Full Pull The Apotheosis of Traditional

January 24, 2017

Hello friends. Many years ago now, I was introduced to the magical, ethereal Rioja wines of Lopez de Heredia by Javier Alfonso of Pomum/Idilico. I owe that man a debt of gratitude. Since then, I have taken every opportunity possible to purchase, collect, drink, and talk about these wines.

Offering them, however, has been more challenging, and as I look back at my records, the last time we offered a Lopez de Heredia wine was in 2012. That is borderline criminal, so I’m thrilled to have the chance to offer two classics from the portfolio today: one red and one white.

I’ll turn to Neal Martin of Wine Advocate for an introduction to the winery, because a) I love his writing; and b) he seems to love Lopez de Heredia as much as (and in the same way as) I do: [TEXT WITHHELD].

2004 Lopez de Heredia Rioja Reserva Tondonia

We have pricing today that is good as anything I see nationwide. And of course it’s rare indeed to have access to pristinely-aged 13-year-old wine from anyplace for a price in the $30s. Having accessed different vintages of this particular wine at various points along the ageing curve, I can say with confidence that a) there are pleasures to be had opening this bottle at any time during the next thirty-or-so years; and b) the more time this gets in bottle, the more it starts to converge with good old Burgundy. Multiple times in blind settings I’ve thought older bottles of Tondonia were great Burgundian Pinot Noir.

This bottling comes from the winery’s 100-hectare flagship Tondonia vineyard, which sits in a small bowl next to the Ebro river (here is a winter picture). The soil is clay and limestone. The wine is a blend of 75% Tempranillo and 15% Graciano, the remainder Garnacha and Mazuelo, and it gets six years in barrel before going to bottle. Meaning this was bottled in 2011 and has now had a subsequent five-plus years to evolve in bottle. And 2004 is the current-release vintage, to give you a sense of winery aging policy. The wine is a lithe, nervy beauty; a livewire of intensity at low (12.5%) alcohol; supremely beautiful. Look for a mix of dusty black fruit and loads of earth tones, especially mushroom and soil. The acid is clear as a bell, all blood-orange goodness; the tannin profile sneakier but offering a savory matcha finish for those paying attention. The overall package is a charming thrill ride for the senses.

Wine Advocate (Luis Gutiérrez): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

2006 Lopez de Heredia Rioja Blanco Crianza Gravonia
As with the ’04 Tondonia, we’re right in line with the best pricing nationally. It was actually an old Gravonia Blanco (the 1990 I believe) that was my first introduction to the winery. Yep, it was decades-old Viura that floored me first. This one gets four years in barrel, so it too would have been bottled in 2011 and seen a subsequent half-decade of further evolution. The moderately-oxidative style of white winemaking used here is not for everyone, but those of us who love it tend to REALLY love it. The aromatics are unmistakable: pineapple, a wintry/Christmasy spice mix, and brown butter. While the nose is unapologetically oxidative, the palate dazzles with its freshness and bright acidity, its double-take length. This is a special wine indeed.

Wine Advocate (Luis Gutiérrez): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

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 Vintage of the Century (of the Month)

January 24, 2017

Hello friends. Hype. Short for hyperbole. It runs rampant in the wine trade. I vowed when starting Full Pull to try not to overdo it. Because, I mean really, if today I’m offering the GREATEST WINE I’VE EVER TASTED, what the hell am I supposed to say about tomorrow’s wine? The truth is: I love all my babies. Maybe not equally. But plenty of love.

And yeah, I know I don’t always get it right, and sometimes enthusiasm crosses the line into hyperbole, but one thing I can promise you at least: it’s always on my mind to keep the hype in check and to offer you a clear-eyed look at the wines we’re offering.

One of the places where wine hype is at its worst is with vintages. We’re seventeen years into this century, and I shudder to think of the number of vintages I’ve heard described as the “potential vintage of the century.” In Washington alone, I’ve heard folks toss out that phrase for 2003, 2005, 2007, 2012, and 2014. When 30% of vintages are the “vintage of the century,” we are squarely into hype territory.

