Full Pull The Beautiful (+Bonus Sixto)

September 30, 2015

Hello friends. For the third year running, we’re fortunate to have dibs on a rarity from the higher end of the K Vintners lineup that is about to hit Seattle. That Syrah will form the main thrust of today’s offer, but we also have access to small parcels of three of the four wines from Charles Smith’s new Sixto Chardonnay project. See below for those wines. And now, a few items of note on the Syrah:

1. Our list has first right of refusal on the tiny parcel coming into Seattle. If we want it all, we get it all. We need to place our order on Tuesday morning, so please try to get order requests in by Monday night. Given the quick turnaround, I had to made a go/no-go decision without sampling. Given the love for K Syrahs among our list members and the consistency of my experience with previous vintages, I’m confident that these wines will deliver the goods.

2. As usual with the K lineup, this wine has not yet been professionally reviewed. Unfortunately, the turnaround time for most publications just does not mesh with the speed of sales here. The most recent vintages of K wines to be reviewed are typically one or two vintages prior to the current release.

3. I suspect we’ll have to under-allocate here, given the parcel size, so a quick reminder of our allocation technique: Our allocations favor breadth over depth, so that everyone gets one bottle before anyone gets two. And our formula for prioritizing allocations includes overall orders, frequency of orders, recency of orders, and list tenure, among other factors.

Now, onto the wine:

2013 K Vintners Syrah The Beautiful

K only releases The Beautiful in years where they can harvest Viognier with their Syrah and co-ferment the two. This is the eighth vintage of the wine (following versions in 2002, 03, 05, 09, 10, 11, and 12).

In 2013, they wound up with 4% Viognier in the mix, and all the fruit comes from River Rock Vineyard, a site in the rocks of the Walla Walla Valley planted in 2001. This gets ambient-yeast fermented with 100% whole clusters and is then aged for a little over a year in French oak (30% new). Listed alcohol is 13.5%, and production is in the 200-300 case range, so there’s very little of this to go around. Expect soaring floral aromatics from the Viognier, and a palate that mixes silky texture with the verve and power of funky, mineral-inflected fruit from the rocks.

Jeb Dunnuck has given 95pt reviews to each of the past four vintages: the 2009 when he was still writing for The Rhone Report, and then the 2010 and 2011 and 2012 in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. It won’t be until sometime in 2016 that we’re likely to see the 2013 reviewed, and by then, hopefully our bottles are safely tucked away in our cellars or our bellies.

Now some quick-hitter offers on three of the four Sixto Chardonnays from this project’s inaugural 2012 vintage. These have been difficult wines to source, and I’m pleased that we have access today. I tasted each of the single-vineyard wines out of barrel, and they were total thrillers, expressive and delicious. This is a label intended to explore old-vine Washington Chardonnay, especially sites released from contract by Ste Michelle after natural yields fall too low with vine age. It’s named after the musician Sixto Rodriguez, subject of the outstanding Oscar-winning documentary Searching For Sugar Man.

2012 Sixto Chardonnay Uncovered

This is Sixto’s gateway drug, a blend of each of the three single vineyards involved in the project.Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 92pts.”

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 92pts.”

2012 Sixto Chardonnay Moxee Vineyard

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93pts.” [Sullivan context note: of the 160 Washington Chardonnays Sean has reviewed for Wine Enthusiast, none have received higher scores than the 93pt reviews for Sixto’s Moxee and Roza Hills wines.]

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93pts.”

2012 Sixto Chardonnay Roza Hills Vineyard

Roza Hills Vineyard (planted in 1977) forms a south-facing bowl at about 1400’ in the Rattlesnake Hills of the Yakima Valley. It is the warmest site of the three by some measure, and the wine is the most obviously new-world in style.

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

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 94pts.”

