Three from Maison Bleue

August 30, 2013

Hello friends. Our reorder traffic for the latest round of Maison Bleue releases has been picking up steam lately, and Rand Sealey just released a new set of reviews for all three wines. All of that makes me think it’s time for a late-summer reoffer of these beauties. Each of these has a role to play as we move from summer into autumn, and each would be a fine early selection for the Thanksgiving table. (Yes, I start thinking of Thanksgiving in August. Of course I do! It’s our most food-and-wine-centered national holiday, after all.)

2012 Maison Bleue Rose “La Famille”

Originally offered on June 19, 2013. Original notes: Jon debuted his all-Mourvedre Rosé last year with the 2011 vintage, and it was a huge success. Now he’s back with the sophomore effort and smartly hasn’t changed much. This is still 100% Mourvedre, 100% Olsen Vineyard; still whole-cluster pressed into stainless steel; still picked specifically for Rosé, which you can see by the lovely 12.5% alcohol. Really the only thing that’s changed is the vintage. 2012 was decidedly warmer than 2011, so this has a plumper mid-palate whereas the 2011 was all nervy acid. The nose is a mix of creamy strawberries and earthy/herbal nuance. It’s dry, medium-bodied, and austerely-fruited; much more about crushed rock and leather spice than overt fruit, although there is a lovely plummy character that keeps things from being too lean-and-mean.

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

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

2012 Maison Bleue “Jaja White”

Originally offered on June 10, 2013. Original notes: Rhone-style white wines are an emerging hot category in Washington, limited at this point mostly because there aren’t that many vines in the ground. Unsurprisingly, Dick Boushey was at the forefront of planting these varietals in Washington, and the majority of this blend comes from Boushey Vineyard (50% Marsanne, 18% Grenache Blanc, 9% Picpoul). The remainder (23% Roussanne) comes from another Yakima Valley site: Dutchman Vineyard (farmed by the Den Hoed brothers). All of the fruit was harvested on the same day (October 19), and so it was all able to be co-fermented together, after which it was raised in a combination of half three-year-old barrels and half stainless steel. These are cooler sites, so even in a warmer vintage like 2012, the finished alcohol comes in at a moderate 13.4%, and the acidity is fresh and beautiful. To fatten up the texture, Jon Meuret put this through full malolactic fermentation and employed regular lees-stirring. The result is a marvel, beginning with the nose, which is a stone-fruit circus (peach pit, apricot, pluot) mixed with lovely nuances of white flower, raw almond, and chalky mineral. The palate contains textural richness, and also plenty of vibrancy, with tangerine acids keeping things lively. A good example of why this category is gaining traction so quickly.

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

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

2011 Maison Bleue “Jaja Red” (Rhone Blend)

Originally offered on June 2, 2013. Original notes: This Jaja is no ordinary Jaja. It would more properly be called “Super Jaja.” Or even better: “Baby Graviere.” The big news to share with this offering is that there will be no Graviere in 2011. Here’s winemaker Jon Meuret: “[Jaja] contains all of the declassified fruit that is usually destined for the highly touted Graviere… Some say that I could have left it separated; I wasn’t comfortable with that decision. You will find some similarities when comparing the 2011 Jaja with past vintages of Graviere, but I will let you be the judge.”

Without question, this drinks more like previous vintages of Graviere than like previous vintages of Jaja and immediately enters the conversation for one of the top values of the year from Washington. Along with fruit from Graviere’s source (Upland Vineyard), this also contains Boushey, Olsen, and Arthur’s Vineyard fruit. It’s 43% Syrah, 35% Mourvedre, and 22% Grenache, all raised in older (three-to-five year old) barrels. It starts with a nose that sings out notes of freshness, all crushed rock and a bowlful of mixed berries, overlain with minty topnotes. It smells extremely appetizing; you just want to get this wine into your mouth. And when you do, you get all the purity and freshness and youthful berry vibrancy we’ve come to expect from Jaja, but this time with extra depth and layering, complexities of mineral and meat and brine that cement this wine’s title as Baby Graviere.

