Full Pull Corliss

April 30, 2018

Hello friends. It has been exactly five years since we last offered a vintage of today’s wine; the 2008 vintage way back on May 17, 2013. This has been among the most challenging-to-source wines coming out of Washington in recent years:

2013 Corliss Estates Syrah

I believe we’re one of only a small handful of retail accounts to receive an allocation of this wine (we may, in fact, be the only retailer). Outside of the Corliss mailing list and a few select restaurants, this wine is a ghost. And according to Stephen Tanzer, it’s the finest vintage of Corliss Syrah to date.

Of course what has always made Corliss special – and what continues to this day – is their patience. They release their wines five years past vintage, well later than 99% of Washington wineries, and that extra bottle age pays wonderful dividends. This particular Syrah (a blend of Stillwater Creek fruit on Royal Slope and Corliss’ Canyons Estate Vineyard on Red Mountain, cofermented with a small amount of Viognier) spent more than two years in barrel and another two-plus years in bottle before its release earlier this month. I want to thank Lauri and Mike Corliss for their willingness to share this special wine with our list members.

Full Pull Library Pinot

April 29, 2018

Hello friends. We have a very cool opportunity for our list members today: the chance to access Oregon Pinot from a classic producer, at more than a decade past vintage, and at more than 30% off its $60 release price:

2007 Chehalem Reserve Pinot Noir

The 2007 vintage in the Willamette was fascinating. Many (unfairly) wrote it off at the time because of the copious amounts of rain around harvest time. But then a few years later the Pinots started getting released, and lo and behold, many of them were excellent. Harvey Steiman in Wine Spectator ended up giving the vintage a “B” rating; not an A+, but also not worthy of being ignored, which is what many folks did.

It highlights, I think, the difference between a bad vintage and a challenging vintage. 2007 was challenging. It wasn’t necessarily easy to make great wine (for that, look to 2008), but it was possible. And most of the winemakers who made great wines from ’07 were experienced; folks who had been through rainy vintages before and knew that the trick was not to panic-pick, but instead to wait it out.

Harry Peterson-Nedry founded Chehalem Vineyards in 1990, so yeah, he was one of those experienced folks who remained calm in 2007, and the results have been exquisite. I loved Chehalem’s whole lineup of 2007 Pinots right from the start. They were perfumed, ethereal, evocative. I socked a bunch of them away in my little pantry-turned-cellar and have been subsequently drinking them down over the years. Recently I did a count, and I was down to just two bottles, so I reached out to the winery to see if they had any ’07 in the library. As it turned out, they had more than enough for my personal needs, and even enough to offer the Reserve Pinot Noir to our list. Lucky us!

The Reserve is Chehalem’s flagship Pinot Noir, always a selection of their very best barrels. In 2007 it comes predominantly from Ridgecrest (82%) with the remainder from Stoller. This was done with about 20% whole clusters and about 40% new French oak. Listed alc is 13% even. We recently cracked a bottle in the warehouse, and it was in a terrific point in its evolution. The nose combines fresh fruit (red plum, cherry) with dried strawberries and dates. Tertiary notes of earth and dust and mushroom abound. There is something wonderfully leafy about the fruit quality here. And this is a textural knockout, with a jolt of electric acidity still humming along through a mouthful of seriously intense fruit. I wouldn’t be concerned opening a bottle any time in the next five years; it still has plenty of road to run. What a rare pleasure, getting to check in on well-made Oregon Pinot moving gracefully towards maturity.

Full Pull Passing Time

April 28, 2018

Hello friends. We have access today to small parcels of a pair of wines from one of the most exciting Washington wineries to launch in the past five years: Damon Huard and Dan Marino’s Passing Time.

It’s not really a surprise that this winery’s star has risen so rapidly. It was clear from the very first time I met Damon Huard that this was not going to be in any way a half-ass celebrity wine label. I still remember walking into Avennia and catching Damon talking to Chris Peterson about vineyard spacing. Not branding or labels. Not sales or marketing. Geeky vineyard talk! It seemed auspicious at the time, and it seems auspicious today.

Now then, the story of how this all came to be. The genesis of the project was a period in the late ‘90s when Dan and Damon overlapped with the Miami Dolphins. Marino was already a wine fanatic at that point, and he surprised Huard (a Washington native) with the fact that a solid chunk of his cellar came from Washington (wineries like Andrew Will, Leonetti, Col Solare, all three of which, I have to say, were making phenomenal wine in the late ‘90s; fine taste, Mr. Marino!).

