Pickup Calendar Reminder: You’ll see from the schedule below that there are two remaining pickup days for TPU members in 2014. We expect them both to be busy, so please make an appointment if you’re planning to come in.
Let’s begin with Sean Sullivan’s review for Wine Enthusiast. I’ve mentioned before that we’re going to have to apply something like our Tanzer curve to Mr. Sullivan, and this is a good example. To date, Sean has published 742 reviews for Wine Enthusiast, and this is as strong a review as he has written. Not a single wine has been rated higher (and only two other wines – an Andrew Will Sorella and a Maison Bleue Grenache – have earned the same 94pt rating): Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”
This wine also received a positive review from Jeb Dunnuck this summer: Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”
A quick note on logistics: I brought in a few pre-offer cases of this wine, so this will be available for pickup on our final two pickup days of the years for anyone looking for a terrific holiday gift or just something beautiful to drink over the holidays. And for the story behind this wine, I’ll excerpt from offerings of previous vintages of Andreas:
The first force of nature to get its hands on Wallula Vineyards was the Missoula floods. The second was the Den Hoed brothers. As to which was the more powerful, the more stubborn, well, that’s an open question.
Even today, Wallula looks like an impossible place for a vineyard. In much the same way we puzzle today about Stonehenge and the Easter Island statues, future historians might wonder if it took alien technology to blast a vineyard out of virgin terraced rock and sagebrush. As it happens, no aliens were required; just two Dutch brothers and more than two backhoes.
When the Wallula site came up for sale in 1997, Bill and Andy Den Hoed had already been growing wine grapes in Washington for 20 years. Their parents, Andreas and Marie, first-generation Dutch immigrants, began their Washington farming career in the Yakima Valley, where they grew mint, potatoes, and Concord grapes. In 1978, they were among the first farmers in the state to plant vinifera, and it wasn’t long before Chateau Ste Michelle was their biggest customer, and Bill and Andy were hooked into the family business.
Here are object facts about the site in 1997: Untouched sagelands bordering 7 miles of the Columbia River near the Wallula Gap, a Missoula Flood bottleneck. Steep slope, ranging from 350ft above the river at the bottom of the vineyard to 1400ft at the top. Intensely variegated soils, with soil depth ranging from 6 inches to 20 feet.
The difference between seeing difficulty and seeing opportunity is, I suppose, experience. The Den Hoed brothers had experience in spades, and they saw the opportunity to create a special vineyard. Wallula is a spectacular site. It’s difficult to capture in pictures, but let’s try anyway. Here is a wide shot , and here is a closer view to give a sense of the steep, terraced nature of some of these blocks. Remarkable.
As the vineyard came online and the vines gained some age, the better winery owners and winemakers in the state began to take notice. One of those was Allen Shoup, founder of Long Shadows. Recognizing the incredible potential of the vineyard, he put together an investment group that purchased a majority interest in Wallula Vineyard in 2008. Much of the vineyard was then renamed The Benches, but the Wallula name was retained for some of it, and the Den Hoeds continue to own a minority stake and to do all the farming and vineyard management.
But before any of that happened in 2008, Bill and Andy started a small label, with dual purposes: first, to showcase the exceptional nature of Wallula Vineyard; and second, to honor their mother and father. Their mother’s wine is Marie’s View, a multi-varietal blend made each year by Rob Newsom of Boudreaux Cellars. Their father’s wine, Andreas, is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon made by Gilles Nicault of Long Shadows.
Gilles controls every aspect of Andreas. The detail of the grape selection here is intense. It goes beyond block selection, beyond even row selection. In some instances, Gilles is choosing specific plants within a row that are appropriate for Andreas. Once the grapes are picked, all the winemaking is done at Long Shadows, so that Gilles can be intimately involved with the wine at all steps of its evolution. In short, this is lovingly cared-for, deeply coddled wine. And it shows. We can talk about flavors (classic Cabernet: blackcurrant and black cherry, cherry blossom, mineral tones, green tea tannins), but the coddling shows itself most clearly via texture, and that’s where my notes focus. A smattering of phrases I jotted down in my note: “seamless,” “perfect palate weight,” “pinpoint balance,” “sense of character and presence,” “sneaky chew,” “lingers endlessly,”; you get the idea. Gilles has apparently been calling this the “Frenchiest” of his Andreas bottlings, and for a Frenchman, that has to be high praise. Frenchy or not, this is knee-buckling good.
This wine is just getting released, and with the strong reviews already in place, I’m not sure what will be available to us. But like I said, we brought in a small stash for quick turnaround pickups. No upper order limit for now; request what you like, and we’ll do our best (we’ll allocate if needed, but I’m hoping we’re getting in early enough that it won’t be necessary). The wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.