2009 Saviah Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon “The Jack”

February 28, 2011

Hello friends. Two of our most popular offerings in the past few months have been Cabernet Sauvignons at this price point: the 2008 Brand back in December (still available, to the best of my knowledge; reorder link at the bottom of this offering) and the 2008 Ross Andrew Glaze in January (already sold out!). While I would love to offer value Cabernets more frequently, the fact remains that many of the wines in this category range from forgettable to gag-reflex inducing.

So when I taste a Cabernet that delivers at this tariff, I don’t hesitate. And that’s what we have today.

Or, technically, tomorrow. This is actually set to be released March 1 and is priced at a level that is sure to induce peals of joy from sommeliers and restaurant buyers. I don’t want to waste any time with this one. Let’s lay claim to as large a land-grab as our list wants, and let’s do so as quickly as possible.

Rich Funk began Saviah Cellars in 2000 (the 21st winery in the Walla Walla Valley), and began producing The Jack in 2003 as a red table wine destination for his declassified fruit. The wine was always a hit, but its popularity reached stratospheric levels when the economy turned, so much so that Rich (wisely) decided to extend the line. Last year came the release of the 2008 The Jack Syrah, and now the line has been extended to encompass today’s Cabernet and a Riesling set to be released in April.

Those of us who fell for the 2007 Saviah Cabernet Sauvignon (offered last June) know of Rich Funk’s magic with Cabernet. And as with the Glaze offering from Ross Andrew, the very important thing to note here is that *this is all in-house fruit*. Rich isn’t buying bulked-off juice from other wineries to fuel his line extension. He is simply shifting some of his own juice out of the top-line bottlings and into The Jack, where it receives less new wood, is released younger, and is priced accordingly.

Knowing that these are in-house Saviah grapes, it doesn’t take a private investigator to determine the vineyard candidates: Pepper Bridge, Lewis, Bacchus, Seven Hills, Kiona. These are superstar Cabernet sites from Red Mountain, from the Walla Walla Valley, from the Yakima Valley, and from the greater Columbia Valley. It shouldn’t be at this point, but it remains surreal to me to see juice this good at a tariff this low.

This isn’t even close to the fruit bombs that litter the value-Cab field. Full of high-cacao chocolate, cassis, and orange peel, this sports a rocky, mineral side and black-tea tannins on the finish. There is enough complexity here to invite contemplation, despite a price that invites drinking directly from the bottle. Rounded out with 16% Cab Franc and 8% Malbec. First come first served up to 24 bottles, and we should have the wine in the warehouse in 1-2 weeks, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

2007 Sparkman Cellars “Ruby Leigh”

February 26, 2011

Hello friends. We have a fabulous tariff today on our inaugural offering from Sparkman Cellars, a rising-star winery out of Woodinville. Chris Sparkman started Sparkman Cellars in 2004 after a long restaurant career as a sommelier, wine buyer, and general manager. Mark McNeilly was the consulting winemaker during Sparkman’s first few years, and the Mark Ryan imprint shows, both in the vineyard sources (much of the Sparkman fruit comes from top-tier Red Mountain sites) and the wine style (large in frame, openly generous).

Sparkman’s first vineyard contract was with Tom Hedges, and it was for his 1991-planted North Block Merlot, which makes up the spine of this wine. The Merlot (there is Klipsun fruit here as well as Hedges) comprises 65% of the blend, rounded out with Kiona Cabernet Franc (17%) and Petit Verdot (9%), and Klipsun Cabernet Sauvignon (9%). Looking at a map of Red Mountain, you can see that this wine represents a cross-section of this tiny, cherished AVA.

