis, and cherry cola. This is dark and liquorous, with plenty of citrusy acids framing the black cherry and blackberry flavors. The middle and finish bring cola notes and more of the black-tea tannins that seem to be the hallmark of Javier’s Bordeaux blends. This has an elegance and structure that belie the price point.

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: * (Excellent).”

First come first served on these up to 12 bottles of each. We should have the wines in our warehouse in less than a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping.

2008 K Vintners “The Boy” Grenache

April 26, 2010

Hello friends. Quick offering today, as I just got confirmation on a small parcel of this wine and might be able to secure more if we move quickly. Because this is one of the few wines outside of Christophe’s own portfolio that contains Cayuse fruit, it tends to disappear rapidly into collectors’ cellars.

While Charles Smith has burnished his reputation at K Vintners with Syrah, it is “The Boy” Grenache that might be the cultiest of his portfolio. Perhaps it is the fruit source (Cayuse’s famed Armada Vineyard). Perhaps it is the strikingly blank label. Or perhaps it’s because the wine is damned good.

I tried to source us a stash of the 2007 last fall but only managed to secure a case; not enough for a proper offering. This time, I did not repeat my mistake, and I made it a point to taste this wine two weeks ago in K’s Walla Walla tasting room. As always with The Boy, this is savory Grenache. The nose is beautifully fungal, with waves of truffles and portobellos. There is plenty of composted earth and spicy red fruit here as well, and nary a hint of oak (this was aged entirely in neutral barrels). Each year, the blend hovers around 90/10 Grenache/Syrah. In this case, it is 92% Grenache and 8% Syrah.

This wine has no professional reviews. In fact, the most recent vintage scored was the 2006 (94pts from Wine Advocate); that’s how quickly these wines move. No reason to go on with any greater length, as my current parcel is quite limited in size. Please limit order requests to a maximum of 4 bottles, and we will do our best to fulfill all requests. This wine is unlikely to be available for reorder, but we do already have one small parcel in the warehouse, so it will be ready for immediate pickup or shipping.

2007 Two Vintners Syrah

April 23, 2010

Hello friends. Finding tasty, terroir-expressive Syrah under $20 is no easy feat. Many of the bottles I taste at these price points are green as the day is long or oak-chipped into vanilla oblivion.  Since our inception, we have only offered two Syrahs that cost less than a Jackson. Both of those wines (2006 Dusted Valley Stained Tooth Syrah and 2005 McKinley Springs Syrah) began their lives at more expensive price points and, for a variety of reasons, eventually dropped below the $20 mark. Because I have to kiss a lot of Syrah frogs before finding those rare princes, I tend to get pretty excited about the princes.

I first tasted this wine at Covington Cellars in Woodinville. Covington was founded in 2002 by David and Cindy Lawson. In 2007, Morgan Lee joined the team after interning at Columbia Crest (a winery that knows a thing or two about value). While Morgan and David collaborate on the Covington Cellars wines,  II Vintners (a companion brand to Covington) is more of Morgan’s baby. Along with this Syrah, II Vintners produces a fine Merlot sourced entirely from Pepper Bridge Vineyard and a Cab-Syrah blend called Lola (e-mail me if you’re interested in either of these wines; I can probably bring in a few bottles when I procure the Syrah).

On first tasting this wine, my immediate thought was “Boushey Syrah,” as the wine had many of that vineyard’s telltale, smoked-meat aromatics. Right AVA; wrong vineyard. Much of the Syrah comes from Smasne Vineyard, a vineyard we passed on County Line Road on our way to Boushey Vineyards a few weeks ago. It’s certainly encouraging to see another Yakima Valley vineyard express Syrah so distinctively and bodes well for other Syrah sites popping up in this neck of the AVA. Along with smoked meats, the nose brings charcoal, iron, and blue fruits. On the palate, this is pure, honest Syrah: a mix of blue fruit, black pepper, and bloody meat.

Restaurants have been snapping this wine up, as its price point allows sommeliers to offer it by the glass (of course, after the excruciating restaurant markup, you’ll end up paying $13-$14 per glass). I love finding these wines that are more targeted at restaurants, because our bottle costs always wind up just a few dollars higher than the per-glass costs at restaurants.

This is an excellent value, and we have access to a large parcel. First come first served up to 12 bottles, and we should have this wine in the warehouse in less than two weeks, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping.

Syncline 2008 Pinot 2009 Rose

April 21, 2010

Hello friends. Two new releases from Syncline Cellars today, and both are firsts for Full Pull: our first Pinot Noir and our first (non-sparkling) rosé. We have featured Syncline a number of times, offering their 2007 Cuvee Elena, 2008 Gruner Veltliner, and 2008 Grenache-Carignan (see the Cuvee Elena offering for the back-story on the winery).

