Two 2008s from Gorman Winery

March 30, 2011

Hello friends. We have two Cab-Syrah blends today from Gorman Winery, one of the rising stars in Washington. After working in the wine trade for more than 10 years (on the import and distribution side) Chris Gorman in 2002 launched his eponymous winery, with a focus on Red Mountain and a clear house style. That style is a hedonist’s dream: ultra-ripe fruit, heady levels of alcohol, and luxurious oak treatment. For me, these are wines best consumed at cellar temperature (60-65 degrees), and young; while some recommend holding these wines, I find the ripe fruit vibrancy irresistible in their youths.

Gorman’s wines are unapologetic givers of pleasure, and critics have responded favorably; none more so than Harvey Steiman at Wine Spectator, who has championed Gorman’s wines from very early on in the winery’s evolution. Here is a Red Mountain-focused video from Harvey that features Chris Gorman, as well as some other winemakers that long-term Full Pull members may recognize.

2008 Gorman Winery “Evil Twin” (Cab-Syrah)

The Evil Twin is about two-thirds Syrah, one-third Cabernet, entirely from Red Mountain. The 2008 vintage marks the fourth consecutive vintage to receive 95pts from Harvey Steiman, an impressive record of consistency:

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “($60); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($60); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($60); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: ** (Exceptional).”

I can only echo the reviews above. This is robustly-fruited, grippy, and conveys instant pleasure. Please limit order requests to 4 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping.

2008 Gorman Winery “Zachary’s Ladder” (Cab-Syrah)

For those of you who want to sample the Gorman house style at a lower tariff, Zachary’s Ladder is the choice. Made with some Red Mountain fruit and some fruit from the greater Columbia Valley, this too is a Cab-Syrah blend, with more emphases on the Cabernet (58%). There is also a smattering (4%) of Petit Verdot in the blend. Aged entirely in once-used French barrels, this presents a mouthful of ripe, spicy red and black fruits. Lush in the mouth, this finishes with a dusting of sweet baking spice.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($28); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($28); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: * (Excellent).”

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

2005 Tranche Cellars Slice of Pape

March 28, 2011

Hello friends. I just secured access to the final parcel of this wine available in western Washington and need to submit my request by Wednesday morning (9AM), so this is an offering where a quick decision will be necessary and reorder requests will likely not be possible.

Many of you will remember that Tranche Cellars is a sister winery to Corliss Estates, and the Tranche wines receive much of the same care and attention to detail. Like the Corliss wines, the Tranche wines are also bottle-aged quite a bit longer than the average here in Washington. Today’s offering, then, presents a rare treat to taste a Grenache-based blend a few years into its aging curve, with all its concomitant complexities.

The Slice has also been warmly received by every critic who has reviewed it. I have mentioned in the past that finding wines favored by both Stephen Tanzer and Jay Miller is a near-impossible task, but this is one of those rare wines:

The Rhone Report (Jeb Dunnuck): “($35); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92+pts.”

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($35); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Stephen Tanzer): “($35); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

I won’t add much to the chorus above, except to say that, as the wine has aged, there is now even more prominence to the garrigue and underbrush notes, which beautifully balance the ripe fruit. Clearly, from the name of the wine, the Corliss/Tranche team was going for an homage to the wines of Chateuneuf-du-Pape. Those of you who have sampled the much-lauded 2007 vintage in CdP should pay attention here, because like 07 in CdP, 05 in Washington was a warm vintage. Like 07 in CdP, this wine is not shy on ripeness or alcohol, but there is enough ripe, delicious fruit that you’re left with a wine both big and balanced.

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping.

2008 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon

March 26, 2011

Hello friends. I just received confirmation that we have access to a small parcel of an extremely limited wine.

Before we get into the wine, a quick note on timing. I’m going to place my order Tuesday around noon, so please make order requests before then. The wine should arrive on Wednesday, and allocation notices will go out Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. Now, onto the wine itself:

I first learned that Drew Bledsoe was getting into the winemaking game in May 2009, when he participated in a seminar at Taste Washington. Any rumors that I booed Drew have been grossly exaggerated (yes, I grew up in Philadelphia; yes, I’m an Eagles fan, and yes, Drew was a Dallas Cowboy for a time; but I’m able to draw a (mostly) firm line between my personal and professional lives).

The truth of that seminar day is that it revealed Drew to be something of a wine geek, as he correctly identified a Washington Semillon during a blind tasting. Subsequent interviews have confirmed that initial impression. Drew is deeply interested in wine and has no interest in a hands-off celebrity winery. He has planted vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley (his childhood home) and is consulting with one of the strongest winemakers in the valley: Chris Figgins of Figgins Family Wine Estates and Leonetti Cellars.

