Hello friends. This is our final offer of 2016. We’ll plan to stay out of your inboxes until about January 8 or so, when you can expect our first offer of 2017. In the meantime, we are CLOSED for pickups for the next few weeks, and our first TPU pickup day in 2017 will be Thursday January 12.
Today’s offer will mostly focus on reflections from a busy, (mostly) happy 2016. At the end of the offer we’ll include reorder links for what few Full Pull & Friends we have in stock (just 3, out of 19 wines released to date), as well as reorder links for a pair of wines from our house winery (Block Wines) and a “popup wine” from October (Mountain Queen). And at the beginning we’ll do what we’ve done every year since 2009: excerpt Tennyson’s In Memoriam.
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
I love quoting these particular stanzas, because they speak to the cleansing grace of the end of a year, the power of first remembering and then letting go.
This year. Man oh man, this year. When I wrote this same offer last year, I talked about how my motto was “embrace the chaos.” And that was with one kid! This year – with two children under 3 years old at home and with a business growing in wonderful and fascinating new directions – this year was unlike anything I’ve experienced in my life.
My son Solomon was born in February, and I distinctly remember a Thursday pickup day, probably in March or April, definitely still within the sleep blast radius of a newborn, where before noon, three different list members told me I looked tired. So I turned to Pat and RhiAnnon and said: “three different list members have already told me I look tired today; do I look [bleeped] up?” They assured me that in fact I did not look that bleeped up, and the very next moment another list member walked in the door, walked right over to my desk, and said: “how are the babies? you look tired.” I’m sure they didn’t know what to make of the delirious laughter that followed. And that pretty much encapsulates my year!
FULL PULL HIGHLIGHTS
2016 was a busy year. We sent out 212 e-mails to our list members (that’s just a tick over 4/week), including wines ranging from 7.99 (Corvidae Chardonnay) to 1699.99 (Chateau Lafite Rothschild). We tasted tirelessly, kissing a lot of frogs in 2016 so that our list members didn’t have to. By my calculations, we offer somewhere between 2% and 4% of all the wines we taste. I hope that sense of strict curation shines through in all of our wines.
This was a year filled with highlights, but three items stand out. The biggest change took place in October, when we expanded our open hours and launched our “tasting room” within Full Pull. After seven (!) years of only being open on Thursdays (and occasional Saturdays), we’re now open every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
What are we pouring on those open pickup days? That touches on the second highlight, which was the expansion of our house winery Block Wines this year to include our first two reds: a Syrah from Stoney Vine in the rocks, as well as a Boushey Vineyard Grenache that wound up on Sean Sullivan’s Top 100 list for Seattle Met Magazine and is scary-close to being sold out already. I continue to adore working with Morgan Lee on this project, as well as the many talented farmers who grow our beautiful grapes.
The third highlight: getting to offer the sophomore vintage of Elizabeth Bourcier’s extraordinary La Rata. No offer over the course of the year generates more e-mail traffic, more anxiety, and more happiness than La Rata, and I’m thrilled that I continue to have the opportunity to write about this special wine.
WASHINGTON WINE TRENDS
We’re in the middle of a series of average to above-average to screaming-hot vintages, so we’re seeing plenty of rich, delicious, generous reds come out of our home state. White wines have been a little more challenging these past few years. I think white wine lovers long for vintages that look more like ’08 and ’10 and ’11. Perhaps 2017 will return to a cool year.
The most exciting trend I’m seeing is out in the vineyards, where a lot of new purpose-planted sites are coming online. This feels very much like Washington v2.0, where growers are being really careful about site selection, aspect, clonal material, etc. When the results make it into bottle, they can be breathtaking. A great example is the Sevein project out in Walla Walla. We offered a number of wines from Sevein vineyards this year, including L’Ecole No 41’s much-lauded Ferguson Estate wine.
TEAM FULL PULL
When we expanded our hours in October, it allowed us to hire Dylan Joffe to help out with our new the tasting room within Full Pull. Those of you who have met Dylan will surely agree that we hired well. Dylan is also an outstanding food writer, and as we move into 2017, you can expect to see her expand her role at Full Pull to include some writing duties as well.
Pat and Dennis put in another honest year’s shift on our operations team; likewise RhiAnnonn and Nick with list member services. I know many of you enjoyed when my father David made celebrity guest appearances at the tasting bar as well. Any stories he told about my youth are 60% true, but you’ll have to figure out which 60%. All these folks make Full Pull look really good when I’m not around, which was a lot this year. Thanks to our entire team, which also includes our winery and wholesale and import partners. This region has a vibrant, sometimes exasperating, always dedicated wine trade, and I enjoy the hell out of being a part of it.
