Full Pull And The Importance Of History

May 31, 2017

Hello friends. It’s an undeniable thing—history. The history of something is almost as important as the thing itself. Sometimes you can learn more about a person by knowing where they’re from than anything they are willing to tell you.

And that’s why it’s so important to learn about roots. It’s one thing to devour rillettes de porc at Le Pichet on a monthly basis, but trying charcuterie for the first time at a street cafe in Le Marais has allowed me to better understand why I love the pork rillettes at Le Pichet so much. Both are important parts of life—the original and the influenced.

Here in Washington, we are lucky enough to be about a stone’s throw away from Oregon and the fantastic Pinot Noir coming from its mild climate. However, it’s a miss to love Oregon Pinot Noir, and not give the noble wines of Burgundy a chance. Because Pinot Noir is Burgundy. To love Pinot and never explore the wonders and mysteries of its homeland is practically sacrilege.

Burgundy is a region shrouded in history—and many times confusion. Which is laughable when you think about it—because for the most part, this region is only making wines made from two types of grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The confusion in Burgundy stems from the history, the classification, and lack of communication. It stems from usually high price points of entry. It stems from the oh-too-familiar fear of exploration—the fear of the unknown, which we all have felt from time to time. Luckily, we’ve got a pretty great solution to the problem. His name is William Woodruff.

William owns and runs Chloe Imports, an absolute gem of a wine importing company based in North Seattle. In almost two decades of business, William has grown to represent families in Tuscany, Piedmont, Champagne, the Rhone, and Burgundy. Not only does William serve as a fountain of knowledge about sometimes tricky regions, but because William is direct-importing these wines right into Seattle, the pricing is outstanding.

Today we’ve got four Chloe wines for you, all from Domaine du Prieure. We’ve featured these wines before, in e-mail and through our seminars, but for those of you new to the family, here is the brief introduction: Since 1921, at the entrance of the sleepy village of Savigny les Beaune resides this lovely estate. A family affair, Jean-Michel, Yvonne, and their son, Stephen carefully guide nature from parcel-to-cellar and capture her essence in bottles. Domaine du Prieure wines express each individual parcel and are approachable young, yet age beautifully.

NV Domaine du Prieure Cremant de Bourgogne

Originally offered July 15, 2015. Excerpt from original offer: Ingredient #1 for a kir royale (of course it is also outstanding on its own if you don’t want to adulterate it with cassis). This is 70% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, and 5% Aligote, grown on soils of brown marl, white marl and shattered limestone. It is based on the 2006, 2007, and 2008 vintages, so we’re talking about bubbly with some serious age (again, something you’d never know from the bottle; again, the benefit of a knowledgeable importer on the ground). The nose combines white peach fruit, smoky toasted brioche, roasted hazelnut, and chalky mineral. So appetizing. In the mouth, this has a fine mousse and a wonderful palate-staining character. Like the best Cremants from Burgundy, this drinks like baby Champagne, at a fraction of the cost.

NV Domaine du Prieure Creme de Cassis de Dijon

Originally offered July 15, 2015. Excerpt from original offer: And ingredient #2 for a kir royale. This is far afield from the usual wines we offer, so I’ll let the folks at Prieure explain the process: Made from macerated, real blackcurrants (a woody shrub grown for its piquant berries) rather than flavorings and, the addition of the name Dijon means that the currants (“cassis”) used were grown only in the commune of Dijon. These currants are picked quickly at their peak ripeness and are immediately immersed in alcohol where they macerate for 3 months. Sugar is then added to balance out the tart flavor of the currants – it also makes the liqueur syrupy. Production is completely natural from start to finish; no fruit juice additives, colorings or flavorings of any kind are permitted. More than 13 pounds of fruit are used to produce each bottle.

You don’t really want me to write a tasting note, do you? I mean, as you can imagine, it smells and tastes mostly like… wait for it… blackcurrants. Crème de cassis is often used as a descriptor for Cabernet Sauvignon aromas, so if you like the smell of Cab, you’ll probably like the smell of this. In addition to fruit, there is a pungent, earthy, woodsy note that is appealing as well. A little sip of this after dinner, either on its own, or with a nice cheese (Delice de Bourgogne if you want to keep it all in the Burg family), can be heavenly.

2014 Domaine du Prieure Savigny les Beaune Blanc

*On a quick personal note, white Burgundy was a game changer for me. I know this isn’t a wildly original story—I’ve heard many people say the same—but in my phase of “I don’t like Chardonnay,” White Burgundy came knocking and with one sip taught me never to discount an entire varietal again. I am so glad I learned my lesson; it allowed me to open my mind to so many other incarnations of Chardonnay. If this at all sounds familiar—no judgement from Team Full Pull—I highly encourage giving this wine a try.*

If you’re not familiar with the make up of Burgundy, consider this map your first orientation to Cote de Beaune. This region is known for both outstanding whites (the Chardonnays of Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, and Meursault especially) and beautiful reds (the Pinot Noirs of Volnay and Pommard). In particular, this wine comes from Savigny les Beaune, a little village that has buildings still standing from the 14th century and has never had a population over 1,500 people. The whites from this village are extra special—only 5-10% of the wines coming out of Savigny are white.

This 100% Chardonnay comes from two high elevation vineyards, Vermot and Connardis, planted in the early 1900s. The soil there is a mix of brown marl, white marl and shattered limestone. The grapes are handpicked and go through a critical selection process. According to the winery: Our Savigny is a blend of two methods of vinification: – one part of our Chardonnay juice is fermented in a temperature-controlled stainless-steel vat, ensuring a good expression of the varietal aromas; – another part of this juice is barrelled directly so that alcoholic fermentation takes place in barrels. Once alcoholic fermentation is complete the fermentation lees are stirred back into suspension weekly to give the wine more richness on the palate. This blend allows us to obtain a wine with an excellent aromatic expression and good persistence in the mouth.

