Two 2007s from Corliss Estates

October 31, 2012

Hello friends. When I consider someday closing the Full Pull mailing list and moving to a waiting list model, it’s wines like this that argue in favor of closing. There’s only so much the list can grow before offering highly-allocated wine becomes an impossibility.

But that’s an issue for another day. Fortunately, because of our list’s strong support for the Corliss venture in previous vintages, we have access to parcels (barely) large enough to warrant a proper offering.

We’ve written about Corliss on numerous occasions, and to read lengthier treatises on this winery, please see our archive. The short version is that Corliss only releases three wines outside the winery: a Syrah each spring, and a Cabernet and BDX Blend in the autumn.

They’re noteworthy because they hold their wines about as long as anyone in the state before release. So while most Cabernets on the market right now are 2009 (and even some 2010s), they are just getting ready to release their 2007s, a vintage oft-hailed as the best of that decade. With three years in barrel and two in bottle, the wines are usually much further along the path towards integration and complexity than their peer releases.

As it seems to go every vintage, the Cab is the slight favorite for the professional reviewers (recall also, when reading the Tanzer reviews, that he is notoriously reticent with points). And as it seems to go every vintage, I give slight preference to the blend, mostly because it’s the earlier-drinking of the two, a glorious truffle of a wine: supple and densely-layered. Everything about the Cabernet is darker and more brooding. That one will require a bit more patience, but in the long run may end up being the superior of the two. Fortunately, there’s no need to choose; we can try both:

2007 Corliss Estates Red Wine (BDX Blend)

A blend of 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 19% Petit Verdot, 9% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc. This is the more Red Mountain-dominant of the two, with much of the fruit coming from Corliss’ estate Red Mountain Vineyard, and it shows in the loamy soil notes, the dusty cocoa powder, and the ripe, luscious tannins.

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19.5/20pts.”

2007 Corliss Estates Cabernet Sauvignon

The core of this black beauty comes from several of the old-vine Sagemoor Farms sites, and there is something special about the depth of character those old vines provide. This is a dark masterpiece.

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.” [NOTE: the 96pt 2008 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon is the only Washington Cabernet to ever achieve a stronger review from Tanzer.]

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

Please limit order requests to 4 bottles of the blend and 6 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

Three from Spain

October 30, 2012

Hello friends. One piece of consistent feedback on our international offerings: “more Spain.” No surprise, I suppose, as Spanish wines can represent incredible value along the entire price spectrum.

Today, we have three examples that have wowed me in recent tastings. The main thrust for today will be another incredible 2001 Rioja from another old-school Rioja producer (those of you under-allocated on our Lopez de Heredia offering should pay close attention here), and we’ll complement that with a great little entry-level Ribera and as fine a Spanish white as I have tasted all year:

2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial

La Rioja Alta is another classic producer from this region, in the vein of Lopez de Heredia. They have stubbornly resisted modernity, going against the grain as much of Rioja has gotten bigger, riper, richer. For that, they are rewarded with love and admiration from those of us who care about terroir expression and who want our Rioja to taste like Rioja, not like California Tempranillo.

Producers like LRA don’t follow the short-term winds of fashion. They play the long game. They think about how their winery will be viewed in decades, in centuries. To wit, today’s wine. LRA makes a Vina Ardanza every year. But they only put the “Reserva Especial” label on vintages that they feel are truly special.

How special?

Here is the list of vintages of Reserva Especial: 1963. 1974. 2001. The end.

Can you imagine? A quarter century’s worth of vintages, and none of them deemed worthy enough for this label? A winemaker at LRA could spend an entire career making wine and not make a single Reserva Especial. That level of commitment to quality is staggering to me, and helps explain why I love this winery as much as I do.

Again, this is not super-ripe Rioja. It’s a 13.5%-alc, 80/20 blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, expressing the delicate, elegant, age-worthy side of these varietals. The aromatics reminded me of nothing more than walking into a kitchen that has rosemary-seasoned shiitakes roasting in the oven: gloriously autumnal. The palate is savory as hell, all earth and mushroom and woodsmoke, with dustings of cocoa powder and orange peel. This has enough acidic spine and tannic heft to make me think another 20+ years of positive evolution is not out of the question.

