2012 Mark Ryan BTR Cellars The Chief

September 29, 2014

Hello friends. One of the fun things we’re able to do on occasion is to gaze into our crystal ball and predict which northwest wines will end up on Wine Spectator’s year-end Top 100 list. Long-time list members know that our track record is pretty good on this front. Our most recent prediction was the 2010 Spring Valley Uriah. We offered it on November 1 of last year, and a few weeks later it landed at #27 on the 2013 list.

Today, courtesy of an advance review in last week’s Wine Spectator Insider, we have the chance to play the game again:

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Now when I look into our “crystal ball,” what I’m really doing is what any applied-math-major-turned-wine-retailer would do. A statistical analysis. Yes, that’s right. Flick me in the spectacle and call me nerd; I care not!

We have seven years of data on northwest wines that have landed on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 lists. And Spectator makes no secret of the four factors used to develop the list: quality (score); value (release price); availability (cases made or imported); and the “X-factor.” That last one is qualitative, and therefore unmeasurable, but we can gather a lot from the first three factors.

So when we look at The Chief, we see 92pts | $25 | 3000 cases. There have been two other Washington wines with that 92pts | $25 combo: 2006 Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, which landed at #33 on the 2009 list, and 2005 Amavi Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley, which landed at #42 on the 2008 list. Those had production levels of 3888 and 4910 cases, a bit higher than The Chief. But we could also look at 2004 DeLille D2 Columbia Valley, which landed at #70 on the 2007 list. That one was 92pts | $36 | 2600 cases, so The Chief is same quality, better value, better availability.

I’d say this one is close to a toss-up. Because I haven’t seen many other good Washington candidates yet this year, I’ll tip it into the positive column and put the odds at 60/40 that The Chief makes the list. If it does make the list, it will likely disappear instantly (nothing moves wine like a spot in Spectator’s Top 100). And the folks at the winery, when they brought me a sample, mentioned that their national distributors are all asking for pallets of this wine. They’re no fools, and neither are we!

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but this is yet another shining example of the quality of the 2012 vintage at reasonable price points. The Board Track Racer (BTR) label has been a great success for Mark Ryan, combining unused juice from the main label with purchased fruit when required. This particular bottle contains a good chunk of Mark Ryan juice from its younger vineyards (I know there’s some Phinny Hill juice here, as well as a newish site on Red Mountain), and it’s a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, clocking in at 14.6% listed alc. It’s a riot of Cabernet cassis and poblano tones, lifted by beautiful cherry-blossom floral notes. Intense on the attack, this palate-coating beauty rolls seamlessly across a plush mid-palate and into a grippy finish, all toothsome ripe tannins redolent of green tea. With loads of intensity and complexity for the price point, I’m not surprised Harvey Steiman was seduced, and I won’t be surprised if this ends up on Spectator’s year-end list.

First come first served up to 36 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.

Three from Nefarious

September 28, 2014

Hello friends. I hit a happy personal milestone this month as my first cover story for Seattle Magazine was published. It’s the Wine Country Getaways piece in the October issue, more of a travel article than a wine article really, and a lot of fun to research and write. We dragged the baby along on the trip, and there’s even a couple pictures of her in the Editor’s Note section of the magazine (one being held by Fidelitas winemaker Charlie Hoppes, another sitting in a car seat while I chat with Christian Grieb of Treveri Cellars).

I didn’t have any control over which winery the editors chose for the cover, but I couldn’t be happier with their choice. The picture is of Dean and Heather Neff, walking hand in hand up one of the rows of their estate Defiance Vineyard, up the hill towards their beautiful winery overlooking Lake Chelan. And, in a happy coincidence, we already had an offer lined up to feature this particular vineyard and this particular winery.

Let’s get oriented. This zoomed-out map shows what a geographic outlier the Lake Chelan AVA is. I mean, we’re a solid 100 miles north of the Wahluke Slope here. And then the zoomed-in map on Defiance Vineyard shows how tenuously the Neffs’ site clings to the gentle slope between the lake itself and the surrounding mountains.