This wine definitely fits the description with excellent aromatic expression and good persistence in the mouth. The nose is full of salty minerality—like the tropical sea that existed in Burgundy about 200 million years ago—with lemon, apple, pear, and peach. The palate leads with citrus-infused acidity but gives way to a rich mid-palate—from the light oak during vinification— before finishing long and acidic again. At 13% alcohol, this wine would pair perfectly with all sorts of seafood and pasta dishes—and I might even pair this with a sausage grilled in your own backyard this summer.

2014 Domaine du Prieure Savigny les Beaune Moutier-Amet

Moutier-Amet is a lovely sloped climat (vineyard) just behind the Prieure estate. It lies directly across the street from 1er Cru Le Narbanton. The site was named for the monk who lived at the Prieurè Monastary in the 6th century, and there are records of this site growing grapes as early as 1100 AD—which is a pretty darn long amount of time to be growing grapes.

One of the most exciting things about this wine is the label. Moutier-Amet is extremely rare to see. The reason: only three families own the vineyard (rare with Burgundy’s crazy inheritance laws), and the other two sell the fruit to Bouchard (one of Burgundy’s oldest and most prestigious wine houses, which should tell you something about these vines). The grapes are again handpicked, entirely destemmed, then cold soaked for 3 days. The majority (90%) is this time done in neutral wood; the remainder in new oak, again for ten months. Listed alc is 13%.

The nose immediately pulls you in with all of the aromas that come from deep within the forest. It’s woodsy, with cherries, smoky wood fire, and a little bit of green, leafy, herbaceous zest. This wine is light yet textured on the palate, velvety across the tongue with spiced minerality. It’s pretty, with subtle fruit, and focuses mostly on the mineral-earth qualities that make Burgundy so special. In my mind, when people talk about Pinot Noir being a perfect pairing for all types of birds, they are talking about this wine. Roast chicken, cornish game hens, or peking duck from your favorite Chinese restaurant would all be divine.

First come first served up to 24 bottles total, mix and match as you please, and the wines should arrive in the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull The Best Of Latta

May 26, 2017

Hello friends. One of the most exciting additions to our little neighborhood for Team Full Pull—and all our list members who have tasted there—is Latta Wines. Andrew Latta is the real deal. From the care and attention that it takes to keep wines in barrel and bottle for four years before release in a new world that focuses on quick turnaround to the sheer knowledge that this man possesses about viticulture and hospitality, Andrew sets himself apart. His wines are elegant, refined, and thoughtful. And that proves to be his house style—the interwoven qualities that connect his honeysuckled Roussanne to his structured, deep-purple Malbec.

Latta is currently only open for tasting on Saturdays—so our list members who tend to visit on Thursdays and Fridays don’t always have a chance to see his wines. However, this will all be changing soon—with more open hours and more tasting days—and that means more people getting access to this killer juice. Latta is one of those wineries that may be hard to get your hands on in a few years. The points add up, his production is small and boutiquey, and to top it off, he’s the kind of guy you want to have a beer with—this is just the beginning for his winery.

So, before all of that happens, he’s givens us access to some of his best wines. The last little parcels of high scoring hitters that have been tucked away for an opportunity just like this. Today we’re offering the absolute last bottles of his 2013 Roussanne, his 2012 Grenache and 2013 GSM (which will be around for a bit longer), and as a special treat, the 2011 Malbec, which is the highest rated Malbec in Washington state history, and only exists in the four cases he has given us access to. These vintages of the Malbec and Roussanne are now exclusively available for Full Pull members until they sell out.

2013 Latta Wines Roussanne Lawrence Vineyard 

Last week, Andrew and I met up to talk about these wines and taste through the lineup again. One of the major questions I had was about the intention behind keeping his wines for a few years before release—especially the white offerings. His answer was quite simple: he thinks people are drinking whites—especially those from the Rhône—too early. And he might just be right, because this Roussanne shows off the great things that can come from patience. The color presents golden and shining in the glass. On the nose, it’s honeysuckle, wet granite, and creamy lemon meringue. The palate is structured, polished, and rich with intense minerality.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 92 pts”

A trend I’ve started to notice in Andrew’s wines is vineyard choice. The vineyards he uses are all special—you can sense the time and energy that was put into finding them and deciding to use that fruit specifically. Lawrence Vineyard, which gives Andrew his Roussanne, is a cool site in the Frenchman Hills of Columbia Valley. This is a site that Andrew used to make Viognier with when he worked for Charles Smith, however he has always been attached to the Roussanne grown there. He’s worked with Josh Lawrence, the vineyard manager and owner (who is a “particularly nice guy”), to create a distinctive growing technique for these grapes. Roussanne grapes need to be aggressively managed because of how easily they can brown. Andrew and Josh have a program in place that allows increased airflow for the block but offers protection for the grapes on the west side. The process they have in place allows for these grapes to get the long, cool growing season they prefer—and it shows through the wine.

Andrew has given us access to every last bottle that exists of this wine—which is not a huge amount. Unfortunately, there will probably be no reorder potential.


2012 Latta Wines Grenache Upland Vineyard 

This is the wine that got me hooked on Andrew Latta. There are a couple notable things about this wine—beyond how ridiculously good it tastes. It’s all from Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain, which is a unique spot to Washington. Its geological formation has created one of the best growing sites in our state for Grenache.

