Two Chardonnays from Foundry Vineyards

March 29, 2013

Hello friends. I’ve often spouted off that the trick to finding good wine is to follow the fruit. True enough. But sometimes it pays to follow the winemaker too.

I first met Ali Mayfield in the spring of 2010. At that point, she was working with Kendall Mix on the winemaking for Tranche Cellars (the Corliss Estates sister project). Her talent was apparent immediately, especially with some of the Tranche whites that were coming out at the time (none more so than the Tranche Chardonnay from Celilo Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge).

After Ali left Tranche, she was off my radar for awhile, but when I started hearing buzz about new releases from Foundry Vineyards, it came as no surprise to learn that their new winemaker was none other than Ali Mayfield.

The Foundry Vineyards project has always been a fascinating one. It’s related to the Walla Walla Foundry, one of the nation’s finest production facilities for metal sculpture (here’s a recent Seattle Times article that touches on the Foundry, for those interested). Foundry owner Mark Anderson is also a partner in Foundry Vineyards, and the co-owner of Foundry Vineyards is Squire Broel, an artist by trade (see Squire’s art here). I also owe Squire an enduring debt of gratitude for introducing me to the Colville Street Patisserie in Walla Walla, home of transcendent, life-altering pastries (I recently saw the sublime in a banana danish; no lie).

Okay, how did I end up on banana danish? This offering is running off the rails. Back on track!

So, Ali’s first vintage working with Foundry was 2011, which means it will be some time before we see her reds, but her first whites are out now, and they are something special: a pair of Chardonnays from a region she knows well from her Tranche days: the Columbia Gorge.

During a recent visit to Foundry, Ali and Squire revealed that both Chards will be receiving nice reviews from Paul Gregutt in the April Wine Enthusiast, so there’s a little more urgency than I had originally thought. These are micro-production, too: 77 cases of the stainless and 132 cases of the oaked. I special-ordered the wines across the mountains, and to the best of my knowledge, this is the first appearance of these wines in the Seattle market (perhaps first and only?).

What’s extra-cool about these wines is that they were picked from the same vineyard on the same day and treated the same, except: one was matured in stainless steel, the other in oak. While the temptation may be strong to go with the higher-scored wine, there’s a real educational opportunity in trying these two side-by-side. It’s a chance to cast off the shackles of wine fashion and decide for your own palate how you feel about the influence of oak on Chardonnay.

2011 Foundry Vineyards Chardonnay Stainless

Both of these wines come from White Salmon Vineyard, a small site in the Columbia Gorge. I have no idea why, but there is a small amount of Fernao Pires planted in this vineyard, and Ali co-fermented it (7% of the blend) with both Chardonnays (note: Foundry is calling this obscure Portuguese varietal by one of its many synonyms, Maria Gomes). Having never tasted Fernao Pires on its own, I can’t speak to its impact on these wines. All I can say is that they’re both awfully good. This stainless version is all about the fruit: layers of tree fruit, stone fruit, and some tropical nuance, all carried along by the electric acid from a cool vintage in a cool region (both wines clock in at 12.6% alc; typical for Chablis, less so for Washington).

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

2011 Foundry Vineyards Chardonnay Oak

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Note: this also contains 7% Fernao Pires. I was a bit more evenly split between the two than PaulG. I thought the oak added some lovely nuance of honeysuckle and smoke to that core of vibrant fruit. I also found this bottling to have a more overt leesy character, a sultry breadiness that adds a savory, almost earthy note to the fruit chorus. For me, you drink the stainless bottling for its fruit purity, the oaked for its balanced complexity. There is a time and a place for both, to be sure.

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles of Stainless and 12 bottles of Oak, 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 spring shipping window.


Two French Sparkling Wines

March 28, 2013

Sodo Restaurant UPDATE: Many times over the years, our list members picking up wine on Thursdays have asked us where they can go to eat nearby, and we haven’t had much of an answer. That all changed this week, and I’m pleased to announce that our next door neighbors at Epic Ales have opened Gastropod, a tiny 25-seat gastropub. They’re open from 4pm-10pm Tuesday-Saturday, and I’d highly recommend stopping by before or after picking up wine from Full Pull.

Cody Morris’s beers have always been exceptional. I poked my head in yesterday and snapped a quick picture of the beer list. You can see from that list that Cody’s brewing with mushrooms, beets, and curry powder, to name a few of his more exotic ideas. These are beers for wine lovers, without question. Travis Kukull is behind the food menu, which is short, focused, seasonal, and made to pair with Cody’s beers.

These guys have been great neighbors, and I hope our list members will show them lots of support as they get their new venture off the ground.
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Hello friends. Today we have the latest in our popular Cremant series. Here’s the introduction to that series, excerpted from our first Cremant offering:

Sparkling wine is emotional currency in my house.

