Full Pull Rarities

August 31, 2016

Hello friends. We have a trio of rarities from the Charles Smith empire today. One each from the K Vintners, B. Leighton, and Sixto projects. Please note that two of these three wines are already sold out at the winery (the other is close). It’s only because of our long support of these wines, and our current strong relationship with a number of higher-ups at the winery, that we have a hold on most of the remaining stock in Seattle. But after we place our order next Tuesday, that hold evaporates, so please do try to get orders in by Monday night, and please know that these are all unlikely to be available for reorder.

I also think there’s a better than 50/50 chance we’ll have to allocate one or two of these, so a quick reminder of our allocation technique: Our allocations favor breadth over depth, so that everyone gets one bottle before anyone gets two. And our formula for prioritizing allocations includes overall orders, frequency of orders, recency of orders, and list tenure, among other factors. Now, onto the wines:

2013 Sixto Chardonnay Moxee Vineyard
As a reminder, the Sixto label is intended to explore old-vine Washington Chardonnay, especially sites released from contract by Ste Michelle after natural yields fall too low with vine age. It’s named after the musician Sixto Rodriguez, subject of the outstanding Oscar-winning documentary Searching For Sugar Man.

Moxee was my favorite of the 2013s. The vineyard sits on limestone-strewn silt loam soils at very high altitude (1400’), and its vines used to go into Ste Michelle’s sparkling wine program. These are seriously old vines by Washington Chardonnay standards, planted in 1979, and that old-vine depth is on fine display here (14.2% listed alc). Notes of lemon curd, brioche, and chamomile tea fly across the palate with energy and verve to spare. This is propulsive, mountain-grown Chardonnay.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.” [Note: this was a strong a review as Jeb gave to any Washington white wine during his most recent set of annual reviews in June 2016.]

2013 B. Leighton Syrah Olsen Brothers Vineyard
Here we have the second vintage of the personal, evocative wines of Brennon Leighton (formerly of Efeste before joining Charles Smith’s winemaking team a few years ago). His label is called B. Leighton (as I said: personal), and it showcases grapes grown by Leif Olsen. Brennon and Leif’s relationship goes all the way back to Brennon’s Ste Michelle days, and the two have a clear comfort level. As the winery states: this is a continuation of what Brennon was doing before and what he does best: feral fermentations with longer maceration and reductive winemaking that captures the varietal and the place it is from.

This is Syrah cropped at 2.2 tons/acre, done 100% whole cluster, 100% native yeasts, 31 days on skins, and 18 months in French oak puncheons, 20% new. Listed alc is 14.5%, production is 100 cases. This is sold out at the winery, and we only have access to a handful of cases. It’s a dark brooder, exotic but still tightly wound. Notes of blackberry and barbequed brisket, damp earth and anise emerged, but only after a few hours open. This little baby needs hours in the decanter, or a few years in a cool cellar, but it’s going to unfurl into something truly beautiful.

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

2012 K Vintners Charlotte
The less said the better here, as the winery is sold out, and we don’t have access to much. This was a new wine under the K label inaugurated with the 2012 vintage, to celebrate the birth of Charles’ daughter Charlotte in 2012. It’s a Mourvedre (47%)/Grenache (37%)-driven Rhone blend, with 6% Syrah, 6% Counoise, and 4% Picpoul rounding things out. Most of the fruit comes from River Rock Vineyard in the Rocks District; the remainder from Morrison Lane, another outstanding Walla Walla Valley site. The different varieties were all picked together and cofermented, all whole cluster, all native yeast, and then aged in neutral puncheon for just shy of two years.

Listed alc is 14.5%, and this comes roaring up out of the glass with a nose of raspberry fruit, loads of cured meats, wild herbs, wild game; hell this is just a wild nose overall, truly floral and fragrant. Bright, energetic, and deeply savory on the palate, this seems driven by Mourvedre’s plummy fruit and gamey complexities. It rolls into a long finish awash in polished, dusty tannins and a last salty/briny lick, inviting the next sip or next bite of food. A compelling addition to the K lineup, to be sure.

