Full Pull Staple

June 15, 2015

Hello friends. The list of successful sub-$20 Washington Syrahs is not a long one: Southard, For A Song, The Jack. (I’m sure there are a few more we’ve offered that I’m forgetting). And then there’s Morgan Lee’s Columbia Valley Syrah for Two Vintners, which in just three short vintages has become a list staple, offering terrific stuffing and complexity at a sub-$20 tag. Today it returns with a new vintage, and please note that below the Syrah, we’ll be offering the new releases of two whites from Morgan, both quite limited.

2013 Two Vintners Syrah Columbia Valley

This one has also become limited, and it’s mostly a price point issue. Somms around town have sniffed it out as a potential glass pour candidate, and once a wine ends up on a few glass pour lists, it tends to deplete and deplete and deplete. Last year, we only got one shot at the 2012 vintage, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same for this one.

It’s a real pan-Washington Syrah, coming from five vineyards in five separate AVAs: Olsen (Yakima Valley), Discovery (Horse Heaven), Klipsun (Red Mountain), Stonetree (Wahluke Slope), and Stoney Vine (Walla Walla Valley). It also sees a 2% Roussanne coferment, which always adds one more layer of complexity to an already-complex wine. It was raised in large French puncheons (almost all used or neutral), and it clocks in at 14.4% listed alc.

Sniffed blind, I think I would have pegged this as Owen Roe’s Ex Umbris. It has that same insistent smoky quality; just lovely. Those wafts of smoke surround a core of blackberry and blueberry fruits, dark loamy earth, and smoldering charcoal. That nose practically cries out to fire up the barbeque and grill something. In the mouth, this is intense, deep, openly delicious, another fine example of the easy charm of the 2013 vintage. There’s great presence and palate-weight here, complemented by bright acidity, and it finishes with an earthy kick of soft dusty tannins. Pass the smoked brisket. Pass the pulled pork.

2014 Two Vintners Roussanne

We offered this for the first time last year, but that was at [TEXT WITHHELD]. Morgan has offered us a nice price drop for this year, which will hopefully make this lovely white more accessible to our list members. Add up a series of factors – all stainless steel, no malo, 13.1% listed alc – and you begin to get a sense of a bright, energetic version of Roussanne (all from Olsen Vineyard fruit). The nose has that wonderful Roussanne combination of stone fruits (nectarines, apricots) and nuts and mineral, and that combination continues on the palate, which is full of verve and intensity. Roussanne wants to be fleshy by nature, and especially in a warm year like 2014. Even with all the factors noted above, there is still a sense of generosity to the fruit here. But that flesh is well balanced by juicy acid and a nervy texture. It’s Roussanne as a summer-into-autumn vin de soif.

2014 Two Vintners Grenache Blanc

There are a few producers (Syncline, Kerloo, Two Vintners) doing exciting work with Grenache Blanc, which is still a real rarity in Washington. This version comes entirely from the inimitable Boushey Vineyard, and it begins with a compelling nose of honeydew melon, peppermint, and chalky mineral. This is another crisp white, clocking in at 13.2% listed alc and seeing no malolactic conversion. All juicy citrusy acid on the attack, this picks up weight and richness in the mid-palate before rolling into a saline, mouthwatering finish. All the components are well-balanced here. This one almost goes down too easily.

First come first served up to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in the next few weeks, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Exclusive

June 15, 2015

Hello friends. It has been nearly an entire year since we’ve had anything new to offer from Maison Bleue. June 18 of 2014 was the last time. And even today we only have two wines. Everything else that Jon Meuret makes is sold out. I suspect it’s only because of our list’s long and consistent support of this winery that we’re seeing any wine at all. Jon mentioned that we’d be the only account in Seattle receiving any of this wine. As I understand it, that means no restaurants, none of our retail brethren; only us.

It was also made clear to me that this is a one-and-done deal. We will not be able to fill reorder requests. We’re going to aim to send Jon our numbers on June 22, so please try to get order requests in no later than the evening of June 21, or I’m afraid we’ll be unlikely to fulfill your requests. Now then, onto the wines:

2012 Maison Bleue Grenache Bourgeois

A new Grenache for Maison Bleue, already called Jon’s best by the only person to review the wine to date: Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19.5+/20pts.”

