2004 Cadence Klipsun Vineyard

December 21, 2012

Hello friends. Let’s begin today with logistics. This will be our final offering of 2012, and we will not be visiting your inboxes again until January 7. We have one more pickup day, which is tomorrow (Saturday Dec 22 from 10am to 2pm), and then we will be CLOSED on Dec 27 and Jan 3. Our first TPU pickup day in 2013 will be on Thursday, January 10.

Now, with that out of the way…

I believe that the day-to-day rhythms of our jobs are adept liars. And the main lie they tell is: you’re not making any progress.

Thank goodness, then, for the milestone that the end of the year brings; the chance to pull back from the microscopic and try to see things at a macro level.

The easiest way that I can think of to reflect on 2012 is to consider where Full Pull was when I was writing our year-end offering in December 2011. At that point, we had no employees. We were only offering wines from the Pacific Northwest. And we actually had enough space in the warehouse to consider hosting events. Ah, the quaint times of yore.

Through the prism of December 2011, 2012 looks like a year of solid progress, of happy growth. And that’s what it was. I want to thank all of you for allowing us first to invade your inboxes and then to invade your dining rooms. Nothing gives me more pleasure than receiving notes from list members detailing a meal or a gathering where one (or several) of our wines enhanced the experience, loosened the lips for better storytelling, strengthened the bonds of fellowship. Notes like that help confirm for me that Full Pull is fulfilling our simple mission: to facilitate happiness.

I also want to thank you for continuing to spread the word about Full Pull to other wine-lovers. We try to always ask newbies picking their wine up for the first time where they heard about Full Pull, and the most common answer, by far, is from another list member. It has the faint whiff of a pyramid scheme, I know, but fortunately, no one is (yet) asking for referral fees.

As far as our local scene here in the northwest goes, 2012 felt like a turnaround kind of year. I saw more new winery entrants and fewer deep-discount blowouts than in any of Full Pull’s previous years, both signs of an industry regaining some footing. The 2012 vintage was also a warm, fairly normal one, welcome in Oregon and Washington after the cooler, more challenging 2010 and 2011 harvests. We’re still a few months from seeing the first whites and rosés from 2012, and early indications are promising.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s send 2012 out properly, first with the poem with which we end each year of Full Pull offerings, one that speaks to the cleansing grace of the end of a year, the power of first remembering and then letting go:
from Tennyson’s In Memoriam:

And now one more wine before we go dark for a few weeks:

Pretty much every time we have written about Ben Smith’s wines for Cadence, we’ve mentioned that these are among the most ageworthy of Washington wines. So you can imagine my delight when we were offered a chance to access the Cadence library. After tasting this in October, I quickly slotted it in for the year-end offering.

A chance to taste Ben’s skill, and a vineyard of this caliber, at almost a decade past vintage, and better yet at a tariff that looks more like a Cadence current-release than a library-release? It was a slam dunk.

Those of you who follow Cadence’s current lineup will know that Ben no longer produces a Klipsun bottling. He discontinued it in 2005 in order to focus on his estate Cara Mia Vineyard, which came online beginning with the 2006 vintage. So this 2004 represents Ben’s penultimate Klipsun bottling, even more of a collector’s item.

Klipsun (located here) is one of Red Mountain’s iconic vineyards, known for power, for wines that brood in their youth, for wines with a dark beauty that reveals itself most with extended bottle age. And 2004 was an interesting vintage. It was the freeze year in Walla Walla, the most recent vintage where that valley was almost entirely knocked out by frost. Red Mountain avoided that fate, but still came in with reduced yields of high-quality fruit.

This bottling is a two-thirds/one-third split of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and the first thing you notice on the expressive aromatics is a fine note of what the French call “gout de terroir” (or sometimes “gout de merde”.) This is full of developed character, of earth and barnyard, and it contains a certain wildness, thrilling to behold. My first word from my tasting note: “glorious.” It’s a wine just entering its peak, with tertiary notes of earth and mushroom and leather, but still with enough primary character – in the form of dried cherry fruit and chewy, integrating tannins – to present a balanced whole. It’s a chance to watch a classy bottle grow up before your eyes.

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is in the warehouse and will be available for those of you picking up wine tomorrow, or for pickup in 2013 or shipping during the spring shipping window.

On behalf of the whole Full Pull team, best wishes for a happy and wine-soaked end to 2012.

Two 2010 Syrahs from Efeste

December 20, 2012

Hello friends. Quick turnaround today on a pair of wines that need no introduction for long-time list members.

