Full Pull Lower East

November 25, 2015

Hello friends. First off, I want to say a big thank you to Greg Harrington, who came and poured four beautiful Syrahs at our warehouse on Saturday. He was kind enough to pour a pair of 2005s from the library, proof positive that the Gramercy house style was already locked in as early as Greg’s very first vintage in Walla Walla. In addition, he poured his 2011 Les Collines Syrah (glorious, and only available to Gramercy’s MTA Club) and his beautiful new-release 2013 Deuce, which I’m sure we’ll be offering soon enough.

And speaking of Greg Harrington, today we have an outstanding vintage of what is already a list-member darling, and one of the gateways into the greater Gramercy Cellars lineup:

2013 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Lower East 

This wine remains a ghost. You won’t find it in Gramercy’s tasting room. You will rarely find it sold outside the Pac-NW. Lower East is a gift, from Greg Harrington to his local supporters.

Most of it goes to restaurants, a reflection of Greg’s sommelier history (direct from Gramercy’s tech sheet: “The Lower East wines from Gramercy Cellars are created specifically for our friends in the restaurant industry.”) It allows somms all over Seattle to place a Gramercy wine on their list for $55-$65, as opposed to the $100+ that the rest of the lineup commands. But some gets allocated to retail channels, and especially to long-term supporters of the Gramercy portfolio.

2013 is shaping up to be a charming vintage for value Cabernet (yes, I recognize that we’re pushing it on the term “value” here, but by Gramercy standards, I’m going to say this qualifies), and this bottle makes a strong argument for that case. I haven’t tasted Gramercy’s high-end 2013 Cabernets yet, but they’re going to have to be damned good to top Lower East this year (and judging by Jeb Dunnuck’s barrel reviews, they are indeed damned good).

I first tasted this bottle with Brandon Moss (Gramercy’s Assistant Winemaker/Partner) back in April during a visit to Walla Walla, and I was smitten. I would have offered it right then and there, but it was to be a half-year before the ’13 Lower East would be released. The quality was stunning right up until I learned the vineyard sources, and then everything made sense. In 2013, Lower East comes from an all-star foursome, three from the Walla Walla Valley (Gramercy Estate, Old Stones, and Pepper Bridge), plus the outstanding Phinny Hill in Horse Heaven. The blend includes 6% each Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and the whole thing was raised entirely in French oak, 25% new, for 16 months. Listed alc is 14.2%.

What Lower East does beautifully, year in and year out, is to establish itself as a true four-corners Cab, with fruit (black cherry, cassis), earth, savory/herbal (beetroot, bouqet garni), and barrel (espresso) notes in fine balance. Can we add a fifth corner for this one? To cover the lovely violet floral notes? What we see with this vintage of Lower East is winemakers who strive for elegance in a year that wanted to be a little fleshier. The result: a balanced beauty, with a seamless, no-holes texture that offers an easy glide path from attack to finish. If you’re looking to build a cellar of sturdy, ageworthy wines under $30, Lower East is an awfully nice place to start. Like every vintage so far, it is polished, classy, and punches well above its price class.

First come first served up to 24 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 Aged Champagne

November 25, 2015

Hello friends. Back in August, we offered a wine where my pre-offer estimates waaaaaaaaaay understated our list’s eventual interest. It was an aged Champagne; specifically, Copinet’s 2005 Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Cuvee Marie Etienne. Looking back, it seems that our max allocation was (gulp) one bottle, and I see dozens of list members who were shut out entirely.

Fortunately, Copinet’s national importer is based in Seattle, so I’ve been able to follow (stalk?) the next vintage of the wine. It was disgorged on the first of October, departed the Port of Le Havre on October 16, and is scheduled to hit the dock in Seattle in the next day or two. So let’s not waste any time. This is, after all, peak Champagne season, and this time, we should have access to enough bottles to cover something a little greater than one-bottle allocations.

2006 Copinet Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Cuvee Marie Etienne
 

The importer I mentioned above is William Woodruff’s Chloe Imports, an absolute gem of a company based in North Seattle. Recall that William turned a banking job in Siena in the late-‘90s (where he was dealing with foodstuffs, including wine) into a wine import company when he moved to Seattle in 1997. It began with William importing one family’s wines from Tuscany, and in eighteen years in business, William has grown to represent that same family in Tuscany, two families in Piedmont, three families in Burgundy, four families in the Rhone, and exactly one grower Champagne: the outstanding Jacques Copinet.