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

2010 Gormaz Ribera del Duero

From a region that can have big, showy wines with astronomical prices, let’s instead go with an elegant, unoaked version of Ribera Tempranillo that focuses on fruit and earth.

This comes from 50-year-old, head-trained Tempranillo vines that sit at 3000 ft elevation. Only in Spain could that be a twelve-dollar bottle.

Gormaz (a former cooperative, recently privatized), farms a good chunk of the vines in the Soria sub-region of the Ribera. Soria is the highest-altitude sector in the region and was traditionally known more for its rosés. Advances in farming techniques have allowed the Tempranillo in this region to ripen enough to make a lovely, drinkable red wine.

Classic Tempranillo aromas of dried crushed tea leaves and deep black cherry give way to a medium-bodied, well-balanced palate, with rich cherry fruit framed by juicy orange-peel acidity. It’s clean, honest Ribera, with plenty of complexity and earthy rusticity: a fine achievement at this tariff.

2011 Angel Rodriguez Verdejo Rueda “Martínsancho”

This is a great wine with a great backstory. In the Franco era, the dictator himself decreed that Spain should produce wines only from high-yielding vines, which targeted Verdejo, the classic grape of Rueda, for removal. Most sane growers pulled their Verdejo vines. Angel Rodriguez, on the other hand, pulled most of his Verdejo, but kept a small plot in the heart of his Martinsancho vineyard, hidden by a perimeter of higher-yielding Viura and Palomino.

After Franco’s death, cuttings from Martinsancho were used to populate Verdejo across Rueda, including the 1976-planted vineyard that is the source of this wine. So we’re looking at 35-year-old Verdejo vines here, on deep gravelly soil that naturally yields about 1 ton/acre.

I found the aromatics thrilling and intense, an alluring mix of grilled herbs, green papaya, and musky apple. The palate is dry, juicy, racy, driven by minerally-salty tang and thyme-dusted grapefruit. This would make a fine seafood pairing but also has enough stuffing to stand up to roasted chicken or pork loin. For white wine lovers, this paragon of Verdejo must be tried.

For the Rioja Alta, please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The Gormaz and Martinsancho are first come first served up to 12 bottles each. All the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

Two 2010s from Mark Ryan

October 29, 2012

Hello friends. Today we have a pair of autumn releases from Mark Ryan: new vintages of his muscular Bordeaux blends, Long Haul and Dead Horse.

Neither of these has any reviews yet (probably a good thing for our ability to access them), but both leave a trail of massive scores in their wakes from previous vintages, and typically, by the time those reviews come out, the wines are long gone.

2010 Mark Ryan “Long Haul” (BDX Blend)

This loses the Red Mountain designation in 2010, but for a good reason: the addition of Red Willow Vineyard. The remainder is still all Red Mountain (Ciel du Cheval, Kilpsun, and Obelisco), so we’re spanning the length of the Yakima Valley, from Red Willow in the west to Red Mountain in the east.

Merlot dominates Long Haul, at 61% of the blend. The remainder: 12% Cabernet Franc, 9% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot. It all goes into 86% new French oak for 20 months. Long Haul is a fine example of the burliness of Washington Merlot. This is Merlot for adults, dense and chewy and far from the insipid examples that have hurt the “Merlot brand.” You’d swear the proportions of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon were reversed here.

What I noticed right away on tasting is an earthier nose than is the norm with Long Haul, with graphite notes and cocoa nibs for good measure. The palate combines crème de cassis with silty minerals, and then the massive tannins take over in the middle and don’t let go, awash in flavors of earl grey tea. This is a dark, earthy showstopper that needs time in bottle or decanter before it unlocks its fullest potential.

2010 Mark Ryan “Dead Horse” Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Mtn)

Dead Horse keeps the Red Mountain designation but does see a label change, getting the “Cabernet Sauvignon” moniker, since the proportion is above 80% this year (81% to be exact). It’s rounded out with small portions of all four remaining Bordeaux varietals, and it comes from Ciel, Klipsun, and Obelisco. Dead Horse sees a smidge more new French: 92%.

