2008s from Long Shadows Nine Hats

November 29, 2010

Hello friends. I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend and are working through the beautiful obligation of Thanksgiving leftovers at a reasonable pace. Let’s kick off the run-up to the holidays with some new releases from Nine Hats.

The establishment, by Long Shadows, of their Nine Hats brand has been one of the more exciting developments of the year in Washington wine. We offered the first wine from this brand, a 2007 red blend, back in August, and many of you were eager to sample Gilles Nicault’s winemaking at a lower tariff.

Clearly, the introduction of Nine Hats has been a success, and now Long Shadows has released their first 2008s under the Nine Hats label: a Sangiovese and a Syrah. Astute followers of Washington wine will realize without much prodding that Nine Hats Sangiovese is mostly declassified Saggi barrels, and that Nine Hats Syrah is mostly declassified Sequel barrels.

Here’s how it works: the Folonaris fly in from Italy, and John Duvall flies in from Australia. They go through their barrels, and they select the very best lots of wine for Saggi and Sequel. In previous years, the remaining barrels were sold off through the bulk market. Now, they are given to managing winemaker Gilles Nicault to craft Nine Hats.

So, these lots come from the same vineyard sources that go into the top-end bottlings, but for stylistic reasons (e.g. a little bit of Boushey Syrah goes a long way), they’re held back. Gilles then blends as he sees fit (each of these two wines has seen some Cabernet blended in), and the wines are released while a bit younger than the Long Shadows wines. And they’re released, of course, at very competitive price points:

2008 Long Shadows “Nine Hats” Sangiovese

While Saggi is typically closer to an even split of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is Sangiovese-dominant and likely (based on Saggi sources) comes from some Horse Heaven Hills sites, along with Boushey and Candy Mountain Vineyards.

There’s good varietal character here: tart red fruit plays off more bitter notes of soil, leafy greens, and beets. This has a fine acid spine and, as with all of Gilles’ wines, conveys class and elegance.

2008 Long Shadows “Nine Hats” Syrah

Educated guessing here (based on the usual Sequel suspects) would indicate that this contains Syrah from one or more of The Benches (formerly Wallula), Alder Ridge, Boushey, and/or Bacchus Vineyards.

A knockout nose, combining bright blue fruit with peppered pancetta, rolls into a deep, dark palate, with streaks of tar and mineral lining the blue and black fruits. Many Washington Syrahs at this price point present big gobs of ripe fruit. Not so here. This shows restraint, and it’s awfully pretty for the price point.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($25); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18+/20pts.”

2005 Forgeron Cellars Merlot

November 23, 2010

Hello friends. I hope everyone in the Seattle area got home safe and sound last night and is enjoying the snow day today, far away from the slick roads. After the 4-hour commute from Full Pull to North Seattle yesterday afternoon (I’m guessing many of you can top 4 hours), I think staying home today sounds just right.

While I was tracking down Forgeron’s late-harvest Semillon for yesterday’s offering, I also had a chance to sample Marie-Eve’s current release of Merlot (the 2005 vintage), which has recently seen a price drop.

This has been a great month for those of us looking to drink wines with a little age; today’s offering represents the fourth wine from the 2005 vintage we have offered in November (following two from Corliss and one from McKinley Springs).

A veritable tour of Washington state, this Merlot comes from four sites in four distinct AVAs: Boushey Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, Klipsun on Red Mountain, Alder Ridge in the Horse Heaven Hills, and Ash Hollow in the Walla Walla Valley. It’s a bottle that elegantly brushes away any preconceived notions of Merlot as wimpy or insipid.

Complex, structured, and well along the path to integration, this presents a wonderful example of what Washington can do with Merlot. A core of mint- and mineral-tinged black cherries is framed by integrated-oak notes of espresso and dark chocolate. The purity and clarity are noteworthy here; this is a ringing bell of Merlot.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($27); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and we should have the wine in the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping.

