2014 Leonetti Spring Release

Hello friends. 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.

Now, a quick logistics reminder: This is a pre-release offering, where I’m sending the offering before I know my allocations. Using this model allows us to advocate on behalf of our list for allocations that most accurately reflect our overall demand. The flip side is: some pre-release offerings turn out to be mirage wines: wines where we end up receiving smaller-than-expected allocations and then need to under-allocate.

As far as timing goes, we should be able to send out allocation notices in about a month (orders will remain Pending until then), and the wines should arrive at the warehouse in late March. Now let’s dig into them:

2012 Leonetti Merlot

First produced in 1981, this Merlot (with 8% Cab, 6% Cab Franc, 1% Petit Verdot) now comes from Leonetti’s estate Mill Creek Upland and Loess and Old Block Vineyards, rounded out with fruit from the old block at Seven Hills. No reviews yet for the 2012, but the 2008 received 96pts Paul Gregutt (Wine Enthusiast), the 2009 94pts Gregutt, the 2010 95pts Gregutt, the 2011 93pts Gregutt.

Winery tasting notes: “The 2012 Merlot is one of my favorite vintages for Merlot – ranking along ‘08, ‘05, and ‘98. The wine is dark and saturated. In the glass, the wine explodes with an ethereal, complex nose of cinnamon, plum, pomegranate, clove, and a hint of spring pine forest. On the palate, the wine has delicious fresh ripe fruit, reminiscent of berry pie filling. Incredible richness but with a stunning levity that lifts. A dead ringer for some of the finest Pomerol I have ever tasted. Quite simply an incredibly sexy, hedonistic wine.”

2011 Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon

First produced in Leonetti’s inaugural vintage – 1978 – this 2011 marks the 34th consecutive vintage of Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon. This comes from Mill Creek Upland Estate Vineyard, Loess Estate Vineyard, and Seven Hills Vineyard old block. The blend includes 10% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Malbec. No reviews yet for the 2011, but the 2008 received 98pts Gregutt (and the #3 position on Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 of 2011) and 94pts Stephen Tanzer (Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar), the 2009 97pts Gregutt, and the 2010 97+pts Jeb Dunnuck (Wine Advocate) and 95(+?)pts Tanzer.

Winery tasting notes: “Poured initially out of the bottle, the ‘11 Cab presents dark black fruit, cedar, and classic Left bank Bordeaux nose of fruit, saddle leather, and earth. It’s sizably masculine mouthfeel has great length. Sweet fruit and gorgeously balanced. I think this wine has amazing cellaring capabilities and will reward the patient drinker.”

2011 Leonetti Sangiovese

Introduced in 1995, with average vine age of about 17 years, this is lower-production, with levels usually at about one quarter of the Cabernet. Sourced from Mill Creek Upland (one of Leonetti’s estate sites) along with Seven Hills, this has 13% Syrah blended in and is aged for 20 months in a combination of new French oak puncheons and neutral French oak botti. No reviews yet for the 2011, but the 2009 received 94pts Gregutt and the 2010 93(+?)pts Tanzer and 93pts Gregutt.

Winery tasting notes: “Beautiful ruby color. Lovely nose of tart cherry, fresh crushed strawberries, lanolin and mixed spring florals. Its deeply satisfyingly rich palette somehow defies the vintage and is balanced by a deft streak of acid and ultra fine-grained soft tannin. The harmonious flavors linger forever on the palate. I believe this wine is closest in style to a fine vintage Brunello we’ve accomplished.”

2011 Leonetti Reserve

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 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Merlot, rounded out with 7% each Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Vineyards again include Mill Creek Upland, Loess, and Seven Hills, along with Leonetti Old Block. No reviews yet for the 2011, but the 2008 received 97pts Jay Miller (Wine Advocate) and 96pts Gregutt (also a spot on Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Cellar Selections of 2011), the 2009 95pts David Schildknecht (Wine Adovcate) and 94pts Gregutt and Tanzer, the 2010 a game-changing/eye-popping 100pts Jeb Dunnuck (Wine Adovcate), as well as 95pts Gregutt.

Winery tasting notes: “Dark, saturated, and gorgeous. Intoxicating nose of fresh flowers, dark red fruit, and a glorious citrus note – which we are rarely able to capture in our wines. There is also a tiny sprinkling of cedar shavings, Crème de cassis, and crushed blackcurrant. Unbelievably vibrant and focused. I’m just in love with this wine. Palate is plush and long with a core of sweetness. Respecting the coolness of the vintage, the acidity is deliciously bright and the tannin low.”

Please limit order requests to 12 Cabernet, 6 Merlot, 6 Reserve, and 2 Sangiovese, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. I want to emphasize again that we have no guaranteed allocations on these wines but will certainly do our best to secure parcels that reflect the overall demand of our list. If all goes according to schedule, the wines should arrive at the warehouse in late March (orders will remain Pending until then), and at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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