Hello friends. Today we have one of our annual Full Pull rites: our offering of Leonetti’s new releases. Deep in the stubborn gloom of early March, it’s a bud pushing through cold earth: a clear indication that spring is on the ascendancy.
It’s one of my favorite offerings to write each year. After all, it isn’t every day that you get to write about the grand dame of the Walla Walla Valley, the founding winery in that AVA that quickly became one of Washington’s few cult producers. Founded in 1978 by Gary Figgins, Leonetti rapidly established a reputation as one of Washington’s top Cabernet and Merlot producers, helped along by their 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon being recognized as best in nation in a Wine & Spirits Magazine blind tasting. Brisk mailing list sales followed, and soon thereafter, the mailing list closed and the waiting list opened.
Currently it’s the second generation helming the winery, in the form of Chris Figgins. Chris has subtly shifted the emphasis of the winery towards its estate vineyards in the past few years, and the results have been outstanding. I have also been lucky enough to taste vintages of Leonetti wines from the ‘80s and ‘90s, as well as plenty of more recent vintages. These are wines that can age in profoundly beautiful directions (if you can resist their youthful charms). The transition to Leonetti’s second generation is just about complete, and the future for this Mt. Rushmore-level Washington winery looks bright indeed.
Now, a quick logistics reminder: This is a pre-release offering, where we’re sending the offer before we know our allocations. Using this model allows us to advocate on behalf of our list for allocations that most accurately reflect our overall demand. The flip side is: some pre-release offerings turn out to be mirage wines: wines where we end up receiving smaller-than-expected allocations and then need to under-allocate. Apologies in advance if that’s the case here.
As far as timing goes, we should be able to send out allocation notices in 2-3 weeks (orders will remain Pending until then), and the wines should arrive before the end of March. Now let’s dig into them:
2015 Leonetti Merlot
First produced in 1981, this Merlot (this year 100% varietal) now comes entirely from Leonetti’s estate sites: Leonetti Old Block and Loess. No reviews yet for the 2015, but the 2008 received 96pts Paul Gregutt (Wine Enthusiast), the 2009 94pts Gregutt, the 2010 95pts Gregutt, the 2011 93pts Gregutt, the 2012 94pts Gregutt and 94pts Jeb Dunnuck (Wine Advocate), the 2013 94pts Dunnuck, and the 2014 95pts Owen Bargreen (International Wine Report).
Winery tasting notes: This 100% Merlot pours inky into the glass. The nose is deep and intricate with top note florals lifting it higher as it opens. Tightly focused, the wine saturates the palate with dense blue and black fruits that linger endlessly. An immensely pleasurable wine, it possesses all the attributes that make Walla Walla one of the world’s premier places to grow Merlot.
2014 Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon
First produced in Leonetti’s inaugural vintage – 1978 – this 2014 marks the 37th consecutive vintage of Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon. This comes from four Leonetti Estate sites (Mill Creek Upland, Loess, Leonetti Old Block, and Serra Pedace), as well as the old block at Seven Hills Vineyard. The blend includes 11% Petit Verdot and 8% Merlot. No reviews yet for the 2014, but the 2008 received 98pts Gregutt (and the #3 position on Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 of 2011), the 2009 97pts Gregutt, the 2010 97+pts Dunnuck and 95(+?)pts Stephen Tanzer (Vinous), the 2011 95(+?)pts Tanzer, the 2012 96pts Dunnuck, and the 2013 96pts Dunnuck.
Winery tasting notes: Impenetrably dark. An explosive nose of coffee, red and black fruits, Russian sage, and garden herbs. Lesser notes follow of crème cassis, currant, and black olive. On the palate, the wine is dense, sweet, and broodingly dark. Simply perfect fine-grained tannins melded with laser-focused acidity deliver impressive length that lingers on the palate.
2014 Leonetti Reserve
While they had produced Reserve Cabernets before 2000, it was at the millennial turn that Leonetti dropped the varietal designation on their Reserve, freeing them to create a Bordeaux blend in whatever proportions would craft the finest wine possible. In 2014, the blend is 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, rounded out with 13% Malbec and 8% Petit Verdot. Vineyards again include Mill Creek Upland, Loess, Serra Pedace, and Seven Hills. No reviews yet for the 2014, but the 2008 received 97pts Jay Miller (Wine Advocate) and 96pts Gregutt (also a spot on Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Cellar Selections of 2011), the 2009 95pts David Schildknecht (Wine Adovcate), the 2010 a game-changing/eye-popping 100pts Dunnuck (Wine Advocate), the 2011 94+pts Tanzer, the 2012 98pts Dunnuck, and the 2013 97pts Bargreen (IWR).
Winery tasting notes: Always our finest effort and the flagship of Leonetti. The 2014 pours into the glass dark and foreboding. The nose instantly delivers jasmine and white flowers. A second smell and taste reveal tar, asphalt, cassis, bramble fruit, white fir, and dried florals. The palate is seamless with impressive length, polish, and a plush, delicious finish. I’m incredibly proud of this Reserve vintage.
Please limit order requests to 12 Cabernet, 6 Merlot, and 6 Reserve, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. I want to emphasize again that we have no guaranteed allocations on these wines but will certainly do our best to secure parcels that reflect the overall demand of our list. If all goes according to schedule, the wines should arrive at the warehouse in late March, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.