Full Pull Educated Guess

January 29, 2016

Hello friends. We’ve been offered a terrific tariff on a well-loved wine that we first offered in June 2014.

2011 Result of a Crush

While I don’t know the exact scenario here, I can make an educated guess. 2011 was a cold, challenging vintage in Washington. I suspect that the Reynvaan family, hoping to keep the buzz and praise going for their main-label Reynvaan wines, had to declassify a lot of fruit in ’11.

If that was the plan, it worked. From Jeb Dunnuck (Wine Advocate): 94pts In The Rocks, 95pts Contender, 96pts Unnamed, 97pts Stonessence. But that plan also would have meant a high production level for the family’s Result of a Crush label. Which would explain why the wine is still available 18 months after we offered it, and why it’s now being offered to us at a significant discount.

Now then, excerpts from the original offer:

This is the gateway drug into the gloriously funky world of Reynvaan, and I apologize in advance if tasting this leads you to spend way too much money on auction sites trying to track down the main label. It’s a family project for the Reynvaans: “Result of a Crush is a Walla Walla winery started by Amanda Reynvaan and Angela Reynvaan Garratt, sisters of consulting winemaker Matt Reynvaan. We want to make a wine that is both affordable and distinctive. Our goal is to produce wines that are consistent in quality, but also reflect our sometimes whimsical attitude towards wine.” It’s also worth noting that they’ve recently opened a tasting room in Walla Walla, so sampling these wines in Wallyworld is now an option.

Here is what we know about the 2011:

1. Unlike the previous two bottlings (which had been NV), this is single vintage, coming from 2011.
2. It still has the smooching lips label that belies the seriousness of the juice inside.
3. It is mostly Syrah and Viognier, with some Cabernet Sauvignon.

This has immediate rocks Syrah character on the nose, with super umami notes, sanguine/bloody character, briny green olives, smoked meat, smoky charcoal, and loads of huckleberry fruit. The palate continues the wonderful balance of savory elements and richly fruited elements, all carried along by the lively acid of the cool 2011 vintage. I can’t imagine that there’s very much Cab in this – maybe just a little bit to buff up the texture – because it really drinks like a lovely Syrah/Viognier conferment from the rocks, all funky goodness.

Because this is such a good option for parties and weddings, we’ll open this one up: first come first served up to 60 bottles, and the wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Some Days Are Stones

January 27, 2016

Hello friends. The main focus of today’s offer is the new vintage of a hugely popular wine among our list members: Morgan Lee’s funkystunning Syrah from Stoney Vine Vineyard. But we’ll also have a pair of bonus wines: Morgan’s other single-vineyard Syrah that completes the John Denver lyric, as well as his wackadoodle Orange Gewurztraminer/Original Gangster.

2013 Two Vintners Syrah Some Days Are Stones 

This is just about to be released at the winery, so we’re not wasting any time. The past few years, the entire production run has sold out in the first month or two after release. We offer the wine once, and all subsequent reorder requests are (sadly) zeroed out. Considering the small production level again (just 150 cases), I expect a similar pattern this year.

There is also more excitement than ever about wines from “the rocks” area of the Walla Walla Valley, or as I should be writing from now on, “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater,” which was approved as a new AVA in February of last year. It’s a sub-AVA of the Walla Walla Valley, and I wrote about The Rocks for one of last year’s issues of Seattle Magazine. This is a special place in northwest wine, and it deserves to have its geographical name on the label.

Among Rocks Syrahs, is there a better value than Two Vintners? I’m hard pressed to think of one. It comes entirely from 2007-planted Stoney Vine Vineyard, an estate site for Dusted Valley that looks like this. Morgan fermented with all native yeasts and 35% whole cluster, and then this went into barrel (all French, 15% new 500L puncheon) for 18 months. It clocks in at 14.7% listed alc and comes roaring out of the glass with all the savory funkiness you’d expect. Huckleberry fruit, yes, but then green olive and a sanguine meaty minerality that reminded me of nothing so much as morcilla, the wonderful Spanish blood sausage. Rich and meaty in the mouth but balanced by juicy acids, this is a meal in a glass. Morgan’s mastery of this vineyard continues to impress and delight.

2013 Two Vintners Syrah Some Days Are Diamonds 

The treatment here is nearly identical to Stones, and the vintage is the same, but the vineyard is entirely different, this time Discovery Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. Discovery is a site with a burgeoning (and deserved) reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon, but this bottling shows its credibility with Syrah as well. It begins with a nose of deep black cherry, espresso, and orange peel, moving to a palate with fresh berry fruit and notes of brewed coffee. The earthiness here is completely different than the Stones bottling. With Diamonds it’s more like dusty broken sagebrush; very eastern Washington. Drink the two side by side for a showcase of the stylistic breadth of Syrah in Washington State. A mere 80 cases produced.

