Full Pull Last Call

March 30, 2016

Hello friends. More than a year ago, we offered a lovely little Luberon Syrah from Val Joanis. Recently, our import partner let me know that they and Joanis had decided to part ways, and they wanted to give us dibs on the remaining stock, since we had been staunch supporters of the brand. “Also,” he added, “you guys have been reordering this wine constantly.”

I checked our records, and that was indeed an accurate statement. After our big initial order in February 2015, we brought in 10 bottles on March 5, 22 bottles on June 9, 4 bottles on July 21, 6 bottles on August 11, 6 bottles on September 1, and so on and so on. That, my friends, is the pattern of a popular wine. Because if there are a dozen folks going out of their way to request reorders of a wine, there are probably a hundred who also love the wine but just haven’t gotten around to reordering it.

Or at least I hope so, because I bought every last bottle remaining in Seattle. In addition to this being last call on Joanis Syrah, we also bought out all their remaining Roussanne, which would be a wonderful white to have around all spring and summer. See below the Syrah for that one.

2011 Val Joanis Luberon Tradition Syrah
Originally offered on Feb 17, 2015. Please note that Joanis split their production of this wine into two different labels, so the packaging may look slightly different for these bottles. The juice inside is exactly the same. Here are excerpts from our original offer:

I love offers like this one, where I taste a fabulous wine that I know nothing about, then have to fall deep down the research rabbit hole to understand why it’s as good as it is. This landed in my glass at the end of a long day of tasting (I know: tough life), where I was grumpier than normal and less inclined to like whatever I was tasting. To say it cut through the clutter of the day would be an understatement. I’m just going to transcribe my note directly from my notebook:

super umami; FUNKY; loads of briney olives; lots of brackish seashore notes (kelp and sea salt); blackberry fruit; terrific salinity on 13.5%-alc palate mixed w/ brambly fruit and loads of continuing savories; has a sense of funkiness that lovers of Wash. Syrah will appreciate; unfashionable AOC = well priced; this is Washington meets Crozes!

I was excited by the wine. As you can tell. And I was also excited to dig into why it was so compelling. Let’s begin with the AOC: Luberon. There are all these incredible values to be found on the outskirts of the Rhone Valley. We’ve previously dug up Lou Ven Tou and Lou Bar Rou from Cotes du Ventoux, and Domaine des Rozets from Grignan-les-Adhemar. Now we can add Cotes du Luberon to the list as well.

As you can see from Joanis’ location, we’re in a transition zone here between the Rhone and Provence. You may recall there was a time when no one had heard of Gigondas and Vacqueyras, and so those regions produced terrific values. I’d argue that places like Ventoux and Luberon are now stepping up and occupying that value space. The regions are still uneven, but that’s okay: as you know, we don’t mind tasting through a lot of dreck to find the gems.

This particular gem has a terrific back-story, too. The Joanis estate has a long history. How long is a little unclear, but it appeared in a land register in 1575 with the exact same boundaries it has today. The 1800s and early 1900s were not kind to the estate, which was overgrown by forest in 1977 when the current owner (Jean-Louis Chancel) purchased it. But evidence of vineyards and olive groves was scattered throughout the estate, and Chancel proceeded to embark on a twenty-year rehabilitation project, in the end planting out 186 hectares of vineyards (and some olive trees as well). He also built a winery on the property inspired by the architecture of the Dominican Order, along with gardens so beautiful that they were named among the “Notable Gardens of France” by the French Ministry of Culture (here’s just one picture of the gardens). Sounds like a place we should probably all aim to visit.

And then there are the vineyards. Here’s what the winery says: During the Quaternary Era, erosion phenomena caused the appearance of broad deposits of limestone and gravel, forming an exceptionally favorable soil. The vineyard spreads over the hills, at altitudes from 280 meters (945 feet) to 499 meters (1637 feet) at its highest point. And more to the point, here is what the vineyard looks like, a thick layer of pebble stones above anything resembling “soil.” Many of the wines produced in this region are Grenache-based, as you’d expect from the southern Rhone, but Val Joanis’ estate vineyards are planted predominantly to Syrah. And thank goodness for that, because this is one savory-wonderful expression of Syrah, priced like a midweek house wine but with enough complexity to serve on special occasions.

