Full Pull Washington Meets Italy

January 24, 2018

Hello friends. We have offered many Cavatappi wines since Full Pull’s inception, and that’s no accident. It’s a terrific fit for our model: a 27-year-old Washington winery that few have heard of, started by a former Italian restaurateur and focusing on Italian varietals.

Although Peter Dow’s project has been around for more than 25 years, this is still an insider winery. Cavatappi flies under the radar in large part because their wines are much more likely to show up in restaurants than at retail. And perhaps that makes sense, since Cavatappi’s origins are deeply tied to the restaurant world.

Back in 1984, Peter Dow was the chef/owner of Cafe Juanita, a Kirkland restaurant featuring the cuisine of Northern Italy. After visiting the region himself, Peter was inspired by the number of restaurants in Piedmont that were making their own house wine, and so he set about developing a winery in the cellar of his restaurant. To do so, Peter also had to develop partnerships with growers to put those vines into the ground (growers like Dick Boushey of Boushey Vineyard and Mike Sauer of Red Willow).

In the mid-eighties, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo planted in Washington’s vineyards were practically unheard of—even now, decades later, they could still be classified as rarities. And even more rare is seeing these wines with a little bit of age. That’s what makes today’s offer so exciting.

2013 Cavatappi Maddalena Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo is a real rarity outside of northern Italy, where it is used to make the ethereal wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. The combination of Piedmont’s soil and the dense morning fog that hangs over the vineyards during harvest time is unique in the world. And while it’s impossible to replicate, Red Willow Vineyard has proven qualified at producing a Nebbiolo that can at least be confused with a Langhe Nebbiolo, if not one of the big guns.

On a February day back in 1984—that Peter described as “colder than #@!%”—he and Mike Sauer drank a bottle of Barolo and then proceeded to bury it under the acre of land at Red Willow Vineyard that would become Peter’s Nebbiolo block. The burial was a good-luck ritual designed to woo the spirits of Piedmont. Considering that the vineyard block is still in production 26 years later, perhaps their juju was successful.

This bottle, 100% Nebbiolo, saw 20 months in neutral oak before bottling in August 2015, and has now spent another 30 months in bottle. Clocking in at 14.7%, this wine opens with classic Nebbiolo notes of thorny roses, worn leather, red cherries, tar, and woodsmoke. As food wines go, there’s nothing like Nebbiolo, with its big citrus-pith acids and equally impressive tannins. This bottle does not disappoint, showcasing waves of fruit with firm tannic structure that’s begun to integrate five years past vintage.

Nebbiolo is an entirely different animal from other red wine grapes (different color; different aromas; different flavors). Wine-lovers, upon tasting their first Nebbiolo, generally experience one of two reactions: 1) this is the wine I have been waiting for my whole life; or 2) is something wrong with this wine? Cavatappi’s half a decade old New World Nebbiolo seems to straddle the balance between the two camps. It has enough classic allure to charm Barolo or Barbaresco fans, yet still remains approachable for those looking to dip their toes in the water of Nebbiolo before jumping in the deep end. This is a true palate-expander.

2012 Cavatappi Molly’s Cuvee Sangiovese 

Another treat from the Cavatappi vaults: Sangiovese at six years past vintage from three of the shining stars of Washington: Red Willow, Boushey, and Alder Ridge. The most-planted wine grape in Italy, Sangiovese can be a bit of a chameleon, taking on different qualities from different regions and winemaking. Here in Washington, Sangiovese is gaining popularity, but still finding its domestic footing.

Aged in neutral barrels, this wine, with a listed alcohol of 13.6%, gets right into Sangiovese’s classic fruit and earth. Pressed flowers and fallen leaves meet ripe plums and wild raspberries—with a touch of Italian bitters (read: negroni), of course. This Sangiovese thrives on its backbone of mouthwatering, citrus-soaked acid. Followed by vibrant red fruit, subtle clove spice, dried tarragon and anise seed, this palate, even six years in, proves long and lingering in its beauty. A sommelier’s darling, but for us, a chance to play somm at home with our best, most rustic Italian cooking.

Both of these wines are in a beautiful drinking window—without any signs of slowing down. First come first served up to 24 bottles total (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 Killer Cava

January 23, 2018

Hello friends. There is this sweet spot that exists when it comes to sparkling wine. Yes, we all know and love vintage bottles of Champagne and get excited whenever the occasion calls for that beautiful-yet-expensive juice. However, if all you have is expensive wine, you might have a tendency to save it and never drink it.