All of this is preamble to talk about the 2015 vintage in Europe. Hype heaven. It began as early as harvest time (see Decanter’s article: Europe’s 2015 wine harvest: On the verge of greatness?). And it has continued as even-handed folks like Jancis Robinson have begun compiling vintage reports. Some example quotes. Burgundy: [TEXT WITHHELD]

Those of us who enjoy Jancis for her restraint can pretty easily translate phrases like “very promising” into “what the [bleep] are you waiting for? buy buy buy!!!!” But still, I’m not going to go anywhere near calling it Europe’s VOTC™. For one thing, it’s waaaaaay too early. Most of the best wines are years away from release. And anyway, doesn’t it suffice to just call it an extremely promising vintage and then go out and taste the wines?

One nice aspect of Full Pull is that we have certain wines we offer year in and year out. Those wines give us an easy prism through which to view the effects of vintage. One of the first such wines that we taste each vintage is Bila-Haut, Chapoutier’s Roussillon project. And if this wine is any indication (and here I’ll slip into Jancisese), 2015 is very promising indeed.

2015 Bila-Haut (Chapoutier) Cotes du Roussillon Villages Rouge

This wine is a ridiculous value in mediocre vintages. In a fine vintage like 2015, it’s a sub-$15 wine that can help lay the foundation for a cellar. Jeb Dunnuck tasted it out of barrel last year, and he was, erm, a little excited.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91-93pts.”

Now then, a few quick reminders on the Bila-Haut project: first off, Languedoc-Roussillon is a region that has for some time exported massive quantities of forgettable plonk, but has in recent years begun to develop a reputation as a fine source of French value. At the vanguard of the quality movement: Michel Chapoutier, he of the multiple 100pt (Robert Parker) wines from the northern Rhone. I’ll reprint the excerpt from one of Parker’s introductions to Chapoutier in Wine Advocate:


We tasted this wine in late December, and even at the end of a long year of tasting, this wine easily cut through the clutter. One of those wines where Pat and I simultaneously taste the wine and look up at each other like: are you tasting what I’m tasting?!? The nose is a glorious, expressive mix of black fruit and black pepper, violets and braising beef. The palate (14.5% listed alc) is perhaps most impressive texturally, with noteworthy intensity and real palate-staining character. The complexity and length, the crushed-rock minerality, the quality of pleasure this brings to the table: all simply dazzle at a sub-$15 price point. If this is the vanguard of 2015 in Europe, I might be ready to clamber aboard the hype train.

Please limit order requests to 24 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine will 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 Ovum

January 24, 2017

Hello friends. Today we have one of my favorite wineries to write about in the northwest: John House and Ksenija Kostic’s Ovum.

In summer 2011, those two left perfectly steady winery jobs at Chehalem Winery, and they began driving all over Oregon looking for distinctive, potentially forgotten Riesling vineyards; vineyards with extreme climate shifts, poor and rocky soils, and talented farmers. They treat all their Rieslings (and Gewurztraminer; that was a happy surprise) the same way: old barrels, native yeast, long ferments.

The goals are to express a sense of place and time in the glass, to emphasize mineral and earth as primary flavor components (pushing fruit and floral to the background), to create something honest, something wild.

We’ve previously pitched these as under-the-radar gems, but that’s all about to change. Wine Enthusiast’s February issue is going to contain a series of glowing reviews from Paul Gregutt, and those come on the heels of equally strong praise from John Gilman, whose excellent View From The Cellar is usually quite Euro-focused.

Thanks to a long old happy relationship with Mr. House, we’re also being offered these wines at a lovely discount. Normally line-priced at $30, these are today offered at two-thirds that price.

2015 Ovum Riesling “Off The Grid” (Cedar Ranch Vineyard)

From a site called Cedar Ranch vineyard, down near the California border, with 15-year-old Riesling vines on an old creekbed that cuts through the Northern-Cali/Southern-Oregon forestland. The soil contains grapefruit-sized river cobbles, or “alluvial galets” over packed silt. The Riesling clocks in at 12.5% alc and 1.0% residual sugar. As in previous vintages (we’ve offered two previously), it drinks like the lovechild of Chablis and Trocken Mosel, all salty rocks and flinty minerals over a core of Mirabelle plum and citrus peel fruit.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD. 93pts.”