2014 Val Joanis Luberon Tradition Roussanne
Last February, we offered the 2012 vintage of the same wine. That one, too, was a popular reorder target, but it was sold out very quickly, so I suspect many of you will be happy to see this one return with a fresh vintage. It comes entirely from the same estate vineyards as the Syrah and clocks in at 13.5% listed alc. The nose is a lovely mix of stone fruit (peach, apricot), marcona almond, and chalky mineral. The palate layers a wonderful sense of rich, fleshy fruit on a sturdy acid-mineral frame. Roussanne’s salty-nut character pairs beautifully with the openly delicious yellow orchard fruit. This is a complex, generous white for its price point. Anyone stuck in a Chardonnay rut should pay attention here. This has textural similarities to Chard, but a wholly different aroma/flavor profile.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines are both in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Chief Lonely Heart

March 30, 2016

Hello friends. Two lovely Cabernets from the team of Mike MacMorran and Mark McNeilly at Mark Ryan today, under two different labels, and at two very different price points:

2014 Board Track Racer (Mark Ryan) The Chief Cabernet Sauvignon
The Board Track Racer (BTR) label has been a great success for Mark Ryan, combining unused juice from the main label with purchased fruit when required. Two important notes for this 2014. First, this vintage has a high enough proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon (85%, the remainder Merlot and Petit Verdot) that it can be labeled as such. Second, no purchased fruit was required here: the Cabernet is entirely from younger vines at two important vineyard sources for Mark Ryan: Phinny Hill in the Horse Heaven Hills, and Quintessence on Red Mountain.

I’d suggest filing Quintessence Vineyard away in your brain. It’s a relatively new site on Red Mountain, and I have heard nothing but raves from the winemakers working with the fruit. Eric Degerman wrote a terrific article for Great Northwest Wine about Marshall Edwards, the gentleman who is managing this site. It was planted in 2010, so we’re just now starting to see the first usable fruit in bottle. And it is fabulous.

Violets, crème de cassis, and dusty earth combine on an attractive Cabernet nose. Simply luscious in the mouth, this fans out texturally, coating every nook of the palate with its rich black fruit and dusty tannins. There is a lovely spicy/leafy character that emerges as well, especially on the finish, which also sees the tannins pick up heft and power, culminating in a final impression of cherry-tea that lingers and lingers. You might recall that we offered the 2012 vintage of this, which received a 92pt review from Harvey Steiman in Wine Spectator and seemed a strong candidate for their year-end Top 100 list (it didn’t end up making the cut). For my money, this 2014 is an improvement over that vintage, and I expect strong reviews once the periodicals get their hands on this one.

2013 Mark Ryan Lonely Heart Cabernet Sauvignon
This was originally on the docket for an early-summer offer, but it got moved up after I received the following e-mail from one of the folks at the winery on March 11:

We’ve had a pretty good run on the Lonely Heart so far, and we’re getting down to the nitty gritty. I have [REDACTED] cases left in my allocation for Seattle, and it looks last year like you sold [REDACTED; imagine a number very similar to the number of cases remaining] cases on the offer. I think we could do even more [this year], but it needs to be soonish.

Okay then! Goodbye early-summer offer. Hello late March offer. I have to say: this is a pretty damned impressive rate of sales. The wine was only released on Feb 12, and less than a month later, the winery is sending out vaguely panicky last-call e-mails.

Some of the sales pressure might be due to Jeb Dunnuck’s barrel-sample review, which he ranged out at a score of 94-97pts. If he comes in at the high end of that range for his eventual bottle review, that’ll be the strongest review for any vintage of Lonely Heart, from any of the major publications. Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].”

This comes entirely from Force Majeure (!) and Ciel du Cheval Vineyards on Red Mountain. It clocks in at 14.8% listed alc and pours inky red-black into the glass. The nose combines smoky black cherries, espresso, and loamy soil. The mix of rich fruits and fecund earth tones is spot on. In the mouth, you get the sense right away that the winemaking team, in their barrel selection, was going for texture above all else, because this is seamless, immaculate Cabernet. Densely packed layers of fruit. Walls of earth and structure. This seems perfectly sculpted for long-haul ageing. It’s as deeply an impressive 2013 Cabernet as I can remember tasting from Washington to date.

