Two From Seven Hills Winery

July 31, 2013

Hello friends. The 2010 releases from Seven Hills Winery are flying through the marketplace, spurred on by a series of positive reviews. Today we have one of their most popular bottlings: Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. Ever since Paul Gregutt’s review in the June Wine Enthusiast, it has been depleting rapidly. It’s down to just a handful of cases remaining in western Washington, so this will be a one-and-done offering. We’ll grab as much of the remainder as we can, but there will be no opportunities for reorder.

We’ll also include a reorder link for the Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon that we offered back in May. At the time, I grabbed a little extra parcel as a buffer. That one has since completely sold out in Seattle, but our extra little stash remains, so have at it, and when it’s gone, it’s gone!

2010 Seven Hills Winery Ciel du Cheval Vineyard (BDX Blend)

Seven Hills winery has become a Full Pull list favorite, based in large part 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 (location here), the grand dame of Red Mountain, and Casey is granted access to some of the oldest, 1970s-planted fruit in the vineyard. That old-vine depth is on fine display here, adding serious structure to a vineyard known best for its elegance. Many of the hallmarks of Ciel are here – the inveterate minerality, the dusty tannins, the citrus-pith complexities – and they all surround and complement the core of beautiful, spice-dusted redcurrant and red cherry fruit.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

2010 Seven Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Seven Hills Vineyard

Originally offered May 29, 2013.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “($45); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

Original notes: “That fruit is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from the old (1980s-planted) blocks at Seven Hills (location here), the queen of the Walla Walla Valley. Casey McClellan has been working with these grapes for a long time, and that comfort level shows. This is a confident, elegant expression of the vineyard through the prism of Cabernet: a mix of cherry and blackcurrant fruit, violet topnotes, and dusty earth, all wrapped up in a graceful, fine-tannin textural package. There’s no substitute for the depth of character that old vines bring, especially with Cabernet, where it shows itself in its concentration, its intensity, its ability to seamlessly wash over the palate.”

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of Ciel and 6 of 7H Cab, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The Ciel should arrive next week, and the 7H Cab is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


2009 Patit Creek “The Creek”

July 30, 2013

Hello friends. Among our most popular reorder targets of 2013 has been a wine that we offered towards the end of 2012: the 2009 Patit Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. Today we’re jumping back into the Patit Creek lineup with another fine value from the 2009 vintage:

My view of Patit Creek has completely changed with this 2009 vintage, and the biggest difference is that 2009 was the year when they hired a new winemaker: Joe Forest. Our list members will recognize that name, for the outstanding work Joe has done under his own Tempus Cellars label. He is a skilled winemaker who works with excellent fruit sources, and he has brought those fruit sources to bear on Patit Creek.

To wit: this blend comes from Pepperbridge (25%), Art Den Hoed (24%), Seven Hills (19%), Sagemoor (16%), and Cockburn (16%). These are not vineyard sources that typically appear in $15 bottles.

This is a kitchen sink blend – likely a combination of barrels (40% new oak) that didn’t fit stylistically into the remainder of the Patit Creek lineup – but it has a solid core of Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Merlot (30%), and those are the varietals that shine. A lovely nose of ripe fruit (cassis from the Cab, black cherry from the Merlot) is enhanced by earthy soil and mocha barrel notes. The palate is a rich stew of black cherry fruit, tea leaves, and black olive; impressive complexity for the tariff. It rolls across the mid-palate seamlessly, expanding into an espresso-laden, fine-tannin finish.

I see 09 as an early-drinking vintage. It’s fleshy, charming: ready to give up the goods in its youth. In other words: no need to cellar this one endlessly; it’s great on pop-and-pour, right now. First come first served up to 24 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


2010 G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso

July 26, 2013

Hello friends. Our offering of G.D. Vajra Barolo a month ago was a hit. We sold every single bottle allotted to us, and I’ve been zeroing out reorder requests in recent weeks. Several of our more astute readers noticed a line in that offering – “One of our wholesale partners has picked up the Vajra reins and will be direct-importing the portfolio into Seattle, and we’ll have access to several of the cherries…” – and have been inquiring about when we would see the next of the cherries.