Three terrific vineyard sources from three different AVAs: Boushey in the Yakima Valley, Ciel on Red Mountain, and Seven Hills in the Walla Walla Valley. The fruit was fermented with 50% whole clusters, then aged in big old French puncheons for just shy of two years before bottling. It has now had another year to age in bottle, and it clocks in at 14.5% listed alc. The nose is no-doubt-about-it Grenache: kirsch and raspberry fruit, hot-rock minerality, dusty sagebrush. Hell yes. In the mouth, the texture is immediately noteworthy, via a beautiful glide-path across the attack, middle, and finish, carrying the mix of red fruits and minerals on a rich, supple, concentrated frame. This is classy, polished winemaking on display.

2014 Maison Bleue Rose Lisette

This is a new, Grenache-based rosé for Jon (whose rosés were previously Mourvedre-dominant). It’s 86% Grenache, the remainder a mix of Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Viognier, and it comes entirely from Boushey Vineyard (single vineyard Boushey rosé; nifty!). The fruit was picked specifically for rosé, and it was raised entirely in stainless steel. It clocks in at 12.5% listed alc, and only 194 cases were produced. Jon has set aside a small parcel for our list.

It begins with a captivating, intense nose of mixed melons, cherry, and an exotic flower note like jasmine. There is impressive richness and complexity here, likely from regular lees stirring and full malolactic conversion, and it pairs beautifully with the bright, balancing acidity. The rich, minerally finish makes me think this is a rosé that could easily work well into autumn. As usual with Jon’s rosés, it’s elevated a bit beyond your typical summer porch pounder.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5+/20pts.”

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in the next few weeks, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Eliminator VIII

June 15, 2015

Hello friends. The Eliminator is back after a long absence. Yes, we had our “hoarders” mini-eliminator in February, but the last true Eliminator? That was December 19.

Based on the name of the final American Gladiators challenge (see link for an excellent example of the original Eliminator, and also for an epic blond ‘80s mullet), this is where we eliminate extra bottles that have accumulated for one reason or another (some reasons purposeful; others accidental/stupid/I-don’t-wanna-talk-about-it).

A reminder: we handle this offering a little differently than most. These will be first-come first-served, and the upper order limits will be the number of extra bottles in the warehouse (with one exception). So, if we have 15 bottles left, and you want all 15, and you’re the first to jump in, they’re yours.

This gives slight advantage to longer-term list members. Our offerings are throttled, and it takes about three hours to send offers to the entire list. So the old-heads will get a bit of a head-start (much like the Gladiators Eliminator, but with fewer tassels), but list newbies will be nipping at their heels!

All of these bottles are in the warehouse and available for immediate pickup.

2010 Domaine des Rozets Grignan-les-Adhemar

After a small, erm, nuclear accident at the Tricastin Nuclear Power Center in 2008, Coteaux du Tricastin renamed itself Grignan-les-Adhemar, and the wines have never been better values. A 60/35/5 blend of Grenache/Syrah/Cinsault grown on an alluvial former river-bed now filled with large rounded cobbles and raised entirely in concrete. We grabbed the last parcel of the final vintage that our Seattle import partner is bringing in, and we wound up with a bunch of extra bottles. They’ve been depleting steadily via reorder requests since then, leaving us with 95 bottles available of this funky, briny beauty.

2011 Montepeloso A Quo Toscana IGT

From the Tuscan coast comes this hearty, seductive Sangiovese-driven beauty. Originally a $25 wine, we secured a sweet price drop if we took the entire parcel; hence some extra bottles. It’s earthy and savory, full of spicy tomato paste and raspberry, angostura bitters and brewed coffee. In a 90pt review, Antonio Galloni put the drinking window at 2013-2019 (so we’re entering the peak of the peak), saying “A Quo is fabulous. I expected to find a rich, powerful wine given the year, instead the 2011 A Quo is fresh, vibrant and beautifully delineated.” 97 bottles available.

2013 Burgaud Beaujolais-Villages Blanc Chardonnay

We offered this in early February, kind of a terrible time for white wines, and we still only ended up with 26 extra bottles from a sizeable starting parcel. Considering we’re now entering peak white wine drinking season, considering that this is a 12.5%-alc, mineral- and salt-soaked beauty, with terrific layers of fruit (creamy peach, lemon curd) and earth and biscuity lees, considering all that, I should probably just shut up now.