I spent another year as Seattle Magazine’s wine writer, and I want to thank my editor Rachel Hart for allowing me to pursue a series I’ve been wanting to write for years about seasonal wine drinking in the pacific northwest. Here are the winter, spring, and summer entries (autumn has yet to be posted online).
I served as a judge for Seattle Magazine’s annual wine awards, the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, and – for the first time – the British Columbia Wine Awards. There are some eye-opening wines north of the border, and if we ever begin direct-importing, you can bet we’ll look to offer BC wines.
Thanks to both team Full Pull and my family at home for the support that allows me to do all these extracurricular activities. And many thanks to our wonderful, supportive list members! You folks are the engine that cranks the virtuous cycle that Full Pull has become; I don’t ever forget that.
Now then, let’s do what we do. Let’s offer a few wines, try to convey some sensory experiences through the power of language, and then let’s close the door on this tumultuous 2016:
For a full explanation of FP&F, this page has you covered. That page also shows the 16 sold out FP&F wines. I will say, having looked through our inventory while putting together this offer, some of those wines are legitimately sold out, and some are “sold out,” which means they’re down to such a small handful of bottles that it doesn’t make sense to include them in an offer. You can always reply to this e-mail with the wine you’re interested in and the number of bottles. If we can make it work, we will.
This particular FP&F, #12, was originally offered on July 29, 2015, and we’re down to 29% remaining. Angela’s is a site on Red Mountain owned by Efeste Winery, and it was planted in 2008 by none other than Dick Boushey, who continues to manage it. This is 100% Clone 383 Syrah which, according to our winemaker, “is a great clone on red mountain, emphasizing the meatier side of the grape.” To keep the focus on that meaty fruit, this is done entirely with native yeasts and aged entirely in neutral French oak for 18 months. As you’d expect from a warm region (Red Mountain) in a warmish vintage, this is a powerhouse, perhaps the richest/most openly delicious wine we’ve put under the FP&F label.
Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].18.5+/20pts.”
Originally offered October 7, 2015, we’ve sold through two-thirds, with 33% remaining. Mike Sauer planted his first vines at Red Willow in 1973, and for many years, his vineyard was deeply tied to the fate of Columbia Winery, and especially its talented winemaker, the late David Lake MW. This particular Merlot block was planted in 1991. According to our partner winemaker: “Mike Sauer says it was always David Lake’s favorite block and is one of the first things to be picked at the vineyard every year. It has a gentle south to southeast slope to get the morning sun (and a little less of that late afternoon heat blast).” After writing my own tasting notes on this one, I asked our partner winemaker what he likes about this vineyard’s Merlot. He specifically mentioned “the savory complexity of the old vines at Red Willow,” and then I looked down to my note, which begins with “real sense of savory character.” For me, the savory character is a mix between roasting meat (almost like demi-glace) and smoky peat, lovely and unusual for Merlot.
Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19/20pts.”
Originally offered August 22 of this year. Klipsun Vineyard was planted in 1984 by Patricia and David Gelles, and they continue to own and manage the vineyard today. Over the years, the vineyard has developed a reputation for raw power, imposing structure, and exotic beauty. That reputation is well deserved. The grapes in today’s wine come from the oldest Merlot blocks in the vineyard, planted in 1990 and nearing a quarter-century in age, enough time for the roots to dig well into that sandy Red Mountain soil. They saw two French oak barrels, one new and one neutral, and the juice matured in there for just shy of two years before going into bottle.
The goal here is the expression of Red Mountain terroir, and specifically Klipsun terroir, through the prism of Merlot. This begins with a nose of exotic spice – think star anise and bergamot – over a core of blackberry and kirsch fruit. Barrel tones of high-cacao chocolate and earthy soil notes complete a complex, attractive nose. Texturally, this is what I like to call a reverse-mullet wine: party in the front, business in the rear. The attack and mid-palate are all plump, charming Merlot goodness. And then sometime in the mid-palate, that inherent Red Mountain structure takes over and rolls into a long, chewy finish. The lingering notes on the finish evoke earth and espresso. This is a Merlot that can certainly be drunk young for that initial whack of rich fruit, but the balance and structure are in place for a terrific evolution in bottle. Anyone who, like me, had a baby in 2014 could seriously consider this for a 21st birthday birth-year present. I suspect it’ll still be kicking in 2035. That is if we’re still drinking wine in 2035 and not stuck inside our virtual reality helmets and haptic suits.
