2007 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon “Old Vines”

August 30, 2010

Hello friends. The soon-to-be-released September issue of Seattle Met contains that magazine’s annual list of Washington’s 100 Best Wines. This year, a familiar face compiled the list: Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report. Here is his methodology, as stated in the magazine:

“Sullivan started by authoring a call for submissions that was published in the Washington Wine Commission’s newsletter, which goes out to all wineries in the state. Wineries were allowed to send a maximum of four wines: one bottle (red or white) under $25; one under $50; one over $50; and one white wine of any price… Sullivan sampled each bottle blind in groups of four to six, organized by varietal. He rated them on a 100-point scale.”

The Full Pull warehouse served as Sean’s storage and tasting facilities for this project, which meant I got to gawk at (and taste a few of) the wines that were submitted. It was a stellar list, with just about all the big guns in the state represented. Here is a link to the online version of the story. As you can see, the wines finishing in the top two spots (one from Quilceda Creek; one from Cayuse) are utterly inaccessible. But then there’s number three.

Due to a few strokes of good fortune, I’m able to offer number three: Rick Small’s 2007 Old-Vines Cabernet Sauvignon. First, the wine was released recently, so it is still available (this one rarely lasts through the holiday season). And second, I had the chance to taste this wine with Rick Small during my July visit to Walla Walla. I was planning on holding off until closer to the holidays for this offering, but Seattle Met has no shortage of readers, and I suspect this article will hasten the wine’s disappearance.

I’m giddy with delight to be working with Woodward Canyon. After already having our inaugural offerings with Andrew Will and Grand Reve in July, to add Woodward Canyon to the list in August is the capstone on a fine summer for our list members.

Rick Small is a pioneer in the Walla Walla Valley and is still going strong today (a future Woodward Canyon offering will delve more into Rick’s singular passion for his estate vineyard land). He began his winery in 1981, and one of his wines was the Dedication Series Cab, which eventually morphed into the Old Vines Cab. He has been working with Champoux Vineyard fruit since 1985, when it was still called Mercer Ranch. The old blocks of Champoux comprise 74% of the blend here, with the remainder rounded out by the oldest Cabernet blocks at Sagemoor Vineyard, another stellar site.

The aromas here are deep and dark. It is apparent upon first sniff that this can be nothing but Cabernet, swaddled in a layer of luxurious French oak. Layers upon layers emerge on the palate. There is fruit: black cherries, cassis, mango, and citrus peel. There is barrel: sweet baking spice and vanilla bean. There is mineral: flinty metals and streaks of iron. It just goes on and on, and all of it with clarity, precision, and exceptional depth of flavor.

Seattle Met Magazine (Sean Sullivan): “($79); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

Demand from lifestyle magazine articles like this takes time to trickle through retail channels. Let’s jump in before that happens. Please limit order requests to no more than 12 bottles, and we will do our best to fulfill all requests. We should have this wine in the warehouse in less than a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.


2009 Whites from Maison Bleue

August 27, 2010

Hello friends. Jon Martinez is a bonafide rising star in Washington. To date, he has probably been best known for his red Rhone wines (we featured his Alder Ridge Grenache in early July). He is currently completely sold out of his reds, and it will be months before any new red releases. But a recent tasting at Jon’s Prosser winery revealed a stunning lineup of single-vineyard white wines from the Yakima Valley. These are vineyard-expressive, technically flawless, and as delicious as they are intellectually stimulating. Those of you looking for ageworthy white wine candidates from Washington should pay close attention here.

I’d also like to thank Jon for providing the coordinates for the three vineyards in today’s offering, all of which have been added to the ongoing Google Map project. We have also recently added a host of Red Mountain Vineyards to the map, so it’s coming along well. Any growers or winemakers who want to see their sites added to the map should feel free to contact me with coordinates. Now, onto the wines.

2009 Chardonnay “Au Contraire” French Creek Vineyard

Jon is a Rhone specialist, so Chardonnay seems like an unlikely piece of the portfolio. Until, that is, you hear about the vineyard.