These old Copinet Champagnes have been total mind-exploding standouts. I think by now many of you know how I feel about sparkling wine generally (good), and how I feel about Champagne specifically (really really good). Well, aged Champagne is the motherlode, and well-priced aged Champagne is a unicorn. The only other time I can remember us offering aged Champagne was back in February 2013 when we offered a 1996 from Jean Vesselle. It’s not for lack of trying. I mean, is aged Champagne my very favorite category of wine for drinking? Maybe. It’s certainly in the conversation. But well-aged parcels like this: they just don’t exist. Or if they do, they’re prohibitively expensive. Here, we’re benefiting from the fact that William is direct-importing these from Champagne right into Seattle, so our pricing is outstanding.

Here is William’s introduction to Copinet: [TEXT WITHHELD]

Those “fortunate few” William is referring to? Me. You. Us. This is indeed a recently disgorged 2006 vintage (as I mentioned above, disgorged just this past October). It is 100% Chardonnay, 100% 2006 vintage, with 10-11g/L dosage. It offers a nose immediately recognizable as mature Champagne: nutty hazelnut, smoky/savory toasted bread and chicken stock subtleties. The fruit combines lemon curd and autumnal apple and peaches, and the palate is a nervy dynamo, with a sturdy citric-mineral spine supporting intense fruit and mineral flavors that stain the palate and won’t quit. It’s amazing how fresh and mouthwatering this remains at a decade past vintage. I’m not afraid to say again what I said about that 2005: I find wines like this moving. One family, one grape, one vintage, and then a one-decade passage of time. Glorious.

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.


Full Pull Vajra

November 25, 2015

Hello friends. The main thrust of today’s offer is going to be the breathtaking new vintage of a well-loved Langhe Rosso from GD Vajra, but at the bottom we’ll also include quick-hitter offers on their well-priced Barolo Albe and their fizzy delight of a Moscato d’Asti.

2012 G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso 

We’ve previously published this piece of praise from Antonio Galloni (Vinous) for GD Vajra: [TEXT WITHHELD]

Vajra had disappeared from the Seattle market for several years but returned in 2013 courtesy of our direct-import partners (that direct-import model also allows us to shave a little off the normal release price of $16). Their Langhe Rosso is a gateway drug into the greater Vajra lineup, and more generally into the red wines of the Piedmont.

Langhe Rosso as a category is fantastic if you can pry them away from the Italian countryside. As I’ve mentioned previously, these are not wines that show up too frequently outside of the Langhe itself. We get plenty of exports of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto, bottled varietally. But the declassified blends of the three grapes, the ones that are vinified unfussily and well-loved by the locals for their food-friendly rusticity and early-drinking character and easy-on-the-wallet price? Those stay home. Mostly.

We’re still close enough to the (excruciating) end of another (extremely uneven) season of Seattle Sounders soccer that it pains me to reference Isidoro Vajra’s metaphor, but I’ll suck it up, because it’s awfully clever: [TEXT WITHHELD]

Not bad, Isidoro; not bad at all. And yes, this blend is extra exciting, extra complex, because in addition to containing the big three of the Piedmont (about 30% each of Neb, Barb, and Dolc), there are also small amounts of more obscure Piemontese varieties like Freisa and Albarossa, and even a little Pinot Nero. The whole thing is aged in a combination of neutral barrels and stainless steel for about a year and a half before bottling, and the 2012 clocks in at 13.5% listed alc.

This is a ridiculously strong vintage of Vajra Rosso. I’ll start with the end of my note, which says “outrageous juice for tag; easy house wine candidate; could chuck in cellar for 10+ years and not worry.” Yes, I was feeling enthusiastic. And continue to feel that way. This one kicks off with an expressive nose of black cherry and blood orange fruit, chamomile tea, and earthy notes of soil and fallen leaves. That leafy, autumnal character continues on the palate, which is a super-intense live wire, with beautiful Nebbiolo structure and Barbera sour-cherry acidity paired to fleshy Dolcetto fruit. Texturally, this is pristine: polished tannins, supple fruit, loads of charm. It’s a food-wine extraordinaire, and it shouldn’t be missed.

