Two from Cavatappi

Hello friends. We have offered many Cavatappi wines since Full Pull’s inception, and that’s no accident. It’s a terrific fit for our model: a 27-year-old Washington winery that few have heard of, started by a former Italian restaurateur and focusing on Italian varietals.

Although Peter Dow’s project has been around for more than 25 years, this is still an insider winery. Cavatappi flies under the radar in large part because their wines are much more likely to show up in restaurants than at retail. And perhaps that makes sense, since Cavatappi’s origins are deeply tied to the restaurant world.

Back in 1984, Peter Dow was the chef/owner of Cafe Juanita, a Kirkland restaurant featuring the cuisine of Northern Italy. After visiting the region himself, Peter was inspired by the number of restaurants in the Piedmont that were making their own house wine, and so he set about developing a winery in the cellar of his restaurant. Because there were so few of the Italian varietals planted in Washington at the time, Peter also had to develop partnerships with growers to put those vines into the ground (growers like Dick Boushey of Boushey Vineyard and Mike Sauer of Red Willow).

In its early years, Cavatappi sold all its wine through Cafe Juanita, but over time, they began allocating small portions of the wine for sales purposes. Most of that went to restaurants, as chefs and sommeliers quickly recognized that Peter was making wine intended for drinking with food. By 2000, Peter had sold Cafe Juanita (it remains a well-loved restaurant in Kirkland), but Cavatappi lives on, with much of its production still landing on restaurant wine lists.

Today we have new vintages of the two flagship wines, one named for each of Peter’s daughters:

2008 Cavatappi Sangiovese “Molly’s Cuvee”

What a treat: Sangiovese at six years past vintage from two of the shining stars of the Yakima Valley: Boushey and Red Willow.

There’s never much new wood used here, so it’s the rich Sangio fruit on display, beginning with a nose of plum, star anise, golden raisin, and dried cherries, those last two giving some sense that this is a wine in the process of shedding youthful baby fat. On the palate, this is a big, rich mouthful, mixing dried black cherry fruit, fig, and espresso. Despite all the rich fruit, there’s something insistently earthy to this, and the finishing lick of tannin is redolent of angostura bitters, a perfect complement to the lovely fruit. Time in bottle has whittled away any rough edges from this wine’s youth. It’s drinking great right now.

2006 Cavatappi Nebbiolo “Maddalena” Red Willow Vineyard

Here is a real rarity: new-world Nebbiolo. While it’s impossible to replicate the fog of the Piedmont, Red Willow Vineyard has proven adept at producing a Nebbiolo that can at least be confused with a Langhe Nebbiolo, if not one of the big guns (Barolo, Barbaresco). Peter and Mike Sauer (the grower at Red Willow) did bury a bottle of Barolo beneath the vineyard block before planting it in 1984. Perhaps their juju was successful.

Right away, they’ve succeeded with the tar-and-roses nose of classic Nebbiolo, here intermingled with dried cherries, dried flowers, and tea leaves. As food wines go, there’s nothing like Nebbiolo, with its big citrus-pith acids and even bigger tannins. This is chewy, earthy, leathery; just calling out for a hearty Piemontese meal. It’s about as far from a cocktail wine as you can get, and it is an impressive version of a grape that rarely succeeds outside its ancestral home.

First come first served up to 12 bottles of each wine, and 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.

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