Jon always envisioned himself as a vigneron, not a winemaker. He was as deeply interested in viticulture as in enology, and when he was establishing Maison Bleue, an irresistible vineyard came available on the market. French Creek Vineyard was planted more than 30 years ago to Wente-clone Chardonnay, and it had fallen into some disrepair. In many ways, the site was a perfect match for an aspiring vigneron. If the only drawback was varietal plantings that didn’t match the initial vision for the winery portfolio, well then, the vineyard wins, and the portfolio evolves.

The first action in the vineyard was to cart out four truckloads of deadwood. After that, the real rehabilitation work began, and that work has paid dividends. Several of the finest Chardonnay producers in the region (Abeja, Owen Roe) count French Creek Vineyard among their fruit sources. And, of course, Jon keeps some fruit for himself.

The resulting wine is stellar: a persistent Chardonnay driven by mouthwatering natural acids (Jon does and acidify or water back). Aromatically beautiful with its scents of tree fruit blossoms, cherry, apple, and lemon, this reveals a mineral- and lees-driven palate with surprising restraint and elegance. The mouthfeel is near-perfect here, with fullness helped along by 50% fermentation in 3-yr-old barrels (the remainder in stainless), 20% malolactic fermentation, and regular lees-stirring. The palate depth is especially welcome given the relatively low alcohol (13.5%).

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

This is just the third Chardonnay we have offered in eleven months, and I promise it’s not for lack of trying. Sadly, this varietal lends itself to some truly insipid bottles, and you have to taste a lot of rough to find the diamonds. First come first served up to 24 bottles, and this wine should arrive at the warehouse in less than a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

2009 Roussanne “Soleil” Olsen Vineyard

Roussanne (one of the great white grapes of the Hermitage region of the Rhone) is a tricky varietal in Washington. Finicky in the vineyard, it seems singularly predisposed towards waxy, oily, flab-bombs. But skilled winemakers can rescue it from this fate and express its lovely varietal character, and that is exactly what Jon Martinez has done here. He showed restraint in both alcohol (14.1%) and new French oak (20%). The nose is compelling and invites many return sniffs: it is nearly a dead ringer for kheer, the delicious South Asian rice pudding, studded with cardamom, saffron, and almonds. The grapes were picked early enough to retain plenty of natural, lemony acids, which brighten up the palate’s mineral and sweet Indian spice notes.

Only 160 cases produced, and this comes from one of Olsen’s higher-elevation blocks. At nearly 1300 feet, this is a cool site that does well by this varietal.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($28); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19/20pts.”

First come first served up to 8 bottles, and this wine should arrive at the warehouse in less than a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

2009 Marsanne “Petite Joie” Boushey Vineyard

The other Hermitage white, varietal Marsanne is a rarity all over the world, and certainly in Washington. I know of versions from McCrea Cellars, Forgeron, Darby, and Alexandria Nicole. There may be others, but not many.

Marsannes can be wonderfully nutty when done well, and this is done well; a delectable streak of almonds a mile wide tears through the nose (amaretto) and palate (marzipan). There is a lactic quality to the fruit here: a veritable peach-melon milkshake. A serious wine with easy persistence, this has potential for long-term aging success. Just 119 cases produced, and this sees a near-identical barrel regimen as the Roussanne.

The grower of these Marsanne grapes is one of our very best. I once had the pleasure of dining at Dick Boushey’s home (thank you, Luanne!), and the bottle he pulled was a white Rhone varietal (a Washington Picpoul). This is a man who built his reputation on Rhone grapes, and he tends to them with great care, attention, and innovation.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($32); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19.5/20pts.”

First come first served up to 6 bottles, and this wine should arrive at the warehouse in less than a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.


2008 Rotie Cellars Southern Blend, Northern Blend

August 25, 2010

Hello friends. For those of you who couldn’t make it down to Full Pull last weekend to taste Sean Boyd’s wines, here is another chance to access his new releases. His Rotie Cellars wines from the 2007 vintage were an exceptional first-release, among the best-received wines from any winery to debut last year. Spurred on by plenty of positive buzz from a wide range of critics and backed up by serious quality, the 2007 vintage moved quickly through the marketplace.

Encore, please.

