Full Pull Alto Adige

June 17, 2018

Hello friends. I’ve been collecting the wines of Cantina Terlano, in Italy’s northern Alto Adige region, for at least five years, and I’ve been chasing a Full Pull offer for at least that long. Why? I’ll let the maestro of Italian wine, Antonio Galloni, introduce the winery (from his introduction to the estate for Vinous in 2013):

What is left to say about Terlano? That it is a world-class estate? Too obvious. That the wines have enormous personality? Of course. That the range is full of great values? Evident. During a recent visit I also tasted a number of older wines, culminating with the extraordinary trio of the 1959 and 1955 Pinot Bianco Vorberg followed by the 1969 Terlaner, which is and will probably remain the single greatest Italian white wine I have ever tasted. Numbers are superfluous. While those older wines are virtually impossible to find, readers will have better luck with the late-release Rarita series, which are generally aged one year in cask and as much as ten additional years in tank prior to being bottled. A few weeks ago I shared a bottle of Terlano’s 1955 Pinot Bianco with a group of collectors at a charity dinner. Not just any collectors. I mean the type of winelovers who regularly open bottles most of us dream of tasting once in a lifetime. They were blown away. None of them had ever tasted a white that old, much less an Italian white with serious bottle age. This is Terlano. One of the few wineries in the world capable of making not just great wines, but emotional wines.

The reason we’ve been chasing – not offering – Terlano wines has been all about supply. These wines aren’t imported into the United States in any great quantity; even less so to the Deep Space Nine outpost that is the PacNW. But then our successful Gruner Party offer from April set a blueprint for how to make this work. Expand the number of wines offered (just like with the Gruner party, it’s four wines), which offsets the limited quantities available.

You may recall from that Gruner offer this note that I wrote: When it comes to European white wines, there are three regions I see as dramatically undervalued compared to their inherent quality and (in some cases) ability to age: the Savoie in eastern France, Alto Adige in northern Italy, and Austria. When I peruse the shelves of my little pantry cellar, a high proportion of the old-world whites come from one of those three places.

We’ve dialed in Savoie the past few years via our Jean Vullien offers, we had our Gruner Party in April, so that just leaves one: glorious Alto Adige. I could try to describe this region, its pockets of vineyards nestled up above rust-roofed villages and below the towering Dolomites, its mishmash of Italian-German-Austrian culture, but if you have a few moments, I’d rather direct you to James Suckling’s wonderful new documentary, The Miracle of Alto Adige. The whole 24-minute video is worth a watch, but if you only check out the first six minutes, you’ll see a flyover introduction to the region, and then the first winery featured is – you guessed it – Terlano.

Terlano is actually a co-op, boasting 230 grape-growing members, of whom 70% are original founding families from 1892. The members farm and contribute grapes, which are turned into wine in one large facility and bottled and marketed under the Cantina Terlano label. Co-ops are not always synonymous with high-quality wine, but Ian D’Agata, writing of Terlano in Vinous in 2017, noted that “surprising as it may seem, Italy’s best white wine producer may be a co-operative. Certainly no producer in the country makes longer-lived white wines than the Cantina Terlano.” He said this after participating in a library tasting of reserve Pinot Bianco’s from 1959 to 2014. Lucky man.

We’re going to focus on the reserve Pinot Bianco today as well as another Terlano wine so classic it has its own personal appellation. And then we’ll wrap up with a quick-hitter pair of bonus wines that should be more familiar: a Pinot Grigio and a Pinot Noir.

 

2016 Cantina Terlano Terlaner Classico
Wine Advocate (Monica Larner): [TEXT WITHHELD]

James Suckling:[TEXT WITHHELD]

This is a classic Alto Adige blend, combining the weight and supple texture of Pinot Bianco/Chardonnay with the verve and acidic cut of Sauvignon Blanc. It was aged in a combo of stainless steel and big old wooden barrels, and it clocks in at 14% listed alc. How classic is Terlano’s version (Part 1)? So classic that it achieved something rare in Italian wine circles: a DOC appellation all its own: Terlaner Classico DOC. How classic (Part 2)? Its first vintage was 1893. I won’t add much to the reviews above, since this is the most limited of the quartet today. I’ll just add that even Larner’s 2017-2024 window might be conservative for this wine. I’ve seen these sing at a dozen or more years past vintage.