Inquire no longer. Today is the day:

This is the entry-level bottling from Vajra, a joyous little concoction that is a total gateway drug into the greater Vajra lineup, and more generally into the red wines of the Piedmont. It’s the second Langhe Rosso we have offered. The first one (2011 Le Cantine di Indie Vino Rosso del Popolo) has been a frequent reorder target, which pleases me no end. The whole Langhe Rosso category is full of gems, if you can pry them away from the Italian countryside.

As I mentioned in that first Langhe Rosso offering, this is not a category that shows up too frequently outside of, well, the Langhe itself. We get plenty of exports of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto, bottled varietally. But the declassified blends of the three grapes, the ones that are vinified unfussily and well-loved by the locals for their food-friendly rusticity and early-drinking character and easy-on-the-wallet price? Those stay home. Mostly.

This version from Vajra ramps up the complexity, because along with the big three varieties mentioned above, it also contains Freisa and Pinot Nero. It starts with a nose of pie cherry, orange peel, and leafy tea notes. The palate has just the right amount of earthiness and mineral tang to balance the soft cherry fruit. There’s some tannic chew on the back end, likely from whatever Nebbiolo is in the mix, but it’s not nearly as hard as a young Barolo or Barbaresco, or even a young Langhe Nebbiolo. Instead, this is balanced, generous, beautifully approachable.

Some quick reminders on Vajra. This is the producer that Galloni heaps praise on (Wine Advocate | Antonio Galloni): “[TEXT WITHHELD].”

This is the producer that sadly disappeared from the Seattle market for several years. And this is the producer that’s now back, courtesy of our direct-import partners (that direct-import model also allows us to shave a few dollars off the normal release price of $16). Like the Barolo, this was another highlight of the sneak-preview tasting in June that happened while these parcels were still on the water. I loved this enough to lock up a sizeable chunk, as I think this is a killer summer-into-autumn wine, an approachable weekday-evening choice that I suspect will be well loved once our list members get their hands on it.

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive at the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


2011 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon “Lower East”

July 23, 2013

FP In The News UPDATE: Two recent items to share:

1) Full Pull will be included in the Puget Sound Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list for 2013, our second such honor this year, after the earlier inclusion in the Wine Enthusiast list. The PSBJ will profile each of the 40 in their September issue.

2) Through an odd, lucky set of circumstances, I had the pleasure of meeting journalist Christian Ford while harvesting oysters on a Bainbridge Island beach (yes, I spend my free time harvesting oysters; yes, I feel like a PacNW stereotype worthy of a Pemco ad). That chance meeting turned into one of the best, longest interviews of my career, and it led to this lovely article in Hogsalt, a journal about the preservation of food culture. If you’ve ever wondered about the origin of Full Pull’s name, or whether I’m more profane in person than in Full Pull offerings (hint: yes), please check it out.
—-
Hello friends. Today we have the latest release of a list-member darling, the gateway drug to the Gramercy Cellars portfolio:

This wine is a ghost (note: more this guy than this guy).

You won’t find it on Gramercy’s website. You won’t find it in Gramercy’s tasting room. You will rarely find it sold outside the Pac-NW. Lower East is a gift, from Greg Harrington to his local supporters.

Most of it goes to restaurants, a reflection of Greg’s sommelier history. It allows somms all over Seattle to place a Gramercy wine on their list for $50-$60, as opposed to the $90-$100 that the rest of the lineup commands. But some gets allocated to retail channels, and especially to long-term supporters of the Gramercy portfolio.

In 2011, Lower East combines younger-vine Cabernet plants from Gramercy’s estate Octave Vineyard (exciting!) with older vine fruit from Portteus and Two Blondes (Andrew Will’s estate site in the Yakima Valley). It spent 16 months in barrel, just 30% new (all French). Each year, I half expect Greg to discontinue Lower East and move everything up into the high-end Cabernets. Fortunately for us, that hasn’t happened yet.

The last two vintages of this (2010 and 2011) have been magic, the cooler vintages playing right into the stylistic hands of Greg Harrington. This clocks in at 13.2%-alc, and is reminiscent of the better Cabernets coming out of Washington in the late ‘90s, wines that are drinking beautifully 15 years later. Despite the relatively modest tariff, I wouldn’t be scared to hold this for 10-15 years too. Right now, it presents a beautifully-balanced cool-vintage wine, hitting on all four corners of Cabernet: fruit (blackcurrant and blackberry), earth (graphite and soil), herb (jalapeno, beetroot, bramble), and barrel (espresso). The texture is terrific: expressive of the cooler vintage with its juicy vibrancy, but still retaining an attractive suppleness. It’s a polished, charming wine, one that I found easily seductive. Like every vintage of Lower East so far, it punches well above its price class.

