Full Pull Rocks District Cabernet

June 30, 2017

Hello friends. Balboa has long been a list-member favorite at Full Pull. From their wildly popular rocks Syrah to succulent, purple Malbecs and red blends, Balboa provides undeniably good wine at accessible price points. Today we have one of the very best we’ve ever offered: estate-grown Cabernet from the Rocks District of the Walla Walla Valley, for an eye-opening tag:

2014 Balboa Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon

For those of our list members who’ve yet to experience Balboa and the wildly satisfying wines they’re slingin’, the winery was founded by Walla Walla veteran and winemaker Tom Glase in 2005. Tom started his winemaking career by working a harvest for L’Ecole in the late 90’s. He quickly moved on to increasingly more demanding winemaking experiences at Corliss, Ash Hollow Vineyards, and finally, as the head winemaker at Beresan. Almost a decade after the first vintage he worked with L’Ecole, Tom opened up his own shop with Balboa. As a winemaker, Tom has dedicated his craft to making wines that are true to the varietal, terroir, and vintage. The wines at Balboa are dedicated to time and place—they are built to showcase what Walla Walla Valley is capable of.

Like many of our favorite wineries, Balboa truly believes that quality winemaking starts in the vineyard. In their Estate Eidolon vineyard, Tom and his team practice sustainable growing practices and mostly hand labor. They take a minimal intervention approach to crafting their wines—and ferment vineyard blocks individually to capture the true essence of the terroir. Balboa’s use of wood reflects their central philosophy—it is balanced and light, not to detract from the varietal purity and terroir they are carefully selecting. Attention to detail and thoughtful process are the name of the game at Balboa.

The grapes used for the Artist Cabernet Sauvignon come entirely from Eidolon Vineyard, Balboa’s estate site, located squarely in the Rocks. Planted in 1999, and called LeFore before Balboa’s purchase, this ancient riverbed soil is the home for much of Balboa’s Cab, Syrah, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Eidolon is planted a little bit higher than much of the Rocks, which mitigates against the inevitable freeze of the region. What’s most exciting about this particular bottle is the opportunity to try Cabernet from the Rocks, which is much less frequently grown than it’s counterpart, Syrah, at such a reasonable price point.

And truly, this price point is excellent for the wine Balboa is producing. This 100% Cabernet opens with a juicy, fruit forward nose of black cherries, raspberries, blackberries, cassis, sandalwood, and licorice anise. On the palate, it’s structured and bold, full of Rocks minerals and rustic Cabernet tannins.. This is a serious wine—one that truly reflects the power this district of Walla Walla is capable of. Drink this wine with any classic Cabernet pairing, a juicy ribeye, barbeque ribs, or ever a rare, seared duck breast.

First come first served up to 12 bottles total, and 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 Secret Squirrel

June 29, 2017

Hello friends. Every time someone brings in a bottle of Secret Squirrel for us to sample in the warehouse, I have a strong urge to scream like Clark Griswold Sr. in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: SQUIRRRRRRRELLLLL!!!!! This label has been that kind of phenomenon.

And no, before our list members work themselves into a lather, I should say: this is not the return of the Secret Squirrel Cab. That wine is gone, and all indications remain that it is gone for good. But…

…the Cabernet is not the only Secret Squirrel wine.

2013 Secret Squirrel Columbia Valley Bordeaux Blend

I’ll start by saying that we had to commit to a large quantity of wine to nudge our TPU price down to the magic twenty dollar mark, a tariff we were able to hit with the first (2012) vintage of Squirrel Cab, but not with the 2013 (that one was 25.99/22.99 TPU). Am I concerned about committing to such a large quantity? No I am not. Not when a wine drinks like baby Corliss Red for twenty bucks.

Some reminders: Secret Squirrel is a new(ish) project for the Corliss family of wineries (Corliss Estates, Tranche). The name is obviously pretty playful, as is the packaging, which features, as best I can make out, a horny squirrel getting ready to attend an Eyes Wide Shut-themed party. The juice inside, on the other hand, is deadly serious. I mean, really serious, really high quality, really bottle aged juice.

The Squirrel label is mostly a result of Corliss’ Red Mountain estate vineyards coming online. With Corliss Estates making otherworldly wines at the high end of the spectrum, and with Tranche focusing squarely on their Blue Mountain Estate Vineyard, they needed a home for all the excellent Red Mountain juice that didn’t make sense for the Corliss wines. Enter the squirrel. What I love about this project is that it shares the Corliss/Tranche ethos of extended ageing, but it does so at pricing about half that of the Tranche reds, and one-third to one-quarter of Corliss reds.

