Full Pull Anniversary Week #4: Nebbiolo Price Drop

Hello friends. One of our favorite under-the-radar wineries has decided to hit the reset button on their core wines. The result is that we were offered a significant price drop on our pick of four older vintages. Having tasted all four, there was a clear winner:

2008 Cavatappi Nebbiolo Maddalena Red Willow Vineyard

First the modern Cavatappi story, then the ancient story. The modern story starts, as I mentioned, with the winery hitting the reset button on their Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. A few years ago, Precept came on board as managing partners in the winery (with Peter Dow still on board as winemaker). They settled on a strategy to get current on their vintages, and saw the outstanding 2012 vintage as a fine opportunity to do so. They just recently released the 2012 Maddalena, and it already has its first rave, from Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue at Great Northwest Wine. You may also notice the new-and-improved $30 price tag.

But what to do with the four vintages already in bottle (2006-2009; it was too cold in 2010 and 2011 to ripen Nebbiolo properly)? The answer: slash the price and make them disappear.

I’m sure you’ll see the other three vintages turn up someplace, maybe even at a lower price point than our 14.99 TPU, but for me, this 2008 was the real cherry of the four, and I thought it would be a perfect fit for Anniversary Week 2015. In part because we have a long history with this winery, so let’s move onto the ancient history.

In the 1980s, Peter Dow was the chef/owner of Cafe Juanita, a Kirkland restaurant featuring the cuisine of Northern Italy. After visiting the region himself, Peter was inspired by the number of restaurants in the Piedmont that were making their own house wine, and so he set about developing a winery in the cellar of his restaurant. Because there were so few Italian varieties planted in Washington at the time, Peter also had to develop partnerships with growers to put those vines into the ground.

So it was, that on a February day in 1984 that Peter described as “colder than [REDACTED],” he and Mike Sauer drank a bottle of Barolo and then proceeded to bury it under the acre of land at Red Willow Vineyard that would become Peter’s Nebbiolo block. The burial was a good-luck ritual designed to woo the spirits of the Piedmont, and considering that the vineyard block is still in production 30 years later, it just may have worked.

In its early years, Cavatappi sold all its wine through Cafe Juanita, but over time, they began allocating small portions of the wine for sales purposes. Most of that went to restaurants, as chefs and sommeliers quickly recognized that Peter was making wine intended for drinking with food. By 2000, Peter had sold Cafe Juanita (it remains a well-regarded restaurant in Kirkland), but Cavatappi lives on, with most of its production still landing on restaurant wine lists.

Our first Cavatappi offer came on December 4, 2009, less than two months after launching Full Pull. Our first Maddalena offer followed soon thereafter (the 2004 vintage, on March 3, 2010). We have a long history with this winery, and I suspect that’s why they offered us the pick of the Nebbiolo litter. This 2008 pours beautifully into the glass. Right away it *looks* like Nebbiolo: pale in density, like a Pinot Noir, but more garnet than ruby. The nose is honest Nebbiolo as well: cherry ludens, mint, and tea leaf, with lovely mile-wide streaks of earth and tar. And best of all: this *tastes* like Nebbiolo, which is saying something anytime the grape is grown outside the Piedmont. It has the brawny structure (tannin and acid), the earthy leafiness, the autumnal character. And the ageworthiness! This drinks like something that will evolve for another 10-15 years. It’s really a very special, evocative rendition of new world Nebbiolo. I always felt good offering Maddalena at $25; at $15, this is a wonderful opportunity for our list members.

I can practically hear the wingbeats of the vultures circling. Once we grab our stash, I’d expect the remainder of this to disappear with some haste. All that to say: this will likely be our only chance at this wine. First come first served up to 72 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.

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