2015 Ovum Riesling “Toro y Scorpio”

A new Riesling for 2015, from an unnamed “top site” in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. Soils are marine sedimentary, alcohol is 12.2%, and RS 2.2%. It is a salty-sweet delight, offering plenty of saline mineral tones to balance a core of stone fruits, tropical fruits, and quince paste. Glorious Oregon Riesling. A real statement of intent.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Editor’s Choice. 94pts.”

2015 Ovum Gewurztraminer “Love Me or Leave Me” (Gerber Vineyard)

What happens when you set out to make Riesling but you find an amazing Gewurztraminer vineyard? Answer: you make amazing Gewurztraminer. This comes from Gerber Vineyard, a 1976-planted site in the Illinois Valley of southern Oregon, close enough to the Pacific to get some maritime influence. The vineyard sees huge diurnal temperature shifts and sits on alluvial pebbles on top of a base of clay. Listed alc is 12.8%; RS 0.7%. This is glorious, honest Gewurz that we’ve offered every time we’ve written about Ovum (albeit under different names: I’m Gonna Fool You 2011, Homage To Z 2012, and In The Dark 2014). For me there are only two contenders for best northwest Gewurz, and this is one of them (Chris Dowsett’s is the other).

View From The Cellar (John Gilman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

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 A Soft Spot Only Gets You So Far

January 24, 2017

Hello friends. The first Gramercy offer of the year is always a chance for me to reflect on one of our most positive long-term relationships here at Full Pull. Back in October 2009, the year of FP’s launch, I opened our first-ever Gramercy offer with this: Greg Harrington is the kind of guy that invites a stranger to dinner. And I don’t mean out to dinner. I mean to a dinner in his home.

During my first research trip for Full Pull, back in summer 2009 before we had even launched, back when I was a blogger with a glimmer in my eye, Greg treated me like a professional before I had earned the right to be treated that way. (He also cooked a lovely pork tenderloin.)

I’ll always have a soft spot for Gramercy because of that initial interaction, but a soft spot only gets you so far. The main reason we continue to work with Gramercy is not just because Greg and Pam Harrington and Brandon Moss are wonderful to work with, but mostly because they make ridiculously compelling wines, year in and year out.

Hard to believe we’re entering our ninth year of writing about Gramercy. The winery’s star has really risen since those early days, based on a clear house style (low-alc, high-acid, terroir-expressive) and a record of consistent excellence. Today we’re going to focus on one of Gramercy’s calling cards (their Walla Walla Valley Syrah) and one of their underrated gems (Columbia Valley Cabernet).

2014 Gramercy Cellars Syrah The Deuce

I’m going to quote Greg’s notes extensively on this one, since it speaks to the big change in the Deuce this year: the inclusion of Gramercy’s newly-purchased estate vineyard, Forgotten Hills. List members who remember the old Waters Syrahs from Forgotten Hills in 2007 and 2009 know how I feel about this site. It is one of the best vineyards in the state for growing savory Syrah as far as I’m concerned.

Greg’s notes: [TEXT WITHHELD]

I completely agree with the red fruit notes, and this also has loads of briny olives and smoky meats and peat moss. A textural marvel at 13.3% listed alc, this hums across the palate, full of verve and energy. This is propulsive Washington Syrah.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.” [Sullivan context note: of all the 2014 Syrahs reviewed by Sean, only four wines have earned stronger reviews: all 94s. Just a reminder that a 93pt review from Sean is a strong review indeed!]

2013 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley

Often lost amidst the winery’s core focus on Rhone varieties is the fact that they make a thrilling Cabernet Sauvignon as well. This 2013 is a brilliant example of pan-Washington Cab.

Excerpts from Greg’s notes: [TEXT WITHHELD]

I was just crazy about this vintage, wild for its earthiness, which I noted as some combination of beetroot and porcini and graphite, all over a core of blackcurrant and black plum fruit. The finish is all lovely tannin leafiness – tobacco and green tea – and a thread of mint keeps things fresh throughout. While it’s approachable by Gramercy standards, this is still a 10- to 20-year wine.

