2013 Nathan Gray Syrah Den Hoed Vineyard

Hello friends. Some of the best values we have offered over the years have been distributor private label projects. Oldhead Full Pullers might remember Brand Cabernet Sauvignon and NW Vine Project Red Splendor from the early days. More recently, we’ve plumbed the depths of the For A Song project.

Why are these projects so compelling? Because, as a general rule, our local distributors a) have connections to excellent local winemakers; and b) know what sells, especially via on-premise (restaurant) channels. Pretty much all of these wines are designed as glass pour options at restaurants: $9 or $10 or $11 by the glass.

But just because these wines are designed for restaurants doesn’t preclude a savvy retailer from swooping in and grabbing some, especially when said savvy retailer learns the winemaker and fruit sourcing behind this label and so begins to understand why this juice is so damned delicious for the tag:

Okay, so fruit sourcing first, since it is right there on the label. The Den Hoed brothers are outstanding farmers. We’ve written about them a number of times, especially with regards to Wallula Vineyard. They also farm this eponymous site north of Sunnyside in the Yakima Valley, at elevations ranging from 1300-1400’.Now the winemaking. The winemaker for this project is… drum roll… Mr. Ryan Crane of Kerloo Cellars. The connection: here in Seattle, Kerloo’s wines are distributed by Cru Selections, and Nathan Gray is Cru’s private label. Long time Full Pull list members know how much I admire Ryan’s winemaking for Kerloo. A Kerloo Syrah was the third wine we ever offered for Full Pull, way back on October 9, 2009. So this is a serious score, having Ryan work on a single vineyard Syrah project at this price point.

And he waaaaaaaay over-delivers for the tag. I reached out to Ryan to inquire about this one (having him as a next-door neighbor helps in that regard), and he made it a point to note that, despite the modest price point, there is plenty of “geek love” here: a 3% Viognier coferment, as well as 35% whole-cluster fruit (stems and all) thrown into the fermenter. It’s aged entirely in neutral barrel, and only for 11 months, the goal being to maintain as much youthful vitality as possible. Right on initial pour you know you’re in for a powerhouse: the wine is a completely opaque, inky black purple. The Viognier coferment provides lovely floral subtleties, and the nose has a real wildness, a sauvage character that is deeply appealing. In the mouth, the mix of deep mixed berry fruits and flowers and earth tones is splendid, as is the supple texture. The level of polish, the inner-mouth perfume, the double-take complexity: all suggest Syrahs at considerably steeper tags.

First come first served up to 48 bottles, and the wine should arrive next week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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