These are Brennon Leighton’s Syrahs reserved mostly for restaurants and modeled, it would seem, on the Bob Betz paradigm: one from Red Mountain, and one from Boushey Vineyard. As many of you know, Brennon has left Efeste to join Charles Smith’s new Chardonnay project, so 2010 represents the penultimate vintage of Brennon’s fine work at Efeste.

Fortunately, Wine Spectator has not yet reviewed these wines. Harvey Steiman has long championed Brennon’s Syrahs (he usually rates Jolie Bouche a tick higher than Ceidleigh), and when his reviews come out, the wines tend to disappear instantly.

If you’re interested in exploring the terroir of the Yakima Valley (yes, Red Mountain is part of the Yak), these two Syrahs represent a fine opportunity to do so. And that’s all I’m going to say, considering that our parcel size is already going to lead to competitive allocations.

2010 Efeste Syrah “Ceidleigh” (Red Mountain)

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

2010 Efeste Syrah “Jolie Bouche” (Boushey Vineyard)

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

Please limit order requests to 3 bottles of Bouche and 6 bottles of Ceidleigh, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive tomorrow and be available for pickup on our final TPU day of 2012 (Saturday Dec 22) or later, or for shipping during the spring shipping window.

2009 Chateau La Brande

December 19, 2012

Hello friends. We have the latest today in our ongoing exploration of satellite appellations in France. First introduced in our white Burg offering from Saint Aubin, the idea is to explore the next-door neighbors to some of the big-gun appellations, which can frequently represent extraordinary value.

Chateau La Brande is owned by Anne Marie and Jean Guy Todeschini, the same folks who own Chateau Mangot. The difference between the deux chateaux is just three miles. You can see on the map that La Brande is a few foothills east of Mangot.

But when those three miles include an appellation boundary, the distance is magnified considerably. Chateau Mangot is in Saint-Emilion AOC, and its high-end Grand Cru bottlings typically cost about $50. Three miles to the east, Chateau La Brande is in Cotes de Castillon (we’ve gone from region 21 to region 22 on this map), and the price is well south of $50:

A blend of 70% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, this was a total standout in a recent tasting of the well-loved 2009 vintage in Bordeaux, in my opinion besting several bottles that were double the price.

There are generally two types of crappy when it comes to sub-$15 Bordeaux. The first is wines so lean-and-green that you half expect your glass to sprout leaves and attract nesting birds. The second is wines so unabashedly “modern” (think cloying red fruit, think oak powder) that it could be crappy wine from anywhere in the world. I think the second is actually worse. If I’m going to drink crappy wine, I’d like to at least be able to identify it as crappy Bordeaux.

Then there’s a narrow middle: wines with some measure of typicity and some measure of approachability, and that’s what we have today with La Brande. The wine sees about 30% new oak, so mostly it’s the fruit that’s on display. The nose combines black cherry with black olive and some lightly earthy notes. While the nose is lightly earthy, the palate contains loads of earth notes, along with cedar and cherry. The tannins are lovely here, all black tea, contributing to a mouthfeel that is drinkable but not too soft-and-easygoing. Tasted blind, I suspect you could nail this as Bordeaux every single time. It has enough of that right-bank magic, something that’s not easy to find at this tariff.

If you’re looking for a holiday gift that looks (and tastes) considerably more expensive than it is, this would be a strong option. I grabbed the entire remaining parcel of this wine in Seattle, and it is very unlikely to be available for reorder. Once it’s gone, we’re onto the 2010 vintage. Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

2009 Seven Hills Winery Ciel du Cheval Vnyd (BDX Blend)

December 18, 2012

Hello friends. Well this is a happy holiday surprise. I recently caught wind of a parcel of what I thought to be a long-since sold out wine.

Rather than spend any time dissecting how this parcel appeared on the scene, I acted impulsively and bought the entire stash. So we have all of the bottles remaining in western Washington, and once it’s gone, it’s gone for good (looks like the winery is onto the 2010 vintage too, so this might be gone everywhere).

I jumped on this one quickly for a few reasons. First, because I tasted it during my visit to Walla Walla in August and thought it was a standout (even then, my understanding was that the wine was sold out in 750s, and at the time, we were discussing a magnum offering). And second, because of all the red wines Paul Gregutt scored 95pts and higher in 2012, this is the only one under $40, a remarkable value.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($38); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

Seven Hills winery has become a Full Pull list favorite, based in large part I think on Casey McClellan’s clear, dedicated house style: acid-driven, texturally elegant, long-lived. Casey deserves admiration for sticking with that style as fashion trends have waxed and waned. In the early 2000s, he held steady as trends towards alcohol and oak ruled the day. Casey is a grower’s winemaker, well-loved by vineyard owners and vineyard managers, because he picks fruit early and is single-mindedly dedicated to expressing the terroir of their sites.