2008 RiverAerie Syrah

The last RiverAerie wine we ever offered (Ron Bunnell discontinued the label) so we bought out the entirety of the remaining stock. Now we have 82 bottles remaining. Extra compelling for its age/quality/price combination. I’ve said on multiple occasions that Washington Syrahs hit their stride at 5-6 years past vintage, but sometimes it can be difficult to have the patience to cellar them for that long. No problem here. This is an immediate gratification play, with a woodsy, maturing nose, all earth and mushrooms married to blackberry fruit. That fruit character is beginning to take on the exquisite dried-fruit notes that so many of us love in our aged wines, and the extra polish from bottle age has turned this silky indeed. Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

2010 Moulin de la Gardette Gigondas

We went long on this lovely Gigondas back in March, taking the entire remaining parcel of 2010 in Seattle. At this point, we may well be the only folks in the country with the lovely 2010 in stock (96 bottles remaining). MdlG is a traditional, old-school producer, with all fermentation in concrete, and maturation done in a combo of concrete and old foudres. The blend is very true to this part of the world: dominated by Grenache (80%), with equal tenths of Mourvedre and Cinsault. The nose presents a wonderful combination of fruit (brambly raspberry, dried cherry) and flower, hot-rock minerality and spice. It’s a hearty, red-blooded, honest Gigondas, and it also comes with a fine review from the point-reticent Tanzer/Vinous family: Vinous/IWC (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

2012 Full Pull & Friends Syrah-Grenache (FPF-3)

A 50/50 blend of Angela’s Vineyard Syrah (Red Mountain) and Alder Ridge Grenache (Horse Heaven Hills) that has continued to blossom wonderfully in bottle, just as our supply continues to dwindle (we’re down to our final 71 bottles). Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] Rating: ****/***** (Excellent/Exceptional).”

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19/20pts.”

2006 Cadence “Camerata” Cara Mia Vineyard

We only have a handful of bottles remaining, so I’ll keep this one short: Historically significant as the first vintage release from Cadence’s estate vineyard on Red Mountain, it shows a glorious mix of primary fruit and tertiary dusty savories. Almost all Cabernet Sauvignon (94%), with just a dollop of Cab Franc. Beautiful, and still improving. A measly 9 bottles available.

All these wines are in the warehouse and available for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull June Pinots

June 10, 2015

Hello friends. It is a good time to be an Oregon Pinot lover. What is mostly on the market now comes from the 2012 and 2013 vintages, back to back strong years with very different charms. I see 2012 as a classic, structured vintage, a bit like 2008 but with the wines perhaps less severe in their youths. And then 2013 is the easy charmer, warmer and more approachable than ’12 but not so fully blowsy as the ‘09s.

The quality of Oregon Pinots I’m tasting these days is better than ever. Here are a handful that represent the best QPR bottles we’ve tasted over the past few months (see the bottom of the offer for some compelling bonus whites from Oregon as well):

2013 Kelley Fox Pinot Noir Mirabai

In the interim between offering our first-ever Kelley Fox wine (in March 2014) and our second (today), I had the chance to meet Ms. Fox herself, and let me say: she is the real deal; one of the most articulate, compelling winemakers I can remember speaking to, with a clear point of view and a low tolerance for suffering fools. No surprise that her wines are among the most exciting coming out of Oregon today. They’re popular among the somm set (and much more likely to turn up on restaurant lists than on retail shelves) in part because of their clear Burgundian sensibilities, which makes sense when you consider Kelley’s background, which includes stints at Eyrie Vineyards (working alongside David Lett himself), and at Scott Paul Wines (which also had its Burgundy import arm).

Kelley makes three wines: a Maresh Vineyard Pinot, a Momtazi Vineyard Pinot, and then Mirabai, a wine that combines both vineyards. The 2013 is within spitting distance of just being called old-vine Maresh. Out of 13 barrels, 10 come from the 1970-planted block of Maresh and 2 from the 1978-planted block of Maresh. A single barrel comes from Momtazi (1999-planted). When you consider those raw materials, this starts to look like a pretty serious value.

And then when you drink the wine, that initial impression is immediately confirmed. Clocking in at 13% listed alc and pouring into the glass with a lovely pale ruby color, this one sends its evocative aromas spilling up and out of the glass: pie cherry, resinous forest floor, and great Maresh minerality. In a vintage that will mostly be known for simpler charms, this one defies the type, offering characterful pleasures, noteworthy structure (especially in its sturdy acid spine), and thrilling intensity. This is a master class in old vine Oregon Pinot.

