Two 2010s from Tulpen

August 31, 2012

Hello friends. Our support of Ken Hart’s wines over the years has given us access to two truly special bottlings today: new Tulpen wines from the first commercial dryland-farmed vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.

While all of Kenny’s wines for Tulpen are small production, these are microscopic: 32 cases of Grenache and 69 cases of Tempranillo. Because of that, this will be a one-time-only offering, with no reorders possible. To the best of my knowledge, we’re the only place to source these wines outside of calling Kenny himself.

If you do call Kenny, chances are he’ll get around to talking about the Mill Creek drainage and its potential. This is the area in the eastern part of the Walla Walla Valley where Mill Creek Road passes Abeja and continues climbing up into the foothills of the Blue Mountains. As you gain elevation, you also gain annual precipitation. Yellow Bird Vineyard sits at 1450 feet and gets 20 inches average rainfall each year, enough to make it a rare Washington vineyard that does not require any irrigation. The combination of rain and deep-loam soils makes it such that the grapevines can grow without added water.

In addition to this new vineyard coming online (both of today’s wines are single-vineyard, coming entirely from the dryland-farmed Yellow Bird), this offering also marks the introduction of Tulpen’s new labels (see picture), a fine representation of the high-quality juice inside.

These are among the most exciting wines I have tasted this year and, as usual with Kenny’s wines, represent exceptional value.

2010 Tulpen Cellars Grenache Yellow Bird Vineyard

Only 32 cases produced, so this is very limited indeed. The aromatics present a wonderful dusting of white pepper on top of a panoply of red fruits: raspberry, redcurrant, pomegranate. It’s a nose that simultaneously conveys purity and a certain wildness; very alluring. And then it’s one of those wines where the palate delivers precisely what the nose promises. It’s Grenache that has intensity and concentration with no excess weight. It’s a compelling expression of this new site, as seen through the prism of Grenache.

2010 Tulpen Cellars Tempranillo Yellow Bird Vineyard

A whopping 69 cases produced. This plays on the funkier side, with an exciting nose of scorched earth, truffle, tobacco leaf, and blackberry. There is a real old-world Rioja character to the palate, with loads of structure on a lithe, 13%-alcohol frame. It mixes its black fruit with an autumnal leafy character, and the finish is all deliciously ripe, black-tea flavored tannins. A singular Washington Tempranillo; I haven’t tasted anything out of our state that is quite like this.

Please limit order requests to 4 bottles Grenache and 8 bottles Tempranillo, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a few weeks, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.


Four from Ontanon

August 30, 2012

Hello friends. I did not intend to remain in Spain for our second international offering, but happy circumstances have made it necessary to do just that.

One of the joys of having a wine retail license has been getting access to library releases from wineries all over the world. Many of the regions in the world that value their wines’ ability to live long, happy lives tend to sock away a healthy chunk of their production into their library caves. Over the past three years, I have seen library releases from many places (and purchased many a bottle for the personal stash), but there are three wines that pop up most frequently: German Riesling, Piedmont Nebbiolo, and today’s offering: Rioja Tempranillo.

I adore library wines and will offer them just as frequently as I can get my hands on them. The reason I love them: because no one is more uniquely suited to age wines for us than the wineries themselves. For those of us without cellars (or patience), it can be difficult to find chances to taste mature wines, so these library offerings are unusual treats.

In addition to two library wines, today’s offering will include two current releases (yes, ‘04 is the current release of Reserva, and yes, ‘01 is the current release of Gran Reserva; this is old-school Rioja) from Bodegas Ontanon.

Ontanon is a fifth-generation winery in Rioja baja that holds 620 acres of vineyards in the Sierra Yerga Mountains outside of Quel (see approximate location here). The vast majority of their grapes are Tempranillo, but they have a small amount of Graciano that they blend in for color, structure, and overall oomph.

To the best of my knowledge, only one library shipment made it to the US, and it is all on the West Coast. There’s not much of any of them, which is why I moved this up in the calendar. There’s a decent chance that the ‘04 and ‘01 will be available for reorder; not so for the ’95 and ’91. For anyone who treasures mature wines or is ready to start exploring them, this is an easy lineup to love:

2004 Ontanon Rioja Reserva

In the United States, if you see “Reserve” on a bottle of wine, it means… absolutely nothing. There are no regulations around the usage of that word. That is not the case for Spanish wine. In Rioja, for a wine to get the Reserva label means it has been aged for at least one year in oak and at least three years overall (between oak and bottle). Gran Reserva means at least two years in oak, plus at least three years in bottle; so at least five years total aging.

