Full Pull Bunchgrass Finale

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 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

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