Damon can tick off multiple connections to Washington wine: his great grandparents were grape farmers (okay, the grapes were Concord, but close enough); his grandpa played high school basketball with Paul Champoux (Champoux Vineyard); and he married a girl from the Yakima Valley. So there was plenty of interest among both men in finding a way to move into Washington wine after retiring from football. With their shared love of Cabernet Sauvignon, and their connection to the Champoux family, the original plan was to wait until they could access Champoux Cabernet, but in the interim, they tasted Cabernets from a series of Champoux neighbors. One of those tastings featured Discovery Vineyard, and the guys had a “wow” moment (I’ll admit; I’ve had a few of those drinking Disco Cabs).

With a vineyard plan in place, they next set about securing a consulting winemaker, and they landed on Chris Peterson of Avennia. What I love about this project is that Damon and Dan are asking Chris for a different house style than he does for Avennia (If we think of the Avennia style as maybe 40/60 fruit elements/non-fruit elements, then we can think of Passing Time as Chris Peterson trying to achieve something closer to 70/30). I’m sure that’s part of what makes it interesting for Chris, as well, and it certainly makes it compelling from a Washington Cab-lover’s perspective. This is a fantastic opportunity to taste two Cabernets from the same vintage, treated quite similarly, but from two very different terroirs:

2015 Passing Time Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills

The Cabernet (88%) comes from Discovery (59%) and Champoux (29%), two of the finest sites in the state for Cab. There are also small amounts of Merlot (8%) and Cab Franc (4%), all aged for 21 months in 80% new French oak. Listed alc is 14.8%. This is a marvelous expression of Horse Heaven terroir, with all its signature graphitic minerality paired to the blackest of fruit. Despite the warm vintage, Chris Peterson just can’t seem to help making elegant, ageworthy, texturally gorgeous wines. This dazzles on its endless finish, which is awash in polished, espressoey tannins. The whole package is a balanced beauty.

2015 Passing Time Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley

The WWV bottling is 100% Cab, and it comes from two of the valley’s stalwart vineyards: Seven Hills (64%) and Pepper Bridge (36%). The proportion of new French oak is slightly lower here (60%), and listed alc is 14.9%. The nose is a dark brooder, featuring cassis fruit and loamy soil swaddled in appealing barrel notes of spice and cocoa powder. The palate is texturally lovely, silky and seamless and approachable as can be. Jeb lists the same 2018-2033 drinking windows in both reviews, but if it were me, I’d drink the Walla Walla Cab younger while waiting for the Horse Heaven bottling to unwind. What is exciting about this project is how different these two Cabernets are, a fine counterpoint to anyone pushing the narrative that Cab tastes like Cab and struggles to express its terroir.

Full Pull Going Into Business Sale

April 27, 2018

Back in April, we dubbed 2018 the year of the deal. We’re not 100% sure what it is: that we’ve reached a critical mass where the word is out about the volumes of wine our list gobbles up; that a number of wineries have gotten backed up on vintages all at once; that consolidation in the distribution/wholesale channel has left more wineries looking to do direct deals. Probably it’s some of all three.

Whatever the cause, we’ve been inundated in a way we haven’t before. Consistently we’re being presented with double-take pricing, always with an eye towards moving oceans of juice. And of course the usual irony of the wine trade applies here in our favor: we get to access the wines at a discount, right as they are entering peak drinking window. Today we have a Washington BDX blend four years past vintage, entirely from the Sagemoor family of vineyards,, at pricing considerably less than its $38 release:

2014 Des Voigne Cellars Solea 

I wouldn’t call this a going out of business sale—more of a going into business sale. After 11 years as a Woodinville mainstay, Des Voigne Cellars is moving completely into private winemaking. Lissy and Darren Des Voigne, the couple-owners of Des Voigne Cellars, will still make specialty wine for private restaurant clients and their current wine club members, but they’ve decided to scale back their business to spend more time with their two sons.

