2009 Fielding Hills “Tribute”

June 17, 2012

Hello friends. New offering from an old list favorite today, a winery that, despite years of consistently strong reviews, flies well under the national radar and remains an insider’s delight:

Fielding Hills has five wines in their portfolio. We have offered four of them over the years. Tribute is the fifth.

There is a reason we have dipped broadly into this lineup: it’s rare in Washington to find such a committed vigneron model, where a winery grows all their own grapes and only makes wine from their estate fruit. And there is simply no substitute for being able to completely manage the entire process from dirt to bottle.

That dirt is Riverbend Vineyard, located here in the heart of the Wahluke Slope. It went into the ground in 1998, replacing an old Red Delicious apple orchard (the Wades grow apples and cherries in addition to wine grapes) in soils consisting of volcanic, coarse, sandy loam. Now into 12th leaf with this 2009 vintage, the vines are entering adolescence, and the corresponding depth and detail are a pleasure to behold.

Tribute is the one blend in the lineup, and in 2009, its core is comprised of two grapes not often married: Cabernet Franc and Syrah. The two work well together, with each contributing its own form of savories. There is a center of blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, with earthy, peppery nuances, all wrapped in toast-and-cocoa barrel notes. As we move into the mid-palate and finish, complex flavors of mole-poblano emerge. It’s a big, balanced, beauty.

It’s also fairly limited. With just 221 cases produced, and with a big score set to appear in the July Wine Enthusiast, prospects for reorders will be murky.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($32); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

[Note: This is the least expensive of the red wines that have been rated 94pts and higher by Paul Gregutt so far in 2012.]

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

Friday Grab Bag

June 15, 2012

Hello friends. A Friday grab-bag today of three lovely wines for summer and autumn:

2011 Hestia Cellars Chenin Blanc

The latest in our Save The Chenin series, where we believe that the way to save good, old-vine Chenin from being ripped out of the ground to make way for another acre of Cabernet Sauvignon, is to drink more good, old-vine Chenin.

Well, there’s old, and then there’s old. And this Chenin is positively methuselaic by Washington standards. All from Hahn Hill, these vines went into the ground in 1972, on a little bump in the Yakima Valley (location here). Chenin Blanc, like Riesling, can be taken in many different directions with regards to sugar. Here, Shannon Jones has fermented nearly to complete dryness (0.2% RS, not enough to be noticeable), and the alcohol finished up at a zippy 12.5%. Aromatics are a beguiling  mix of honeysuckle and cantaloupe. Those old vines add terrific depth and intensity to the palate, which features a core of melon and pear fruit, dusted with malt powder. Despite the lack of overt sweetness, there is a lovely, honeyed quality to the fruit, and plenty of bright, citrusy acid to keep things fresh.

Such a treat to devour old-vine fruit at a reasonable tariff! Too early for reviews of the 2011, but the 2010 was one of a handful of $15-and-under wines last summer to receive a **** (Excellent) rating, from Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report.

2011 Andrew Rich Sauvignon Blanc Croft Vineyard

When I made my first Oregon research trip for Full Pull, my first stop was at Patricia Green Cellars. And the first wine that Jim Anderson opened was their Sauvignon Blanc, much of which comes from Croft Vineyard. It was an eye-opener, just fantastic, right up my alley. And despite all my begging and groveling, I was not able to source that wine. Since then, I have been on the lookout for Sauvignon Blanc from Croft Vineyard, and as it turns out, only two other wineries source those grapes. One is J. Christopher, the other Andrew Rich.

So it was with high expectations that I sampled the new release of Andrew Rich’s Croft Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, and it was with the sweet relief of expectations fulfilled when I took my first sip. I’m only left to wonder: why isn’t there more Sauvignon Blanc planted in the Willamette? The wines seem to exist someplace midway along the spectrum between Sancerre and New Zealand. This one starts out with a beautiful SB nose: grasses, wild clover, tarragon, and mineral. The palate displays a mouthwatering mineral-acid core, around which grassy grapefruit flavors swirl. Racy and nervous, this is a balanced high-wire act.