The nose is a lovely, complex mix of dark cherry, eucalyptus, and charcoal. That core of black cherry fruit continues on the palate, where it is framed by barrel notes of Chocolate Riesen. There is something special about Red Mountain Merlot. Hot and windy, this area develops thick-skinned grapes that result in muscular, textural Merlot. Named after Chris and Kelly Sparkman’s youngest daughter, this is a bottle as aesthetically-pleasing as its contents.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($42); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

We have been offered a one-time opportunity to access this wine at this price. It may be available for reorder, but at something closer to its normal $42 price. I will be placing my order on Tuesday afternoon, so please try to submit order requests by then. First come first served up to 6 bottles, and the wine should arrive at the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

Two Wines from OS Winery

February 25, 2011

Hello friends. Two wines today from OS Winery (a perennial list favorite) at opposite ends of the stylistic spectrum:

2009 OS Winery Riesling Champoux Vineyard

We offered this before, as part of the Paul Gregutt Top 100 offering back in December (it was #34 on the list). I want to highlight it again, and in a little more focus, because it is consistently one of the most thrilling Rieslings produced in Washington. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only Riesling produced entirely from the 30-year-old vines at Champoux Vineyard.

Bill Owen (the ‘O’ in OS) is a Riesling fanatic. Because of his winery’s proximity to the Full Pull warehouse, Owen will occasionally drop by on his bike (fully decked out, of course, in spandex and clicky bike shoes; no surprise for anyone who knows him), with a bottle or two of German Riesling in tow. Mosel, Nahe, Rheingau; I have tasted them all with Owen. While his winemaking reputation has been built more on his lush, voluptuous reds, I suspect Riesling is the true beating heart of OS Winery.

True to form, this is styled as an off-dry, Kabinett-level Riesling, and it comes in at just 9.8% alcohol. Racy and seemingly rock-hewn, this rushes notes of key lime, green apple, and clay across the electric palate. This is a wine that can be savored in its primary youth or laid down for awhile to chart Riesling’s beautiful evolution in the bottle.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($15); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts”

2006 OS Winery “BSH” (BDX Blend)

The official line on the acronym is that it represents the initials of one of Rob Sullivan’s grandsons. Unofficially, among anyone who has ever tasted this wine, BSH stands for Brick Shithouse. It is an apt descriptor of the most-structured, Cabernet-dominated of OS’ several Bordeaux blends. Two-thirds Cabernet (mostly from Champoux and Sheridan Vineyards), rounded out with Cab Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, this is awfully complex for the (reduced) price point. A core of cassis, earth, and herb (coriander) is framed by layers of dark chocolate and mineral. This has plenty of length, and it seems to exchange the ultra-richness of previous vintages for elegance and complexity.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($35); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

First come first served up to 24 Riesling and 12 BSH, and the wines should arrive at the warehouse in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

Three Wines from Buty

February 23, 2011

Hello friends. Three wines from Buty today, two pre-releases and one an already-released delight:

2008 Buty Champoux Vineyard Blend

Set to be released March 1, I have no guaranteed allocation for this wine, although we did get a small amount last year and it’s likely we’ll receive at least as much this year. Still, there is so little of this that I really don’t want to get into very much detail. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (86%) and Cabernet Franc (14%), and Caleb has been working with Champoux fruit since 1991, so he has experience aplenty with this exquisite vineyard.

A pre-release tasting showed a beautiful, brooding, monster, filled with violets, tar, asphalt, and minerals. Black-fruited in the middle and black-tead on the finish, this has a long life ahead of it. No reviews yet for the 2008 vintage, but the 2007 received 97pts from Paul Gregutt. Please limit order requests to 4 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. There is no chance this will be available for reorder; this is Buty’s most limited wine, and the entire stock typically disappears within weeks. We should have the wine in the warehouse by early March, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

2009 Buty Merlot-Cabernet Franc

A blend of superstar vineyards for the respective varietals (Connor Lee Merlot (79%), Connor Lee Cab Franc (11%), and Champoux Cab Franc (10%)), this was in my top five wines tasted during my recent Walla Walla sojourn. Violets, sassafras, and black cherry give way to fine-grained tannins with flavors of cedar and green tea. Deep and powerful, this conveys intensity across the entire palate. A fine example of the muscular nature of Washington’s right-bank Bordeaux blends, without the need for massive new oak to prop it up.