Planted in 2005, Defiance Vineyard contains 4.5 acres of Syrah, 2 acres of Viognier, and a smidge of Malbec. The upper layer of soil is rich in volcanic pumice and ash from an eruption of Glacier Peak’s volcano 12,000 years ago. The lower layers, into which we can figure Defiance’s vines will be starting to root, are glacial debris and lake sediment: mica-rich cobbly, bouldery, gravelly, and coarse sandy soils. This is one of the most interesting, out-there terroirs in Washington, and – no surprise – we’ve featured Nefarious wines from Defiance on plenty of occasions. Today we have all three wines that come from this site, including one we’ve never before been able to offer:

2013 Nefarious Cellars Viognier Defiance Vineyard

Heather handles the white winemaking for Nefarious, and she has developed a lovely house style over the years: high-toned fruit, electric acidity, persistent minerality. This one clocks in at 13.4% listed alc despite the warm vintage, and it opens with a lovely Viognier nose of peach and ginger, honeysuckle florals and slate minerality. The palate possesses a beautiful balance of fleshy stone fruit with bright acidity and persistent Chelan minerality. The palate weight is perfect. It’s a characterful glass of Viognier, full of charm.

Judging by the absence of recent reviews, I suspect Heather and Dean have stopped submitting their wines for review, but it’s worth noting that this wine consistently received positive reviews from Paul Gregutt in Wine Enthusiast, peaking with a 92pt review of the 2011 vintage (the most recent vintage reviewed).

2012 Nefarious Cellars Syrah Defiance Vineyard

Syrah is a wonderful terroir prism, and this is a fascinating piece of terroir. That combination is on display here in this beautiful bottle of Chelan juice. It begins with a pure, singing nose of red fruit (cherry and raspberry) married to violet topnotes and silty mineral tones. The palate is all about the texture, with real suppleness to the creamy fruit (14.8% listed alc) that hums seamlessly across the palate. The fruit has a crepuscular leafy character that is appealing, and it slinks into a finish that just gets darker and darker, the last licks all espresso and dark earth.

2012 Nefarious Cellars Malbec Defiance Vineyard

For most of its life, this has been a wine club wine, and to be honest, until recently I didn’t even know the Neffs had planted Malbec at Defiance. There’s still not much of it, and the winery is all sold out. They’ve held back a small parcel for us, but we only get one shot at it. After that, they’ll sell the remainder direct through the winery.

It clocks in at 14.6% and is super dark, a glass-staining inky purple so deep in tone that even its bubbles are purple. The exotic, attractive nose combines marionberry and guava fruit with graphite notes. And no surprise: in the mouth this is a total palate-staining beast. The fruit character is so pure, wild, untamed. This is a seriously intense wine, with concentration and density to spare. The finish is long and mouthwatering, the overall package deeply appealing. Washington Malbec is a niche category to be sure, but this is one of the finer examples I’ve tasted.


For the Viognier and Syrah, first come first served up to 12 bottles each. For the Malbec, please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. All the wines should arrive in a few weeks, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Three from Waitsburg

September 26, 2014

Hello friends. We’re back today with the second vintage of Paul Gregutt’s collaboration with Precept: the charming wines of Waitsburg Cellars. This is a winery that came out of the gates strong, with a well-received lineup that moved quickly, especially after Harvey Steiman of Wine Spectator came out with a series of positive reviews for the lineup.

Many of you know PaulG from his wonderful wine writing and reviewing over the years. Jumping into wine production is a newer venture, and it came about after the principals at Precept offered Paul a tantalizing proposal: the chance to design and create a series of wines, using the vineyard and production resources of Precept? That’s pretty close to a dream gig for any of us who taste wine and write about it for a living, so it’s no surprise that Paul has pursued it with vigor.

I had the opportunity to write about Waitsburg Cellars for Seattle Magazine last July, and that article delves a little deeper into the winery background, for those interested. And then (no surprise) Paul himself has penned a terrific, detailed accounting of the Waitsburg Cellars story, and that can be found here.

Onto the wines!

2013 Waitsburg Cellars Chenin Blanc Cheninieres

PaulG mentioned for that Seattle Mag article that an old Hogue Chenin Blanc was a fond memory in his early realization that Washington was a special place for winegrowing. No surprise, then, that he heard the siren call of Chenin when he began Waitsburg Cellars. There are two Chenins in the lineup, and as you probably sussed out from the name, this one is an homage to Savennieres, one of Chenin’s ancestral homes in the Loire Valley. An interesting note is that both of Paul’s Chenins are harvested from the same vineyard (Upland, on Snipes Mountain) on the same day. The difference takes place on the sorting table, where the greener berries go into stainless steel and eventually became the Cheninieres, and the yellower into neutral oak for the Chevray.