Grenache loves growing in old riverbed soil. Think about Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a favorite home to most of the Rhône varietals that we know and love. The soil there is made up of mostly rocks (known as galets) that have been smoothed over by years of the Rhône river. Well over 70% of the grapes grown in Châteauneuf are Grenache—these grapes love the warm rocks. Here in Washington, many of our river bed soils are at lower elevations, making growing stubborn Grenache grapes a little harder because of cooler temperatures. Grenache can already be finicky to grow, even in the warm, rocky environments that it likes, and can be even more difficult in areas susceptible to freeze.

Upland Vineyard stands apart because it’s on the anticline formation of Snipes Mountain. In laymen’s terms, anticlines and synclines are folds in the grounds that go up and down (usually together) and are created by compressional stress. Synclines sink into the ground while Anticlines project upward, bringing soil that you would normally find at lower elevations up to higher ones. What that means for grape growing is that Upland Vineyard has perfectly-suited-for-Grenache riverbed soils at elevations that prevent freeze and let these grapes mature perfectly. The result is astounding, and can be seen in the first taste of Latta Grenache.

I could go on and on about this wine. I’ve gifted it to friends, told loved ones about it, and can be usually found trying to talk my way into the half empty bottles that are left after a Saturday tasting. So, I’ll let our friend Sean Sullivan take it away:

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 94pts.”

Note: Latta’s Grenache was also included in Wine Enthusiast’s Top Wines of 2015, the publication’s roundup of the best wines from across the world.

2013 Latta Wines “Latta Latta” GSM

Latta’s GSM blend boasts a blend of 58% Grenache, 23% Syrah, and 19% Mourvedre. The Grenache and Mourvedre all come from Upland Vineyard, the same place Andrew sources his single varietal Grenache and Mourvedre from. The Syrah comes from the rocks, directly from Freewater Rocks Vineyard—and you can tell. This GSM means serious business. The combination of the smooth, gemstone Grenache and the smoky, peppery funk of the rocks elevates this GSM beyond most in Washington—and it has the scores to prove it. We’ve mentioned in previous offers, Sean Sullivan for Wine Enthusiast has only given 10 wines Rhône reds a score of 93 or higher, with those prices ranging from $30 a bottle to $85. Latta’s GSM is the $30 bottle with 93 points.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93pts.”


2011 Latta Wines Malbec Northridge Vineyard

When Andrew and I met to talk about this offer last week, we stumbled upon less than 4 cases of his 2011 Malbec tucked away. This is the highest rated Malbec in Washington state history—so we jumped on the opportunity to offer it, even with such a tiny amount.

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

Let’s not add insult to injury on this one—I’ll just leave it with that review. We have access to every last bottle of this Malbec in existence.

First come first served up to 24 bottles total of the Grenache and GSM. Please limit order requests to 4 bottles of the Roussanne and the Malbec, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. These wine 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 Aged Chardonnay

May 23, 2017

Hello friends. We have a very special opportunity today. It’s rare enough to access cellar-aged Chardonnay from anyplace in the world, but this comes from our backyard, from one of the finest white wine vineyards in Washington. Better yet: we’re able to put it under our private label, which means we can offer it for an accessible price that invites experimentation:

2007 Full Pull & Friends Chardonnay (FPF-22)

To keep some semblance of anonymity, we bottled this with a generic Columbia Valley label. But I can tell you that it is single-vineyard juice, and that particular vineyard is one of the two that I always mention as Washington’s best sites for white wines (hint: it isn’t Evergreen).

Most of the FP&F wines we have done over the years come from purchased barrels. That’s obviously not the case here. This was bottled long ago, and bottled into “shiners,” wine-speak for unlabeled bottles. Now, you might be asking yourself why a winery would be sitting on enough shiners of ten-year-old Chardonnay to support a Full Pull offer. The answer: I don’t know. This comes from a fairly tight-lipped winery, and they’re interested in maintaining anonymity, so the information flow is minimal.

Do you want me to speculate? Yes, you probably want me to speculate. Okay, here are three 100%-speculative theories on how this could happen:

Theory 1: Inventory mishap
Somebody miscounted something in a warehouse at some point, and these cases were essentially “lost” for years, until recently, when an employee did a physical inventory and unearthed a bunch of old Chardonnay. Gulp! What are we going to do with this Chard? Call Full Pull.

Theory 2: Library project gone sideways
At one point, someone decided they should set aside a significant amount of Chardonnay and release it as a library wine to showcase how successful Washington Chardonnay can be with some bottle age. Then a new regime came on board, hated that idea, and wanted to unload the juice. Call Full Pull.

Theory 3: Lapsed Commitment
A few years ago, some entity (think out of state distributor or large restaurant group) committed to a large amount of 2007 Chardonnay, but they wanted it labeled and sold over time. At some point, the wine wasn’t selling as well as expected, and the entity reneged, leaving the winery with a bunch of unsold Chard. Call Full Pull!

Ultimately, I suspect most of you will feel the same way I do, which is: who cares which, if any, of these theories is true? If we can access excellent decade-old Chardonnay and offer it for twenty bucks, maybe we don’t need to know every single detail.

This clocks in at 13.8% alc and offers a nose that screams mature Chardonnay, with hazelnut and earthy/mushroomy savory tones galore, beautifully balancing a core of creamy stone fruit (peaches, nectarines) and citrus (lemon curd). As you have probably already surmised from the listed alc, this was harvested right on time from a cool-climate vineyard, and it comes from a vintage widely hailed as Washington’s best of the first decade of the 2000s. What we end up with is a Chardonnay maturing perfectly, with plenty of bright acidity framing a core of creamy fruit, still quite primary, and a just-right foil to all the savory tertiary tones emerging.