2015 Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco Riserva Vorberg
For me, this is Terlano’s flagship wine, and it may be the white wine that I’m deepest on in my personal little pantry cellar. It is a world-class wine, one that has proven it can age for a half-century or more, and it costs… forty dollars. If I wrote the previous passage about a white Burg, we’d be looking at multiple hundreds of dollars.

The 2015 is just released, so there are no reviews yet, but Vorberg oftentimes grabs 94pt and 95pt reviews and occasionally inches up to 96s (yeah, Galloni gave the 1955 a 100pt review, but that’s hardly fair). Also, it’s 2015, the miracle vintage across Europe. World class wine plus world class year; I think we can guess at what the reviews are going to look like and purchase ahead of time, before the hubbub.

Vorberg is an exceptional site, ranging from 1500 to 3000 (!!) feet along dizzying slopes that reach 70% inclines in some patches. Terracing is the only way to farm a site like this. It probably goes without saying that the grapes are hand-harvested, then fermented and aged in massive old 30hl oak barrels (you can fit more than 13 barriques in one of those). Vorberg gets one year in barrel and another in bottle before release, so ’15 is the current vintage.

And despite it being three years past vintage now, it drinks very much like the little toddler it is. It may well have a human lifespan too. This begins with a complex, attractive nose: nectarine and lemon curd, mineral tones and this emerging savory thread of smoky hay. The texture is the first thing you notice in the mouth (14% listed alc); this is intense and palate-saturating in a way more commonly seen in reds, but with the jolt of acidity only good white wines can provide. It fans out from attack to finish, sparing no section of the palate with its fruity-savory goodness. That savory earthiness will only continue to come to the fore with more bottle age. I know from experience. Or drink it right now; it’s a lavish, entrancing white wine; one of the very finest in the world.

2016 Cantina Terlano Pinot Grigio 
Bonus wine #1: A Pinot Grigio to blow up pre-conceived, Santa Margherita-fueled notions of what northern Italian Pinot Grigio can be. This one is a bone-dry mid-weight (13.5% listed alc), occupying a space someplace between zippy Italian Grigio and fuller versions from Alsace. The result is a balanced beauty, offering layers of fruit (tree fruits, stone fruits), along with floral and earthy subtleties.

Wine Advocate (Monica Larner): [TEXT WITHHELD]

James Suckling: [TEXT WITHHELD]

2016 Cantina Terlano Pinot Noir
Bonus wine #2: A Pinot Noir from northern Italy (formerly labeled Pinot Nero, they’ve switched their label to Noir, at least for the American market). This gets similar treatment to the other wines – hand harvesting, fermenting/ageing in big old wooden casks, this time for 10 months – but it comes from vineyards a little further down the slopes, meaning a little warmer as well. Just warm enough to ripen a delicate Pinot Noir that offers pure, racy red fruit alongside complexities of mineral and flower. Listed alc is 13.5%, and this is lively and refreshing as can be, a propulsive vin de soif perfect for summer.

James Suckling: [TEXT WITHHELD]

 


Full Pull Tulpen

June 16, 2018

Hello friends. Today we have a pair of wines from one of the true underground gems in Washington; a winery for whom we might be the only retail source west of the Cascades; a producer who has, over the years, become one of the most rapturously-loved of Full Pull’s winery partners.

I’m talking about Tulpen Cellars, and the wines of Kenny Hart, fisherman and forager, grape-grower and chef extraordinaire; the oft-voluble, sometimes irascible, vigneron-mensch of the Walla Walla Valley.

Today we’ll feature one white and one red to showcase the power and beauty of Kenny’s lineup. As usual with Tulpen wines, we’ll be special-ordering these out of Walla Walla, and Kenny will be trucking them over. That might mean a slightly longer arrival window than usual; maybe more like 2-3 weeks out than the usual 1-2. Trust me: these are worth the wait.