This Reserva saw 12 months in a combination of French (40%) and American (60%) barrels, some new, some used, and then an additional two years in bottle before release. But of course now we’re eight years past vintage, so this 95/5 blend of Tempranillo and Graciano has seen substantially more bottle age than two years. An earthy, smokey nose gives way to more big earthy notes on the palate: a mouthful of soil, star anise, flower, and blackberry. The tannins are just beginning to soften up here, but they’re still quite present and seem to be calling out for a fat ribeye. Wild quality for the tariff here.

2001 Ontanon Rioja Gran Reserva

Three years in oak and two in bottle before this ever left the winery, and again the blend is 95/5 Tempranillo/Graciano. The Gran Reserva comes entirely from La Pasada Vineyard, planted in 1979 at altitudes between 2300 and 2600ft. Here we begin to see the aging curve taking hold, as subtleties of mushroom and sweet pipe tobacco add complexity to a core of raspberry/red cherry fruit and spice.

1995 Ontanon Rioja Reserva

Now 17 years past vintage, this is a wine to show that Rioja can age in ways that seem to combine old Bordeaux and old Burgundy (at prices that are a fraction of either of those regions). Now the mushroom and tobacco leaf are out at the fore, the fruit beginning to fade to a grace note of dried raspberry and dried cherry. “Earthy” and “savory” appear multiple times in my tasting note for this one. I’d put it in the early stage of its peak drinking window. It’s absolutely lovely right now.

1991 Ontanon Rioja Reserva

The preceding three wines I tasted in mid-June, but this one I tasted last week, because it just arrived in Seattle. Once I tasted it, I knew that no time could be wasted. How rare it is to access a beautiful wine at more than 20 years old, and with the amount on hand in Seattle, this is going to disappear in a blink.

The aromatic evolution continues. Now the mushrooms have transitioned into white truffles, mixed with notes of thyme, lavender, and dried cherry. It’s a truly appetizing nose. It made my mouth water. The palate brings loads of mushroom, earth, and tobacco leaf. The tannins taste of sweet, ripe, black cherry. Everything seems perfectly integrated here, perfectly balanced. This is right in the middle of its peak as far as I’m concerned; a thrilling tasting experience.

Please limit order requests to 6 of the 2004 and 3 each of the 2001, 1995, and 1991, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.


2009 Figgins Red Wine

August 29, 2012

Hello friends. I had this all lined up for a “Guess That Score” offering (see primer, and rant against wine-trade hypocrisy, here), but then I learned the actual score (set to be published in the September Wine Enthusiast).

And rather than succumb to the (admittedly strong!) temptation to use the Marty-Mc-Fly-Back-to-the-Future-II-Sports-Betting-Scheme to make myself look like a genius, I think I’ll just go ahead and publish the actual review,  because it’s a doozy (higher by 2pts than I was expecting):

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 98pts.”

Note #1: that is among the strongest of PaulG’s 2012 reviews (and we’re rapidly running out of 2012 issues), so this assumes the pole position for the #3 spot in PaulG’s year-end Top 100 and also stands a strong chance of ending up in one or more of Wine Enthusiast’s year-end lists.

Note #2: this wine isn’t scheduled to land in Seattle until mid-September, but with that review, I suspect it will all be snapped up upon its arrival. I’m offering this wine early so that I can advocate for as close to our list’s true demand as possible.

This is Chris Figgins’ own project, separate from the Leonetti family of wines. What distinguishes it, and makes it so intellectually interesting, is that it is very much a Bordelaise project. FIGGINS is a winery with one vineyard (planted mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot) and one wine, which is a real rarity in Washington. Putting all your eggs in one vineyard basket is gutsy indeed, but Chris Figgins has the skill and experience to make it work.