Both of these are traditional spring releases for Syncline, and in my experience, neither survive the summer. By jumping in early, we can ensure availability and might even be able to sneak in some reorders in the next few months (the Pinot might be gone as early as June 1).

2008 Syncline Pinot Noir

Speaking of Pinot, let’s dive right into Syncline’s Pinot Noir. Before James and Poppie Mantone moved to Washington to start Syncline, they met in the Willamette Valley in 1997, where they were both working harvest. James has worked with Celilo Vineyard Pinot Noir fruit (which comprises 55% of this blend; the remainder is from the adjacent Underwood Mountain Vineyard) since 1999. In fact, the first Washington wine he made was a 1999 Celilo Pinot Noir.

Celilo, the flagship vineyard of the Columbia Gorge AVA, is better known for its amazingly aromatic white varietals, but Pinot has been planted at this site since 1972 (at an elevation of 1000 ft), so these are old vines (by Washington standards, of course; Burgundians would scoff). About 20% of the fruit is fermented in whole clusters (with stems), and this is aged in French oak for just under a year. Only 20% of that oak is new, allowing the fruit to shine through. Just 258 cases produced.

The color is nice and pale: unmistakably Pinot Noir. Aromas are also spot-on: sweet strawberry, tart raspberry, and notes of forest floor. There is plenty of acid here to brighten up the mineral-driven, resinous red fruit. Light-bodied, this conveys a coolness in the mouth that is captivating and refreshing.

Review of Washington Wine (Rand Sealey): “($28); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 18.5/20 pts.”

2009 Syncline Rose

’tis the season! One of the best developments of the past few years in Washington wine is the seriousness with which winemakers are treating their rosés. For my palate, the best versions come from thinner-skinned varietals. The richer versions (typically made from Syrah or – gulp – Cab) just don’t suit me on a midsummer day. I want bright fruit, vibrant acid, and a crisp finish; and I get all three from this rosé.

A Rhone-styled blend of 37% Cinsault, 35% Counoise, 12% Grenache, 11% Mourvedre, and 5% Carignan, this is mostly produced using the saigneé method, where the juice sits in contact with the skins overnight (for color) and is then bled off. A portion of the Cinsault and Counoise is, however, direct-pressed. These grapes come from across the Columbia Valley, but large portions are from McKinley Springs Vineyard, a site we know and love well.

Pale pink, this brings delicate aromas of just-cut watermelon and strawberries. Background notes both floral and slightly musky add complexity to this lovely nose. The palate brings mouthwatering, citrusy acids on top of bright red fruits and more melon. At 13.8% alcohol, this is delightfully easy to drink.

First come first served up to 12 bottles of Pinot Noir and 24 bottles of Rosé. These wines should arrive in the warehouse in less than a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping.

2006 Trust Cellars Riesling

April 19, 2010

Hello friends. Do you remember the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the wooden crate containing the Ark was stored in a giant warehouse, surrounded by a slew of precisely identical crates? Well, dotted across the landscape of the northwest wine industry are similar warehouses, belonging to distributors, where tiny treasure troves of unique wines languish until a series of actions unearths them. Today we present Raiders of the Lost Riesling.

Relationships between wineries and distributors are complicated, and they don’t always have happy endings. In recent months, Steve Brooks (winemaker at Trust Cellars) and his Oregon distributor decided to part ways. As part of the breakup process, Steve visited the distributor’s Portland warehouse to collect his remaining wines. While digging through his wine, he made a surprising discovery: among the cases of current releases was a small parcel of 2006 Riesling, the first Riesling he ever produced for Trust. And luckily for us, he thought of Full Pull as a good destination for this plundered booty.

Steve’s talent with Riesling is well-known to those of you who have sampled his delicious 2008 vintage (the first Riesling we offered, way back on October 26, and the subject of many enthusiastic reorder requests thereafter). That same aptitude is immediately evident in the 2006, which I had a chance to sample in Walla Walla two weeks ago. The wine has entered a lovely transitory phase between primary and secondary flavors; a real treat for those of us who appreciate the evolution of Riesling over time.

The aromas make it clear that this can be nothing but Riesling with a little age: diesel in the foreground, and rock-strewn peaches in the background. The palate displays a wine in transition. There remain some primary fruit flavors of fresh peach and pineapple, but lovely secondary flavors of dried apricots and ginger are beginning to creep into the picture, and there is prominent minerality that emerges on the mid-palate and continues through the finish. This is relatively full-bodied Riesling, and it conveys just the mildest bit of sweetness (residual sugar here is 1.1%).

The parcel that Indiana Brooks whisked away from the Portland warehouse was not large enough for a proper offering, so he has agreed to supplement that parcel with a small amount of library stock. Even with that, this is quite limited, so please keep order requests to a maximum of 3 bottles, and we will do our best to fulfill all requests. I have already taken possession of the wine, so it will be ready for immediate pickup or shipping.