This clocks in at 13% listed alc and 0.7% RS, so it drinks quite dry. The nose is a lovely Chenin mix of apple and pear, malt powder and oatmeal. This has the body, the lightly waxy texture, the savory character that makes good Savennieres so appealing. The 2013 vintage was not shy on the fruit, and this has plush tree fruit in spades, plenty of flesh supported by a terrific acid spine. Last year I suggested pairing this with a crab-and-corn chowder, and reading that made my stomach rumble.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5/20pts.”

2013 Waitsburg Cellars Three White

New for the 2013 vintage, and what an addition to the Waitsburg lineup. All Boushey Vineyard fruit, it’s a blend of 53% Grenache Blanc, 40% Marsanne, and 7% Picpoul. Geeky white Rhone varieties grown by Dick Boushey? Yes please.

It spent a half year in neutral oak and clocks in at 12% listed alc. The nose contains a lovely core of peach and lemon fruit and terrific complexities of nut (raw almond) and exotic spice (cardamom). That almond note seems to come through in most Boushey Marsanne bottlings, and it is just lovely here. The palate combines alpine, acid-drenched fruit with good mineral tone, such that the overall impression is ricola refreshing. I love the way this hums across the palate, all vibrant nervy energy, and I love the little saline kiss on the finish, which is mouthwatering and invites the next sip.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD. 18.5/20pts.”

2012 Waitsburg Cellars Three Red

Like the inaugural 2011 vintage, this wine combines three Ms rarely seen together. As PaulG says: “Merlot is the muscle, Malbec brings the magic, and Mourvedre adds a touch of mystery.” This vintage has even more Merlot than last year, at 73% of the blend. The remainder is 20% Malbec and 7% Mourvedre, and the vineyard sources are Canoe Ridge, Alder Ridge, and Doval.

Unlike the inaugural vintage, this comes from a warmer year, the vaunted 2012, and it shows. The nose is a lovely mix of ripe Merlot cherry fruit, tinged with Malbec’s boysenberry and ferrous minerality. The Mourvedre shows up more on the palate, adding a sense of wildness and complexities of leather and spice to a fleshy, red-fruit-driven palate. Like many good Washington Merlots, this possesses enough finishing structure that the idea of holding some bottles for a decade is not a bad idea at all. But it’s lovely right now, with loads of generous up-front fruit from a terrific vintage. No reviews yet for this one, but I’m sure they’re coming, and I’m guessing they’ll be positive.


First come first served up to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you like), 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.

2009 Balboa Reserve

September 24, 2014

Hello friends. Thanks in part to our list’s long history of supporting the winery, our friends at Balboa have offered us a substantial price break on a wine that is just entering peak drinking:

This began its life at a $40 price point. The winery was selling at close to that price but seems to have recently sold out their stock, so I think this parcel we’re accessing is the last of it. Tom Glase decided to discontinue the Reserve bottling after the 2009 vintage, and I suspect the Balboa folks are eager to sell through the last of it and focus their attention on their ongoing wines.

Whatever the reason, it’s a fine value for us. I was immediately interested when I saw that it was a Cab-Syrah blend (mostly; there are small amounts of Malbec and Petit Verdot as well), because Tom has an established track record of mastery with that category (old-timey list members still speak fondly of the 2006 Balboa Sayulita).

This one comes from two Walla Walla vineyards – Pepper Bridge as well as Balboa’s estate Eidolon Vineyard down in the rocks – plus Candy Mountain Vineyard. Aged for about a year and a half in barrel (all French oak), it clocks in at 14.6% listed alc, just about right for the warmer 2009 vintage. It was bottled in August 2011 and has now had an additional three years in bottle to sand down any rough edges.

The result is as you’d expect: a polished, classy marvel. It begins with a maturing nose that has terrific funky earthy and porcini mushroom notes to go with bright boysenberry fruit and dried raspberry. There’s still loads of lush, generous, primary 09-vintage fruit on the palate, carried on a silky, supple frame. That texture is where the additional time in bottle really shines through. The tannins are fine-grained and delicious, providing a final swallow all espresso bean and dark chocolate. But it was the earthy nose that kept me going back over and over again, a seductive reminder that this is a wine entering splendid middle age.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5/20pts.”

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.