Our house winery has a website! Check the main site out for more info on the Block Wines project in general. Each wine also has its own page, including this lovely Boushey Semillon, which we offered on June 19, 2016.
Dick Boushey is a wonderful man and a terrifically dedicated grower, and it is a real thrill to be working with his Semillon. He has two blocks of Semillon, and we have chosen the Tauro Block (planted in 2008), which has more northern exposure and therefore ripens later and retains loads of beautiful natural acidity.
Our stylistic goal bends more towards a Hunter Valley (Australia) Semillon than a Bordeaux version (although in hot vintages like ’15, it really ends up as a tweener). What that means is limey acidity, and the ability to age in profound directions. To achieve our style, we harvested the grapes nice and early, on September 1, which kept acids fresh and bright and alcohols low (13.3%) despite the warmer year (it also helps that Dick’s vineyard is in the cooler part of the Yakima Valley). Morgan then cold soaked the grapes on their skins for 48 hours to help build texture and mouthfeel. We used three neutral French barrels, and then just a little bit of stainless steel for the extra juice that wouldn’t fit in those barrels. After seven months in barrel (with weekly battonage and partial malolactic conversion), this went into bottle a few months ago. Our overall production was 94 cases.
One of the things I love most about our Semillon is how it pairs with the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest. Pan-seared spot prawns, Dungeness crab cakes, sockeye salmon shioyaki-style; the list goes on. It kicks off with a layered-fruit nose: citrus (lime), tree (pear), and more exotic notes like date and fig. Subtleties of hay and crème fraiche complete an inviting nose. That extra skin contact works wonders on the palate, offering just-right textural heft, a pleasing sense of plumpness, especially in the mid-palate. The lovely finish lingers with notes of chamomile. Crack a bottle of this with seafood for some serious northwest nirvana.
Here is the info page for our Syrah from Stoney Vine in the rocks, which we originally offered on November 14. We’re already hearing a lot of positive feedback on this one and seeing robust reorders; no surprise considering the rocks love among our list members.
Stoney Vine was planted in the rocks in 2007 after an old apple orchard was pulled out. I think you’ll agree the name is apt if you check out this 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.
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.
We originally offered this special one-off wine as our second anniversary-week offer back in October, and this wine has also been flying out of the tasting room when RhiAnnon and Dylan have it open. We’ve sold through about 60% of our original stash now.
You may remember that this project began with an e-mail from a very, very good Washington winemaker:
I have [REDACTED] barrels of a 2013 [REDACTED] Vineyard Cabernet blend that I made for an east coast distributor who has flaked out. It is about 75% Cab, the rest Merlot and Petit Verdot, and it has been in about 2/3 new French oak. Very high end all the way and much in the style of the [REDACTED WINE]. Do you have any interest? If we did it, I would have to have [REDACTED WINERY] and [REDACTED VINEYARD] remain anonymous. Let me know if you would like a sample.
The wine comes from a top-notch single vineyard on Red Mountain, and astute long-time readers might be able to spot a hint about which one. There are no hints about the producer, which required absolute anonymity. As the quote above mentioned, this wine was originally intended as a special collaboration with one of this winery’s east-coast distributors. The distributor reneged on the deal, and we’re the beneficiaries of this particular flake-out.
This is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, given two-plus years in 65% new French oak, and it clocks in at 14.8% alc. The expressive nose combines black plum and redcurrant fruit, savory tones of beetroot and rhubarb, earthy peat moss, and barrel tones of cocoa powder and woodsmoke. It’s a complex, multilayered nose. The palate offers a pillowy-soft attack and a similarly supple mid-palate. Then the polished tannins begin to take over just past the middle and carry the relay over the finishing line. The finish is all toothsome tannin goodness, redolent of Irish breakfast tea. Given the track record of the growers and winemaker involved here, I suspect this will age in fascinating directions for a decade or two with no problem. But it’s glorious right now with a medium-rare New York strip steak, if you’re so inclined.
Please give us your requests, with no upper limits, and we’ll do our best to fulfill those requests. These wines are all in the warehouse already and available for pickup, or for shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.
The end of a year is always a reminder to me of what a dream job this is: writing about wine for people who are willing to slow down and think, slow down and care. Thank you all for another year of allowing me to do this beautiful job. My holiday wish to our list members is the same as ever: that our wines bring the same happiness to you that this endeavor brings to me. On behalf of the whole merry Full Pull family: happy holidays, happy new year, and onwards to 2017.