2010 Teutonic Wine Company Pinot Noir “Bergspitze” (Laurel Vnyd)

Among wineries we feature regularly, I’m not sure there’s one more polarizing than Teutonic. About 25% of the feedback I receive is of the “I don’t get it” variety. The other 75% wants to know when we’ll offer more. These are not wines for everyone, and that’s okay: those of us who love this style *really* love this style. The Teutonic slogan (“All cool climate, all the time.”) says it all. You’re not going to find ripe fruit here. You will find alcohols between 9% and 12%, loads of nervy acidity, and mineral-soaked austerity-of-fruit.

Today’s Bergspitze Pinot Noir comes from the highest section (1250’) of the same Laurel Vineyard as the 2010 Teutonic Pinot we offered back in October 2011. The difference? This is a barrel selection of all free-fun juice, the best of the vintage from this vineyard. The vines are Alsatian clones, all more than 25 years old, and there aren’t many of them at the top of the mountain: only enough to produce 98 cases total. We’re lucky to be seeing any of this in Seattle.

“Fresh” was the first word that came to mind when I inhaled the aromatics, a swirling mass of mineral and meat and exotic spice. As usual, the palate is a textural marvel, featuring waves of live-wire, citrusy acids. The fruit is tart and austere: green strawberries, and raspberries that you pick off the vine a few days early because you just can’t resist. Watchwords here are vibrancy and minerality. While this is a wonderfully versatile food-pairing wine right now, I’ll be setting a few bottles aside for 3-, 5-, and 10-year aging check-ins.

First come first served up to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you see fit), and the wines should all be delivered in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

Two from Buty

June 13, 2012

Hello friends. I had our next Buty offering lined up for a mid-summer release, but the vagaries of Wine Enthusiast’s publishing schedule have moved Caleb Foster’s wines up in the calendar. Both of the wines are set to receive strong reviews from Paul Gregutt in the July issue of Enthusiast. Those reviews will take awhile to trickle down through traditional retail and restaurant channels. In the meantime, let’s grab our share.

First, a quick primer on Buty: Caleb Foster founded Buty in the Walla Walla Valley in 2000 after many years working with Rick Small at Woodward Canyon. In the dozen years since, the winery has developed a reputation for consistent excellence, for focus (the Buty lineup has been at six wines for many years now; Caleb does allow himself a little latitude with Beast, his sister brand to Buty), and for a house style that marries aching purity of fruit with nervy, tensile structure.

2010 Buty Chardonnay Connor Lee Vineyard

Caleb’s Chardonnay is one of the most consistently-excellent produced in Washington. It always comes entirely from Conner Lee Vineyard, a cool site (located here) in the Frenchman Hills (not part of any sub-AVA, so this gets the generic Columbia Valley label).

In order to get the textural roundness of oak without any overt oak flavors, Caleb has used a high proportion of neutral oak barrels over the years. More recently, he has been moving a greater and greater portion of his Chardonnay into concrete Nomblot cubes; no overt oak there! The result is a Chardonnay with wonderful palate weight and intensity, a mixed salad of stone fruits, with autolytic notes adding leesy complexity. This is fine, cooler-climate Washington Chardonnay.

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

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

2008 Buty “Columbia Rediviva” Phinny Hill Vineyard (Cab-Syrah)

Winemakers get really excited talking about Phinny Hill Vineyard. As you can see on the map, it’s a neighbor to Champoux in the Horse Heaven Hills, and shares many of that venerable site’s qualities. But Phinny is a bit higher up the slope, and that makes all the difference in the world during freeze events. The Thanksgiving 2010 frost that knocked out most of Champoux’s 2011 crop was much less damaging to Phinny.

This part of Horse Heaven is warm and windy, so you get grapes that have ample physiological ripeness and thick skins, which lead to wines with delicious generosity of fruit and a wall of ripe grapeskin tannins. A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah, this has loads of leafy subtleties (tobacco leaf, mint leaf) to go with a core of blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. The firm, grippy tannins suggest a wine poised for a compelling evolution in bottle.

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

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

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

2010 K Vintners Syrah “Milbrandt”

June 11, 2012

Hello friends, and a special welcome to those of you who joined the Full Pull list during the past week after seeing our little mention at the end of Shannon Borg’s “Old Vines Bearing Good Fruit” article in the June issue of Seattle Magazine. Now, onto today’s offering:

The “Milbrandt” bottling is the traditional gateway drug of the K Syrah lineup. Typically priced at $30 or lower, it is a way to introduce tasters to the broader lineup of Syrahs produced by Charles Smith and Andrew Latta. I have always found it to be a fine value.