2001 La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904

September 22, 2014

Hello friends. Exciting offer today, as we have one of the crown jewels of a Rioja winery steeped in long, rich tradition:

Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 96pts.” [Note: this review was published in 2010; hence the reference to the release 3 years hence.]

La Rioja Alta is a classic Rioja producer, in the vein of Lopez de Heredia. They have stubbornly resisted modernity, going against the grain as much of Rioja has gotten bigger, riper, richer. For that, they are rewarded with love and admiration from those of us who care about terroir expression and who want our Rioja to taste like Rioja, not like new-world Tempranillo.

Producers like LRA don’t follow the short-term winds of fashion. They play the long game. They think about how their winery will be viewed in decades, in centuries. Here is the wonderful writer Neal Martin, writing for Wine Advocate back in 2012: ““La Rioja Alta formed part of my ‘classic Rioja’ day that included Lopez de Heredia and Muga, the triumvirate of wineries in Haro all but a minute’s stroll from each other (which would have been fine, but for the spontaneous downpours). I have admired their wines for many years, Rioja that speaks so eloquently and with such clarity of their place. La Rioja Alta was founded in the town of Haro in 1890. They own 450 hectares of vineyard from which their entire portfolio is sourced, predominantly Tempranillo complemented by Graciano, Mazuelo and Garnacha. Another tenet is their use of American rather than French oak. The wood is cured for two years outdoors before being shaped and hammered into barrels at their own cooperage… Quite simply, these are some of the finest Riojas that can grace your cellar: complex, refined, classic but without compromising fruit intensity and to reiterate: wines that speak about where they come from.”

A passage like that underscores a) how beautiful this winery is; and b) what a pity it is that Neal Martin’s time covering Spain for Advocate was so short. When Martin visited LRA, he also got to taste the 1964 vintage of Gran Reserva 904. The La Rioja Alta family has made it clear that they view 1964, 1973, and 2001 as their greatest vintages to date, and so I think it would be instructive to include Martin’s 97pt review of the 1964. Written a half century post-vintage, it gives some indication of the immortal aging curves of the best wines from La Rioja Alta: “The 1964 Gran Reserva 904 is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano and 10% Viura that was raised for one year in an 18,000-liter vat and then six year in old barrels with nine rackings. It has a brick core with a tawny rim. The nose is very fragrant and sensual with crushed flowers, small dark cherry, minerals and a mature Musigny-like aroma. It is very pure and beautifully defined. It is less coarse than the ‘73 Gran Reserva 890 tasted alongside, the tannins finer and more supple, with wonderful cohesion and harmony, plus a silky smooth texture that glides across the palate. It does taste like a great old Burgundy, but the harmony, freshness and complexity is one of the finest I have encountered on any Spanish wine. This is a wine made of dreams.”

LRA releases two Gran Reservas, the 890 (commemorating the founding of the winery in 1890) and the 904 (commemorating their gaining of most of their most important vineyard properties in 1904). This 904 is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano, aged entirely in four-year-old American oak barrels made in-house (yes, they make their own barrels) for more than four years. The wine was bottled in June 2006, where it has now rested for another eight-plus years, putting us at a remarkable thirteen years past vintage. Only in Rioja.

It clocks in at 12.5% listed alc, totally typical for La Rioja Alta but a few degrees lower than many modern Riojas. The nose is already haunting: cherry and espresso, woodsmoke and pipe tobacco and sweet cedar, rose petals and earthy, woodsy notes of forest floor and chanterelle mushrooms. On the palate, you notice the bright beautiful acid first. This is the spine that is going to endure and keep this wine interesting for half a century. There’s salt-dusted fruit paired with plenty of savory character (beef stock and olive and dried herb). The tannins are already fine-grained and are beginning to integrate. This is balanced, beautiful, evocative wine; the kind of bottle I find moving.

I drink plenty of Rioja young, but there are really only two Rioja producers that comprise the bulk of my cellar: Lopez de Heredia and La Rioja Alta. This is one to stash away a case and open a bottle every five years for the next sixty. Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. 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.

Three Reorder Opportunities

September 21, 2014

Pickup Appointment Reminder: A quick reminder, as we get into our busiest pickup season of the year, that we greatly appreciate pickup appointments on Thursdays (via an e-mail sent to pickup@fullpullwines.com). We’ll always facilitate walk-ins without appointments, but if you can give our team advance notice (24 hours is great, but even 24 minutes helps enormously), it makes our Thursdays more manageable, and it allows us to have your wines packed up and ready to go when you arrive.