2014 Two Vintners O.G  

By far the weirdest wine in Morgan’s lineup and among the weirdest produced in Washington, this is an “orange wine” style. What that means is that white grapes (in this case, all Gewurztraminer from Olsen Vineyard) are left to macerate on the skins for weeks at a time (in this case six weeks) before pressing, imparting a bit of color pigment (between that pigment and the oxidation that takes place, the wine turns a bit orange), considerable textural weight, and usually a bit of tannin to the juice. There are similarities aromatically to some of the older white Riojas (made with Viura) I’ve had; that oddly alluring, slightly oxidized character of fruitcake spice and caramel. Here those notes mix with exotic fruit (lychee especially), floral notes, and dustings of nutmeg. At 14.3% listed alc, this is rich, long, and fascinating. Fly your geek flag proudly if you purchase this one. Just 60 cases produced.

I’m going to set the upper allocation limit high, since I suspect like in previous years we’ll only get one shot at the Stones. Because of the low production level of the Diamonds and OG, those are likely one-and-done also. So, 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 week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Sangiovese Price Drop

January 25, 2016

Hello friends. January can be a wonderful time of year for sourcing wine values. In October and November and December, wineries and importers can convince themselves that this just might be the holiday season where their sales explode. Deals are a little hard to come by.

There’s no such magical thinking in January. And what’s especially wonderful about January is that the deals are often being offered on wines just entering their peak drinking window. A new vintage is coming in, and the old vintage needs to move out. Of course the backwards thing about the wine industry is that the old vintage is likely the better drinking of the two, and yet *that’s* the one being offered on discount.

Mind you, I’m not complaining, and I’m all too happy to take advantage on behalf of our list members. Today’s wine, for example, began its life at a $20 price point, and it was a good deal even at two sawbucks. But today, we can do better:

2009 La Maialina Chianti Classico 


That was Antonio Galloni, writing about the Maialina project a few years ago. High praise indeed, and to be able to access this wine at seven years past vintage seems just right.

I continue to be thrilled with the way our list members have embraced Chianti over the past few years. It is a terrific value-hunter’s category, but it requires legwork, a lot of frog-kissing to find the princes. And that’s the Full Pull model: we kiss the frogs so you don’t have to.

Chianti’s fortunes are improving in the US market, but it’s still walking the line between fashionable and unfashionable, still burdened by the days of swill-in-straw-baskets. But no matter. We know better. Fashion or no, we know that Chianti remains one of the world’s beating hearts of Sangiovese, and that the good bottles are really, really good.

This is indeed very very good for a $15 tag. It begins with a nose of smoky peat, mushroom, and sour cherry fruit: classic maturing Sangiovese. That savory fungal note continues on the palate, and it makes this just such an appetizing food wine. Insistently earthy, it has bright blood-orange acid and lovely cherry-pit bitters. The whole thing feels very true to Italy, and there’s way more complexity and intensity than we’d normally expect at this price point. I’d put this right in the middle of its peak drinking window, and I suspect it will continue to offer loads of maturing pleasure through 2019 or 2020.

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Corliss

January 25, 2016

Hello friends. The main focus of today’s offer is the 2010 Red for Corliss. Unfortunately, we were allocated no 2010 Corliss Cabernet (and not very much of the Red; we’re maxing order requests at 6 bottles, but allocations might be closer to 2-3 bottles). I tried for the same Cabernet trick as last year (where we ended up scoring magnums of the 2009 since there were no 750s to go around), but apparently that was a one-trick pony. As I’ve said on many occasions when offering Corliss wines, the best way to guarantee yourself access to these going forward is to get on their mailing list. The wines are becoming more and more difficult to source at retail.

At the bottom of the offer, we will also have a pair of bonus wines from Tranche (Corliss’ sister winery), one a Cabernet Sauvignon to help offset the loss of the Corliss Cab, the other a new vintage of a popular Chardonnay.

2010 Corliss Estates Red Wine 

I’ve written about Corliss at length in the past. For today, let’s offer the condensed version: Corliss only releases three wines outside the winery: a Syrah each spring, and a Cabernet and BDX Blend in the autumn. They’re noteworthy because they hold their wines about as long as anyone in the state before release. So while most Cabernets on the market right now are 2012s and 2013s (along with a handful of 2014s), Corliss is just getting ready to release their 2010s, a cool year that needed just this kind of extra time in bottle to develop. With nearly three years in barrel and another two in bottle, Corliss wines are usually much further along the path towards integration and complexity than their peer releases, and that’s certainly the case here.