When Full Pull started back in 2009, my wife and I developed a simple agreement. Her responsibility: supply several years of steady income and health insurance. My responsibility: keep at least a case of sparkling wine on hand at all times.

I’m not kidding.

We have an auxiliary wine rack for just such a purpose. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture.

Our cat even likes sparkling wine. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture.

Sparkling wine is a serious matter. A sparkling wine was the first-ever Full Pull offering. And so you can imagine the struggle we faced while Full Pull was PacNW-only to find good sparkling wine possibilities.

You can also imagine my elation at being able to cover our list in bubbles from around the world once we expanded into imports. And a good place to return again and again is a category that frequently winds up in our home auxiliary wine rack: Cremant.

A Cremant is a French sparkling wine made in a region that is *not* Champagne. Now please don’t misunderstand: I love Champagne. But this series focuses on value, and Cremants provide exceptional value.

NV J. Laurens Cremant de Limoux

A lot of Cremant de Limoux (from the Languedoc in southwest France) really sucks. My experience is that the bottles that are predominantly Mauzac are boring when they’re not openly bad. I try to seek out producers that use predominantly Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, and that’s the case with J. Laurens.

This is wild quality for the price, easily confused with a non-vintage entry-level Champagne. A nose of fresh bread, almond extract, and apple gives way to a complex, dark-fruited palate, full of earth and cherry and Russian black rye bread. The fineness of the bead, the intensity of the fruit, the overall complexity; all a rare treat at this tariff. I love this on its own, but it also makes a killer French 75 if you care to add gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Don’t blame me if your friends won’t leave.

NV Marc Plouzeau “Perles Fines” Touraine

Okay, you got me: this is not actually labeled Cremant, although I suspect it could be labeled Cremant de Loire if Plouzeau chose to. This is 100% Cabernet Franc from Touraine, from a producer better known for his lovely Chinons, and it spent enough time on skins to give it a lovely rosé color.

A floral, citrusy nose of acacia and pineapple leads into a bone-dry palate full of mineral character and apple fruit. There’s something almost flinty about the palate, reminiscent of Chablis. Despite the “Perles Fines” name, this has more aggressive bead than the Laurens. Because it’s less delicate, it’s also a more versatile wine for food pairing. I’d drink this with salads, a good roasted chicken, and, of course, breakfast.

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

 


2007 Olsen Estates Heritage Syrah

March 27, 2013

Hello friends. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we bought every single bottle of every single Olsen Estates wine remaining in Washington and Oregon. We still have a few small lots on the extras shelf at the warehouse, and we also have some remaining bottles of the 2009 Merlot offered on March 11 (I’ll include a reorder link for that one at the bottom of this offering).

Today let’s jump into another large lot:

Heritage Syrah was Olsen’s flagship wine. Released at $45, it was a selection of the best five barrels from the best vineyards, and it was small production, at 120 cases. The classy bottle design was completely different from the rest of the Olsen lineup.

As it turned out, this wine was destined to live for only two vintages: 2007 and 2008. The Olsen folks submitted the 2008 vintage to Wine Spectator, and Harvey Steiman responded with a strong review and a 93pt score. That review easily depleted the 2008, but since the 2007 was never submitted to Spectator for review, it languished. And languished. Until it was offered to us.

Now six years past vintage (perfect timing!) and from the wonderful 2007 vintage, it should come as no surprise that this wine is in a sweet spot right now. The aromatics combine coffee/cocoa-dusted bacon with brambly raspberries and blueberries. On the palate, the fruit is still remarkably fresh and primary considering the wine’s age. That time in bottle has sanded down any rough edges this wine once had. What remains is a plush, silky mouthful of rich blackberry fruit and mocha, with lovely Yakima Valley meaty highlights. It’s a serious, supple bottle of Washington Syrah, the finest that the Olsens grew and bottled in 2007.

Please limit order requests to 12 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.


2010 Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf-du-Pape

March 26, 2013

Hello friends. Chateauneuf-du-Pape continues to be our most oft-requested category of import wine, and today we have a beauty: a well-reviewed 2010 at as low a tariff as I can find in the country:

Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “($75); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95+pts.”

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

The Rhone Report (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 97pts.”

Domaine Charvin was founded in 1851, and for the first 140 years, the Charvin family sold all the fruit they grew. It was prized by some of the best negociants in the Rhone, including Marcel Guigal, and in 1990, the fifth generation (Gereard Charvin) and sixth generation (Laurent) decided to inaugurate an estate-bottled program.