Hello friends. We have reorder opportunities today on three of our most popular wines of 2014. These are all getting on towards “last call” status, with dwindling quantities unlikely to survive the remainder of the year. Before they’re gone for good, I want our list members to have the chance to stock up for any and all of our end-of-year needs.

2012 For A Song Syrah

When I inquired about the remaining inventory of this one, I was told there are 2750 bottles still kicking around Seattle. “Okay, wine slinger,” you may be thinking. “2750 bottles hardly constitutes last call.” For most wines, you’d be correct, but For A Song is a whole different phenomenon.

This 2012 Syrah is on restaurant glass pour lists up and down the Salish Sea, and what glass pours do is they deplete the hell out of inventory. Add that to the fact that every time we offer this wine, we sell multiple hundreds of bottles, and I begin to hear distant alarm bells ringing when I see inventory drop below 3K. Paranoid? Maybe. But I’d rather jump in too early than too late.

We first offered this on November 20, 2013 and then reoffered on April 6 of this year. Excerpts from those two offers:

For A Song grew like a sapling out of the ashes of the dearly-departed Olsen Estates winery. The Olsen family had been growing grapes in the Yakima Valley for 40 years when, in 2006, they decided to launch a winery to feature their fruit and build the brand of the vineyard. That winery, which crushed grapes only through the 2009 harvest, was terrific, and the wines produced never lacked for positive reviews. The problem was never with grapegrowing or winemaking; it was always with selling. Entering a competitive market, in a recession, without a distributor, proved too great a challenge to overcome.

When Olsen Estates went out of business, all their juice, in bottle and barrel, was purchased by their distributor (Vinum), who created the For A Song label as a house brand to find happy homes for all that quality juice. Since then, the project has been such a runaway success that Vinum has kept the band together. They have Kyle Johnson, the former winemaker at Olsen Estates, making the wines. Because of that connection, they still source beautiful Olsen Vineyard fruit (while the winery went out of business, the vineyard operations have continued uninterrupted, and there’s no denying that the winery project did indeed raise the profile of the vineyard, which sells fruit to Gramercy, Betz, and Maison Bleue, just to name a few).

This is 100% Syrah, a blend of about a quarter from Olsen, the remainder from Weinbau Vineyard (a terrific Sagemoor site). It spent about a year in barrel, of which 20% were second-fill and 80% third-fill. So no new oak, but not exactly neutral oak either. Aromatically, this did remind me of the 09 vintage, and the sensory marker for me was the lovely white-flower topnotes above a core of good Yakima Valley blueberry and boysenberry fruit. In the mouth, this has a strong palate-staining character for the tariff, the intense fruit lifted by floral notes and complemented by lashings of espresso and insistent mineral streaks.

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

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5/20pts.”

2012 Torremoron Ribera del Duero (Tempranillo)

I was shocked to learn that this little lovely was still available. It was our third offer of 2014, hitting your inboxes on January 12, two days after the birth of my first child. Let me just say that I don’t remember a whole heckuva lot about hitting send on that one. The baby fog was thick for most of January (and February, and March, and…).

But this turned into a surprise hit, moving a lot of bottles on initial order and then via a steady stream of reorders throughout the year. Here are excerpts from that original offer:

One of the most exciting import portfolios coming out of Spain right now is that of Patrick Mata and his Ole/Peninsula Imports. Robert Parker himself hardly reviews any Spanish wines anymore, but he makes exceptions for Mata’s book. Here’s what he has said about the project:

Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “When Olé Imports began in 1999, there were only three wines in their portfolio, and one of the two founders, Patrick Mata (the other founder being Alberto Orte), was not even old enough to consume alcohol! A great success story, this tiny boutique company searches out, as they put it, ‘unique terroir-driven wines of extraordinary value.’ Often such sayings are hyperbole, but not in the case of Olé Imports… While none of their wines are household names, readers should seek them out as they represent sensational values from viticultural regions throughout Spain.”

Fortunately, we have a tight connection to this importer, which allows us to pluck some of the cherries from his book. And that connection is none other than John House. Along with his Ovum winery project, John also handles west coast sales for Ole and Peninsula. Torremoron is one of those Ole cherries, a value-priced wine from a region not particularly known for value.

