2008 Obelisco Merlot

September 30, 2011

Hello friends. If I owned a vineyard in Washington, I’d be planting Merlot right now.

One of the happiest trends of this year has been the resurgence, at least among this list, of Merlot, and there may not be anyplace else in the new world better suited to the varietal. Washington Merlots can be complex, muscular, beautiful; like suppler versions of Cabernets.

There is a clear track record of success growing Merlot on Red Mountain. Single-vineyard bottlings from Klipsun and Ciel du Cheval have proven over the years to be ageworthy and sometimes profound. So it’s no surprise to see a new crop of wineries tackling Red Mountain Merlot. What is surprising is the price.

Many of the best bottles of Red Mountain Bordeaux varietals and blends start at $40, so it’s a pleasure to see single-vineyard Red Mountain Merlot at this tariff. Obelisco Estate is planted well up Red Mountain (you can see its location on our vineyard map; unfortunately Google has changed the functionality of linking to My Maps, so you will need to change to terrain view, click Obelisco Estate Vineyard on the menu on the left side of the screen, and zoom in yourself). Even if you can’t see the map, I can tell you that this is one of the higher-elevation vineyards.

The result is Red Mountain Merlot (with small portions of Cab, Malbec, and Syrah) at 13.7% alcohol. This drinks like a slightly riper right-bank Bordeaux. The tannins have depth and a fine-grained character that is compelling, and there is a real sense of grip and chew in the mouth. Flavors are very much Merlot: red plum and red cherry, dark chocolate and dark coffee.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

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

2007 RiverAerie Syrah; 2008 Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

September 28, 2011

Hello friends. I have received numerous requests for both of today’s wines, I assume from diligent readers of Wine Spectator Insider, where each has received a strong writeup. Both come from skillful winemakers who spent many years at Ste Michelle before pursuing their own labels, and both provide excellent value for money:

2007 RiverAerie Syrah

RiverAerie is Ron Bunnell’s second label (Bunnell Family Cellar is the first), and some of the wines in this portfolio can be stunning values. Ron was with Ste Michelle from 1992 to 2004, and left as the Head Red Winemaker. He took his vineyard contacts with him, and those have served him well since. This comes mainly from the Milbrandt holdings on the Wahluke slope, and it is a lovely expression of Washington Syrah.

I was entranced by the high-pitched character, which presents a noseful of strawberry, raspberry bramble, and even some rose petals. There is a briney suggestion of olive that nicely frames pomegranate and white pepper flavors.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “($22); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

2008 Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Novelty Hill is one of Mike Januik’s two wineries (the other is called, well, Januik Winery). The focus for Novelty Hill is their estate vineyard, Stillwater Creek, and that indeed forms the backbone of this wine. There is also fruit from Alder Ridge, Weinbau, and Chandler Reach in the mix, and the blend includes 9% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. A very caffeinated nose (coffee bean/espresso/mocha) leads into a dark, rich, mouthful of crème de cassis, kirsch, and smokey coffee.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “($25); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

For you future Top 100 chasers, it’s worth noting that this bottling has made the list twice: in 2003 (91pts | $22 | 2,150 cases) and 2006 (92pts | $25 | 3,888 cases). This year’s stats: 91pts | $25 | 4,846 cases.

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

2006 Corliss Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Wine

September 27, 2011

Hello friends. This is another offering where we might be running into demographic challenges. Our list grows; acclaim for the winery grows; demand for the wine grows.

And our allocation holds steady.

Seems ripe for a Malthusian Catastrophe, no? Regardless, these wines are too good to pass up.

The Corliss story is one familiar to many of us. The guiding philosophy is patience, and the winery has the resources to allow for extended barrel-aging (33 months) and bottle-aging (another two years) before release. Essentially, the winery does much of the cellaring for us, allowing us to be well along the path to maturity and integration when we access these wines.

The winery is ultra-impressive, well worth a look if you can score an appointment. An innocent-looking above-ground footprint belies the labyrinthine cellar below, which includes scores of tanks, roomfuls of resting barrels, and entire alcoves of never-released large-format bottles.