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

First come first served up to 24 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 Friday Reoffers

January 14, 2017

Hello friends. Something we like to do early in the year is reoffer some of our most popular wines of the previous year, one more chance to access these beauties before they sell out. I know many of you opened a lot of bottles over the holidays, so hopefully you now have personal impressions to supplement our own notes.

2015 Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone

Originally offered October 21, 2016. In that offer I predicted this would end up on Spectator’s Top 100 list, and sure enough it did, landing the #43 spot. Excerpts from the original:

Normally we offer this a little later in the year, but the November 15 issue of Wine Spectator is going to include the following review, and I don’t want to take any chances: Wine Spectator (James Molesworth): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

This is a noteworthy review because it is the strongest Spectator has ever bestowed upon Louis Barroul’s CdR. The ratings of previous vintages, from 2006 through 2014: 90, 90, 88, 90, 90, 90, 89, 89, 90. First off, that is an amazingly consistent track record for a decade’s worth of vintages. And second, this 2015 is the first to break through above a 90pt review. I believe this also sets it up as a slam dunk to wind up on Spectator’s Top 100 list, and I want us to grab our wine and be long gone before that happens. The last time this wine landed on the list was the 2009 vintage on the 2010 list. That 2009 was $18 | 90pts | 3,000 cases. Today’s 2015 has a lower release price ($16), a stronger review (91pts), and more than 8x production (25,000 cases). Yikes.

Now then, what is rare (and in my view, exciting) about Saint Cosme’s version of Cotes-du-Rhone is that it’s 100% Syrah. Most CdR’s are majority-Grenache, but we already know where Louis Barroul’s Grenache goes: into Little James Basket Press (another list favorite). So that leaves us with 100% Rhone Syrah at a price point that cries out for exploration. It comes from two of Cosme’s holdings – one in Vinsobres (a bit cooler, on limestone and sand) and one in Gard (warmer, on large terraces of medium-to-large rolling stones) – and it’s done entirely in concrete. The ’15 clocks in at 14% listed alc and begins with a nose of blueberry fruit and mineral, cracked black pepper and hoisin sauce. While the texture is kind of an old-world/new-world tweener, the savory wild flavors are Rhone through and through. There is noteworthy balance between fruit and structure here (which helps explain why this always ages beautifully for an inexpensive wine), and that structure takes both the form of nervy/electric acidity and robust/pleasingly rustic tannin. The depth and complexity, the overall sense of balance and class at this tag: unusual for sure, and the reason why we’ve offered every vintage of this since 2011.

Here is how the always-entertaining Louis Barroul describes this vintage: This wine epitomizes what should always be the essence of a true wine. One of the two properties from which grapes are sourced is owned by a childhood friend and the other belongs to my cousins. We have been working together on this wine for 15 years now. Trust and friendship form its basis. The blend of Syrah from Vinsobres with Syrah from Villafranchian terraces in Gard always produces wonderful balance, fleshiness and finesse. You may get to know the 2015 vintage through this wine – the oxblood colour, the depth, sappy character and wonderful round tannins for instance. You can easily sense the intensity with which fruit was imbued in 2015, a truly superb vintage. Successfully ripened grapes combined with freshness and our Syrah vines loved a hot July in 2015. This is exemplified in the magnificent wines produced in 2015 in the northern Rhone valley. The whole point of our Côtes du Rhône is to offer an early drinking wine that also has very good ageing capacity. I recently tasted the 2007 again which was really complex and still young. Welcome to 2015, the finest vintage since 2010. Blackcurrant, camphor, truffle, rose and blueberry.

2013 Kiona Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State

Originally offered September 14, 2016, this wound up as one of our most popular offers of 2016, and a huge target for reorders. No wonder: finding classy estate grown Red Mountain Cab for sub-twenty bucks is rare indeed. Here are excerpts from September:

I’ve come to believe, over many years of wine tasting, that there are no black swans. No inexplicably excellent wines. Every excellent wine is excellent for a reason. Better yet, a number of reasons. Or better still, a number of perils avoided. Winemaking is a Houdini escape act, with danger around every corner, and when someone pulls it off successfully, you can only give them the slow clap they deserve. How this applies to my tasting for Full Pull: when I taste a wine that seems inexplicably outstanding, the job becomes clear. Research until I understand why the wine is as good as it is.