These types of opportunities come along, I dunno, say once every five years. So I did go long here, purchasing every single bottle still available. Even if we don’t sell through this entire parcel on first offer, it’ll be a thrill-ride watching this one continue to evolve, and I’ll happily reoffer it a few more times over the course of the coming years. Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Cab Two Ways

May 23, 2017

Hello friends. It struck me during a recent tasting through the Mark Ryan lineup that the winery has become something of a Cabernet Sauvignon expert over the past few years. Mike MacMorran is doing beautiful work with the variety across a number of different labels and price points; as far as I can tell, they’re bottling at least five separate wines with Cabernet Sauvignon on the label.

Today we’re offering two, each representing fine expressions of Cab at their respective price points:

2015 Board Track Racer (Mary Ryan) The Chief Cabernet Sauvignon

During Mike’s tenure with the winery, we’ve seen a subtle shift in the house style. The ethos – powerhouse wines structured for ageing – hasn’t changed, but texturally, there has been a quiet shift towards polished tannins and graceful mouthfeel. The ’15 Chief is a great example.

The Board Track Racer label has been a great success for Mark Ryan, combining unused juice from the main label with purchased fruit when required. Two important notes for this 2015. First, this vintage has a high enough proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon (85%, the remainder Malbec and Petit Verdot) that it can be labeled as such. Second, no purchased fruit was required here: the Cabernet is entirely from younger vines at two important vineyard sources for Mark Ryan: Phinny Hill in the Horse Heaven Hills, and Quintessence on Red Mountain.

The first thing you notice when this hits the glass is its inky purple-black color, and then soon after, the aromas start wafting out: black plum and violet, black tea leaves and eucalyptus. Unmistakably Cabernet. The palate (14.6% listed alc) is intense, extracted, a total stainer that fans out and saturates from attack to finish. I love the tannin profile here. They’re present in a way that makes you know you’re drinking Cab, but they’re fine-grained, classy, supple. The overall package is charming as can be, just irresistible at a $25 tag.

2014 Mark Ryan Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vine

This is the newest Cabernet in the Mark Ryan family. It was inaugurated in 2012 (we offered that beauty), and then the winery skipped 2013 due to dissatisfaction with the fruit quality, declassifying into lower-tier bottlings. So this is the sophomore vintage for Old Vines, which comes from one vineyard long used by Mark Ryan (Ciel du Cheval on Red Mountain), and two others that are newer to the winery: Red Willow and Phinny Hill.

It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 21 months in 75% new French oak, and it begins with a nose that has wonderful subtleties both savory (golden beet, rhubarb) and mineral (graphite) to complement a core of black cherry and blackcurrant fruit. The old vine intensity dazzles on the palate, as does the balanced mix of fruit and earth tones. The finish is awash in English breakfast tea tannins, again seemingly combed to a fine sheen. Production was just 200 cases (down from 300 cases of the 2012), and with a strong barrel review already out there, I don’t expect this to last long.

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

First come first served up to 24 bottles total, and the wines should arrive in the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Certain Breakups

May 22, 2017

Hello friends. One of our biggest hits of 2015 was this killer little Luberon Syrah called Val Joanis. I suspect many of you remember that wine fondly. You may also remember that we had the equivalent of a last-call, going-out-of-business-sale, stating that “recently our import partner let me know that they and Joanis had decided to part ways.”

And indeed they did part ways. And the wine was out of the Seattle market. But you know how with certain breakups, time and reflection lead to a mutual sense of regret and loss, and you decide to give it another shot? Well, we have the equivalent of that in the wine trade today.

Whether this leads to a long-term happy marriage or another short fling, who knows? At least we have today.

2015 Val Joanis Luberon Tradition Syrah

[Note: the Syrah will be the main thrust of today’s offer, but we do have access to a terrific little parcel of Joanis Rosé as well. See below.]

Let’s dig back into this wine and begin with the AOC: Luberon. There are all these incredible values to be found on the outskirts of the Rhone Valley. We’ve previously dug up Lou Ven Tou and Lou Bar Rou from Cotes du Ventoux, and Domaine des Rozets from Grignan-les-Adhemar. Cotes du Luberon fits on that list as well.

As you can see from Joanis’ location, we’re in a transition zone here between the Rhone and Provence. You may recall there was a time when no one had heard of Gigondas and Vacqueyras, and so those regions produced terrific values. I’d argue that places like Ventoux and Luberon are now stepping up and occupying that value space. The regions are still uneven, but that’s okay: as you know, we don’t mind tasting through a lot of dreck to find the gems.

This particular gem has a long history. How long is a little unclear, but it appeared in a land register in 1575 with the exact same boundaries it has today. The 1800s and early 1900s were not kind to the estate, which was overgrown by forest in 1977 when the current owner (Jean-Louis Chancel) purchased it. But evidence of vineyards and olive groves was scattered throughout the estate, and Chancel proceeded to embark on a twenty-year rehabilitation project, in the end planting out 186 hectares of vineyards (and some olive trees as well). He also built a winery on the property inspired by the architecture of the Dominican Order, along with gardens so beautiful that they were named among the “Notable Gardens of France” by the French Ministry of Culture (here’s just one picture of the gardens). Sounds like a place we should probably all aim to visit.

And then there are the vineyards. Here’s what the winery says: During the Quaternary Era, erosion phenomena caused the appearance of broad deposits of limestone and gravel, forming an exceptionally favorable soil. The vineyard spreads over the hills, at altitudes from 280 meters (945 feet) to 499 meters (1637 feet) at its highest point. And more to the point, here is what the vineyard looks like, a thick layer of pebble stones above anything resembling “soil.” Many of the wines produced in this region are Grenache-based, as you’d expect from the southern Rhone, but Val Joanis’ estate vineyards are planted predominantly to Syrah. And thank goodness for that, because this is one savory-wonderful expression of Syrah, priced like a midweek house wine but with enough complexity to serve on special occasions.