This will be the last you will hear from me for the rest of the week, as it’s near-impossible to type offerings when my fingers are covered in turkey gravy. Here’s to loads of delicious food and wine with good friends and family!

Three 08 Stickies

November 23, 2010

Hello friends. During much of the year, we lovers of sticky wines face a conundrum: when to open the bottle. A little goes a long way with dessert wines, and it usually takes a big group even to finish off a split. But now we’re entering the holiday season, the time of large gatherings; a perfect time of year to open these wines as an exclamation point (or maybe an ellipsis) to an evening shared with family and friends.

2008 Forgeron Cellars Late-Harvest Semillon 375ml

Harvested on Halloween of 2008, this is 100% Les Collines Vineyard Semillon, allowed to ferment slowly and coolly to retain freshness and delicacy. This is something of an ode to Sauternes (where Semillon is typically the predominant grape, blended with small amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle).

It was Paul Gregutt’s review of this wine in the November Wine Enthusiast that spurred me to seek out a sample:

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

I have mentioned a few times that 2008 was an excellent acid vintage for Washington whites, and that becomes even more important when we’re talking about sticky wines. It’s the peppy acid in this glass that balances out the ripe fruit sweetness and turns this wine into a transcendent elixir of honey-drenched marmalade and fig newton filling. Luxurious and palate-coating with a finish that won’t quit. First come first served up to 6 bottles, and we should have the wine in the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping.

2008 Brian Carter Cellars “Opulento” (Port-Style) 375ml

Many American winemakers make “port-style” wines, which frequently (and frighteningly) means letting Cabernet Sauvignon grapes ripen until they’re raisins and then squeezing some high-octane juice out of them. But that’s not Brain Carter’s style. He is a known devotee of European regional blends, so it comes as no surprise that he is using the same varietals grown in the Douro in Portugal. This is a fortified (20% alc) blend of 90% Touriga Nacional and 10% Sousao, all from Lonesome Springs Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.

The result is a ruby-port-styled wine, with an alluring nose of plum, fig, and dried cherry and apricot. The palate sees rich flavors of high-cacao chocolate, fig, date, orange peel, and even some mineral notes. This is luscious, coating every square inch of the palate. The length and intensity are impressive.

Only 4 barrels of this were made, and the winery sold their entire stock during their November release weekends. I have access to a small parcel, and this will not be available for reorder. Please limit order requests to 3 bottles, and we will do our best to fulfill all requests. We should have the wine in the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping.

2008 Dunham Cellars Late Harvest Riesling Lewis Vineyard 375ml

Original offering here (we first offered this in September).

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($19); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

First come first served up to 6 bottles, and we should have the wine in the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping.

2007 Dusted Valley Syrah “Stained Tooth” & 2009 Rasa Vineyards Riesling “Composer”

November 20, 2010

Hello friends. Quick weekend offering on two terrific wines that have just seen price drops. As I have mentioned previously, price drops into this range have a typical target of restaurant glass-pour lists, but I’m all too happy to swoop in and reserve parcels for our list.

2007 Dusted Valley Syrah “Stained Tooth”

We offered the 06 vintage of this almost exactly one year ago, and it was a popular wine, subject to frequent and enthusiastic reorder requests. Here the Dusted Valley boys coferment Syrah (89% of the blend) with Viognier (5%) and then blend with 5% Grenache and 1% Counoise; sort of a weird mashup of Northern and Southern Rhone styles, but it always seems to hang together.

Driven by an alluring nose of earth and violet (the flower and the stem), this is perfumed in the mouth (the Viognier coferment helps with the floral notes), with black and purple fruit and semisweet chocolate. This manages to convey richness while retaining freshness, and it finishes with chewy black tea tannins.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($26); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

2009 Rasa Vineyards Riesling “Composer”

About half of this Riesling (Rasa’s first) comes from Sagemoor’s old blocks (1974-planted). This is a great example of the rehab work Kent Waliser has done with these old Sagemoor vineyards. He is really allowing these older vines to show their inherent class. This is noteworthy in part because I believe it’s only the second non-dessert white to receive Sean Sullivan’s highest rating:

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: ** (Exceptional).”