2014 Tulpen Cellars Vino Blanc Los Oidos Vineyard 
The last time we had access to Tulpen’s only white wine was the 2012 vintage, and we offered that at 29.99 TPU. Today Kenny is giving us special pricing that allows us to hit the twenty-dollar mark. The reason he’s okay dropping the price? 2014 will be the finale for this wine. Tulpen’s three vintage run (2012, ’13, ’14) was enough to convince folks like Gramercy Cellars and Rotie Cellars to start purchasing Los Oidos fruit. It’s a pity to lose this dynamite white, but Kenny is a grower first and seems delighted to be selling the grapes to some of Washington’s luminaries.

And that is what has always made Tulpen so special: the vineyards involved, and Ken Hart’s relationship to those sites. Above all else, Kenny is one of the premier grape growers in the Walla Walla Valley. He is a farmer first, always more likely to talk about dirt before talking about juice. He actually began Tulpen as a way to make his growing even better, but then the results were “tasty tasty” in the inimitable Hart lexicon, and the project grew from there.

Los Oidos is a newer valley site, with 15 acres planted in 2009 in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, in between Les Collines and Morrison Lane (two outstanding valley vineyards). Elevation is pretty high here – 1100’ – so this is outstanding territory for white varieties. The vino blanc is a legit Rhone blend: 44% Roussanne, 36% Marsanne, 10% Picpoul, 8% Viognier, and 2% Grenache Blanc. It’s small production, too; just 110 cases, so this will likely be a one-and-done offer.

It clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and begins with a nose of stone fruit (nectarine, apricot), complicated by maturing salty hazelnuts and chalky minerals. As I’ve said many times, there is something so gratifying about just a few years of bottle age with well-made white wines. They retain all their primary fruit succulence, while beginning to show off layers of tertiary complexity. That’s certainly the story here, with this wine offering lovely honeyed and saline/mineral complexities to balance a core of creamy, waxy-textured fruit. The acidity is softening up but still present, and the overall impression is one of balance and grace.

2013 Tulpen Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Dryland
On a recent trip to Walla Walla, we had the privilege of riding around in Ken Hart’s pickup for a vineyard tour while he regaled us with the tall tales and rumors of the valley. One thing that became clear in our valley wanderings: Kenny is extremely keen on the Mill Creek drainage. This is the area in the eastern part of the Walla Walla Valley where Mill Creek Road passes Abeja and continues climbing up into the foothills of the Blue Mountains. As the drainage gains elevation, the Blues start to wring moisture out of the atmosphere, so you also gain annual precipitation: just enough to support viticulture without added water. The progress of these dryland-farmed sites is fascinating, and there’s no better place to witness their development than through Tulpen.

This is the fourth vintage of what has to be one of the most exciting Cabernet projects in Washington right now. It heavily features Tokar Vineyard, a tiny site planted in 2000, making it one of the oldest vineyards in this part of the valley. The remainder is Yellow Bird Vineyard, a 2007-planted site up by aMaurice’s estate sites. Production is miniscule: just 100 cases. This clocks in at 14.5% listed alc and begins with an appetizing note combining redcurrant and red plum fruit with insistent earthy notes of dust and peat moss. It’s a distinctive nose, one I more readily associate with good Napa Cab than I’m used to seeing out of Washington. The palate is in a terrific place now five years past vintage, with intensity and earthy complexity to spare. I love the purity of the dark red fruit; so too the classy, polished tannins, which offer a lingering kiss of green tea. This is singular Washington Cabernet.

International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): [TEXT WITHHELD]

 


Full Pull Dunham

June 15, 2018

Hello friends. Today’s offer is about one of our favorite wineries, two estate vineyards, and three glowing 93pt reviews.

2014 Dunham Cellars Syrah 
*Quick pricing note to start: we’re a ways off this wine’s $35 release price, and a quick national search on all vintages of Dunham Syrah shows a range of $30 to $45. Our TPU pricing today is excellent.