So, we search for this sweet spot right in between price and palate. We hunt for sparkling wine that is tasty enough to drink on its own, yet cheap enough to not feel bad about opening or mixing into a delicious sparkling cocktail. Cava can be an incredible source of value—if you’re willing to tiptoe through the minefield of forgettable plonk. We are so willing, and the result is that, every once in awhile, we gain access to a bottle like this, one that offers real pleasure at an accessible tag. Then, we buy it by the case and stockpile it for parties, anniversaries, and random Tuesdays.

NV Torre Oria Cava Brut

Torre Oria Cava Brut has had a permanent place in the Full Pull warehouse for some time now—long time list members might remember that this sparkling wine is one of our former FP team member Matt Tessler’s enduring legacies. We have list members who literally buy whatever we have in stock every time they come into our warehouse—and with good reason. This is a ridiculous value for sparkling wine.

The winery, Torre Oria, was founded in 1897 in Utiel-Requena DOC, just east of Valencia. It occupies this wonderful transition zone between the Mediterranean climate of the coast and the continental climate of Central Spain. Using sustainable methods and dry farming for all of their vineyards, Torre Oria is known for exceptionally high value and exceptionally low prices.

Made from 100% Macabeo grapes, this wine clocks in at a light and lovely 12% alcohol. It opens with leesy and floral subtleties and continues with a core of creamy apricot fruit, lemon zest, and malty notes of brown bread. The palate is marked by bright scrubbin’ bubbles, ready to whet your appetite for the next bite of food. From fish and chips to decadent triple-crème cheese, this is a food friendly sparkler to pair with just about anything. Terrific intensity for the tariff, delicious on its own and a fine choice for a festive sparkling-wine cocktail (a Negroni Sbagliato or French 75, perhaps?).

It’s the start of a new year and time to stock up for all of 2018’s weddings, birthdays, and other various parties. 

Full Pull Sinister

January 22, 2018

Hello friends. We have special holiday-season pricing (down from a release price of $30) on a terrific Rhone blend from David O’Reilly and his team at Owen Roe. What? The holidays are over?

2016 Owen Roe Sinister Hand 
So yeah, this was originally a December deal, but sometimes, if you ask very politely and promise to hit Send in January and also pre-commit to a certain fairly sizable parcel of wine, the holiday season can extend for one additional month. That’s the only way we’re able to hit today’s pricing, which is the lowest we’ve ever had for the Hand (previous vintages went out at 24.99/21.99, and I thought that was a pretty damned good deal too).

I should also note that 2016 was a smaller vintage of the Hand, by about 25%, than the past few. Even though it may seem early for a 2016 red, this one is unlikely to still be kicking by the time we hit, say, Memorial Day.

For those of you unfamiliar with Sinister Hand (Owen Roe’s well-priced, Grenache-dominated Rhone blend), here’s the story, courtesy of the winery: The Sinister Hand shows the severed hand of Owen Roe O’Neil- the Irish patriot whose severed hand appears on the coat of arms of winemaker David O’Reilly’s family. In the 17th century, the O’Neills and O’Reillys were two rival Irish families that formed a rowing competition to reserve rights to some highly regarded land. The two teams agreed that the first to cross the lake and touch the land would win the title to rule the land. The O’Neill boat was behind in the race, but rather than admit defeat, a member of the crew cut off his own hand and threw it ashore, thus winning the title to rule the land. This land still remains in the family.

As I’ve said before: Gross story! Tasty wine!

This vintage is a full 63% Grenache, rounded out with 16% each Syrah and Mourvedre, as well as 5% Cinsault. It clocks in at 14.1% listed alc and begins with a compelling nose of brambly berry fruit, hot-rock minerality, and green savories of garrigue and olive. In the mouth, this is a lovely, propulsive Rhone blend, a vanguard look at the energy and verve of the 2016s in Washington, finally a vintage closer to average after a number of hot, fleshy years in a row. I love the complexity and balance here, and especially the dusty/earthy finishing nuance.

Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): [Text Withheld]


Full Pull Ovum

January 21, 2018

Hello friends. Today we have one of Full Pull’s favorite wineries to write about in the northwest: John House and Ksenija Kostic’s Ovum.

The story goes that in summer 2011, those two left perfectly steady winery jobs at Chehalem Winery, and they began driving all over Oregon looking for distinctive, potentially forgotten Riesling vineyards; vineyards with extreme climate shifts, poor and rocky soils, and talented farmers. They treat all their Rieslings (and Gewurztraminer; that was a happy surprise) the same way: old barrels and/or concrete, native yeast, long ferments.

The goals are to express a sense of place and time in the glass, to emphasize mineral and earth as primary flavor components (pushing fruit and floral to the background), to create something honest, something wild.

