Full Pull For A Song

August 16, 2017

Hello friends. For A Song has quickly become synonymous with wines that are well-priced performers. This label, manned by Kyle Johnson as head winemaker, produces varietally typical wines from some of Washington’s finest vineyards at fantastic tariffs.

Today’s offers are particularly exciting because of the vineyard sources involved. A Chardonnay from Ancient Lakes. A Petit Verdot sourced from two blocks within Yakima Valley. Both wines offered today are terroir specific—giving you a little taste of what special slices of land are capable of.

2015 For A Song Chardonnay Caliche Lake Vineyard 

This Chardonnay is completely and absolutely lovely—but most of you won’t need to read beyond the next sentence to pull the trigger on purchasing this bottle. This is a single vineyard, Ancient Lakes Chardonnay for under 10 dollars. Caliche Lake Vineyard is a 60-acre parcel of land in Washington State’s highest elevated AVA, Ancient Lakes (also known as our state’s white varietal haven). It was planted in 2009 to showcase white varietals because of its somewhat peculiar soil composition, elevated location, and the cool breezes it collects from the Columbia River. The vineyard’s signature notes are acidity, minerality, and aromatics—all on display in For A Song’s Chardonnay.

Clocking in 13.2% alcohol, this is 100% stainless steel fermented and goes through partial malolactic fermentation during the six months it spends in stainless, which provides character to the wine without getting in the way of the AVA’s signature acidity and minerality. The nose opens with fresh orchard peach, juicy and ready to be devoured; tart, ripe green apple; and floral bunches of lilies, orchids, and marigolds. On the palate, ample minerality and acidity surround wild honey, apricot, and fresh lemon zest. The result is lively and refreshing, yet thoughtful. This is a serious white wine—that’s also seriously enjoyable.

The acidity and texture make this well equipped for a lot of different food pairings: cedar-plank grilled salmon, a luscious bowl of carbonara, a brunch feast full of avocado and eggs, or Oysters Rockefeller.

2012 For A Song Petit Verdot

So rarely do we offer varietal Petit Verdot because it usually falls into one of two categories: delicious-yet-wildly-expensive or cheap-but-less-than-impressive. For A Song’s bottling blows both of these preconceived notions out of the water. It’s a bottle at an accessible price point and it tastes pretty freakin’ great.

The For A Song team always has some magic up their sleeve when it comes to wine—creating consistently pure, true varietal examples from vineyards we love at prices we can’t believe. This Petit Verdot is no different—but continues to go far beyond expectations with its vintage. This is a 2012—one of Washington’s most beloved vintages—with five years in bottle to settle, develop, and beautify.

Sourced from well-loved Olsen Vineyard in Yakima Valley, specifically from blocks 23 and 26, this wine spent 18 months in 100% third-used French oak. The listed alcohol is 14.5%. Deeply plum colored, the nose starts with fresh blackberries, black cherry, dried sage, leafy tobacco, and a touch of rich soy. On the palate, it’s dark and brooding, with a medium plus body that’s ripe, but not overly fruity. A streak of acidity runs throughout, emerging from the dark fruit, while also highlighting its sumptuous qualities. This is the perfect bottle of wine for anyone stuck in a Cabernet Sauvignon rut—it’s structured and deep with a touch of umami intrigue.


Full Pull Chave (Sort Of)

August 15, 2017

Hello friends. Jean-Louis Chave is Rhone royalty. His Hermitage wines are unicorns, highly sought-after around the world and discussed in hushed terms by wine lovers of many stripes. And no, we don’t have any of JL Chave’s Hermitages on offer today for hundreds (thousands?) of dollars. Instead, we have the gateway wine into the Chave house style, and if it’s not quite a unicorn, I can tell you from experience that it’s still quite a difficult wine to source.

2014 Chave Selection Mon Coeur Cotes du Rhone 

I’ve loved several past vintages, but the quantities offered to us were not up to the amounts we needed, not for a Chave-related wine in the low $20s. Even today, our parcel is borderline. I’m going to set order-request maximums at 8 bottles, but please don’t develop too much heartburn if actual allocations are in the 2-3 bottle range. This is at least a step in the right direction, and hey, maybe in fifty years or so we’ll get a 1-bottle allocation of the Hermitage.