To wit, today’s wine. I recently had a chance to sample Kiona’s Washington State Cab, and the scribbles in my notebook show baffled pleasure: “why is this wine $20??!?!?”; “legit Red Mtn power; how much of this is estate juice?”; “black black black: blackcurrant and black plum and black olive; dark chocolate and loads of earthy soil”; “expensive oak swaddling?”; “real richness and power and generosity”; “serious toothsome finishing chew, fine dusty tannins – what the hell is going on here??!?”

So yeah, I was surprised in a majorly positive way. Not because it was Kiona of course; we’ve offered many a wonderful Kiona wine previously. Two main reasons: first, because you expect certain things of certain varieties at certain price points, and this exceeded just about every axis of evaluation. And second, because they labeled this Washington State, which made me assume it was a pan-Washington mix of some house-vinified fruit and a bunch of cheap bulk wine.

That assumption was wildly incorrect, as I discovered when I dug into the research for this wine. I can guess at Kiona’s reasons for labeling this Washington State (perhaps wanting to keep options open for future vintages, perhaps for ease of selling out of state), but the fact is, this is 100% Red Mountain fruit, and it’s 87% estate (split between 53% Kiona Estate and 34% Kiona Heart of the Hill). It saw some luxe treatment, too: an 80/20 split of French and American oak, 60% new, the remainder once-filled.

So let’s think about this. We’re essentially looking at estate-grown, estate-bottled, carefully-coddled Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, from folks who have been growing grapes and making wine on this mountain about as long as anyone. That the result is an outrageously good sub-$20 Cab no longer seems so shocking. The price itself remains a little shocking to me (release price was $25 – still too low for the quality – and our price is about as good as I can see nationally), but every winery has its reasons, and I’m sure as hell not going to recommend that anyone make the wines we offer *more* expensive! Instead I’ll just stop and say thanks to JJ and the whole Kiona gang for this little beauty.

2014 Cadence Coda

Originally offered May 15, 2016, this recently earned fine reviews from two tough scorers: Stephen Tanzer of Vinous and Sean Sullivan of Wine Enthusiast. That’s putting sales pressure on an already-short vintage, so I’m going to say this is likely last-call time for Coda.

Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

Excerpts from the original:

Coda is an incredible value, year in and year out. Why? Well, Ben Smith makes exactly four single-vineyard wines for Cadence, all from Red Mountain. Two come from the estate Cara Mia Vineyard, one from Ciel du Cheval, and one from Tapteil. And that’s it. Ben carefully crafts the blends for those high-end ($45-$60) wines, and then whatever barrels aren’t included during those blending trials end up in Coda. What that means for Coda is that it’s always a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot, always a blend of Cara Mia, Ciel du Cheval, and Tapteil, and always barrels that were raised with the exact same care as the higher-end bottles. And we get all of that for a tariff that is about half the single-vineyard wines.

The blend in 2014 is 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, and 9% Petit Verdot, and it clocks in at 14.4% listed alc. The ’14 is much more reminiscent to me of the structured, serious 2012 than the more charming, approachable 2013. It kicks off with a glorious nose, all perfumed and exotic with its notes of star anise and juniper over dark blackcurrant and black plum fruit. The palate balances the richness of the vintage with Ben Smith’s deft hand and somehow still conveys textural elegance and earthy minerality, even in the warm year that wanted to be all fruit. But it’s the structure that really shines on the palate. “ROBUST tannic structure,” says my notes, and I tend to use all-caps sparingly. But truly, this is a muscular, powerful wine, without question cellar-worthy. The long, long finish is awash in black-tea tannins, a final grace note on a deeply impressive wine.

First come first served with no upper limits, 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 The Way Forward

January 14, 2017

Hello friends. I recently had the chance to taste the new vintage of a list-favorite Syrah: Morgan Lee’s Columbia Valley bottling for Two Vintners. In my notebook, I wrote: “this is the way forward for Washington Syrah.” Let me explain what I mean.

[But before I do, let me also say that while the Syrah will be the focus of today’s offer, down below we’ll also have a chance to access the strangest wine in Morgan’s lineup: The O.G.]