Rather than go on at length, I will point you to Sean Sullivan’s excellent Focus Report on Doubleback, written last April.

I don’t normally publish reviews of previous vintages, but I’m going to do so here, because no reviews of the 2008 vintage have yet been published (the wine will certainly be sold out before the reviews emerge) and I have not tasted the wine. These reviews of the 2007 vintage, then, provide guideposts on what to expect in 2008:

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.” (Note: this is a review of the 2007 vintage, not the current release).

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.” (Note: this is a review of the 2007 vintage, not the current release).

The 2007 vintage also made it onto the Wine Spectator Top 100 (#54) and Paul Gregutt’s Top 100 in the Seattle Times (#17). There are many similarities between the two vintages. Both include fruit from Figgins Estate, Seven Hills, and Pepper Bridge Vineyards. Both are aged in 60% new French oak and 40% neutral French oak for 22 months. The main differences are: 1) the proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon increased to 86% in 2008 (up from 76% in 2007); and 2) LeFore Vineyard in the rocks was introduced to the blend. Chris Figgins says of this addition: “This year we added Cabernet Sauvignon from the LeFore vineyard grown in “gravels” which builds complexity and adds a savory minerality to the finish of the wine.

Doubleback produces exactly one wine, and this is it. We have one shot at this parcel; this is not a wine that will be available for reorder. Please limit order requests to 3 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive on Wednesday, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping.

Two Excellent Chardonnays

March 25, 2011

Hello friends. What is going on with Washington Chardonnay lately? I offered a grand total of two Chardonnays between our launch and our first anniversary. In the subsequent six months, we have already offered three, and today we have numbers four and five. I don’t think my palate has undergone a substantial shift; I just think I’m tasting better Chardonnays.

Today’s wines are a pair of bridge Chardonnays. They are bridges between old world elevage and new world fruit. And they are bridges from winter’s dark days and rich meals into spring’s delicious exuberance. They also represent two of the three highest ratings Paul Gregutt has ever bestowed upon Washington Chardonnays:

2008 Januik Chardonnay Cold Creek Vineyard

Cold Creek Vineyard (a Ste Michelle estate site) was planted in 1973, making it one of the older vineyards still in production in the state. Mike Januik was named Ste Michelle’s head winemaker in 1990, the same year that this block of Chardonnay was planted at Cold Creek, and he has been working with the fruit ever since.

By now, he has a well-developed winemaking style with this fruit. It sees primarily new French oak, goes through full malolactic conversion, and is aged sur lie for nearly a year. The result is, unsurprisingly, a wine with serious texture and creamy, lactic mouthfeel. Toasty spice notes overlay the lovely lemon curd and plantain fruit, and this is rounded out with mineral complexities on the back end.

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

2009 Abeja Chardonnay

There are two ways to drink Abeja Chardonnay. One is to drink pressed, pre-fermented Chardonnay must, mixed with lime juice and dark rum, over ice. Unfortunately, that requires either a crystal ball or a keen sense of timing, because you have to be at the Abeja winery on the day the Chardonnay is pressed.

The other is to wait about a year: nine months while the wine ages in French oak barrels (40% new; somewhat less than the Januik) and another three months in bottle. This is the option we’re offering today.

For those of you familiar with previous vintages of Abeja Chardonnay, there were a few changes in 2009. John Abbott has continued dialing back the proportion of new and one-year-old French oak. He secured a larger block of Celilo Vineyard fruit in 2009 than in previous vintages, so there is more of that signature Celilo mineral/acid loveliness (Celilo now represents more than 50% of the blend). And finally, 2009 was the first year to include Abeja’s estate Mill Creek Vineyard in the mix.

This is luscious, textural Chardonnay, with a core of lemon and stone fruits. Leesy, earthy, mineral complexities dart in and out of the palate, keeping this lively and compelling.

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

First come first served up to 12 Januik and 6 Abeja, and the wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping.

2007 Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon Discovery Vineyard

March 23, 2011

Hello friends. We have an absolute gem today: a single-vineyard Cabernet from a new site that is poised to become a superstar, from a winemaker that knows something about terroir expression, at a tariff substantially more accessible than this winery’s usual single-vineyard bottlings.

Discovery Vineyard is indeed a superstar in the making. Planted by Paul Champoux in 2005 (not so far away from his famed Champoux Vineyard) and farmed by Milo and Kay May, Discovery is a 17-acre, tightly-planted site, predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon. The list of wineries working with this Cabernet should tell you all you need to know: along with Andrew Will (their website has a beautiful picture of the vineyard, other producers known to be working with this fruit include Quilceda Creek and Adams Bench.