The Chief is first come first served up to 24 bottles. For Lonely Heart, please limit order requests to 12 bottles, 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 Sharecropper

March 30, 2016

Hello friends. We’ve dabbled heavily in the main Owen Roe label, lightly in their Corvidae label, but never (until today) in their Sharecropper’s line. A recent tasting of a pair of Sharecropper’s wines underscored for me what a fabulous job David O’Reilly and his team are doing, producing outstanding wines across a broad spectrum of tariffs and labels. Here’s the story of this particular label, direct from the winery:

[TEXT WITHHELD]

The Sharecropper label, as far as I know, has only ever been put on two wines: a Washington Cabernet Sauvignon and an Oregon Pinot Noir. I have seen the label turn up much, much more frequently on restaurant glass-pour lists than on retail shelves. In fact, I want to say that at one point in its history they were “on-premise only” (restaurant only) wines. As usual, we don’t like to let the somms and restaurant buyers have all the fun.

2013 Owen Roe Sharecropper’s Cabernet Sauvignon
We committed to a sizeable chunk of this wine, enough to push our TPU price to as low a price as I see nationally. Typical retail is $15, and even at that tag, Sharecropper’s Cab is a strong value. No surprise, but at this price point, the folks at Owen Roe aren’t keen to share too many details about the vineyards involved. No matter. What’s important to note about this wine is that, unlike many sub-$15 Cabernet Sauvignons, this is not an overly ripe fruit bomb, does not have sneaky residual sugar, and has not been oak-chipped or oak-powdered into oblivion.

Instead, this drinks like clean, honest, Columbia Valley Cabernet fruit. It clocks in at 13% listed alc and indeed drinks like a mid-weight, with plenty of bright acidity forming one half of the structure tandem. Soft-and-easy tannin makes up the other half, and that structure frames a core of mint- and flower-tinged redcurrant fruit. Because this isn’t too ripe nor too oaky, some Cabernet subtleties are allowed to shine through: earth and herb, savory beet and rhubarb. Just a lovely, comfortable-in-its-own-skin Cab, perfect for mid-week pleasure.

2014 Owen Roe Sharecropper’s Pinot Noir
Bit of a higher price point here, and the folks at Owen Roe are more comfortable sharing their vineyard sources. Which I must say, are fairly astonishing considering the price point: Anna’s, Durant, Lenne, Merriman, Sojourner.

Anna’s Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains gets a $42 single-vineyard bottling from Owen Roe; likewise Durant in the Dundee Hills ($42); likewise Lenne Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton ($55); likewise Sojourner in Eola-Amity ($42). Merriman Vineyard, also in the Y-C, is a major component in the Kilmore Pinot ($42).

Do you remember the “grand cascade” effect in Oregon’s 2014 vintage, coined by Erica Landon, which we first mentioned in our offer for Walter Scott Wine last August? It goes something like this: let’s say a winery normally gets enough fruit to make 100 cases of their expensive single vineyard Pinot. But in a (rare) high-quality/high-yield year like 2014, they get enough fruit to make 150 cases. One option, of course, is to just produce 150 cases of expensive wine and hope the market can bear it. Another option: “cascade” those extra 50-cases worth of single-vineyard juice into your Willamette Valley Pinot program, and make your entry-level wine, your gateway drug, that much better.

I think it’s obvious which option is better for we the consumers, and it helps explain why this particular ’14 is a complete knockout. It lists its alc at 14.1% and offers a dark, compelling nose: blackberry, loamy soil, star anise. The palate is ripe, rich, on the Cali side of the Oregon stylistic spectrum. Luscious notes of Chambord and brewed coffee are complemented by smoky/earthy soil tones. There’s even a little sneaky back-end tannic chew here, and I think you could pair this with some seriously robust meals (braised short ribs come to mind). It is a real powerhouse Oregon Pinot, and it offers loads of class and stuffing for the price point.