Please limit order requests to 12 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 Punditry

August 31, 2016

Hello friends. Today we have the sophomore vintage of one of the most popular debutantes of 2015:

2014 Tenet Syrah The Pundit

When we offered the 2013 Pundit (in early September 2015), I predicted that it would end up on Wine Spectator’s year-end Top 100, and sure enough, the crystal ball performed within its operating specs that day. A few months later the wine landed the #34 spot on the list. And proceeded to sell out instantly.

No review yet from Spectator for the 2014 (last year’s wasn’t officially published until the Oct 15 issue), but the single reviewer that has evaluated the wine has already given another strong review, matching Spectator’s 92 from a year ago:

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

And then Sean Sullivan just published a brief review in his Wines of the Month feature for July in Washington Wine Report, presaging a strong review to come in Wine Enthusiast down the line. Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].” [Note: and Sean is referring to the wine’s release price of $25; I wonder what he would think of our $19 TPU tag today.]

Tenet is a collaborative project between Bob Berthau (Chateau Ste Michelle’s lead winemaker) and two Rhone Valley partners: winemaker Michel Gassier and enologist Phillipe Cambie. It’s a little like the Long Shadows projects, and we know how well those have worked out. In this case, the three men share the belief (or tenet) that Washington can grow some of the finest Syrah in the world, and they’re setting out to prove their point.

Here’s their stated stylistic goal: The goal with these wines is to exhibit the growing regions by letting the opulence and vibrancy of the varieties shine through while maintaining finesse and balance. Rhône Valley techniques for managing vine canopy and cluster size in the vineyard, and minimal use of new oak, delicate and precise handling of the fruit, fermentation with stems and extended maceration in the winery all help to accomplish this goal.

Pretty much all the techniques mentioned in that paragraph are used for this 2014. Minimal use of new oak (12%, for 13 months); fermentation with stems (22% whole cluster); extended maceration (20%). Listed alc is 14.5%, which seems just right for the warm 2014 vintage. This pours into the glass inky black-purple, and aromas come roaring right back out: huckleberry and smoky charcoal and salty black olive. Rich and intense, this lights up every palate receptor and taste bud available with its sea salt-dusted berry goodness and slatey minerals, rolling into a long, rich, satisfying finish. As I tasted this, I thought to myself that these Rhone guys must be having so much fun with this project. A warm vintage in Washington is something completely different than they would ever see in the northern Rhone, and it allows them to craft this great conveyor of pleasure

What a glorious autumn braising wine this would be! Pour one bottle into the pot with your pot roast or short ribs or oxtails; pour another into your glass and the glasses of your appreciative friends and family. First come first served up to 60 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 Tintero

August 31, 2016

Hello friends. We have the new vintage release today of what has become our list’s mainstay Nebbiolo: the enchanting Tintero Barbaresco. To maintain our [TEXT WITHHELD] (best nationally by a couple bucks), we had to pre-buy a significant parcel, so this puppy is already in the warehouse and rarin’ to go.

2012 Tintero Barbaresco
We’ve offered every Tintero Barbaresco ever made (it began with the 2008 vintage; this is our fifth in a row), and I’m sure we’ve sold the majority of all the bottles of Tintero Barbaresco that ever made it into the US. Our list members know a good value when they see one, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that a Kermit Lynch-imported Barbaresco, at a tariff more often seen for Langhe Nebbiolos, is a fine value indeed.

The winery was founded when Pierre Tintero, a Frenchmen, moved to Piedmont in the early 1900s and married the widow Rosina Cortese, owner of a small estate near Mango (location here). Whether Tintero married under the aegis of Cupid or Bacchus is lost to the sands of time. Regardless, the estate with his name has lived on, and it’s now run by the third (Elvio) and fourth (Marco and Cinzi) generations.

Back when we accessed that inaugural 2008 vintage, here’s what the inveterately-knowledgeable Lyle Railsback (of Kermit Lynch Imports) had to say: [TEXT WITHHELD].