You can’t have a conversation about the history of Washington wine and not talk about Dunham Cellars. Since their first vintage in 1995, Dunham has been crafting thoughtful wines and maintaining stellar vineyards (with help from vineyard manager Ken Hart) for over two decades. Our list members have always had a deep love for the winery’s Syrah. For many of us, this wine is now a known quantity. We’ve had the 2007. We’ve had the 2011. We’ve tried them all and come to understand this: Dunham knows how to treat Syrah well, from vineyard to bottle.

In 2014, Dunham’s Syrah was sourced from estate vineyards Lewis and Kenny Hill. Lewis is the older and more familiar of the two sites, planted at the foothills of Rattlesnake Ridge in the Columbia Valley. Its sandy loam soils were first planted out in 1998 with Syrah, and now there are over 80 acres of Syrah, Cab, Merlot, Riesling, and Chardonnay. It’s managed by the Lewis family and Dunham’s vineyard manager Ken Hart, one of the premier grape growers in Washington. (He is also the man behind the wines at Tulpen, but first and foremost, he is a farmer.)

Ken Hart manages Dunham’s other estate vineyard, Kenny Hill, a newer planting (2010) that sits four miles east of Dunham Cellars up the Mill Creek Drainage. We’ve talked a few times in previous offers about the magic going on in the Mill Creek drainage of the Walla Walla Valley. This area is high-elevation—1,450 feet. It sits on the eastern side of the Walla Walla Valley in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. It’s stunning, especially in the early spring when we last visited.

As the drainage climbs, it gains annual precipitation. In fact, it gains enough rainfall that dry-farming without irrigation becomes a possibility. Kenny Hill Vineyard is just one of the sites planted along Mill Creek Road; you’ll also find Yellow Bird Vineyard, aMaurice Estate Vineyard, and Walla Walla Vintners’ Estate Vineyard. They are all managed by Appellation Management Group, where Ken Hart is the general manager. On our most recent trip, we got to tour these vineyards in Ken’s pickup and it became very clear that the progress of these dryland-farmed sites is one of the most fascinating advances in the world of Washington wine.

Clocking in at 14.2% listed alcohol, this wine is delightfully rich from the nose to the palate. It opens with opulent, dark fruit, earthy subtleties, and cacao. The palate continues with serious concentration—showing a delightful savory side along with ever present fruit. It has definitely just stepped into a beautiful drinking window with plenty—seriously, more than plenty—of time ahead.

Jeb Dunnuck: [TEXT WITHHELD]

International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): [TEXT WITHHELD]

James Suckling: [TEXT WITHHELD]

 


Full Pull Ferguson

June 14, 2018

Hello friends. Back in 2014, northwest wine had its own “Judgment of Paris”-style shocker when a bottle from L’Ecole No. 41 was named best Bordeaux Blend in the world at the Decanter World Wine Awards in London. Four years later, we still jump on the chance to access this Washington wine that’s making serious waves in the global wine market.

2015 L’Ecole No 41 Estate Ferguson Vineyard 
Ferguson is part of the Sevein project, a 2700-acre property adjacent to Seven Hills Vineyard that was long coveted by valley growers/winemakers for its high elevation (900’-1500’) and its fractured basalt soil. The site was finally purchased in 2004 by a group comprised of many of the Seven Hills partners. If all the Sevein land is eventually planted out, it will nearly double the vineyard acreage in the Walla Walla Valley.

Marty Clubb and L’Ecole were among the purchasing partners, and their piece became Ferguson Vineyard. Here’s Marty describing the site and what they did next: As part of the SeVein Properties surrounding Seven Hills Vineyard, this 42 acre prime piece of ground was strategically selected with an appreciation for the property’s natural strengths. At an elevation of 1,300 to 1,450 feet, the cold air drainage around the site is excellent. Above the ice-age flood silts, the soil is a thin mantle of wind-blown loess overlying fractured basalt. At the highest elevation, the soil depth is only 2 to 3 feet, such that the vine roots penetrate deep into the basalt, providing a complex array of rich minerals. This rock formation is partially exposed, revealing a quarry of fractured basalt which we refer to as The Wall. Mixed layers of multiple lava flows are woven together in a puzzle-like pattern, intersected with deep veins of calcium carbonate leaching deep into the basalt. We have 18 acres planted in a multi-clone mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and smaller quantities of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah.