2011 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe
 

“Barolo” and “value” don’t generally go together, which helps explain why we offer them so rarely, but this Albe is a strong value indeed, and compares favorably to many a $50-$100 Cru from other Piemontese producers. We’ve offered the three previous vintages of Albe, and at prices as high as [TEXT WITHHELD]. I think the weaker Euro is helping our pricing even more today.

Here’s how the Vajra family describes Albe: [TEXT WITHHELD]

For those counting at home, those three vineyards are Fossati, Coste di Vergne, and La Volta. The wine spends three years in large Slavonian oak before bottling. Listed alc is 14.5%, not surprising for a warmer vintage whose best wines Galloni has described as “radiant, open and already quite expressive.” The nose is classic Barolo: the blackest of black cherries, paired to tarry streaks and rose petals and tobacco leaf. In the mouth this is supple, smooth, easy-drinking; all three descriptors that I rarely write about Barolo, but there you have it: it is an immediate-gratification play to be sure. Very rich and creamy on the attack and mid-palate, it’s not until we roll into the finish that Barolo’s signature tannic heft comes into play, adding a toothsome leafy finish that reminds us what part of the world we’re playing in. I want to braise some tough cut to fork tenderness, gently settle it on a pillow of polenta, and crack a bottle of Albe.

Wine Enthusiast (Kerin O’Keefe): “[TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

2014 G.D. Vajra Moscato d’Asti  

I find a good Moscato to be such a pleasure-soaked indulgence, and Vajra’s version is very very good. At just 5.5% listed alc, you can treat it like a beer and drink it right from the bottle. Okay, or from a glass. Or flute or tumbler or whatever you like. The expressiveness of the nose beggars belief, all citrus and flower garden, with grapefruit and lime paired to honeysuckle and jasmine and rose. The palate pairs delicious sweetness to tooth-tingling acidity, a fine bubbly mousse, and an unabashed Italian sense of bitters. The grapefruit-pith bitters are exactly the foil needed for all that sugar, and it keeps this from ever moving into cloying territory. A beautiful way to begin or end a night. (And sneaky good with a cheesy-eggs breakfast).

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 Brick ____ House

November 25, 2015

Hello friends. The past few years have seen changes afoot at OS Winery. Bill Owen (the ‘O’ in OS) is no longer with the winery, and beginning with the 2013 harvest, Scott Greer of Sheridan Vineyard took over as the consulting winemaker. OS has always sourced a good amount of fruit from Sheridan, so this seems like a good fit going forward.

No surprise: the folks at OS are eager to sell through the remainder of their pre-2013 stock and began to emphasize the new regime. When they reboot BSH with the release of the 2013 vintage, the price point will be $50. But today we have the 2012 for considerably less:

2012 OS Winery “BSH” Cabernet Sauvignon 

I’ve always had a soft spot for this winery. Rob Sullivan (the ‘S’ in OS) was among the first to review the Full Pull business plan back when the venture was a mere glimmer in my eye. An OS wine (2004 Ulysses) was the fifth wine we ever offered through Full Pull, way back on October 14, 2009. In one of my pre-wine trade gigs, I worked with Rob’s son-in-law, and our annual company retreats used to be awash in OS wine (side note: I once drank part of a bottle of OS Ulysses in the sauna at The Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavenworth, Washington. Looking back, I would not say that chugging a big red wine while shvitzing was my very best idea. Because, I mean, come on, everyone knows that the drink of choice in a steam bath is vodka. Oh well. Live and learn.)

Now then, the official line on the acronym is that it represents the initials of one of Rob’s grandsons. Unofficially, among anyone who has ever tasted this wine, BSH stands for Brick ____House (you can fill in that particular blank): an apt descriptor of this particular wine. It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from a number of Yakima Valley Vineyards: Sheridan, Two Blondes (Andrew Will’s estate site), Dineen, and Elephant Mountain. It clocks in at 14.2% listed alc and begins with a lovely nose of cherry cordial (the fruit, the high-cacao chocolate), kahlua, and woodsmoke. The palate is serious, intense, chewy, a mix of cassis and mineral with loads of power and toothsome tannic structure (it really does live up to its name). The finish is long and luscious, awash in espresso.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

Total production is just 134 cases on this 2012, and with the release of that Spectator review in September, I don’t expect the remaining Seattle stash to last past the end of the year. So this is likely a one-and-done offer, without prospects for reorders. Please limit order requests to 24 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.