Again, there is deep, dense fruit here (blackcurrant, black cherry), but it’s currently sitting behind a fortress of mineral and espressoey tannin. Massively structured, clearly built for a long and compelling life ahead, this needs a big fatty steak right now, its chewy tannins ready to leap into service to scrape lipids off your palate.

Please limit order requests to 18 bottles total (mix and match as you like), 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.

2010 Domaine de Mourchon Cotes du Rhone

October 28, 2012

Hello friends. 2010 in the Rhone has been heralded as a once-in-a-lifetime vintage. Using our patented Wine-Trade Hyperbole-to-Reality Adjustomator, that means 2010 is likely the vintage of the decade. Still not bad, and likely to surpass the well-loved 2007s. The only drawback (as it always seems to go) is that it was a low-yield vintage, so these wines will come and then go in a blink.

Today we sneak-preview the vintage by starting with the vanguard: Cotes-du-Rhone.

CdRs are typically the first wines in the region to be released, so they can serve as trailers to the Chateauneuf and Gigondas and Vacqueyras movies that will be released during Oscar season. Even in a good vintage, Cotes-du-Rhone can be something of a minefield, so it is wise to sample broadly. The best versions can provide incredible value. The worst can make me rethink my career choice.

I have tasted a bunch of ‘10s, looking for that example that serves as a bellwether for the vintage, and today’s wine rose to the cream of a fine crop:

Established in 1998, Mourchon quickly built a strong reputation, spurred on my glowing reviews from Jancis Robinson and then cemented last October when Robert Parker wrote: “[TEXT WITHHELD].”

Their Cotes-du-Rhone is a 60/40 blend of Grenache/Syrah, from their “youngest” vines (average age: 40 years), raised entirely in concrete. With no oak, it’s fruit and mineral that come to the fore, an aromatic riot of raspberry and blackberry, tar and asphalt. On the palate, the fruit flavors repeat the berry notes, now rounded out with fig and hoisin. There is a nice mineral streak too, something ferrous, bloody. This displays balance, intensity, and length, and contains an incredible amount of stuffing and structure for the tariff.

The Rhone Report (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 90pts.”

First come first served up to 24 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.

Three 2009s from Sheridan Vineyard

October 26, 2012

Hello friends. Microscopic parcels today of some seriously sought-after (and rarely seen at retail) wines from a Yakima Valley superstar. For details on Sheridan Vineyard, see our first Sheridan offering from December 2009. We’ll keep today’s offering brief because of the paucity of bottles, but these three bottles are very much in keeping with the Sheridan house style: dense layers of delicious fruit; massive structure; incredible concentration.

Note that all the reviews below were from barrel samples, but they’re the only reviews available.

2009 Sheridan Vineyard Cabernet Franc

100% Cabernet Franc, all estate-grown at Sheridan Vineyard.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. (95-98pts).”

2009 Sheridan Vineyard “L’Orage” (BDX Blend)

65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc, all estate Sheridan fruit, and this is the 10th anniversary for this wine.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. (95-98pts).”

2009 Sheridan Vineyard Block 1 Cabernet Sauvignon

All Cabernet Sauvignon from Sheridan’s original planting, and I’m not sure Block 1 has ever been offered at retail before.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. (97-100pts).”

Please limit order requests to 1 bottle of each, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines are in the warehouse and available for immediate pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

Three Geeky Italians

October 25, 2012

Hello friends. Has it been too long since we have flown the geek flag? I think so. Today, let’s get our inner wine nerd on in Italy. Each of these probably deserves its own offering, but there are only so many days in the year, so we’ll roll them all into one, and I’ll try to keep the verbiage for each to a minimum.