2012 Chehalem Pinot Noir Three Vineyards

I have to thank Shannon Jones of Hestia Cellars for introducing me to the beauty of Chehalem wines way back when we were in a tasting group together. I went long on the 2007 single-vineyard Pinots from Chehalem, and I have not been disappointed, as they’ve paid transformative dividends for years now. I’m finally getting down to the end of my stash, so it may be time to re-up, as the single-vineyard 2012s are just now hitting the market. Chehalem makes three such Pinots: from Corral Creek, Stoller, and Ridgecrest. They tend to retail around $50. And then there’s their Three Vineyards bottling, which (surprise surprise) comes from all three of the single vineyards. It’s also considerably less expensive, and so offers terrific value, especially in a vintage as compelling as 2012.

This particular year sees a preponderance of Corral Creek fruit (my personal favorite of the three) at 38% of the blend, rounded out with 33% Stoller and 29% Ridgecrest. It was aged for a year in French oak, just 14% new, and it begins with a nose of dark berry fruits and plums, dark silty minerals, and rich soil tones. A much darker profile than Mirabai, and a lovely yin to that particular yang. Bright and lively, true to the airily-fruited house style, this also conveys serious depth and palate weight on a 13.9% listed alc frame. Perhaps most impressive on the lingering finish, with fine grained delicious tannins suggesting many happy years ahead. This is a stylish introduction to a reference-point Willamette producer, from a vintage that’s about as good as it gets in the northwest.

2012 Brittan Vineyards Pinot Noir Basalt Block

After 30 years making wine in the Napa Valley (the last 16 at Stags’ Leap, as Winemaker and Estate Manager), Robert Brittan decamped to Oregon in 2004, identifying and purchasing a piece of land in the McMinnville AVA, a cool, windy site on the edge of Oregon’s Coast Range. He liked this piece of land for its mix of soils: predominantly broken sub-marine basalt, but with volcanic material and glacial deposits as well.

The “Basalt Block” Pinot comes from the sections of the vineyard that have the heaviest concentration of broken sub-marine basalts. The vines give very low yields of intense, complex grapes, and they’re difficult to come by. We’ve offered exactly one Brittan wine – the 2009 vintage of this same bottling, back in August 2012 – and it’s not for lack of trying. They’re just difficult wines to come by, and I’d be surprised if this one doesn’t turn out to be one-and-done. It is a mineral-and-acid-lover’s dream wine, with enough cherry and star anise stuffing to last for decades.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

And now a pair of bonus whites:

2013 Johan Vineyards Estate Gruner Veltliner

A Norweigan native (Dag Johan Sundby) growing biodynamic Gruner Veltliner at the edge of the Van Duzer Gap (location here). Yeah, I’ll admit this one caught me by surprise. But man is it good. A nose of lemon, sweet pea, and green lentil gives way to a palate dry, intense, and chock full of extract and citric-acid cut. There are plenty of Gruner’s signature savory notes, so unusual/compelling for a white wine, and this lingers effortlessly on the finish. “This is impressive,” says that last line in my notebook, an expression of surprised delight.

2013 Crowley Chardonnay Willamette Valley

Year in and year out, one of the highest QPR Chardonnays produced in the entire northwest. And yet we’ve only ever offered Crowley Chard two other times. It’s just hard to get those damned Oregonians to let very much out of their greedy clutches. This is single-vineyard, entirely from Four Winds (although it doesn’t say so on the bottle), a 1993-planted vineyard in Oregon’s coast range. The nose combines lemon curd, nectarine, chalky minerals, and a lovely smokey/leesy nuance that reminded me of bread grilled in a wood oven. Appetizing for sure. The palate is brisk, minerally, with plenty of lemony lift and cut, conveying richness and energy in turn. No easy feat. This is another marvel of single-vineyard expressiveness, a tickler of the intellectual and sensual sides of the brain, another killer Chardonnay from Tyson Crowley.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in the next few weeks, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Gramercy Redux

June 10, 2015

Hello friends. This was not today’s regularly scheduled offer, but I recently learned that the July issue of Wine Enthusiast is set to include a series of strong reviews for a trio of Gramercy wines we’ve previously offered. I want to give our list members one more shot at these wines before Sean Sullivan’s prose makes them disappear:

2012 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Lower East

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

[Sullivan context note: Sean has now reviewed 203 Cabernet Sauvignons for Wine Enthusiast. Exactly two have stronger reviews, both 94pts: 2012 Woodward Canyon Old Vines ($99) and 2010 Den Hoed Andreas ($80). The other five wines that have earned matching 93pt reviews have prices of $48, $50, $60, $75, and $100. I’ve been saying for years that Lower East Cab represents extraordinary value; it would seem Mr. Sullivan agrees.]