I tasted this bottle before I did any research and was stunned to learn that it came from third-leaf fruit. The density of the mouthfeel and intensity of the fruit would seem to indicate much older vines. I also assumed this would be priced at levels similar to the Ciel, Champoux, and Two Blondes bottlings (around $60) and was thrilled when I learned I could offer it for about half that.

The nose is immediately expressive: violets, cassis, brambles, and toast. The palate seems rock-hewn; it is truly mineral-driven, like many of the best sites from the Horse Heaven Hills (Champoux, Phinny Hill). Flavors of cassis and lemon peel underlay those mineral notes, and the fine-grained tannins present a finishing lick of dark-cherry tea. The texture and balance are impeccable here. This wine is bursting with class.

I love the packaging of this wine as well. It makes me happy to look at and even happier to drink. This is not one of Andrew Will’s more widely distributed bottlings, and we’re lucky to have access to a decent parcel. As the reputation of Discovery Vineyard continues to grow (and I’m confident that it will), this will be a bottle to point back to; to say: “I was there at the beginning.”

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

2008 Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz

March 21, 2011

Hello friends. We have a small amount of wine to share today from one of Washington’s superstar wineries.

Bob Betz launched his eponymous winery in 1997 after a near 30-year career at Ste Michelle. He is the only holder of the Master of Wine qualification currently making wine in Washington. And his wines have become cultier and increasingly difficult to source over the years.

The mailing list closed in 2008 (rather than continue to increase production, the Betz family chose to close the list and maintain a focus on quality), and very few of the Betz wines escape the clutches of that mailing list. I considered us extremely fortunate to have received an allocation of the 2008 La Serenne Syrah last autumn, and I’m deeply appreciative to Bob, Carmen, and the entire Betz family for making this current allocation of the Clos de Betz available to the Full Pull list.

Clos is among my favorites in the Betz lineup, especially in cooler vintages. I have mentioned in previous offerings my preference for Washington Merlots produced in cooler years (Clos is about two-thirds Merlot; the remainder is Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot). Moderate temperatures keep ripeness at bay and allow for the development of mineral and espresso complexities that make Washington Merlot so irresistible when done well. It’s also my contention that the cooler vintages age more gracefully. Bob’s 1999 Clos de Betz, from a notoriously cooler vintage, was a knockout in a recent tasting, and I suspect that his 2008 (another cool vintage) will age in a similar manner.

This is a pan-Washington blend (Bob’s time at Ste Michelle helped with access to top vineyard sites across the state): about half from Red Mountain, a quarter from the greater Yakima Valley, and a quarter from the Horse Heaven Hills. Bob is a brilliant composer, taking individual notes from these various AVAs and making a coherent chord, gorgeous to behold.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

This seems like an appropriate time to present a quick reminder on our allocation methodology, since we have so little of this wine (right on the border between sending an offering and selling through the warehouse shelves). We favor breadth over depth. In other words, everyone gets one bottle before anyone gets two. Our algorithm, much like the BCS, incorporates many factors: overall purchasing, recent purchasing, tenure on the list, and general flattery (note: one of those was just a joke) to name a few. And, much like the BCS, it can seem inscrutable at times, but I promise that my overall intention is to be as fair as possible.

Now, with all that said, please limit order requests to 1 bottle (I’m sorry; I wish we had more!), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is already safely tucked away in a corner of the warehouse and is ready for immediate pickup or shipping.

2007 McKinley Springs Late-Harvest Chenin Blanc (375ml)

March 20, 2011

Hello friends. Quick weekend offering on a lovely little sticky from McKinley Springs Vineyards. Those of you on the list from the beginning might remember the non-sticky version of the 2007 McKinley Springs Chenin Blanc. It was the first white wine we offered through Full Pull and just our fourth offering overall.

Well after the first round of 1981-planted Chenin grapes were harvested for the regular bottling, workers went back into the Horse Heaven Hills vineyards on December 12 for a late-harvest picking. The result: a wine whose residual sugar (11%) nearly matches its alcohol (10.5%). And, of course, since this is McKinley Springs, it comes at a tariff unfamiliarly low for its category.

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

This is citrus-driven to be sure, with notes of peel, fruit, and pith. Alternately sweet and bitter (like a good marmalade, or even better, like a good whiskey sour), this could certainly pair with dessert, but would also be fine with strong cheeses or even fried chicken (I had a memorable homemade rendition of Thomas Keller’s Fried Chicken last month and have since had fried chicken on the brain).

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