In sum, it’s the kind of winery where exceptional wine can be made, under the right guiding hand. And by 2006, Kendall Mix (who has since left the winery) had been at Corliss Estates for four vintages, and it seems as though he was reaching the peak of his powers:

2006 Corliss Estates Red Wine (BDX Blend)

In every vintage, it seems the professional reviewers favor the Cabernet (usually by a single point), and in every vintage, I seem to just barely prefer this, the Red Wine. Without question, it’s the more open, the more accessible of the two right now, and perhaps that’s the source of my affection. A true five-varietal Bordeaux blend, with solid chunks of each of the five, this has 30% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec and 10% Petit Verdot. A large portion of the Red typically comes from Corliss’ estate vineyards on Red Mountain, and that shows through here with its dusting of Red Mountain cocoa powder.

The texture is stunning here; all class, with any rough edges smoothed out by skillful winemaking and time in bottle. It’s silky in the mouth, notably sensual: a real bringer of textural pleasure. The fruit profile is red here – red plum, red cherry, redcurrant – and there is a lightly smokey-roastey note, likely from luscious, integrated French oak, that ramps up the complexity. Tea-leafy tannins, pounded to pillowy softness, are the final kiss from this beauty.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($65); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

2006 Corliss Estates Cabernet Sauvignon

The backbone of this bottling is 85% Cabernet from the old vines at Stillwater, Bacchus, Dionysus and Weinbau. The remainder is small amounts of the other four BDX varietals. As usual, this is the more serious, more brooding, more dark-fruited of the two wines.

Everything about this wine is dark. The fruit is blackberry and black cherry. The tannins (more prominent, more chewy than the Red Wine) are redolent with black tea. There is a dark earthiness to this, like dark-red beets growing in rich soil, that is truly alluring.

With air, a light mentholated note emerges, which adds wonderful lift to all those brooding flavors. And again, this is near-flawless texturally, with a fine sense of balance and a real seamlessness across the palate. Despite all the bottle age already, this is probably one to lay down for a few years, or one to give vigorous aeration before serving.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($75); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

Please limit order requests to 4 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

2008 Hestia Cellars Syrah

September 24, 2011

Hello friends. It has become harder and harder to get the jump on professional reviews. Everyone seems to have access to Wine Spectator Insider. Everyone seems to hit refresh at Wine Advocate until Dr. Jay’s scores finally appear. So where is the next frontier?


We have previously featured reviews in Paul Gregutt’s blog (which took something of a summer hiatus but is now back up and running) a few times, and now it seems that Harvey Steiman of Wine Spectator is also writing a blog that sometimes provides sneak peeks into his reviews of Washington wines.

In a recent entry, he said this about Hestia Cellars: “[TEXT WITHHELD].”

That Malbec is sold out, but we have access to the Syrah, which is set to receive the following review in the October 15 Wine Spectator:

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.” (note: that price/score/production combination at least gets this wine into the conversation for Spectator’s year-end Top 100. I’d put it as a longshot right now, but it has a puncher’s chance.)

Hestia is something of an insider’s winery. Shannon Jones, who left Washington Mutual for UC Davis’ winemaking program in 2007 (nice timing), has pursued a breadth strategy with Hestia’s distribution. The result is that his wines are available, and have developed followings, in such far-flung climes as Korea, Japan, and Montreal. Because the winery hasn’t been laser-focused on the Seattle market (as many Washington wineries are), Hestia still flies a little under the radar around these parts.

That said, the winery shouldn’t be a stranger to list members. We have offered four of their wines in the past, but it has been about a year since our last Hestia offering, so I’m pleased to jump back into the portfolio today, starting with this Syrah.

A combination of Stonetree Vineyard (a scorching site on the Wahluke Slope) and Andrews Ranch (adjacent to McKinley Springs in the Horse Heaven Hills), this also has a 3% Viognier coferment from Andrews. Shannon is using all used oak here and is aiming for the meaty, savory side of Syrah.

That effort has succeeded. This has a spicy, leafy, sanguine nose; very much savory Syrah aromatics. The palate has an attractive salumi character that nicely complements the flavors of blue fruit and espresso. A fine sense of balance is conveyed here: between savory and fruity, between richness and vibrancy, between complexity and outright deliciousness.

A quick note before we get into allocations: the folks from Hestia have offered an inside look at the winery during crush, which should take place during the next few weeks, for anyone who orders a bottle from this offering. If you’re interested, please e-mail me directly and I’ll get you hooked up.

First come first served up to 12 bottles total. The wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

2009 Renegade Grenache

September 23, 2011

Hello friends. I just got confirmation that this wine has landed in Seattle and am turning this around as quickly as possible. I have set some aside, but the truth is, I have no idea how much interest there will be, as we’ve never offered Grenache at a tariff this low.