2012 Gramercy Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley

Originally offered October 15, 2014. Original offer here.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

[Sullivan context note: Likewise, Sean has reviewed 140 Syrahs for Enthusiast, and only three have stronger reviews (all 95pt reviews), including the one you’re going to read about in ten seconds.]

2012 Gramercy Cellars Syrah Lagniappe

Originally offered April 26, 2015. Original offer here.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 95pts.”

[Sullivan context note: As I mentioned above, not a single Syrah has earned a stronger review than this. The two other 95pt Syrahs for Sean have been the 2012 Avennia Arnaut from Boushey Vineyard and the 2012 Gramercy John Lewis Syrah.]

Please limit order requests to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in the next few weeks, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Walla Walla Cabernet Deal

June 10, 2015

Hello friends. Quick offer today, as our dear friend Kenny Hart has offered us a time-limited deal on the remaining parcel of a peak-drinking Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (note: there’s a bonus white, also with a nice discount; see the bottom of the offer):

2009 Tulpen Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley

We originally offered this wine more than two years ago, in April 2013 (if you don’t know the Tulpen story, see that original offer, which has all the details). What has changed since then:


2. At the time of original offer, the wine was unreviewed. Now it has a nice review from Sean Sullivan: Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: **** (Excellent).”

3. Two more years in bottle, which have only made this wine more lovely. Here’s what we said back in 2013: What is noteworthy about this Cabernet are the densely-packed layers of fruit aromatics. There is plenty of cassis and cherry and berry, but also fruits that are more exotic for Cabernet: peach and papaya and melon. The core of fruit is ultra-impressive, and it’s swaddled in grace notes of dust and earth and eucalyptus. The palate is much more dense and brooding than the Coalesence. I’d drink Coalesence a bit younger, while waiting for this one’s tightly-packed fruit to emerge from behind its walls of mineral and structure. If most of the Walla Walla Valley Cabs you’ve been drinking have been predominantly from Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills, this presents an entirely different profile of Cabernet from the valley.

Well, those walls of structure are beginning to yield, and the maturing fruit is emerging beautifully. This offers a terrific sense of extract and concentration, power and grace. It’s a wonderful example of generous warm-vintage winemaking, a delicious Cabernet still with years ahead of it. I tasted it just last week and found it terribly seductive.

It also comes from a trio of valley vineyards rarely seen in bottle: 62% comes from two dry-farmed sites that Kenny manages in the Mill Creek drainage (Tokar and Yellow Bird), and the remaining 38% is Heather Hill. Yes, the Heather Hill that is Abeja’s estate site. Yes, the one that forms the impossible to source Abeja Heather Hill Cab.

Basically, Kenny has a handful of cases left, and he wants to see it all disappear (hence the price drop). Our deal is: our list members have dibs for about a week. We’ll need to place our order with Kenny eight days from now (June 15), so please try to have all order requests in by the evening of June 14, one week from today. If our list has demand for all the wine, we get all the wine. If not, I suspect plenty of other accounts will jump at the chance to source peak-drinking Tulpen Cab on discount.

2012 Tulpen Cellars Vino Blanc Los Oidos Vineyard

And a bonus white! Excerpts from that original offer:

Tulpen’s first white; how exciting! Given Kenny’s penchant for white Burgundy, I would have guessed he’d make a Chardonnay. Instead he’s gone the white Rhone route, with a blend of 45% Marsanne, 33% Roussanne, 11% Viognier, 9% Picpoul, and 2% Grenache Blanc. It’s essentially a field blend, as all the grapes were harvested from Los Oidos Vineyard on the same day and were then cofermented together and aged in 100% new French oak. Total production is 100 cases.

This is a newer vineyard, 15 acres planted in 2009 in the foothills of the Blue Mountains at 1100’, in between Les Collines and Morrison Lane (two outstanding vineyards). It’s mostly planted to red varieties, but it’ll be a few years before we see those wines. In the meantime, we have this lovely white, which begins with a nose of almond and walnut, nectarine and orange, and lovely Viognier floral/ginger topnotes. What you notice right away with this wine is the texture, conveying a real sense of glycerol fullness that is evocative of a silky red wine. The creaminess seems impossible given the moderate (12.5% listed) alcohol, but there you have it. For lovers of generous, fleshy whites (or of new vineyard projects), this is a must-try.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 19/20pts.”