There’s Milbrandt, and then there’s Milbrandt. And if we dig deeper into the 2010 vintage, we’ll find an exceptional surprise.

As you can see from their map, the Milbrandt brothers have vineyards dotted all over the Wahluke Slope. So when Charles puts the “Milbrandt” label on a bottle of Syrah, we know which solar system we’re in, but not which planet.

Let’s dig deeper still.

The 2007 “Milbrandt” Syrah was 90% Sundance Vineyard, 10% Pheasant Vineyard. The 2008: 90% Sundance, 10% Pheasant. The 2009: 100% Sundance.

The 2010: 100% Northridge Vineyard.

Look at the Milbrandt map again. These vineyards are not neighbors. In fact, they’re entirely different. Like most of the Milbrandt sites on the Wahluke Slope, Sundance’s geology is all about the Missoula Floods. It is sandy loam over, well, more sand.

Northridge is something else entirely, a rare site on the Wahluke Slope above the Missoula floodline, at elevations of 1100 ft; a vineyard that sits on a thin layer of ancient soils above a base of caliche and basalt. The Milbrandts frequently refer to Northridge as one of their most important vineyard holdings, and in two previous vintages, K Vintners has specifically bottled a Northridge Syrah (which, it should be noted, retailed at a substantially higher tariff).

The 2007 Northridge earned 96pts Harvey Steiman (Wine Spectator) and 94pts Paul Gregutt (Wine Enthusiast); the 2008 93pts Steiman, 94pts Gregutt. Those are better comparisons for this as-yet-unreviewed “Milbrandt” bottling than previous, Sundance-based vintages, which bear little relation to the 2010.

A good, pure, Washington Syrah nose of blue fruit and earthy minerals starts things off. The palate is much meatier than the nose, redolent with ham hock and beef stock, deeply savory notes to counterbalance the lush core of blackberry fruit. I have always liked the Milbrandt bottling, but as soon as I tasted this, I knew something was amiss, and I mean that in the best possible way. Welcome to your new-and-improved gateway drug. I’ll be your dealer for the day.

First come first served up to 18 bottles, and the wine should be delivered in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

2006 McCrea Cellars Sirocco

June 8, 2012

Hello friends. Put yourself in the shoes of a winery. You have your regular release schedule, and it’s time for your next set of wines to hit the market.


You taste the wines, and one of them isn’t ready. The aromas are muted, and the fruit is hiding behind the structure. What do you do?

Generally, when faced with this decision, wineries fall into one of three camps:

1) The Cynical Pushers
“Sell it!” they scream, and out into the marketplace the wine goes, where it lands with a thud. These are the types who underestimate the wine-buying public, who think the worst of us, who assume we won’t be able to tell the difference anyway. Not likely. After enough of us pull out our toothbrushes to scrape the tannins from our teeth as we wonder why we paid $40 for a bottle that was marketed like Shinola but tastes more like – well, you know – we might just jump ship to one of the, oh, fifty-seven thousand other wineries out there in the world. The Cynical Pushers: masters of brand erosion, dark lords of the winery death spiral.

2) The Pragmatic Bulkers
“Sell it!” they scream, but they don’t mean to you and me; they mean to another winery, at bulk juice prices meant mostly to ensure they don’t actually *lose* any money on the juice. The Bulkers are more admirable than the Cynical Pushers, because while the wine will still likely hit the market far too early, it won’t stain the brand, and it will likely be priced at a fraction of the original. And somehow shrill acid and tannins that could suck Crater Lake dry don’t seem as problematic when the bottle costs us $8. “What a bargain,” we think, as we pour another glass to our unsuspecting party guests.

3) The Patient Idealists
“Hold it,” they say, in very reasonable tones, and into the winery cellar goes the wine, to slumber peacefully and mature on its own terms. This is, of course, the riskiest course of action: unlike groups 1 and 2, there is no immediate cash flow. And there are no guarantees that the caterpillar ever turns into a butterfly.

Today’s wine is a butterfly:

When the 2006 vintage of Sirocco came time for release, it simply wasn’t ready to go. Instead of releasing it into the marketplace anyway, the folks at McCrea delayed for a few months, and then ultimately decided to release the more youthfully-exuberant 2007 vintage first. Recently, they sold through the last of the 2007, and so it was time to revisit the 06. They pulled a few sample bottles and showed them around town last week. I was lucky enough to taste one, and my oh my, this slumbering beauty is wide awake now.