We’ve previously pitched these as under-the-radar gems, but that has changed in recent vintages. Over the last few years, Paul Gregutt’s reviews of Ovum for Wine Enthusiast have pushed this winery into the spotlight, bringing much needed attention to the potential of Oregon Riesling. Demand for these wines is steadily increasing, but thanks to our relationship with John and Ksenija, we not only get access to all of their lineup, we also get to offer these wines at a lovely discount.

2016 Ovum Riesling “Off The Grid” (Cedar Ranch Vineyard) 

From a site called Cedar Ranch vineyard, down near the California border in the Rogue Valley, with 15-year-old Riesling vines on an old creekbed that cuts through the Northern-Cali/Southern-Oregon forestland. The soil contains grapefruit-sized river cobbles, or “alluvial galets” over packed silt. The Riesling clocks in at 13.2% alc and 5g/L residual sugar. As in previous vintages (we’ve offered three), this bottle feels reminiscent of Trocken Mosel, with a nose full of lemon-lime citrus, melon, crushed rocks, and diesel. If the goal of Ovum is to showcase place, this wine accomplishes it in spades. There are few other bottles that better exemplify the potential of the Rogue Valley.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): [Text Withheld]

2016 Ovum Riesling “Toro y Scorpio” 

2016 marks this Riesling’s second release. A list favorite from last year, this bottling comes from anunnamed “top site” in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. Soils are marine sedimentary, alcohol is 12.5%, and RS 5g/L. Paul Gregutt loved this wine (as you see from the review below). While he calls this wine bone dry, it tasted a little more on the regular dry side to me with a touch of natural sweetness from apples, peaches, and pears. It is a salty delight with bright acidity, offering plenty of saline mineral tones as balance. Once again, this is a glorious Oregon Riesling. A consistent statement of intent for Ovum.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): [Text Withheld]

2016 Ovum Riesling “Memorista Tradition” 

We have a terrific discount (down from $45) on Ovum’s flagship wine—thanks again to that long, old, happy relationship with Mr. House. This cuvée showcases the basaltic soil of Eola-Amity Hills with a complex palate full of fine-grained minerality, lime, yellow apples, and lotus, all on a plush, full texture. It clocks in at 13.9% listed alcohol and 2g/L RS. We were arguing about whether this was more like great Riesling from Alsace or great Riesling from Austria. Regardless, it’s great. Ovum is truly revolutionary for Riesling out of Oregon—with the Memorista at the front of the pack.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): [Text Withheld]

2016 Ovum Gewurztraminer “Since I Fell For You” (Gerber Vineyard) 

What happens when you set out to make Riesling but you find an amazing Gewurztraminer vineyard? Answer: you make amazing Gewurztraminer. This comes from Gerber Vineyard, a 1976-planted site in the Illinois Valley of southern Oregon, close enough to the Pacific to get some maritime influence. The vineyard sees huge diurnal temperature shifts and sits on alluvial pebbles on top of a base of clay. Vintage after vintage, the vineyard stays the same, but the name of this wine changes. This year, Nina Simone singing Buddy Johnson’s “Since I Fell For You” is the inspiration. Listed alc is 13.5%, with 7g/L RS. As always, this bottle does PacNW Gewurz justice with typicity, texture, and acidity.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): [Text Withheld]

Full Pull Dusted Valley

January 20, 2018

Hello friends. The first time we offered a wine from Dusted Valley was in the second month of Full Pull’s existence: the 2006 Stained Tooth Syrah, way back in November, 2009. Even back then, Corey Braunel and Chad Johnson were producing noteworthy wines. But their progress in the subsequent years has been staggering.

Less than a decade later, they are now serious players in the Walla Walla wine scene. They’ve come to own three separate estate vineyards (including Stoney Vine, a very special site to Full Pull), a badass 12,000 square foot production facility, and an outstanding portfolio of wines under their entry-level Boomtown label and their higher-end Dusted Valley label. That’s an awful lot of progress in a short period of time.

While the entire lineup is impressive, the past few vintages have brought attention to two of our favorites from the bunch: one white and one red.

2016 Dusted Valley Chardonnay Olsen Vineyard

Note: this is normally going to be a $34 Chard, but Dusted Valley has offered us special launch pricing for the new vintage.

This is our second time offering this Chardonnay, and only the second year it’s even been in distribution. This wine represents one of the best recent developments in Washington wine— boutique wineries embracing Chardonnay vineyards and blocks released from contract by Ste Michelle when natural yields fell too low to make sense for their program. This is the foundation for many of the state’s finest Chardonnays, including Wine Spectator’s # 13 wine this year, Charles Smith’s Sixto Uncovered Chardonnay. And it is also the foundation for Dusted Valley’s, which comes entirely from old blocks at Olsen Vineyard.