In the interest of speed, I’m going to borrow language from our most recent Renegade offering to explain what this project, from Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars, is all about:
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.
In this case, here’s what we know: the wine comes from a vineyard in “the rocks” section of the Walla Walla Valley. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s not Cayuse Vineyards. Otherwise, there are a number of possibilities, as new vineyards are popping up in that area all the time. CellarTracker sleuths might be able to narrow it down, but it’s going to be a challenge. We also know that production level is miniscule (just 72 cases); that this saw no new oak; that it’s low-alc (13.3%); and that it’s priced at a level rarely seen for this varietal in Washington.

Better yet, it tastes great. The aromas are very much Grenache: the holy trinity of red fruit, white pepper, and underbrush (garrigue for you Francophiles). On the palate, vibrancy is the watchword here, as this has real verve and energy in the mouth, carrying flavors of strawberry pastille and red licorice. Grenache can be a real chameleon. We have had plenty of offerings lately for big, rich versions of the grape. This, instead, is Grenache treated like Pinot, with all the delicacy and beauty contained therein. An absolute slam dunk for the Thanksgiving table, and easily one of the most exciting sub-$15 wines I have tasted this year.

Please limit order requests to 8 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. These are almost certain not to be available for reorder. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

Two 2009s from Gramercy Cellars

September 21, 2011

Hello friends. Out of necessity, this will be a quick offering today. The first (and only?) parcels of these wines have just arrived in western Washington, and the buzz for this release has been steadily building all summer, as strong reviews have piled up for Gramercy’s 2009 vintage.

We have extolled, at length, the virtue of Greg Harrington’s winemaking (plenty of grist for the mill in our offering archive for those interested). Here I will just say that the 2009 vintage was always going to be an interesting one for Gramercy: a warmer, riper vintage for a winery that worships at the altar of cool-climate wine. The most recent Gramercy release letter underscores this point: “While you may hear that the 2009 vintage was a warmer vintage, we consistently picked a bit earlier to insure balance, elegance and finesse.  Greg feels 2009 is really a watershed vintage for us. Viticulture in each of our vineyards was truly dialed in and we picked each block at the optimum time. We concentrated on acid and seed ripeness, instead of sugar and flavor.”

It’s also worth noting that the 2009 vintage brings Gramercy to their target production level of 4000 cases. With production flattening out and acclaim continuing to grow, these wines are only going to become more difficult to source. But today, I’m sneaking this offering out before I suspect most folks know the wine has made it to this side of the Cascades. Today we can be a little greedy:

2009 Gramercy Cellars “Third Man” (Grenache Blend)

Always the ripest, most modern wine of the portfolio, in 2009 this GSM blend is unabashed in its deliciousness. Pepper dustings and sagebrush frame a core of ripe, red fruit. It’s a bowlful of raspberries-and-cream. Syrah from the cool-climate Minnick Vineyard provides a citrus-peel acid kicker, and keeps this fresh and vibrant.

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

The Rhone Report (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93+pts.”

2009 Gramercy Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley

This is 95% from Les Collines, with the remainder from the acid-boosting Minnick site. Brambly, untamed, animalistic; this is a fine aromatic expression of the wild nature of Les Collines. Textural brilliance is the first thing you notice on the palate, with tannins pounded to a fine powder and a thrilling seamlessness to the whole package. Then you notice the flavors, a fine pastiche of brambleberries, portabella, espresso, and graphite.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Seattle Met Magazine (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. #13, 100 Best Washington Wines 2011.”

The Rhone Report (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93-95+pts (Tasted from Barrel).”

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

2008 Cabernets from Woodward Canyon

September 19, 2011

Hello friends. I want to dive headlong into Rick Small’s Woodward Canyon portfolio today. This offering will include two new wines and reorder opportunities for two previous offerings, both of which just keep drinking better:

2008 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series

It can be easy to take Woodward Canyon for granted. Like a comfortable old sweater, the winery can be pushed to the back of the dresser, while newer models grace the front. But two actions bring the winery back to the fore. The first is speaking to Rick Small, whose depth of knowledge, whose refreshing candor, whose seemingly limitless enthusiasm for his craft, can snap any jaded wine taster to attention. The second is tasting the wines, which are consistently spectacular.

