2 from Syncline

April 30, 2015

Hello friends. We have the return of two list stalwarts from Syncline today: their blink-and-you-miss-it rosé, and their killer Rhone-blend value, Subduction:

2014 Syncline Rose

There are certain wines you can set your clocks by as Full Pull list members, and Syncline’s rosé is one of them. It has historical significance, as it was the first rosé ever offered by Full Pull, way back in summer 2010 (that was the 2009 vintage). We haven’t missed a year since, and for good reason: this is as consistently excellent as rosé gets in Washington. It’s also one of those pinks that never seems to survive the summer. And isn’t it the transitory mayfly nature of rosé that makes it so beautiful? The ache of the fleeting experience only serves to heighten the pleasure, doesn’t it?

No surprise that these Rhone specialists would produce a rosé that is a blend of 38% Mourvedre, 32% Cinsault, and 30% Grenache (in my opinion, these are three of the top four varieties that work best for rosé in Washington; Cabernet Franc is #4). The grapes are picked specifically for rosé (13.4% alc), and the fermentation happens entirely in concrete (cool!). The result is a wine with pale salmon color and a truly compelling nose: mineral, Mourvedre exotic spice, and dustings of fennel pollen. The fruits are densely layered on the palate: citrus fruits, tree fruits, some stone fruits. Somehow this is a rosé that manages to evoke words like “brisk” and “creamy” in the same sentence. Nifty. It possesses a fine sense of minerality, a mouthwatering salty piquancy, a refreshing personality. This is a winemaker seriously dialed in on rosé.

2013 Syncline Subduction Red

I think we can all agree that one of the best trends to come out of the past decade of Washington winegrowing and winemaking is the emergence of Rhone blends as a very strong category for the state. But price point has been a serious challenge. I guess how I’d put it is: we have our Chateauneufs and our Gigondas, but where are our Cotes du Rhone Villages?

Fortunately, in recent years, we’ve seen some movement on that front. Ryan Crane’s Majestic for Kerloo, Sean Boyd’s VdP for Rotie, Kevin White’s outrageous blends for his eponymous label, Jon Meuret’s dearly departed Jaja label. But I’m hard pressed to think of any successful Rhone blend in Washington that presents a stronger value than Syncline’s Subduction Red. In 2013 it is a six-variety blend: 39% Syrah, 19% Mourvedre, 15% Carignan, 12% Counoise, 11% Grenache, 4% Cinsault. It is fermented and aged in a combination of French oak (10% new) and concrete Nomblot cube tanks, bottled after just about a year to capture the freshness and vitality of the vintage. It begins with a nose of raspberry pastille, provencal herbs, and rosewater. The palate offers spicy charm, layers of plush brambly fruit (13.8% listed alc), supple tannins, and a sturdy acid spine. It’s a fruit-driven beauty, and in a generous vintage like 2013, that fruit is awfully seductive.

This is also set to receive a terrific review from Sean Sullivan in the upcoming May issue of Wine Enthusiast: Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

[Note: It’s going to continue to be important to calibrate Sean’s scoring for Wine Enthusiast. In this case, I think it’s worth mentioning that Sean has reviewed 479 red wines to date for Wine Enthusiast in the $30-and-under price range. Not a single one of them has earned a stronger nod than this 92pt review. All that to say: this is high praise indeed from Mr. S.]

First come first served up to 48 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2010 Produttori del Barbaresco DOCG

April 27, 2015

Team Full Pull UPDATE: Okay, do you want the good news or the bad news first? The bad news? Okay. I’m sad to announce that – after three terrific years together – our first Full Pull employee Matt Tessler is leaving us and returning to his home state of Texas. Matt’s last day is Thursday, May 7, and we’d like to send him out in style. So please consider coming in on the 7th and wishing Matt good luck in his future endeavors. I’m turning the keys to the Full Pull car over to Mr. Tessler for the day, and I suspect he’ll want to open some special bottles to celebrate the end of a great run together. If you really want to mess with Matt on his last day, you could come in without an appointment and ask to pick up wine. Or, if you’d prefer to be a mensch, please let us know that you’re planning to come in.

Now, the good news: after a competitive hiring process, we have hired RhiAnnon Kaspar as our new Member Services Manager. She began on April 20 and will be training with Matt for the next few weeks. RhiAnnon has terrific experience in the wine trade, most recently with Portalis in Ballard. She’ll become the lead contact for our list members, and she’ll be the face you’re most likely to see behind the bar on our open Thursdays (and occasional Saturdays). Please join me in welcoming RhiAnnon to the Full Pull team.
Hello friends. Normally this is the time of year when we’d be offering the ethereal crus from Produttori del Barbaresco. But there’s a small hitch in that particular giddy-up: the Produttori did not bottle any of the crus in the 2010 vintage. It all went into the Barbaresco “normale” bottling.