First come first served up to 60 bottles total, 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 Standard Bearer

March 29, 2016

Hello friends. A little history today. We first offered a Gramercy Cellars Syrah in June 2010. It was the 2007 vintage of Lagniappe, and here is some of what I wrote in the intro:

Greg Harrington is one of the faces of the reactionary Syrah movement in the Walla Walla Valley. This is a movement away from alcohol and new wood, and towards natural acid and earth. In the past few years, Gramercy has been churning out vibrant, sleek, stinky Syrahs with alcohols in the 13% range. And heads have turned. Some things that Greg does differently with Syrah: he considers it a delicate grape; one that should be treated more like Pinot Noir than like Cabernet. He embraces whole cluster fermentation, including stems for their earthy aromatics, their mid-palate body, and their lick of tannins. And he picks early, obsessing much more over acid development than sugar. In short, the man is a Côte Rotie-head, and it must have been a massive compliment to have Jancis Robinson call one of Greg’s Syrahs “not so unlike a really ripe Côte Rotie.” (As a frame of reference, many Côte Roties come in at 11-12% alcohol, so by Rotie standards, 13.5% is “really ripe”). Fruit-and-barrel Syrah lovers beware: these wines are not for you. But for those of us who love dirt and acid, meat and funk, these are among the finest examples our state has to offer.

In the six years since, Gramercy’s house style has been deeply influential across the state. These days, it’s not unusual at all to see Washington Syrah with a high proportion of whole clusters, with bright acidity, with low alcohol. It’s easy to forget how revolutionary this all was just a few years ago.

And Greg’s wines, in conjunction with the estimable Brandon Moss? They’ve only gotten better and better. Better vineyard sources. Wines even more expressive of those sources. At this point Gramercy has evolved to a point where they’re no longer a young whippersnapper. If I had to pick a phrase to describe their role in Washington wine: standard bearer.

Especially when it comes to Syrah, and that is our focus today. We have a trio of Gramercy’s finest Syrahs, and then I’ll tack on one Cabernet, because we’ve been receiving a lot of requests for that one.

2013 Gramercy Cellars Syrah The Deuce
This was one of the wines Greg poured at our event last November, and despite the fact that it was being poured next to several glimmering library bottles, it still shone bright and was purchased in quantity. For those of you who didn’t have a chance to access the wine in November, here’s your opportunity.

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

And here are Greg Harrington’s tasting notes: [TEXT WITHHELD]?

2013 Gramercy Cellars Syrah Lagniappe
Lagniappe is rapidly becoming Greg and Brandon’s showcase for Red Willow Vineyard Syrah. The 2012 was two-thirds Red Willow; this 2013 is 80%. It’s fascinating seeing this site through the Gramercy prism.

Here are Greg’s notes: [TEXT WITHHELD].

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

2013 Gramercy Cellars Syrah Forgotten Hills Vineyard
[Please note: this will be the most tightly allocated of the three wines, and we’ll only get one shot at it. The entire Seattle allocation is miniscule for this wine.]

Well, here’s an exciting debut wine. Forgotten Hills Vineyard is now an estate site for Gramercy, which is wonderful news. Long-time list members know about my obsession with Forgotten Hills. The old Waters wines from this site (2007 and 2009 especially) are some of the most exciting Syrahs ever bottled from Washington. Bar none. Turns out I wasn’t the only obsessive. Here’s Greg:

[TEXT WITHHELD].

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

2012 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
A beautiful Cabernet from a beautiful vintage, and it’s interesting reading the winery’s notes on this one. It seems they’ve settled on a similar Cabernet pattern to the wonderful Woodward Canyon Old Vines bottling: blend old-vine Sagemoor fruit with powerhouse Cab from Horse Heaven (for Woodward, Champoux; for Gramercy, Phinny Hill). It is indeed one hell of a combination.

Greg’s notes: [TEXT WITHHELD].

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

Please limit order requests to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), 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 Bunchgrass Finale

March 21, 2016

Hello friends. Our first offer for Bunchgrass wine went out on January 4, 2010, about three months after we launched. Our final offer for Bunchgrass wines is, I’m sad to say, today.

Tom Olander and Barb Commare have decided to retire the winery and pursue new adventures. They’ve sold their 2013 and 2014 juice to other wineries, and they didn’t harvest in 2015, so today’s pair of 2012s is it.

(At least through Full Pull. I should say that the winery in Walla Walla will be open for visitors and sales for at least the next six months. Tom assures me that they will have great wines available for sale, including some from the Bunchgrass library.)

Here’s what I said about Bunchgrass in that initial offer: Let’s start 2010 with a wine that typifies what we’re trying to accomplish with Full Pull. Here we have a boutique winery, with a great story, crafting exceptional wines from impeccable vineyard sources.

All true, and that’s why I’m feeling pretty blue today. Bunchgrass fit our model perfectly. Great people making great under-the-radar wine that was barely accessible outside of Walla Walla. And of course this is the winery that led me to the evocative poetry of Robert Sund. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s step back and tell the story one more time.