I love pouring Woodward Canyon’s Cabernets blind, where it is a rare tasting that does not see them identified as luxury Napa Cabernets. Then the bags come off, and they are revealed to be from Cali’s northern neighbor, at a fraction of the cost.

We’ll start today with Rick’s Artist Series Cabernet, a series started in 1992 with the goal of showcasing both Washington Cabernet and Pac-NW artists. This year’s pleasing label comes from Lisa Snow Lady, and the stuffing inside comes predominantly (76%) from Champoux Vineyard (the blend, which also includes 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Syrah, is rounded out with fruit from Spring Creek, Woodward Estate, Sagemoor, and DuBrul Vineyards).

There is something especially poignant about offering Champoux Cabernet right now. The vineyard suffered widespread damage during last year’s Thanksgiving frost and will likely yield next to no usable fruit in 2011. I guess it serves as a reminder that life is full of contingencies. There’s no universal law that we will always have Champoux Cabernet crafted by Rick Small, and that knowledge adds an ephemeral character to this wine.

This sees less new oak than the Old Vines bottling and tastes very much of Champoux, which I associate with a combination of mineral/graphite notes and Italian bitters. Those flavors provide a compelling counterpoint to the notes of fruit (black cherry, blackcurrant) and barrel (oreo, cola). The tone here is medium, and grace notes of lavender even sneak into the picture with time and aeration.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($49); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

2008 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines

The 2007 vintage received 95pts from both Paul Gregutt and Sean Sullivan. Neither has yet weighed in on this vintage, but the 2008 was reviewed in the recent Advocate:

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($79); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

This is the biggest, showiest Cabernet I have ever tasted from Woodward Canyon. At 16.5% alcohol, it is a hedonist’s delight, to be sure, and it comes from some of the oldest Cabernet vines in the state. This wine has been made since 1981, and Woodward Canyon is one of the four winery partners who purchased Champoux Vineyard in 1996 (Quilceda Creek, Andrew Will, and Powers are the others). One of the privileges of ownership is access to the 35-year-old Block 1. That’s 45% of the blend here, with most of the remainder coming from the equally old vines at Sagemoor Vineyard. There’s also a 5% splash of Petit Verdot from Woodward Canyon’s Estate Vineyard.

Ripe and rich, warm and spicy, this moves the black cherry/cassis flavors to the fore, with the mineral and graphite notes squarely in the background. Reasonable people can disagree, and I’m going to disagree with Jay Miller’s drinking window here. At this level of ripeness, I see no reason to wait 5 years to open these. This is modern, delicious, mouthfilling Cabernet, best enjoyed, in my opinion, in youthful resplendence.

2009 Crowley Pinot Noir

September 18, 2011

Hello friends. Today we have one of the strongest QPR wines I have tasted to date from the approachable 2009 vintage of Oregon Pinot Noir:

I have been thrilled with the response to the 2009 Crowley Chardonnay we offered back in June. The comments have been universally positive, and I’m sorry I haven’t been able to fulfill any reorder requests for that wine. But today presents another rare chance to access Tyson Crowley’s thrilling winemaking, at a tariff that defies belief.

While the production on this Pinot (575 cases) is larger than the Chardonnay (150 cases), the Washington state allocation is the same size. The vast majority of this wine gets snapped up by the home team, as Oregonians have been hip to Tyson’s wines for a few vintages now. What this means for us is that again, this wine will be gone in a blink and will not be available for reorder.

Picture this: it’s Thanksgiving day, and the hour is growing late. Uncle Ricky, from the less-than-desirable wing of the family, snatches your bottle of Chambolle-Musigny from the table as your stomach drops. “Thish schtuff ish good,” he exclaims, brimming his glass, giving a few extra drops to the tablecloth, and belching for emphasis.

Now breathe, friends. This doesn’t need to be you. You’re a Full Pull list member. You don’t need to open expensive Burgundy for Uncle Ricky. You can have a 6-pack of Crowley Pinot Noir on hand for precisely this scenario. Uncle Ricky can have his own bottle (because thish schtuff is good, too; the warm, open 2009 vintage is fast becoming a notorious crowd-pleaser). You can have your own bottle, to savor for its complexity, to pair with your Thanksgiving feast, to dull the pain of genetic linkages.