It clocks in at 14% listed alc and offers a nose that reminded me of nothing so much as a mixed olive tapenade: wonderfully briny and salty and savory. Look for complementary notes of blackberry fruit and roasted rosemary; the whole thing is just as appetizing as it sounds. I love the palate, too, which sees a bright vein of old-world acidity paired to a core of rich berry fruit that wouldn’t be out of place in the new world. It’s a tweener Syrah, with something for everyone, and it’s one that is a fine value in a mediocre vintage, but lights out in a fabulous vintage like ’15.

2016 Val Joanis Luberon Tradition Rose

Here is a well-priced rosé kicker from Joanis, made from Syrah and Grenache. Pale pink and 13% listed alc, it begins with a nose of honeydew, green strawberry, and fennel frond. The palate balances rich, delicious (okay, my note says “yumball”) fruit with bright acidity and a touch of spritz from dissolved CO2. Not a wine to overthink. This is gluggable porch-pounder territory.

First come first served up to 48 bottles total, and the wines should arrive in the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull White, Rosé, and Bubbles

May 19, 2017

Hello friends. The saying goes, ask and you shall receive. We’re all about rewarding good behavior here at Full Pull—and we’ve heard you loud and clear. This is our third official “Constituent Services” e-mail, where we respond to the squeaky-wheel list members who continue asking for more white and sparkling wines (and of course, rosé!). After a full six-pack of light vinos offered in April, we’re back with two lovely Washington whites, a list-favorite rosé, and a special occasion sparkler.

2016 Palencia Sauvignon Blanc

This buzzy Eastern Washington favorite has been getting a good deal of press over the mountains—with glowing review after glowing review from Great Northwest Wines—and has just recently obtained distribution on this side of the Cascades.

Palencia is a result of the hard work and passion of Victor Palencia, who started working in vineyards while he was barely a teenager. Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Victor moved to Washington in the mid-eighties, where his father worked in the mint fields of Prosser. At 14, he began working for David Minnick, of Willow Crest Winery, a relationship that still exists and influences Palencia’s craft to this day.

Palencia shows a true sense terroir and lifelong passion for viticulture through all of his wines. In Victor’s own words: “[at Palencia] we dig deep; I want to bring site distinction into every bottle by sourcing our grapes from some of Washington’s most ambitious vineyards” Every wine Victor makes shows his love and respect for the land.

Finding a Sauvignon Blanc to love from Washington can be a bit of a task. Palencia’s 2016 is the perfect example of what Sauvignon Blanc from our part of the world should be. All coming from the Frenchman Hills Vineyard in Columbia Valley, the Sauv. Blanc opens with an aromatic punch. Juicy stone fruit, citrus, and pear envelope you as you think, this is going to be good. The palate zips with acidity, but feels balanced from a combination of Hungarian oak and tank fermentation that adds a hint of richness. This is a truly summer wine—perfect for Pacific northwest seafood and patio sipping.

2016 Palencia Albarino 

This Albariño follows the path of Palencia’s Sauv. Blanc—it was made for sunny day imbibing. A refreshing nose of honeydew melon, freshly sliced green apple, banana, and a touch of floral spice. The palate has a strong acid backbone, but the star is the fruit—the melon and apple from the nose with the addition of peach. A touch of Hungarian oak gives this wine a subtle, supple nuttiness to balance the acid. The finish is long and dry.

2016 Syncline Rose

Syncline is a well-loved winery here at Full Pull. To quote Paul in a previous offer: Without question I consider James and Poppie Mantone’s Syncline to be in the upper echelon of Washington wineries. They’ve proven it vintage after vintage with consistent expressions of freshness, purity, and transparency. If others overlook them in discussions of best Washington wineries, I can only chalk that up to Syncline’s out-of-the-way location in the Columbia Gorge.

We were recently told that it was either offer this uber popular rosé now or never, because it will not last the summer. Not offering this particular rosé was not an option—long-time list members will remember, the 2009 Syncline Rosé was the first rosé ever offered by Full Pull. That was the summer of 2010 and we haven’t missed a year yet—and definitely aren’t going to start now.

This Rhone rosé boasts a blend of 35% Cinsault, 35% Grenache, and 30% Mourvedre, all from McKinley Springs Vineyard in the the Horse Heaven Hills. The grapes are designated for rosé, hand harvested early at lower brix for to keep it crisp and dry (the way rosé should be.) The color is an inviting, almost translucent salmon pink and the wine opens with aromatics that match—strawberries, watermelon, lemon zest, and grapefruit. The palate mixes fresh fruit and juicy, mouthwatering acidity, creating a supremely complex yet crisp feel. The finish continues dry as can be. This is a rosé made for food—a mean, stinky cheese plate, cold sesame soba noodles, porchetta sandwiches on a picnic bench in the sun.

This will probably be the only chance to get this wine, so be sure to purchase accordingly.

2015 Naveran Brut Vintage Cava

The minute I heard the phrase, “vintage growers’ cava,” I was hooked on Naveran. It’s important to always have a bottle of bubbles on hand—and we’ve grown to learn that there are so many hidden gems coming from Spain that taste great and make our wallets reasonably happy. A quality vintage bottle from a Champagne vigneron (grape grower) would easily cost you $50 or more. Here, you get all the perks of the champagne method, and a high quality vintage, for a fraction of the cost.

The Naveran family has been making this terroir-driven sparkling wine since 1901, and have practically perfected showing off their estate’s grapes. This estate-bottled vintage is made from three indigenous grapes from the region, Xarello, Macabeo, and Parellada. This blend uses the three different grapes for specific reasons—Xarello contributes body, Macabeo adds aromatics, and Parellada provides zippy acidity.