For The Beautiful, please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The Sixto parcel sizes are a little hazier, so I won’t put limits on those; ask for what you like, and we’ll do our best there too. All the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull The Noisy Neighbors

September 28, 2015

Hello friends. I recently had a chance to taste through new releases from the Olé Wines import portfolio, and several of the wines are fantastic. It was a tasting that really displayed the brilliant ability this particular importer has to eschew better-known regions in Spain for neighboring, up-and-coming regions. Often with the same varieties. Invariably with more accessible pricing.

So that’s what we’re building today’s offering around: the up-and-comers. The noisy neighbors.

As a reminder, our ability to access Olé wines (and especially at solid pricing) comes largely from our relationship with John House. In addition to his work making beautiful wines for Ovum (expect to see new releases from that project soon), John is also part of the Olé team, and that relationship has allowed us to pluck some of the best cherries from a book that Robert Parker himself has been known to praise thusly: [TEXT WITHHELD]

2014 Nortico Alvarinho

Instead of chasing Albarino from Rias Baixas, let’s cross the border into Portugal and instead pursue Alvarinho (same grape, different spelling) from Minho. This comes from vines planted between 1910 and 2005 in the granite and schist soils of the Minho River’s south bank. It sees four months in stainless steel and then goes into bottle young and fresh. This drank a little like a delicious gin-and-tonic to me, with citrus (lemon-lime) and quinine, but maybe a G&T that you poured over a base of crushed rock and salty mineral. As you’d expect, the acidity is bright and lively (and not, in this case, gussied up with any CO2), but what surprises (on the 12% alc frame) is the sense of palate-weight. This has enough heft to easily serve as an autumn white, and it’s a fine early candidate for the Thanksgiving table.

2013 Ludovicus Garnacha

From the team at Olé: [TEXT WITHHELD]

A few miles away in Priorat, the Garnacha commands double or triple or quadruple what we see in Terra Alta. This region tends to be a real bridge between old world and new, and that’s definitely the case here. The nose combines blackberry fruit, star anise, dusty earth, and umami soy notes. In the mouth, my word is this unapologetically delicious Grenache. It offers a dark-berried, very ripe (still, just 14% listed alc) version of the grape, with nice cooling slate mineral tones to keep things from getting too over-the-top. This compares very favorably with all sorts of Grenache-based Cotes du Rhones I’ve tasted this year. What a charmer!

2011 Cal Blanca Toro (Tempranillo)

From the team at Olé: [TEXT WITHHELD]

Instead of overpaying for Ribera, here we’re after Toro Tempranillo, a wonderful alternative. When you think about some of the characteristics of this wine (high elevation 30-year-old vines entirely on limestone, estate bottling), the price point starts to seem ludicrous. But that’s Spain. This offers a wonderful nose of black cherry fruit and cherry blossom florals, paired to earthy notes of graphite and leaf and mushroom. It’s an evocative, appetizing nose to be sure. And then the palate delivers a rich (14.5% listed alc) swirling stew of ripe fruit and savory beef broth. That brothy character, along with the substantial and delicious tannins, made me want to find a tough cut of meat (a shank of some kind would do) and braise it in this wine for hours (reserving a few glasses for drinking of course). A deeply satisfying cold-weather Tempranillo, with tremendous stuffing and personality for the tag.

Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 90pts.”

2012 Barahonda Barrica

Okay, this one is a little bit of a stretch, because even Jumilla, generally regarded as the capital of Monastrell (Mourvedre) in Spain, is under-known. And this is from Yecla, an even lesser-known neighbor to Jumilla. Yecla forms a transition zone between coastal Mediterranean climate and an inland continental climate. Monastrell thrives in Barahonda’s high-altitude (2300 ft) estate vineyards, which are substantially cooler than neighboring areas. The soils here are limestone and chalk with clay and gravel subsoils. I can tell you that these are non-nutritive soils, low in organic materials, but this photo offers a clearer picture. It’s quite something to see those gnarly old head-trained vines growing straight out of that moonscape, and as you can imagine, this soil keeps the natural yields quite low and therefore the concentration quite high.