I’m not going to rehash Tyson’s entire story (for that you can re-read the Chardonnay offering). But some salient details: Tyson arrived in the Willamette Valley in the mid-90s, and aside from a brief stint in New Zealand, has been making wine there ever since, including time at Erath, Brick House, Archery Summit, and Cameron. He launched his eponymous winery with the 2007 vintage and has achieved something approaching cult-wine status in Oregon due to a combination of low production, low price, and screaming quality.

The word began to get out on Crowley’s wines in a national way about a year ago, when Jay Miller published the following in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: [TEXT WITHHELD].

That last sentence explains some of the allure these wines hold. Native yeasts, no acid additions, mostly neutral barrels: clearly this is a man hewing to a natural-wine philosophy. Natural wine is a loaded term, I know (I have seen the endless debates on Wineberserkers and elsewhere), but there is no denying the thrilling transparency of this portfolio. This particular bottle contains mostly Dundee Hills fruit, from La Colina (50%), Tuckwilla (15%), and Gehrts (5%) Vineyards, along with a 30% chunk of Yamhill-Carlton fruit from Johnson Vineyard. Delightfully crepuscular, this is autumn in a glass: all fallen leaf and damp earth and caramel apple. Conveying open red-cherry flavors on the attack, this settles into an earthy, underbrushy middle, and finishes with mineral and tea leaves.

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

Three Geeky Oregon Whites

September 17, 2011

Hello friends. It’s geeky Oregon white wine day!

Hello…? Anyone still there…?

This is one of those days where I’m glad Full Pull doesn’t have outside investors. I’m glad we don’t have silent partners. I’m glad we’re not a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Electric.

On the grounds of sheer capitalism, offerings like this don’t make sense. But on the grounds of the passionate exploration of the outer reaches of our respective palates, an offering like today’s makes all the sense in the world.

2010 Grochau Cellars Pinot Blanc

Pinot Blanc is freaky.

It’s a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. So imagine you’re growing Pinot Noir, and all your vines have red grapes, except for one cane, whose grapes are all white. Mutant!

Like Professor Xavier in X-Men (told you this was a geeky day), a few dedicated vignerons coddled these mutant vines, and cultivated them into vineyard blocks of their own.

Pinot Blanc’s other most noteworthy characteristic is that it’s a dead ringer in the vineyard for Chardonnay, which leads it to be accidentally inter-planted with Chardonnay in many places you wouldn’t expect. This includes Champagne, where it is actually one of the permitted varietals (although used in miniscule quantities compared to Chardonnay and the two more famous Pinots: Noir and Meunier). Its high natural acidity and fairly neutral character make it a terrific option for sparkling wine, and it is the workhorse varietal in Cremants d’Alsace, the sparkling wines of the French region on the border with Germany.

From Grochau Cellars, today’s Pinot Blanc is single-vineyard (Yamhill Valley Vineyards) and small-production (182 cases). Typical of 2010, it has low alcohol (12.5%) and high acid. And typical for the varietal, it’s fairly neutral aromatically. It’s a pleasure on the palate, a mix of mineral, quinine, and cucumber, all awash in zippy acidity. There’s a Hendricks Gin-and-Tonic thing going on here that kept me returning to my glass over and over again.

2009 Elemental Cellars Auxerrois

Auxerrois is another varietal that sees its finest expression in Alsace, where it is the fourth most planted varietal, after Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. It is frequently a blending partner of Pinot Blanc in those Alsatian Cremant sparklers.

The grape has a long history in Oregon, with the first clones brought over in 1977. Adelsheim has grown Auxerrois since the mid-80s and has bottled it varietally, I believe, since 2003. That said, it remains a curiosity, and you can count on one hand the number of domestic producers putting Auxerrois in bottle.

This comes entirely from Zenith Vineyard, an Eola-Amity Hills site, where about 1% of its 70 acres are planted to Auxerrois (planted in 1997). Witness Tree winemaker Steven Westby has his own label, Elemental Cellars, and that’s where this is bottled.

Aromatically, this Auxerrois is reminiscent of Chablis, with smokey, flinty tree fruit. On the palate, it drinks more like a Muscadet: an acid rush of chalk and mineral. I was seduced by this bottle for one main reason: it’s a killer oyster wine. Living in the Pac-NW, where we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to those brackish bivalves, I’m always looking for strong local pairings, and this is one of the best.