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

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

First come first served up to 72 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 Animale Petite Sirah

August 28, 2013

Hello friends. Today we have the return of a wine that has been around since the beginning of Full Pull’s existence. We offered the 2007 vintage during our third week in business, then followed it up with the 2008 and the 2009 in subsequent years. And today we have the 2010, marking the fourth year in our burgeoning vertical of a unique Washington wine:

Let me start by saying that in no way does my affinity for this wine spring from the fact that the cat on the label is a ringer for our cat (and official Full Pull mascot) Smoke Bomb. Now, with that covered…

Matt Gubitosa is the winemaker here, and Animale is a nano-boutique, shoehorned into the basement of Matt’s Ballard home. He has a day job with the EPA, and after years of home winemaking, he started Animale in 2001 by convincing a group of wine enthusiasts to fund his startup costs by investing in futures. They paid Matt cash up front for the rights to the first five vintages of Animale wines, and most of them re-upped when their term expired in 2007.

Petite Sirah is the flagship wine for Animale, if a flagship wine can have a production level of 35 cases. Matt’s house style is, in many ways, a love affair with grape-skin tannins, and his attraction to Petite Sirah begins there. It is a grape with tiny berries and a naturally high skin-to-juice ratio; perfect for Matt’s style.

The only problem was that very little Petite Sirah is planted in Washington (the grape has a cult following in California). Matt solved that by partnering with the McIntire family to plant PS in the Yakima Valley (location here). It is just over half an acre of rocky soil that accumulates enough heat to please thermophilic Petite Sirah.

Looking at the alcohol levels of Matt’s Petite Sirahs over the years is a window into a winemaker who lets each vintage express itself correctly. The summer of 2007 was warm, and his 07 Petite Sirah came in at 14.7% alcohol. The 2008 vintage was cooler: 13.5% alcohol. Then 14.4% in 2009, and now back to 13.7% in the cooler 2010. It paints a picture of a winemaker who is picking on flavor development and not aiming for any specific Brix level.

The aromatics come spilling up out of the glass, with all the exotic allure that makes Petite Sirah lovers swoon. This is a deep dark nose, with dark flowers (violets) mixing with black fruits (blackberry, blackcurrant) and lashings of cracked black pepper. There’s a wildness to the aromatics, too, a sauvage character difficult to capture with aromatic adjectives. In the mouth, let’s talk about texture first. The watchwords are purity and freshness. Flavors see a core of mineral-inflected marionberry and blackberry fruit, pepper-dusted and overlain with flower blossoms. It’s a wine with plenty of length and sneaky tannic power. Toothsome, chewy, delicious: a fine alternative for any of us stuck in a Cabernet rut.

Of course, with 35-case production, our allocations are limited. Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2009 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva

August 26, 2013

Hello friends. The Gambero Rosso’s “Vini d’Italia” guide, published each year, is the most influential wine review publication in Italy. To give you an idea of its scope, its most recent guide evaluated around 20,000 wines, using a two-step process: first, a series of blind tastings in the region of origin; then, a final round of tastings at Gambero Rosso’s headquarters in Rome.

The review scale is simple, reminiscent of Michelin stars, but with glasses (bicchieri) in place of stars. Wines are either unrated, or receive one glass (good), two glasses (very good), or three glasses (extraordinary). Last year, a mere 400 wines (2% of those evaluated) received the coveted “tre bicchieri” review.

As you’d imagine, about half come from the big three of Tuscany, Piedmont, and Veneto, and as you’d imagine, the price points for many of those wines are quite high.

Today, I thought we’d go in a different direction: the lowest-priced winner of the Tre Bicchieri:

Someone in the wine trade told me that this would be akin to Michelin awarding three stars to a really good burger joint. That’s likely a bit of an exaggeration, but the fact remains: this is a fine value from southern Italy.