2014 Two Vintners Syrah Columbia Valley

What I mean by the way forward. Okay, so currently, Washington Syrah is beloved by Rhone-heads within Washington. Outside of our state’s confines, it ranges from complete unknown to tough sell. Syrah in general is a weak category right now; Washington still an immature region in terms of national sales. And to some degree that’s fine. We could be like Switzerland. The Swiss have this beautiful wine producing country, and they consume the vast majority of it in-country. I’m sure many Swiss vignerons make an honest living this way. So that’s one way forward for Washington: root root root for the home team.

But I feel like a wine like this, priced like this, presages another way forward, where Washington Syrah could be competitive on a national level, and maybe eventually a global level. What Washington has – and this is rare outside the Rhone Valley – is the ability to produce Syrahs with earthy, fecund, funky character. But in most cases, the wines that display this character command steep prices – $40 and up, often $50 and up – and come in small quantities. What’s getting more and more exciting by the year with Morgan’s Columbia Valley bottling is that it offers funky nuance at a $20 price point, and in decent quantity.

That price point is important. Important not only for retail, where many of us put $20/bottle as our purchasing ceiling, but also for restaurants, where it translates to a $13 or $14 glass-pour. That means broad distribution. That means spreading the word that Washington can make this kind of Syrah at this kind of price.

In my opinion, this type of well-priced Syrah – ripe berry fruit combined with earthy/brinky/funky nuance – is a niche waiting to be exploited, and Washington can do it. There are plenty of Walla Walla and Yakima Valley Vineyards that can bring the funk; plenty of vineyards from across the greater Columbia Valley that can bring the plush berry fruit.

This wine is a fine blueprint of how to proceed. Knowing what I know about some of these vineyards, I’d guess the savory threads (earthy, meaty, briny, etc.) come from the 6% Rocks fruit (Stoney Vine and Yellow Jacket), the 8% Boushey fruit, some of the 30% Olsen fruit, definitely the 8% Dineen fruit; then the yumball fruit comes from the 20% Discovery fruit, the 11% Stonetree fruit, the 10% Pepper Bridge fruit. It’s one blueprint, but not the only one.

Anyway, I’m not even sure why I’m pushing this. After all, if more people learn about how good these Washington Syrahs can be, won’t it just make our allocations that much more competitive? Maybe I should just shut up. But I’ll admit: I’m biased towards my home region and eager to see it get the attention I think it deserves.

So, this Syrah, which also sees a 3% Olsen Roussanne coferment, has a wonderful, piercing core of marionberry fruit, complicated by a whole host of savory tones that are clear as a bell on the complex, attractive nose: smoky bacon fat, castelvetrano olive, warm dusty earth. The palate is a plush, rich, easy drinker, with just-right acidity to balance all that tasty fruit. Balanced, polished, and above all else complex, this is a dynamite $20 Syrah, and if it’s the ambassador for pan-Washington juice, we have a bright future ahead.

You may remember the previous (2013) vintage of this garnered some serious local accolades. A mention as Sean Sullivan’s weekly wine pick in Seattle Met Magazine. Then Seattle Magazine’s award for Best Syrah, $20-$40, besting several bottlings nearly twice as expensive. No press yet for this vintage; let’s get in and grab our share nice and early.

2015 Two Vintners O.G.

By far the weirdest wine in Morgan’s lineup and among the weirdest produced in Washington, this is an “orange wine” style. What that means is that white grapes (in this case, all Gewurztraminer from Olsen Vineyard) are left to macerate on the skins for weeks at a time (in this case 40 days) before pressing, imparting a bit of color pigment (between that pigment and the oxidation that takes place, the wine turns a bit orange), considerable textural weight, and usually a bit of tannin to the juice. There are similarities aromatically to some of the older white Riojas I’ve had, like the old Viuras from Lopez de Heredia: that oddly alluring, slightly oxidized character of fruitcake spice and caramel. Here those notes are combined with soaring Gewurz topnotes of rosewater and lychee fruit and peach. The palate is dry and full (13.3% listed alc), exotic and spicy. This is so perfumed in the mouth, it just calls out for bold-flavored foods. A Thai green curry would be divine.