Full Pull The Crystal Ball

November 25, 2015

Hello friends. Wine Spectator released their Top 100 of 2015 yesterday, and our crystal ball was pretty good this year. It was also a *very* good year for the PacNW, with ten wines making the cut (five from Washington, five from Oregon), and all ten landing in the top fifty. Furthermore, Washington took the #2 spot (Quilceda Creek’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon) and Oregon took the #3 spot (Evening Land’s 2012 La Source Pinot Noir). Congrats to everyone who landed on this list this year!

Now then, I’m going to include reorder links for two of the previously-offered wines on the list that *might* still be available. “Might” is an important word here. Nothing moves bottles quite like Spectator’s Top 100 list. I’m sure these wineries are fending off phone calls and e-mails from customers and wholesalers all over the country, and our own backs and forths on the phone and e-mail today help to explain why this e-mail is hitting your inboxes so late. Apologies if we end up having to send sold-out allocation notices, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take for the upside of having one more opportunity to access these wines.

2013 Tenet Syrah The Pundit 

Originally offered September 8, 2015, and in that offer, I said: …this wine has a very good chance of ending up on the Top 100 list; a strong chance of ending up in the Top 25; and coinflip odds to land in the Top 10, which is rare indeed for a Washington wine. Well, it landed at #34; not bad! Click here for full text from the original offer.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

2012 Baer Ursa
 

Originally offered a whopping eight days ago (Nov 9), and I made no secret of the fact that I expected Ursa to wind up on this list. This time it wound up at #28, a fine showing indeed! Click here for full text from the original offer.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Since it’s really hard to nail down availability on these, please send us your order requests with no upper limits, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. 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 Four of Nine

November 18, 2015

Hello friends. The main thrust of today’s offer is going to be the new vintage of Nine Hats red, at a tag lower than we’ve ever offered for this wine. But please note: we’ll also have short blurbs at the bottom for two Nine Hats whites and the newly minted Nine Hats Syrah (!).

[And another note: yes, I was tempted to find three more Nine Hats wines, make the subject of the e-mail “Seven of Nine,” and find out how many mega-dork Stark Trek Voyager fans are on the list.]

2013 Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Red
Since the 2007 vintage, Nine Hats has been one of the best value labels in Washington. Here’s what the winery says about the label: The nine renowned winemakers of Long Shadows’ signature wines discover after each harvest that a percentage of their resulting barrels are more than they require to achieve that perfect balance in their final blends. These extra barrels produce Nine Hats. For folks curious about wines like Feather, Pedestal, Pirouette, Sequel, Nine Hats presents an accessible entry point to Gilles Nicault’s polished, expressive winemaking.

While Nine Hats purportedly refers to the nine different winemakers involved in the Long Shadows project, what I think of when I see it is the number of different hats Gilles Nicault has to wear as the resident winemaker for all the Long Shadows wines. The John Duvals and Michel Rollands of the world fly in and fly out, but it’s Gilles who remains behind and cares for their babies. It’s a truly unique job in the world of Washington winemaking, and Gilles does it beautifully.

Considering how terribly allocated the top-end bottlings from Long Shadows have been lately, I think there’s going to be keen interest in this particular vintage of Nine Hats Red. It has been a wonderful wine even in mediocre vintages. In a charming vintage like 2013, you’d expect it to be very very good, and it does not disappoint. The blend is 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah, 22% Merlot, and 5% Sangiovese. Fruit comes from the outstanding (and beautiful) The Benches at Wallula, as well as (purposely vague, I suspect) “fruit sources from the Walla Walla Valley.” It was aged for 15 months in French oak before bottling, and it clocks in at 14.9% listed alc.

The nose melds the fruits of all three main varieties: Cabernet’s cassis, Syrah’s plum, and Merlot’s black cherry. There is a lovely tarry mineral streak coursing through the aromatics, ramping up the complexity and inviting the first sip. That sip immediately reveals a palate-stainer, with tightly packed layers of fruit (yes, the currants and plums and cherries, but also stone fruits like peach and tropical fruits like papaya), swaddled in barrel notes of dark chocolate and espresso. This is a glorious example of the charms of 2013: an immediate gratification play meant for young/easy drinking. The quality and intensity of fruit is just outrageous here. We’ve happily offered previous vintages of this at [TEXT WITHHELD]; today’s pricing structure is a holiday gift indeed.