Our best sustainable farming practices were fully implemented in preparing and planting Ferguson. For two years prior to planting, we grew a series of green crops of spring oats, Sudan grass, and arugula, plowing each crop back into the soil. After cross-ripping the entire acreage, we added a complex mix of organic compost and other nutritional elements to help restore soil humus and minerals. Finally, a verma-compost tea was added to rejuvenate a diverse mix of beneficial microorganisms, enhancing the natural soil biology.

Innovative vineyard technology was used to design, map, and plant Ferguson. Using three dimensional contour and topographic analysis, detailed slope and aspect were combined with sunlight cycles, wind patterns and soil characteristics to insure that the vineyard design optimized the growing conditions for each block. A digital map of the vineyard blocks was then used to design an irrigation system for building vine uniformity and sustainability. Finally, the actual vine planting utilized GPS technology to engineer precise row orientations and plant spacing.

Basically, this is Walla Walla Valley 2.0. It’s the founders of the wine scene in the valley using all their accumulated knowledge to select the right site and plant it to the right varieties and right clones. Washington is now in a new period of its wine industry. The age of trial and error and planting experimentation—which built our wine scene as we know it—is coming to an end. We’re entering an era with even more smart, proactively-selected, carefully-planted vineyards. It’s an indication that the future is bright indeed.

On a recent staff trip to Walla Walla we got a personal tour of Ferguson from Marty—the soil is truly incredible. It’s a mere 2-3 feet of wind-blown loess as top-soil on top of a wall of fractured basalt. Basically, they’re growing grapes on volcanic lava flows: a completely different soil type from the remainder of the Walla Walla Valley. The Wall which Marty refers is definitely a place to see on your next visit east—it gives a perspective on soil that’s hard to find elsewhere. You can not only see the millenia-old lava flows and veins of calcium carbonate, but you can actually touch them. The wall looks solid, ancient and still standing, but up close you can see that is truly just made from fractured pieces of basalt that are holding onto each other to stay put. Marty told us to touch the wall. The moment my hand grazed a jagged piece, five others crumbled to the ground. When I looked down, I realized that we were standing on slowly eroding basalt that had been blown off by wind or touch by a hand just like mine.

The blend in 2015 is 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Malbec, and the juice was aged in French oak (50% new) for 22 months. It clocks in at 14.5% listed alc and begins with a nose full of basalt: loads of flinty and intense minerals complementing a core of blackberry, leafy tobacco, dried flowers, and espresso beans. The palate is exactly what a young Bordeaux blend should be: it’s all potential. There’s plenty of fruit in there, but it’s mostly chock full of structure—vibrant acidity and robust, serious tannin. This is a wine with all the potential to last two or three decades: a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re drinking it any time soon, a multi-hour decant is in order. Here at Full Pull, we consider this to be one of the most important Washington debutantes of the past few years, and it’s still priced well below Washington’s cult wines (not to mention good Pauillac).

Jeb Dunnuck: [TEXT WITHHELD]

And as a bonus:

2016 L’Ecole No 41 Estate Luminesce
While you may not want to open your bottle of Ferguson the day you get it, L’Ecole’s 2016 Luminesce is drinking beautifully and ready for immediate consumption as the temperatures continue to heat up.

Jeb Dunnuck: [TEXT WITHHELD]


Full Pull Hidden Barbaresco

June 13, 2018

Hello friends. “Baby Barolo what is going on?!” That’s the first note I wrote after sampling Rizzi’s deliriously good 2015 Langhe Nebbiolo. I eventually figured out what was going on, and my “baby Barolo” note was only a few miles off base.

2015 Rizzi Langhe Nebbiolo 
Before I get into that whole story, though, I should mention that I really loved this wine. Enough to go long. This wine’s release price was $25, and the current wine-searcher low is 21.99. I really wrangled for a price that would allow us to hit 19.99 TPU. In my mind, that price a) encourages exploration from folks who are curious about heavy-hitter Piedmont wines but are put off by the exorbitant prices; and b) encourages folks who are already Nebbiolo true-believers to make this their new house red.