What exactly are old vines in the New World? A mix of plantings from the mid-1980s through the mid-‘90s, which by Washington Chardonnay standards is old indeed. Olsen is a fairly high-elevation site in the Yakima Valley – about 1100’-1300’ – and fairly cool, too. Just right for Chardonnay. The fruit was whole cluster pressed, then barrel fermented and aged mostly in French Oak (82%; 17% new), the remainder concrete (11%) and stainless (7%).

The result is an integrated, balanced dynamo. It clocks in at 13.2% listed alc but still conveys a real sense of richness. The nose mixes lemon zest, green apple, and stone fruit with salty, roasted almonds and leesy barrel subtleties. The palate continues gloriously, with thoughtfully integrated oak on an energetic, brightly-acidic frame. The balance here creates a dazzling texture and palate-staining intensity, showing off its old-vine roots. A glorious food wine with mouth-watering acidity, this bottle begs for Dungeness crab.

2014 Dusted Valley V.R. Special Cabernet Sauvignon $54.99 (TPU $49.99)

Wine evokes deep rooted memories for all of us. The roses from my grandmother’s garden in Rochester in a bottle of Pinot Noir. My mother’s affinity for licorice candy in the anise notes of Cabernet Sauvignon. The V.R. Special from Dusted Valley evokes something we all love: a chocolate chip cookie. Specifically, the cookie made by Vernon Rhodes, Chad’s grandpa. This cookie was the original V.R. Special. It obviously made an impression on young Chad, who calls the cookie “miraculous,” and the memory lingers. It’s a good window into the folks behind this winery: a funny, family-focused group of people.

What makes the wine special, again, is the old vine material. This comes predominantly from the 1972 block at Dionysus Vineyard, one of the finest old-vine Cabernet sites in Washington. It sees 36% new oak and clocks in at 14.9% listed alc. The fruit here is dark and intense: black currants, blackberries, and black cherries. Tobacco leaf, toasted anise seed, and layered earth complete the picture. On the palate, this wine is decadent, with plenty of lush fruit, cocoa nibs, and whole roasted coffee beans. The tannins are robust, downright chewy, with enough acid to create thoughtful texture and balance.There’s just no substitute for old vine character, and it’s on fine display here, contributing length, complexity, and – ultimately – head-turning density.

Full Pull La Rioja Alta

January 20, 2018

Hello friends. Today we have a pair of well-priced beauties from one of our list’s favorite Rioja houses: La Rioja Alta. I think we all love LRA so much because they’re old-school, but not painfully so. On a 1-10 scale where 1 is modern and 10 is old-school, I’d put LRA as a solid 7 or an 8. (Lopez de Heredia I’d put at 10; Ontanon at 4 or 5). Essentially, these are Rioja classics: true to this particular part of the world, but still retaining plenty of accessibility.

Essentially, LRA has been stubborn in resisting modernity, going against the grain as much of Rioja has gotten bigger, riper, richer. For that, they are rewarded with love and admiration from those of us who care about terroir expression and who want our Rioja to taste like Rioja, not like new-world Tempranillo. Producers like LRA don’t follow the short-term winds of fashion. They play the long game. They think about how their winery will be viewed in decades, in centuries. Here is the wonderful writer Neal Martin, writing for Wine Advocate back in 2012:

La Rioja Alta formed part of my ‘classic Rioja’ day that included Lopez de Heredia and Muga, the triumvirate of wineries in Haro all but a minute’s stroll from each other (which would have been fine, but for the spontaneous downpours). I have admired their wines for many years, Rioja that speaks so eloquently and with such clarity of their place. La Rioja Alta was founded in the town of Haro in 1890. They own 450 hectares of vineyard from which their entire portfolio is sourced, predominantly Tempranillo complemented by Graciano, Mazuelo and Garnacha. Another tenet is their use of American rather than French oak. The wood is cured for two years outdoors before being shaped and hammered into barrels at their own cooperage… Quite simply, these are some of the finest Riojas that can grace your cellar: complex, refined, classic but without compromising fruit intensity and to reiterate: wines that speak about where they come from.

2011 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Reserva – $22.99 (TPU $19.99)

Alberdi is notable for a few reasons. First, it’s the lowest-priced wine in the LRA lineup. Second, it’s the only 100% Tempranillo in the lineup, coming from 30-plus-year-old vineyards at 1500-2000’ above sea level. And finally, it’s the youngest of LRA’s wines. Which is of course a testament to Spain in general, and La Rioja Alta specifically, and their insistence on holding their wines until maturity. The fact that the youngest wine in their lineup is a 2011 vintage is just staggering. This was aged for two years in American oak; the first year in a new barrel, and the second in barrels averaging three years old. It was bottled in December 2014, more than three years ago.