Roger Cockerline helped to establish a grape-grower’s society in Walla Walla in the 1980s and then founded Bunchgrass as the eleventh winery in the Walla Walla Valley. Roger’s fruit is present in some of the early Leonetti bottles, helped perhaps by the fact that Chris Figgins was a student in Roger’s 8th Grade Social Studies Course (no pigeonholing in the WWV; Roger was a farmer *and* a teacher).

Roger named the winery after Bunch Grass, a book of poetry by his friend, the northwest poet Robert Sund (1929-2001). Learning about the origin of the winery name led me to Sund’s poetry, which has been one of my happiest accidents associated with Full Pull, and now, whenever we offer Bunchgrass wines, we include a Sund poem (see the end of today’s offer for one more Sundian sendoff). I’d like to thank the board of the Robert Sund Poet’s House Trust (holders of copyrights to Sund’s work) for permission to share his poetry with our list members. For more information on the life and work of Robert Sund, and to order books, please visit the Trust’s web site.

Bunchgrass was never the splashiest winery in the valley, but it was well-loved by its dedicated followers. So well-loved, in fact, that when Roger Cockerline started moving towards retirement, he was approached by several people interested in keeping the winery alive. One of those people was Tom Olander, who had served as the lead wine buyer for Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant (a Walla Walla institution) and had been a great admirer of Bunchgrass wines over the years. Despite the long history in the valley, Bunchgrass wines remained insider gems, all the way to the end. And what better vintage to go out on than 2012:

2012 Bunchgrass Triolet
This is the sixth consecutive vintage we’ve offered of Triolet. It has always been a fine value from the Walla Walla Valley AVA, and it has always been small production (this vintage with just 158 cases). The blend is 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Petit Verdot. The Cab and Cab Franc come entirely from Dwelley Vineyard, a lovely site in the Blue Mountain Foothills; the PV from Frazier Bluff. The juice was raised in 25% new French oak, and it clocks in at 14.4% listed alc. The complex, attractive nose combines crème de cassis and exotic spice (star anise especially) with good Cabernet savory notes of beetroot and black olive. The fine balance of fruit and savory and barrel notes continues on the palate, which has lovely Cabernet character, especially in its medium-grain, grippy tannins. This has always been a graceful, polished bottling, always offering its own unique expression of the Walla Walla Valley at very moderate pricing. Triolet, you will be missed.

2012 Bunchgrass Founder’s Blend
Founder’s is a newer bottling, but we’ve still offered every vintage since the 2009. It is even smaller production than Triolet (121 cases) and has a higher proportion of Dwelley Vineyard Cabernet Franc (60% of the blend; the remaining 40% is Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot). It was aged in 25% new French oak, and its listed alc is 14.5%. The nose has lovely Franc tones – smoky poblano, blackberry fruit, dark soil – dusted with cocoa powder and lifted by floral subtleties. This is very texturally seductive, with satiny fine-grained tannins and a real sense of seamlessness. The rich fruit and Franc savories are swaddled by warming barrel tones, and the entire package drinks classy and balanced, finishing with a lick of earthy coffee.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, 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 immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

On behalf of our list members, I want to thank Barb Commare and Roger Cockerline, Gordy Venneri and William VonMetzger, and especially Tom Olander for a wonderful five-year run. Over those years, Bunchgrass wines made dinners taste delicious, improved tableside conversations, and made spouses better looking, among their many other fine attributes. We’ll miss you guys, and your wines, and we all wish you well.

Friends
Friends make us fuller.
When friends leave, their light stays behind.
It is like the blue sea
that supports the white breakers
that come and go.

No matter how far I go,
I long to return and be with friends.
It is never the same fire I left,
but beneath it are the ashes
of all our meetings that have gone before.
— Robert Sund


Full Pull Southard

March 21, 2016

Hello friends. Our first Southard offer was sent in autumn 2012, and the winery has been steadily building momentum since, not just among our list members, but among the market generally. And why not: Scott Southard has stubbornly kept his prices low and his quality high; a good recipe for generating and sustaining buzz.

Today we have new vintages of two of Scott’s most popular wines among our list members: his Columbia Valley Syrah, and his lovely Columbia Valley White, which is a Roussanne/Viognier blend.

