2007 Full Pull & Friends Cabernet Sauvignon Redux

December 22, 2013

Hello friends. Let’s begin today with logistics. This will be our final offer of 2013, and we will not be visiting your inboxes again until January 6. As for pickups, we are CLOSED for the next two weeks, and our first TPU pickup day in 2014 will be on Thursday, January 9.

Now, with that out of the way, onto the message I like to send out at the end of each year, which is: I believe that the day-to-day rhythms of our jobs are adept liars. And the main lie they tell is: we’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.

2013 was a wild year for Full Pull. We experienced considerably more PR this year than in our previous years combined. That helped contribute to terrific growth, which led us to move to a new warehouse space. Having more space allowed us to chase after a long-held dream, to pursue private label/negociant projects under our new Full Pull & Friends label (more on that below, and more to come in 2014).

It was a year of steadfast progress, of happy growth. I want to thank all of you for inviting us into your inboxes and your dining rooms. As I’ve said numerous times, 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. Full Pull’s mission is simple – to facilitate happiness – and your stories help underscore that we’re fighting the good fight to succeed at that mission.

I also want to thank you for continuing to spread the word about Full Pull to other wine-lovers. The most common answer, when we ask list newbies picking their wine up for the first time where they heard about Full Pull, is from another list member. That’s a point of pride for our entire team, and we’re deeply appreciative.

Now, long time list members know that we like to include an excerpt of Tennyson’s In Memoriam in our final offer of the year. Each time I come upon these stanzas at the end of a year, I find myself moved beyond measure. The poem 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:
I thought we’d keep this last offer simple this year. I’ve been thrilled with the response to the Full Pull & Friends offer from October, and now that many of our list members have actually had a chance to taste the wine, I’d like to offer an opportunity for reorders:

Originally offered October 27, 2013. Excerpts from original offer:

This is our first private label/negociant bottling, a wine that will be available exclusively to our list members. While it’s a new project for us, it’s certainly not a new concept. For generations, merchant-negociants in Europe, in addition to buying finished bottles, have purchased juice and/or grapes for their own labels. And closer to home, I’ve been inspired by the outstanding wine that McCarthy & Schiering puts out under their own label, as well as the terrific ded.reckoning labels from Doug Charles at Compass Wines.

This is an idea that has been germinating for some time now, because every time I’m in northwest wine country, I’m tasting not just finished bottles but plenty of juice from barrel as well. The problem, until recently, was that we simply didn’t meet the volume requirements necessary to commit to a full barrel, or two barrels, or three or four.

Which brings us to the first reason that we’re calling the label “Full Pull & Friends.” The reason is: we couldn’t have done this without our wonderful list members. It’s your support of this venture that has brought us to the point where we could even consider a project like this.

The other set of friends are our winery partners (a special note of thanks here to Trey Busch, who was very patient in explaining the economics and logistics of negociant bottling over multiple conversations). I suspect this will not be our last FP&F bottling (in fact, for our winemaker friends on the mailing list, please consider this your official RFP; Full Pull is in the market for compelling juice), and I expect that in some cases, we’ll include the name of the winery involved, and in others (like today’s offer) we won’t.

I understand the wineries that don’t want their names revealed. They have brand equity to protect, and they don’t want to see their name splashed on a bottle that costs less than half of their own. What I can say is: my plan is to only work with wineries that are already popular with our list members, wineries with whom Full Pull has a long relationship. For example, consider our winery partner for today’s offer. We first started working with them in early 2010, and we’ve offered a grand total of 28 of their wines.

Now a quick word on the label. One advantage with a wine that never has to sit on a retail shelf is that we were able to be completely abstract with the design of the front label (many thanks to Nick Peyton for the design work there). As for what it looks like, well, you’ll just have to wait and see. I also want to note that it was important to me to include “Full Pull” on the label. This is juice that we believe in, that we *want* to put our name on, that we feel represents extraordinary value for our list members.

It is Cabernet Sauvignon from perhaps the best vintage of the past decade in Washington, and it spent about two years in French oak, about two-thirds new. The fruit comes from outstanding vineyards: three of the brilliant sites managed by Kent Waliser and Derek Way for Sagemoor Farms (Bacchus, Dionysus, Weinbau), along with a bit of fruit from Stillwater Creek. To give a sense of the quality of these sites for Cabernet, Bacchus and Dionysus are vineyards that John Abbott uses for Abeja’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon program, among the very best bottles of Cab produced in Washington.