Unsurprisingly, Chris’ emphasis when he talks about the wine is the vineyard, not the winery. Located close to Leonetti’s Mill Creek Upland Vineyard, this is part of the Mill Creek drainage of the Walla Walla Valley, an area being planted out extensively right now, and one that holds huge promise. The soils are deep, rich loess, and this area gets enough rainfall that dry-land farming (no irrigation) is possible in some years.

It’s going to be a real treat to watch this wine evolve as the vines dig deeper, and even the evolution from the inaugural 2008 vintage to today’s 2009 is stunning. To see this kind of quality from fifth-leaf fruit augurs well for the future.

I tasted this in a flight of some of the heaviest hitters in Washington for Cabs and BDX blends, and this is the real deal: a deep, rich, powerhouse, redolent with cherry and kirsch and soy, loaded with intensity and complexity. It has all the structure and earthiness to make me think its best years are well into the future. A fine achievement from Chris Figgins and a terrific expression of this little piece of the Walla Walla Valley.

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


2011 Ameztoi Txakolina “Rubentis”

August 28, 2012

NOTE: This is our inaugural international offering. See here for an explanation of this next step in Full Pull’s evolution.
—-
Hello friends. Here is what you will do.

You will fly into Barcelona, and, despite the whimsical beauty of its Gaudian architecture, you won’t stay long. The countryside beckons.

You will board a train, and hours later, you will arrive on the coast, at San Sebastian. Because it’s one of the gustatory capitals of Europe, you’ll stay for lunch. This is your lunch.

Now full and sleepy, you will stagger to a bus stop. You will board a bus that you hope is moving in the right direction. This is your bus route.

You’ll exit your bus at Getaria, in the golden light of late afternoon. You’ll walk down the narrow streets until you find your hotel. This is your hotel. You’ll be greeted in a language that sounds more like Greek than Spanish.

This is the view from your hotel room window.

This is where you’ll eat grilled fish and octopus pulled from the Bay of Biscay that morning.

This is what your town looks like from above: a sea, a harbor, a small town, and vineyards. You’ll wonder why anyone would ever leave this place.

The next day, you’ll wander up the hills into the vineyards. This is what the vineyards look like. The vines will be trained taller than your head. You’ll ask what is being grown here.

“Txakolina” will be the answer.

You will fall in love with this place.

Or…

…if all the vagaries of modern life make a trip like this impossible, if jobs and kids and pets and adult responsibilities make a trip like this impossible, we can still visit these places.

That is the beauty of wine. It is a place, suspended in liquid form. It is a place we can visit in our senses as we sip. It is our astral projection. And it’s why I want to write about wines from all over the world.

This is international wine number one for Full Pull. Thanks for joining us on the journey:

Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Brunello. Yes, we’ll get to all of those. But some of the wines I find most interesting in the world are the ones where the inhabitants of the region drink most of them up, leaving little left for the export market. Txakolina from Getaria is a fine example. Yes, Getaria, and congrats to the ten list members who answered the GeoQuiz correctly.

Getaria is Basque country: not quite Spain, not quite France; its own animal. In the vineyards planted in the rolling hills above town, they grow indigenous varietals, like Hondarribi Beltza and Hondarribi Zuri. We’re a looooooooong way from Cabernet Sauvignon here.

They’ve been doing it for a long time. The Ameztoi family is into its seventh generation of winemaking. Some of the vines are more than 150 years old. Over time, the wines and local cuisine have grown up together. And so the residents drink Txakolina like water, and what they don’t drink, denizens of Barcelona and Madrid gulp down. A miniscule amount makes its way into the United States, and that’s especially true of today’s specific wine, which has developed something of a cult following among the sommelier set in New York and San Francisco.

Fortunately, a small amount comes to Seattle, and at the point last month when I set the date for this inaugural international offering, I snapped up every last bottle in town. A little risky, yes, since I have no idea how these international offerings are going to go, but the truth is: if we undersell this, I will happily drink the excess for as long as it takes. This wine is magic.

Like a lot of Txakolina, this has a bit of residual carbon dioxide, so it is semi-sparkling. Unlike a lot of Txakolina, they have blended a bit of Hondarribi Beltza (a red varietal) into the mix, giving this a delicate pink color.

So yes, our inaugural international offering is a semi-sparkling rosé from Getaria, in Basque country. Naturally.