It’s a delicious bottle of bubbles that leads with a nose of citrusy lemon and lime, tart green apple fruit, and crushed-stone minerality. The palate is focused with mouthwatering acidity and a twinge of spice. The bubbles are fine and plentiful. At 11.5% alc, this wine might just be the perfect celebratory aperitif, but is also suited nicely for drinking at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Soft cheeses, croissants, kale salads, roasted chicken, the list of potential pairings goes on and on.

First come first served up to 48 bottles, 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 Ferguson

May 18, 2017

Hello friends. The good news: for the second year in a row, we have access to a Washington wine that is making serious waves in the global wine market. The bad news: our parcel size is down 30%.

2014 L’Ecole No. 41 Estate Ferguson Vineyard

Back in 2014, northwest wine had its own “Judgment of Paris”-style shocker when a bottle from L’Ecole No. 41 was named best Bordeaux Blend in the world at the Decanter World Wine Awards in London. Andy Perdue of Great Northwest Wine wrote a great piece back then describing events as they unfolded.

This was a big deal. A competition with more than 15,000 wines, from all over the world, where only 33 international awards were handed out. To layer shock upon shock, the fruit source for this bottling? It came from fourth-leaf fruit, from a vineyard planted in 2008. The bottling itself was the inaugural 2011 vintage of L’Ecole’s Estate Ferguson Vineyard blend, and the ripple effects of that award have made it extremely difficult to source subsequent vintages in any decent quantity. Then last autumn, another award, this time for the 2013 vintage: best New World Bordeaux blend in the Six Nations Wine Challenge, held each year in Australia. That is a ridiculously prestigious collection of awards in a very very short period of time.

Now then, if you’re a visual learner, please check out this fantastically-produced video about Ferguson from L’Ecole. If you prefer to learn by reading, please check out the next half-dozen-or-so paragraphs.

Ferguson is part of the Sevein project, a 2700-acre property adjacent to Seven Hills Vineyard that was long coveted by valley growers/winemakers for its high elevation (900’-1500’) and its fractured basalt soil. After long ownership by the Mormon church (who farmed wheat there), the site was finally purchased in 2004 by a group comprised of many of the Seven Hills partners. If all the Sevein land is eventually planted out, it will nearly double the vineyard acreage in the Walla Walla Valley.

Marty Clubb and L’Ecole were among the purchasing partners, and their piece became Ferguson Vineyard (see location here). Here’s Marty describing the site and what they did next: As part of the SeVein Properties surrounding Seven Hills Vineyard, this 42 acre prime piece of ground was strategically selected with an appreciation for the property’s natural strengths. At an elevation of 1,300 to 1,450 feet, the cold air drainage around the site is excellent. Above the ice-age flood silts, the soil is a thin mantle of wind-blown loess overlying fractured basalt. At the highest elevation, the soil depth is only 2 to 3 feet, such that the vine roots penetrate deep into the basalt, providing a complex array of rich minerals. This rock formation is partially exposed, revealing a quarry of fractured basalt which we refer to as The Wall. Mixed layers of multiple lava flows are woven together in a puzzle-like pattern, intersected with deep veins of calcium carbonate leaching deep into the basalt. We have 18 acres planted in a multi-clone mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and smaller quantities of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah.

Our best sustainable farming practices were fully implemented in preparing and planting Ferguson. For two years prior to planting, we grew a series of green crops of spring oats, Sudan grass, and arugula, plowing each crop back into the soil. After cross-ripping the entire acreage, we added a complex mix of organic compost and other nutritional elements to help restore soil humus and minerals. Finally, a verma-compost tea was added to rejuvenate a diverse mix of beneficial microorganisms, enhancing the natural soil biology.

Innovative vineyard technology was used to design, map, and plant Ferguson. Using three dimensional contour and topographic analysis, detailed slope and aspect were combined with sunlight cycles, wind patterns and soil characteristics to insure that the vineyard design optimized the growing conditions for each block. A digital map of the vineyard blocks was then used to design an irrigation system for building vine uniformity and sustainability. Finally, the actual vine planting utilized GPS technology to engineer precise row orientations and plant spacing.

Basically, this is Walla Walla Valley 2.0. It’s the founders of the wine scene in the valley using all their accumulated knowledge to select the right site and plant it to the right varieties and right clones. It’s proof, at least to this wine writer, that the age of experimentation in Washington* is coming to an end, to be replaced, I hope, by an era with even more smart, proactively-selected, carefully-planted vineyards. It’s an indication that the future is bright indeed.

[*I should note that SeVein, as well as a number of other important Walla Walla Valley Vineyards, is technically on the Oregon side of the border.]

The soil at Ferguson is just incredible. A mere 2-3 feet of wind-blown loess as top-soil, on top of a wall of fractured basalt. Basically, they’re growing grapes on volcanic lava flows: a completely different soil type from the remainder of the Walla Walla Valley. The blend in 2014 is 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Malbec, and the juice was aged in French oak, 50% new, for 22 months before bottling in July 2016. It clocks in at 14.5% listed alc and begins with a nose betraying its origins: loads of flinty and ferrous minerality complementing a core of black cherry and black plum fruit, all overlain with lovely floral topnotes. The palate resembles good young left-bank Bordeaux; it’s all potential, with the fruit currently hidden behind imposing walls of structure: vibrant acidity and robust, serious tannin.

This is sculptural wine, seemingly built to stand the rigors of time. I could easily see Ferguson evolving in fascinating directions for the next two or three decades. If you’re drinking it any time soon, a multi-hour decant is in order. It remains a wonderful experience, sampling and writing about this wine. I consider it one of the most important Washington debutantes of the past few years, and it’s still priced well below Washington’s cult wines (not to mention good Pauillac).