Sean has a clear vision for these wines, shaped in part by his time as assistant winemaker to Jamie Brown at Waters (which involves him in the Substance lineup as well). He is laser-focused on Rhone varietals (these are the wines he loves to drink; not difficult to discern given the name of his winery, which seems specifically designed to keep French trademark lawyers happily employed), and he is determined to let the varietals and vineyards tell the story with very little oak influence.

2008 Southern Blend

This Southern Blend, for instance, sees only second- and third-fill French oak. Like 2007, this is a GSM blend, but the proportions have changed. While 2007 was 55%/35%/10% Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre, 2008 is 70%/15%/15%. Those (many and enthusiastic) Grenache lovers among us can’t help but rejoice, as Sean Boyd takes Grenache very seriously. He continues to refine his vineyard sources, which include Alder Ridge in the Horse Heaven Hills, and a vineyard in the Columbia Gorge that shall remain nameless (because Grenache is such a tricky grape to grow, winemakers tend to fiercely protect the identity of strong sources).

It’s clear on tasting that the Grenache is prominent in this vintage. The nose is floral to the point of perfumed, with spring blossoms and sweet strawberries. Like the 07, this is profoundly autumnal in the glass, with flavors of dried leaves, bark, and other forest-floor detritus. Rich, full, and satisfying with its raspberry pastille and herbal notes, this is well-structured and comes most into its own after several hours in the decanter.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($35); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5/20pts.”

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($35); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: * (Excellent).”

2008 Northern Blend

This is a no-doubt-about-it Viognier co-ferment, with all the lovely, high-toned floral elements that this grape lends to Syrah. This evolves with oxygen exposure; it’s floral, spicy, stemmy, and meaty in turn. Throughout its evolution, the constants are red fruits dotted with spicy pink peppercorns, and plenty of chewy grip that indicates a long, fascinating life ahead. Vineyard sources here are Dwelley, Minnick, Stillwater Creek, and Pepperbridge, and the barrel regimen is 10% new French oak (Sirugue barrels from Nuits-Saint-Georges in Burgundy) with the remainder in second and third fills.

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($35); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: ** (Exceptional).”

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($35); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5/20pts.”

I want to offer these out before the major magazine reviews hit, while we can still offer first come first served up to 12 bottles of each wine. These wines should arrive at the warehouse in less than a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.


NV Envious Winemakers “Woodinville Red”

August 23, 2010

Hello friends. Yet another today in our rapidly-growing Signs-of-the-Times series. I believe this is the fourth wine we’ve offered that I would lump into that category. Number one was the 2006 OS Winery Red Wine, where they decided to declassify free-run Ulysses and R3 and bottle it under their lower-priced, Red Wine label. Number two was the Nicholas Cole portfolio, with older vintages whose prices had dropped considerably from release. And number three was last week’s Long Shadows offering, where the winery decided to stop selling its excess juice on the bulk market and instead bottle it under the Nine Hats label.

Today’s offering will be short, because the “winery” here, Envious Winemakers, does not exist in any physical form. It is an alternative nom de vin meant to erect a wall between this wine and the winemaker’s main label. You can probably guess the winemaker’s location from the name of the wine (although, wouldn’t it be especially delicious if this was a Walla Walla winemaker?), but that hardly narrows the field.

I can share a bit more about the wine than I can the winemaker. This is the second release of this wine, and it is a blend of 2007 and 2008 vintages. It is priced squarely in restaurant glass-pour territory, and that’s where this wine shows up more frequently than in retail shops. The blend is 40% Malbec, 30% Cab, 20% Merlot, and 10% Syrah.

Most Washington Malbecs and Malbec blends are priced in the $25-$35 range, so I was delighted to sample a Malbec blend at this tariff, which actually competes with Mendoza. And when I tasted the wine, I was immediately struck by the prominence of the Malbec. Many of the grape’s calling cards are here: the bright blueberry and boysenberry fruit; the iron filings; the bramble and the bark. It’s a juicy wine, exuberant and open.

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and this wine should arrive in less than a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.


Paul Gregutt Book and Signing Event

August 19, 2010

Hello friends. To date, we have never offered anything but wine at Full Pull. In fact, our systems aren’t really equipped to handle non-wine offerings (as you will see by the “To order this wine, click here” copy). Well, I can’t think of a better reason to break that trend. Today’s offering contains two parts: 1) a signed copy of Paul Gregutt’s new book; and 2) a ticket to our September 9 book signing with Paul, which will also include a signed copy of the book.