Because Txakolina grew up with Basque cuisine, it is a terrifically versatile food wine. There is some lovely fruit (melon, green papaya, key lime), but the star of the show is minerality. This wine is a total mouthful of rocks, carried on an electric acid spine. The low alcohol (10.5%) makes this an easy session wine, and there is a salt-air quality that seems to only come from wines grown by the sea.

Rubentis has been a house wine of ours for several years now. It typically arrives in Seattle in late spring, and we drink it throughout the summer, both as cocktail and as a lovely pairing for all the Pac-NW’s seafood. It has made multiple appearances on the Thanksgiving table, where its low-alc, high-acid, food-friendly nature makes it a perfect foil for turkey et al. It has made multiple appearances on New Year’s Eve (semi-sparkling, remember?). It has made multiple appearances, I must admit, with breakfast.

It’s a wonderful wine, one of my favorites in this whole wide world; an inescapable expression of a small, very special place. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is already in the warehouse and available for immediate pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.


2008 OS Winery Red Wine

August 25, 2012

Hello friends. An old list favorite makes an appearance today, and this is among the finest values of the year, with stunning fruit quality and intensity for the tariff:

Long-time list members might recall the 2006 vintage of this wine, which contains declassified barrels of OS’ high-end bottlings (Ulysses, BSH, R3). That ’06 (offered in July 2010) was a huge hit. And that was $17.99 ($15.99 TPU).

Now we’re into the 2008, and the winery has decreased the price even further.

But the quality remains the same. This is essentially a Bordeaux blend (okay, so there’s 1% Syrah, but the remainder is 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot), and it’s all in-house vinified juice, which means the vineyard sources likely include Sheridan, Klipsun, Champoux, Ciel de Cheval, Dineen and Meek, among others.

The aromatics come spilling out of the glass: loads of black fruit (cassis, blackberry), vanilla bean, and some nice graphitic/minerally topnotes to ramp up the complexity. On the palate, you immediately notice that this is a much more serious wine than the tariff indicates. The silky mouthfeel, the serious tannic heft; this is a wine that could last for 10 more years, and it’s $14?! Crazy times we’re living in. Flavors are dominated by black fruit and black tea, with subtleties of baking spice and orange peel to round things out. You just don’t see complexity, length, and concentration like this at this price point. It’s classy juice indeed.

Folks with late-summer or autumn weddings or parties should pay careful attention here. For that reason, I want to open it up to 60 bottles, first come first served, and the wine should arrive in mid-September, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.


2010 Reynvaan Syrahs

August 24, 2012

Hello friends. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

From October 2009: “If you try these wines and like them, you might consider joining that [the Reynvaan mailing] list; there’s no guarantee that we will receive allocations of future vintages.”

From October 2010: “Certainly the best way to guarantee access to future vintages is to get on the Reynvaan mailing list; I’m thrilled that the Reynvaan family has agreed to work with me for their first two vintages, but there’s no telling what the future holds.”

Hopefully many of you heeded my advice and joined the Reynvaan list, because that list is now closed (there is a waiting list, so not all is lost). It seemed clear from early on that this was the direction that Reynvaan was heading, given the Christophe Baron connection and his blueprint for selling wine at Cayuse Vineyards.

The popularity of Reynvaan wines has skyrocketed in the past few years (a testament to the quality of the wines and the massive scores the wines have received from just about every major reviewer). And with the Full Pull list also continuing to grow, these allocations are sure to be challenging.

I want to discuss logistics first: These wines should be delivered in mid-to-late September (possibly October) and will ship during the autumn shipping window. There will be no opportunities for reorder.

Now the backstory (those who already know it can skip down to the wines themselves): in mid-2009 the Reynvaan family revealed that Christophe Baron (of the incomparable Cayuse Vineyards) had been consulting on their winery project since 2004, and that he had been involved in vineyard site selection, varietal selection, farming practices, and elevage. The news sparked a firestorm of demand for the wines (the 2007 vintage, their first, was about to be released) that hasn’t let up since.

It’s important to note that, ultimately, this is the Reynvaan family’s project. Matt Reynvaan is the vigneron for this project, and he is deeply involved in every step of the winemaking process, in the vineyard and in the cellar.