This particular vintage of Alberdi is also important. As you can see in the Rioja Control Board’s vintage chart, 2011 is the most recent vintage to receive the board’s highest ‘E’ (Excellent) rating. In fact, since 2005 there have only been two ‘E’ vintages, back to back in 2010 and 2011. Alberdi is a strong value in a mediocre vintage; in excellent vintages like 2011, it tends to be popular with consumers and press alike.

James Suckling: [Text Withheld]

Listed alc is 13.5%, and this begins with a classic Rioja nose: red cherry fruit and earth and mushroom complicated by American oak nuance of cocoa powder and savory dill. It’s classic old-school Rioja on the palate, too, bright and vibrant and chockful of citrusy acidity, all carrying waves of easy-drinking, tobacco-leaf-inflected red fruit. I’d feel totally comfortable buying a 6-pack of this and opening one every other year for the next dozen years. It has the balance and stuffing to evolve in fascinating directions for at least a decade.

2008 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva

From an ‘MB’-rated vintage (Very Good; one step down from Excellent), this vintage of Ardanza has nevertheless already snagged a pair of outstanding reviews.

James Suckling: [Text Withheld]

Wine Advocate (Luis Gutierrez): [Text Withheld]

An 80/20 Tempranillo/Garnacha blend, this was aged for 2.5-3 years in American oak before blending/bottling in 2013. The wine has had another five years to develop in bottle, and it shows. Listed alc is 13.5%, and this kicks off with a nose full of maturing savories – cedar and soil and porcini mushrooms – to go with a core of black cherry fruit. If the Alberdi is all about energy, the Ardanza is all about intensity. This lights up the palate receptors with its extract and richness and sap. There’s real fruit succulence here – likely from the 20% Garnacha hit – and it pairs perfectly to Tempranillo’s leafy-earthy charm. The overall package is balanced and delicious, offering notable finishing chew, redolent of chamomile.

We have a hold on all the Alberdi remaining in Seattle. More ’11 may arrive at some point, and if it does, you can bet we’ll send a reoffer.

Full Pull Good News Bad News

January 19, 2018

Hello friends. Reoffer today on one of our most popular Block Wines: the umami-soaked Ankleroller. Since our original offer back in November, there have been a number of developments: two pieces of good news and one bad.

2015 Block Wines Syrah Ankleroller Block Stoney Vine Vineyard
Bad news first. There will not be a 2017 vintage of Ankleroller. The frost damage at Stoney Vine was just too severe to yield usable fruit for our program. It’s the bargain you make when you decide to work with Rocks District fruit. In exchange for savory, terroir-expressive Syrah, you accept the fact that a hard freeze is going to knock out one out of every four or five vintages. It’s the sweet agony of winemaking; part of what makes this beverage more poignant than most. So we have the remainder of our 2015, the 2016 which is still in puncheon and will be bottled in a few months, and then a multi-year break.

The first piece of good news came on December 18, when Wine Press Northwest announced the results of their year-end Platinum Judging. Here’s what this judging is all about: Wine Press Northwest created the Platinum Judging in 2000 as a way to determine some of the best wines of the Pacific Northwest. To accomplish this, we chart more than 40 professionally judged wine competitions worldwide to track the gold medals won by fruit from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia. In 2017, Northwest wineries were awarded more than 2,300 gold medals at professional judgings. These wines are categorized and judged blind during three days by three panels of wine experts, who award wines with Double Platinum, Platinum, Double Gold and Best Buy. A wine is awarded a medal based on how a majority of the judges voted. If all the judges on a panel deem the wine a Platinum, that wine is awarded a rare, unanimous Double Platinum.

I’m pleased to say that the Ankleroller earned one of those rare, unanimous Double Platinums, one of only three Syrahs in the competition to earn that honor. (Side note: Block Wines actually earned two Double Plats; the other for our much loved Extra Brut Rosé.)

Good news #2 came a day later on December 19, when Owen Bargreen informed me that the Ankleroller made his annual Top 100 list. International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): [Text Withheld].

Long time list members know that I view the Rocks District as holy land in northwest winemaking. There are only a handful of patches of land in the world that transparently, evocatively express their terroir, and the Rocks District is one of them. To get to partner with Morgan Lee to make our own version of a Rocks Syrah for our list members is a total thrill, and to see it pick up accolades like this is super gratifying for our team, and hopefully for our list members as well.