2013 Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Syrah

It has been nearly five years since we have been able to offer a Nine Hats Syrah (November 29, 2010 to be exact). That was the 2008 vintage. I believe they made a small amount of 2009, and then there has been no 9H Syrah until this 2013. There is a temptation to think of this as “baby Sequel,” and I even had a scribble in my tasting note that reads “does this have Boushey fruit?” (Boushey typically forms the backbone of Sequel). Looking at the technical information for this Syrah, there is not any Boushey fruit, but there is a good portion of Benches fruit in the mix, which, according to the winery, “brings charcuterie and a silky earthiness, hints of aged salami and black olive tapenade.” Um, yes please.I haven’t had much Benches Syrah, but if this is how it expresses itself, more and more folks are going to be paying attention. For me, the nose mixed smoked ham hock, earthy soil notes, violets, and a core of marionberry fruit. The silky mouthfeel is just wonderful, carrying delicious fruit paired to an insistent core of earthiness. This is big (14.9% listed alc), rich, palate-coating Syrah (glass-coating, too; the inky purple-black color extraction is something else), and it represents a wonderful return for a long-missed wine.

2013 Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Riesling

People definitely think of this as baby Poet’s Leap, and that moniker is a little harder to disprove. All the winery says about vineyard sourcing is “sourced from German clone plantings and some of the Columbia Valley’s oldest Riesling vines,” which could lead a person to believe there’s some vineyard overlap between this and the Leap. It clocks in at 12.9% listed alc and 1.2% RS, and it offers an honest Riesling nose of peach and tangerine and lime fruit complicated by a smoky petrol note. The acid-sugar balance on the palate is lovely, as is the acid-mineral spine. It’s clear that this comes from outstanding vineyard sources, and it’s a terrific introduction to the white wine side of the portfolio.

2014 Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Pinot Gris

This is – quietly – a single-vineyard wine, coming entirely from The Benches. Astute list members may recall that Julia’s Dazzle (a list-favorite rosé each year) is almost all Benches Pinot Gris (blended with a tiny bit of Sangiovese for color stabilization). You can think of this as Dazzle if it were left to ripen for a few weeks (months) longer. It clocks in at 14.1% listed alc, and so stylistically is more like an Alsatian Gris than, say, a lighter Italian Pinot Grigio. The color has ever so pale a pink tinge, and the wine mixes apple blossom, apple and pear fruit, and chalky mineral tones. The richness is well-balanced both by acidity and by a little dissolved CO2, a tiny sense of spritz to keep things lively.

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 The Crystal Ball

November 18, 2015

Hello friends. Wine Spectator released their Top 100 of 2015 yesterday, and our crystal ball was pretty good this year. It was also a *very* good year for the PacNW, with ten wines making the cut (five from Washington, five from Oregon), and all ten landing in the top fifty. Furthermore, Washington took the #2 spot (Quilceda Creek’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon) and Oregon took the #3 spot (Evening Land’s 2012 La Source Pinot Noir). Congrats to everyone who landed on this list this year!

Now then, I’m going to include reorder links for two of the previously-offered wines on the list that *might* still be available. “Might” is an important word here. Nothing moves bottles quite like Spectator’s Top 100 list. I’m sure these wineries are fending off phone calls and e-mails from customers and wholesalers all over the country, and our own backs and forths on the phone and e-mail today help to explain why this e-mail is hitting your inboxes so late. Apologies if we end up having to send sold-out allocation notices, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take for the upside of having one more opportunity to access these wines.

2013 Tenet Syrah The Pundit
 

Originally offered September 8, 2015, and in that offer, I said: …this wine has a very good chance of ending up on the Top 100 list; a strong chance of ending up in the Top 25; and coinflip odds to land in the Top 10, which is rare indeed for a Washington wine. Well, it landed at #34; not bad! Click here for full text from the original offer.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

2012 Baer Ursa
 

Originally offered a whopping eight days ago (Nov 9), and I made no secret of the fact that I expected Ursa to wind up on this list. This time it wound up at #28, a fine showing indeed! Click here for full text from the original offer.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

Since it’s really hard to nail down availability on these, please send us your order requests with no upper limits, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. 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.