I’ll start with the end of my tasting note from when I first tasted this back in the spring. It reads: “killer 20-year balanced Cab.” There were some exclamation points and stars, too, I’m lightly-chagrined to admit. But I was wowed. For me, it drank more like wines that we taste regularly in the $50+ range, and I firmly believe that you could cellar this for 10-20 years if you wanted to.

On the other hand, why wait? We’re already six years past vintage (and what a vintage it was: the glorious 2007), and this brings plenty of pleasure right now. It opens with a classic four-corners Cabernet nose: fruit (deep cassis and blackberry), earth (good clean soil), herb (tarragon, beetroot) and barrel (cocoa powder). In the mouth it’s a textural marvel, with depth, intensity, and a real palate-staining character. There’s delicious fruit, and silty minerals, and the whole package is just so fresh still, with minty top-notes and big ripe grape-skin tannins.

We also have a review for this wine. During my autumn Walla Walla trip, I asked our winery partner to pour this wine for Sean Sullivan out of a shiner (an unlabeled bottle), and I didn’t reveal what it was until he had already written a full review. To his credit, Sean wanted to be extra careful here, so he also asked for another sample bottle from the finished, labeled stash to bag up and slip into one of his blind tastings of multiple Washington Cabernets. He has been kind enough to share this pre-publication review here:

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

First come first served with no upper limit, and the wine is in the warehouse and ready for pickup in the new year or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

The year’s end is always a reminder to me that it’s a dream job, this: writing about wine for people who care. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to do so, and my wish is that our wines can continue to bring the same happiness to you that this endeavor brings to me. Here’s to a year light on sorrows and heavy on joys. Happy holidays, happy new year, and onwards to 2014.

Two 2007s from Tamarack

December 18, 2013

Hello friends. Sometimes we’re good, and sometimes we’re lucky. Today is the latter. Let me explain, by recounting a few days in the wine trade.

Day 1
I’m doing one of my regular end-of-year tasks, which is to go through wines I loved during the year that we never offered, and figuring out whether they’re potential candidates for one of next year’s offers. High on that list is a series of single-vineyard reserve bottlings from Tamarack, all 2009 vintage wines that I tasted with Ron Coleman back in August. I inquire about the availability of these wines, which leads to this:

RON: The 09 Reserves will be released in April.
PAUL: In that case, do you have any inventory remaining for previous vintages of any of the reserves? Any 08s or 07s still kicking around?
RON: Funny you should ask… Somehow when we rolled over to 08 there were a few cases of 07 left at Tiger. Specifically there are [REDACTED] cases Ciel Du Cheval and [REDACTED] cases of Sagemoor. If interested, you are welcome to them.

I am (duh) interested, and ask if we can grab a quick turnaround on samples.

Day 2
Ron ships out a sample bottle of each wine.

Day 3
UPS delivers the samples. I let the wines settle down for several hours (I know, remarkable patience, right?), and then crack them.

Beauty ensues. I ask if we can purchase all the bottles sitting at Tiger, and I ask how quickly we can get the wines into the warehouse. The answers: yes, and Wednesday.

Day 4
Writing day! Picture lots of coffee, lots of adjectives.

Day 5
Today. Since we were able to get the wines in here so quickly, I figure why not offer them today, so that folks picking up during our last pickup days on Thursday and Saturday have some good potential last-minute gifts. These are beautiful, wax-sealed bottles of glorious, prime-drinking wine. Like I said, we’re lucky.

2007 Tamarack Cellars Sagemoor Vineyard Reserve

A blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, the remainder evenly split between Merlot and Cab Franc, this is a beauty, offering a nose of cherry and dried strawberry fruit swaddled by nutty pecan barrel notes and wisps of smoke. The palate is a terrific mix of earth and fruit, throwing enough sediment to underscore that this wine is now almost seven years past vintage. It’s in a charming spot texturally, the tannins present and hefty but softening nicely. A wonderful rendition of this bottling from the old-vine material at Sagemoor, and from a vintage widely considered the best of the past decade.

This was one of few bottles to receive a strong score from David Schildknecht during his brief tenure covering Washington for Wine Advocate (a 93pt review from Schildknecht is a strong review indeed): Wine Advocate (David Schildknecht): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

2007 Tamarack Cellars Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Reserve

Equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (36% each), rounded out with Cabernet Franc, this is a classic example of a Red Mountain stalwart. If the Sagemoor bottle is more about soil, this Ciel is more about overt minerality, its iron minerals mixing with black cherry fruit and dried redcurrant. In the mouth, the complexity ramps up further, adding citrus pith bitters and leafy notes. Autumnal, crepuscular, this presents terrific grip and chew on a back-end that lingers on and on. For lovers of the grace and elegance of Ciel du Cheval, this cannot be missed.