Sirocco is the southern-Rhone style blend in McCrea’s lineup, a play on the wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, of Gigondas, of Vacqueyras. The blend is 41% Mourvedre, 36% Grenache, 13% Syrah, and 5% each Cinsault and Counoise. Getting to taste Washington Rhone blends at six years past vintage is a rare treat indeed, and especially so at this tariff. This age seems just about perfect, because there is still ample primary fruit, but secondary notes are beginning to emerge as well. Having tasted a few of these five-to-seven-year old Rhone blends, it seems that the good ones take on beautiful briny olive notes as they mature, a fine counterpoint to the delicious fruit.

In this case, the Mourvedre is prominent on the nose, with spiced meats, and leather, and yes a good amount of green olive. In the mouth, this is just gorgeous, a good reminder that there is no substitute for bottle age. All the rough edges have been sanded down, and the result is something smooth and balanced, a rich mix of plummy fruit and briny olives. Way more complexity than we have any right to demand at this price point. First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should be delivered in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

Two from Belle Pente

June 6, 2012

Hello friends, and welcome to a brave new post-Initiative-1183 world. It’s a world where the poor folks in Cashmere, WA are stuck drinking Bailey’s on the rocks. It’s a world where many spirits cost (gulp!) more than they did under state control.

But who cares about spirits? Until the ridiculous square footage provision in the law goes away, you won’t have to worry about me hitting your inboxes with offerings for locally-distilled marionberry brandy. We’ll stick to wine.

One of the wine-related provisions in 1183 was to take volume discounting out of the grey area where it used to live and into the light. And that has enormous potential to benefit all of us. Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, who favor breadth (a wide range of 2- and 3- and 4-bottle purchases), the Full Pull model favors depth (a narrow range of high-volume purchases).

So let’s imagine a winery that’s ready to move onto the 2009 vintage of its Pinot Noirs but still has small parcels of a couple 2008s floating around the Seattle market. And let’s imagine they want to rip through the remainder of those 08s in one fell swoop. And let’s imagine they’re willing to allow for a pretty serious discount on wines that don’t typically get any discount.

What better destination for these wines, in such a scenario, than our humble little wine-loving list?

So, today we have incredible tariffs on two single-vineyard Belle Pente Pinot Noirs from the stellar 2008 vintage. Belle Pente is an outstanding artisanal producer (yes, I’m still using the word “artisanal,” despite its recent death). Brian and Jill O’Donnell launched the winery in 1994 after many years of home-brewing and home-winemaking. It’s one of Oregon’s hidden gems, open only twice per year (you just missed Memorial Day, so now you have to wait until Thanksgiving) and producing a series of earthy, terroir-expressive Pinot Noirs.

We have a duo today, and the only reviewer who seems to have gotten his hands on these wines is Josh Raynolds from Tanzer’s IWC. As I frequently do, I’ll ask you to remember that IWC is notoriously reticent when it comes to scores. Raynolds’ highest score for any 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir was 94pts. In that context, the reviews below are strong indeed.

This may already be clear, but just to be sure: we only get one shot at these. This is the last of the glorious 2008 vintage, so no reorders will be possible. After today, the winery is onto the 2009s.

2008 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Belle Pente Vineyard

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Josh Raynolds): “($42); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

From Jill and Brian’s estate vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton District, planted in 1995 on the site of an old Italian plum orchard in shallow Willakenzie soils, this came in at 13.6%-alc in 2008. It presents a deeply-compelling nose of musky red fruit, morel mushrooms, and turned earth. The palate is very 2008, by which I mean it’s mostly on lockdown right now, more about its structure and mineral character than any overt fruit, although there is a nice swallow of cherry-pit bitters on the finish. Put this in a blind tasting, and I wish you good luck in distinguishing it from Burgundy. Also, this evolved beautifully over the course of a full day opened, especially in the aromatics, which presented a kaleidoscopic series of savory, earthy, mushroomy notes and became more and more pronounced as the day progressed. Wild quality to find at this tariff.