Please limit order requests to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in the next few weeks, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Getaria

June 10, 2015

Hello friends. We have the return of a list favorite today; the new vintage of the wine that kicked off our expansion into imports three summers ago:

2014 Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis

I’m going to excerpt broadly from that original offer, because it was a blast to write. You might remember that the main update since then is that we tend to piss off a whole lot of restaurants who glass-pour Rubentis when we buy out most of the remaining stock in Seattle each summer. As a result, other folks have wised up and now stockpile their own stash. This has only increased the sales pressure on this wine each summer.

Now then, excerpts from that original offer:
Here is what you will do.

You will fly into Barcelona, and, despite the whimsical beauty of its Gaudian architecture, you won’t stay long. The countryside beckons.

You will board a train, and hours later, you will arrive on the coast, at San Sebastian. Because it’s one of the gustatory capitals of Europe, you’ll stay for lunch. This is your lunch.

Now full and sleepy, you will stagger to a bus stop. You will board a bus that you hope is moving in the right direction. This is your bus route.

You’ll exit your bus at Getaria, in the golden light of late afternoon. You’ll walk down the narrow streets until you find your hotel. This is your hotel. You’ll be greeted in a language that sounds more like Greek than Spanish.

This is the view from your hotel room window.

This is where you’ll eat grilled fish and octopus pulled from the Bay of Biscay that morning.

This is what your town looks like from above: a sea, a harbor, a small town, and vineyards. You’ll wonder why anyone would ever leave this place.

The next day, you’ll wander up the hills into the vineyards. This is what the vineyards look like. The vines will be trained taller than your head. You’ll ask what is being grown here.

“Txakolina” will be the answer.

You will fall in love with this place.


…if all the vagaries of modern life make a trip like this impossible, if jobs and kids and pets and adult responsibilities make a trip like this impossible, we can still visit these places.

That is the beauty of wine. It is a place, suspended in liquid form. It is a place we can visit in our senses as we sip. It is our astral projection. And it’s why I want to write about wines from all over the world. Including Txakolina.

Getaria is Basque country: not quite Spain, not quite France; its own animal. In the vineyards planted in the rolling hills above town, they grow indigenous varietals, like Hondarribi Beltza and Hondarribi Zuri. We’re a looooooooong way from Cabernet Sauvignon here.

The Ameztoi family is into its seventh generation of winemaking. Some of the vines are more than 150 years old. Over time, the wines and local cuisine have grown up together. And so the residents drink Txakolina like water, and what they don’t drink, denizens of Barcelona and Madrid gulp down. A miniscule amount makes its way into the United States, and that’s especially true of today’s specific wine, which has developed something of a cult following among the sommelier set in New York and San Francisco. Fortunately, a small amount comes to Seattle, also.

Like a lot of Txakolina, this has a bit of absorbed CO2, so it is semi-sparkling. Unlike a lot of Txakolina, they have blended a bit of Hondarribi Beltza (a red varietal) into the mix, giving this a delicate pink color. Because Txakolina grew up with Basque cuisine, it is a terrifically versatile food wine.

Rubentis has been a house wine of ours for several years now. It typically arrives in Seattle in late spring, and we drink it throughout the summer, both as a cocktail and as a lovely pairing for all the PacNW’s seafood. It has made multiple appearances on the Thanksgiving table, where its low-alc (11% this year), high-acid, food-friendly nature makes it a perfect foil for turkey et al. It has made multiple appearances on New Year’s Eve (semi-sparkling, remember?). It has made multiple appearances with breakfast.

It’s a wonderful wine, one of my favorites in this whole wide world; an inescapable expression of a small, very special place.
Not much has changed since last year, except for a new vintage, with new tasting notes. What an evocative, aromatic year for Rubentis! The nose is an alluring, expressive mix of rose petals, pomegranate fruit, and mineral. The palate is quite similar to the 2011 and 2013 vintages (both hugely popular), a live wire of liquefied rock and flower and pink fruit that pulsates across the mouth. As usual, the austere fruit serves as the grace note here; the main event is salt air, chalky mineral, rippin’ acid, light spritz. This wine is a house favorite, a Team Full Pull favorite (I think I saw Matt squirreling some away on his way out of town), a list member favorite: what could be better?

The template in our house is to go through 6 bottles in summer, another 3 in autumn (2 on the Thanksgiving table), and the final 3 for the holidays. If any of my personal-stash bottles survive into 2016, I can only deem that an abject failure. Please limit order requests to 12 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.