Will you allow me to say that the winery is a little “squirrely” about the exact blend here? What they will say: it is essentially Cab/Merlot dominant (equal parts) that amount to around 70% of the blend, followed in order by Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. As expected with Squirrel, the fruit is Red Mountain dominant; three of the four vineyards involved are Corliss estate sites on RM: Red Mountain Vineyard, Blackwood Canyon, and Canyons Vineyard. The wine spent 22 months in 35% new French oak (pause and let that sink in: $20 new world wines are not aged for two years in expensive French wood). It clocks in at 14.5% listed alc and begins with a deep, expressive nose, with a core of black cherry and redcurrant fruit swaddled in barrel tones of smoke and cocoa and kahlua. Grace notes of earth and cedar complete an attractive nose. The palate is rich, intense, delicious, a little truffle of a wine with power and intensity to spare. It’s another wonderful, well-priced window into Andrew Trio’s outstanding winemaking!

International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 92pts.”

First come first served up to 36 bottles, and 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 Burgundy Meets Oregon

June 28, 2017

Hello friends. For any Pinot Noir lover, the quest for a beautiful bottle never ends. Whether it be Burgundy gems or California fruit-forward samples, a rare German specimen or delicate and earthy Willamette Valley bottles, Pinot Noir is the type of wine to fit most moods and meals. It is the type of wine to always have on hand. Today, we’re offering you a trio of our favorite recent samplings from our neighbor to the south, Oregon. These bottles range in price, but all three are consistently true to the Burgundian-American style that the Pacific Northwest has become famous for.

2015 Crowley Wines Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Crowley Wines, always a list favorite, always difficult to source outside of Oregon, started making traditional Burgundian inspired Oregon Pinot Noir in 2005. To the winery, this means wine with minimal intervention with aggressive attention to detail, letting nature lead the way. Their central belief is that wines are made in the vineyard—which is a great belief to have when making Pinot Noir. Pinot grapes are incredibly terroir driven, and easily susceptible to weather, location, and winemaker perspective. That is why Pinot Noir from different regions can feels so varied; this low-tannin and thin skinned grape takes on all the qualities of the region it comes from.

The 2015 Crowley Willamette Valley Pinot comes from La Colina Vineyard and Tuckwilla Vineyard, both in Dundee Hills, and Four Wines Vineyard in the Cost Range. Every lot used was 100% destemmed, and the wine was aged for 16 months in mostly neutral oak before bottling. The wine pours a vibrant red in the glass—it’s visibly light and fresh. The nose blooms with cranberry, wild strawberries, and leafy herbs and spices. Lively acidity jumps out the glass and continues on the palate with echos of the cranberry and strawberry from the nose. Like intended, this wine is acid driven, with a strong backbone and remarkable polish, somehow retaining Tyson Crowley’s signature elegance in a vintage that very much wants to be openly delicious. The finish is textured, long, and spotted with spicy herbal notes.

The acid and fruit make this friendly for food or drinking on its own. To me, this is a perfect pinot for the coming summer grilling months—you know, that time of year when you may want to drink red wine but it’s 80 degrees out. Pair this bottle with BBQ chicken legs with dark, char marks, grilled salmon, and all sorts of seasonal grilled vegetables.

2014 Arterberry Maresh Weber Vineyard Pinot Noir

2013 proved to be a difficult vintage for much of Oregon, with late rains providing serious challenges. To everyone’s delight, 2014 proved to be a wholly different vintage, and few wineries showed that better that Arterberry Maresh.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Arterberry Maresh—this is a winery is steeped in Oregon tradition, and its wines can be hard to find. The Maresh family bought their first parcel of land in the Dundee Hills in 1956 and quickly expanded their holdings to include over 140 acres. Due to some friendly peer pressure from a neighboring grape grower the Maresh family planted three acres of vines in 1970, which is now Oregon 5th oldest vineyard, Maresh Vineyard. The winemaking at Maresh farm only continued to grow from there.

Martha Maresh was one of the Maresh daughters, and is still involved with the farming and production at her own winery, Powell Hill Winery. She married Fred Arterberry, who was one of the first winemakers from Oregon to graduate from UC Davis, and they had a son, Jim Arterberry Maresh. Arterberry Maresh is Jim’s project, stemming from his father’s winery, Arterberry, that closed after he passed away. Jim is a relatively young winemaker, which makes his accomplishments at Arterberry Maresh that much more impressive. He began playing around with wine at about 17 years old, and opened Arterberry Maresh, an ode to the two families, in 2007, in his mid-20s, with the release of his inaugural 2005 vintage. Jim represents a new era within Oregon—the era of third generation winemakers.

