Full Pull Listening To Your Constituents

March 10, 2017

Hello friends. Plenty of chatter these days about the value of listening to your constituents. I’m no MOC, but I do keep my ears open regarding what our list members want to see more of. And in the past year or two, one consistent message, via e-mails and warehouse-shelf sales and in-person conversations, has been: More sparkling wines. More white wines.

Music to my ears. Many of you know that I’ve shifted my own collecting/cellaring towards a higher proportion of whites and bubblies. They’re just so damned rewarding to age, and all it takes is a few years before they show signs of maturity, signs of tertiary complexity. Furthermore, it seems like more and more of my wine consumption is happening with food. And as I accept the unfair ravages of ageing and their impact on how much red meat I should be eating, suddenly there are fewer and fewer opportunities to pop a Cab with that fatty ribeye. And more opportunities to turn to a cold, crisp bottle of still or sparkling white wine.

2015 Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc

We’ve already offered (and reoffered!) the red CdR from Saint Cosme from this outstanding 2015 vintage. Today we have their lovely Blanc – a blend of 30% each Marsanne, Picpoul, and Viognier, rounded out with Clairette – at a significant discount off its $22 release price. Marsanne and Viognier dominate the nose, with notes of nectarine and orange peel, almond and ginger, but Picpoul assets itself on the palate, offering an electric vein of acidity that cuts through a core of fleshy fruit. A lovely, balanced Rhone white.

Wine Spectator (James Molesworth): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

2015 Abeja Chardonnay

I knew it had been awhile since we had been able to offer Abeja’s Chardonnay, but when I looked at our records, it has been five (!) years: the 2010 vintage, way back in spring 2012. I mean, in spring 2012 we were still in our little old warehouse on Utah Ave, and I didn’t have a mortgage or a pair of children. Simpler times. Anyway, that helps underscore what a rare opportunity this is. And even here, our parcel is borderline. No way this could have supported its own offer, but inserted into a multi-white offer, maybe we won’t be totally overrun. Because of the limited nature of this one, I won’t say much: just that this wine has long been a benchmark Washington Chardonnay over the years, always with a foundation of excellent fruit from Celilo, Conner Lee, and Abeja’s Estate Mill Creek vineyards, always with an appealing mix of dense stone and tropical fruit and toasty butterscotchy notes from 100% barrel fermentation. Apologies in advance if we have to under-allocate this one.

2010 Bolney Wine Estate Brut Blanc de Blancs

One of our local importers here in Seattle recently began to bring in a portfolio of sparkling wines from the UK. I tasted a sampling of them recently, and this was a total standout, and a pretty damned good ringer for Champagne. The vein of chalk that runs through Champagne and has made the region the undisputed king of sparkling wines happens to run right through the English channel and into southeast England. As global temperatures have risen over the past decade, this part of the world once thought too cold to support viticulture has suddenly become trendy in sparkling wine circles.

This particular bottling is 100% Chardonnay, and it spent 30 months on the lees. Listed alc is 12.5%, and it begins with an attractive nose: a core of lemon curd and apple fruit complicated by leesy subtleties of biscuit and savory chicken stock. The palate is razor sharp, electric, all nervy acid and salty mineral and austere fruit. It drinks drier than Brut thanks to all that beautiful mouthwatering acid. I was completely smitten, both for the intellectual thrill and the aesthetic pleasure of this beauty.

The Saint Cosme is first come first served up to 24 bottles. For the Abeja and the Bolney, please limit order request to 6 bottles each, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests (I wouldn’t be shocked if actual allocations are closer to 2-3 bottles). 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 Spring Release Season

March 10, 2017

Hello friends. Nothing gets the heart racing quite like spring release season (I know, I know; mentioning spring in February is optimistic here in Seattle, but every bit of silver lining helps). This period, which runs from now through May, contains some of the most beautiful northwest wines released each year.

Beautiful and scarce. This is the season of allocated wines, which means it’s as good a time as any to review our allocation policy: 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.