This clocks in at 14% listed alc and begins with a killer nose, evocative and expressive. Black cherry and rose petals, smoky minerals, menthol and cinnamon spice notes. The palate perfectly balances a trinity of fruit and mineral and leaf, and offers real approachability, not often the case for Nebbiolo, let alone Nebbiolo from Barbaresco. This is such a clear step up from Langhe Nebbiolo, too, in terms of complexity and textural polish. It’s robustly structured, with bright acid and toothsome tannins, and tasting this year’s Tintero had me in the mind of mushroom ragouts and bowls of tomato-studded polenta. When summer gives way to autumn in a few months, we’re all going to want bottles of this around.

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

Full Pull Vigneron

August 31, 2016

Hello friends. I’ve mentioned this before, and it bears repeating: The true vigneron model is surprisingly rare in Washington. It is unusual to see a single person managing both viticulture (growing grapes) and vinification (making wine), and doing it all from estate vineyards. It’s a structural issue, mostly. Unfortunately in Washington, many of the places that are among the best for growing grapes are likewise among the worst for, um, living. I mean, good luck convincing a young, promising winemaker to set up shop in the Horse Heaven Hills (motto: We’re Only 40 Minutes From Prosser!). Easier to contract with a grower, set up in Woodinville, and begin enjoying that bumpin’ eastside nightlife.

Because the vigneron model is rare, they tend to stand out, and we tend to offer them. When I think of Yakima Valley vignerons, there is one name at the top of the list: Scott Greer of Sheridan Vineyard. Scott is an outstanding grower/winemaker, and he and Big John Caudill have done such a fabulous job of growing Sheridan’s mailing list and wine club over the years that these wines have become increasingly difficult to source (a seemingly endless series of huge critical reviews haven’t hurt either). I’m thrilled, then, that we have access to parcels (barely) big enough to warrant today’s offer. This pair of Cabernet-based bottlings are very much in keeping with the Sheridan house style: dense layers of delicious fruit; massive structure; incredible concentration.

2014 Sheridan Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
This is the gateway drug to the broader Sheridan lineup, offering terrific bang-for-the-buck and a lovely introduction to Scott’s style. Dark fruits abound on the nose – black plum, blackberry – mixed with leafy notes (black tea, tobacco), dark soil, and coffee barrel tones. The mouthfeel is dense and layered, the fruit and tannin rich and delicious. Those tannins really only present themselves a few seconds after you swallow; perfectly sneaky chew as a finishing kiss.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

2013 Sheridan Vineyard L’Orage Cabernet Sauvignon
I won’t add much here, as this one is extremely limited (I’m setting order limits at 6 bottles, but actual allocations may end up closer to 2 or 3 bottles). We’ve been offering L’Orage forever (since the ’06 vintage), and it is always a glorious mix of Cab and Cab Franc, that Franc offering its wonderful subtleties of poblano and cress and flower. This vintage is a total powerhouse, a marvel of strength, structure, and grace.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

First come first served up to 12 bottles of ’14 Cabernet. For L’Orage, please limit order requests to 6 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 The Funk

August 12, 2016

Hello friends. Is any winemaker more suitably named to make wine from The Rocks District than Rich Funk of Saviah Cellars? Today we’ll feature a wine named after “The Funk.” Whether that name refers to the man or the juice, I’m not sure. And thanks to a sparkling soon-to-be-published review from Wine Enthusiast, I don’t have time to find out.

[Note: in addition to the Funk, we’ll also offer a pair of bonus wines from Rich’s value The Jack tier; see below.]

2013 Saviah Cellars The Funk Syrah Funk Estate Vineyard
I originally had this calendared for September, but then I caught wind of the review set to appear in the September issue of Wine Enthusiast.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullvan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.” [Sullivan context note: of the 373 Syrahs Sean has reviewed for Wine Enthusiast, a mere 13 have earned stronger reviews, a series of 95s and 96s dominated by Cayuse/Horsepower and Reynvaan, Greg Harrington and Charles Smith; heady company to be sure!]

