2009 Chapelle St. Theodoric Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Les Sablons”

Hello friends. Recall my manifesto from a few weeks ago about why Full Pull is moving into international wines? Remember Reason #3: Chasing Value?

“Wineries protect their brands most fiercely on their home turf. What that has meant for us, offering Pac-NW wines while living in the Pac-NW: finding deep discounts is challenging indeed. If a Washington winery needs to blow through some stock, they’re much more likely to shuffle it off to their North Carolina distributor than to sell it in their home state. And similarly, when a Piemontese producer is ready to move onto their 2007 Barbarescos and wants to blow out their 2006s, where might they price-drop? Seattle. I’m confident that we will be able to take advantage of our list’s buying power to offer some incredible values from the rest of the world.”

Today is the first example from this genre of offering. Over the years, I have found that our list responds as much to wine-trade inside-baseball stories as romantic stories, so let’s dig into the wine-trade geekery today.

Here’s what happens: a distributor has a lovely 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape in stock, and they’re merrily, steadily selling through that stock. Now it comes time to order the next vintage, the 2010, but this is a challenging prospect indeed, because you have to judge how long it will take for the wine to be picked up from the winery in France, consolidated onto a container, shipped across the Atlantic, cleared through customs, and shipped to the west coast via rail or truck. Yikes.

Now if you’re going to err as an importer/distributor, you don’t want to err on the side of ordering too late. Why? Because then you’re out of stock of the 2009s with no 2010s to replace it, so all the restaurant and retail accounts that have come to love this wine will need to find a replacement, and chances are, that replacement is coming from one of your competitors. No, you don’t want to be late. Better to be early.

But early is imperfect as well, because now the 2010s have arrived in the States and are ready to be shipped to your west-coast warehouse. You hate having multiple vintages in stock at once (confusion abounds; wrong vintages go to wrong accounts; much gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, wailing, etc etc). Unlike ordering too late, where you have no choice but to wait, ordering too early gives you options.

And that’s where we come in.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “($50); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

This is a big, beautiful wine. There is nothing wrong with this wine, except for the fact that it is standing in the way of the soon-to-arrive 2010s. We have been offered dibs on all the remaining bottles in Seattle, at a strong discount. If we want them all, we get them all.

A quick primer on Chateauneuf-du-Pape for the uninitiated. We’re here in the Southern Rhone Valley, and while there are 13 allowable grapes in CdP, Grenache is the undisputed queen. Many of the Grenache projects popping up in Washington are emulating wines from this part of the world.

And here is a description of the project, from the (outstanding) importer, Peter Weygandt: “Chapelle St. Theodoric is a project between winemaker Baptiste Grangeon and Peter Weygandt… There are two parcels, one in the lieu dit, La Guigasse, which is a pure sand soil and where the vines (all Grenache) range in age from 50 to 100 years, and the other parcel at the top of Pignan, literally adjoining the vines of Chateau Rayas, also in pure sand, and also pure, old vines Grenache. The vinification is traditional, that is to say, whole-cluster, such as employed exclusively by Jacques Reynaud at Chateau Rayas, Laurent Charvin, and Henri Bonneau. The two parcels are vinified, aged and bottled separately, but with the same exact treatment. The experiment of this project was to find what terroir differences one might find in pure sand, between vines less than 200 meters apart, both on sand, pure Grenache, and traditional vinification. In other words, a study to find if Chateauneuf has fine differences in terroir, similar to Burgundy. The Les Sablons cuvee is the final press wine of the two parcels blended, aged in older barrique, with some younger vines also in the assemblage.”

So we’re looking at pure Grenache here, all from sandy soils, and from the burly 2009 vintage. This drinks thoroughly modern to me (14.5% alc), and in a blind tasting, I would be hard-pressed to determine old-world or new; it’s a bridge between the two. Aromatics of Chambord, kirsch, strawberry, and floral pastille give way to a rich, ripe mouthful of Grenache, with raspberry fruit that grows ever more brambly with air, and with grace notes of herbes-de-provence. There’s just enough overt fruit to make you think new world, and just enough dusty mineral tone to make you think old world.

Please limit order requests to 8 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 during the autumn shipping window.

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