Barahonda is among the oldest producers in Yecla, operating since 1925, and they have helped fuel the resurgent interest in Mourvedre from this ancient winegrowing region. Barrica is a blend of 75% Monastrell and 25% Syrah, and it comes entirely from the oldest vines on the estate, all 60 years or older (amazing given the price point). Those old vines contribute wonderful depth and intensity to the aromas and flavors of blackberry fruit, white flower, orange peel, and leathery spice. There is a spicy gaminess on the palate that is very true to Mourvedre from this part of Spain, and despite plenty of rich fleshiness (14.5% listed alc), this conveys plenty of vibrancy as well.

Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91pts.”

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

Full Pull Cadence

September 28, 2015

Hello friends. Back in March, we offered the first two of Ben Smith’s four single-vineyard Red Mountain wines from the 2011 vintage. Today we’re back with the final two, along with a reorder opportunity on the 2013 Coda, which just received a lovely review that is accelerating sales pressure.

As I mentioned earlier this year, Cadence really seems to be having a moment. What I have come to admire about Ben Smith over the years is his consistency. Fashion trends in wine wax and wane, but Ben has his house style, has his Red Mountain vineyard sources, and has just continued to pump out bottle after marvelous bottle. And at some point in the past few years, it seems like everyone caught on.

The pair of cool vintages in Washington (2010 and 2011) seem put on this earth specifically for Ben Smith to make wines at Cadence. Those vintages are just so well suited to the house style (textural elegance, carefully-tended structure, finely-tuned balance) of the man who, according to Stephen Tanzer, makes “some of Washington’s most Bordeaux-like wines.” For lovers of terroir expression in general, and Red Mountain terroir in particular, these are wines from a man dedicated to delivering sense of place in the glass, and from a vintage that gave him the raw materials to do just that.

2011 Cadence Tapteil Vineyard

Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93pts.”

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 94pts.”

Tapteil is a bit lesser known on Red Mountain than sites like Ciel and Klipsun, and it is a beautiful vineyard with a dark, sultry heart. The spine of this (59%) is 1985-planted Cabernet Sauvignon (the remainder is Merlot and Cabernet Franc). Even by Red Mountain standards, Tapteil is a windy site, and those Cabernet berries develop extra-thick skins to compensate, leading to wines with powerful tannic structure. In other hands, those tannins can get a little out of control. In Ben’s hands, they are managed capably, always adding a lovely toothsome quality, a rusticity, to the Tapteil bottling. Aromatics are dark and exotic: black plum, star anise, cardamom, loamy soil. On the palate, this is noteworthy for its deep inherent minerality, a core of crushed rock that pairs beautifully with a laser beam of the purest darkest blackcurrant fruit. A seamless powerhouse, this is a truly beautiful vintage of Tapteil, dark and alluring.

2011 Cadence Bel Canto Cara Mia Vineyard

Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 94+?pts.”

Ben’s Bel Canto is so wonderfully Cabernet Franc, with its unique and evocative mix of earth and pimenton and dried flower complicating a core of blackberry fruit. I love the smoky earth notes here, too: something like peat moss. As usual, this is a wine that conveys power and grace in turn. All of us who have paid attention to Bel Canto over the years (arguably the queen of the Cadence lineup in terms of elegance) had high expectations of the 2010 and 2011 vintages. Even with those high expectations, Ben has over-delivered. To put that Tanzer review into some context: of all the 2011-vintage Washington wines that he reviewed, only five received stronger notes: Cayuse Bionic Frog Syrah (96+?pts; $95); Cayuse En Chamberlin Syrah (95+?pts; $80); Corliss Cab (95+?pts; $85); Quilceda Creek Cab (95+?pts; $140); and Leonetti Cab (95+?pts; $90). Impressive company to keep.