The Reynvaan portfolio has attracted a massive, cult-like following in part because they explore the earthy, funky, mineral, savory side of cobblestone-grown Syrah; in part because they push the outer limits of Syrah-and-White-Rhone cofermentation. The resulting aromatics are astonishing, and the overall package is gorgeous, among the best produced in the northwest.

I’m thrilled to have worked with the Reynvaan family since their first vintage and am pleased that our allocation still allows me to write about these beautiful wines.

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah “The Unnamed”

Going forward, one of the distinguishing factors for the four Reynvaan Syrahs that come from their vineyard in the rocks is going to be the type of white-Rhone varietal that is cofermented. “In The Rocks” will get Viognier; “The Contender” Marsanne; “Stonessence” will be 100% Syrah.

And then there’s “The Unnamed,” which, beginning this year, is cofermented with Grenache Blanc (4%). The results are some of the most soaring aromatics in the lineup, a beautiful exotic-flower topnote that kept me returning to sniff this one over and over. The nose also has elements of a Hawaiian pizza: savory ham hock and sweet pineapple. In the mouth, this displays terrific vibrancy, and a blend of savory meat and sappy fruit. There is terrific intensity here at moderate alcohol levels, and as usual with the Reynvaan lineup, savory complexity to spare.

Please limit order requests to 3 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests.

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah “In The Rocks”

The coferment here is 5% Viognier: the most traditional coferment in the northern Rhone. The aromatics are anything but traditional, however, with sanguine notes and briny kalamata olives swirling around a core of boysenberry fruit. The palate has wonderful salty/briny mineral tang, with loads of cured meat, and fruits that run the gamut from berry into peachy stone fruit and even pineapple. It’s a glorious pastiche of flavors, an acid trip for the senses.

Please limit order requests to 3 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests.

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah “The Contender”

Contender gets the Marsanne coferment treatment and presents a lovely nose of salt air, meat, cola spice, and blue and purple fruits. Loads of umami elements on the palate (think bacon fat, think olive) to marry with all that sappy, grapey fruit. And that’s all I’m going to say, because we’re hardly getting any of this.

Please limit order requests to 1 bottle, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests.

The wines should arrive in mid-to-late September, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.


Idilico/Pomum

August 22, 2012

Hello friends. Javier Alfonso is killing it with his Idilico label. Washington’s resident Spaniard launched the brand a little over a year ago as a sister brand to Pomum Cellars, with the intention of focusing exclusively on Spanish varietals.

I have never seen these wines reviewed anywhere, but even without the critics weighing in, this label has developed serious buzz over the past year, spurred on, I think, by the sommelier set and other insider types who know value when they see it.

Today we’re going to offer the latest release under the Idilico label, along with reoffer opportunities for two previous offerings whose western Washington stocks are rapidly dwindling. I’m also going to include the Red Wine Javier makes under the Pomum label, because a recent tasting revealed a wine that offers serious quality for the tariff.

2010 Idilico Garnacha

A new release, this is the second Garnacha under the Idilico label (2009 was the first). Just 200 cases produced, and at this price point, it is getting snapped up by restaurants looking for exciting new glass-pour options.

The core of this wine comes from Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain, which you might remember from several of our recent Maison Bleue offerings (Upland is the source of La Montagnette and Graviere), and it is blended with fruit from Elerding in the Yakima Valley, and then aged entirely in neutral barrels.

An attractive nose of cut rock, raspberry pastille, and lavender leads into a brambly, briary, black-fruited mouthful. This displays wonderful richness, unusual for the cooler 2010 vintage, and finishes with lovely leafy flavors. The word “delicious” appears in my tasting note three different times.

2009 Pomum Red Wine

This is the destination for the declassified barrels from Javier’s higher-end Pomum bottlings, which means it frequently ends up with fruit from DuBrul, Upland, Dineen, and Elerding: insane fruit quality for this tariff. The blend changes each year, and in 2009 it’s 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Syrah, 18% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, and 8 % Malbec.

So no, this is not the place to look for any varietal character. It is the place, however, to look for overt deliciousness. This is a little truffle of a wine: kirsch, crème de cassis, high-cacao chocolate, mocha. It’s ripe and rich, soft and approachable, an easy choice for an autumn house wine. The tannins are polished to a fine sheen, and this displays incredible concentration and length for a sub-$20 tariff.

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.