This is typically dominated by Red Mountain, with much of the fruit coming from Corliss’ estate Red Mountain Vineyard. The 2010 is driven by a healthy dose of Cabernet Franc (45%), rounded out with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot. It clocks in at 14.9% listed alc despite the cool year, and it kicks off with a nose of mocha and kirsch, cherry cordial and good clean soil. This is always a delicious little truffle of a wine, but the 2010 also possesses cool-vintage verve and vigor, with bright zippy acids and burly tannins that take over on the mid-palate and just won’t quit. Suavely textured already, I’d say it still needs a lengthy decant if you’re opening it any time in the next two or three years. Like the best ‘99s from Washington, I expect this to have a successful twenty-year evolution in bottle. Jeb’s review puts the drinking window at 2018-2038, and I’d say that’s just about spot on.

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

2010 Tranche Cabernet Sauvignon Estate  

The estate Blue Mountain Vineyard has become the core vineyard for the Tranche label. Those of you with long memories might recall that this used to be Neuffer Estate Vineyard when Nicholas Cole Cellars was still alive and kicking. The vineyard was subsequently sold to Tranche and renamed Blue Mountain Vineyard, an apt name. The site sits on a bluff at the exact spot where the Blue Mountains run into the city of Walla Walla. I’ve walked this vineyard, and the view is great, looking west across the greater part of WW. The wines coming off this site have also been spectacular. It was always a terrific source for Nicholas Cole’s Cabernet-heavy wines, and that has only continued at Tranche.

With the main-label Corliss Cab pushing $90, the question becomes: would you rather have one bottle of that, or two bottles of Tranche? No easy answer. Each has its unique charms. The charm here comes from the wonderful dark mineral core, complemented by crème de cassis fruit, espresso barrel notes, and lovely minty/floral top-notes. Loads of aromatic complexity, and all of it oh so honestly Cabernet. I love this wine right now because it is a window into the aging curve of the better 2010s from Washington. It is just now beginning to take on some earthy tertiary notes, to take on some dried-fruit character, but there are still loads of fresh primary fruit and minerality. The finishing impression is one of classy, polished, fine-grained tannins, and what stays with you after the sip is just how dusty and earthy and graphitic this is. I’d love to see this as a ringer in a Pauillac lineup.

2012 Tranche Chardonnay Celilo Vineyard  

One of the big wine stories of 2015 in Washington was Corliss’ purchase of the historically important Celilo Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge AVA (after it had been widely suspected that Charles Smith was going to be the buyer). The Corliss winemaking team has great familiarity with the site, as they have been making this fantastic Chardonnay from Celilo for several years now.

One of the truly wonderful aspects of the Corliss/Tranche family of wineries is their willingness to hold their wines before release. I mean, who else is currently releasing 2012 whites? Chardonnay especially tends to benefit from a few years of bottle age. It’s why people get obsessed with collecting old white burgundies.

This one was raised in a combination of new and neutral French oak, as well as concrete, for 18 months, and it has now seen nearly another two years in bottle. It clocks in at 13.8% listed alc and begins with a nose of peach and mango fruit, lactic crème fraiche notes, and nutty/spicy maturing oak. In the mouth, the texture is outstanding, a wonderful balance of plush fruit and bright lemony acid. Intensity is the watchword here; you can practically hear the electricity buzzing as this hums across the palate. What a fantastic expression of Celilo! I think this vineyard has landed in very good hands.

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

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles of Corliss Red and 12 bottles each of the two Tranche wines, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Black Label

January 23, 2016

Hello friends. Today’s wine represents the gateway drug into the greater Andrew Will lineup, and it comes from a vineyard that surprised the hell out of me:

2014 Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon (Black Label)  

As soon as I saw the tech sheet for this wine, my jaw dropped: [TEXT WITHHELD]

Talk about burying the lede! Champoux fruit in the black label? Really?!?

I went back and double-checked myself, because my gut was that none of the black label Cabernets we’ve offered from Andrew Will ever had a bit of Champoux fruit in it. Turns out my baby-addled brain isn’t so terribly eroded after all. We’ve previously offered the 2009 (Two Blondes and Discovery Vineyards), the 2010 (all Two Blondes), and the 2012 (all Two Blondes). This 2014 is 100% Champoux, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from vines averaging 25 years of age.

It’s possible one of the vintages we missed had some Champoux fruit in it, but I don’t think so. And speaking of missed vintages, this is a VERY easy wine to miss. Production of the black label is never very high, and restaurants eat this stuff up, either using it as an expensive ($20+) glass-pour, or using it to have a $70 Andrew Will wine on their list (as opposed to the usual $120 and up).

The wine was released just before the end of 2015, and it has been suggested to me (at first gently, then with more urgency) that it won’t last very far into 2016. I tasted it on December 17, which was too late to sneak into the 2015 lineup. But I actually gave some thought to tossing it in as a New Year’s Eve bonus offer, because the wine is really excellent, and it has been difficult to wait.