2013 Cadence Coda

Originally offered July 19, 2015. Original offer text here. You may remember that Cadence moved Coda up from its usual autumn release to a late-spring release, in part because the demand for this wine is just so damned high. And then this happened:

Wine & Spirits Magazine (Patrick Comiskey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93pts.”

Now the winery is saying it’s iffy as to whether their remaining stock will see out the year. So if you’re looking for a high-QPR gift for holiday time or a reasonably-priced way to build a Washington cellar, now would be the time to jump on this vintage of Coda; it’ll likely be the last time we offer it.

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

Full Pull Range and Quality

September 26, 2015

Hello friends. We have a quartet of wines today from the Owen Roe family of labels, which together show the range and quality that David O’Reilly and his team are putting under bottle. We’ll begin with two new wines – one a well-priced Oregon Pinot, the other our first Washington red from the 2014 vintage – and then move onto reoffers for a pair of the most popular Syrahs we’ve offered in the past year.

2013 O’Reilly’s Pinot Noir

Most Oregon Pinot Noirs at a sub-$20 price point are a mishmash of a multitude of pan-Willamette Valley vineyards. Not so here. David’s value O’Reilly’s Pinot comes from declassified barrels of his higher-end Pinot Noirs. To wit: this vintage comes from exactly three sites. The first is Anna’s Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains (Owen Roe’s single-vineyard bottling from here goes for $42); the second Lenne Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton (this single-vineyard goes for $55); the third Merriman Vineyard, also in the Y-C and a major component in the Owen Roe’s Kilmore Pinot ($42).

All that to say: this is fine Pinot fruit indeed, and it shows. The airy aromas combine bright red cherry fruit, blood orange, and subtleties of fennel frond and pine. In the mouth, this drinks plush (despite the moderate 13% listed alc) and delicious. “Wonderful Pinot chugger” says one of my notes, and while I do generally recommend stemware for your wine consumption, if you happened to have a hankering for direct-from-bottle drinking, this would be a worthy candidate. As I lived with this wine over the course of a few hours, I was surprised to see it picking up both weight and complexity, adding savory mushroom notes to balance the rich red fruit. This over-delivers for the tag, both in complexity and stuffing, and that’s really not a surprise considering the lovely fruit involved here.

2014 Owen Roe Sinister Hand

It’s always a fun milestone to offer the first Washington red from a new vintage. And I’m not surprised to see Sinister Hand as the first across the finish line. Do you remember the 2013? Released in January of this year and sold entirely through a pre-sale, it was completely sold out by February. I’m actually impressed the folks at Owen Roe had the intestinal fortitude to wait this long for the release, as I’m sure many markets were crying out for more Hand.

Let’s talk production and expectations for the 2014. So, a typical production year for Sinister Hand historically has been 3000-4000 cases. The 2013 vintage was (gulp) 550 cases. The 2014 more than doubles that (1,388) but still falls well below normal. My best guess: the 2014 will be around for anywhere from two to four months, and then it will go away for another year.

For those of you unfamiliar with Sinister Hand (Owen Roe’s well-priced, Grenache-dominated Rhone blend), here’s the story, courtesy of the winery: [TEXT WITHHELD]

As I’ve said before: Gross story! Tasty wine!

A blend of 43% Grenache/27% Syrah/18% Mourvedre/13% Cinsault, it comes from three outstanding Yakima Valley vineyards: Union Gap, Outlook, and Olsen. It clocks in at 14.1% listed alc and comes roaring out of the glass with a wonderful complex nose: brambly red raspberry, briny Kalamata olive, smoky bacon fat, and beef stock. This is a *very* savory vintage of the Hand, offering real salty-sweet goodness on a richly-fruited frame. 2014 was an extremely warm vintage, and these thermophilic Rhone varieties seem to have thrived on the copious sunshine. If this is the vanguard of a characterful, early-drinking, openly delicious vintage, then I think we all have a lot to look forward to.