In June 2016, Neal Martin wrote a round of reviews for Wine Advocate on the 2014 vintage from Arterberry Maresh. He visited the vineyards and spoke with Jim Maresh directly about the difference between vintages, and what happened to break 2013 and make 2014: There was no “Young Thug” rapping at 120 decibels when I visited Jim Maresh. That was a shame because I had been learning the lyrics for the last year. Still, the lack of rap was compensated by some of the best range of wines that I tasted from the 2014 vintage. That said, Jim was less complementary and brutally honest about the prior vintage…

“I sold off 40% of reds in 2013. It was an ugly vintage,” he opined. “Rot didn’t affect the whites but Weber and Juliard were declassified.”

So I asked Jim how he approached the 2014. “In 2014 it cooled down towards the end of the season, so alcohol levels kept under control. I picked most of Maresh Vineyard between 8 and 11 October. I stopped experimenting with whole cluster and went back to basics in 2014. One hundred percent de-stemmed and a long time in old barrels. In 2014, one signature of the wines is the length. They finish so long, which is not normal for a warm vintage. I tend to oxidize hard after the press.”

During my stay in Oregon I was explaining to a couple of people about winemakers with “the knack.” They just get it. They know how to make great Pinot Noir seemingly effortlessly, and practice small things that make a big difference. And Jim Maresh has the knack, because despite his laidback attitude towards life, I reckon he’s not that way at all when it comes to his wines. You can’t make them this good without caring. What’s more, he told me how he sees no reason to price his wines so highly that people can’t enjoy them, a fiscal approach dichotomous to others, they make the error of setting price first and then making the wine to fit it. His 2013s may have hit a bum note, but his 2014s hit the high.”

The Weber Vineyard Pinot Noir truly pushes the boundaries of Burgundy and Oregon. Though much of WIllamette’s Pinot Noir is dedicated to the style of Burgundy, many wines find their own style along the way—a hybrid of new world meets old world, that isn’t any worse, it’s just different. The Weber Pinot Noir is one of the truest Burgundy-style, new world Pinots we’ve tried. Weber Vineyard is planted with Pommard clones and is responsible for noble, vibrantly floral, and structured, acid driven wines—and this bottling is true to the vineyard.

Wine Advocate (Neal Martin): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93 points.”

2014 Arterberry Maresh Maresh Vineyard Pinot Noir

Maresh Vineyard is managed directly by the Maresh family, and serves as Jim’s reference point for Dundee Hills Pinot. It is known for creating complex, layered examples with concentrated fruit, florals, spices, minerality, and acid. Those of our list members who consider themselves Pinot Noir nuts, this is a bottle you shouldn’t miss.

Wine Advocate (Neal Martin): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 95 points.” [Context note: of the 566 Oregon wines Neal Martin reviewed in his 2016 annual report for Wine Advocate, this was the single highest rated wine of the bunch.]

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

Full Pull Summer

June 28, 2017

Hello friends. Quick-hitter reoffers today on our two Block Wines whites, now that we’ve hit peak white wine drinking season:

2015 Block Wines Semillion Tauro Block Boushey Vineyard 

Our stylistic goal bends more towards a Hunter Valley (Australia) Semillon than a Bordeaux version. What that means is limey acidity, and (hopefully) the ability to age in profound directions. Having been lucky enough to taste some older L’Ecole Semillons, I can say without question that Washington Semillon can stand the test of time.

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 Boushey’s vineyard is in the cooler part of the Yakima Valley). Our partner winemaker Morgan Lee 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; seven months with weekly battonage and partial malolactic conversion.

One of the things I love most about our Semillon is how it pairs with the summer cuisine of the Pacific Northwest. Pan-seared spot prawns, Dungeness crab cakes, sockeye salmon shioyaki-style; the list goes on. Crack a chilled bottle of this with northwest seafood for some serious northwest nirvana. 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. Drink it this summer for its refreshing character and seafood-pairing possibilities, and then hold a few bottles into the fall (or longer!). It should put on more weight, and it should move those savory notes more to the fore, just in time for a place on the Thanksgiving table.

International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91pts.”