One of his long-term relationships is with Ryan Johnson of Ciel du Cheval, the grand dame of Red Mountain (Ciel is the grand dame, not Ryan; let me make that clear), and Casey is granted access to some of the oldest, 1970s-planted fruit in the vineyard. So what happens when you combine a vineyard and winemaker known for elegance with a vintage known for fleshy exuberance? The answer: you get something balanced, breathtaking, beautiful. It’s a big, structured mouthful of Red Mountain: silty minerals, orange peel, cocoa powder, dust, marzipan. The ripe, delicious, green-tea tannins suggest a long-life ahead, but still, this is one of the most approachable-in-its-youth bottles I have ever tasted from Casey. No need to cellar this if you don’t want to; it brings plenty of immediate gratification.

As I mentioned, we have all of the remaining bottles of this vintage, and they’re in the warehouse already. Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is here and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

2010 Mas de Boislauzon Chateauneuf-du-Pape

December 17, 2012

Hello friends. I have received a lot of interest via e-mail in the exciting 2010 vintage from the Southern Rhone, so I have been tasting as broadly as possible. I think we’ve hit on a winner today: a lovely, old-school, typical Chateauneuf from a tiny producer in the northern part of the appellation.

The sale of Wine Advocate last week affords an opportunity to reflect on Robert Parker’s influence, both positive and negative. It’s hard to avoid connecting him with the changing styles in Chateauneuf over the past decade or two, especially as alcohols in warmer vintages approach 17% from some CdP producers.

Still, I think Parker’s love of ripeness can be overstated. Here is RP himself on today’s producer, who crafts a 13%-alc CdP: “[TEXT WITHHELD].”

We are indeed at the northern edge of the appellation (location here), where the Chaussy siblings harvest Grenache et al from the stony soils of the southern Rhone. The blend for this cuvee is 80% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, and 5% Syrah, and it is raised half in cement and half in foudre. It displays gorgeous, openly expressive Grenache aromas: raspberry pastille, herbs from the Provence countryside, white pepper, candied violet. It’s a showy, penetrating nose. The palate is well-balanced, not at all boozy, with a cut-rock core around which swirl streaks of dusty red fruit.

Now I’ll let the critics weigh in, including our first chance to quote the inimitable Jancis Robinson. The last sentence of her review might be the best phrase I have ever read in a wine review:

Wine Spectator (James Molesworth): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

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

Purple Pages (Jancis Robinson): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 17/20pts.”

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive on Wednesday and be available for pickup during our final TPU days of 2012 (or later, of course) or shipping during the spring shipping window.

Three Library Rieslings from C.H. Berres

December 16, 2012

Hello friends. One of our most popular international offerings to date was our initial exploration of the library at C.H. Berres. We sold through our entire allocation on original offering and have therefore had to send sold-out notices to the many list members who attempted reorders.

Good news today, then: further opportunities to plunder the fine cellars of Berres.

You can see our original Berres offering for the full details, but in sum: when Markus Berres (21st generation winemaker) took over for his father Alfred (20th), the estate decided to release some of their library stock accumulated during Alfred’s heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Also, a quick review of the pradikat system before we jump in. The terms relate to must weight (sugar content). While they don’t always correspond perfectly to sweetness (winemakers can ferment the wine to total dryness or let some residual sugar remain), they serve as a pretty good rule of thumb. And that rule of thumb, from driest to sweetest is: Kabinett –> Spatlese –> Auslese –> Beerenauslese –> Trockenbeerenauslese.

1999 C.H. Berres Riesling Spatlese Wehlener Klosterberg
This comes from the same vineyard as the 1993 Spat in our original Berres offering: Wehlener Klosterberg, which means Klosterberg vineyard located in the village of Wehlen (here’s a map). It’s a site with stony soils, decomposing slate, and a high proportion of iron.Here we get plenty of the love-it-or-hate-it smoky petrol aromatics that characterize aged German Riesling, along with peach and tangerine. The palate, which drinks off-dry, contains pineapple, citrus peel, chalky minerals, and smoke. The acid is still quite vibrant here, the fruit still quite primary. It’s a wine at the tail end of its youthful phase: an interesting place to explore. 8% alcohol.1995 C.H. Berres Riesling Beerenauslese Urziger Wurzgarten
Now we’re moving well up the pradikat system, to wines with piercing sweetness and compelling botrytis notes.

We’re also into what is probably the finest vineyard Berres works with: Urziger Wurzgarten. We’ve only moved around one bend in the Mosel (see map), but now we’re in the famed “spice garden of Urzig.” These pictures (here and here) give a sense of the vertiginous nature of the site, as well as its enormous iron content, turning the slate soil red.