2013 Corvidae Syrah Lenore

Originally offered February 11, 2015. Excerpts from original offer: I’m racking my brain trying to come up with a Syrah that we’ve offered at this tariff or below. Most of what I think of as our best value Syrahs (Southard, For A Song, Saviah Jack, McKinley Springs) have been a tick or two higher than this one. Lenore immediately enters the conversation of the best value Syrahs in Washington. The quality for price is excellent.

There’s not a ton of information about vineyard breakdowns for these Corvidae wines, which is no surprise at this price point. What Owen Roe says here (not much): “The hillside vines in Yakima contribute fragrance, texture, and purity of fruit flavors. The depth of flavor belies the paltry price-point.” Well, I certainly agree with that second sentence, and the first sentence (“hillside vines in Yakima”) give us a pretty good clue that much of the fruit here could be similar to what goes into the Owen Roe wines.

This clocks in at 14.1% listed alc and offers a nose of smoky blueberry and marionberry fruit, olive brine, and fresh herb (mint leaf, tarragon). That smokiness is what caused me to jot “baby Umbris” a second time. Rich, ripe, and openly delicious, this is a long, palate-coating, easy-drinking beauty, the tannins soft and fine-grained and openly inviting. Charming and generous enough to open for folks who don’t really care about wine, and sneakily complex and savory enough to open for folks who do.

2012 Owen Roe Syrah Ex Umbris

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, we’ve been able to secure a continuation of the tariff throughout 2015, and it has been a frequent reorder target all year long.

Excerpts from original offer: 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.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91pts.”

Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91(+?)pts.”

First come first served up to 120 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull La Rata (Very Long)

September 26, 2015

Hello friends. We’ve had a few milestones in Full Pull’s history. Our first offer. Our first foray into Oregon. Our first international offer. Today’s offer represents another milestone; an opportunity long coveted; a chance to write about the exquisite, incomparable, terroir-expressive Cayuse Vineyards:

2012 La Rata

First off, a warning: this is going to be a long offer, as milestone offers tend to be. Second, let’s cover logistics nice and early: a) Our normal policy about trying to ship in full-case increments will not apply to La Rata. If you end up allocated 2 or 3 or 4 bottles and want those shipped during our upcoming autumn shipping window, we will accommodate that. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to get these beautiful wines into happy homes; b) This wine is in the warehouse already; c) There’s not much of it: just 98 cases produced, and the next vintage will be just as small; and d) We’re going to do our allocations one week from today, so please try to get all order requests in no later than next Tuesday (Sept 29).

Now the good part. What is La Rata, and how does our list have the good fortune to end up with all of it? Well, La Rata is a wine dripping with serendipity. Let’s zoom in and out of the serendipitous moments that bring us to the shimmering present:

October 2012, Cayuse Production Studio outside Milton-Freewater
It’s harvest. Spine-tingling, adrenaline-fueled, exhilarating/exhausting harvest. Harvest lunch at Cayuse involves a ritual of choosing bottles, blind, to crack open and drink with lunch. Elizabeth Bourcier, Cayuse’s Assistant Vigneronne, plucks a bottle, which turns out to be Clos Erasmus Laurel. Clos Erasmus is a wonderful estate in the Priorat region of Spain planted to Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. It’s one of a very few places in the world where Grenache and Cabernet are blended. The wine strikes a nerve over lunch. Elizabeth is inspired by the wine itself, by the winemaker Daphne Glorian. She remembers that – at Cayuse Vineyards – Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon often ripen at the same time, could be picked on the same day.

An experiment is born. Grenache and Cab together. Grenache from Armada Vineyard; Cabernet from En Cerise. A Priorat-style blend. What is written on the puncheons? Maybe it starts out as “Priorat.” But it’s soon shortened to “The Rat.” And then Spanglish-cized:  La Rata.