Rizzi was hazily familiar to me. I had tasted a few of their Barbarescos, and I knew they had received some positive press: 93pt and 94pt reviews from Wine Enthusiast for their entry-level Barbaresco; 94s and 95s for their crus. But this Langhe Neb was good enough that I wanted to go deeper down the research rabbit hole.

The first items I examined were tech sheets. Here is the info on the Langhe Nebbiolo: vine age – planted 1967-2004; grown on soils of white marl clay-calcareous. Fermented in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures for a period of 21 days. Aged in oak barrels (50Hl) for 12 months and then bottled and released. And here is the Barbaresco: vine age – planted 1967-2004; grown on soils of white marl clay- calcareous, alternated by sand. Fermented in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures for a period of 25-35 days. Aged in oak barrels (50Hl) for 12-15 months and then in concrete tanks for 8 months. Bottled and released 3 years after the harvest.

At that point, my spidey senses were tingling, so I just went ahead and asked the importer: is this wine labeled Langhe Nebbiolo but what is actually inside is Barbaresco? The response was – to say the least – encouraging:

Yes, the fruit comes solely from vineyards within the Barbaresco appellation, and ALL FROM CRU vineyards: Cru Nervo, Cru Pajoré & Cru Rizzi. The fruit used for the Langhe Nebbiolo is simply from the younger and slightly higher yielding vines… So, this is TRULY BABY BARBARESCO. It is aged in much the same way and in the same vessels as the Cru Barbaresci: stainless steel fermentation, then in 50HL Slavonian wood casks for 1 year. (No cement tank aging for the Langhe Nebbiolo). Philosophically, the winery is decidedly old school: no new French oak, no barrique. All about purity of fruit, representing the terroir and using “green” growing and winemaking practices.

So yeah, I was wrong about baby Barolo, but not by much. This is baby Barbaresco, and better yet, it comes entirely from Cru vineyards. For twenty bucks! That’s cray-cray, as the whippersnappers like to say. Rizzi’s importer also included this handy-dandy map showing exactly where the three Cru vineyards are that comprise the Langhe Neb. I’ve probably banged the value drum enough already today, but I need to mention: Rizzi bottles each of those three vineyards on their own, and the pricing is $42, $59, and $69. Just sayin’.

I hope we offer more Rizzi wines, because I’d like to dig deeper into the history of the estate (short version: founded in the late 1800s; growers only until 1984; 44 hectares across Trieso, known in Barbaresco for its cooler micro-climate, high elevations and soils comprised of classic Tortonian marl) and the the winemaker (short version: Enrico Dellapiana, son of Ernesto Dellapiana, who first began bottling under the Rizzi label in ’84; for some time, Enrico apparently pulled double duty as a winemaker and a professional basketball player; there are YouTube clips of him talking both wine and hoops.

For today, though, I’ll just tell you what is so great about this wine and move along. It begins, as any proper Nebbiolo should, with haunting aromatics, here in the form of flowers (rose petals, violets), bright red fruits (wild strawberry, red cherry), and streaks of tar and leaf. Listed alc is 14.5%, and this shows its vineyard pedigree immediately on the palate. The texture is fabulous, another testament to the incredible 2015 vintage across Europe, with rich, openly delicious fruit supported by sturdy scaffolding of structure. There is attractive blood-orange acidity, and seriously imposing tannins, both hallmarks of high-quality Nebbiolo. This could probably be a 20-30 year wine, but only if you can resist its youthful charms. Good Langhe Neb is underrated as a summer BBQ wine, and then my goodness, to have this around for all the cooler-weather braises and roasts of autumn and winter will make you look like a culinary genius. Truly this is one of the happiest tasting surprises of 2018 so far. I hope you all dig this wine as much as our team does.


Full Pull Summer Reds

June 12, 2018

Hello friends. We love to talk about seasonally appropriate wines. This time of year, we usually fill your inboxes with killer deals on rosés from Europe and the newest pink juice from Washington; we sling Vinho Verde and Txakoli; we salivate over Sancerre and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. In the hustle and bustle of summer’s favorite wines, the category of red wine quickly gets forgotten about. But there is something to be said about a perfect summer red—a quaffable bottle that’s juicy with fruit, bright with acidity, and even better with a light chill. After all, Summer is the season of the grill, and what better pair is there than red wine with your perfectly grilled rib eye?

