Hello friends. This is one of those difficult offers to write, because we have so little of the wine that the less said the better, but the project is so exciting that it’s hard to resist going on at length. I’ll try to split the difference:
First things first. Before going any further, give serious consideration to heading over to the Delmas website and joining their mailing/waiting list. This is an extremely exciting new project coming out of the Walla Walla rocks, and I fully expect them to wind up selling most or all of their wine through their list, a la Cayuse and Reynvaan.
What makes Delmas exciting is that this is the estate winery for SJR Vineyard. Now, SJR first came onto my radar back in 2011, when Sean Boyd from Rotie Cellars put a solid chunk of Syrah from this site into his 2009 Northern. You know, the one that ended up at #7 on Sean Sullivan’s Top 100 for Seattle Met Magazine that year, with an attached 94pt review? At the time, SJR vineyard was on its third leaf (planted in 2007), and it was clear then that the fruit quality was outrageous, especially for such young vines.
You can always judge the quality of a vineyard by who is working with the fruit. And over the next few years, Steve Robertson of SJR sold fruit to exactly three wineries: Rotie, Rasa, and Gramercy. That is a murderer’s row of Syrah producers right there.
And at the time, I also started hearing about Delmas, which was keeping some of their fruit for a three-year “soft release.” They made 45 cases of 2010 vintage, 45 cases of 2011. I inquired after both, and in both cases, there was only enough wine to sell to friends, family, and mailing list members.
Then, in summer 2013, I got the chance to meet Steve in person and walk the rows at SJR. Unfortunately, my best picture from that trip has my fat fingers all over it, but you still get the idea: this is squarely in the rocks. And on that front, it’s also worth noting that Steve has been one of the real champions of applying to the TTB for approval of a new sub-AVA within the Walla Walla Valley: The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater (for more details on this, see Sean Sullivan’s excellent writeup).
That meeting led to more conversations and eventually an agreement that Full Pull would receive a small allocation of 2012 vintage (only 75 cases were produced) and the potential for larger allocations as production increases in future years. As far as I know, the only other account in Seattle to receive an allocation are our colleagues at McCarthy & Schiering, and if we have to under-allocate, as I expect we will, it’s worth reaching out to them, or directly to Steve, to see if more wine is available.
There’s more to say about the viticulture – which going forward will prominently feature Steve’s daughter Brooke, who has been cutting her viticulture teeth in a small California region called the Napa Valley – but this is already getting sneaky long, so let’s instead focus briefly on the winemaking. Delmas has chosen Billo Naravane from Rasa Vineyards as their consulting winemaker, and what a joy it is to see Billo – who is a Rhone savant – working with rocks fruit. Here’s what the always-eloquent Billo has to say about the site: “SJR Vineyard produces Syrah with an amazing sense of terroir; there is a haunting earthiness and minerality that is present in all of the wines from this vineyard. The resulting wines have that rare combination of elegance, finesse, and power without heaviness. SJR Vineyard is a site that truly has something spectacular to say.”
The vineyard (located here, at the far southwestern edge of the rocks) is 9.6 acres, of which 7.9 are planted, mostly to Syrah (5.9 acres) and then an acre each of Grenache and Viognier. That Viognier is a solid 7.5% of this 2012 Syrah, cofermented, and the whole thing is aged for 18 months in 60% new/40% neutral French oak. This vintage clocks in at a reasonable 14% listed alc. The Viognier is obvious on the (extremely expressive) nose, adding soaring floral topnotes of violet and lavender to the only-in-the-rocks core of grilled meat, truffle, black olive, black pepper, and oh yeah, some lovely blue fruit as well. That wickedly complex nose transitions into a mouthful that is rich and savory but also lifted by terrific inner mouth perfume. Mouthfeel management is beautiful here (par for the course when it comes to Billo’s winemaking). It’s supple all the way, with length and intensity to spare. For lovers of funky, savory Syrah; for lovers of the rocks, this is not a bottle to be missed.
Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: ***** (Exceptional).”
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