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19/20pts.”

First come first served up to 12 bottles of each, and we should have the wines in the warehouse in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping.

2008s from Renegade

November 19, 2010

Hello friends. One of the most consumer-friendly responses to our stormy economic times has come from Trey Busch’s Renegade project. Here’s what happens:

A winery is sitting on barrels of wine that it doesn’t want to release under its own label. In our current financial climate, there are a myriad of reasons why this could be the case. Regardless, Trey purchases the barrels, bottles the wine under his Renegade label, and sometimes signs a non-disclosure agreement regarding the source of the juice.

We offered Trey’s 2008 Renegade Red from the Horse Heaven Hills in July, and since then, hardly a week has gone by that I haven’t needed to reorder that wine. Fortunately, production on that wine was 1400 cases, so there has been enough to go around. These two single varietals, on the other hand, are much smaller production. The prices are a shade higher than the Red Blend but still well below the tariff usually seen for these two varietals in Washington.

2008 Renegade Cabernet Franc

Trey bottled 175 cases of this 100% Cabernet Franc, all from Canoe Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills (see location here). It is a racy, varietally correct Franc, with topnotes of herbs and vegetables above a core of raspberry and pomegranate fruit.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($15); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 17.5+/20pts.

2008 Renegade Malbec

An NDA was signed here, so all I know is that this is single-vineyard Malbec from a site in the Yakima Valley. Those of you facile with CellarTracker will be able to narrow the list of vineyard suspects considerably. This is a bit rounder than the Franc with its flavors of sassafras, mineral, blue fruit, and chalk. 200 cases produced.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($15); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 17.5+/20pts.

As I noted, these are very small-production by Renegade standards, but we’re getting in early enough that I can open this up to 12 bottles of each, first come first served. The wines should arrive within the next week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping.

2008s from Animale

November 17, 2010

Hello friends. One of the truly gratifying aspects of the surprise party celebrating Full Pull’s first anniversary (and yes, my unsuspecting tuchus was utterly surprised) was hearing which of the year-one offerings resonated with people. And despite its timing, early in the evolution of Full Pull (it was offering number 8), The Hidden City seems to have struck a chord. I guess the image of a young Paul Zitarelli encountering his first neighborhood meth-lab was just irresistible.

In the intervening year, Matt Gubitosa has continued to toil away quietly in his Ballard basement, crafting 1-to-3 barrel lots of powerful, delicious wines, and we’re offering two of those wines today.

2008 Animale Petite Sirah

The flagship wine for Animale at a whopping 64-case production level. Matt’s house style is, in many ways, a love affair with grape-skin tannins, and his attraction to Petite Sirah springs naturally therewith. It is a grape with tiny berries and a naturally high skin-to-juice ratio; perfect for Matt’s style.

The only problem was that very little Petite Sirah is planted in Washington (the grape has a cult following in California). Matt solved that by partnering with the McIntire family to plant PS in the Yakima Valley (location here). It is just over half an acre of rocky soil, and it has taken to Petite Sirah with aplomb.

The 2008 vintage of this has not been reviewed (in fact, very few Animale wines have), but Jay Miller’s (89-pt) review of the 07 noted that “Petite Sirah does not get much better than this.”

One of Matt’s winemaking traits that I admire is his willingness to let each vintage speak to him individually. The summer of 2007 was warm, and his 07 Petite Sirah came in at 14.7% alcohol. The 2008 vintage was cooler, and this bottling comes in at 13.5% alcohol. To me, this indicates a winemaker who is picking on flavor development and not aiming for any specific Brix level.

And the flavor development is phenomenal here, with wonderful density for such low alcohol, and wild aromas and flavors of blackberry, citrus, black pepper, and a full bouqet garni of herbs. Plenty of citrusy acids keep this lively in the mouth, and there is a compelling kick of licorice on the finish. The wine includes 9% Syrah (also from McIntire) and was aged for one year in 20% new French oak.