2010 Trisaetum Dry Riesling Coast Range Vineyard

Okay, so Riesling itself, not so geeky. But Dry Riesling, from a fascinating site at the base of the Coast Range Mountains, in the southwestern corner of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA? Maybe a little geeky.

This is a fascinating vineyard site, containing ocean sedimentary soils that spent millions of years under the Pacific Ocean. Estimated at 55 million years old, the soil is mostly Willakenzie, with some volcanic erratics. It’s a terroirist’s dream, and unsurprisingly, James and Andrea Frey planted it to terroir-expressive grapes: Pinot Noir and Riesling. The resulting Riesling is excellent: very intense and mostly dry, all full of mineral and tangerine. It’s mouth-filling and palate-coating, with a strong acid spine.

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

Mix and match as you see fit up to 24 bottles total, and the wines should all arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

2009 Rhones from Betz Family Winery

September 14, 2011

Hello friends. It was about a year ago that we hit what was, for me, a serious milestone for Full Pull: our first opportunity to offer a wine from Betz Family Winery. That was the 2008 La Serenne Syrah. I’m thrilled that, in the intervening year, our relationship with the Betz family has flourished to the point where we’re able to offer three wines from the 2009 Rhone release.

What seemed like big news during the past year, that Betz Family Winery sold to Steve and Bridgit Griessel, was rendered smaller by the revelation that Bob would continue making the wine through 2015, and has been rendered smaller still by statements from the Griessels intimating that very little will change under their stewardship (for a full profile of the new owners, see Sean Sullivan’s incisive Focus Report published yesterday). Considering that 2017 is the earliest we could possibly see any non-Bob-Betz-produced wines under the Betz label, this is essentially a non-story for now.

Bob Betz’s face would doubtless be chiseled on a Mt. Rushmore of Washington winemakers. He is the only Master of Wine making wine in Washington, having achieved that honor back in 1998. After a 28-year career at Chateau Ste Michelle he launched his eponymous winery in 1997, crushing 150 cases worth of wine in the Woodinville warehouse district. Since then, production has grown to 3500 cases total, but acclaim has grown more quickly than that, forcing the family to close their mailing list in 2008 and establishing them as one of Washington’s cult wineries. The winery is open to its list members on just two weekends each year: once in the spring, for the release of its Bordeaux portfolio, and once in the fall, for the release of these Rhone-styled wines. That fall weekend just took place, and I had a chance to taste the lineup on Monday. Here’s my report:

The 2009s are ravishing.

And I suppose I mean that in the verb form of ravish. As in: I literally felt ravished – “overcome with emotion (as joy or delight)” – by these wines. True to the warmer vintage, these are approachable, exuberantly-fruited wines. This is as immediately-accessible a collection of Betz Rhones as I can remember, which is a real treat for all of us. No need to tirelessly cellar these; just a few hours in the decanter here (okay, or 1-2 years in cellar would probably not hurt) and these wines sing.

2009 Betz Family Winery Syrah “La Serenne” Boushey Vineyard

It’s a potent combination: Dick Boushey on viticulture and Bob Betz on viniculture. Savory and richly-fruited in turn, this contains a riotous pastiche of aromas and flavors. Bob always manages to harness the Boushey funk and guide it into something sultry, something sensual.

The Rhone Report (Jeb Dunnuck): “($60); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

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

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

2009 Betz Family Winery Syrah “La Cote Rousse” Red Mountain

Always a fine counterpoint to the cooler-climate Yakima Valley Serenne, La Cote Rousse comes from one the hottest parts of the Yak: Red Mountain. Constructed in 2009 out of near-equal parts Ciel du Cheval Vineyard and Kiona’s Ranch at the End of the Road Vineyard, this glories in its earthen, dusty, mineral charms.

The Rhone Report (Jeb Dunnuck): “($60); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

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

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

2009 Betz Family Winery “Besoleil” (Grenache Blend)

The less said here the better, as my allocation of this wine is smaller than the Syrahs. Typically a GSM blend, in 2009 this adds Olsen Estate Vineyard Cinsault to the blend (from talking to Bob, he’s itching to add Counoise to the mix as well). Stylistically, this falls someplace between Spanish Garnacha and Gigondas, brimming with strawberry liqueur and garrigue.

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

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

The Rhone Report (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

Please limit order requests to 4 bottles of Serenne, 4 bottles of Rousse, and 3 bottles of Besoleil, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.