So, Chave Selection is JL’s negociant project, wines made from outside his estate vineyards. Because he’s Chave, though, those vineyards are as carefully selected as you’d imagine. All the vineyards come from the neighborhood of Buisson, Visan, and Valreas (here), located just north of Gigondas and west of Vinsobres. And all the vineyards range in age from 20 to 60 years and have low natural yields. Furthermore, this blend is typically about half Syrah, half Grenache, way more Syrah than is typical for Cotes du Rhone, but perhaps unsurprising given the Syrah savant involved.

The juice is aged mostly in large neutral oak foudres, and it clocks in at 14% listed alc. It begins with a charming, complex nose, mixing brambly berry fruit with complexities of flower and loads of savory tones: smoked sausages, nori, olive. The mix of fruit and non-fruit elements continues on the palate, which possesses a naughty sense of brackish umami to go with a core of beautiful fruit. The texture is supple, polished, classy as can be; you can sense a masterful hand at work here.


Full Pull Blanc de Squirrel

August 14, 2017

 

Hello friends. Everyone’s favorite squirrel is back, and this time with the first white wine for this label. [Note: we’ll also reoffer the wildly popular 2013 Squirrel Bordeaux Blend at the bottom.]

2015 Secret Squirrel White Rhone Blend

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.

One of the things I love most about this project is that it shares the Corliss/Tranche ethos of extended ageing, but it does so at pricing considerably lower than the main labels. This is a good example. You can almost think of it as a baby version of Tranche’s Slice of Pape Blanc, which retails for $30. As usual, the winery isn’t giving up the goods of the exact blend, but I would guess that it has Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne all in the mix. The Viognier is obvious aromatically, with its signature mix of orange blossom, peaches, and ginger spice. At 14% listed alc, there is plenty of palate heft here (typical for white Rhone blends), but this is noteworthy for its crisp balancing acidity and evocative inner-mouth perfume. The creamy fruit, the grace notes of nut and mineral (that’s the Roussanne and Marsanne rearing their heads), the long finish: all impress mightily at a sub-$20 tag.

 

2013 Secret Squirrel Columbia Valley Bordeaux Blend

Originally offered June 12, and one of our most popular wines of the year to date. Excerpts from the original:

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.”


Full Pull Southernmost Rhône

August 13, 2017

Hello friends. On the southernmost tip of the Rhône Valley growing area lies an AOC steeped with regional history. Loved by the Greeks before Roman rule, originally designated part of the Languedoc, the wines of Costieres de Nimes have had many admirers, but have always shared the most similarity with the stylings of the Rhône Valley. So much, in fact, that the grape growers of the region petitioned to be included within the Rhône regional committee, a change that officially took place as recently as 2004. Like many of the furthest outposts of the Rhône region, Costieres de Nimes offers some of the most compelling Rhône expression at the lowest possible price points.

We like to think of Costieres de Nimes as the Rhône Valley with a dash of Mediterranean soul—and Chateau Teulon embodies that soul element better than almost anyone in the region. The Teulon family has some of the deepest roots within southern France, and established their Chateau well over 400 years ago. Now, in their 7th generation of winemakers, Chateau Teulon combines traditional Rhône savor with present-day practices. For example, five years ago, the entire estate became wholly certified organic. They are able to do what many are not: effortlessly meld ancient tradition with the world we currently live in. Their wines simultaneously show passion, tradition, and innovation—for less than ten dollars.

2015 Chateau Teulon Costieres de Nimes Roussanne

The Costières soil at Chateau Teulon is made up entirely of Rhône-style rocky alluviums known as brownstone. This soil comes from deposits of the Rhône and Durance rivers, and provides the ideal soil pairing to the vigorous grapes that like to grow in this region. Roussanne thrives here, and is one of the rising star varieties of the region. It’s known for being wildly aromatic, and if not vinified alone, can be found in most of the Costières blanc blends.

This bottle is 100% Roussanne and is listed at 13% alcohol. The wine opens with strong aromatics of tropical fruit—mango, pineapple, and melon—and floral white petals. It’s a robust example of Roussanne, but the ever present orange-tinged acidity keeps it light and lively. This is a year-round white, bright enough for hot afternoons and weighted nicely to match a cool fall evening. Similarly, it could be paired with a number of things—from a rich, delicious cheese board to a roasted chicken with apricot glaze.