Ribera is probably the second best-known region in Spain after Rioja. It sits here, in Spain’s northern plateau. The Duero river eventually flows into Portugal, where it is called the Douro, the famous river of the Port houses, that eventually drains into the Atlantic in the city of Porto. Ribera is one of the twin hearts of Tempranillo in Spain, and although there is frequently a little Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon blended in, today’s wine from Torremoron is 100% Tempranillo.

Here’s Mata’s description of the estate: “Torremorón, made in the small town of Quintanamanvirgo, is a great example of an artisanal, handcrafted wine rather than a commercial wine with no personality or soul. Just west of the villages of Anguix and La Horra and north of Pedrosa de Duero and Roa, Quintanamanvirgo is well situated in the north central area of Ribera. Many of Ribera’s top bodegas farm vineyards here in the alluvial, sandy and clay-heavy soils in vineyard sites that are optimally located at high altitude. Torremorón is crafted in this small village (population: 94) whose people are very proud of their common wine heritage; everyone in town works for the winery. Quintanamanvirgo has two businesses: the bar and the winery. If you ever want to experience and taste the authentic personality of Ribera del Duero, head directly for this town and ask for Fernando de la Cal. When you meet him, ask him to show you his vineyards and his family cave where wine was made in the 1800’s. Made with 1908-1930 year old vines, Torremorón is a genuine wine, one of the most pure expressions of Tempranillo that you’ll come across.”

Just incredible to think that we’re dealing with vines ranging in age from 84 to 106 years, especially at this tariff. There’s no new oak used here, so it really is the fruit character that shines through. Released while that fruit is still young, fierce, and juicy, this begins with a terrific nose mixing earth (soil and porcini mushroom) and fruit (black cherry, pomegranate). The palate sees more of the same, retaining a lovely earthiness and savory fungal quality to pair with the black black fruit. Dark, intense, and generous, this made me want to run out to The Spanish Table and buy as much dried chorizo as possible.

2011 Seven Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Seven Hills Vineyard

Okay, so I’ll admit that the sleep deprivation that comes with having an infant at home has possibly led some of this year’s Full Pull offers to have a surrealist edge, and this one might take the cake. I’m not going to reprint the whole thing here (it’s just too bizarre, involving slapping someone with a white glove), but here’s the archive for those of you who want to glory in the madness of early parenthood.

Anyway, it was originally offered on May 28. I just had a chance to re-taste it, and it’s better than ever. During that re-tasting, I learned that Seattle is down to its last handful of cases, so this is a perfect time to reoffer.

My original notes: A vintage like 2011 plays directly into Casey’s house style. This bottling is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from the old (1980s-planted) blocks at Seven Hills, the queen of the Walla Walla Valley. It spent about two years in French oak, 40% new, and clocks in at 13.7% listed alc. Casey McClellan has been working with these grapes for many years, and that comfort level shows. This Cabernet revels in the pretty side of the grape, offering soaring high-toned violet and lilac notes above a core of beautiful cassis and cherry fruit. The palate is a marvel of purity and elegance, with loads of inner mouth perfume, and plenty of structure in the form of both blood-orange acids and cherry-pit tannins. Wines like this from Casey have proven to be immortal agers, with all components in perfect harmony, evolving together. There’s intensity to burn, with nary a shred of excess weight. Wonderful.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

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

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19.5/20pts.”


First come first served up to 144 bottles total (mix and match as you like), 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.

Three from Southard

September 19, 2014

Hello friends. We have the latest release today from a winery that is about as hot as it gets among our list members: Southard. What can I say: you all have good taste. Scott Southard has been producing a series of outstanding wines over the past few years, all at prices that seem unlikely given the quality in the bottle.

In addition today’s new release, we’ll also include reorder opportunities for the 2011 Columbia Valley Red (offered in March) and the 2011 Lawrence Vineyard Red (offered in May). Those two wines are not long for this world.

2011 Southard Zinfandel Stonetree Vineyard

There’s a reason you don’t see much Zinfandel grown in Washington. It is a deeply thermophilic variety, one that thrives on abundant sunshine and sweltering heat. Perfect for parts of California, not so much for most of Washington.