It has been a good summer for us on the value-imports side. We’ve had two from France (Lou Ven Tou and Les Capucins) and one from Spain (Fabla Old-Vine Garnacha). Now we can add Italy, and in truth, this is more of an autumn-into-winter wine, but there’s certainly enough rustic pleasure to crack a bottle with a late-summer BBQ if you’re so inclined.

The timing here is fortuitous. Since I just covered Puglia in my ongoing preparations for my January WSET exam, I can geek out a little more than average on this area and can tell you, for example, from my notes, that the soils are a “calcerous base overlain with by rich iron oxide topsoils.” Or I can tell you that Puglia is not exactly a region known for quality. In fact, less than 25% of Puglia wine makes it into bottled wine. The rest: steeped with herbs and turned into vermouth or worse, distilled into some throat-scorching Italian spirit.

Furthermore, only 2% of overall production in Puglia (the heel of the boot, as you can see here) is DOC quality. The nice thing about a region with a humble reputation: it depresses pricing, and that’s how we get a wine from Salice Salentino DOC (the star sub-region of Puglia) that takes home the Tre Bicchieri at such an accessible tariff.

The grape in this part of the world is Negroamaro. It’s a variety that needs a serious amount of heat to ripen (in that part of the world, it’s known as the late ripener, while Primitivo/Zinfandel is the *early* ripener. yikes.), and if it doesn’t get ripe enough, its name (which translates to Blackbitter) starts to make sense. Fortunately, sun-soaked Puglia gets plenty of heat units.

This Cantele begins with a nose of deep, earthy, black fruit, with lovely spiced-meat/charcuterie nuance. That earthiness really shines, with a great mineral/silty character. The palate continues the earth-driven black fruits, and by the time we hit the mid-palate, the chewy tannins are already taking over. It’s the bottled version of a sunny Puglian summer, all joyful rusticity. For those of us with Italian-inflected palates, who appreciate a dash of bitters to go with our richer flavors, this is a killer, rolling into a chewy finish, redolent of black tea leaves and Aperol. Deep, intense, and unabashedly Italian, it deserves every Bicchieri it got.

First come first served up to 12 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.

2007 Canoe Ridge Merlot Reserve Estate Block 13

August 25, 2013

Hello friends. Today we have another in our continuing exploration of the dusty cellars at Canoe Ridge. Excerpting from our offering of 2006 Cabernet back in May:

A series of coincidences (Full Pull offering the Waitsburg Cellars wines; an old friend changing jobs to work there) has led recently to multiple conversations with the folks at Precept Wines. One of those conversations was short and sweet:

“Would you be interested in some of the older vintages of Canoe Ridge wines?”

“Um, yes.”

This is a Washington winery/vineyard with a rich history that fell on hard times, and is hopefully now in the process of bring resuscitated by Precept. The Chalone Wine Group (out of California) partnered with a number of Washington investors in 1989 to plant Canoe Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. When the vines came online in 1994, Canoe Ridge Winery was formed.

It was a launching pad for many a successful winemaking career in Washington. Luminaries such as John Abbott (Abeja) and Kendall Mix (Corliss, Goose Ridge) plied their trade at Canoe Ridge and helped establish the winery’s reputation for soulful Cabs and Merlots.

But in 2004, Chalone was bought out by Diageo (a gigantor wine company based out of London), and that’s where things went south for awhile. As you’d suspect, Diageo was focused more on their new California holdings. Canoe Ridge was like Deep Space Nine: out on the frontier, nearly forgotten (and next to a wormhole?).

You can imagine the scene when Precept purchased the brand in 2011 and started exploring the winery cellars. I envision folks walking around with candelabras and blowing dust off old bottles, but the reality was probably considerably less exciting, involving considerably more fluorescent lighting. Regardless, there were buried treasures to be found, and Precept, eager to turn the page on the Diageo chapter of Canoe Ridge’s history, is looking to unload those treasures.