Darren contacted us last month and asked us if we’d be interested in tasting through his current releases. We were intrigued—his current releases are all three or four years past vintage and sourced from some seriously impressive Washington vineyards. The 2014 Solea was a knockout and we purchased every last bottle to ensure this almost 50% price drop: $38.00 down to $19.99

The Solea is 38% Merlot, 38% Cab Franc, 20% Cab Sauv, and 4% Petit Verdot, sourced from Bacchus, Dionysus, and Weinbau Vineyards. All three of these sites are part of Sagemoor, a pinnacle growing operation in Washington. These are serious vineyards that produce serious juice—fellow wineries that source from Kent Walliser and his team include Avennia, DeLille, Efeste, Saviah, Woodward Canyon, and many other list favorites. Clocking in at 14.5% alcohol, the Solea opens with a delightfully recognizable BDX nose: cassis and blackberry jam, anise and mint, tobacco and leather. The 100% French Oak used is present and well integrated with touches of vanilla bean and cacao. The palate—cloaked in layers of black cherry, cedar, earth, and english breakfast tea—shows rich structure that’s begun to resolve supple and pillowy-smooth. It’s clear this wine has entered a great drinking window, but it’s also not going anywhere anytime soon. A knockout bottle for the tariff, this bottle could be a luxurious weeknight drinker, or stand up to a fancier occasion.

Full Pull Vino Rosé

April 26, 2018

Hello friends. We’ll bang the drum as loud and as long as we have to—past vintage rosés are among some of the best deals in the entire world of wine.

The idea that you should only be drinking current vintage rosé is unequivocally untrue. While you may not want to cellar your favorite rosé for decades, there is something to be said about giving it a year or two in bottle to evolve. There is nothing wrong with drinking ‘16 rosés this year—in fact, some of your favorites from the last few summers might show better than ever in the coming months.

This rosé myth affects us all. Wineries tend to panic when they get a year past vintage on rosé because it can be notoriously hard to sell. The masses miss out on delicious juice because they think they should buy the freshest, newest bottles. But here at Full Pull, we relish the chance to sell year-old rosé because they’re usually available for a screamin’ bargain. Today’s wine (released at $12 around this time last year) is a great example:

2016 CasaSmith ViNO Rose

How often does Full Pull offer anything for 7.99? Rarely. Seldom. What’s a good word for less than infrequent but more than never? It’s incredibly tough to find quality wine at this price point—usually, it’s some special deal that brings a 12-dollar bottle down to this price. This particular bargain comes from our long standing relationship with Team Charles Smith.

Casa Smith ViNO is a collection of wines made from classic Italian varieties grown and produced in Washington. Casa Smith is the Italian project, and ViNO is a subset that includes this rosé, Pinot Grigio, and a red blend. Reminiscent of Smith’s namesake label—which was jaw-droppingly sold for over a hundred million dollars last year—these wines represent great value and downright delicious juice.

This rosé is made from 100% Sangiovese and sourced from two vineyards in the Wahluke Slope (Rosebud Vineyard and Wahluke Slope Vineyard are two of Smith’s favorites for the variety). The Wahluke Slope is an interesting player as the quest for Washington-grown Italian grapes continues. The region’s lengthy, hot summers and cool nights allow grapes like Sangiovese a longer growing season to build flavor along with acid.

This bottle clocks in at 12% alcohol and opens with all sorts of delightful fruit (melon, cherry, strawberry, orange citrus) and enticing herb spice. Stylistically, it’s clean and fresh, surging with Sangio’s signature mouthwatering acidity and juicy fruit notes. This bottle would be divine on its own, but I say bring on the cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto and herby green salads and let’s call it summer already.

Full Pull Saumur

April 25, 2018

Hello friends. Paris, Bordeaux, Provence—there are many regions that get lauded as the ultimate French experience. However to me, the Loire Valley has always felt more quintessentially French. Full of rolling green pastures and fields of wildflowers, grand châteaux, and tiny towns that spill into vineyards, Loire is the France of storybooks and daydreams.

Traveling through the Loire, as I did for ten magical days in April, you come to understand a rhythm to the valley. First, there is the river—the mighty Loire—which everything revolves around. Then, there’s usually a couple-centuries-old château situated along its banks. Next, a town that built up around the ornate castle. And then, vineyards that spread north and south around every town. No matter the grape or style of winemaking, every grape grows in a vineyard that’s connected to a town that grew up around a castle built on the river. Which is where the beauty lies in the wines from the Loire Valley—a vein of similarity that runs through them all.

2015 Domaine de Nerleux Saumur-Champigny Clos des Chatains VV

Saumur-Champigny is the AOC directly surrounding the town of Saumur, which straddles the Loire just west of Chinon. Saumur boasts a beautiful castle, the Château de Saumur, and the city spreads out on both sides of the river with Saumur-Champigny’s limestone and tuffeau vineyards extending further southeast. Like its eastern neighbors Bourgueil and Chinon, Saumur-Champigny is a designated AOC for mostly Cabernet Franc. While Bourgueil boasts the biggest tannins and Chinon is famed for its green, vegetal qualities, Saumur-Champigny shines with florals. It’s by far the lightest of the bunch; more reminiscent of terroir-expressive red Burgundy than anything else.

Domaine de Nerleux is in the village of St Cyr-en-Bourg, which enjoys a microclimate of the lowest rainfall and the highest temperatures in the region. Purchased by Eugene Neau to expand his vineyards in 1870, the domaine is now run by Amélie Neau, the ninth generation of vigneronne in her family (and the first woman to ever run the winery). Nine generations of harvest—almost 150 years—have established this estate with 38 hectares of Cabernet Franc, 8 hectares of Chenin Blanc, and 1 hectare of Chardonnay. This bottle is sourced entirely from old vines (vieilles vignes) planted between 1933 and 1950 in the family’s monopole vineyard, Clos des Châtains.

One of the things I have always loved about the Loire Valley is that it represents value. We all know Champagne is lovely and Burgundy is the tops, but the prices can make the point of entry unapproachable. In the Loire, you have delicious sparkling Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc that can age for an eternity at prices that actually feel approachable. This bottle is the perfect example—made by a 9th generation winemaker from 85 year old grapes grown in a superb AOC for less than 18 dollars. Ah, the beauty of the Loire.

Aged entirely in stainless, this bottle opens with bright red cherries and raspberries, violet petals, green ferns, sweet anise spice, and old-growth forest. With 13% listed alcohol, the palate sings with clay and limestone minerality. It’s velvet in texture, with smooth tannins, and chock full of summer berries and the earth they are grown in. Loire Cab Franc’s signature acidity makes this a perfect food wine—especially as we enter the season of grilled meats.

Full Pull Ex Umbris

April 24, 2018

Hello friends. Today we have the new vintage of one of the most popular Washington Syrahs we offer every year:

2016 Owen Roe Syrah Ex Umbris

This wine is now sold out in western Washigton. Fortunately, we got a tip that the end was nigh, so we pre-purchased a sizeable chunk for our list members. Never a concern when it comes to this particular wine.

Whenever we offer Ex Umbris, I like to quote the inimitable Jon Marvin from Cavatappi. Jon represents Owen Roe locally, and he has a unique perspective on this wine, having worked at Pike & Western when the first vintage was released:

David was making some pretty cool Syrah back in the day, way before everyone and their grandmas were in the Syrah game in WA. In 2002 an incredible forest fire enveloped the vineyard where he was sourcing his Syrah, and the smoke and ash from the fire sunk into the valley and played a role in that vintage that we hadn’t really seen before. I remember when he came into Pike and Western to sell us the wine after it was bottled with a new label called “Ex Umbris” (from the shadows), and we all wondered what the hell we were going to do with this new release as it smelled like a campfire on steroids. It sold like crazy and people kept coming back for more and more until it was all sold out.

The next year came along and of course everyone was clamoring for the next vintage of Ex Umbris, and many were disappointed that the intense smokey flavors and aromas weren’t there. It’s not like David wanted to create a fire around the vines to get that same effect, and none of us wanted that either. Fortunately over a few years time people realized that WA Syrah when done correctly often has smokey aromas naturally, and Ex Umbris has pretty much had a life of its own ever since. Of course David has fine tuned his craft even more over the last decade, he’s using vineyards that are more ideal for Syrah than what was available a dozen years ago, and his Syrah is better than ever.

As many of our list members who have accessed the past few vintages know, it’s true: this wine really is better than ever. The vineyard sources for the 2016 are the same as the previous vintage, a quartet of Yakima Valley all-stars: two estate sites (Union Gap and Outlook) plus DuBrul, plus Red Willow. Ridiculous sourcing for a Syrah at this price point, and all of it aged in neutral barrels for 16 months. Listed alc is 14.1%, and the nose opens with bramble fruit, smoky ham hock, roasted sage, and subtle florals. The smoky threads that have become this Syrah’s calling card are out in full force this year—along with a persistent minerality. The palate is a precise balance of fruit and earth, powering a rich yet utterly delicious, gulpable frame.