2007 Gramercy Cellars Pinot Noir Lachini Vineyard

December 22, 2010

Hello friends. Let’s begin our last offering of 2010 with an excerpt from poet laureate and noted wine critic Alfred (Lord) Tennyson:

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.

It is indeed time to let the year die, but first, here is one final offering before Full Pull goes into hibernation for a few weeks (a quick note on that: after today, you won’t see another Full Pull offering until January 10, and our next pickup day will be Thursday, January 13).

Today’s offering is an expression of thanks for your role in making this the most professionally satisfying year of my life. This shimmering ethereal beauty of a wine will not show up in your Google searches. You won’t find professional reviews. You won’t find it for sale anyplace else, because it has never before been sold. To date, this has been a friends-and-family wine for Gramercy Cellars. So I guess we can now consider ourselves part of the greater Gramercy family.

This project began as an old-fashioned barter. Ron Lachini was looking to play with Cabernet Sauvignon (which doesn’t ripen so well in the upper Willamette Valley), and Greg Harrington wanted to make a Pinot Noir. I can’t say it came as a huge surprise that Greg was surreptitiously making Pinot Noir. I have heard him on multiple occasions say that he believes Syrah should be treated much more like delicate Pinot Noir than like bruising Cabernet. And in many ways, his Syrahs emulate the best of Pinot Noirs, with their mix of fruit and earth, their site expressiveness, and their ability to express depth of flavor at remarkably low alcohol. Pinot is a no-brainer for a winemaker like Greg, and all he needed was access.

Starting in 2007, he got that access, winding up with one ton of Ron Lachini’s Pinot Noir. He and Jamie Brown (of Waters) worked on the project together (in fact, some of the Gramercy-labeled bottles will have Waters corks), and they ended up with two barrels. Two-thirds of the production went to Waters, and one-third to Gramercy. Final production level: 17 cases of 2007 Gramercy Cellars Pinot Noir Lachini Vineyard.

The grapes were harvested two days before the notorious Willamette rains of 2007, and the fruit quality was excellent (Lachini is an early-ripening vineyard). Greg and Jamie proceeded to age the wine entirely in neutral French oak (no surprise to anyone who is familiar with these winemakers). The result is a beautiful contradiction: straightforward, complex Pinot.

It’s straightforward in its clarity: a ringing Steinway tone of Pinot. And it’s complex in the way that only Pinot can be, with its mix of brambly red fruit, forest floor, smoke, and flowers. This has a dark, rich flavor profile, with gorgeous, persistent inner-mouth perfume. With time and air, fresh, outdoor notes of sagebrush and clover emerge, adding to this wine’s compelling subtleties.

This will have to be an ephemeral offering. We get one parcel, and one parcel only, and this wine will not be available for reorder. Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in the warehouse in early January. It will be ready for pickup on our first TPU of the new year (January 13) and shipping during the spring shipping window.

And now a quick endnote. My friends and I have discussed on several occasions the value of having a two-word answer ready when people ask you the (uniquely American) question: what do you do? (note: obviously my answer is “shill plonk.” ) Equally important, in my estimation, is being able to describe in two words the mission of your organization. For Full Pull, I have known the answer from the beginning: facilitate happiness.

This year has been, for me, a heady mix of joys and sorrows. It is a year that has underscored the importance of building happy memories with family and friends, those memories that serve as life-rafts in seas of trouble. I firmly believe that wine facilitates happiness; that it is an enabler of our best times together; that it can be the rope that binds those life-rafts together.

What I wish for you in this holiday season and in the year to come is that our wines can bring the same happiness to you that this endeavor brings to me. Here’s to a year light on sorrows and heavy on joys. Happy holidays, happy new year, and onwards to 2011.

2007 Waters Winery Syrah Loess Vineyard

December 19, 2010

Hello friends. I know many of you were disappointed by the allocations of last weekend’s Forgotten Hills Syrah from Waters. When I mentioned to the folks at Waters that we had to under-allocate widely (no one received more than 2 bottles), they responded with a stunning consolation prize: a wine that I had thought to be long-since sold out.

For all intents and purposes, this wine is indeed sold out. Go to the Waters online store and you will see that they have moved onto the 2008 vintage. How they managed to make this parcel available to our list is unclear to me, and frankly, I don’t need to know.

What I do know: This is the smallest production of Waters’ three single-vineyard Syrahs (just 190 cases, compared to 514 cases of the Forgotten Hills). This is the cultiest of the three single-vineyard Syrahs, because all the fruit comes from Leonetti’s estate Loess Vineyard (the Figgins family is not known for selling their grapes). This is the only Syrah of the three (in 2007) to be aged completely in neutral oak (the other two saw about 10% new wood). And this is the only Syrah of the three to be cofermented with Viognier (3%, and all those grapes come from Leonetti’s estate Loess Vineyard as well).