The name resonates. Elizabeth’s zodiac sign is the rat (spirit, wit, alertness, delicacy, flexibility, vitality; it fits). She still, despite having one of the most coveted roles in the Walla Walla Valley, thinks of herself as a cellar rat. But she has been with Cayuse since 2008, and she is much more than that. Titles and terms are important at Cayuse. Elizabeth is not an assistant winemaker; she is an assistant vigneronne. She touches every aspect of the wines at Cayuse, from vineyard to winery to bottle. She is a farmer. An artist. And a winemaker.

Spring 1996, a 10-acre open field that would become Cailloux Vineyard (the first site to be planted on the stones of Milton-Freewater, OR)
Christophe Baron is staring at a field of galets (large cobblestones). He has already discarded his birthright destiny, and he is about to discard his chosen destiny. The birthright: to join the family business, Champagne Baron Albert. To follow generations of his ancestors. Like, a lot of generations, and a lot of ancestors. 1677 is the first year where there is evidence of Barons working in Champagne. The chosen destiny: to make Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley. He’s supposed to be heading there now. But he’s a Frenchman staring at a field of galets, and he knows that this terroir is meant to be more than just a pain-in-the-ass place to grow apples.

By the end of 1997, Cailloux Vineyard is in the ground. In 1998, Coccinelle is planted, as is En Cerise (source of La Rata’s Cabernet Sauvignon). En Chamberlin follows in 2000, and then Armada (source of La Rata’s Grenache) in 2001. Wines are released. Acclaim and buzz follow soon thereafter. The word “cult” is tossed around. The mailing list is closed. The waiting list is begun. Legions of wine lovers receive their “Happy New Year From Cayuse Vineyards” e-mails each January and dream that this is the year they can taste the wines from this special piece of terroir.

June 2011, Cayuse Production Studio, outside Milton-Freewater, OR
My first visit to Cayuse, and it is entirely thanks to Sean Sullivan, who lets me tag along on a press visit. At this point I’ve been in the wine trade long enough to have developed a mild cynical edge. A few visits to wineries where the real story doesn’t match the PR story. Some emperor-has-no-clothes moments. This visit is the opposite. The emperors have lots of clothes. Like t-shirts and sweaters and fleeces, covered by raincoats and parkas.

The first thing I notice is that we’re greeted outside, and it’s more than an hour before we go inside. Before we do anything else, we walk the vineyards, because at Cayuse, that’s where it all begins. It is obsessive farming, and I mean that in the most loving way possible. This is not an easy place to farm. The rocky-as-hell soils, yes; but also the area’s susceptibility to frost. Farming shortcuts must be tempting, and those temptations are stubbornly, consistently resisted by Christophe and Elizabeth.

This is the first time I get to experience the yin-yang relationship of these two. Christophe: immediately disarming. T-shirt and hoody, shorts and boots. Chatting to his farming team in Spanish. Talking to us in English. Muttering occasionally in French. He’s exuberant. The passion is infectious and threatens to spill over. Sometimes it’s like the words can’t come out quite as quickly as the thoughts, and he kicks one leg out backwards to keep the momentum moving. At those moments, he is less bionic frog and more coq gaulois (or better yet, knowing Christophe’s love of food, a poulet de bresse). He makes me laugh out loud on multiple occasions. His term for Armada’s Grenache vines – somehow derogatory and affectionate at the same time – has me in stitches for days after the visit.

And Elizabeth. Quiet, especially at the beginning. Reserved. Thoughtful. And wickedly intelligent, which you realize every time she opens her mouth. One of those folks who causes you to lean in when they speak so that you don’t miss anything. Confident in her own way. Comfortable in her own skin.

When we finally do make it into the studio (filled with memorable rows of concrete tanks), we taste wine after wine after wine. It is an exceptional lineup of 2008s. Syrahs grown mere feet away from each other with completely different aromatic and flavor profiles. “Terroir is real!” is my last thought before falling asleep in the passenger seat of Sean’s car. When I wake up, another thought comes to me: there is no Cayuse secret. No silver bullet. The team there just works their collective asses off, eschews any and all shortcuts. “More power to the glory of the wine,” is something Christophe says on this visit, repeats on subsequent visits. He believes it. They all believe it. And they live it, in the vineyards and the production studio.