Let me repeat. It. All. Went. In.

Rabaja? Check. Asili? Check. Montestefano. Yes indeedy.

Given the pedigree of 2010 Piedmont, with many folks calling it a return to the classic vintages of the 1980s and ‘90s, this seems like a shocking decision. Let’s turn to our experts on the ground for potential explanations:

Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): [TEXT WITHHELD].

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): [TEXT WITHHELD].

I read these missives and began doing a little jig. So the reason they didn’t bottle the crus is because a few of the vineyards lacked “extra density and thrust?” If we want density and thrust, we have a near endless supply of wines here in the cozy confines of Washington. I don’t know about you, but when I seek out Barbaresco, I’m not really looking for density or thrust. I’m looking for haunting aromatics, ethereal texture, ineffable charm, all of which are available in spades in a year like 2010.

For me, then, this particular vintage of Produttori offers an incredible opportunity: to buy cru-level quality, from a classicist’s dream vintage, but at the normale tariff. In other words: a tremendous cellar-building opportunity. I’ve tasted this wine twice this year. The first time was in the warehouse, and it offered a lovely, honest Barbaresco nose: red cherries and berries, floral notes and tea leaves, and terrific topnote wafts of smoke and menthol. The palate was high-toned, with cut and verve to spare, with loads of structure both acid- and tannin-driven, and with that lovely ethereal character so unique to this particular patch of land. The second time I tasted the wine was at a restaurant. No notes from that encounter (I’m not *that* insufferable as a dinner date), but I can tell you that this is a real charmer as a food wine. It shares the stage amiably with food. It isn’t an attention hog. It’s a fine complementary piece to a delicious meal. Pair with good food and good friends and family, and this wine will reward you amply for years to come.

First come first served up to 24 bottles, and the wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2012 Gramercy Cellars Syrah Lagniappe

April 26, 2015

Hello friends. The last of Gramercy’s outrageous 2012 Syrahs to be released has just hit Seattle. I had the chance to taste it in Walla Walla a few weeks ago, and it is a swoon-worthy knee buckler. In what has proven to be an incredibly successful vintage for team Gramercy, this might be the very belle of the ball.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95-97pts.”

So that review is a barrel sample. When Jeb’s bottle review comes out later this summer, it’s going to cause quite a stir if he ends up at the top end of that range. Before any of that happens, let’s get in, get out, and be gone with our stash.

Now then, I’ll remind you what Greg Harrington had to say about his 2012s: Brandon and I have been particularly excited about the 2012 vintage. You have to love when everything goes right. It gets scary when everything is going right. We just stand around the winery waiting for something to happen – a sudden freeze that we didn’t expect, the truck to break – so many things can go wrong. We feel it’s a bit easier to deal with the tougher vintages like 2010 or 2011. We tend to stay on our game all day. In 2012, we just kinda sit around and drink beer while interns process perfect fruit. Put it in the fermenter, its ferments steady and clean, and put it in a barrel. Winemakers end up feeling totally useless. But that is the story of 2012. It’s a fantastic vintage a la 2007… I feel this is an incredible release and a fantastic way to introduce you to the spectacular 2012 vintage.

Each vintage of Lagniappe also allows me to quote Mark Twain, which is an altogether too rare opportunity in the wine writing biz. The word is Cajun for “a little something extra.” Here’s Twain: We picked up one excellent word — a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word — ‘lagniappe.’ They pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish — so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a ‘baker’s dozen.’ It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop — or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know — he finishes the operation by saying — ‘Give me something for lagniappe.’ The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the governor — I don’t know what he gives the governor; support, likely. When you are invited to drink, and this does occur now and then in New Orleans — and you say, ‘What, again? — no, I’ve had enough;’ the other party says, ‘But just this one time more — this is for lagniappe.’ When the beau perceives that he is stacking his compliments a trifle too high, and sees by the young lady’s countenance that the edifice would have been better with the top compliment left off, he puts his ‘I beg pardon — no harm intended,’ into the briefer form of ‘Oh, that’s for lagniappe.’

Greg doubtless picked it up during his stint working as Emeril Lagasse’s Wine Director in New Orleans, and he has used it to represent his Syrah that picks up fruit from all sorts of interesting places. But none have been as interesting as the place Greg picked up in 2010 and has continued to use since: Red Willow Vineyard. In 2012 this stellar site makes up a full two thirds of the blend, rounded out with fruit from Minnick (cooler Yakima Valley, orange-peel subtleties) and Oldfield (an Efeste estate site contiguous with Boushey Vineyard and managed by mister Dick Boushey himself; pay attention to this young vineyard). It was done with 80% whole clusters (stems and all) and spent 18 months in a mix of older puncheons.