2016 Chateau Teulon Costieres de Nimes Rouge

This is a 60/30/10 blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre, grown along the rocky alluviums of the Rhône delta, and aged in a mix of concrete and neutral barrels. From one quick sniff , you can tell that this is going to be a wine to reckon with: dried marjoram, chalky minerals, cracked pepper, and pure raspberry fruit. There is freshness and charm all around, but the wine still holds substantial structure. Lovely florals, ripe fruit, and limestone mineral reign supreme, and lead to a finish that’s leafy, delicious, and full of character. As we move toward autumn, those looking for a fall house wine to open on Tuesday nights should pay careful attention here.

And as a special bonus:
2016 Chateau Teulon Costieres de Nimes Rose

For those of you who haven’t had nearly enough rosé this year. (And honestly, can you ever have enough rose?) The Chateau Teulon rosé is a juicy, bright, medium bodied Grenache/Syrah blend. Like all the Teulon wines, this bottle drinks beautifully—and not just for the <10 price point. Up front, it’s got a healthy dose of fresh berries, wet stone minerality, and garrigue (which is the low-growing vegetation that climbs across the limestone hills of the Mediterranean coastline. Think freshly plucked juniper, thyme, rosemary, and lavender). On the palate, it’s lifted, and full of all the notes that the nose promised. The finish is full, yet dry—making it the perfect rosé to walk hand and hand into cooler weather with.


Full Pull Down Under

August 12, 2017

Hello friends. Here in Washington, it’s easy to talk a lot about New World wine. For many of us, that means the United States and our burgeoning wine scene from Washington to California, Texas to New York. However, New World truly represents so much more than our little stake; and today, we’re featuring New World wines from just about as far away as you can get from our corner of the globe: New Zealand and Australia.

2016 Marisco Vineyards “The Ned” Sauvignon Blanc 

Nestled on the northern tip of the southern island of New Zealand is the wine region that put this country on the map: Marlborough. While New Zealand’s vine heritage has roots that date back to the 1800’s, its chosen grape, Sauvignon Blanc, was barely planted in Marlborough just 30 year ago. Now, it’s the grape that defines a nation. While New Zealand’s cool, maritime climate is well suited for growing all sorts of white grapes, it’s impossible to talk about the region and not tip our hats to the one grape that started it all, SB.

Named after a peak just south of the estate vineyards, the Ned is a passion project of Marlborough native, Brent Marris, from Marisco Vineyards. Brent’s original claim to fame is as the winemaker of Oyster Bay, but his achievements go well beyond just one project. The Ned estate is made up of 268 hectares along the southern side of the Waihopai River. The proximity to the river creates a growing climate full of warm days and cool nights, providing strong acidity and developed flavor to all of the wines from the Ned.

100% Sauvignon Blanc, the Ned is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine clocks in at 13% alcohol, and pours into the glass twinkling with green and gold. The nose is right on the money for NZSB—citrusy lime and grapefruit, fragrant passionfruit and tropical notes, bright florals, and grassy, signature green peppers. On the palate, it’s racy with minerality and acidity, balanced with touches of tropical fruit and citrus. It’s light, lively, and easygoing with surprisingly serious—and delightful—structure. This is a wine to drink now, as we soak up the remaining 2017 sunshine. Pair it with all types of seafood, garden-grown arugula salad, or perfectly crafted cheese board chock full of chèvre.

Wine Enthusiast (Joe Czerwinski): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91 points.”

 

While New Zealand is all Sauvignon Blanc, Australia is the king of Shiraz. Yes, Syrah and Shiraz are genetically the same grape, but the name Shiraz implies something much different than its old world Syrah counterparts. When done right, Australian Shiraz can be an expressive, bold, and thoughtful category of wine. The Barossa Valley Shiraz of Kaesler are a perfect example of Australia’s potential.

2013 Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz

One of the common misconceptions about New World wine is that it all comes from young vineyards. This couldn’t be further from the truth—If you search the Barossa Valley, where Kaesler calls home, you’ll easily stumble upon a number of century-old vineyards. The valley’s hot climate develops Shiraz in a robust, full-bodied manner, giving the wines of this region their signature bold, distinctive style.

The Kaesler family pioneered the the Barossa region just a few decades after Shiraz was first imported to Australia. In 1893, they planted their first vines. Today, all of the wines from Kaesler are still made from their estate, dry-farmed vineyards. Kaesler is classic Australia—and at four years past vintage, this is a lovely example of Barossa Shiraz in its peak drinking window.