September 2002, Walla Walla, WA
Elizabeth enrolls in the first-ever class of Walla Walla Community College’s Enology and Viticulture Program. She is taught and mentored by the late Stan Clarke, a towering figure in the history of northwest wine. She is 18 years old. Her classmates are all older. Is this even legal? It isn’t discussed. She sets aside her anxiety about leaving Seattle and sets about studying the craft that will become her beautiful career.

May 2015, Cayuse Production Studio, outside Milton-Freewater, OR
So much is the same as the 2011 visit. I’m with Sean. We walk the vineyards first and then taste the wines. But look closer, and differences abound. Two new labels – No Girls and Horsepower – with a third project on the way. A new cave built under the production studio (“finally, after 17 years, a cave”), modern and beautiful, functional and industrial, with rustic exposed concrete you can’t help but reach out and touch. “More tools to reach the full potential of the fruit.” What a wonderful sentiment. Lunch and Champagne. Threats of an all-Pinot Meunier Champagne to come. Perhaps the birthright destiny will be fulfilled after all.

And a taste of La Rata. One of those wines where it is easy to say “of course” after the fact. Of course Grenache and Cabernet go together well here. Grenache and its plump, charming fruit; the insistent savory side it shows at Armada; its seamless attack and its plump mid-palate. Cabernet and its heft, its power, its toothsome structure. A happy marriage. The nose is outrageously complex, in the way that many wines from these Cayuse Vineyards are. A smattering of aromatic notes I jot down: salumi, cassis, raspberry, tobacco leaf, peony, gravel. Texturally vibrant (13.4% listed alc), this is a propulsive live wire, lighting up sensory receptors with wonderful umami tones, brackish salty olive notes, a gravelly mid-palate. The tannins are refined. This is graceful, polished, classy winemaking, and of course above all it is pristine fruit, farmed with so much care and love. More power to the glory of the wine, indeed.

February 2015, Bainbridge Island, WA
I’m out for a walk with my baby daughter. I know a phone call from Elizabeth and Christophe is coming soon, but it’s a sunny day in February, and when it’s a sunny day in February in the Puget Sound, it’s damn the torpedoes and out for a walk in the stroller. The phone call comes. I realize I’ve unnecessarily upped the degree of difficulty. Spotty cell reception on north Bainbridge. Elizabeth and Christophe yell-talking into Elizabeth’s cell phone set to speaker. A restless baby. And in the end, none of it matters, because it’s the best phone call I’ve received in Full Pull’s history. Elizabeth has a new project, called La Rata, and they’re looking for a sales partner. They already have three mailing lists (Cayuse, No Girls, Horsepower), and they don’t need another one. They want one exclusive sales partner for the entire production run of La Rata. They like our model. They like the list members they’ve met. They want to know if I can come out to Walla Walla in May to taste the wine, to have lunch. To talk. I’m doing soccer goal celebrations in the middle of the street while maintaining a sense of decorum on the phone. My voice isn’t quavering, is it? The baby looks at me and laughs.

October 1735, France
Henri and Francoise Bourcier walk their vineyards in Bordeaux. They taste Merlot, they taste Cabernet Franc. Almost ready, thinks Henri. Another year gone by, thinks Francoise.

Jean-Pierre and Clotilde Baron fondly anticipate the Champagne harvest to come. It’s going to be hard work, thinks Clotilde. Perhaps we should have another child, another set of hands, thinks Henri. He blows out the bedside candle and turns to his wife.

August 2015, Pegasus Coffee House, Bainbridge Island, WA
I consume three large cups of coffee and more than one pastry. I spend the whole morning doing the exact thing I began Full Pull wanting to do: writing about special wines, and the stories behind the people who make them.

