Hello friends. Today we have a milestone for our winery-within-Full Pull, Block Wines. On September 24, 2014, we harvested Syrah from the stoney cobbles of the Rocks District of the Walla Walla Valley. Today, more than two years later, our list has its very own funky rocks Syrah:
Before we get into the details of this wine, here is a quick explanation of what Block Wines is all about: Block Wines is essentially a house winery for Full Pull. In partnership with Morgan Lee (with the exception of our sparkling wine; that one is done with Christian Grieb), we’re stewarding these wines from grape harvest to bottle. And the plan is to have a consistent lineup, year in and year out. (Although if there’s one wine that might flit in and out of the lineup (or vary significantly in its production), it would be this Stoney Vine Syrah. As beautiful as the rocks area is, it is also devilishly prone to frost. Some years it freezes out entirely; others suffer a partial frost that knocks back yields considerably.)
The goal with Block Wines is two-fold. First, to offer truly terroir-expressive wines: single varieties, from single blocks within single vineyards. And second, it allows us to lock in vineyard-variety combinations that – over many years of offering Washington wine – I know our list members love.
Syrah from the rocks is at the very top of the list. By making it part of our Block lineup, we can control pricing (I’m sure you’ve all noticed that the tariffs on rocks Syrahs have been climbing steadily in recent years), and we don’t have to compete with other retail or restaurant accounts for access to a decent-sized parcel. My hope is that our list members continue to feel a sense of ownership of the Block Wines winery. It’s your feedback (both via anecdote and via purchasing decisions) that informs the decisions of what grapes we pursue, and the style of the resulting wines.
In this case, we pursued Syrah from Stoney Vine, a site planted in the rocks in 2007 after an old apple orchard was pulled out. Here is the Everyvine page showing the precise location of this 20-acre plot (with 16.7 acres under vine). And here are a trio of pictures taken during a vineyard trip a few months ago:
- One of our rows, showing the extreme rocky nature of the site.
- A close-up shot of the “soil” at Stoney Vine.
- One of our row end-posts, showing that we’re actually pulling from the original plantings at Block 1. We chose to use some poetic license with the name of the block, and I don’t think anyone who has walked a row at Stoney Vine would argue with our choice.
It is a unique, remarkable part of the world for growing grapes, and I’m absolutely thrilled that we have access. We fermented our Syrah grapes entirely with native yeasts, and left a full 50% as whole-cluster (stems and all). We then pressed into one single second-use French puncheon, and aged the wine for 21 months before bottling in summer 2016. The finished wine clocks in at 14.1% alcohol.
One of the reasons I wanted to work with Morgan on this project is that he knows how to coax just-right funkiness out of rocks fruit. His capability with rocks Syrah, which our list members have known about for some time, made national press this year when his own rocks Syrah received an eye-popping 95pt review from Harvey Steiman in Wine Spectator. I probably won’t submit a sample of today’s wine to Spectator; at 55 cases total production, every bottle is just too precious.
In the past few weeks, this wine has begun to really pop aromatically, and the nose dazzled many who sampled the wine at our event on Saturday (folks seemed to really dig the northwest-themed woodblock label design, too). The core of fruit is squarely in the berry family – marionberries and huckleberries – but you’re not here to hear about the fruit, are you? The savory elements are many and varied: sanguine minerality, glorious briny notes of olive and caper, and a host of cured meats. It’s a wonderfully difficult nose to pin down, because it seems to evolve by the minute. Now meaty, now bloody, now floral; what a thrill ride! The palate features the silky, high-pH mouthfeel many of us adore from rocks Syrah. That pillowy texture carries waves of fruity/savory goodness across the palate. It’s a total umami bomb, seamless and charming. And I don’t know if you know this, but “umami” is derived from the Japanese words for “delicious” (umai) and “taste” (mi). Delicious taste indeed, and a perfect pairing for so many winter braises.
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. If any of this wine survives the onslaught of today’s offer (and that is a legitimate if), we’ll be pouring it during our open tasting days in December. In the meantime, the wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.