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive at the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


2009 Renzo Masi Chianti Riserva

July 20, 2013

Hello friends. We had already been considering today’s wine for an offering, because I thought it was a super-solid example of Chianti Riserva at its $16 release price.

Then two things happened that don’t frequently coincide: 1) the wine got a great review in the June 30 Wine Spectator, a review that makes it a strong contender for the year-end Top 100; and 2) the wine got a price drop for the month of July.

Please note that once we hit August, the tariff is set to return to its regular $15-$16 level, so while we may be able to fulfill reorders, they would likely be at the higher tag. For today, though, we have plenty of wine to play with at a very accessible price point:

Wine Spectator (Bruce Sanderson): “($16); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

Wine Spectator generally considers four factors for their Top 100 list: quality (score); value (release price); availability (cases made or imported); and the “X-factor.” That last one is qualitative, and therefore unmeasurable, but we can gather a lot from the first three factors. Looking at last year’s list, it doesn’t take long to find a comparable: 2010 Ch. De La Greffiere Macon-La Roche VV was #43 on the 2012 Top 100 list, and its stats were 91pts | $18 | 2000 cases imported.

Compare that to our offering today – 91pts | $16 | 7000 cases imported – and you’ll see that it is both less expensive and more available, which bodes well for its chances when we reach year’s end.

Looking through the archives, I was surprised to see that we’ve only offered one Chianti, and it was a kinda-expensive library bottle of 1995 Felsina. That’s crazy. Chianti is a terrific category for value hunting. You generally have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the princes, but that’s the whole Full Pull model: we kiss the frogs so you don’t have to. Still burdened by the halcyon days of swill-in-straw-baskets, Chianti is on the rebound in the US, but is still walking the line between fashionable and unfashionable. (Did you know, by the way, that the name for those straw baskets is “fiasco,” which means flask in Italian but which doubles as an accurate description of Chianti marketing in recent decades?)

Fashion or no, we all know that Chianti is one of the world’s beating hearts of Sangiovese. Today we’re in the Rufina subzone (see map here), one of the cooler, higher-altitude sections of Chianti, known for its clay and limestone-marl soils. This is a Riserva, which means it spent at least two years in oak before going into bottle. I loved the mix of smoky cherries and damp earth on the nose. The palate presents a deep, rich mix of black cherry, earth, and tar, with just enough Campari citrus-pith bitters to make sure you know you’re in Italy. There’s a beautiful earthiness to this, a real sense of rusticity, that I found deeply appealing. The depth of flavors, the chewiness of the black-tea tannins, the evolving complexity of flavors: all outstanding, especially at such a competitive tariff.

This could work as a summer BBQ wine (especially if you’re grilling steaks), and then will roll into autumn and winter and just keep getting better. For those of us who love Sangiovese, this is a real treat. Please limit order requests to 24 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive at the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Three from Lauren Ashton

July 17, 2013

Hello friends. Paging through Jeb Dunnuck’s first set of Washington reviews released on June 28, I was thrilled to see a series of positive reviews for Lauren Ashton Cellars. Kit Singh debuted the winery in 2012, and we offered a total of six Lauren Ashton wines last October and November. They already had a set of strong reviews from Paul Gregutt in Wine Enthusiast, and now we can add Jeb to the chorus singing the praises of this still-under-the-radar rising star.

Of course, Lauren Ashton won’t be under the radar for long. Along with all the positive critical prose, Kit is also about to hit a milestone when he opens a new tasting room in Woodinville in the old Cougar Crest space (14545 148th Ave NE, Suite 211; open Thursday-Sunday 1-5pm). Once those wines become accessible to the weekend wine-touring crowd, I’m afraid depletions will pick up significantly.