No reviews of the 2009, but the 2008 received 93pts from Paul Gregutt. This is also set to be released March 1, and production levels typically are double that of the Champoux bottling, so I will set order maximums at 8 bottles for this, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. This wine too should arrive in early March, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

2009 Buty Semillon-Sauvignon-Muscadelle

Always one of the most spectacular dry whites made in Washington, the 2009 sees a slight change, as Caleb for the first time utilized a concrete Nomblot cube for fermentation and aging (for some of the wine; the remainder was done in neutral Burgundy barrels). The concrete helps retain fruit character and richness without imparting any oak flavors. This was also done entirely with native-yeast fermentation.

A blend of 65% Semillon from 1982-planted Rosebud Ranch Vineyard, 27% Sauvignon Blanc from Spring Creek Vineyard, and 8% Muscadelle from Lonesome Spring Ranch, this is a thoughtfully-made wine. The Semillon was cold-soaked on skins for two days to add palate-weight, and nine months aging on the lees adds richness to the mouthfeel and autolytic complexities to the finished wine. Aromas of lime zest, grass, and chalk give way to a mineral- and melon-driven palate. This bottling is certainly tough to resist in its youth but has ten-year aging potential for those with the desire to watch their whites evolve. The 2008 vintage received 95pts from Paul Gregutt, which was at the time the highest score he had bestowed on a dry Washington white (since surpassed by the 2009 Woodward Canyon Chardonnay). PaulG has yet to review the 2009 vintage.

First come first served up to 18 bottles of this, and this has already been released, so we should have the wine in the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

Two Italian Varietals

February 22, 2011

Hello friends. Today we have a duo of well-priced, Washington-grown, Italian varietals. A common thread among these varietals (and many other Italian grapes) is a strong acid profile. These are typically vibrant, racy reds, seemingly designed to perfectly complement Italian foods. Much of the time and anxiety we give to wine-food pairing centers on flavor matching, when in reality, acid-matching is at least as important. Acid in Italian food is above average (think of how acidic a fresh tomato is), and as a result, acid in Italian wine is above average as well.

This is wine as condiment as much as a beverage. Complementary to a host of mid-week meals and priced for mid-week consumption, these are two bottles of unfettered joy.

2008 Whidbey Island Winery Sangiovese

Greg and Elizabeth Osenbach have run Whidbey Island Winery since 1991. The winery grows some cool-climate white varietals on the island but sources all their reds from eastern Washington. They have been making Sangiovese since 2002, and that experience shows. This is a strong, typical Sangiovese, sourced from Elephant Mountain, Kiona, and Crawford Vineyards and aged entirely in neutral oak for 10 months.

The finished alcohol is 13%, and this is an acid-driven Sangiovese. The fruit is dark, as are the tarry streaks and notes of wintergreens. This is lightly chewy in the mouth and comes with noticeably adult flavors (no ripe, sweet fruit here; this is old-world styled to be sure).

2006 Tranche Cellars Barbera

Tranche Cellars, you may remember, is a sister winery to Corliss Estates, and the Tranche wines receive much of the same care and attention as Corliss wines. This is a decidedly new-world Barbera, with openly delicious fruit (plenty of ripe Cherry fruit to hang on a 15.2%-alc frame) and extended barrel aging (30 months) and bottle aging.

Sourced from Northridge Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope as well as Sagemoor Vineyards, this retains Barberic acidity but conveys a richness not found in many old-world bottlings. There is dark chocolate on the nose, and a dusting of dark cocoa on the palate, too, coating layers of cherry, orange peel, and bitters. This is one of those bridge wines that Washington can pull off; a simulacrum of wines both old-world and new.

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

Two 2009s from Sineann

February 22, 2011

Hello friends. I’m cheating today. Technically, today’s winery is located 35 miles south of Washington. And yes, if pressed I would have to admit that neither of these wines comes from grapes grown in Washington. But one comes from Columbia Valley AVA grapes! (Shouldn’t we annex the entire Columbia Valley anyway and claim it as part of the Evergreen State?) And the other comes from, well, a small vineyard seven thousand miles away from Washington:

2009 Sineann Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)

Peter Rosback of Sineann is one of the Northwest’s busiest winemakers. He makes Bordeaux varietals from Washington and California, Pinot Noirs from Oregon, and white wines from across the Northwest. And starting in 2008, he went farther afield, spending a month in New Zealand making a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Clearly, the experiment was a success, as Peter returned for another month in 2009 to produce this bottle.

