Hello friends. This is our third missive this year featuring reoffers for 2012-vintage wines from Washington. Our list has really embraced the 2012s, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least. It was a beautiful, down-the-middle vintage in the northwest, and coming as it did after the two ridiculously cool years of 2010 and 2011, it could not be more welcome.
[Note: I’m going to allow one interloper, a Margaux that was one of our most popular offers of 2014 and has been a frequent reorder target since.]
Originally offered December 14, 2014. At the time, I was told this special pricing was for December only. But given the popularity of this wine at this price, I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask if we could get one more shot at the 19.99 tag. To my surprise (and delight), the answer was yes.
Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”
Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91(+?)pts.”
Excerpt from original notes: I had a chance to taste the new vintage of Umbris a few days ago, and it’s true: this wine really is better than ever. It really hit its stride at about 2-3 hours open, at which point a beautiful nose emerged combining smoky dark chocolate and smoked ham, green olive and white flowers, purple plummy fruit and blackberries; complex and deeply attractive. It’s a rich palate-stainer in the mouth, true to the outstanding vintage. The texture is oh so supple, and it glides across the palate with class and panache. Always a strong value at its normal $28 price, this is ridiculous at the tag.
Originally offered October 27, 2014, and this one comes with some urgency. I recently learned that the winery is set to increase the price of several wines, including this one, as of May 1. I know we’re two days late, but we secured a stash at the original pricing, so we should be all good.
In that original offer, I quoted Sean Sullivan’s Seattle Met Magazine review (the wine was #9 on Sean’s Top 100 list), and predicted that his eventual review in Wine Enthusiast would land on 94pts. The crystal ball must have been clear that day! Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”
To put this review in context, let me note that Sean has now reviewed 1257 wines for Wine Enthusiast, and exactly one wine has a stronger review (2012 Avennia Arnaut; 95pts). A 94pt review from Mr. S. is a ringing endorsement.
Excerpts from the original offer: What was immediately striking about sniffing and tasting this wine was its clear rocks character: that savory, briny, funkiness that so many of us love. The nose is all salty beef stock on top of brambly marionberry fruit. The charcuterie plate continues on the palate, a swirling stew of umami notes and rich delicious fruit, all lifted by pretty florals from a 3% Viognier coferment. It’s a wildly strong vintage of Northern.
This was also one of those offers where the post-tasting research elucidated why the wine is as good as it is. Let’s start with vineyards. A full 65% of this comes from SJR Vineyard, the Delmas estate site we wrote about back in August. I believe our max allocations of that wine were 1 bottle per list member, so for those of you under-allocated, here is another rare chance to access this wonderfully funky rocks site (recall that SJR only sells fruit to Rasa, Rotie, and Gramercy). The remainder comes from Dwelley Vineyard (30%; located in the Blue Mountain foothills) and Patina Vineyard (just 5%; it’s somewhere near Forgotten Hills and Morrison Lane).
So, outstanding Walla Walla vineyards, and then of course we have the winemaker. Sean’s working with beautiful fruit, and he stays out of its way, putting it all in second- and third-fill French oak (no new wood) for a little over a year. It clocks in at 14.2% listed alc, which seems just right for down-the-middle 2012.
Originally offered December 12, 2014, and this is likely last call on this wine, as inventories around town are dwindling.
Excerpts from the original: What makes this a benchmark for Washington Cabernet? I’d say three things: quality, consistency, and longevity. This is Artist Series #21 for Woodward Canyon (Artist Series has reached legal drinking age!). The program has been around since 1992, and it is such a wonderful, characterful wine, year in and year out. For the third vintage running, Artist Series sees a sizeable chunk of Champoux fruit (27%) that usually ends up in Old Vines, as well as a hearty portion of Woodward Estate fruit (36%). The remainder is an all-star cast of vineyards, including Discovery, Sagemoor, Summit View, and Les Collines. It begins with an overtly pretty, high-toned nose setting violet and lavender and mint above crème de cassis, rich soil, and espresso. Just lovely, and very Cabernet. The palate possesses real mouth-staining intensity, with a core of evocative Cabernet fruit (Rick Small has noted that, as the vine age for their main sources increases, they’ve been slowly dialing back the new wood and letting the fruit shine). Supple blackcurrant rules the day until the finish, where burly black-tea tannins take over and won’t let go. This is chewy, delicious Cabernet from an epic vintage, well worthy of the benchmark tag.
[Note: of all the 2012-vintage Washington Cabernets reviewed in Wine Enthusiast to date, only one – Sineann’s $72 Champoux Vineyard Block One – has received a stronger review than this Artist Series.]
Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”
Originally offered December 15, 2014, and this one requires a long excerpt, because the story is complicated:
Growing up in the Philly burbs, one of the dumbest games we’d play was “whisper down the lane.” I’ve since come to learn that most folks who didn’t grow up in the Philly burbs call this game “telephone,” but I think “whisper down the lane” is much more evocative, and the rest of the country is missing out. Anyway, it’s the game where you have a line of kids. First in line whispers a phrase to the second in line, who whispers to the third, and so on and so on, down the lane, until you get to the last person, who reveals the phrase, which of course bears passing resemblance at best to the original, and which almost certainly has been studded with references scatological (when we were pre-teens) or sexual (when we were teens).
When I started thinking about today’s offer, that ol’ game came immediately to mind, because our list members are essentially getting fifth-hand information, and even that info has to be redacted. Not exactly the height of journalistic integrity, I know, but the wine is so damned good that I’m inclined not to care. So, here’s the geography of this particular lane:
1. At the spring 2014 Bordeaux En Primeur tastings, one of the Sichel brothers…
2. …told the owner of their Seattle import partner…
3. …who told the representative of that import partner who calls on Full Pull…
4. …who told me (Paul Z)…
5. …who is now telling you…
…that today’s two wines is declassified juice from world-class winery Chateau [REDACTED] in Margaux.
Could something have been lost in translation at some point along the lane? Certainly. But some cursory internet research sure seems to confirm the story that I’m hearing about this one, and the wine itself is phenomenal. Basically, to get access to this wine, I had to promise not to reveal any Chateau names, and that was a deal I was willing to make. These aren’t easy wines to find in the United States. Outside of some parcels floating around Oregon, I’m not sure anyone else in the country is selling this one.
Maison Sichel is now into its fifth generation in Bordeaux. They’ve done a little of everything over the years: negociant, distributor, merchant, exporter, owner of properties, winemaking. They’re woven into the fabric of Bordeaux, and they’re only going to put their family name on something they’re proud of. They have a few different partners in Margaux, and this bottle comes entirely from one of those partners. And it’s a damned good one. As in: a bottle will cost you multiple hundreds of dollars good.
The blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot (more clues!), and it comes roaring out of the gates with lovely earthy animal mushroom Bordeaux character paired to cherry and redcurrant fruit and cherry-blossom top-notes. In the mouth, it is terrific, honest Bordeaux, not overpolished but instead earthy, sultry, throwing the kind of come-hither glances that only top-notch BDX can. Tight and chewy now, this beauty’s best years are likely well ahead of it, and I plan to stash plenty of bottles away in the personal cellar. If the story on this one is true (and again, I’m in the camp of believing that it is), this is an outrageous value.
First come first served up with no upper limits, and the wines should arrive in the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.