The best Yakima Valley Syrahs (and all three of these sites are in the Yak) display an insistent, ribald, fecund earthiness that just cannot be replicated anywhere else in Washington. This is a fine example, pouring out of the glass with notes of soil and mixed mushrooms over red and black cherry fruit. My palate note starts the same way: “terrific core of earthiness.” That core is shaded by notes of red fruit and smoky bacon fat and mineral. All of those flavors are carried on a silky, seamless texture. The mouthfeel almost makes this one too easy to drink. It is classy, polished, the tannins combed to a fine sheen. This one is going to unfurl in fascinating directions, and it’s not going to take long.

Please limit order requests to 24 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2012 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley

April 26, 2015

Hello friends. We’ve talked on numerous occasions now about benchmark wines for our list members, and the breathless anticipation for the release of the 2012 vintage. One such wine is Abeja’s Columbia Valley Cab, and I’d been chomping at the bit to try the new vintage. I finally had the chance to taste it during a visit to Walla Walla a few weeks ago, and my already-sky-high expectations were exceeded.

It’s actually slated for a May 1 release, so we’re jumping the gun a little here, but I want to make sure we have our orders in nice and early for this barnburner of a wine.

The very most important thing to know about Abeja’s 2012 Columbia Valley Cab is that John Abbott decided not to bottle a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve in 2012. Was I surprised? Yes I was. Was I delighted? Yes I was, because many of the barrels that were involved in their right-down-to-the-wire, go/no-go decision making process on the Reserve ended up in the Columbia Valley bottling.And it is a marvel.

Let’s start with vineyard sources: Abeja’s Heather Hill Estate, old-vine Bacchus and Dionysus (often the backbone of the Reserve program), Weinbau, Kiona Heart of the Hill, Ciel du Cheval, Destiny Ridge, Gunselman Bench. That is a pan-Washington all-star Cabernet lineup (note: there is also 14% Merlot, and 1% each Cab Franc and Petit Verdot in the mix).

Elevage was two years in 60% new French oak, 40% one- and two-use French oak. It clocks in at 14.8% listed alc, and it aromatically comes jumping right out of the glass, with soaring cassis, violet, high-cacao chocolate, and wonderful eucalyptus topnotes. A complex, honest, serious Cabernet nose. John Abbott is the king of Cabernet texture, and his skills are on fine display here. The palate is velvety, seamless, luscious, with no apparent holes. Strong on attack, plump in the middle, and toothsome in just the right way on the back end, this is a completely charming wine. I know Abeja’s Cabs age beautifully, but they never seem to survive for very long in my cellar because they’re so damned generous and seductive in their resplendent youth. This is a flagship Washington Cabernet in any vintage. In a vintage like 2012, and with reserve juice in the mix, my thoughts run to two words: go deep.

Please limit order requests to 24 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Did I just get through the entire offer without telling the Abeja story? Oops! Quick reminders: It was during his time as a pre-vet at Oregon State University that John Abbott happened upon sensory evaluation work in the Food Sciences department. Soon after, he traded in ungulates for grapes, transferring to Fresno State’s Viticulture and Enology Program. After post-grad stints in Napa making Cab at Pine Ridge and Pinot Noir at Acacia, he moved to Washington in 1994 to make wine from the nascent Canoe Ridge Vineyard. He remained at Canoe Ridge, making outstanding wines (the Merlots from this site were especially well-received) until 2002, when he helped launch Abeja. The winery quickly developed a sterling reputation for its Cabernet Sauvignon, and its mailing list has been closed for years now, one of only a handful of Washington wineries with closed lists (here’s a link to their waiting list).

2013 Renegade Grenache Walla Walla Valley

April 22, 2015

Hello friends. We have the return today of a wine that has become a list mainstay; a killer Grenache from the rocks of the Walla Walla Valley:

I checked our records, and this is the fifth vintage in a row that we have offered. I believe we’ve offered every vintage of this wine that has existed, beginning with the 2009 vintage and continuing through today. Why? Because where else can you find any Washington Grenache (let alone from the rocks) at $15?

Now then, a quick reminder of what the Renegade program is all about: A winery is sitting on barrels of wine that it doesn’t want to release under its own label. There are a myriad of reasons why this could be the case. Regardless, Trey Busch (whose main label is Sleight of Hand Cellars) purchases the barrels, bottles the wine under his Renegade label, and frequently signs a non-disclosure agreement regarding the source of the juice. Here’s what we can disclose about this Grenache:

1. It is single-vineyard, from a younger vineyard in the rocks section of the Walla Walla Valley (same vineyard source as previous years).

2. The vineyard sells fruit to exactly three wineries, and they are three of the finest Rhone producers in Washington. These barrels came from one of those three wineries.