2008 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Murto Vineyard

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Josh Raynolds): “($42); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Six acres of this vineyard, in the red jory volcanic soils of the Dundee Hills, are farmed specifically for Belle Pente, and this clocks in at 13.4%-alc. It’s another example of the house style, which is understated but so full of character. It’s also another example of a “wow” nose with a wonderfully savory wild-mushroom character. Smelling this makes me want to chop a bunch of creminis, sauté them with garlic, deglaze with white wine (or good marsala if you’re feeling feisty), add a touch of cream, simmer until the shrooms are glazed, and eat directly out of the pan while drinking this Murto Vineyard Pinot directly out of the bottle. It’s a delicious wine to drink, with a core of truffles and dusty black fruit. There is a cooling cut-rock character here that is quite refreshing for such a serious wine. The fruit profile is certainly darker than the estate bottling, but again, this is more about mineral and earth and structure right now than anything else.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles total (mix and match as you see fit) of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. Both wines should be delivered in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

Two from Nefarious

June 6, 2012

Hello friends. Judging by the e-mails I have received since February, today’s offering is perhaps the most eagerly-anticipated of the year:

2009 Nefarious Cellars Syrah Rocky Mother Vineyard

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

[Note: this is PaulG’s best-reviewed Syrah of the year to date. And it’s also worth noting the prices on the other Syrahs that have garnered 94- and 95-pt scores: $50, $55, $60, $65, $75.]

The review above was published in the February issue of Wine Enthusiast, after which my inbox filled up with requests. Unfortunately, the wine was slated for a summer release. Or perhaps fortunately, because while many in the trade may have forgotten about this wine, I never did (in fact, Heather Neff was probably able to set her watch by my monthly nagging e-mails asking about a release date).

As they say, the squeaky retailer gets the juice. While the wine won’t be officially released at the winery until mid-June, we’re allowed pre-release access right now. I’d love to take all the credit for this, but the credit really should be shared across our entire list. I suspect it’s our previous support for a number of Nefarious wines that is helping us here. One of those wines was the breathtaking 2009 Syrah from Defiance Vineyard, Nefarious’ estate site on the shores of Lake Chelan. I stand by my statement that it is the finest wine yet from Chelan-grown grapes. And yet, today’s wine may be finer still.

Rocky Mother is a form of beautiful insanity, a vineyard right on the cusp of climatic viability. Check out its location on the zoomed-out vineyard map; see any other vineyards nearby? I see Evergreen Vineyard, generally considered one of Washington’s more northerly sites; it’s 85 miles south of Rocky Mother. This is extreme winegrowing, in the mouth of the Methow Valley (here’s a zoomed in version of the map); one block called Stone’s Throw planted to Riesling (see below; we’ll include that as a bonus offer), and one block called Rocky Mother planted to Syrah. From the names (and the fact that the Neffs were able to build a rock wall from the vineyard excavation), you can probably intuit the rock-hewn nature of the vineyard.

I have been a fan of Rocky Mother (and Stone’s Throw) from the beginning. There’s something compelling about making wine on the cusp. Because Riesling thrives in cool climates, Stone’s Throw has been more consistently available; Rocky Mother not so much. After a fine debut with the 2006 vintage, there was no Rocky Mother in 07, and a mere 69 cases in 2008. 2009 was a more forgiving year, and production is all the way up to 100 cases. It’s a palate-stainer, rich and ripe, with mineral-soaked flavors of wild, brambly, red raspberry fruit. If the Defiance Vineyard Syrah was about elegance, this one is all about power.

Most of this is going to the Nefarious list, and we’re fortunate to be getting any. I’m afraid with our parcel size, and that PaulG review, we’re going to have to allocate this one. Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests.

2011 Nefarious Cellars Riesling Stone’s Throw Vineyard

We have offered every vintage of this available since I started Full Pull: the 2008 in November 2009, the 2009 in September 2010, and the 2010 in August 2011.


Because, as I stated in the 2010 vintage offering, it’s one of the consistently finest Rieslings produced in the state and should really be mentioned with the likes of Eroica and Poet’s Leap. Heather Neff has a deft touch with white wines (she is the white winemaker in the family; Dean makes the reds), and this Riesling is always something special.

Alcohol is 13.2%, and this drinks just off-dry. A smoky, citrus nose kicks things off. The palate is cut grapefruit, on a spoon, with just a dusting of sugar, a perfectly-balanced high-wire act of sugar and acid. The palate intensity is terrific, and there is a fine chalkiness to the texture.

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