Produced at Te Whare Ra (Marlborough’s second-oldest production winery) entirely in stainless steel, this comes from a vineyard called Son-Flower in the Ataware Valley (see location here). A warm site with gravel soils, this leads to a wine that walks the line between tropical and grassy. Intense flavors of melon, mango, mint, and grass wash across the palate, and this conveys plenty of richness and ripeness at relatively low (12.5%) alcohol.

Peter doesn’t make much of this wine, and we have access to the final parcel in western Washington, so this is unlikely to be available for reorder.

2009 Sineann Old-Vine Zinfandel

This wine has a story that dates back more than a hundred years. In the late 1800s, an Italian stone mason named Louis Comini planted Zinfandel just south of The Dalles, Oregon, from cuttings taken from his home in Genoa. By the late 1900s, the vineyard had fallen into disrepair. In 1982, Lonnie Wright entered the scene. With experience gained from his time planting the first vineyards at Columbia Crest, he slowly coaxed this century-old vineyard back to life.

By 1986, the old vines were again bearing a small crop, and Peter Rosback (then a home winemaker) began making Zinfandel from those grapes, in his basement of course. He has continued ever since, during his continuing time as a home winemaker and into his time as a commercial winemaker (Sineann began in 1994). The 2010 harvest, then, marked Peter’s 25th year working with this old-vine ZinfandelĀ  (maybe not so impressive to Burgundians or Bordelaise, but here in the new world, 25 years is a long time!).

Planted on a hillside so steep it requires terracing to hold vines, this vineyard experiences diurnal shifts of more than 50 degrees, important for ripening and acid retention. The natural yield on these gnarled old vines is less than 2 tons/acre, and the resulting wine is a concentrated powerhouse: perhaps our finest expression of Columbia Valley Zinfandel, aged mostly in one-year-old barrels, from one of the oldest vineyards in the northwest. A nose chock full of brambles and pepper gives way to a salty, savory palate. There is a core of dark (blackberry) fruit here, but it’s the savories (poblano, roasted tomato) that make this wine so fascinating and delicious.

No reviews yet, and this bottling typically sells out before its first review is published.

First come first served up to 12 SB and 6 Zinfandel, and the wines should arrive at the warehouse in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

2008 Couvillion Equilibre

February 18, 2011

Hello friends. There is a beaten path in touring Walla Walla wineries. It includes a route that stretches from the airport in the north, through downtown, and down into the southern reaches of the valley floor. But it can be a real treat to get off the beaten path as well, and one such stop for me is Couvillion Winery. Located north of town, in the rolling wheatfields between Walla Walla and Waitsburg, Jill Noble’s winery sits in quiet seclusion. Open by appointment only, it’s well worth a visit if you can plan ahead.

During and after her time in the Enology and Viticulture Program at Walla Walla Community Colllege, Jill apprenticed with John Abbott at Abeja and Marie-Eve Gilla at Forgeron: two fine mentors for an aspiring winemaker. Jill launched Couvillion soon thereafter and has concentrated her efforts on the Sagemoor Farms family of vineyards. As noted in several previous offerings, old-vine (1980s-planted) Sagemoor fruit continues to flourish under the leadership of Kent Waliser. Any winemaker who has invested time and effort with fruit from these sites is seeing huge dividends on those investments, Jill among them.

Equilibre is her red Bordeaux blend, and the cepage changes depending on the vintage. In 2008 it is Merlot-dominant at 57% of the blend, rounded out with 21% Petit Verdot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Cabernet Franc. The Petit Verdot comes from the deep loess soil of Blue Mountain Vineyard (the former Nicholas Cole Estate Vineyard in Walla Walla now owned by Corliss Estates), and the remainder comes from Sagemoor. Priced at a level rarely seen for wines containing older Sagemoor fruit, this brings a nose of pie cherry, tea leaf, and tobacco. The palate conveys sap and density at moderate alcohol levels (13.9%). Elegant, balanced, and well-structured, this is an awfully pretty drink. It’s also a very pretty bottle to look at, for those of us for whom bottles aesthetics are important.

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and we should have the wine in the warehouse in 1-2 weeks, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.