At its release price of $25, the Stonehorse Shiraz offers strong value; better still at our $20 TPU price today. This juice comes from a vineyard of heavy clay soil, worked by a team of Clydesdale horses, and it spent 15 months in 4-year-old French oak. The results are deliciously full-bodied, yet understated for the typical Australian-style.

Wine Spectator (MaryAnn Worobiec): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91pts.”

2012 Kaesler Barossa Valley Old Vine Shiraz

100% Shiraz sourced from Marananga and Nuriootpa vineyards, Kaesler’s Old Vine Shiraz comes from three blocks aged 53, 49, and 29 years, and we have it at a tariff well off its $80 release price. The block at Nuriootpa vineyard has a 100-year old history—it was spawned from Kaesler’s Old Bastard Vineyard, the original planted in 1893. Its historical European parent vines were all destroyed by Phylloxera in the 1880s, which makes this vineyard the only one of its kind. The genetic makeup of the Old Bastard Vineyard only exists in the Barossa Valley—nowhere else on the planet.

And Kaesler isn’t screwing around with these grapes. This is a purposefully understated wine that was made to age. Unlike some of its ripe, jammy counterparts from the region, the OV Shiraz is complex and structured, with dark, dense heft. With five years in bottle, it is starting to spread its wings and truly show what it’s capable of.

Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 92pts.” [Note: don’t you love reading a note written in early 2015, saying “needs cellaring” and offering a drinking window starting in 2017, when we’re smack in the middle of 2017?]

James Suckling (James Suckling): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93pts.”


Full Pull Cru Selection

August 11, 2017

Hello friends. Today we have the return of what has become a list-favorite Syrah over the past few years. And no surprise at that: well-made single-vineyard Washington Syrah, from an excellent vineyard like Den Hoed, for fifteen bucks? That is a rare treat.

2015 Nathan Gray Syrah Den Hoed Vineyard 

Nathan Gray wines belong to our friends at Cru Selections, an excellent local importer/wholesaler. Some of the best values we offer through Full Pull are labels belonging to wholesalers (cough; For A Song; cough), and it makes sense.

Our local wholesalers a) have excellent palates, as they’re tasting broadly and deeply, and all the time; b) have connections to excellent local winemakers; and c) know what sells, especially via on-premise (restaurant) channels. Pretty much all of these wholesaler labels are designed as glass pour options at restaurants: $9 or $10 or $11 by the glass. But just because these wines are designed for restaurants doesn’t preclude certain stubborn retailers from swooping in and grabbing some, especially when the winemaker and fruit sourcing are so good.

Fruit sourcing first. The Den Hoed brothers are outstanding farmers. We’ve written about them a number of times, especially with regards to Wallula Vineyard. They also farm this eponymous site north of Sunnyside in the Yakima Valley, at elevations ranging from 1300-1400’. This is high-elevation, cool(ish)-climate Yakima Valley fruit.

The winemaker for Nathan Gray is one Morgan Lee. Do y’all know how I feel about Morgan’s winemaking by now? Does the fact that Morgan makes pretty much all of our in-house Block wines tell the tale? It’s fun getting to see Morgan work with a completely different Syrah site than what he does for Two Vintners and Block Wines. The nose is a ringing bell of freshness and purity. The core is marionberry fruit; the topnotes evoke violet and peony (is there some Viognier in the mix?); the bass notes all earthy soil and espresso. This is a lovely, fruit-driven Syrah that delights with its freshness and inner-mouth perfume. The texture is polished and gluggable, with balanced acidity and supple finishing tannins. It really is lovely to see terroir-expressive Syrah at such an accessible tag.


Full Pull Seattle Mag

August 10, 2017

Hello friends. Seattle Magazine recently released its picks for the top Washington wines and winemakers of the year. Some of our list-favorite wineries, along with some lesser known gems, graced the pages of this edition. Today we’re offering three bottles from Seattle Mag’s list of top vinos.

Now, as far as the connection between Seattle Magazine and Full Pull, it’s simple. Our very own Paul Zitarelli serves as the wine writer for the magazine. That means that many of the wines Seattle Magazine enjoys overlap with the wines that Full Pull offers—if you check out the full article, you’ll see some Full Pull all-stars.