First come first served up to 24 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 Devona

January 9, 2017

Hello friends. Today we have extremely limited parcels of the second release from John and Molly Abbott’s new winery, Devona. Vintage two of their Freedom Hill Pinot and the debut vintage of Devona Chardonnay.

I cringed a little as I wrote the word “Chardonnay,” because I know how much people *loved* John’s Chardonnays at Abeja, and I also know how miniscule our allocation is. It’s so limited, in fact, that I decided these had to wait until January to offer. The feeding frenzy that is the holiday season in the wine trade would have destroyed our allocation. I’m hopeful that maybe by pushing the offer into sleepy January, we can avoid under-allocations that are too painful. And I’m fearful that even the sleepiest wine buyer might wake up when John Abbott’s winemaking is on offer.

2013 Devona Pinot Noir Freedom Hill Vineyard
We have close to a retail exclusive on this release (one other retailer in Seattle received a case of each wine, and I’m not going to name them, as I’m certain they’re already sold out). Outside of the Devona mailing list (which you should join) and a handful of old restaurant friends, Full Pull (and nameless other retail account) is the only other source for Devona wines to date. No surprise: our allocation is (I’ll say it again) extremely limited. Like max-4-bottle-order-request limited. (Sneak preview: the Chardonnay max orders will be worse.)

John Abbott is one of my favorite winemakers in the northwest, and John and Molly are two of the best people in the trade, period. I would write about jug-wine White Zinfandel if that’s what they decided to make. But it is a real pleasure, a real jolt of excitement, to see what John is doing with Pinot Noir. It still feels very much like the start of something special.

Last April, I made a very speedy trip to Walla Walla (with our two babies at home, the luxury of multi-day road trips is on hold for the moment). Instead it was fly out Tuesday night, fly back Wednesday afternoon. Just before getting onto the plane back to Seattle, I visited John and Molly at their new winery space at the Walla Walla airport to taste the new Devona wines (in bottle and in barrel) and to grovel (successfully, as it turned out!) for allocations.

To some degree, the feeling in the winery was that of ex-pats returning home. Home to Pinot Noir. Over the years I have known John Abbott, he has made a lot of really divine Cabernet Sauvignons for Abeja. But it was never Cabernet Sauvignon that he wanted to talk about. It was almost always Pinot Noir (and sometimes Chardonnay). Much of John’s early winemaking career was spent making Pinot, and I sense he has long desired to hear its siren call again.

Freedom Hill Vineyard is a 1982-planted site in the foothills of the Coast Range, on soils of marine sedimentary uplifted sea bed. The 2013 vintage represents 32nd leaf for this site, getting squarely into old-vine territory. I believe fewer than ten wineries get access to this fruit, and the list is a who’s who in Oregon, including St. Innocent, Patty Green, and Walter Scott. John’s version comes from a mix of Pommard and Wadenswil clones (13.4% listed alc) and begins with a nose deeply evocative of this part of the world, with real earthy undergrowth notes (soil, mushroom, mossy pine bough) adding attractive fecundity to a core replete with black cherry and raspberry fruit. This is very much a palate for grown-ups, with attractive Aperol bitters adding complexity and balance to the mix of fruit and smoky/earthy flavors. Audacious Pinot Noir from a confident, skilled winemaker.

2015 Devona Chardonnay
It’s John Abbott making Chardonnay that mostly (80%) comes from Celilo Vineyard, and we barely have any of it. Should I stop there? Here’s what John says: I have worked with Celilo Vineyard fruit for more than twenty years, and I feel this is one of the best white wines I have made. If you have known our Chardonnay of vintages past, you will recognize the pretty, fragrant, restrained, and balanced style.

I’m not even going to include my tasting note. Suffice it to say that I thought it was excellent, and the last note in my book reads “practically oozes class and grace.” Max request 2 bottles, but I’m guessing max allocations will end up 1 bottle, and I have a bad feeling some folks are going to get shut out entirely. Apologies in advance.

Please limit order requests to 4 bottles of Pinot and 2 bottles of Chardonnay, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. We’ll do our allocations sometime Tuesday afternoon, so to be safe, get your requests in by Tuesday noon pacific time. 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.