2008 Animale Cabernet Sauvignon Kiona Vineyard

This is old-vine, single-vineyard, Red Mountain Cab, entirely from the 1975-planted block at Kiona Vineyard (location here). Matt got enough just enough fruit for one barrel. Production is 23 cases. That is nanoboutique.

As I mentioned in our offering of Hestia’s Stone Tree Merlot, hot sites in cool vintages can yield exceptional results, and that’s what we have here. This was picked the day before Halloween at 25.8 Brix, and the resulting alcohol is 14.3%.

Depth and power are the watchwords here. This is brooding juice, and its flavors of cherry, cedar, and turned soil are wound into a tight core. What really greets the palate here is a wall of delicious, black-cherry-infused tea tannins. I would recommend giving this some time in the bottle or decanter, or finding a well-marbled ribeye to compete with this masculine big boy.

Please limit order requests to 3 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive within the next week or two, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping.

2008s from Gramercy Cellars

November 15, 2010

Hello friends. The appetite for Gramercy Cellars wines is insatiable. Despite having already offered Greg Harrington’s wines here, here, here, and here, his wines are consistently among the most oft-requested from our list members.

And why not? In a short time, Greg has developed a clear house style and has established himself at the forefront of a reactionary movement here in Washington (reactionary against high alcohols, long hang times, and gobs of new wood). His winery has received steady praise, culminating in the October announcement that Food & Wine Magazine had named Gramercy Cellars their Best New Winery in their 2010 American Wine Awards. It’s difficult not to be seduced by the clarity of flavor and elegance of mouthfeel he consistently produces.

So today we present his current release of 2008s, which you will see have already been warmly received by just about every critic who has gotten near them.

2008 Gramercy Cellars Tempranillo “Inigo Montoya”

Greg’s third vintage working with the great grape of Rioja, and these wines just seem to keep getting better. This version is no-doubt-about-it Tempranillo, with its varietal aromas and flavors of tobacco leaf and black fruits. Much like in Rioja, Greg uses predominantly American oak (80%; the remainder French), which imparts dustings of cinnamon and vanilla bean. The texture, depth, and length are noteworthy, as are the medium-grained, green-tea-flavored tannins.

This includes Tempranillo from Les Collines and (for the first time) some estate vineyard fruit as well. It’s rounded out with 6% Les Collines Syrah and 4% Alder Ridge Mourvedre.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

2008 Gramercy Cellars “The Third Man” (Grenache Blend)

In the past, this has just been called Grenache, but here the proportion (60%) is too low for that. The name comes from a mountain-climbing phenomenon, where pairs of climbers sometimes feel the presence of a third man who helps them in times of peril. Alder Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills is the source for the Grenache and Mourvedre, and even Greg can’t escape the Alder Ridge lushness. He has taken what the vineyard gives him here and crafted a delicious departure from the signature house style, with more richness than I have ever tasted from a Gramercy wine. Still, the 20% Syrah from Minnick Vineyard gives the wine an acid kick that will keep the geeks happy too.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

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

2008 Gramercy Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley

Greg has built his reputation on Syrah, and so it comes as no surprise that this is already the most widely-decorated of the three wines. In 2008, this is mostly Les Collines Vineyard fruit, as its frequent partner in this bottling, Forgotten Hills Vineyard, suffered an early freeze and was subsequently declassified. There are a few barrels of estate vineyard fruit here also. As usual, this Syrah saw some whole-cluster fermentation and plenty of lees-stirring. And as usual, the results are dynamic: a savory, savage nose leads the way into a layered glass, with violets, green olives, black fruit, and rosemary competing for attention. Positively perfumed on the palate, this wine is a real live wire.

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

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

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Please limit order requests to ONE CASE (12 bottles) TOTAL. You can mix and match the wines as you see fit, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive within the next week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping.