Full Pull Pinots

March 27, 2018

Hello friends. Many people consider Pinot Noir a decidedly fall beverage. I think it’s something about the sound of crunching leaves and foraging for mushrooms. For me, spring has always been an equally appealing time to stock up on Pinot Noir. These wines are always food friendly enough for Easter dinner or a Passover Seder, with low-to-mid level alcohol that’ll keep you awake as the sun sets increasingly later and later.

Over the past few years, Pinots—when listed at the right price and made by the right winery—have begun to beat out list member favorites, like Cab and Syrah, in popularity. So when Pinot season hits, spring or fall, we search for samplings from our neighbors to the South in hopes of finding Oregon bottles that belong on our dinner tables and make our wallets happy. Here is a pair of recent highlights:

2016 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

Adelsheim represents the best thing about the Willamette Valley: the spirit of innovation. While Adelsheim might not be the trendiest/hippest producer right now, David and Ginny Adelsheim truly helped pioneer the region. In 1971, David Adelsheim purchased his first 19 acres and launched his winery—just five years after David Lett planted Eyrie’s first vines. Now, Adelsheim has six estate vineyards covering over 180 acres. Adelsheim falls into the small group of growers and vintners who are responsible for the Willamette’s past, present, and future.

And honestly, one of best things about these pioneering wineries is that they aren’t the trendiest or the hippest. They know how to make wine, they know their style, and they stick to it. With Adelsheim, it’s decades of consistency, exceptional purity, and incredible value. Today’s offer offers all of that—especially value. This is without a doubt the lowest TPU pricing we’ve ever had for this wine. Released at $32, this wine was delicious. Available for $19.99, it’s utterly joy inducing.

Raised in French oak, 25% new, for 10 months, this cuvée is a blend of Adelsheim’s Pinot holdings across the Willamette Valley. Delightfully red—pomegranate, raspberry, cranberry—and decidedly spiced with allspice, cloves, and cinnamon cocoa, the nose is bright and enticing. In the mouth, a midweight palate (13.5% listed alcohol) leads with juicy fruit and the winery’s signature textural elegance, all studded with bits of toasty wood and leafy herbs. Subtle tannins give a touch of bite as it finishes back where it all started—deliciously red.

Vinous (Josh Raynolds): [Text Withheld]

2015 Cristom Vineyards Pinot Noir Mt. Jefferson Cuvee 

An easy wine to love, Mt. Jefferson has always been the gateway drug into the Cristom lineup. Half the cost of every other Pinot Noir they offer, it has always represented the value side of Cristom. However, this year, Mt. Jefferson represents the best of Cristom, garnering the highest review from James Suckling of the five Pinot Noirs the winery made in 2015 (95pt, review text below).

This wine can no longer be described as the gateway into Cristom’s house style—rather, it has now become the definition of the winery’s house style. Made from 75% estate fruit, the rest is sourced from winery partners that Cristom has been working with for over 25 years. After multiple tastings of every lot of the 2015 vintage, Mt. Jefferson is the blend that winemaker Steve Doerner and team craft first every year. Whole cluster fermented with native yeast, aged in French oak (12% new) for 12 months, this wine gets the hallmark Cristom treatment before bottling. 13.5% alcohol, it opens with everything I personally love about great Pinot Noir—especially from Oregon. It smells like the whole plant—the fruit berries, the blossoms, the stems, the leaves, and the earth that grew it—all mixed together. It’s holistic, complete even, with nothing stealing the show or missing. The palate shines with a gemstone minerality, blanketed with spiced fruit and bramble, showing off structure with brilliant acidity and silky yet firm tannins.

James Suckling: [Text Withheld]

Both of these Pinots would be perfect pairings for the dinner table, with brilliant acid structure to complement all types of food. They would also be just fine on their own, because you don’t need an extra reason to drink delicious Oregon Pinot Noir.


Full Pull Betz

March 15, 2018

Hello friends. The opportunity to work with Betz Family Winery is one of the great professional thrills that comes with a career in Washington wine. It’s a widely held belief: Bob Betz’s face would be chiseled on a Mt. Rushmore of Washington winemakers. He is one of the very few Masters of Wine to ever make wine in Washington, having achieved that honor back in 1998. After a 28-year career at Chateau Ste Michelle, he launched his eponymous winery in 1997, crushing 150 cases worth of wine in the Woodinville warehouse district.

Since then, production has grown to 3500 cases total, but acclaim has grown more quickly than that, forcing the family to close their mailing list in 2008 and establishing them as one of Washington’s cult wineries. Steve and Bridgit Griessel came on board as managing owners in 2011, and the winery is open to its list members on just two weekends each year: once in the fall, for the release of its Rhone portfolio, and once in the spring, for the release of these Bordeaux-styled wines.

The challenge, as usual, is allocations. (As a reminder, our allocation scheme favors breadth over depth, so that everyone gets one bottle before anyone gets two. And our formula for prioritizing allocations includes overall orders, frequency of orders, recency of orders, and list tenure, among other factors.) Just like every spring, these are painfully limited wines, but trust that we’ll do our best to source as much as possible for our list members.

2015 Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz

Clos de Betz is a blend of 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Petit Verdot, raised in 100% new French oak. It has a listed alcohol of 13.8%. Year after year, it’s a glorious wine, best 8-12 years past vintage, and an exemplar of the power and grace of Washington Merlot. In our eternal quest to champion Merlot’s worth, Clos is a driving force.

From the winery: To tell the story of Clos de Betz, you must start at the beginning of Bob and Cathy Betz’ love affair with wine. The year is 1973, the place is Burgundy, France, the players are two young travelers in the beginning of a journey that has now spanned over 4 decades. Standing at the foot of the vineyard Chambertin-Clos de Beze; one of the most important vineyard parcels in not only all of France, but the world, and the young couple dreamed of one day trying their hand at winemaking, and naming the wine “Clos de Betz.” Fast forward two and a half decades, and this dream became a reality. At the time, Washington State already had a reputation for producing strong examples of Merlot, and the early drinking, generous character of a Merlot based wine was something the couple couldn’t resist. In 1998 the first Clos de Betz was born.

2015 Clos de Betz offers the highest percentage of Merlot for this wine to date, at 75%. More often the final blend contains closer to 65% Merlot, and the higher than normal percentage reflects our success with the variety this vintage. The wine’s color shows the additional Merlot with shades of ruby red and plum. The aromas lead with spices of cardomom and five-spice. Red fruit aromas of black cherry,  pomegranate, and raspberry flavors are complimented by cedar and sassafras notes. A very long Malolactic fermentation, which lasted into April, endowed our Merlot lots with unusually silky textures. The integration of tannins has lent this notable finish.

2015 Betz Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille

Pere is always Cabernet dominant, sourced primarily from Ciel du Cheval and Kiona Heart of the Hill on Red Mountain. This year Cab makes up 87% of the blend, the remainder Merlot and Petit Verdot, all aged for 19 months 100% new French oak. The listed alcohol is 14.5%. Pere is considered one of Washington’s most age-worthy wines, emerging from its shell at about a decade past vintage and drinking beautifully for years after that.

From the winery: Père de Famille is our Cabernet Sauvignon based wine from the Columbia Valley of Washington; but to stop the story here would say little of what it took for us to get to this far. Since 1997, the quest to produce the quintessential Washington Cabernet Sauvignon has sent us searching the state’s vineyard land, looking for parcels capable of contributing to our goal. To sum it up, nearly two decades of vineyard trials.     

2015 Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon clearly shows its lineage clearly while also providing a clear expression of the vintage. Deep magenta to the core, it begins with a knockout aroma of black currant and black. Complex notes of bay leaf, thyme and black olive share the stage with baking spices. Given time in the glass, perfumed white flowers and red currants tease their way out. The palate impression is one of early tannins integration, creating a seamless texture and terrific length on the palate. The 2015 Père de Famille is delicious now but will easily offer up to two decades of cellar life.

As expected, our allocations are quite limited on both wines. Please limit order requests to 2 bottles of Clos and 1 bottle of Pere, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests (I wouldn’t be surprised if some newbies are zeroed out entirely; apologies if that’s the case). We will aim to allocate the wines Tuesday morning, so please try to place all order requests by the end of Monday. The wines are in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.


Full Pull Rose Spring Cleaning

March 14, 2018

Hello friends, There are a lot of myths about rosé. You can only drink rosé in the summer. Have you ever tried it on your Thanksgiving table? It’s breathtaking. Rosés are too sweet. Yes, Sutter Home may have ruined a generation for drinking delicious pink juice, but the typical rosé profile is racy, acidic, lively. You should only drink current vintage rosé. This one really gets my goat, because it is unequivocally untrue. While you may not want to cellar a Provençal rose for twenty years, there is something to be said about giving rosé a year or two in bottle to improve. There is nothing wrong with drinking ‘15 and ‘16 rosés this year—In fact, some of your favorites from the last few summers might show better than ever in the coming months.

The only good thing about these falsehoods is that they mean past vintage rosés are usually sold for a screamin’ deal. Today, we’re taking full advantage of that. Below you’ll find three rosés. All 2016 vintage. All under $20. If you’re looking to stock up on some international treasures without breaking the bank for a summer full of pink, this is the place for you.

2016 Domaine Georges Vigouroux Gouleyant Rosé

This is a juicy, bright, medium bodied rosé that a year in bottle has done wonders for. Coming from Domaine George Vigouroux, a century old winery in Cahors, this family has been pioneering Malbec in the south of France for four generations. This bottling is 100% Malbec from some of the highest elevation vineyards along the Lot, a river that runs 481 kilometres east to west through south-central France. The vineyards grow atop the gravel and clay terraces perched high above the water—and slowly seep in the mineral influence throughout the growing season.

Up front, this wine has a healthy dose of fresh strawberries, spring florals, sweet cream, and clay. The palate is bright and lively with grapefruit-tinged acidity and plenty of red fruit to start. It’s a fresh and fun bottle from a serious producer. The beguiling combo of fruit and acid make this the perfect summer dinner pairing: BBQ chicken legs charred on the grill, green salads full of farmers market produce, buttery corn on the cob, endless bowls of fresh guacamole and chips.

2016 Saget la Perrière La Petite Perrière Rosé 

The Saget family has been making wine in the Loire Valley since 1790 with a number of estates along the river, from Angers to Sancerre. They are one of only a handful of domaines that can say they’ve been in the Loire wine business for three successive centuries. This rosé, 100% Pinot Noir, is sourced almost entirely from the winery’s estate vineyards in Touraine, with a little bit of juice from some of the winery’s long-term partners—which is why this bottle gets labeled “Vin de France” and we get to sell it for a sawbuck.

With a listed alcohol of 12%, La Petite Perrière opens with a nose full of raspberries, wild roses, melon rind, and wet rock. On the palate, it’s elevated—layered with light-yet-supple red fruit, flower petals, citrus vivacity, and stony minerals. The wine’s freshness makes it a clear choice for afternoon imbibing, patio sipping, chinese takeout, and much more. My plan: pick up a couple of banh mi, chill this bottle, go outside, devour everything, repeat for the rest of the summer.

2016 Mathilde Chapoutier Sélection Grand Ferrage Rosé

This Cotes de Provence comes from Mathilde Chapoutier, daughter to Michel Chapoutier, the owner of list-favorite, Hermitage-based M. Chapoutier. She is the eighth generation of Chapoutier to make wine in France. Though she grew up on her father’s estate in Hermitage, her extensive travels through France’s major wine regions developed her passion for the limestone and clay soils of Provence. Made from Grenache Cinsault, Syrah, and Rolle (the French name for Vermentino), this bottle clocks in at 12.5% listed alcohol. Done entirely in stainless steel vats, this bottle shows off all the things we love most about Provence rosé: crisp acidity, delicate fruit, and a delightfully dry finish.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): [Text Withheld]


Full Pull Onset of Spring

March 13, 2018

Hello friends. Spring is on the ascendancy. Nettles are turning up on menus now. Soon raabs and asparagus. Fresh halibut can’t be far behind. Thoughts turn to white wines, don’t they? I especially love Sauvignon Blanc this time of year. Its grassy green pyrazine edge pairs perfectly with all the first fresh greens of the season.

The varietal Sauvignon Blanc game in Washington is, admittedly, kind of weaksauce. However, one category where Washington does great is with white Bordeaux, which take Sauvignon Blanc and blends it with Semillon. I wish we saw more of these blends, because the quality is excellent. There’s a trio of bottlings that have proven consistently outstanding over the years:

Buty has their outstanding Sem-Sauv-Musc blend, which tends to favor Semillon. And I know many of us adore Chaleur Estate Blanc from DeLille. That one tends towards a 70/30 Sauv/Sem blend, and it has proven to be both delicious in its youth and also able to age effortlessly for a decade or more. That said, it also retails for about forty bucks. The wine we’re offering today – the third in the trio of excellent Washington white BDX blends – also favors Sauvignon Blanc, but it comes in at a considerably lower tag:

2016 Cadaretta SBS

The first thing I should mention is that our list members are getting an exclusive jump on this wine. The rest of Seattle is still selling through the 2015 vintage, but after tasting both, I was gaga for the ’16, an undeniably superior white wine vintage. After all, 2015 was hot as can be, and 2016 was nice and average in a way not seen since 2012. Cool to average vintages yield white wines with freshness, purity, and bright acidity; exactly what we’re looking for. I appreciate the Cadaretta folks’ willingness to let us dip into this vintage early; to me, springtime is the perfect timing to access this beauty.

Second thing: this wine has a lovely review from Stephen Tanzer, he of the gorgeous tasting notes and reticent scores. Recall that a 90pt review from Mr. Tanzer is a fine review indeed, and note that he too strongly favors the ’16: Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): [Text Withheld]

I’ve loved SBS for quite some time now. Proof? Our first SBS offer (from the epic-for-white-wines 2008 vintage) was on February 3, 2010, more than eight years ago. (In 2010, I had no kids, lived in a Seattle apartment, and did who-can-remember-what with all my time. What a life.) This has always been an under-the-radar gem of a wine in an under-the-radar gem of a category.

In 2016 it is a 67/33 blend of SB and Semillon, from four different vineyard sites:  Frenchman Hills (Ancient Lakes), Art Den Hoed (Yakima Valley), Rosebud (Wahluke Slope), and Charbonneau (Columbia Valley). This was fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel, and bottled in March of last year. It clocks in at 13.8% listed alc, and my aromatic notes are quite similar to Tanzer’s: citrus fruits and blossoms, grassy green notes and minerals. Just a lovely, pure, Sauvignon-driven nose. The SB shines on the palate as well, offering a super-bright and refreshing acid profile; the Semillon contributes pleasing mid-palate flesh and figgy nuance. This finishes, dry, clean, and brisk as can. Grill up a mess of asparagus and toss with olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and a dollop of anchovy paste. Give yourself a Chili’s pour of SBS (To. The. Rim!) and announce the onset of spring.

 


Full Pull Mount Eden Estate

March 12, 2018

Hello friends. High atop the steep slopes that jaggedly run up and down the Santa Cruz Mountains lives one of the most influential wineries in California: Mount Eden. To understand this place—the 80 year-old estate meticulously tended to, the terroir-specific wine made by Jeffrey Patterson—is to understand what makes California’s wine history so rich and important to the rest of the country. In a time when wine was still discovering its place in the United States, Martin Ray decided to trek up the hairpin bends of these rolling peaks and plant grapes that were lovingly brought over from France fifty years before.

Though the winery was not even named Mount Eden at the time, Martin Ray planted his first grapes in 1945. From there, he continued to plant varieties up and down the mountain side. The estate’s wide-ranging elevation differences, as well as differences in maritime influence, yield microclimates diverse enough to grow everything from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Cabernet. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sit at a cooler, higher elevation of about 2,000 feet, while Cabernet takes up the warmer slopes closer to sea level.

There is no question that this estate is special—it brought a man up a mountain 80 years ago to plant in a place no one else deemed fit. And the uniqueness of this place shows through the wines it produces. Eric Asmov described the estate’s influence best in a 2005 New York Times Article: ” The cabernets are more sinewy and lean than rich and concentrated. The pinot noir, which is made in very small quantities, is light-bodied and graceful rather than sweet and plush. And, rather than flavors of oak, butterscotch, tropical fruit and popcorn, the chardonnay offers captivating texture and subtle flavors wound around a core of lively acidity.”

With consistently low yields, the quantity of these wines is never very much. When we get a chance to offer them, we jump on it immediately. This is only the third time ever that we’ve seen enough bottles to offer these wines to the list. Allocations may be brutal, but we’ll do our best to get every last bottle we can.

2014 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains

In the late 1940s, Martin Ray planted the first six acres of Chardonnay at Mount Eden (which was known as Martin Ray Estates at the time). The vines were cultivated from a Burgundian planting that was brought to the United States from France sometime at the turn of the 20th century. Now, 20 acres of Estate Chardonnay are farmed at Mount Eden.

This wine was 100% barrel-fermented in new and one-year-old French Burgundy barrels and aged for 10-month sur lie. The listed alcohol is 13.5%. It opens with bright lemon fruit, hazelnuts, lilies, and toasted barrel subtleties. The palate is a perfect snapshot of Mount Eden’s signature acid, energized and bright. It breaks through the warm, rich tones of apple and pear fruit, salty, oven-roasted nuts, and a touch of dusty earth. Mount Eden’s estate Chardonnay is widely considered one of California’s best and longest-lived white wines. If you have any interest in seeing what Chardonnay can do after five, ten, or even fifteen years, put one of these away in your cellar.

JebDunnuck.com (Jeb Dunnuck): [Text Withheld]

Wine Enthusiast (Matt Kettmann): [Text Withheld]

2014 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains

Though not 100% certain, it’s rumored that the original planting of Pinot Noir at Mount Eden came from a Louis Latour Burgundy selection that was brought to California in the 1880s by Paul Masson. In many ways, this 1945 planting of Pinot Noir represents the beginning of fine wine in California. We’re talking about grapes that were brought from France to the United States during a time when no one really cared about wine—and then planted on a mountain top no one was very interested in. Now, Mount Eden overlooks the populated mass that is Silicon Valley. In 1945, this region was farmland. Planting grapes there was not just revolutionary—it was widely thought to be idiotic.

The 2014 was raised in new French ok, 75% new, for 18 months. It clocks in at 13% listed alc and offers a gorgeous mix of pure strawberry fruit, wildflowers, and exotic spice. It is rare to see this much charm and this much power in one Pinot package.

JebDunnuck.com (Jeb Dunnuck): [Text Withheld]

Wine Enthusiast (Matt Kettmann): [Text Withheld]

2013 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains

In the 1890s, American viticulturist Emmett Rixford obtained selected cuttings from Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux, France. Rixford planted his famous La Questa Vineyard in Woodside, California with the selections, and Martin Ray planted his first Cabernet vineyard with cuttings from La Questa in the late 1940s. In the 1980s, the present-day Cabernet estate vines of Mount Eden were planted from cuttings from the 1940s planting.

If your frame of reference for California Cabernet is ripe-and-rich Napa Cab, this mountain-grown Cabernet will blow your mind. The climate is cool—influenced by the vineyard’s altitude and proximity to both the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean. The combination, while unusual for growing Cabernet, creates a perfect microclimate for more Euro-style wines with refreshing acidity and moderate alcohol.

The 2013 vintage is 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot (which all grow alongside the Cabernet). Fermented in small 1,000-gallon stainless steel tanks, the new wine is aged in new Bordelaise chateau barrels for twenty-two months. The listed alcohol is 13.5%.

From winemaker Jeffrey Patterson himself: The style of this wine is massive. There is a depth of flavor, texture, vibrancy, freshness, and richness I have not seen before. The nuanced nose reveals black currant, graphite, and our surrounding mountain flora. On the palate, it has a stunning richness to balance the abundant tannin and acid.  We pride ourselves on our “old world” style, and I cannot say if I have made a more compelling vin de garde in the last thirty years.

Wine Enthusiast (Matt Kettmann): [Text Withheld]

 


Full Pull Reoffers: The Killer Bs

March 11, 2018

Hello friends. This month’s slate of reoffers comes from the killer Bs of Italy: Barbaresco, Brunello, and Barolo. All three were autumn/winter offers, so many of you who purchased on initial offer have had a chance to see what all the fuss is about. And no surprise: all three have been popular reorder targets since.

2013 Tintero Barbaresco

Originally offered November 10, 2017. Excerpts from the original: At $20, decent Barbaresco is practically impossible to source. Tintero is the exception, not the rule. Over the years, we’ve learned to jump on this wine when we can, and it’s become a list favorite because of that. We’ve offered every Tintero Barbaresco ever made (it began with the 2008 vintage; this is our sixth in a row), and at this point, we’ve probably sold the majority of all the bottles of Tintero Barbaresco that ever made it into the US. Our list members know a good value when they see one, and it doesn’t get much better than a Kermit Lynch-imported Barbaresco at a tariff more often seen for Langhe Nebbiolos.

Tinero’s story is one of love, family, and of course, wine. The winery was founded when Pierre Tintero, a Frenchmen, moved to Piedmont in the early 1900s and started doing odd jobs around a small wine estate near Mango. Two years later, under the aegis of Cupid or Bacchus, he married the owner of the estate, Rosina Cortese. Together, the two worked the vines, and bottled their first Dolcetto in 1914 as war broke out across Europe. Today, the estate lives on, and is now run by third (Elvio) and fourth (Marco and Cinzi) generation Tinteros.

This clocks in at 14% listed alc and begins with what has now become a calling card for this wine—a killer nose, evocative and expressive. Black cherry, fig, leather, tobacco, dried florals, baking spices, and a smoky minerality. The palate perfectly balances juicy red fruit, crushed stone, and leafy tobacco as it moves toward a finish full of licorice and leather. This is a robustly structured wine with bright acid and toothsome tannins that still offers real approachability for Barbaresco. This bottle can compete with many different examples from the region that double or triple its price.

2011 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino

Originally offered November 17, 2017, at a price well of its release of $69. Excerpts from the original: Poggio Antico is a family run winery in Montalcino. According to some records, this estate dates back to the 1800s, but it really didn’t come to life until the 1900s, when electricity was finally brought in and vineyards were planted across the estate. In the 1980s, the property was purchased by Giancarlo and Nuccia Golder, a Milanese couple that had fallen in love with Montalcino. Today, the property is run by their youngest daughter, Paola.

The estate is made up of about 200 hectares of open fields, hearty woods, olive groves, and vineyards. It sits about 1,500 feet above sea level, and boasts one of the highest altitudes in all of Brunello. This means the vineyards see steady breezes through the day and night, keeping rain, fog, and heat moving during crucial growing periods. The vineyard sites are all south and southwest facing, planted atop calcareous and rocky soils that provide perfect drainage for these grapes. The unique combination of altitude, positioning, and soil quality set Poggio Antico apart—giving the wines a notable, elegant character.

2011 was a warm vintage for Tuscany, which crafted Brunellos with incredible accessibility—wines that are ready to be enjoyed sooner rather than ready for the cellar. This particular example begins with a classic Brunello note of fresh and dried cherries, exotic brown spices (cardamom, coriander), and rose petals. On the palate, the warmth of the vintage shines through immediately. This clocks in at 14% listed alc and drinks richly-fruited (succulent cherry), along with all the dark earthy goodies we’d expect from good Brunello. There’s still plenty of juicy acidity – this is Sangiovese after all – but ultimately what makes this wine so great is how accessible and approachable it is right now. This is not Brunello that needs years to come together in a cellar; it’s glorious right now.

2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole

Originally offered December 21, 2017, the sixth in our eight-part year-ending Instant Gratification series. Excerpts from the original:

Vajra is a well-loved Piedmont producer among our list members, and Bricco delle Viole is their flagship Barolo. We’ve offered several previous vintages, but none quite as evocative as this one. I loved it enough that I bought every remaining bottle in western Washington. If we don’t sell it all today, no worries; Galloni’s drinking window is ends in 2038, and that may be conservative; this drinks like a 40-50 year wine to me. It’s already haunting aromatically, with flowers galore (the usual Nebbiolo roses, along with darker violet tones), tarry streaks, earth and leaf and pure red fruit, all lifted by Barolo menthol. I couldn’t stop sniffing this one. The palate is an honest expression of the very best Nebbiolo can offer, with intensely robust, perfectly tuned structure, especially in the form of ripe earthy tannins. Those tannins will form the scaffolding of a wine that will evolve for decades, and there’s plenty of fruit there to undergo that evolution. If you drink it this holiday season or any over the next five years, consider a multi-hour decant and a nice prime rib to let it show its best. This is glorious Barolo.

Vinous (Antonio Galloni): [Text Withheld]


Full Pull Block 1

March 11, 2018

Hello friends. Today we have Cabernet Sauvignon from the original block of a site planted out in 2005 for none other than Quilceda Creek Vintners, and then used by QC for their program from 2007 through 2011, when their own estate site in the Horse Heaven Hills came online. This is as fine a site for growing Cabernet Sauvignon as currently exists in Washington, and it’s all ours:

2015 Block Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Block 1 Discovery Vineyard

[Note: we did produce a 2014 vintage of this, but in such small quantities that we were never able to write it up in a proper offer. This is the first official offer of our Block Wines Cab.]

I’ve said before that the purpose of Block Wines, Full Pull’s house winery, is to offer truly terroir-expressive wines: single varieties, from single blocks within single vineyards. An alternative explanation: I’m a control freak with strong opinions.

The control freak part: I want to know that there are certain wines that our list members can have access to at certain pricing, year in and year out. Syrah from the Rocks District. Grenache from Dick Boushey’s immaculate eponymous Yakima Valley vineyard. And Cabernet Sauvignon planted for *the* Washington Cabernet luminary.

The strong opinions part? Well, that’s probably obvious from the previous paragraph too. To begin with, I’ve gradually come around to believing that the Horse Heaven Hills is currently the best part of Washington for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. Red Mountain, Walla Walla, Yakikma, Wahluke: all excellent as well. But Cab grown in the best HHH sites offers a robust tannic scaffolding and a persistent graphitic minerality that I just don’t see elsewhere.

There’s a reason Champoux Vineyard (undeniably the most famous name in Washington for Cabernet fruit) has earned its accolades. This subsection of the northwest is just tailor-made for Cab. But Champoux is imperfectly sited, as its owners and fruit buyers have discovered over the years. It sits in something of a bowl, and in bad frost years, it can get severely damaged. In the long run, I suspect that some of the neighboring sites to Champoux – those that share its soils but not its susceptibility to frost damage – will be judged superior. Vineyards like Phinny Hill. Like Double Canyon. And most certainly like Discovery.

To get us oriented, here is a map showing Discovery in relation to Champoux. As you can see, Disco sits high up on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River. The proximity to the river and the steeper slope both help with frost problems. Wind also whips up off the Columbia, gently dehydrating grapes and leading to little buckshot Cabernet berries with very high skin-to-juice ratio, which leads to incredible tannic structure in finished Cabernets from Discovery.

I have three Discovery pictures I’d like to share from previous vineyard visits. Here is a picture looking up a row, showing the perfect, gentle, south-facing slope. Here is a pic of the top of the vines looking out over the Columbia, showing the proximity to the mighty river. And here is a pic of a perfect Cabernet grapevine, now a little more than a decade old.

I first heard about Disco back in 2010-2011. At that point, I believe there were three main wineries working with the fruit: Quilceda Creek, Andrew Will, and Adams Bench; serious producers all. Milo and Kay May are the owners and growers at Discovery, and they planted out the site in 2005 with the encouragement of Paul Champoux (Champoux Vineyard is right around the corner), and the Golitzin family of Quilceda Creek, who used Discovery Block 1 fruit from 2007 through 2011, until their own Horse Heaven Hills estate came online. This vineyard is just entering its teenage years, and the result so far have been staggering. I’m thrilled that we’re locked into Discovery Cabernet for the foreseeable future.

We took a chance last autumn and submitted this Cab to the Great Northwest Invitational, one of the premier blind multi-panel judgings that happens each year in the Pacific Northwest. The wine had only been in bottle for about five weeks, but apparently even then it was shining, earning a gold medal (one of just 16 golds among 80 Cabernet Sauvignons judged).

This vintage was entirely barrel-fermented (thanks, Morgan; I know that wasn’t easy!), all with native yeasts, and then pressed into a single once-used 500-liter French oak puncheon and a single new French barrique; so about 30% new wood. It was aged for 21 months before bottling last August, and has now had another 7 months to come around in bottle. Alc is 14.7%, and aromas come roaring up out of the glass: gorgeous Cab notes that gain in complexity with each passing hour: crème de cassis and black tea; cedar and violet; persistent notes of graphitic minerality, the signature of this area. The palate is seamless, with a rich attack, a plump mid-palate, and a chewy finish awash in green-tea tannins. There’s a vein of eucalyptus that flows through this wine, keeping things fresh and lively. Ultimately, the watchword here is balance: balance of richness and structure; balance of fruit and earth elements. I would defy those who believe Cabernet can’t express terroir to taste this wine and tell me it isn’t chiseled out of Kay and Milo May’s Horse Heaven dirt.


Full Pull Kevin White

March 10, 2018

Hello friends. In the beginning, Kevin White would release his wines once a year to great buzz and excitement. We’d offer his ridiculously excellent La Fraternite and En Hommage, immediately sell out, and set the clock 365 days forward.

Starting in 2016, Kevin inaugurated a second release, offering one well-priced gateway-drug wine and one rare single-vineyard gem. So now, about 182½ days after the first release of the year, we offer his ridiculously excellent Red Wine and Heritage, immediately sell out, set the clock roughly 182½ days forward, and the cycle continues.

Today is that day:

2016 Kevin White Winery Red Wine

*As far as logistics go with this particular wine, we’re likely to only get one shot. Unlike Kevin’s higher-end wines, which are carefully allocated and doled out, this red is being offered in open inventory. The good news: we can ask for whatever amount our list members want; the bad: so can every other account in town. Reviews aren’t out yet, but the 2015 vintage garnered 92pts from Sean Sullivan, an impressive achievement at this price point. If that happens again—which would surprise no one—this wine will be gone before reorders are even submitted.*

Probably the most important thing to know about the wine itself is that it comes entirely from Kevin-vinified juice. He’s not purchasing any bulk juice to fluff this wine up. And while he’s not revealing the exact vineyards or breakdown involved (wisely, so as not to aggravate the excellent growers he’s working with, who might not be so crazy about seeing their grapes end up in a sub-$20 bottle), we can intuit the suspects: Upland and Olsen, Boushey and Elephant Mountain. All fantastic sites for Rhone varieties in Washington.

And this wine is indeed chock full of Rhone varieties: 45% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 23% Mourvedre. It clocks in at 14.4% listed alc and begins with an exuberant nose, full of blueberries, ripe cherries, fresh herbs, magnolia blossoms, and a touch of game: euphoric for any Rhone fan. The palate shows off Kevin’s trademark textural elegance—pairing all the goodness from the nose with lively acidity, purposeful tannins, and a persistent finish. The overall package is one of the strongest sub-$20 Rhone blends coming from Washington, punching well above its price class, and another data point arguing that this is a real growth category for our state going forward. Pair this with cassoulet, grilled sausage, or just about anything else. It was made for the dinner table.

2015 Kevin White Winery Heritage DuBrul Vineyard 

Heritage is an unusual wine for Kevin, who has become known as a Rhone specialist. This wine is squarely Bordeaux, a blend of Merlot (58%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (42%), raised in French oak (some new, some used) for about two years. How does a Rhone guy dip his toe into Bordeaux? It seems like Kevin could not resist the siren call of DuBrul Vineyard, one of the finest sites in the state. After all, a bottle of wine from DuBrul and an eventual visit to the vineyard are parts of the winery’s origin story, as richly recounted by Sean Sullivan in an old posting on Washington Wine Report.

And to further quote Mr. Sullivan, you may also remember what he wrote about the wine’s debut in 2013 for Seattle Met Magazine: DuBrul Vineyard in the Yakima Valley has long established itself as one of Washington’s top sites. It’s the estate vineyard for Cote Bonneville, which consistently puts wines in our annual Top 100 Washington wines list, and is also the fruit source for a number of other high-end Washington producers, such as Owen Roe and Rasa Vineyards. As DuBrul Vineyard wines have garnered acclaim and high scores, the cost of the wines have inevitably crept up, with most coming in somewhere between $50 and $100. That’s part of what makes this [Kevin White’s Heritage] so exciting. It comes from the same vineyard but comes in at a more than reasonable $35—and it’s every bit as good.

Sean’s totally right. As DuBrul’s reputation has grown, so too have prices, and it has become more and more difficult to source wines from this outstanding vineyard. The only other DuBrul wine we offer with any regularity is Rasa’s Creative Impulse, and that one generally goes for about a hundred bucks.

This vintage immediately blasts out of the glass with fruit and florals: bright cherry, moody cassis, wild roses, and crushed violet. It’s a exuberant nose, lifted and attractive. In the mouth, the silky, polished texture provides just-right framing for those continuing notes from the nose, as well as a spicy acidity. This is a complicated, pleasurable wine; a fine introduction to an important, difficult-to-source Washington vineyard, from one of the most exciting winemakers in our state. For those keeping score, the listed alcohol is 14.5%.

 


Full Pull Hidden Horse

March 9, 2018

Hello friends. We have the return today of one of the surprise hits of 2017, a wine that shows there’s no substitute for homework when it comes to the nebulous “Red Blend” category:

NV Two Mountain Winery Hidden Horse Red Blend No. 15 

[Note: see the bottom of the offer for two bonus wines, both well-priced, estate-grown single varietals from the Rawn Bros.]

Long-term list members know that I love the “red blend” category. Why? Because it’s such a broad category that the juice inside could be just about anything. Because it’s a category that rewards those of us willing to do legwork to figure out what’s inside the bottle.

Some red blends are truly terrible. Press fractions that should have been pressed down a drain. Spoofy jam-monsters with residual sugar. Juice obliterated by oak powder and other undesirables. We don’t offer those.

And some red blends turn out to be a Cab-dominant Bordeaux blend from a third-generation Yakima Valley farming family, 85% estate grown, 80% from one excellent vintage despite an NV (non-vintage) label; wine that punches well above its $18 release price and offers sensational value at the “March Madness” tag we can offer today. Like last year, this wine has special pricing for the month of March, so this will likely be a one-and-done offer, with poor prospects for reorders at our 11.99 tag.

HH#15 comes mostly from the 2016 vintage (80%), with the remainder from 2013. The blend is 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, and 6% “Friends.” (Knowing the Rawns’ farming, those friends could be anything from Syrah to Lemberger). As I mentioned, 85% of the material is estate grown and farmed by the Rawn brothers, and the remaining 15% comes from other Yakima Valley sites that they manage on a contract basis. So 100% Rawn-managed fruit turned into Rawn-vinified wine. In other words: vigneron juice. And aged for 18 months in barrel, about 40% new.

Two Mountain is the hidden gem of the Rattlesnake Hills sub-AVA of the Yakima Valley. I’ve written about them numerous times for my Seattle Magazine gig, in part because their winery in Zillah is a terrific place to visit: “wine country in the country” as the Rawns put it. Patrick and Matthew Rawn are the third generation farmers mentioned above. Their grandfather purchased the family land in 1954 and broke it out of sagebrush to plant a Golden Delicious apple orchard. Decades later, the family converted many of those orchards to grapevines, and they now farm a series of estate vineyards on that land, which looks out over Mts. Rainier and Adams (the “two mountains” that form the winery name). Many of their sites are situated well above the Yakima River, with elevations as high as 1300’. The type of cool climate vineyards that are becoming trendier and trendier as the wine fashion pendulum swings towards elegance and energy.  

The nose offers copious complexity for the asking price: black plum and fig, black tea and cherry-pit bitters, persistent earth/soil tones. It’s a loamy, evocative, appetizing nose. That earthy/savory character continues on the palate, which clocks in at 13.9% listed alc, even in warm 2015, again speaking to the fairly cool-climate nature of the vineyards. There is a bright vein of acidity here; so too an impressive scaffolding of fine-grained, espressoey tannins, offering seductive finishing chew, a pleasing sense of rusticity on palate that is otherwise all elegance. I love the structure, the complexity, and the overall sense of balance on display for a sub-$15 tag. This is crying out to be a house red.

2016 Two Mountain Estate Chardonnay Copeland Vineyard

Bonus wine #1. The Rawns don’t like to use much new wood for their red wines, so to season their new barrels, they generally utilize Chardonnay for each barrel’s first year. The result is a Chardonnay that is – no doubt about it – oaky. And speaking of the pendulums of wine fashion, it has been incredible to watch it swing towards unoaked fruit-driven Chardonnays and away from new wood. But there’s a reason Chardonnay saw (sees) more new oak treatment than any other white variety: it has the fruit heft to stand up to the barrels.

Especially when those barrels are high quality and used judiciously. In this case, the Rawns Chardonnay was barrel-fermented and barrel-aged for ten months in 58% new French oak; it also went through full malolactic conversion. The nose overlays smoky roasted nuts and butterscotch over a core of peach and pineapple fruit. Smelled like a modern Macon to me. The palate (13.5% listed alc), despite going through full malo, still retains plenty of beautiful natural acidity. That’s the site shining through. And the balance of wood, fruit, and mineral tones is lovely here. Single vineyard, estate-grown Yakima Valley Chardonnay for fifteen bucks is a rare treat indeed.

2015 Two Mountain Estate Syrah Copeland Vineyard

The only other Washington vineyard where I’ve seen Syrah present itself like this is Dineen, both in the old OS Winery bottles we sold in 2010 and 2011 and in Tim Stevens’ Black Tongue Syrah we’ve sold more recently. And sure enough, the Rawns manage Dineen as well; it’s in the neighborhood of Copeland.

The aromatic/flavor signature of this part of the Yak is, for me, this insistent note of black olive tapenade. I just can’t get enough of salty/briny/brackish Syrah. There’s something attractively naughty about the aromatics, and it’s different from the ham-hock meatiness of Boushey or the overt funk of The Rocks District. I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but for we umami-seekers, this kind of Syrah is nirvana, especially at a twenty-dollar tag.