Wine & Spirits (Patrick Comiskey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of Ciel and 6 bottles of Sagemoor, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive later today and be available for pickup on Thursday and Saturday (our final pickup days of 2013) or thereafter, and shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2010 Domaine de la Renjarde Cotes du Rhone Villages Massif d’Uchaux

December 17, 2013

Hello friends. I’m not sure which is more confusing: Cotes du Rhone, or Cotes du Rhone Villages. With CdR, the confusion stems from breadth. A CdR can come from a broad swath of the Rhone Valley. It can be mostly Grenache (often), mostly Syrah (sometimes), mostly Mourvedre (rarely). Quality is all over the map.

Then there’s CdR Villages. Wines can just be labeled Cotes du Rhone Villages, which means they come from land generally considered to be a step up from Cotes du Rhone. Another step up the ladder, there are the Cotes du Rhone Villages that have a named village appended. This both increases and reduces confusion. Increases because there are a full *eighteen* named villages currently allowed, and, I mean, really, I can barely remember what I did eighteen minutes ago. And decreases because it drastically narrows the piece of land that we’re looking at, and we can start to identify which villages are more interesting than others.

One of the most recently added villages is Massif d’Uchaux, and it’s also one of the most compelling. Why? Because it’s as close a named village as we have to Chateauneuf-du-Pape. So today we present a Massif d’Uchaux from the lovely 2010 vintage, a veritable baby Chateauneuf:

This was one of those wines where I tasted it, loved it, and then had to scramble for the research to understand why it’s as good as it is. Now that I understand Massif d’Uchaux’s location (right here, just north of Chateauneuf-du-Pape), it begins to make sense.

It was also one of those situations where we had to make a go/no-go decision quickly. The importer was down to the last parcel of 2010 (a heralded vintage), about to roll into the (less heralded) 2011. Obviously, since you’re reading this, the decision was “go.” We grabbed the entire remainder of the 2010, so this is now sold out in western Washington. It was a large enough parcel for an offer, but only barely.

Renjarde (specifically located here) has its roots in Chataeuneuf. It is owned by the Richard family, proprietors of the outstanding Chateauneuf producer Chateau La Nerthe, as well as Prieure de Montezargues in Tavel. The vineyard is more than 40 years old, majority Grenache rounded out with Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Carignan.

In 2010, the blend is 55% Grenache, 23% Syrah, 12% Carignan, and 10% Cinsault, and it was fermented and aged in a combination of concrete and stainless steel, so there’s no oak influence here whatsoever. It presents a lovely, swirling stew of brambly raspberry fruit, hot rock minerality, rose petals, and dusty garrigue. And if you think that profile sounds very much like Chateauneuf-du-Pape, you would be correct. It’s an old saw in the wine trade that confusion breeds value. Let’s give thanks today, then, that CdR Villages is as confusing as it is, because this is a terrific value.

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 next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Two from aMaurice Cellars

December 16, 2013

Hello friends. Quick note on timing first, since I know that’s important this time of year. We expect this wine to be delivered on Wednesday, so it should be available for each of our two remaining pickup days in 2013.

Now, one of the more dazzling lineups to come out of the cooler 2010 vintage in Washington was that of Anna Schafer for aMaurice. We offered her Boushey Vineyard Grenache back in July of this year, and it became a real hit with our list members. I’ll include a reoffer at the bottom today, and we’ll also dive back into Anna’s lineup of 2010s, which have subsequently received some lovely critical praise as well.

2010 aMaurice Cellars “The Graves” (BDX Blend)

The Graves is the latest Bordeaux-style blend (46/31/23 Cab/Merlot/Cab Franc) bottled under aMaurice’s Artist Series label (Anna was an art history major, and these labels are consistently gorgeous; here is the 2010). Over the past few years, this bottling – and the aMaurice portfolio in general – has developed a coherent house style: high-pitched and perfumed, silky and elegant.

It helps that Anna continues to work with some of the finest fruit grown in the state. This comes from old vines (1972 and 1985-planted) at Bacchus, Dionysus, Weinbau, and Gamache vineyards. It sees two years in French oak, 40% new, and it begins with lovely floral notes – lilac, cherry blossom, violet – overlaying black cherry fruit. In the mouth, this remains perfumed, with pollen-dusted red fruit gliding across the palate on a bed of fine tannins. The texture is precisely managed, with the silken-fruited middle rolling into a dusty/leafy tannin finish. This kind of high-toned, floral take on Bordeaux varietals is rare in Washington. I think we’re all more accustomed to the darker, more brooding versions, but that only makes this stand out that much more.