If you’re looking for a dose of the Italian vanguard, a mixed bag of today’s wines will serve you well indeed:

2009 Coutandin Pinerolese Ramie

Among the most compelling wines I have tasted in 2012, this comes from the Pinerolese Ramie DOC in the mountains west of Turin (approx. location here). This is alpine winemaking at its finest: the vineyards at 2500’ and inclines of 70%-90%, such that Daniel Coutandin had to build a small monorail just to harvest the fruit from the ancient rocky glacial slate soils. A blend of indigenous varietals that would make a Master Somm student’s head spin (30% Avana, 20% Chatus, 20% Bequet, 15% Avarengo, 15% Barbera), this is fermented all with indigenous yeasts, sees no oak, and clocks in at 13.5% alc.

It is as thrilling an expression of mountain terroir as I can think of: a blast of alpine-fresh cherry fruit, mineral, pine resin, pine forest underbrush, and a fat tarry streak running right down the middle. Incredible fruit intensity, purity of alpine character, and most importantly: the taste of something new. Glorious juice, and a great label too. Just 150 cases produced, and only 35 cases imported. I don’t think anyone else in Seattle has picked this up yet.

2011 Matteo Correggia “Anthos” (Brachetto)

Brachetto is frequently sparkling and sweet (like a red version of Moscato D’Asti). Here we have a still, dry, version: 100% Brachetto grown in Roero. From a winery that was on fragile footing after the 2000 death of Matteo Correggia, who helped establish Roero’s reputation, but has since displayed a renaissance under the late Correggia’s wife, Ornella.

Blindfolded, you’d swear this was a white wine, with its aromatics of white flowers and tropical fruit. The palate brings an unusual, alluring mix of green papaya, red licorice, and orange-peel bitters. Loads of complexity for the tariff, all on a vibrant, light-bodied frame. Weird and wonderful.

2009 Damilano Nebbiolo d’Alba “Marghe”

Okay, admittedly not the geekiest, but still: Nebbiolo D’Alba that could be identified as such for $14? That’s a rarity. This shows mentholated red cherries and cherry blossom and blood orange on an easy-drinking, soft-tannin, fresh-acid frame. It’s an honest Nebbiolo, now with a little bottle age, and I suspect the only reason for its price drop is the (gasp!) 89pt score from Galloni:

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Antonio Galloni): “($19); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 89pts.”

First come first served up to 12 bottles of the Nebbiolo and 12 bottles of the Brachetto. Please limit Coutandin order requests to 4 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. All 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 Saviah Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley

October 24, 2012

Hello friends. We have a serious price drop today on an outstanding Walla Walla Valley Cabernet. That price drop was announced just before the news hit that the wine would receive a strong review in the November 30 issue of Wine Spectator. Fortunate timing for us.

What’s less fortunate is that the last parcel of 2009 vintage is already in western Washington, and the winery is rolling over onto 2010 after it’s gone. I have a hold on as much of that parcel as possible, but this will be a one-time only deal, with no possibility for reorders.

Let’s get while the gettin’s good:

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “($28); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

This wine has become a list darling (we have offered the 07 and 08 vintages previously), in large part, I think, because it comes from unusual vineyards. So many times when we see Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon it comes from either the king (Pepper Bridge Vineyard) or the queen (Seven Hills Vineyard). There’s nothing wrong with those two vineyards. In fact, they’re among the standard-bearers for the valley.

But… it’s a big valley, full of micro-terroirs, and those of us who care about such things get a little extra intellectual jolt from tasting other sites.

The backbone of this wine comes from McClellan Estate Vineyard (location here) and Anna Marie Vineyard (location here). Both sites are converted orchards farmed by the Brown family of Watermill Winery (and Blue Mountain Cidery). Rich Funk (Saviah’s winemaker) was Watermill’s consulting winemaking during their early days, so he still gets access to this lovely fruit.

Look for an expressive Cabernet nose of cassis, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and cedar. The palate contains all the richness of the lush 2009 vintage, with black cherry and blackcurrant and orange-peel fruit swaddled in barrel notes of mocha. Soft and supple, this is such a generous mouthful, such an easy wine to love. Even at $28, it’s an easy buy. At a sub-$20 price point, it is among the stronger quality-for-tariff Cabernets we will offer this year.

Please limit order requests to 24 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.