They own eight hectares in Chateauneuf, and half of their vineyard material they still sell. Their vines average 50 years old, with the oldest exceeding 70 years, and it remains a small domaine, producing about 2500 cases per vintage. Done in concrete with some whole clusters, this 2010 is beautifully complex on the nose, with black raspberry (fruit and bramble) dusted with garrigue and lifted by lovely, floral, cherry-blossom notes. The palate is surprisingly dark-fruited for Grenache, with black plum and black raspberry, and there is a wild brambliness and a hot-rock minerality to this that I found compelling. This is not a shy CdP at 15% alcohol, but it’s well-balanced, deep, and long.

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 spring shipping window.


Three from Maison Bleue

March 25, 2013

Hello friends. Maison Bleue is as hot a winery as there is in Washington right now, and from a glance at my inbox over the past few weeks, many of you are chomping at the bit for the new releases of their 2011 vintage reds. As an appetizer to that main course, we have today a new 2011 white, as well as reorder opportunities for a popular pink and a red.

2011 Maison Bleue Viognier “Notre Vie” Arthur’s Vineyard

This lovely, aromatic, balanced Viognier from a small DenHoed-farmed vineyard in the Yakima Valley is a delightful example of the vibrant, cool, low-alc (13.3%) 2011 vintage. It already has strong reviews from the locals:

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

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

And then I’ve learned that the April issue of Wine Enthusiast will contain one of Paul Gregutt’s strongest reviews of 2013:

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

Yikes.

This wine has not even made it over the mountains yet. We’ll be special-ordering the first parcel to hit Seattle, so we should have access to a decent amount, even though production on this is quite small (190 cases).

2011 Maison Bleue Rose “La Famille”

Originally offered on April 15, 2012. While many 2012 rosé releases are right around the corner, it’s a treat to taste this Mourvedre-dominant, austere, acid-driven beauty with a year of bottle age. Like many of the best Bandol rosés, this one seems to be improving with a few months of age.

My original tasting notes: I first tasted this at a rosé tasting held at the warehouse of Maison Bleue’s Seattle distributor. 80% of the wines being poured were old-world, and when you moved to new-world section, the change was stark. Many of the new-world rosés were richer, plumper, fuller, higher in alcohol: a recipe for exactly what I’m *not* looking for in rosé. Jon’s rosé was a clear exception: austere, bone-dry, refreshing, and low in alcohol… It’s a pale salmon-orange color, with a spicy, grapey, garrigue-dusted nose. The grapes were picked nice and early, with low Brix that translate to 12.5% finished alcohol and loads of zingy acid. Malolactic conversion and lees-stirring adds some texture, but this is unmistakably grownup rosé, glorying in its mineral austerity.

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

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

The Rhone Report (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

2010 Maison Bleue Grenache “Le Midi” Boushey Vineyard

Originally offered on August 13, 2012. This was the only 2010 red left in Seattle, and I bought out all the remaining bottles (not very much).

My original tasting notes: 100% Grenache, all from Boushey, this spent just shy of a year in three-to-four-year old French barrels. Jon nails the Grenache holy trinity of brambly-berry fruit, leafy brush, and white pepper, and this could easily be confused with something from the southern Rhone, a nice Vacqueyras perhaps. It possesses a profound sense of balance, always a good indicator of a lengthy life ahead.

This too already had strong reviews from Jeb Dunnuck and Rand Sealey, and this too is getting a rapturous review from PaulG in the April Wine Enthusiast:

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

For the Viognier and Rose, first come first served up to 12 bottles each. The Le Midi is extremely limited, so please limit order requests to 2 bottles, 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 spring shipping window.


2010 Leonetti Reserve

March 24, 2013

Hello friends. We have had a busy March, with many new members added to the Full Pull list. Because of that, I’m going to try to reoffer some of the most popular wines from the past year that are still available. For list newbies, it’s a chance to access some old list favorites. For longer-term members, it’s a bonus reorder opportunity.

We’ll begin today with one of the most decorated wines produced in Washington each year:

Originally offered on February 12, 2013. Excerpts from original offering:

Today we have one of our annual Full Pull rites: our offering of Leonetti’s new releases. Deep in the grey-black gloom of February, it’s a bud pushing through cold earth: a clear indication that spring is on the ascendancy. It’s one of my favorite offerings to write each year. After all, it isn’t every day that you get to write about the grand dame of the Walla Walla Valley, the founding winery in that AVA that quickly became one of Washington’s few cult producers.

Founded in 1978 by Gary Figgins, Leonetti rapidly established a reputation as one of Washington’s top Cabernet and Merlot producers, helped along by their 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon being recognized as best in nation in a Wine & Spirits Magazine blind tasting. Brisk mailing list sales followed, and soon thereafter, the mailing list closed and the waiting list opened.

Currently it’s the second generation helming the winery, in the form of Chris Figgins. Chris has subtly shifted the emphasis of the winery towards its estate vineyards in the past few years, and the results have been outstanding. I have also been lucky enough to taste vintages of Leonetti wines from the ‘80s and ‘90s, as well as plenty of more recent vintages. These are wines that can age in profoundly beautiful directions (if you can resist their youthful charms). The transition to Leonetti’s second generation is just about complete, and the future for this Mt. Rushmore-level Washington winery looks bright indeed.