We’ll only get one shot at this wine. Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should 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 The Huntsman

May 18, 2017

Hello friends. We don’t offer many fifteen dollar Cabernets, and there’s a reason for that: most of them are terrible. Lean-and-green, oak powdered into oblivion, overtly sweet; it’s a minefield.

But one Washington winemaker who has proven his chops in this category is Ross Mickel. We’ve offered his Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon multiple times over the years, and it is always well-received by our list members. A few years ago, Ross launched another Cab, called The Huntsman. I’ve liked it each year I’ve tried it. It was always priced a few bucks above Glaze, and it always offered a different stylistic take on Cabernet: oomph and depth compared to juicy, gluggable Glaze.

We’ve hunted the huntsman ever since. It began as a restaurant-only wine; then I believe Whole Foods had a retail exclusive for a year. But this year, it’s finally available to us, and at a compelling price too:

[Note: we’re entering peak white wine season, and I also sampled a smokin’ Celilo Pinot Gris from Ross recently, so we’ll include that at the bottom of this offer.]

2015 Ross Andrew Cabernet Sauvignon The Huntsman

Our tag today is as low as I see nationwide (note: it does look like there’s a similarly-priced parcel in Massachusetts for east-coast list members who want to eschew shipping charges), and represents fine value for a Cabernet of this quality. The backbone of The Huntsman comes from Quintessence Vineyard, a young Red Mountain site that I seem to be writing about more and more often lately. It keeps turning up in extraordinary bottle after extraordinary bottle, just amazing for such young vines. Eric Degerman wrote a great article back in 2014 about Quintessence, and its vineyard manager, Marshall Edwards. The site was planted in 2010, so it’s still early days. Exciting early days.

No reviews yet for the ’15, but recent vintages have started to pick up some momentum in the press, with Eric Degerman and Any Perdue giving the ’13 and ’14 their highest rating, and Stephen Tanzer calling the ’14 “a very good Cabernet value,” noting its “good concentration and a solid coating of ripe tannins.”

This one kicks off with a deep, brooding nose of blackcurrant, asphalt, and eucalyptus. The attack is rich and supple, the mid-palate pleasingly plump, and then lovely tannins emerge that carry all the way through the black cherry tea finish. There is wonderful depth and concentration here, really impressive considering the moderate alcohol (13.5% listed). Whereas Glaze’s structure was always acid-driven, The Huntsman is much more focused on tannin, which sets it up as more of a traditional Cabernet. The density and heft of the palate, the balance of fruit and earth elements, the overall complexity: all greatly impressive for Cab at this price point.

2016 Ross Andrew Pinto Gris Celilo Vineyard 

Celilo is a holy site in Washington white winemaking. Located on the southern flanks of the dormant volcano Underwood Mountain, the high-altitude vineyard consistently produces wines (especially cool-climate whites) of real character, even via varieties that tend towards the insipid (looking at you, Pinot Gris/Grigio).

This wine has its roots in matrimony. In 2006, Ross Mickel approached the folks at Celilo. He and his (at that time) fiancée had been drinking and loving wines from Celilo Vineyard for years, and he asked if they would sell him some Pinot Gris for his wedding, which was scheduled in 2007. The result was 130 cases from the 2006 vintage. That’s a lot of wine for one wedding (even if it was a winemaker wedding). But Ross had no trouble moving the excess, because local restaurants quickly spread the gospel of this wine: low-alc, high-acid, food-friendly; a somm’s dream!

A decade later, the wine is still well-loved by the restaurant crowd, but they don’t get to have all the fun. This vintage clocks in at 13.8% listed alc and offers an appealing nose of pear, apple blossom, and mineral. This drinks right on the borderline between dry and off-dry to me. Whatever sugar is there is in perfect balance with the bright Celilo acidity. This conveys energy and richness in turn, no easy feat for Pinot Gris. I love the impact of the fruit, the sense of palate weight here. This is just full of character and complexity, again two adjectives I rarely use to describe Gris. Sampling this made me want to find a fat fillet of halibut (in season now) for grilling and pairing.
First come first served up to 48 bottles total, and the wines should arrive in the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Colene + Her Great-Granddaughter, Margo

May 13, 2017

Hello friends. We first offered a Pinot Noir from Colene Clemens in late 2016 during our annual Thanksgiving offering. (Really, what would Thanksgiving be without at least one beautiful Oregon-grown Pinot Noir?) However, Colene Clemens had been on our radar for quite some time before that offer and we were thrilled to come across an unbeatable price for one of their three estate grown cuvées.

2013 Colene Clemens Margo Pinot Noir

The backstory to this Oregon winery (which might just be in the running for one of the most beautiful sites in Willamette valley) is all about family and the pursuit of fine Pinot.

Joe and Vicki Stark met over forty years ago in the Willamette Valley. As they developed a life together, raising children and pursuing careers, Joe and Vicki found a collective love for the region’s wine. They knew that one day, they would own a winery. After years of searching for the right property, the couple found an old, abandoned, south-facing farmstead and orchard with great elevation, proven Pinot Noir soils, and sweeping views. This became Colene Clemens, named for Vicki’s mother, a winery pursuing “perfect Pinot Noir – that illusory, if unattainable, holy grail of winemaking.”

For those of you on our list that are certified Oregon wine geeks, take note. Colene Clemens’ winemaker, Stephen Goff, has a notable history within Willamette Valley. In 2001, after graduating from the viticulture program at Fresno State, he moved to Oregon and became the assistant winemaker at Beaux Frères, where he worked for six vintages before leaving to become Colene Clemens’ first and only winemaker.

Nestled in between the Chehalem Mountains and Ribbon Ridge, Colene Clemens’ estate is now a full 50 acres divided up among five different clones of Pinot Noir—three Dijon, one Pommard, and one Wadensvil. Every vintage, the winery offers three cuvées from their estate, each one named after Colene’s female descendants, Victoria, Adriane, and Margo.