The site is known for long-lived wines, especially at the BA and TBA levels. I should also emphasize that this is a 750ml bottle, a bit rare for BAs, which are usually bottled in splits. The larger vessel should only increase the length of the aging curve.

This displays clear botrytis notes from first whiff – for me a mixture of porcini-powder-dusted honey and tobacco leaf – that wonderfully complement the dried peach and apricot fruit notes. The palate has plenty of bright, citrusy acid to balance all the sugar, and there is layer upon layer of fruit: red cherry, plum, peach, tangerine. That savory botrytis element continues to express itself as well, here as an almost nutty note on the finish. Complex, balanced, and still a baby despite being 17 years past vintage.

2005 C.H. Berres Riesling TBA Urziger Wurzgarten (375ml)
We’ve talked previously about the holy trinity of botrytis-affected sweet wines and have already offered a Sauternes and a Tokaji. Today we complete the triangle with our first trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) offering.

These wines are incredibly labor-intensive, which explains both their high prices and overall scarcity. For example, total production of this wine was 10 cases. 10 cases! As you can imagine, our allocation is miniscule (I can’t believe any made it out of Germany).

Also from Urziger Wurzgarten, this comes in at just 6.5% alcohol (compared to 8.5% for the BA) and presents an intense, piercing nose of lemon pastille, pineapple, honey, and fungus. A total infant on the palate, still very primary with caramel-drenched pineapple upside down cake and dried pickled raisins. The texture is positively unctuous, and I was still tasting this a half hour after the last swallow. Its best drinking window is still probably 15-20 years in the future.

Berres didn’t submit wines for review in the ‘90s, which explains the dearth of reviews for the wines above, but this one was submitted:

Wine Spectator (Bruce Sanderson): “($145/375ml); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 97pts.”

The Spatlese and BA are first come first served up to 12 bottles total (mix and match as you like). For the TBA, please limit order requests to 2 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. These wines are in New Jersey and will take 2-3 weeks to arrive, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

2009 Patit Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

December 15, 2012

Hello friends. The sad truth of a wine buyer: you can’t taste everything all the time.

(Or perhaps I should say: *I* can’t taste everything all the time. I have seen others buyers give valiant efforts at trade tastings, usually ending with a slurred goodbye and a wobblewalk out the door).

We all have our own personal rubrics for what to taste when, and why. One of my rubrics is the penalty box (thanks to growing up as a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, who spent plenty of time there). If I taste one rough wine from a producer: two-minute minor. A second: five-minute major.

And friends, I must admit: Patit Creek was in my penalty box for a few years. But the reason I like the penalty box is that it allows for redemption, for second chances. Why write off a winery forever? Things can change.

And in this case they have changed. Dramatically.

A recent tasting of today’s wine was a total shocker and sent me scurrying off for details on how this winery could have altered its course so drastically, so wonderfully. Along with securing those details, I was also able to secure a parcel at a December-only tariff that is nearly 50% off the release price of $29.

The more research I did, the more the quality of this wine began to make sense.

The first fact to be revealed was that Patit Creek had hired a new winemaker (always a good way to swing open the doors of the penalty box): Joe Forest. Long time list members will know how much I admire the work Joe has done under his own Tempus Cellars label. He is a skilled winemaker who works with excellent fruit sources.

The next course of action was to flood Joe’s inbox with questions about the fruit sources, because this just did not taste like a $15 Cab (or a $25 Cab for that matter). When Joe’s e-mail came back, my jaw dropped:

46% old-vine (1972-planted) Cabernet from Sagemoor Vineyard
27% younger Sagemoor Cabernet
15% Pepper Bridge Cabernet
12% Sagemoor Merlot

What-what-what?!? So nearly half of this comes from some of the best old-vine Cabernet material in the state, and all of it comes from superstar growers. I just don’t know what world we live in where this is a $15 wine.

Given those facts (fine winemaker, impeccable fruit source), it’s no surprise that the wine is outstanding. The nose combines plum and violet fruit with dusty notes and barrel nuances of espresso and high-cacao chocolate (58% new oak here; another aspect that belies the tariff). The mouthfeel is rich and plush on the attach and mid-palate, with flavors of crème de cassis and kirsch. Then that old-vine depth emerges, as Cabernet’s lovely black-tea tannins take over in the middle and carry through a long, chewy finish. Power, complexity, balance: all are punching well above their price class here.

Again, today’s tariff only applies to December orders. We may be able to reorder this, but it will be at a higher price. First come first served up to 24 bottles, and the wine should arrive on Wednesday and be available for pickup during our final TPU days of 2012 (or later, of course) or shipping during the spring shipping window.