While they had produced Reserve Cabernets before 2000, it was at the millennial turn that Leonetti dropped the varietal designation on their Reserve, freeing them to create a Bordeaux blend in whatever proportions would craft the finest wine possible. In 2010, that blend is 52% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, rounded out with 9% each Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Vineyards include Leonetti’s estate Mill Creek Upland, Loess, and Old Block vineyards, along with fruit from Seven Hills. No reviews yet for the 2010, but the 2008 received 97pts Jay Miller (Wine Advocate), 96pts Gregutt (also a spot on Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Cellar Selections of 2011), and the 2009 95pts David Schildknecht (Wine Adovcate), as well as 94pts Gregutt and Tanzer.

Winery tasting notes: “Very dark wine. Compared to the beautiful 2010 Cabernet, this has an even more floral dominated and very ethereal aromatic nose. Whiffs of raspberries, black berries, ripe black Bing cherries – reminiscent of a stove top reduction of fruit cheesecake topping. Incredible purity of fruit. Wine just makes me smile when it hits the palate as it is so loaded with glycerin and a gentle power. Fruit is SO present, yet SO restrained. Ripe and lovely. All wound up in a perfectly balanced package of fruit, acid, tannin, plushness, power and length. 20 years from now I would not be surprised if I looked back at this wine as the finest achievement of my career due to its sheer longevity of drinking pleasure.”

Please limit order requests to 6 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 spring shipping window.


2009 Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon Discovery Vineyard

March 22, 2013

Hello friends.

“I believe that an individual piece of property can form a signature.”

“I believe that if Washington is ever to be considered a great wine region we need to establish the characteristics of our geographical areas and the characteristics of each vineyard in those areas.”

“We are trying to let the vineyards reveal themselves.”

What those three quotes all have in common: they are all from Chris Camarda of Andrew Will Winery, and they all speak to a wine worldview that emphasizes expression of place as paramount.

Chris Camarda is one of Washington’s terroir champions, and so when a new vineyard ascends to the white-label, single-vineyard program, it’s reason to celebrate.

The white labels have been the same since 2006: Ciel du Cheval, Two Blondes, Champoux, and Sorella (which is old-block Champoux). But no longer.

Discovery Vineyard is going to be a name you’ll want to remember. It’s as buzzy a Cabernet site as I can think of in Washington. To determine important newer vineyards, you need only follow the fruit. Who is buying Discovery fruit? Andrew Will (duh). Adams Bench (many thanks to Tim Blue for first introducing me to Discovery fruit more than three years ago). Oh, and a little winery named Quilceda Creek.

The vineyard is in the heart of the Horse Heaven Hills (location here), on a sloping bluff high above the Columbia (here’s a picture from the site). Horse Heaven is arguably the finest AVA in Washington for growing Cabernet Sauvignon (I say arguably because Red Mountain could submit a compelling case as well). The main climatic characteristics of the area are that it’s warm and windy. The warmth helps to ensure consistent ripening from year to year (important for late-ripening Cabernet), and the wind thickens up the grape skins, which leads to strong tannin structure in the finished wines. Geologically, it’s an area that was repeatedly hammered by the Missoula floods, which left gravel bars and weird flood sediments all over the place, topped by a layer of sandy loess.

Champoux Vineyard is without question the most famous site in the AVA (and perhaps the entire state), and Paul Champoux himself helped owners Milo and Kay May plant Discovery in 2004. He remains involved with vineyard management at a consulting/mentoring level. Discovery is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Syrah and Petit Verdot planted as well.

Chris Camarda’s single-vineyard bottlings for Andrew Will almost always contain Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Because neither of the latter two are planted at Discovery, this is that rare beast: a white-label Andrew Will that is 100% varietal.

An oft-repeated saw in the wine trade is: “Pinot tastes like where it was grown. Cab tastes like Cab.” But just because we say it a lot doesn’t make it true. I defy you to taste this 100% Cabernet and not experience a sense of terroir. This doesn’t just taste like Cab; it tastes like Horse Heaven. And for me, that means a deep graphitic core, a minerally/pencil-lead note that just won’t quit (it’s that strong mineral/earth character that is prized in Champoux fruit as well). This is a dark, brooding bottle, with the blackest cassis fruit, asphalt, and black espresso. The depth of character, the palate coating quality: very impressive indeed for vines this young. It picks up a head of steam in the mid-palate and powers through a long, chewy finish; very Horse Heaven Cabernet.

This is a tiny production run for Andrew Will (just 198 cases), so I can’t speak to this wine’s availability on reorder. For now, please limit order requests to 12 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 spring shipping window.