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

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

2010 aMaurice Cellars Malbec Gamache Vineyard

Anna is an old hand with Washington Malbec, and in my mind, it’s the bottling that put aMaurice on the map. After several vintages working Malbec harvests in Argentina with Paul Hobbs of Vina Cobos, Anna released her first vintage of Washington Malbec (2005). That wine inspired Stephen Tanzer to declare it “certainly one of the finest malbecs I’ve tasted to date from North America.” High praise indeed, from a critic not prone to high praise. Since then, Anna’s Malbecs have only continued to improve, culminating with this lovely 2010, which comes entirely from Gamache Vineyard.

It is inky purple to the eye, a total glass-stainer where even the bubbles are purple. No problem with color extraction here. Actually, make that no problem with any type of extraction period. This is a big, rich, fruity mouthful of Malbec, all rocks and boysenberries. My note called the wine “a reverse mullet: party up front, business in the back.” What I meant (I think) is that the attack and middle are driven by all that robust Malbec fruit and ferrous mineral, but as it moves into the finish, it gets more serious, picking up structure and heft, the chewy tannins redolent of dark flowers. Always one of the most fascinating Malbecs to come out of Washington.

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive on Wednesday, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2011 OS Winery Red Wine

December 15, 2013

Hello friends. For every tasting on the calendar the past few weeks, my message to the folks pouring has been the same: we’re tasting now for potential January 2014 offers. And I meant it.

But one wine that I tasted last week has made me a liar, a wine where the end of my tasting note reads “underpriced by a long shot”:

We’ve offered several previous vintages of this wine, which now has a huge following among our list members. When it’s on, it’s really on, presenting some of the best value juice produced in Washington. And in 2011: It. Is. On.

Paul Gregutt called it out in a recent post from his outstanding blog: PaulGregutt.com (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].”

This bodes well for a strong future review in Wine Enthusiast, but I think we should jump in pre-publication, don’t you?

The OS Red Wine is made from declassified barrels from the higher-end OS Bordeaux blends (e.g. R3, BSH, Ulysses), and in 2011 it’s 64% Merlot and 36% Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery doesn’t release specific vineyard sources for the Red, but it doesn’t take much sleuthing to figure the likely suspects: Sheridan, Klipsun, Champoux, Ciel de Cheval, Dineen, and Meek, to name a few. It spent about two years in French oak, one-third new.

The nose begins with a core of black cherry fruit, lifted by high-toned subtleties of violet and dustings of cocoa powder. In the mouth, the fruit quality is immediately evident – beautiful Cabernet blackcurrant and Merlot black cherry – but that’s only the beginning. There are notes of bay leaf, of silty mineral, of smoky barrel. It drinks like it must have come from barrels originally intended for the higher-end bottles. The palate is really dominated by Cabernet despite its lower percentage, rolling into a finish hefty and toothsome in turn with its chewy English breakfast tannins. This is an elegant, pretty mouthful of wine, offering layers of polish and class rarely seen at this tariff. An outstanding rendition of this well-loved bottling.

Just in case anyone needs a last minute holiday party wine, let’s open it up: first come first served up to 60 bottles, and the wine should arrive Wednesday, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Two from Woodward Canyon

December 13, 2013

Hello friends. Two new releases today from a Mt. Rushmore level Washington winery, a model of consistent excellence: the inimitable Woodward Canyon.

2012 Woodward Canyon Chardonnay

Woodward’s bottling is benchmark Washington Chardonnay, from the yin-yang vineyards of cooler Celilo, in the Columbia Gorge, and Woodward’s warmer Estate Vineyard, in the northern part of the Walla Walla Valley. Much of Rick Small’s focus and interest in the last few years has been in the estate vineyards, and that has paid clear dividends in this Chardonnay, which contains a full 71% estate fruit. When I visited the site, all I saw was a small vineyard surrounded by a sea of wheat-fields in every direction. You can see it on our vineyard map, too; there aren’t many other vineyards in this area.