Rich’s estate vineyard down in the rocks was planted in 2007 and came online in 2009, so this is still a very young site, with massive potential. In 2013 he cofermented 96% Syrah (a mix of whole clusters and destemmed) with 4% Viognier, then aged the whole thing in French oak, one-third new, for about a year and a half. Saviah only produces 150 cases of this wine, and I believe 90% of that production gets sold to their mailing list. The remainder comes to Seattle, and it’s not very much. Fortunately, we have a long history of supporting Rich and his wines, and that is paying dividends, as we have a hold on the majority of what landed in Seattle. We’ll need to place our order Monday, so please get requests in by Sunday night, and we’ll do our best. With that Sullivan review getting ready to hit, I’d be very surprised if we’re able to facilitate any reorders.

This one begins with a beautiful, no-doubt-about-it Rocks nose. A lovely flower garden (jasmine, violet) hits the high notes. The bass notes are well represented: caramelizing meats, olives, sanguine minerality. Oh, and yes there’s some huckleberry and blueberry fruit as well. But ultimately, this is a celebration of the savory, and yes funky side of Syrah. In the mouth (14.2% listed alc), it has that unmistakable high-pH satiny Rocks texture. The swirling stew of meats and minerals and fruits are carried gently, effortlessly across attack and mid-palate and onto the long, satisfying finish, the lingering impression one of intense umami, like a lick of red miso paste. This is glorious Rocks Syrah, truly compelling.

2015 Saviah Cellars The Jack Chardonnay
Bonus Jack #1. This is one of the better value Chardonnays I’ve tasted this year. It comes from Evergreen (outstanding for all white varieties), Sundance, and Purple Sage Vineyards, and it was aged in a mix of barrel (70%; 52% neutral; just 18% new) and stainless steel (30%). The nose combines apple and plantain and green papaya fruit with some light floral tones of apple blossom. Very pure and clean and fruit-driven. The palate is fleshy and creamy (13.9% listed alc), but not overtly oaky. The lactic character, the purity of fruit, the overall sense of balance; all combine for a charming mid-week white.

2013 Saviah Cellars The Jack Cabernet Sauvignon
Bonus Jack #2. As usual with the Jack, the vineyard sourcing and elevage are ridiculous for the price point. Vineyard sites for this Jack Cab (which is 79% Cab, the remainder Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, and PV) are: Baachus, Elephant Mountain, Lonesome Springs, Pepper Bridge, Mirage, Stillwater Creek, Seven Hills, Summit View. Elevage is 30% new French oak for about a year, and listed alc is 14.3%. This is a rich, ripe, easy-drinking mouthful of blackberry/blackcurrant fruit and salty black olives, with threads of mint and smoke. Surprisingly complex, unsurprisingly generous, this would make a wonderful autumn house wine for mid-week pleasure. They’re also down to end-of-vintage for this one, so this will be a one-and-done offer, with no reorder requests possible.

For The Funk, let’s please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best. The Jacks are first come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and all 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 Devil You Don’t Know

August 12, 2016

Hello friends. Chris Gorman recently dropped by the warehouse and poured wines from across his three different labels (Gorman, Ashan, Devil/Scratch). What emerged clearly from the tasting: our recent multi-year string of warm vintages in Washington has played perfectly into the Gorman house style. Chris was put on earth for vintages like these.

As a reminder, Chris launched his eponymous winery in 2002 after working in the wine trade for more than 10 years (on the import and distribution side). His aforementioned house style is a hedonist’s dream: ultra-ripe fruit, heady levels of alcohol, and luxurious oak treatment. Gorman’s wines are unapologetic givers of pleasure.

Today we’ll focus on The Devil You Don’t Know, because we were offered a terrific price on that one. Bonus wines will include a new Chardonnay and a rarely (never?)-seen-at-retail Boushey Vineyard Syrah.

2013 Gorman Winery The Devil You Don”t Know
Chris inaugurated the Devil You Know/Devil You Don’t Know wines a few years ago as a way to introduce folks to the Gorman style at more accessible price points. Both wines typically retail at $28-$30. The Devil favors Bordeaux varieties; the DDK Rhone varieties.