The overall impression of the nose reminded me most of a tagine, olives comingling with roasting meats and fruits. Yum. The palate is briny as can be, a salt lick paired to delicious blueberry fruit and white-flower subtleties. I love the sense of density and the creamy-textured mid-palate, especially on a 13.8%-alc frame. For lamb in the springtime; for all manner of BBQ and smoked goodies over the summer; for roasts and braises in autumn and winter, this Syrah would make a beautiful complement.

 


Full Pull Getaria

March 8, 2018

Hello friends. There is a rhythm to a year of Full Pull offers, and one wine that helps set that rhythm annually is on offer today. It’s a list favorite: the wine that kicked off our expansion into imports six (!) summers ago:

2017 Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis

I’m going to excerpt broadly from that original offer, because it was a blast to write, and I know of at least three list members who have made pilgrimages to Getaria in part because of this write-up. One thing that changed last year and continues this year: unlike in previous years, where Rubentis would arrive in three separate shipments, and we would have total dibs on one of the three, now the entire Seattle allocation drops in one fell swoop (or should I say “dropped,” as this wine just landed a few weeks ago). Cue feeding frenzy.

There are plenty of restaurants around town who like to glass-pour Rubentis, and I’m certain they’ll be aiming to stockpile their own stash ASAP. That’s why we’re offering Rubentis in March, as opposed to June like normal, or even April like last year. I’m concerned about the sales pressure on this wine, and I want to make sure the Rubentis-lovers among our list (myself included!) sneak in and grab our share.

Now then, excerpts from that original offer:

—-

Here is what you will do.

You will fly into Barcelona, and, despite the whimsical beauty of its Gaudian architecture, you won’t stay long. The countryside beckons.

You will board a train, and hours later, you will arrive on the coast, at San Sebastian. Because it’s one of the gustatory capitals of Europe, you’ll stay for lunch. This is your lunch.

Now full and sleepy, you will stagger to a bus stop. You will board a bus that you hope is moving in the right direction. This is your bus route.

You’ll exit your bus at Getaria, in the golden light of late afternoon. You’ll walk down the narrow streets until you find your hotel. This is your hotel. You’ll be greeted in a language that sounds more like Greek than Spanish.

This is the view from your hotel room window.

This is where you’ll eat grilled fish and octopus pulled from the Bay of Biscay that morning.

This is what your town looks like from above: a sea, a harbor, a small town, and vineyards. You’ll wonder why anyone would ever leave this place.

The next day, you’ll wander up the hills into the vineyards. This is what the vineyards look like. The vines will be trained taller than your head. You’ll ask what is being grown here.

“Txakolina” will be the answer.

You will fall in love with this place.

Or…

…if all the vagaries of modern life make a trip like this impossible, if jobs and kids and pets and adult responsibilities make a trip like this impossible, we can still visit these places.

That is the beauty of wine. It is a place, suspended in liquid form. It is a place we can visit in our senses as we sip. It is our astral projection. And it’s why I want to write about wines from all over the world. Including Txakolina.

Getaria is Basque country: not quite Spain, not quite France; its own animal. In the vineyards planted in the rolling hills above town, they grow indigenous varietals, like Hondarribi Beltza and Hondarribi Zuri. We’re a looooooooong way from Cabernet Sauvignon here.

The Ameztoi family is into its seventh generation of winemaking. Some of the vines are more than 150 years old. Over time, the wines and local cuisine have grown up together. And so the residents drink Txakolina like water, and what they don’t drink, denizens of Barcelona and Madrid gulp down. A miniscule amount makes its way into the United States, and that’s especially true of today’s specific wine, which has developed something of a cult following among the sommelier set in New York and San Francisco. Fortunately, a small amount comes to Seattle, also.

Like a lot of Txakolina, this has a bit of absorbed CO2, so it is semi-sparkling. Unlike a lot of Txakolina, they have blended a bit of Hondarribi Beltza (a red varietal) into the mix, giving this a delicate pink color. Because Txakolina grew up with Basque cuisine, it is a terrifically versatile food wine.

Rubentis has been a house wine of ours for several years now. It typically arrives in Seattle in spring, and we drink it throughout the summer, both as a cocktail and as a lovely pairing for all the PacNW’s seafood. It has made multiple appearances on the Thanksgiving table, where its low-alc (10.5% this year), high-acid, food-friendly nature makes it a perfect foil for turkey et al. It has made multiple appearances on New Year’s Eve (semi-sparkling, remember?). It has made multiple appearances with breakfast.

It’s a wonderful wine, one of my favorites in this whole wide world; an inescapable expression of a small, very special place.

—-

Not much has changed since last year, but I should note that Josh Raynolds has been consistently reviewing Rubentis, first for Tanzer’s IWC, and then for Vinous after Galloni purchased IWC. The wine now has an unbroken eight-vintage streak of 91 and 92pt reviews, stretching from 2009 to 2016. Since Raynolds’ review always comes out after our offer, since his reviews are so insightful, and since this wine is so damned consistent, I’m going to do something I rarely do, which is quote a review from the previous vintage, here the 91pt 2016 vintage: [Text Withheld]

The 2017 is very much in keeping with that recent history. Listed alc is again 10.5%, and this kicks off with a core of strawberry and cherry and melon fruit, all dusted with salt air. As usual, this just smells like a wine grown by the sea. The palate sees light spritz and bright acid carrying laser-pure berry and citrus fruit, all framed by a sturdy mineral spine. As usual, this wine just seems to pulsate with verve and energy. Rubentis: it’s a house favorite, a Team Full Pull favorite, a list member favorite. What could be better?