2015 Block Wines Chenin Blanc Gnarl Block Rothrock Vineyard

Long-term list members might remember our old “Save The Chenin” series from back in 2009 and 2010. It began with a conversation with Doug Rowell of McKinley Springs Vineyard, who mentioned to me back then that they had to rip out a lot of their old-vine Chenin, because it was simply not a grape that was in fashion, and hence did not command high enough prices to keep it in the ground. What I took from that conversation was: the way to save good, old-vine Chenin is to drink more good, old-vine Chenin. Here’s another chance to do just that.

Rothrock is a vineyard in the Yakima Valley, northeast of Prosser, that you’ve likely never heard of. But it’s old. How old? Well, the current owner doesn’t know, so I don’t know either, but the estimates are that it was planted sometime between 1974 and 1978. So, about 40-year-old vines: ancient by Washington standards. Here is a picture from our 2016 vineyard trip that hopefully conveys the ridiculous girth of these plants. There’s nothing quite like old-vine material.

In 2015 our Chenin fruit was harvested on August 27. August harvests are rare in Washington, but 2015 was an exceptionally warm year, and we wanted to be sure to preserve as much natural acidity as possible. The grapes were whole cluster pressed and fermented with native yeasts, then aged in two-thirds neutral French oak and one-third stainless steel with weekly battonage and partial malolactic conversion. Finished alcohol is 13.1%, and finished residual sugar is a barely-perceptible 4 g/L (0.4%). It begins with a nose of honeycrisp apple and pear fruit, complicated by that signature Washington Chenin note I usually associate with malt powder. It adds a lovely layer of savory complexity here. The palate offers terrific richness and density for such moderate alcohol. The mid-palate turns creamy, and that creamy texture persists through a long, chamomile-inflected finish. This will only grow more savory and complex with the passage of time.

International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91pts.”

Full Pull Saint Saint

June 26, 2017

Hello friends. Louis Barroul is justifiably famous for southern Rhone wines from Saint Cosme’s home base of Gigondas. But ever since I attended a lunch with Monsieur Barroul last summer, I’ve been chasing his wines from the Northern Rhone. The combination of the passion with which he spoke about the region and the outlandish QPR of the wines was completely seductive, and it sent me on this hunt.

You might remember that we secured a painfully small parcel of Louis’ 2011 Cote Rotie, so small that we offered it in an Eliminator (December 2016) instead of a regular offer. For today’s wine, our parcel meets the requirements for a prime time slot, but only barely.

2015 Saint Cosme St. Joseph

Exciting wine for a number of reasons. First, the vintage. I’ve written a few times previously about the hype surrounding the 2015 vintage across Europe. In my experience to date, the wines are living up to the talk, and this is a fine example.

Second, the region (see map; we’re in the long yellow strip in the north). Have we ever offered a wine from St. Joe? Checking archives… checking archives… okay, one time (2009 Domaine Durand), but that was back in September 2012, almost five years ago! Now Saint-Joseph, like Crozes-Hermitage, has a mixed reputation, and that’s deservedly so: the quality coming out of these regions is indeed mixed. Which only makes it more important to have a trusted source making the wine.

And if our list members don’t trust Louis Barroul by now, I don’t know what to say. We’ve as a group guzzled gallons of his all-Syrah, $15 Cotes-du-Rhone over the years. This is the next step up the Syrah ladder in his portfolio, and here’s how the master describes it: 100% Serine (an ancient form of Syrah). 70% destemmed crop – 30% whole clusters. Granite sand in the vale of Malleval. Twelve months’ ageing: 20% in new casks – 40% in casks used for one wine – 40% in casks used for two or three wines. Saint Joseph is our most consistent wine year after year. When I taste what this terroir was able to produce in a vintage like 2014, I am overcome with a sense of admiration and amazement. Obviously, 2015 offers something well above the norm – extraordinary density, mellowness, substantial length and a kind of reticence that bodes extremely well for future aromatics. The part of wine that is not water or alcohol represents around 3% and mostly comprises organic components. Although mineral elements are in a tiny minority, they are nevertheless the ones that outlive all the others in a wine. When the organic components are teetering on the brink of demise, minerality remains. This is what makes the ageing phase so fascinating. It is also why mature wines cannot cheat with their inherent character, and why the ultimate truth lies with mature wines. This 2015 Saint Joseph, laden with fruit, youthfulness and organic components, makes you wonder what the future holds for it. I have no doubt that it will be glorious, but I also think it will change a lot – as always, time holds the answers in all their splendid glory. Peony, wild blueberry, liquorice and tobacco.