But there’s one particular patch of Washington terroir that fits Zinfandel like hand in glove: the remarkable Stonetree Vineyard. A few weeks ago, I checked an item off my Washington wine bucket list when I finally got to stand atop Stonetree. As you can see on the map, the site occupies prime real estate. It’s at the top-center of the Wahluke, and it has a near-perfect southern-sloping aspect, giving it endless sun exposure during every single day of the growing season. From the top of the vineyard, you can cast your gaze down at the entirety of the Wahluke Slope, which is exactly what I did when I visited (pictorial proof!). You can also learn where the vineyard got its name. The stump in the center of that picture is a giant hunk of petrified gingko. A tree of stone. A Stonetree.

We’re right at the base of the Saddle Mountains, with elevations ranging from 940 feet along the Wahluke Branch Canal at the base of the vineyard up to 1250 feet at the top. Stonetree is a warm, frost-free site, and it is one of many Wahluke Slope vineyards to emerge from the ashes of a Red Delicious Apple orchard. The base of the vineyard is made up of cataclysmic flood deposits from Glacial Lake Missoula, and on top of those deposits sits 1-3 feet of wind-blown loess. In short, Stonetree is a wonderful place for growing all manner of wine grapes, and it’s a site that is only growing and growing in importance with each passing vintage. (Note: it’s also a poorly-held secret that Stonetree was the source for most of the Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that was #1 on Wine Spectator’s 2009 Top 100 list).

This is a small-production lot for Southard: just 148 cases. It clocks in at an honest 16.5% alc (what did you expect; a 13.5% Zin?), and it holds its alcohol beautifully, just one of many components in fine balance. Aromatics include kirsch, black cherry, Dr. Pepper, and briar patch. The fruit is as big and rich as you’d expect, just unabashed in its deliciousness, daring you not to be seduced. There are warming tones to the finish, but this never ventures into fire-breathing-dragon territory.

There’s a great seasonal beer released each winter in Seattle by Maritime Pacific Brewing Company called the Jolly Roger. It’s a winter warmer, not shy on flavor nor on alcohol, and perfect for the Pac-NW’s cold-grey months. I think of a wine like this as the wine version of a winter warmer, something to take the chill off your bones. And if your bottles happen to survive the winter, Zin is a wonderful cheeseburger pairing when grilling season cranks back up next summer.

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.


And now, as promised, reorder opportunities on a pair of popular Southard wines whose numbers are beginning to dwindle:

2011 Southard Red Wine Columbia Valley

Originally offered March 10, 2014. Excerpts from original offer: This 72/28 blend of Syrah and Zinfandel is a tale of two slopes. The Zin comes from (no surprise) Stonetree on the Wahluke Slope. The Syrah comes from the Royal Slope, not yet an AVA (although I expect that to happen soon) and one of the hottest (in terms of buzz) areas for Syrah in Washington right now. It is the home to Lawrence Vineyard, which comprises about half of the Syrah in the 2011 Red. First planted out in 2003, Lawrence is a high-elevation site, ranging from 1400’-1600’, and Syrah from there has been really well-received (including the 09 Southard Lawrence Vineyard Syrah; $25 and 93pts Paul Gregutt in Wine Enthusiast).

The combination is marvelous, with the Zin adding welcome richness and heft to a lean year like 2011. The nose begins with fig, black cherry, mocha, and a lovely leafy/smoky peat note. In the mouth, there is plenty of Zinfandel character despite its low percentage, with its trademark brambly fruit and tomato paste notes. In the mouth this is plump, generous, a near perfect balance of salty savories and rich fruits that coats the palate. The finish goes on and on, impressive indeed for a wine at this tariff. Scott Southard has seemed really dialed in these past few vintages, and this is another effort that is going to impress.

2011 Southard Lawrence Vineyard Red (Grenache Blend)

Originally offered May 9, 2014. Excerpts from original offer: This is a blend of 72% Grenache and 28% Syrah (14.5% listed alc), all from Lawrence Vineyard. The site is farmed by Scott Southard’s cousins (the Lawrence family), which helps explain his access to this pristine fruit.

This was done 100% whole cluster (stems and all), which might help to explain its overt wildness. Yes, there’s great red strawberry fruit, but that’s only the beginning. There are layers of unexpected stone fruits: peaches and apricots. Then we get into the funky/umami goodness: bacon fat, seaweed, olive brine. Just glorious. The mouthfeel is seamless, and it carries super savory/saline notes and smokey red fruits across the palate. The balance of fruit elements and non-fruit (earth, savory) elements is pinpoint, and the brackish personality is deeply appealing. This is dirty love.



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