2013 Southard Syrah Columbia Valley
Like in previous vintages, this is a tale of two slopes. The first is the Royal Slope, not yet an AVA (although I expect that to happen soon) and one of the hottest (in terms of buzz) areas for Syrah in Washington right now. Charles Smith’s ecstatically received (and astronomically priced) Royal City, Heart, Skull, and Old Bones Syrahs all come from this slope. It is also home to Lawrence Vineyard, which comprises 75% of today’s bottle. The Lawrences are Scott Southards cousins, so it’s a family affair. First planted out in 2003, Lawrence is a high-elevation site, ranging from 1400’-1600’, just beautiful for Syrah.

Down one slope is the Wahluke, a more established area and already an AVA of its own. At the top of the Wahluke Slope we find Stonetree Vineyard, one of the hottest (in terms of temperature) sites in Washington. It’s a poorly-held secret that Stonetree was the source for most of the Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that was #1 on Wine Spectator’s 2009 Top 100 list. It’s a special vineyard, becoming more important with each passing vintage.

Grapes from both sites were whole-cluster fermented with no destemming and raised in French oak (50% new) for just shy of two years. At this price point, you’d expect massive production levels. Instead this clocks in at a mere 188 cases, so I expect it to move quickly (the 2012 certainly disappeared with alacrity; I see a lot of zeroed out orders for list members who tried to reorder that one weeks and months after we first offered it). It kicks off with a lovely nose of huckleberry, star anise, and tarry mineral streaks. The palate beautifully melds the two vineyard sites: rich, smoky purple and black fruit from Stonetree, paired to earthy/savory subtleties from Lawrence. The overall package is long, rich, and satisfying, offering serious complexity and stuffing for a $15 tag.

2014 Southard White Wine Columbia Valley

As is typical, this wine is a blend of Lawrence Vineyard Roussanne (54%) and Stonetree Vineyard Viognier (46%). It was raised entirely in neutral barrel, and half was put through malolactic conversion, half not. Despite Viognier’s reputation for taking over the aromatics of any wine it touches, this wine’s nose is driven very much by Roussane, with its lovely combination of peaches and smoked/salted almonds, mineral and hay. This has outstanding palate presence, offering real fruit intensity that is terrific for the price point involved. Roussanne’s savory nuttiness is here, paired to Viognier’s floral honeysuckle and ginger tones. Complex, perfumed, and heartily stuffed for a $15 white, this leaves a lingering impression of cereal grains on its long, satisfying finish.

First come first served up to 48 bottles total, 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 Friday Reoffers: Popularity Contest

March 21, 2016

Hello friends. I often like these Friday reoffers to have some kind of theme. If no theme obviously exists, I’m not above force-fitting the wines into a made-up theme. Well, today, I’m not sure if it’s the newborn-at-home sleep deprivation or what, but no compelling theme is bubbling up to the surface of this addled brain. There’s Washington and Oregon and import, there’s four different vintages, there’s private label. Really, there’s a little bit of everything.

The only thing these wines have in common is that they’ve been popular. Popular reorder targets. Popular anecdotally, either in person at the warehouse or through feedback mailed to us. And today, that’ll have to be theme enough.

2012 August Cellars Pinot Noir Willamette Valley
Originally offered January 10, 2016. We poured samples of this during our pickup day last Saturday and sold cases of it. It was the most popular wine of the day, and no surprise, as it is difficult to find any Oregon Pinot for $15, let alone from a vintage like 2012. Excerpts from the original: We don’t offer many $15 Willamette Valley Pinots. And the truth is: this isn’t actually a $15 Pinot. It’s actually a $20 Pinot (through the winery) that we’re selling for $15 because we committed to a truckload of it and subsequently secured a very good price.

August Cellars has produced wine under their own label since 2002, but winemaking is only one part of a multi-generational, multi-agricultural business. In 1890, August Schaad (the winery’s namesake) emigrated from Germany to the United States. August’s oldest son, Clarence Schaad, purchased the winery’s 42-acre property in 1942, and the farm is currently run by Clarence’s two surviving children, Lewis and Grace. About half of the farmland is devoted to mature English Walnut trees, the remainder split among Italian plums, woods, the winery itself, and yes, some Pinot Noir vines. The winery is managed by Lewis Schaad’s two sons, Jim and Tom, with Jim in charge of winemaking (Jim would be August’s great grandson, for those counting at home).