No reviews out of bottle yet, but two solid barrel reviews for this beauty:
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91-93pts.”

Vinous (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91-93pts.”

What can I add to those three notes? I’ll just say that the fact this is 100% Serine is pretty cool (there are arguments about whether this is a clone of Syrah or an entirely different variety, but one thing is for sure: it only exists in the northern Rhone), and also that the savory/mineral side of this was emerging in a major way during a recent tasting, with smoldering charcoal and bacon fat and Kalamata olive all offering complements to the core of plummy fruit. It possesses that 2015 sense of palate-staining intensity, plenty of old-world acid charm, and a sanguine bloody character just made for slow-braised lamb shanks. Glorious.

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles (actual allocations might be closer to 2-3 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 Italian Gateway Drug

June 23, 2017

Hello friends. We’ve been singing the praises of Piedmontese producer Vajra for what seems like an eternity. They are, without a doubt, one of the greatest bangs for your buck when it comes to Italian wines—from entry level red blends to mighty, full-fledged Barolo.

Today, we’re offering Vajra’s Langhe Rosso, a wine we have frequently referred to as the gateway drug to the Vajra lineup—and to the red wines of Piedmont themselves. For our list members with less Italy experience, Piedmont is famous for a few things, including it’s Nebbiolo. Barolo and Barbaresco are names you might be familiar with—varietal bottlings of Nebbiolo coming from those specific areas within the Langhe region of Piedmont. However, there is so much more to this northern Italian hotspot than just straight up Nebbiolo—which is where Langhe Rosso comes in.

2014 G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso

Here in the states, we get plenty of exports of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto, but the declassified blends of the three grapes? The ones that are vinified unfussily and well-loved by the locals for their food-friendly rusticity and early-drinking character and easy-on-the-wallet price? These are called Langhe Rosso and they stay home. Mostly.

Truly, the whole Langhe Rosso category is full of gems, if you can pry them away from the Italian countryside. (I mean, hey, if you made this wine, you’d probably keep it all to drink, too.) Though it’s killer wine that most people go ga-ga for, it’s not a category that shows up too frequently outside of the Langhe itself. So, when it does, especially from a producer like Vajra, we kind of lose our minds.

Self described as a “hug from Piedmont,” Vajra’s Rosso allows the winemakers to explore different varieties and combinations. Drinking somewhere between a rustic Pinot Noir and full-throttle Nebbiolo, this Langhe Rosso features predominately Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto with smaller quantities of Freisa, Albarossa, and Pinot Noir. These grapes work together to create a complex Italian wine that is surprisingly easy to drink and practically made to be paired with food. Isidoro Vajra, the youngest son of the Vajra family, describes his family’s wine in the most quintessentially Italian way possible—with a fútbol reference:

The best match is the one where each player contributes his own talents to the game. That’s why when I think about Langhe Rosso I imagine a soccer team! Nebbiolo is the team captain, it emerges for its structure and elegance. Barbera has got personality and enthusiasm, while Dolcetto supports the team with its fruit and freshness. Freisa….is like Gattuso…decisive, but never let’s down the guard. Albarossa is the goalkeeper: even though we do not notice him, without him you cannot play. And then Pinot, the playmaker: capable and quick, a real expert in dribbling, who, with his style, brings adrenaline to the match. All together they are a dream team.

2014 proved to be an incredibly fresh vintage for Vajra with slow ripening that lead to a very late harvest and heavy expression of terroir and minerality in all of the wines. The Langhe Rosso varieties were vinified separately, spending 18-24 months partially in steel and then in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd use barrels.

The color is decidedly red with hints of violet and amethyst—it’s bright and inviting. On the nose, intense earth, cedar wood, and chalk-like minerality come through with rich fruit qualities of cherries and cassis berries to balance. It’s fruity, floral, and spicy all at the same time—which in my book reads as a flashing, neon sign that says, “drink me!”. The palate is lively, featuring bright, acidic berry fruit with touches of graphite and wood that add complexity and roundness. The finish is dry with rustic, food-friendly tannins.

You could drink this bottle with a whole host of delicious foods—medium-rare burgers, charred thin-crust pizza, epic charcuterie boards, roasted racks of lamb. However, I think the ultimate food pairing for this bottles comes from Piedmont itself: a hearty bowl of Tajarin. Tajarin is an egg-based fresh pasta made with mostly egg yolks, cut ultra thin, and finished with butter, sage, and parmesan cheese. Think the grown-up version of butter noodles—that you get to drink wine with!