It’s worth taking a peek at the winery tasting notes, which are awfully accurate (notice also the big “Sold Out” stamp). This wine is indeed a beguiling mix of grace and power. The aromatics combine blue fruit with loads of floral notes and background subtleties of damp soil. The floral topnotes continue on the palate, as the Viognier coferment absolutely shines. This is dynamic stuff, a storm cloud of a wine that changes rapidly in the glass. It is nothing short of lovely, and it is drinking beautifully right now (from pop-and-pour through the first 24 hours anyway; that’s as long as I was able to keep my hands off it).

Today’s offering is temporal. Once we send out our allocation notices (Monday) this wine will no longer be available, and it will certainly not be available for reorder. It’s a fleeting treat; one last chance to sample Jamie Brown’s dazzling Syrah skills with the wonderful 2007 vintage. Our parcel is even a little smaller than what we had for the Forgotten Hills, so I’m going to decrease the order limit to 4 bottles. That said, if orders come in at the same clip, allocations will be more like 1 or 2 bottles again.

As for timing: the wine will arrive at the warehouse Monday morning and will be available for pickup during all of our open hours this week, so there’s still time to get this beauty onto your holiday table. For shipping list members, this wine will ship during the spring shipping window.

2006 Andrew Will Two Blondes Vineyard Blend

December 17, 2010

Hello friends. We’re able to offer an outstanding price today on one of my favorite wines from the Andrew Will portfolio. The Two Blondes bottling is sometimes overshadowed by Chris Camarda’s Champoux and Ciel du Cheval wines, and no wonder: those are two of the most cherished vineyards in Washington. But Two Blondes is Andrew Will’s estate vineyard, and Chris Camarda controls this bottling from grape to glass. The vineyard (see location here) sits in the foothills of the Rattlesnake Hills in the Yakima Valley (Andrew Will’s website has some lovely pictures of the site).

Planted in 2000 adjacent to Sheridan Vineyard, Two Blondes’ first decade has not been without drama. Already, a private plane has crash-landed into the vineyard. The pilot walked away unscathed, but the vineyard lost a few rows. It’s a cooler site than Champoux and Ciel, and the resulting blend comes with notable cool-climate freshness and lift. Earthy and delicious (the Cab Franc sings here), this has a lovely sense of balance between fruit (bright and black/blue) and savories (soil, tomato leaf). The mouthfeel is luscious, bright, and as with all Andrew Will wines, comes with plenty of structure for long-term aging if desired.

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Stephen Tanzer): “($63); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($60); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92+ pts.”

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

2008 Brand Cabernet Sauvignon

December 15, 2010

Hello friends. Today’s offering represents remarkable value: Cabernet fruit from an iconic Walla Walla vineyard for less than $15.

A wine to stock up on for holiday parties, this has the sheer deliciousness to appeal to wine newbies and the intellectual heft to appeal to wine geeks. I first tasted this over the summer and thought it was too young. But the stuffing was all there, and a recent tasting confirmed that the caterpillar has metamorphosed into a butterfly.

This is a distributor project, much like the 2008 NW Vine Project “Red Splendor” we offered back in April. That one was the project of Triage Wines. Today’s offering, Brand, comes from Acme Wine Company (a veritable smorgasbord of generic names).

Acme was looking for a value Cabernet that would punch well above its weight class; one that would be a slam dunk for restaurant glass-pour lists. They started with the fruit source: Pepper Bridge Vineyard, one of the standard-bearers of the Walla Walla Valley. This wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon (all from Pepper Bridge) and 20% Merlot (mostly Pepper Bridge, with a few other sites blended in), and it was crafted at the Artifex custom crush facility in Walla Walla.

The result is a wine that conveys much more seriousness and complexity than its price point indicates. The mouthfeel is notably creamy and mouthwatering. The flavors pop: crème de cassis, bright berries, and orange rind; and there is an iron-tinged, mineral spine running down the back of this wine. Chewy, delicious, medium-grained tannins are the departing note from this fine value.

Brand is much more likely to show up at restaurants than on retail shelves, but we have access to a nice, large parcel. First come first served up to 36 bottles, and the wine should arrive early next week (probably Monday) and should be available for pickup before the holidays. For shipping list members, the wine will ship during the spring shipping window.

Two Wines from Poet’s Leap

December 13, 2010

Hello friends. The strong response to the 2009 Poet’s Leap Riesling from our weekend offering of Paul Gregutt’s Top 100 has resulted in access to two lesser-known, hidden stars of the Poet’s Leap galaxy. Both wines are only made in vintages deemed worthy of the style. Both wines come entirely from Sonnet Vineyard, a sub-block of The Benches (formerly Wallula Vineyards) planted to German Riesling clones chosen by Armin Diel and Gilles Nicault. And both wines rarely make it out of the winery, let alone out of Washington:

2007 Poet’s Leap Casked Dry Riesling “Carmina Burana”

This is different from the standard Poet’s Leap bottling in a number of different ways. First, it is aged in a large wood cask (1300L). The tanks are completely neutral, so no wood flavors are imparted, but the wine does get more oxygen exposure than the traditional, stainless steel Leap. Second, the sugar levels are almost nonexistent (about one tenth of the traditional Leap), so the flavor profile is all about rocks and minerals on top of the stone fruits. Third, this wine is held longer before release. While the regular Poet’s Leap bottling is onto 2009, Carmina Burana is still on the 2007 vintage. And finally, this is microproduction compared to the regular Leap. A miniscule 96 cases of the 2007 Carmina Burana were produced.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($25); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

2008 Poet’s Leap Late-Harvest Riesling (Botrytis-Affected) 375ml

Developing noble rot (botrytis) in Washington is not easy, and Gilles (in associationwith Armin) has only been able to make this wine in one previous vintage (2005). It’s fermented with Sauternes yeasts, and the fermentation is long and cool to maintain freshness and vibrancy. Most of the sticky wines we have offered to date have been from the 2008 vintage, and that’s no accident. The acids in the 2008 white wines are pitch-perfect and absolutely necessary to balance all that delicious residual sugar.

I tasted this wine once, but not in a formal setting. At the end of a long trade tasting at Long Shadows, Gilles gave me the “I have something you should *really* taste” look. In a little back-room kitchen, he poured small tastes of this precious wine for a few sommeliers and me. Swooning ensued. There is something haunting about that botrytized aroma: honeyed, caramelized, and vaguely fungal. Even at the end of a long tasting, this wine shone like a beacon.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($50); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Stephen Tanzer): “($50). [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].  93pts.”

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($50); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].  93pts.”

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles of each wine. We’ll do our best to fulfill all requests, and we should have the wines in the warehouse in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

Mountain Dome Portfolio

December 8, 2010

Hello friends. December 8 already? Really? Okay, then – time to stock up on bubbly for the holidays. For that, we turn back to Washington’s only dedicated sparkling wine house, and a producer familiar to long-time list members: Mountain Dome.

Founded in the ’80s by the Manz family, Mountain Dome is now in its second generation, with Erik Manz, son of the original founders, at the helm. Toiling away quietly in the foothills outside of Spokane, Erik consistently produces excellent sparkling wines that have developed a rabid following here in the northwest.

Today’s offering represents the entire breadth of the Mountain Dome portfolio and includes some (non-scored) reviews from Paul Gregutt in a recent Seattle Times article:

NV Mountain Dome Brut

The gnome label, this is Mountain Dome’s entry-level Brut, predominantly 2006 vintage fruit and bottle-aged for 18 months on the lees before disgorgement. Fresh, vibrant, and youthful, this is driven by citrus notes, with undertones of earth and spice. Several list members have compared this to their favorite Proseccos.

Seattle Times (Paul Gregutt): “($17); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].”

2004 Mountain Dome Brut

Only produced in years deemed worthy by the Manz family, this 2004 vintage bottling is about two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay. Plenty of autolytic notes (brioche, cracker) overlay the citrus-tinged apple fruit. The first ever Full Pull offering (and reoffered on our anniversary), this bottling seems to just keep getting better.

Seattle Times (Paul Gregutt): “($22); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].”

NV Mountain Dome Brut Rose

Similar in age to the vintage bottling, this is constituted mostly from 2004 and 2005 vintage fruit, and it’s a blend of 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. Always very pretty and always the most floral of the bunch, this brings loads of blossoms to complement the lemon and pineapple fruit. Hints of cracker and a rich mouthfeel leave little doubt that this spent plenty of time on the lees.

Seattle Times (Paul Gregutt): “($22); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].”

NV Mountain Dome Cuvee Forte

Mostly 2000 vintage, this bottling spends a whopping 5-8 years on the lees in bottle before disgorgement. Easily confused for red wine in a blind (and blindfolded) tasting, this has a potent nose of soil and red fruit that leads into a pineapple upside down cake of a palate. Earthy, rich, and complex, this has the finest mousse of the lot.

Feel free to mix and match up to 24 bottles total, and we should have all the wines in the warehouse in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

2008 Fielding Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

December 6, 2010

Hello friends. This finished in the #14 spot this year, and this is the second vintage in a row to receive 95pts from PaulG:

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

Long-time list members will know that Fielding Hills is a Full Pull favorite. We have offered their wines here, here, and here. In a short time, Mike Wade has built a record of consistent excellence, both in his growing at Riverbend Vineyard (location here on the Wahluke Slope) and his meticulous winemaking.

Fielding Hills has traditionally had no tasting room (that will change, as they’re one of the founding wineries at Urban Enoteca) and been extremely selective in their retail and restaurant partners. They have stayed under the radar this way, but critics and Washington insiders certainly know all about them.

Purity is the watchword with this Cabernet. It’s a wine that can be nothing but Cab on first sniff; it just has that essential Cabby character: a blackcurrant/kirsch center of gravity, with savory herbs, earthy minerals, and chocolatey spices revolving around it. Just 192 cases produced, and our parcel is quite limited. Please keep order requests at or under 4 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive within the next few weeks, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.