This is outstanding Chardonnay, luxuriating in a return to a normal vintage after the cooler 2010 and 2011. I love the full, rich, creamy texture, but the fruit is never overblown, displaying lovely restraint to the peach, plantain, and lemon curd flavors. Woodward’s Chardonnay consistently supplies mineral and leesy complexities to complement that fruit, and that’s certainly the case here. Long and powerful, this cries out for rich fare to complement. I had doodles of crabs and lobsters next to my tasting note, and those would match well with the full texture and the cleansing lemon-drop acids.

No review yet from Paul Gregutt (Wine Enthusiast) for this vintage, but it’s worth noting the track record, with each of the previous four vintages receiving strong (93-96pt) reviews.

2011 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series

For the second vintage running, Artist Series sees a sizeable chunk of Champoux fruit that usually ends up in Old Vines. Here it takes a plurality, at 30% of the blend, rounded out with fruit from Canoe Ridge (29%), Sagemoor (18%), Woodward Estate (12%), Hedges (6%), and 1-2% dollops of a few other sites. 2011 was a tough year for a few of Woodward’s sites, due to both the 2010 Thanksgiving freeze and the cooler 2011 vintage, and subsequently, this is a low-yield year for Artist Series.

It’s a full 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it shows, with a solid core of crème de cassis fruit, swaddled in barrel notes of woodsmoke and coffee, along with Champoux’s signature graphite/pencil-lead mineral tones. In the mouth, I immediately admired how this visits all the highlights of a cooler Cabernet vintage: beetroot, bay leaf, black olive. There is blackcurrant and blackberry fruit of course, but it’s merely a component of a complex overall blend. The finishing tannins (well-managed as always) are redolent of star anise and black tea, just lovely. I’ve been lucky enough to taste some Woodward Cabernets from the cooler 1999 vintage, and my oh my, if that’s any indication of what Woodward produces in cool vintages, this should have a fascinating decade or two ahead of it.

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive on Wednesday, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2011 Proper Syrah

December 11, 2013

Hello friends. I feel like a broken record, but the same intro for Monday’s VdP offer applies here: Today we have an encore to one of our most popular wines of the year:

We first offered the 2010 vintage of Proper Syrah in September 2012, where I mentioned that the term “baby Cayuse” came to mind. We proceeded to reoffer it again in November ’12, March ’13, and July ’13, amidst strong reviews from Sean Sullivan, Rand Sealey, and Jeb Dunnuck, before it finally sold out. We still get reorder requests that we have to zero out; the wine was that popular.

Now I really feel for David Houle and Conor McCluskey, the two partners involved in Proper. Great admirers of Christophe’s work at Cayuse, they jumped at the chance to purchase a cherry orchard around the corner from Cayuse Vineyards. In 2007, the cherries went out, and the vines went in (all Syrah). They built great momentum with outstanding harvests in 2009 and 2010, and then.

Then came the Thanksgiving freeze of 2010, which knocked out their entire vineyard for the 2011 vintage. They’ll be back with estate fruit for the 2012 and 2013 vintages (both of which went fine), but for 2011, here’s what the winery had to say:

“For the 2011 growing season we chose to focus our energy on helping our young vineyard recoup from the stressful freeze rather than farm it to produce a crop for winemaking. Fortunately we were able to procure fruit from another vineyard in the rocks, just a ‘stone’s throw’ from our estate property.”

Oh the mystery! Which vineyard is it? I’m not sure. Even if you assume “stone’s throw” is a hint, about 80% of vineyards in the rocks have “stone” or “rock” in the name, so that’s not very helpful. [One important note: this has nothing to do with Nefarious Cellars’ estate Stone’s Throw Vineyard, a Riesling site in the mouth of the Methow Valley.]

Whichever neighbor they purchased from, they chose wisely, because the rocks signature is present for certain, with its savory/funky mix of bacon fat, green olive, and boysenberry fruit. It’s lighter, in both color and body, than the 2010, clearly coming from a cool vintage. Pretty nifty to see a low-alc (13.8% listed) expression of rocks Syrah. The flavor character (briny olives, meatiness, blue/black fruits) is all there, but texturally, this is more ethereal, all lightness and grace. It picks up weight with longer oxygen exposure, so drop it in the decanter if you’re looking for more heft, or just enjoy it for what it is: an honest expression of cool-vintage rocks Syrah.

Unlike last vintage, there will almost certainly be no reoffers. We’ve already received the only shipment we’re going to get, and it’s about (gulp) 20% of the overall amount of the 2010 vintage ordered by our list members. I’m going to set the upper limit for order requests to 4 bottles, but allocations may end up maxing out at more like 1-2 bottles; it’s hard to gauge how much pent-up interest there is in Proper. Regardless, we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests, and the wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.