The 2013 Margo released at $36 dollars with 91 points from Wine Spectator—and today, we’re able to offer it at the lowest price we’ve seen, at more than $10 less than the original release price. At a $36 dollar price tag, this wine feels worthwhile and utterly satisfying. At $24.99, this wine feels almost too good to be true.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “Supple, expressive and generous, with cherry and plum flavors, hinting at tea and grapefruit as the finish lingers easily against refined tannins. Drink now through 2019. 1,258 cases made. 91 pts.”

100% destemmed and fermented in stainless steel tanks, the 2013 Margo was then raised in one-third new oak. It has a wildly expressive nose full of red fruit, fragrant wild roses, citrus pith, cloves, tobacco, and a touch of vanilla. On the palate, this medium-bodied wine is supple and juicy with light, fresh acidity and elegant fruit notes of cherry, red currant, plum, and a little bit of citrus. It finishes long and fine, with soft and silky tannins. This is a true Oregon Pinot, perfectly paired with grilled salmon in the summer, roasted game birds and root vegetables in the fall, and a savory vegetable risotto with melty taleggio cheese just about any day of the year.

Please limit order requests to 8 bottles of this Pinot, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in the next week or so, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Library

May 5, 2017

Hello friends. I think many of us were delighted to learn that Casey and Vicky McClellan had successfully sold Seven Hills Winery early in 2016. It’s nice to see hard work pay off, especially for good folks like the McClellans.

But I was even more delighted a year later when I learned that the robust Seven Hills library was not part of the sale. Today we have a real treat: a pair of winery-aged parcels showing the beauty and longevity of well-made, balanced Washington Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

1995 Seven Hills Winery Merlot Klipsun Vineyard

We’ve bottled two Klipsun Merlots under our Full Pull & Friends label (one is still available; we’ll include it below), and in both instances, I’ve talked about how old ‘90s bottlings of Klipsun Merlot from Seven Hills and Andrew Will were hugely influential in my thinking about the ageing curve of Washington Merlot.

This vineyard (which was also purchased recently, by Terlato), in the heart of Red Mountain, makes Merlot that seems immortal. Tightly wound in its youth, presenting brooding exotic fruit surrounded by walls of robust tannin, it unfurls with time into something truly magnificent. One fun historical note here: the bottle itself does not say Red Mountain. That’s because it would be another six years (April 2001) before Red Mountain AVA was established. By 1995, Merlot at Klipsun was already into its 12th leaf, so the vines were well-established.

Another historical note: the listed alcohol, which is 12.5% here. It is rare indeed to see a Washington red – let alone a Red Mountain red – with 12.5% listed alc these days. Whether that’s attributable to a warming climate or stylistic changes in winemaking is up for debate. What I will say is that this low-alc/high-acid profile – which may well have made for a fairly unapproachable wine in its youth – is perfect for ageing. This presents a clearly mature nose: dried black and purple fruit, spice cake, leather, earth, mint. It offers the kind of complexity that is only possible with extended bottle age. The palate is downright gorgeous, with everything you could want from mature Merlot: a mix of primary fruit and tertiary tones, a sense of exotic spiciness that Klipsun seems to bring to Merlot, and above all else, a fully integrated palate, with calmed-down acid, softened-up tannins, and a precise sense of balance. What a thrilling experience it is, contemplating this wine.

1998 Seven Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Seven Hills Vineyard 

As this wine prepares to enter its third decade of existence, it is drinking beautifully. The nose mixes layers of fruit (dried currant, peach, plum, cherry), with cocoa powder and cedar and deep earthy/mineral tones. Texturally marvelous, this is supple on attack and mid-palate, and the finish still possesses some robust tannins, although they’re clearly integrating and softening up. I suspect this will continue to evolve for a few more years, but like with the Merlot, there’s really no need to wait. The winery has done the ageing for us. Our only job is to sip, and contemplate, and enjoy.

And no surprise the wine shows as well as it does: Casey built it that way. Again at 12.5% listed alc, this was clearly picked with enough acidity to support long-term aging. I think many of you know about Casey’s prowess by now, but for list newbies, here’s what I have written about him in the past: Developing a house style is an evolutionary step in winemaking. It requires focus and commitment to produce, vintage after vintage, wines of a certain, notable kind. Casey McClellan at Seven Hills has a clear house style: acid-driven and texturally elegant, and he has stuck with that style as fashion trends have waxed and waned (certainly, in the early part of the last decade, he defied trends towards more alcohol and more oak; now, as he stands still, the pendulum falls back towards him). I consider Casey a grower’s winemaker. Vineyard owners and vineyard managers love him, because he picks fruit early and is single-mindedly dedicated to expressing those sites.

This comes from the old block at Seven Hills Vineyard, Cabernet that is among the oldest in the Walla Walla Valley and that Casey himself helped to plant back in 1982. He has been making wine from Seven Hills since the early 1990s, so by ‘98 there was maturity both in the vineyard and in the winemaking style, and it shows. I’m sure this wine will fade at some point, but it won’t be happening any time soon.


2014 Full Pull & Friends Merlot Klipsun Vineyard (FPF-19)

For those interested in comparing mature Klipsun Merlot to youthful Klipsun Merlot, here is our FP&F bottling. It was originally offered in August 2016. Here are excerpts from the original:

Klipsun Vineyard was planted in 1984 by Patricia and David Gelles, and they continue to own and manage the vineyard today. [Ed note: well, up until late April anyway]. 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.
Please limit order requests to 6 bottles of ’95 Merlot, 4 bottles of ’98 Cab, and 12 bottles of ’14 Merlot, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines are in the warehouse and ready for pickup next week (we’ll allocate on Monday) or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.