Enter Full Pull.

This wine, from the epic 2007 vintage in Washington, was $35 on release. Now, six years past vintage and entering peak drinking, we can offer it for a fraction of that.

The winemaker at Canoe Ridge in 2007 was Christophe Paubert, who has since moved on to man the winemaking helm at Stags’ Leap. This bottle comes from Block 13, among the oldest blocks of the vineyard (located here). It is a fine example of what gets folks so excited about Washington Merlot; namely the combination of stuffing, structure, and ageworthiness that is near-impossible to find outside of good right-bank Bordeaux.

This starts with a lovely nose of plum, dried cherry, and leather/cedar spice. The dried fruit and spice notes indicate a wine that is beginning to reveal some of its tertiary secrets. Lovely. Then we move onto the palate, which still has plenty of good fruit (dried cherry, redcurrant) mixed with Kahlua/espresso notes and earthy notes reminiscent of good clean soil. It’s very Merlot in its lush, cherry-fruited mid-palate, but it’s sneakily Cabernet-like as it rolls into its chewy, black-tea finish. Clearly this is Merlot for grown-ups, with depth, complexity, and seductive tannic power.

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 Rotie Cellars “Homage” (Rhone Blend)

August 22, 2013

Hello friends. After our huge support for the VdP offering back in April, Sean Boyd has seen fit to release another Rotie club-member wine to our list members:

Jeb Dunnuck covered eleven different wines from Rotie in his first set of Washington reviews for Wine Advocate. It was an impressive set of reviews, with all eleven garnering 90pts or higher. But none was better reviewed than Homage:

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

The name and the wine style seem clearly meant to evoke the wines of Bandol, the old world capital of Mourvedre. Here in the new world, we still get Mourvedre’s lovely mix of game, spice, and mineral, but we also get lush, ripe fruit: plums and marionberries and orange peel. There is a salinity here that ramped up the savory character, and the tannins are fine-grained, redolent of black tea and leather spice. It’s a textural marvel, this one, combining plenty of glycerin character with a juicy sense of vibrancy. Among the strongest examples of Washington Mourvedre I can think of.

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

2009 OS Winery “BSH” Cabernet Sauvignon

August 20, 2013

Hello friends. I’ve always had a soft spot for OS Winery. The first bottle I had was the 2003 OS Ulysses, and I consumed most of it in the sauna at The Sleeping Lady in Leavenworth (Washington’s Bavarian paradise!).

(Let me pause here and say that, among the worst possible places to consume a big red wine, a sauna has to be in the top five. Drinking wine while shvitzing is a *terrible* idea that I have not repeated since.)

Rob Sullivan (the ‘S’ in OS) was among the first to review the Full Pull business plan back when this venture was a glimmer in my eye. An OS wine (2004 Ulysses) was the fifth wine we ever offered through Full Pull, way back on October 14, 2009.

Back in those days, BSH (which officially stands for the initials of Rob’s grandson and unofficially stands for BrickShitHouse) retailed for $38. Today we’re able to offer it for considerably less:

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

OS has been going through some changes recently. Bill Owen (the ‘O’) is no longer with OS, and beginning with the 2013 harvest, Scott Greer of Sheridan Vineyard will be the consulting winemaker. OS sources a good amount of fruit from Sheridan, so this seems like a good fit going forward.

For now, though, we have access to a lovely bottle of 2009 Cabernet, at a tariff rarely seen for the vineyards involved: Champoux, Ciel de Cheval, Sheridan, Klipsun, Dineen. There’s 15% Cabernet Franc and 8% Merlot in the mix as well, and it starts with a deep nose of crème de cassis and black cherry. The palate sees densely packed layers of fruit – berry, cherry, even suggestions of stone fruit like peach and nectarine – surrounded by wonderful graphite minerality and a dusting of high-cacao chocolate. There’s savory beetroot here, barrel nuance of espresso; the list goes on. It’s a complex beauty, and in the fleshy 2009 vintage – which has produced plenty of dullards – it’s a real standout, unusual for its seriousness, its structure, its depth of character. I expect it will continue to unfurl beautifully in the coming years.