I’m filled with a profound sense of luck. Of well-being. Fortunate to have wonderful list members who have brought Full Pull to this moment. Fortunate to have a friend like Sean Sullivan. Fortunate to have a happy and healthy family. Fortunate that Elizabeth Bourcier wanted to make wine for a living, and fortunate that she crossed paths with Christophe Baron. It really is the stuff of dreams, this.

This is uncharted territory for us, so we’re not going to set minimum nor maximum order requests. Please request what you’d like, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Value Cabernet

September 21, 2015

Hello friends. I’ve talked before about frog-kisser categories. Wines where you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. Well, “value Cabernet” definitely fits the bill. It’s the home of lean frogs. Mean frogs. And definitely green frogs.

But after kissing many a frog so far in 2015, I recently kissed a wonderful prince:

2013 Powers Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley

At this price point for Cab, I usually expect jammy fruit bombs, but this is anything but, displaying impressive surprising earthiness in the mouth. I love the rustic mouthfeel here, the big chunky tannins that are honest to Cabernet’s thick grapeskins. The finish is all chewy toothsome goodness, the tannins ripe and redolent of black tea. “Pretty damned impressive” is the last note in my notebook.

After I wrote that last note, I began the research scramble. And once I saw the vineyards involved, the quality of the wine began to make sense. I’m actually not going to reveal those vineyards here, because I know of at least one grower who would not be thrilled to see his fruit publicized in a $12 bottle. A little internet sleuthing, and you can figure it out yourself if you’re so inclined. What I will say: Powers makes three lovely single-vineyard Cabernets, and two of those vineyards are prominently involved here, making up 60% of the overall blend. All that to say: this is far from cast-off fruit.

For those of you buying for winter parties or weddings, or looking for a nice mid-week house wine, this is a fine candidate. First come first served up to 60 bottles, and 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.

Full Pull Funk

September 21, 2015

Hello friends. Rich Funk’s Saviah Cellars is a fine example of the myriad benefits of estate vineyards. He planted his Funk Estate Vineyard down in the rocks of the Walla Walla Valley back in 2007, so those vines have been in production for several years now. And yes, they’ve made some beautiful single-vineyard Syrahs, but better yet: it seems that Rich is allowing some of that good Funk juice to cascade into his Walla Walla Valley Syrah, and all of the sudden that bottling – which always offered strong quality for the price – has become a can’t miss:

2012 Saviah Syrah Walla Walla Valley

We actually had this wine lined up for an offer later in the year, but then Harvey Steiman published a terrific review in Wine Spectator Insider, and now I’m being told that this will be our one shot to access this wine; it’ll be sold out in a matter of weeks. Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93pts.”

To put the strength of this review into context: Harvey has reviewed 95 Syrahs from the fabulous 2012 vintage in Washington. Of those, only nine have earned stronger reviews: four from Cayuse/Horsepower, four from Reynvaan, one from Gramercy. The scores range from 94pts-96pts, and prices range from $52 to $115, with a median of $80. This is a strong price/score combination, and if the production level were a little higher (it’s 469cs), I’d be talking about its chances to land on the Top 100 list.

So, I was pretty sure from smelling/tasting this that it involved some Funk Estate fruit: that kelpy minerally brackish umami-ness was pretty easy to detect. And I was right. Funk Estate comprises the backbone of this Syrah, blended with Watermill Estate (a site also in the rocks; literally across the street from Cayuse), and Anna Marie Vineyard, in the neighborhood of Seven Hills Vineyard and Abeja’s Heather Hill Vineyard. It sees about a year and a half in French oak, very little new (about 20%), and it clocks in at 14.4% listed alc. It’s an inky wine, offering notes of black olive, black plum, and loads of salty/minerally/afore-mentioned-umami tones. There is something smoky and sultry about this one; it offers serious come-hither charm. The plush texture, the overall sense of stuffing and balance, the long finish: all indicate a wine with plenty of miles in the tank. Bravo to Rich for a fine evocation of Walla Walla terroir!

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.