Full Pull Isenhower

Hello friends. We launched Full Pull in autumn 2009. And before we did, I took a long eastern Washington road trip. The purpose: research, tasting, buying. I just looked back at my notes from that trip, and of the dozen or two wineries I visited, there is exactly one whose wines we have never offered. Until today.

It was entirely a matter of timing. I *loved* the wines I tasted at Isenhower seven (!!!) years ago and fully intended to offer them. But just as Full Pull was getting up and running, Brett and Denise Isenhower were scaling back. In 2010, they pulled all of their wines out of distribution and decided to move to a 100% direct-to-consumer model.

In the subsequent six years, I didn’t really check in on the wines. My time in Walla Walla is always limited, and it just didn’t make sense to allocate bandwidth to a winery whose wines I could never write about. But recently, the Isenhowers moved their wines back into distribution, and the Seattle market was one of the first places where the wines have shown up. I scheduled a tasting with their representatives here in Seattle, and I’ll admit: I had fairly high expectations going in, driven by my memories of an excellent lineup of wines, and maybe also driven by a little nostalgia for Full Pull’s early days.

Well, let me say: high expectations? Warranted. What was clear to me after tasting a trio of Isenhower wines is that Brett and Denise have spent the past six years taking an already-strong lineup and moving it into the real upper echelon of Washington producers. All this while seemingly keeping their pricing the same as I remember it in 2009. What was also clear was that I was going to offer all three wines (two reds and one white).

If Isenhower was a new winery and these were debut vintages, I’d be talking about them as the most exciting Washington debutantes of 2016. The reality is more complicated than that, but the fact remains: these are indeed debutante wines for our list members, and indeed some of the most exciting “new” Washington wines I’ve tasted this year:

2013 Isenhower Cellars River Beauty Syrah
The backbone (58%) of River Beauty comes from the excellent (and breathtakingly situated) Wallula Vineyard, the remainder a mix of Olsen and Dutchman fruit. The grapes were fermented with native yeasts (true of all Isenhower wines) and with 25% whole clusters. The wine clocks in at 14.8% listed alc. Production is 289 cases.

It begins with a nose of blackberry and huckleberry fruit, complicated by threads of smoke and olive. In the mouth, this is a marvel, truly palate-staining, coating every nook and cranny with dark intensity. There’s a textural thickness here that reminded me of some of the high-end K Vintners Syrahs (like the ones that go for $50-$100). The weight and opulence of the warm 2013 vintage are balanced beautifully by a sturdy acid spine, and the complexity just continues to unfurl with every extra hour the bottle is open. Everything about this wine – intensity, complexity, polish – suggests a wine that costs twice as much.

2013 Isenhower Cellars Bachelor’s Button Cabernet Sauvignon
The story is similar for Isenhower’s Cabernet: outstanding vineyard sourcing, and a wine that drinks twice as expensive as it actually is. This is 50% Upland Vineyard Cabernet from the 1973 block, some of the oldest Cab in Washington, up there on Snipes Mountain. Then 40% Wallula, combining a 1997 block and a younger 2010 block. The remainder is 5% each Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. The wine clocks in at 14.4% listed alc, with small production of just 242 cases.

The nose is all glorious Cabernet: redcurrant and red plum fruit; mint and violet topnotes; bass notes of cocoa powder and asphalt. To me, this doesn’t just drink like expensive Cab; it drinks like old-school Washington Cab, like mid-‘90s Woodward Canyon bottlings, the kind that are absolutely otherworldly when you open them today (twenty years later). There is beautiful emphasis here on structure; a real scaffolding of ripe, earthy tannin. It’s the perfect foil to the lush fruit of the vintage, and the entire package just drinks balanced and so very classy. Ultra-impressive, with a clear vein of outstanding old-vine fruit involved.

2015 Isenhower Cellars Marsanne
Washington Marsanne is still a relative rarity to see bottled on its own. We’ve only offered three of them over the years, two from Maison Bleue (2009 and 2010 vintages, at $33 and $37 topline) and one from Syncline (2011; $26 topline). I’ve never seen one at this price point. They generally begin at $20 and go up from there. It’s a lovely grape in Washington, and this version comes entirely from the Den Hoed family’s Dutchman Vineyard outside of Grandview. It begins with a nose of peach and raw almond, crème fraiche and mineral. The palate (13% listed alc) is a dry, acid-driven mix of stone fruits and raw nuts. I love how pure and pristine the fruit is here; a lovely, unusual, crystalline white.

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.

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