This 2012 was raised entirely in neutral barrels, and it clocks in at 12.5% listed alc. The nose offers real purity to the blackest of black cherry juice, paired with dark loamy/leafy forest floor notes and black tea. In the mouth, it’s the texture you notice first: this has an impressive sense of palate weight and presence, and conveys real richness and deliciousness, all on a frame that zips along with moderate alcohol and plenty of mouthwatering blood-orange acidity. This offers sneaky back-end chew, serious stuffing, and way more overall complexity then we have any right to expect at a $15 tag.

2012 Baer Star
Originally offered November 1, 2015. Excerpts from the original: For a good primer on this winery, whose story is one of tragedy and renewal, I recommend Andy Perdue’s article in Great Northwest Wine. Another important note is that all Baer wines are 100% from Stillwater Creek Vineyard.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

To put this into context, of the 2,244 wines Sean has reviewed for Wine Enthusiast to date, a mere 16 have earned scores higher than Star’s 94pt review (those range from $50-$140). And only 24 other wines share Star’s 94pt score. Those range from $40-$150, with a median price of $72.50. All that to say: Star is an outlier.

2009 Full Pull & Friends Cabernet Sauvignon (FPF-16)
Originally offered November 16, 2015, and we have 29% of our original stash remaining. Excerpts from the original: Today we have the last of our 2015 slate of Full Pull & Friends new releases. It is also our only Cabernet Sauvignon to be released under the FP&F label this year. And it brings us full circle, as this is the new vintage of the inaugural wine that got this whole FP&F venture started. It comes from the same sites as that inaugural 2007: two of the brilliant sites managed by Kent Waliser and Lacey Lybeck under the Sagemoor group – Dionysus and Weinbau – along with a bit of fruit from Stillwater Creek. It was raised in 60% new oak for more than two years before going into bottle, where we’ve now had it evolving and maturing for another three-and-a-half years in bottle. The result is a little marvel at six years past vintage.

The first thing you notice is the color density. This is inky red-black from core to rim. The nose comes spilling up out of the glass, with beautiful minty freshness atop a core of blackcurrant fruit and dark chocolate barrel notes and smoky/flinty minerals. The palate reveals a wine at a lovely place in its evolution. 2009 was a warm year in Washington, and it yielded an approachable vintage for wines. This one is actually more evolved, I would say, than the 2007 or 08. I’d drink the 09 first, then 07, and continue to wait a few years to crack those 2008s.

The good news with a warm year like 2009 (14.9% alc) is two-fold: first, it means there is no shortage of lush, delicious fruit. And second, it’s like hopping in a wine-ageing time machine. Everything moves a little faster in a warm year, and this is already displaying lovely tertiary sensibilities: some dried fruit to go with the fresh, some earth and mushroom and leather to go with the fruit. And that continuing minty-eucalyptus note keeps things very fresh and lively. Texturally, this is all charm and pleasure in the front, then more serious in the back: a reverse mullet wine, as I like to call it. The attack and mid-palate are plump and generous, but as the wine rolls into the finish, it broadens, coating the whole palate in fine-grained, integrating tannins, redolent of black tea studded with black cherries.

2014 Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon (Black Label)

Originally offered January 22, 2016, and I’ve just been told this wine is effectively sold out. There’s a parcel being held for us, but this will certainly be last call on this wine. Now then, excerpts from the original: 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. As soon as I saw the tech sheet for this wine, my jaw dropped: This 2014 wine is medium to full bodied. It has a remarkable depth of flavors. It is fresh on the palate and has an alluring nose of violets and pencil shavings. Champoux Vineyards is the source for this wine. This is sensational fruit. Talk about burying the lede! Champoux fruit in the black label? Really?!?

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).

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.

2005 La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904
Originally offered January 17, 2016. I won’t say much here, as there’s just barely enough of this wine currently in Seattle to warrant its inclusion, and I know it already has major acolytes among our list members. But I did want to note that – in addition to the glowing 96pt review from Luis Gutierrez (Wine Advocate) that we quoted in the original offer, this puppy just received a matching 96pt review from Wine Enthusiast.

Wine Enthusiast (Michael Schachner): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 96pts.”

I’ll reprint the Gutierrez note as well. Wine Advocate (Luis Gutierrez): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 96pts.”

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 all be in the warehouse within the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.