This year’s DDK could be labeled as Syrah, with that variety making up 85% of the blend. The remainder is 12% Petite Sirah, 2% Grenache, and 1% Mourvedre. It was aged for 16 months in a combination of new and used American oak, and it clocks in at 15% listed alc. The nose is a beautiful dark brooder, with blackberry fruit complemented by threads of smoky charcoal, violet, and dark soil notes. In the mouth, this is thick, rich, and robustly tannic for Syrah. Much of the Syrah material comes from Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain, and that site can’t help lending its burly tannic structure to any red it touches. The fruit is super dark, extremely intense, and well balanced by gravelly minerals. The whole thing drank very much like baby Pixie (Gorman’s flagship Syrah under his main label; $45). It’s very true to Chris Gorman, very true to Red Mountain, and at a price lower than we’ve ever been able to offer.

2015 Gorman Winery Chardonnay Old Scratch
Chris already has a Chardonnay (Big Sissy) under his main label and four (!) Chards under his Ashan Cellars label. But the man can’t help himself, and so here we have his sixth Chardonnay, this one a well-priced blend of fruit from Lonesome Spring and Boushey Vineyards. This gets the luxury treatment that belies its price: all wild yeast; all barrel-fermented. It offers up a nose of nectarine and crème fraiche, toasted croissant and smoke. It’s a Chardonnay that smells like it’s going to be luxurious, and the palate follows through, a plush, supple, intense mouthful of creamy, leesy stone fruits and spices. Those of you who liked last year’s 2014 Barrel Fermented Chard under the Ashan label should pay close attention here; there are real similarities in style and in quality.

2013 Gorman Winery Syrah Sleeping Giant Boushey Vineyard
Only 100 cases produced of Chris’ interpretation of Bouushey Syrah (Birdhouse block), and to the best of my knowledge, this has never been offered at retail, so it’s a nice little treat for our list members. This almost drinks like opulent Aussie Shiraz (think Mollydooker Blue-Eyed Boy), with truly unctuous texture. It’s not a particularly funky rendition of Boushey, but it is smoky and palate-coating, a massive, opulent glass-stainer with structure and intensity to spare. Openly delicious, and not for the faint of palate.

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 Majestic

August 9, 2016

Hello friends. If I had to peg one category of Washington wine that will be considerably more important in ten years than it is today, it would be Grenache-dominant Rhone blends. Growers and winemakers seem to keep putting out better and better versions, and prices seem to keep decreasing. That’s a fine convergence of factors, and it is displayed perfectly by today’s wine:

2014 Kerloo Cellars Majestic
This is Ryan Crane’s fourth vintage of Majestic. To my palate, it’s also his most successful to date. And whereas the first three vintages all retailed at $26, this 2014 comes in at a significantly lower price. This kind of pricing is important on the restaurant side, where it is now priced low enough to show up as a $14 or $15 glass-pour, and on the retail side as well. $20 can be a real magic number in wine retail, and I suspect many of you who put a hard ceiling of $20 on your wine purchases will be sampling Majestic for the first time.

Expect to be dazzled. This comes screaming up out of the glass with savory goodies: bacon fat and olive brine, smoky earth and seaweed. Yes, there’s marionberry fruit, but you barely notice it amidst all the umami tones. A series of floral topnotes puts the finishing touch on a complex, deeply attractive nose. And the palate continues the theme, with loads of savory funky meaty tones and sanguine minerality balanced by the plump, delicious fruit of a warm vintage. It’s outrageously good for its price, one of my favorite bottlings of 2016 to date.

This is also one where I tasted first, loved it, and only afterwards learned the vineyard sourcing. Once I learned the sites involved, the quality started to make a lot of sense. This is 54% Upland Vineyard Grenache (arguably the best site in the state for Grenache), 38% Boushey Mourvedre, and 8% Blue Mountain Syrah; top-tier sites all. Ryan used 20% whole clusters, aged this entirely in neutral barrels, and the result is a deeply charming bottle of wine.

Production is not huge here (312 cases), but we’re getting in just after release. I didn’t want to waste any time, because this would be an outstanding wedding or party wine. Let’s open it up: first come first served up to 120 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.