3. This is delicious Grenache, evocative of its unique origins: the ancient cobbles of the Walla Walla River. It is true to the warmer vintage, clocking in at 14.3%, and texturally is reminiscent of that first vintage in 2009. It pours pale and garnet, a reminder that Grenache in Washington can look quite delicate in the glass (a la Pinot Noir), especially if it’s not blended with deeper-pigmented Syrah. That paleness, however, belies the power and richness inherent to this wine. It has a wonderful naughty rocks brackishness, a saline kick to pair with notes of brambly raspberry fruit, gravelly minerals, beef stock, and olive brine. Floral notes add lovely inner mouth perfume and keep things fresh and vibrant, but ultimately this is a hefty mouthful of richly-fruited, generous Grenache.

Like in previous vintages, this provides terrific value for the tag. First come first served up to 36 bottles, and the wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2012 Evening Land Vineyards Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard

April 20, 2015

Hello friends. This is the third ever offer of what I like to call Sauron wines: wines requiring the full attention of Full Pull’s great lidless eye. Basically, these are wines with long delays between a strong review and the release date for the wine. The previous two Sauron wines, in case you’ve forgotten, were 2010 Maison Bleue Graviere in 2012 and 2008 Bunnell Horse Heaven Syrah in 2013.

Since then, the lidless eye has been taking it easy, keeping an eye on things via Palantir and just hanging out in Mordor with the Witch-King of Angmar. You know how it goes. But then earlier this year, the lidless eye stirred:

First, a word on logistics, because I know this is going to be a very popular wine. We’re going to place our order on Tuesday morning, so please submit requests by end of day Monday. You’ll see that we’re keeping the upper allocation limit relatively high (12 bottles). Apologies in advance if we have to under-allocate, but I suspect we’re going to snag a decent parcel of this wine, both because of our list’s long-term support for Evening Land, and because I’m not sure anyone else knows this wine is about to hit the market.

How do we know it’s about to hit the market?

The lidless eye of Full Pull, of course! It has been trained on the Willamette Valley for months now, awaiting word of this wine’s imminent transit. Our network of spies is vast and talented, and reliable sources tell me that this wine is about to land in the Emerald City. We might be jumping the gun a little, but I’d rather be too early than too late.

The great eye first turned towards this wine on January 22, when Wine Spectator Insider hit my inbox with the following review: Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 96pts.”

Given the combination of price, rating, and production (3000+ cases), I’d say this has a strong shot to land on Spectator’s year end Top 100 list. Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2012 Result of a Crush

April 19, 2015

Hello friends. Reynvaan continues to be about as buzzy as a winery gets in Washington. Allocations for the main label have become more and more competitive over the years, especially after Harvey Steiman’s series of glowing reviews two years ago that included a 98pt review for Stonessence, the highest score Spectator has bestowed on any Washington wine. Ever. (Note: a 2009 No Girls Syrah and a pair of Eroica Single Berry Selects have also earned 98pt reviews).

All that to say: sourcing main-label Reynvaan wine is as difficult as ever these days. Which only makes the Result of a Crush label that much more appealing. Today we have the new release, a wine many of us have been anticipating given the lovely vintage involved:

This is the gateway drug into the gloriously funky world of Reynvaan, and I apologize in advance if tasting this leads you to spend way too much money on auction sites trying to track down the main label. It’s a family project for the Reynvaans: Since 2011, sisters Amanda Reynvaan and Angela Reynvaan Garratt have been producing approachable red blends and Rosés from elite vineyards throughout the Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley in conjunction with their brother and consulting winemaker, Matt Reynvaan. The family started out in the wine business in 2004, launching Reynvaan Family Vineyards in Walla Walla, which quickly developed into a Washington State cult winery. With the Result of a Crush project the family aims to produce wines that are distinctive, affordable, consistent in quality and showcase the owners’ sometimes whimsical attitude toward wine.Here is what we know about the 2012:

1. Unlike three of the previous bottlings we’ve offered (two NVs and the Christmas Cuvee), this is single vintage, coming from 2012.

2. It still has the smooching lips label that belies the seriousness of the juice inside.

3. It is mostly Syrah and Viognier, with some Cabernet Sauvignon.

I’ll begin my note with the last sentence written in my notebook: “spectacular vintage for this wine.” And indeed it is, beginning with a funky, no-doubt-about-it rocks Syrah nose: smoked ham, green olive, flowers, boysenberry fruit. The umami/savory character is just outrageous on the nose. It’s so appetizing, and the palate delivers, with a mouthful of plush red and purple fruit paired to loads of bacon-fat. The swirling stew of meats and olives and fruits is just glorious, and the texture has a level of richness and polish that was just not possible in the cooler/leaner vintages. As far as I know, this remains the most accessibly priced entry point to Syrah fruit from the rocks of the Walla Walla Valley, and it continues to punch well above its price class.

First come first served up to 36 bottles, and the wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.