(If you’re not familiar with Tajarin and live in the Seattle area, stop what you are doing right now and make the next reservation at Spinasse in Capitol Hill. The Tarajin there is practically a religious experience for pasta lovers. Just don’t forget a bottle of Piedmontese wine.)

First come first served up to 12 bottles total, and 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 An Artist And A Road

June 23, 2017

Hello friends. Woodward Canyon continues to be model of consistency and excellence for Washington’s burgeoning wine scene. Rick Small and his family have been producing wine for nearly 40 years. The second winery in Walla Walla, Woodward Canyon was instrumental in developing the appellation. This is a winery ingrained in the history of Washington wine—and one that does its part in producing wines that truly represent the region.

2014 Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon

We’ve offered every vintage of Woodward’s Artist Series from 2008 on, but this is only the second time we’ve had it at this low a tag (we had to commit to a solid quantity to move our pricing below the normal 49.99 | 44.99 TPU, but that’s no problem; our list always goes long on this wine).

The Artist Series is a project almost as old as Woodward Canyon itself. Roughly a year into production, Woodward Canyon decided to create the Artist Series to showcase the best of the best of Washington Cabernets. The vineyards represent the oldest and most loved of the state, the bottles feature artwork from various artists, and the wine itself is known for being bold, balanced, and true to Washington. In its 23rd release, the Artist Series program is old enough to have graduated college and is maturing very nicely.

This year, the label features painter Lynda Lowe, specifically a painting titled “release.” The winery describes Lowes style as “infused with an interest in the relationships between art and science, perception and consciousness.” This feels like fitting intent for art used on a wine bottle—wine itself being the ultimate intersection of art and science.

The 2014 vintage is made up of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot from Champoux, Sagemoor, Woodward Canyon Estate Vineyard and Summit View. After fermentation, the wine was aged for 22 months in French wood. As the vineyards they use continue to age, Woodward Canyon has started using less and less new oak in their ageing process. The hope is to truly show off the varietal typicity and the characteristics of the vineyards where these grapes are growing. Bottled in June 2016 and just released last month, this vino clocks in at 14.8% alc.

This wine most certainly expresses Cabernet Sauvignon—and the place it calls home. It pours deep red with a nose of ripe black fruit, cassis, baking spices, and smoky charred peppers. On the palate, it’s smooth and opulent, showing off Washington’s ability to make bold, beautiful Cabernet. Herbaceous and fruit forward notes continue through the mid palate, finishing out with rich, structured tannins and a decidedly long finish. While totally suitable to drink now with a nice decant, his bottle will continue to develop over the next 10 – 15 years.

2016 Nelms Road Chardonnay

Woodward Canyon’s second label, Nelms Road, focuses on high quality wines at approachable prices. The 2016 vintage marks the first time Chardonnay appears under the Nelms label, and it includes some Celilo fruit and some Woodward Estate fruit, the twin sources for Woodward’s Chardonnay under their main label. And it’s just hitting the market. In fact, we’re not even sure if it’s in Seattle yet, or if we’ll be special-ordering over the mountains. The 2016 Chardonnay, like all of the wines on the Nelms Road label, is ready to drink right now. Consider this a strong summer bottle—price-point driven, deliciously drinkable, and made for a sunny day.

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to Washington Chardonnay. The first is making Chardonnay that gives California a run for its money. Chardonnay that doesn’t shy away from oak, or malolactic fermentation; wines with creamy mouthfeel and nutty, toasted noses. Washington, by all means, can do this type of Chardonnay as well if not better than California.

However, the other side of Washington Chardonnay is equally as delicious. This other side of Washington Chardonnay is true to the fruit. This is the type of Chardonnay that shows off the natural aspects of the grape, rather than what can be done to it. It rings true with citrus, green apple, tropical notes, and bright acidity. The Nelms Road Chardonnay is most definitely the latter.

With 12.4% listed alc, this wine opens with bright citrus, lemon, lime, salinity, green apple and pear. On the palate, it is racy and lively, with an establish acid backbone that’s padded with beautiful, tart fruit. The finish is long and lean. Open this bottle with raw oysters and mignonette, steamed lobster or crab dripped in butter, and any type of roasted or grilled white fish. It would also be perfect with a herb salad, spring/summer asparagus and peas, and most other green vegetables.

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