I probably should have known there was Champoux fruit here, since my note covers all the basics of this vineyard: blackcurrant fruit, violet florals, minty top-notes, and tarry/graphitic bass notes. It’s a glorious, soaring nose, very expressive for such a young wine. All the charms of the 2014 vintage are on display here. This is deep, rich, and supple (14.2% listed alc), an easy drinker with tannins that are present (you know it’s Cabernet) but combed to a fine sheen. The classy Andrew Will house style is certainly on display here. The fruit quality and barrel regimen bear more than a striking resemblance to the white label wines, with the biggest difference being time in barrel (just 13 months here) and overall age (the white label 2012s are just now being released). For those of us interested in Andrew Will at an accessible tag, I think we’ll be willing to overlook those differences and enjoy this black label Cab for its unapologetic deliciousness.

First come first served up to 24 bottles, and the wine should arrive in the next week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull (Belated) Happy Holidays

January 20, 2016

Hello friends. In mid-December, I received an e-mail with the subject “Happy Holidays from Patty Green.” Innocuous enough. Usually e-mails with that subject, at that time of year, are thank-you notes to retail partners for all the work we did together in the preceding year. That’s what I expected this note to be. But this one was different. This one contained a gift:

2013 Patricia Green Cellars Pinot Noir Freedom Hill  

The gift was an opportunity to purchase a solid chunk of their Freedom Hill Pinot for an outrageous tariff. It was released at $36, and I believe we’re a bit below the lowest published price nationally for this wine. The one hiccup was that we had to commit to the wine in December, and by the time I tasted a (smashing) sample, it was too late to jam it into our end-of-year offer schedule. Still, this was just too good a deal to pass up (Patty Green wines still rarely even make it to Seattle in any quantity, let alone at a significant discount), so I made the commitment and penciled the wine in for a January offer. And so here we find ourselves.

To the best of my knowledge, Patty Green only began working with Freedom Hill fruit in the 2012 vintage. With that vintage, they inaugurated a program where they bottle three separate single-clone wines from the vineyard (Pommard at $42; Dijon 115 at $44; Coury at $72), and then a more generalized Freedom Hill bottling that combines all the clones.

Here’s Jim Anderson of Patricia Green Cellars, introducing the 2013 vintage of this wine: [TEXT WITHHELD].

This also has a lovely review from Josh Raynolds, who comes from the Tanzer school of exquisite tasting notes and tough scoring: Vinous (Josh Raynolds): [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

My sample of this was just fantastic. A nose of strawberry, smoky/dusty minerals, and fresh thyme led into a palate with this terrific umami minerality from the marine sedimentary soils of Freedom Hill. The mix of fruit notes and salty savories is pinpoint, and texturally this forms an easy glide path across the palate, sappy and supple from start to finish. You could certainly hold this for a decade if you wanted to, but it’s already showing beautifully. This wine forms a confluence of rare opportunities: it’s rare to see Patty Green wine at any kind of discount, and it’s certainly rare to see single-vineyard Freedom Hill juice at this tag. I’ll be stashing some away in my cellar for certain.

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

Full Pull Wingman

January 18, 2016
2014 Sodo Cellars Wingman  

The parcel that Ryan has placed on hold for us represents – gulp – 65.2% of the requests we had for the 2013 vintage when we offered it back in September. I’m setting upper order requests at 6 bottles, but please don’t be shocked if actual allocations are more like 2 or 3 bottles.

As a reminder, Sodo Cellars isn’t Ryan (whose main label is Kerloo Cellars) buying in bulk juice and putting it under an entry-level label. This is top-end, Kerloo-vinified juice, but under a new label and sold for a silly tag. I presume the goal of a project like this is twofold: 1) to reward Kerloo’s Calling Club members with a well-priced house wine (kind of like Sean Boyd’s VdP for Rotie); and 2) to give Ryan an outstanding option to present to restaurants as a $10 glass-pour option. One or both of those populations has obviously been active right from the beginning. Hence the fact that this was essentially sold out less than a month after its release.

The label is great, based on Smithsonian crane-skeleton drawings. And the juice inside is outstanding. While the 2013 was an oddball blend (60/40 Malbec/Syrah), this 2014 is a more traditional Rhone blend: 70% Grenache (Angiolina Vineyard), 20% Mourvedre (Stonetree), and 10% Syrah (Blue Mountain). It offers over-the-top expressive Grenache garden notes – lilac and lavender, fresh herbs and brambles – married to red raspberry fruit and dustings of white pepper. The Mourvedre and Syrah turn up as grace notes on the palate, adding savory/mineral subtleties and a little heft, but it’s the Grenache that steals the show, with good plump density, generous richness, and continuing inner-mouth perfume. The sense of stuffing and balance are outstanding at a $15 tag, and it is rare indeed to see Washington Rhone blends at this price point.

I’m going to stop there, because there’s just so little of this one, and I know Ryan’s fans are legion among our list members. Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive any day now from our close neighbor, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.