But for now, because of our early support of his venture, we’ve been offered access to one more shot at a handful of Kit’s best-reviewed bottles. I’ll direct you to our initial Lauren Ashton offering for the story behind Kit and his winery. For now, let’s dig into these bottles:

2009 Lauren Ashton Cellars “Cuvee Mirabelle” (Rhone Blend)

Originally offered on November 14, 2012. My original notes: “Tiny production (49 cases) of this 80/10/10 cofermented blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. It comes entirely from Red Haven Vineyard, a site between Col Solare and Hedges Estate on Red Mountain, and it sat in neutral oak for 30 months before bottling. The Red Mountain fruit is on fine display, with rich red raspberry fruit interplaying with meaty notes and dustings of white pepper.”

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($52); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

2009 Lauren Ashton Cellars “Cuvee Arlette” (BDX Blend)

Originally offered on November 14, 2012. My original notes: “Slightly higher production here, although at 116 cases, I don’t think we’ll be giving Kendall Jackson a run for their money anytime soon. Another single-vineyard wine from Red Haven, this is a Merlot-dominant (57%) blend, rounded out with all four of the remaining Bordeaux varietals. The aromatics spill out of the glass, a riot of black fruit, cocoa powder, marzipan, and pecan. On the palate, this is so well-coiffed, so perfectly-balanced; there is not a single element out of place. PaulG has it right below when he says ‘perfectly proportioned.’ I had the exact same phrase in my own notes. Red cherry fruit and mocha form the core, and there is enough power and density here to remind you that Merlot from Washington is something special indeed.”

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($50); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.” [Note: #22 in Paul Gregutt’s Top 100 list of 2012.]

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

2009 Lauren Ashton Cellars “Proprietor’s Cuvee” (BDX Blend)

Originally offered on October 12, 2012. My original notes: “All from Red Haven Vineyard, a fine spot on Red Mountain tucked between Col Solare and the Hedges properties, this is a BDX blend with Cabernet Sauvignon predominating (69%). Blackcurrant, blackberry, and graphite introduce a wine with a deep, dense core of Red Mountain minerals, with espresso and cases swirling around that core. Balanced and textural, deep and intense, this is a palate-staining mouthful of wine, finishing with refined tannins evocative of English breakfast tea.”

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($50); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

First come first served up to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


2010 aMaurice Cellars Grenache Boushey Vineyard

July 15, 2013

Hello friends. Part of succeeding in the wine trade is simply sticking around. As Full Pull has gotten older, we have developed long-term relationships with many of our winery partners. Our list’s support of their wines, year in and year out, makes winemakers happy. And happy winemakers tend to offer our list members interesting/hard-to-source/exclusive wines. Which makes our list members happy, which increases the support for those wineries. And so on and so on, round and round.

It’s self-reinforcing; a virtuous cycle.

Today is a fine example. I met with Anna Schafer last week to taste through her new 2010s for aMaurice. It was a dazzling lineup: a high-water mark for the winery. I’m sure we’ll explore many of the aMaurice 2010s, but for today, we’re just going to focus on one: an exclusive for Full Pull list members.

To date, this wine has only been sold direct through the winery door. No other retail placements, and not even a spot on a restaurant list. That may not last forever, but for now, we have dibs, and Anna only produced 100 cases of this, so it may only ever end up being offered through the winery and through Full Pull.

The pedigree is as good as it gets in Washington. Let’s start with the grower. Dick Boushey is an iconic vineyard manager, and winemakers scramble over one another trying to get to his fruit. Syrahs from his vineyards are legendary, and the new rising star is Grenache. Many of our list members have gone gaga over Grenache bottlings from Boushey like Maison Bleue’s Le Midi. Now we can add another stellar bottle to the small-but-burgeoning list of gorgeous Boushey Grenache.

Anna set aside four barrels of Boushey Grenache, all neutral. It’s the vineyard and the fruit that are on display here, and are they ever. There’s a core of plum and red raspberry fruit here, mingling with a piercing garrigue note, evocative of sunny slopes and broken sagebrush. Anna is developing a reputation for texture, and this is a good example of why. It’s rich, soft, super-silky, the plush tannins combed to a fine sheen. This stains the palate with its generous mix of red fruit, grilled herbs, and insistent hot-rock minerality. A fine example of why Boushey Grenache is developing a reputation to mirror Boushey Syrah.

Few have even tasted this bottle, but Sean Sullivan did, and he was kind enough to share a pre-publication review. Look for this soon on Washington Wine Report:

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($38); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: ***** (Exceptional).”

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive at the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.