Always among the earliest wineries to kick things off is Avennia, a winery that launched with loads of buzz and whose star has only continued to rise. You may remember some of the praise during their initial set of releases back in 2012: From Stephen Tanzer (Tanzer’s IWC): [TEXT WITHHELD]. Then from David Schildknecht (Wine Advocate): [TEXT WITHHELD]!

Soon after, I had the chance to write about Avennia for my Seattle Magazine gig, and since they’ve launched, we’ve offered the vast majority of Avennia wines presented to us. Chris Peterson’s winemaking is deeply compelling. The house style retains the character of Washington’s terroir and yet presents this sense of ribald, euro-styled earthiness that is a bit more unusual in these climes. These are beautiful, ageworthy wines, year in and year out.

It is amazing to me that this is only vintage five of Gravura and Sestina. Very quickly these wines have come to feel they’ve been around forever. Very quickly they’ve become indispensable.

2014 Avennia Gravura

I will say: the only way to get our pricing down to that level last year and this year has been to commit to solid chunks of Gravura, but those have been commitments that were easy to make. For list members who usually max out at $20 or $25 per bottle, I’d heartily encourage a splurge here. Gravura seriously over-delivers its price point.

The wine is an homage to Graves, and in 2014 the blend is 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and 12% Cabernet Franc. It comes from an impeccable list of vineyards: Cabernet Sauvigon from Red Willow and Dionysus; Merlot from Klipsun; Cab Franc from Bacchus. That is a lot of classy old-vine material for the tariff. Raised in 50% new French oak, this clocks in at 14.6% listed alc and opens with a nose of blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, smoky coffee, and gravelly minerality. The palate continues the mix of fruit and earthy mineral tones, with noteworthy complexity and intensity. Even in vintages like 2014 that want to be all yumball fruit, Chris finds elegance and sultry earthiness. This finishes all toothsome tannin goodness, redolent of Irish breakfast tea.

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

2014 Avennia Valery

Valery is among Avennia’s most limited wines, at just 240 cases produced, and it’s the least likely to be available for reorder. It’s now or never. The story behind Valery is that Chris Peterson was looking to make an earthy, rocky, Saint Emilion ringer, and when Dick Boushey offered a block of 1986-planted Merlot on a soil base that is essentially a large Yakima Valley rock-pile, he pounced. That fruit comprises 60% of this blend, the remainder Champoux Cab Franc (itself now 20 years old). It gets 20 months in French oak, 30% new.

This vintage has a significantly higher proportion of Cab Franc than last year, and it shows in the aromatics, adding floral and dried-chile notes to a core of Merlot’s stony black cherry fruit. The palate is a rich, intense, palate-staining mix of rocks and fruit, all framed by serious Merlot tannin structure, redolent of high-cacao chocolate and strong brewed coffee. It’s a deeply satisfying bottle, a classy example of Washington’s strength with these right-bank blends.

2014 Avennia Sestina

I know I get pushback any time I call a wine in the $60s a great value, but compared to its peer group of Washington elites, Sestina is very fairly priced. The vine age is ridiculous, with fruit from Dionysus 1973, Red Willow 1985, and Bacchus 1972 making up a full 85% of the blend. In 2014 that blend is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cab Franc. Sestina spent 21 months in 60% new French oak, and its case production is about half that of Gravura, so this one tends to disappear quickly. It clocks in at 14.6% listed alc and, as usual, is the brooder of the bunch, tightly wound and years away from showing its truest beauty. There is a tight core of graphite and blackcurrant fruit, complemented by barrel tones of woodsmoke and pecan. And then I kept a glass and checked in over the course of the day, and with time and air, some lovely layers of fruit began to emerge, including exotic notes of stone fruit and citrus peel. But right now, this one is all about structure, all about potential. Chewing on the massive black tea tannins that frame the (lengthy) finish, I jotted: built for the cellar.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93-95pts.”

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.