Washington Wines & Wineries: The Essential Guide (2nd Edition)

Note: FREE SHIPPING for out-of-state list members who purchase one or more copies.

The cover shot on the second edition of Paul Gregutt’s book reveals much about Washington wine. It shows the mighty Columbia River, so intrinsic to our state’s wine fortunes. It shows the desert landscape of eastern Washington, still a surprise to many non-residents, who think only of puddle-pocked Seattle when they think about Washington. And it shows a beautifully-situated vineyard that perfectly encapsulates the need for a new edition of this book.

When the first edition was published (in 2007, not 2008 as I stated previously), the vineyard on the cover was called Wallula. Since then, it has been purchased by an investor group led by Allen Shoup (for what was rumored to be the highest price ever paid for a Washington vineyard), with the goal of developing some of the steepest, most difficult portions of the vineyard. In short, much has changed in three years. Concomitantly, much has changed in this new edition.

Calling this book a new edition is in many ways unfair. There is only one chapter that hasn’t changed, (the chapter on history, of course!). Changes include: an increase in the number of winery profiles, from just over 100 to a whopping 206 (this includes updated profiles on many of the wineries featured in the first edition); an increase in the number of vineyard profiles from 10 to 20; an expanded section of varietals, including grapes newly in production since 2007, such as Gruner Veltliner. Further, Paul has changed his winery rating system from a custom 100pt scale to a simpler model: wineries are 5-star, 4-star, 3-star, or Rising Star. That list of Rising Stars is especially useful for those of us determined to remain on the bleeding edge of the Washington wine vanguard.

Delightful sidebars dot the landscape of the text. Who else could report on vertical tastings of every vintage of Eroica? (The regular bottling *and* the Single Berry Select; be still my heart!) Despite the spectacular amount of information contained in these pages, the book never reads encyclopedically, saved from that fate by Paul’s singular writing style: warm, witty, and inviting. His access to winemakers is unparalleled, and he jams a remarkable amount of insight and history into short winery profiles. A profile on K Vintners, for example, sees Paul relying not on frequently-used generalizations but presenting instead an incisive examination of Charles Smith’s history and the reasons behind the winery’s broad appeal. And he does it in eight paragraphs.

The final sentences of the new edition are especially stirring: “Washington’s wine industry has moved through its uneasy adolescence into the first full bloom of glorious youth, with all of the energy, vitality, enthusiasm, and passion for discovery that implies. Those of us fortunate enough to live and work here invite the rest of you to come visit and see what all the excitement is about.”

There is no limit on the number of books you can purchase, and the books should arrive by early September, at which point they will be ready for immediate pickup or shipping (reminder: free shipping on these books).

Note: for a more extensive review of the book, please see Sean Sullivan’s recent writeup in Washington Wine Report

Ticket to Gregutt Book-Signing (Sept 9, 6-9 PM)

A ticket to this event gets you the following: 1) a signed copy of the new edition of the book; 2) the chance to hear Paul Gregutt discuss the book and to participate in a Q&A session; 3) a tasting of the wonderful wine of Boudreaux Cellars and the chance to chat with Rob Newsom, one of the most jovial personalities in Washington wine; 4) the rare pleasure of hearing Paul and Rob play music together in a Full Pull warehouse concert. It promises to be a wonderful evening, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some other interesting bottles appear (I have a tendency to pull out the older stuff on nights like these).

The event will start at 6 PM, the music will start around 8 PM, and we’ll wrap up around 9 PM. Those of you who have visited our warehouse know that our space is cozy, so we need to place strict limits on the number of tickets we can offer. We’re offering tickets on a first-come-first-served basis, and I’m giving list members first crack at tickets (max 4 tickets/person; if you want to bring more than 4, e-mail me, and we can add those names to a wish-list). On Monday, we’re going to open this up to the public at-large if any slots remain.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the event. I hope to see many of you on September 9 for a magical evening of wine, words, and music!


2009 Cedergreen Cellars Chenin Blanc

August 17, 2010

Today we present the latest in our ongoing efforts to save old Washington Chenin Blanc vines the only way we know how: by drinking the wines made from them.

