Full Pull Anniversary Week #3: I Am NOT Drinking Any [Bleeping] Merlot

Hello friends. Here’s the line: No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any [bleeping] Merlot!

Could it really be that a movie now more than a decade old can still have a lingering effect? That one line from Sideways could crush an entire category of wine for a decade?

Well, yes and no. Miles’ line in that movie only articulated the problem; he didn’t cause it. The root cause was a lot of really, really crappy California Merlot, much of it from the Central Valley. Soft, fleshy, insipid; no wonder so many folks gave up on Merlot completely.

But like Miles, whose favorite bottle – a’61 Cheval Blanc – is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot (some say this is purposeful irony; others a mistake in the script), many of us know in our heart of hearts the unique combination of charm and power that only Merlot possesses when done right.

Washington often does Merlot right. You could argue that no region in the United States, and maybe even in the entire new world, grows better Merlot than certain pockets of the Columbia Valley. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste a lot of Washington Merlot over the years, and the bottles that have been especially profound are the older ones. Late ‘90s Merlots from Seven Hills, from Andrew Will, from Woodward Canyon: breathtaking.

And so this not-entirely-economically-rational quest continues: to serve as Washington Merlot’s hype man (note: that video is somewhat NSFW) until the winds of fashion again blow in this particular direction.

For the 2012 vintage, we chose Klipsun Vineyard for our FP&F Merlot. That one just recently sold out, as you can see on our FP&F info page (note: 9 of the first 13 FP&F wines are now sold out, and of the remaining four, the 2011 Chardonnay and 2012 Bacchus Cab are depleting rapidly; if you see any wines on that still-available list that pique your interest, please respond to this e-mail with the wine and the number of bottles you’re looking for, and we’ll enter those orders manually.) For 2013, we could have gone with Klipsun again, but this time, I was completely seduced by barrels from a different site:

2013 Full Pull & Friends Merlot Red Willow Vineyard (FPF-15)

I mean, come on! We’re just ticking off hall-of-fame Washington vineyards with the FP&F label. Bacchus. Klipsun. Phinny Hill. And now Red Willow, the undisputed champion of the western Yakima Valley. Mike Sauer planted his first vines at Red Willow in 1973, and for many years, his vineyard was deeply tied to the fate of Columbia Winery, and especially its talented winemaker, the late David Lake MW. This particular Merlot block was planted in 1991. According to our partner winemaker: [TEXT WITHHELD]

That partner is one we’ve worked with on seven previous FP&F occasions. We’ve offered nineteen of their main-label wines, representing almost every wine they’ve produced in their existence. This is an outstanding winery, with a wonderful, skilled winemaker at the helm. Our goal with this bottling is the expression of Red Willow terroir through the prism of Merlot. This spent just shy of two years in French oak, 50% new, and it clocks in at 14.9% listed alc. One funny note: after writing my own tasting notes on this one, I asked our partner winemaker what he likes about Red Willow Merlot. He specifically mentioned “the savory complexity of the old vines at Red Willow,” and then I looked down to my note, which begins with “real sense of savory character.”

I think we are both so delighted because savory complexity is not necessarily associated with Merlot. Red-fruited fleshiness is, and that’s here too, but it’s so much lovelier as a supporting actor than it is playing the lead role. For me, the savory character is a mix between roasting meat (almost like demi-glace) and smoky peat. Mix that with strawberry and brambly raspberry and cocoa powder, top it off with cherry-blossom florals, and you have a glorious, complex Merlot nose. This winemaker is a master of texture, and that’s on fine display here. This is palate-staining Merlot, seamless and charming. It doesn’t have the Klipsun bottling’s brawny tannins; instead the tannins are present and polished, supple and delicious. This is for certain another Merlot to put in the cellar and watch unfurl into its truest beauty, but in the meantime, it’s plenty generous if you’re in an immediate-gratification state of mind.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, 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.

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