Full Pull The Rocks District

Hello friends. We have the new vintage today of one of last year’s most painfully allocated wines. This year, the pain should be lessened. Somewhat.

2013 Delmas Syrah

Before going any further, I’ll say what I said last year: give serious consideration to heading over to the Delmas website and joining their mailing/waiting list. This is an extremely exciting new project coming out of the Walla Walla rocks, and I fully expect them to wind up selling most or all of their wine through their list, a la Cayuse and Reynvaan.

We’re fortunate to be receiving any allocation of this wine at all. Outside of us and our colleagues at McCarthy & Schiering (consider contacting Dan and Jay if we under-allocate you), the only place to source this wine is at the winery door. No restaurant sales. No other retail sales. It’s an extremely limited wine. Last year we set upper order limits at 3 bottles. In the end, no one got more than a single bottle, and dozens of list members were shut out entirely. This year, we have a marginally bigger allocation. I’m going to (optimistically? foolishly?) bump the order limit to 6 bottles today, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see final allocations closer to 2-3 bottles.

What makes Delmas so exciting is that this is the estate winery for SJR Vineyard. Now, SJR first came onto my radar back in 2011, when Sean Boyd from Rotie Cellars put a solid chunk of Syrah from this site into his 2009 Northern. You know, the one that ended up at #7 on Sean Sullivan’s Top 100 for Seattle Met Magazine that year, with an attached 94pt review? At the time, SJR vineyard was on its third leaf (planted in 2007), and it was clear then that the fruit quality was outrageous, especially for such young vines.

You can always judge the quality of a vineyard by who is working with the fruit. And over the next few years, Steve Robertson of SJR sold fruit to exactly three wineries: Rotie, Rasa, and Gramercy. That is a murderer’s row of Syrah producers.

And at the time, I also started hearing about Delmas, which was keeping some of their fruit for a three-year “soft release.” They made 45 cases of 2010 vintage, 45 cases of 2011. I inquired after both, and in both cases, there was only enough wine to sell to friends, family, and mailing list members.

Then, in summer 2013, I got the chance to meet Steve in person and walk the rows at SJR. Unfortunately, my best picture from that trip has my fat fingers all over it, but you still get the idea: this is squarely in the rocks. And on that front, it’s also worth noting that Steve was one of the real champions of applying to the TTB for approval of a new sub-AVA within the Walla Walla Valley: The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater (I wrote about this development under my Seattle Magazine guise). That meeting led to more conversations and eventually an agreement that Full Pull would receive a small allocation of the 2012 vintage. And the rest is history.

On the viticulture front, Steve’s daughter Brooke is getting more and more involved. She has been cutting her viticulture teeth in a small California region called the Napa Valley and is currently pursuing her viticulture master’s at Cal Poly, but she’s winging back and forth between Northern Cali and the Walla Walla Valley, and once she finishes her degree, she’ll be onsite at SJR full time.

For winemaking, Steve has chosen Billo Naravane from Rasa Vineyards as Demlas’ consulting winemaker, and what a joy it is to see Billo – who is a Rhone savant – working with rocks fruit. Here’s what the always-eloquent Billo has to say about the site: “SJR Vineyard produces Syrah with an amazing sense of terroir; there is a haunting earthiness and minerality that is present in all of the wines from this vineyard. The resulting wines have that rare combination of elegance, finesse, and power without heaviness. SJR Vineyard is a site that truly has something spectacular to say.”

The vineyard (located at the far southwestern edge of the rocks) is 9.6 acres, of which 7.9 are planted, mostly to Syrah (5.9 acres) and then an acre each of Grenache and Viognier. That Viognier is a full 8.1% of this 2013 Syrah, cofermented, and the whole thing is aged for 18 months in French oak, about 50% new. The first sniff confirms the large proportion of Viognier via an evocative garden of flowers: jasmine, orange blossom, violet. The second sniff: a core of brambly red raspberry fruit. And then each subsequent sniff seems to reveal another savory subtlety: now exotic smoky incense, now a plate of charcuterie, now anise and cardamom. It’s a nose that glories in its complexities. And then the mouthfeel. Oh, the mouthfeel. It’s hard to say enough about Billo’s skill with texture, which is on clear display here. I actually used the word “endearing” in my note: a rare adjective for me. But this is just so supple, so attractive, so impossibly pillowy. With every minute open, this bottle revealed more savory/smoky goodies. The mix of deep intense fruit and naughty brackish salty notes had me completely seduced. What a fine sophomore effort this is. What a fine harbinger of things to come for this thrilling new project.

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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