Chenin Blanc was the first white wine that Full Pull ever offered, and it has been invigorating to watch over the past year as the varietal began to pick up some faint signs of momentum. A recent Gregutt blog post about L’Ecole 41’s Chenin generated a bevy of comments from passionate Chenin acolytes. Perhaps the most interesting comment was one from Mr. Gregutt himself, nearly a week after the original posting: “Just yesterday I was told by more than one well-connected wine industry member that there is rising interest in dry chenin blanc, fueled by sommeliers who are looking for aromatic white wines – unoaked – to pour by the glass and pair with summer foods. I am usually a pretty good barometer for nascent trends – it would not surprise me if dry chenins, especially those from old vines such as we have here in Washington, started to get some real market traction. I’d be locking up vineyard contracts now if I were a winemaker interested in giving it a try.”

Fortunately, we’re connected with many of the winemakers who already have their old-vine Chenin contracts locked up, and that includes Kevin Cedergreen of Cedergreen Cellars. His Chenin comes from Willard Farms, a 1980-planted site (note: this makes the 2009 vintage 30th-leaf!) just north of Prosser, towards the eastern edge of the Yakima Valley (see its location on the Google map here). The vineyard is high (about 1200 ft) and cool, and the Chenin typically comes in around mid-October.

Kevin tends to his Chenin grapes obsessively, dropping bad fruit, evening out crop load, and hand-sorting fruit as it’s added to picking bins. He is equally committed once the grapes arrive at the winery, and he allows the vintage to shape the wine. The 2008 white wine vintage in Washington was notable for its screaming acidity, and Kevin balanced that acidity with higher-than-normal residual sugar for his 2008 Chenin (which we offered).

The 2009 is a completely different style, because 2009 was a completely different vintage. With the acids at more manageable levels, Kevin fermented this to near-complete dryness and focused more on richness, by barrel-fermenting (in 500-L puncheons), putting 20% of the wine through malolactic fermentation, and regularly stirring the wine on its lees. The result is a delight: round, rich, and full. The mouthfeel is positively creamy, and there is real purity to the aromas and flavors of stone fruit (pears, peaches), sweet cream, almonds, and spice. Here we have a winemaker taking what each vintage gives him and producing the best wine possible.

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and this wine should arrive within the next week or two, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.


2007 Long Shadows “Nine Hats” Red Blend

August 13, 2010

Hello friends. I once tried to explain the conundrum that a winemaker faces when blending red wines: after the perfect wine is blended, what to do with the leftovers? (That was the offering where I created from whole cloth a red table wine named after my cat. And no, despite the urgings of a vocal minority, Domaine de Smoke Bomb Red Wine has not yet been produced.)

That challenge is tricky enough for a winery with a single winemaker. Well, how about a winery with nine winemakers making seven different wines? That is the situation that Long Shadows faces, and up through 2006, their solution was to sell their excess juice on the bulk market. Beginning with the 2007 vintage, however, they decided to produce their own red table wine in-house, named after the nine winemakers who work on the project.

What we have, then, in any given vintage, is declassified barrels that don’t make it into Chester-Kidder, Feather, Pirouette, Pedestal, Saggi, and Sequel. The result is an opportunity for those curious about the Long Shadows portfolio to jump in at a reduced price. This is yet another consumer-friendly response to difficult economic times (see our recent OS and Nicholas Cole offerings for other responses).

When I visited Long Shadows a few weeks ago, resident winemaker Gilles Nicault was supervising the bottling of the 2008 vintage of Nine Hats. That mobile bottling unit was a site to behold. The bottling team can get through as many as 1600 cases in a day. That’s almost 20,000 bottles. Again; in a day! Over the din, Gilles expressed excitement about the Nine Hats brand and its potential to get Long Shadows wines into more hands.

The blend will change from year to year, and in 2007, it’s Cab-dominant at 60%, rounded out with 15% Syrah, 11% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. The breed of this wine is immediately apparent and is rare at this price point. Classy and elegant, this brings layers of cassis, pomegranate, and dark mocha, with streaks of salt, tar and poblano. The quality of the fruit is immaculate.

First come first served up to 24 bottles, and we should have this wine in the warehouse in less than a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.