I doubt we’re the only ones with access to this price drop, and at total production of 160 cases, I can’t imagine this will be around for long. But for now, let’s open it up: 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.

Two Syrahs from K Vintners

August 18, 2013

Hello friends. We’re fortunate to have dibs today on two rarities from the higher end of the K Vintners lineup that are about to hit Seattle. A few items of note:

1. Our list has first right of refusal on the tiny parcels coming into Seattle. If we want it all, we get it all. We need to place our order on Tuesday morning, so please try to get order requests in by Monday night. Given the quick turnaround, I had to made a go/no-go decision without sampling. Given the love for K Syrahs among our list members and the consistency of my experience with previous vintages, I’m confident that these wines will deliver the goods.

2. As usual with the K lineup, these wines have not yet been professionally reviewed. Unfortunately, the turnaround time for most publications just does not mesh with the speed of sales here. The most recent vintages of these wines to be reviewed are typically one or two vintages prior to the current release. I will include some of those recent-vintage reviews below.

3. I suspect we’ll have to under-allocate here, given the parcel sizes, so a quick reminder of our allocation technique: Our allocations favor breadth over depth, so that everyone gets one bottle before anyone gets two. And our formula for prioritizing allocations includes overall orders, frequency of orders, recency of orders, and list tenure, among other factors.

Now, onto the wines:

2011 K Vintners Syrah “The Beautiful”

K only releases The Beautiful in years where they can harvest Viognier with their Syrah and co-ferment the two. This is the sixth vintage of the wine (following versions in 2002, 03, 05, 09, and 10).

In 2011, they wound up with a full 5% Viognier in the mix, and all the fruit comes from River Rock Vineyard, a site in the rocks of the Walla Walla Valley planted in 2001. This gets ambient-yeast fermented with 50% stems and is then aged for a little over a year in Burgundy barrels (just 25% new). Alcohol is 13.5%, low by K Vintners standards but typical for the cooler vintage. Production was just 250 cases, so there’s very little of this to go around. Expect soaring floral aromatics from the Viognier, and a palate that mixes silky texture with the verve and power of funky, mineral-inflected fruit from the rocks.

Jeb Dunnuck has given 95pt reviews to each of the past two vintages: the 2009 when he was still writing for The Rhone Report, and then the 2010 in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. It will likely be sometime in 2014 that we start to see reviews for the 2011 vintage, and by then, hopefully our bottles are safely tucked away in our cellars or our bellies.

2009 K Vintners Syrah “The Hustler”

Even more rare than The Beautiful is The Hustler, which has only been made twice before – 2003 (97pts Wine Advocate; Jay Miller) and 2007 (96pts Wine Enthusiast; Paul Gregutt) – and only yielded 135 cases in 2009. It seems like Charles likes to make this in especially warm years, pick ultra-ripe fruit, and then tuck it away in barrel for several years.

It comes entirely from Morrison Lane Vineyard, the oldest commercial Syrah vines in the Walla Walla Valley (planted in 1994), and it spent three years in Burgundy barrels (40% new). If The Beautiful is about cool-vintage elegance, finesse, and floral grace, this is the polar opposite. The Hustler is about power, intensity, concentration. It clocks in at 15% alcohol, and we should expect the signature of Morrison Lane Syrah, which is dark dark dark: blackberry and black cherry fruit, tarry asphalt, dark-roasted meat, and pencil lead mineral.

Again, this one will be long gone before its reviews are published, but the track record is quite strong and this is a stylistic match to those previous vintages.

Please limit order requests to 4 bottles of each wine, 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 next temperature-appropriate shipping window.