In pursuit of full transparency, here’s how the creation of this whole list goes down (for the long version, see here): Seattle Magazine starts with a nominating panel (Paul is a member). For the awards tasting, the magazine works with a broader group of judges, which also includes Paul. However, some of Full Pull’s own wines are in the running, so Paul recuses himself from any of those panels. For example, our very own Sparkling Extra-Brut Rose under the Block Wines label received the honor of best sparkling wine this year—but Paul had no voting power in that decision and didn’t write up that particular blurb in the article. (psssst. the new disgorgement of that wine will be available to our list members very soon…)

This year, Seattle Magazine’s list focused on the “golden age” of Washington Wine: “The wine scene here is more robust than ever, with a balanced mix of experienced winemakers and neophytes; likewise, there’s a mix of established old vineyards and new sites exploring different geologies. Right now, Washington wine is in a beautiful tween phase: mature enough that we can say with confidence that we produce world-class wines here, and young enough that most of the story remains to be written.” The wines we’re offering today represent this golden age of Washington’s wine story, featuring everything from traditional Washington pioneers and french-inspired favorites to a newer, boundary pushing label.

2014 Forgeron Cellars Chardonnay

Forgeron Chardonnay is Seattle Mag’s White Wine of the Year, besting many a pricier competitor, and we couldn’t be happier for Marie-Eve Gilla. Eve, the founder and winemaker at Forgeron, is known for creating consistently delicious Washington offerings that are heavily inspired by France. Born in Paris, Marie-Eve’s experience in Burgundy and beyond influences everything Forgeron does. Vintage after vintage, these wines deliver thoughtful Washington juice with an elegant hat tip to France’s history, and compete well with much higher price point counterparts.

Seattle Magazine: “Before landing in Walla Walla, Marie-Eve Gilla studied at the University of Dijon and worked at several wineries in Burgundy (Chardonnay’s ancestral home). No surprise, then, that her Chardonnays for Forgeron Cellars consistently stand toe to toe with considerably pricier versions. This 2014 comes from six vineyards scattered across Washington, and it offers creamy peach and apricot fruit complemented by subtle, attractive notes of oak and earth. Pairs with: Chicken fricassee.”

 

2013 Two Vintners Merlot

Morgan Lee took home two awards for Two Vintners this year, seriously impressive in a blind, multi-judge setting. His Columbia Valley Syrah (which we’ve offered; and reoffered) won Best Syrah, $25 or less, and this Merlot (which we’ve never previously offered), won Best Merlot, more than $25, despite being one of the very least expensive Merlots tasted in the category. You might describe how we feel about Morgan Lee as a “friend crush.” It started out innocently enough—he’s always made beautiful wines for Covington Cellars and Two Vintners and we became fans. Then we found out, we really liked him as a person. He’s equal parts talented winemaker and the kind of guy you’d like to have a beer with. Things became more serious when we publicly expressed our feelings for Morgan. We asked him to make wine with us—and now he is responsible for the majority of the Block Wines label. Morgan is not so new to the scene—Two Vintners was founded in 2007—but he does represent the wildly talented, boundary-pushing new watch of Washington vintners.

Seattle Magazine: Woodinville-based Morgan Lee was named Winemaker to Watch in last year’s version of these awards, and that honor is confirmed by this beautiful Merlot, the backbone of which comes from the outstanding Pepper Bridge Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. It’s noteworthy for its tannic structure, which adds finishing chew and espressoey goodness to a wine replete with smoke-inflected black fruit. Pairs with: A grass-fed New York strip steak.

2014 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon

This was the winning wine in a devilishly competitive category: Cabernets, $30-$65. Walla Walla Vintners was created in 1995, but has roots that date back to the early 1980s—when much of Washington was still thought to be the wild, wild west of wine making. The eighth winery in their namesake appellation, Walla Walla Vintners has earned their reputation through over 20 years of creating traditional, elegant, and refined wines. Their age-worthy specimens have never ceased to garner attention—and according to Seattle Magazine, are drinking as elegantly as ever.

Seattle Magazine: This Cabernet (86 percent of the blend, which also includes small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) comes from seven different vineyards scattered across the Walla Walla Valley, a testament to owner Gordy Venneri’s deep roots in the valley. Blackberry and black currant fruits are swaddled in warming barrel tones of cocoa and cinnamon. The toothsome finish is long and satisfying. Pairs with: Slow-cooker short ribs.