You don’t have to miss red wines just because it’s hot out. There are plenty of wines that are just waiting for long sunny days and nights on the patio. Today, we have three reds to get you through the next few months of camping, boating, picnicking, grilling, and so much more.

2015 La Nevera Tinto (3L BAG IN BOX, Pickup Only) 
This is actually a reoffer of one of the most popular wines we offered last year. There is almost nothing better than high-quality boxed wine in the summertime. You can easily bring it on a boat, into the woods, or on top of a mountain. It’s economical ($5.00 a bottle when you do the math) and it lasts for a month, maybe more, once opened and stored properly. Summer is supposed to be fun—and that is exactly what this wine is.

It’s a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and Viura from an organically farmed, sandy clay vineyard planted in 1978 at 1800 feet in Rioja Alta (here are some pics). The moderate daytime warmth and cool nights of La Nevera’s Continental Atlantic climate allows the grapes to ripen slowly, building brighter aromas and a bolder fruit profile. To highlight these flavors, the wine is raised entirely in stainless steel. Listed alc here is 12.5%.

The nose is pure and lovely, offering red cherry and juicy berries, earth, and wonderful leafy tones of eucalyptus and tobacco leaf. It’s a clean, vibrant, and complex nose at this ridiculously low price point. One of Full Pull’s favorite sayings comes to mind: Only in Spain! It seems impossible to imagine this level of quality at this price from anywhere else in the world. For me, this drinks like juicy young Rioja. It has that familiar leafy/dusty cherry fruit, and brings plenty of pleasure and palate-weight while still being light on its feet. It’s surprisingly complex while staying utterly gulpable. I want to put a slight chill on this and order some legit Mexican takeout ASAP.

2017 Alta Alella Garnatxa
Alella is the closest appellation to the city of Barcelona. Located just steps outside the city, the history of this wine-producing region goes back to 3rd century BC and Roman rule. For centuries, Alella was a bustling wine region, until it went the way of many European agricultural areas and was almost 100% decimated by phylloxera. It has been slowly growing back ever since with the help of the families in the region and dedication of the farmers.

Josep Maria Pujol-Busquets and his wife Cristina Guillén began growing grapes in 1991, primarily planting traditional grapes of the region. Their winery, Alta Alella, has alway operated with organic farming–mostly seen as a sign of respect for the land around them. The estate is surrounded by Serralada de Marina Natural Park, and the family takes incredible pride in respecting the neighboring wildlife. The site is breathtaking—set high above the Mediterranean, this is a winery to visit if you’re ever in Barcelona (they even have a visitor center, which makes it approximately 1000% easier to visit than most European estates).

Alta Alella’s Garnatxa (100% Grenache) feels incredibly true to the region. Growing along the Mediterranean Sea has made this grape vibrant, lively, and fresh. This wine pours ruby and opens with juicy plums and raspberries, violets, pepper, and sun-drenched granite. The palate is energetic and dynamic—surging with berry fruit, blood orange acidity, and a touch of pepper spice. Its vibrancy leads the way, the perfect pairing for a large array of summer food, but grilled meats and sticky BBQ would especially shine.

2016 Abbazia di Novacella Schiava 
Novacella is serious alpine country, sitting in the northernmost part of Italy, a place that’s closer to Munich than to Venice. Abbazia has been around since 1142, an Abbey founded by the Augustinian Order of Canons Regular, monks that support themselves through farming and winemaking. Their granitic schist soils, formed by ancient glaciers, are steeply planted with vineyards ranging from 850-2950 feet of elevation. The winery is famous worldwide for a series of piercingly beautiful white wines—but to ignore their mountain top reds would be a grave mistake. Specifically, their impressive Schiava.

Schiava is a native Italian variety that now calls Italy and Germany home. The most planted red grape throughout Alto Adige, it gains complexity and acidity from the region’s steep slopes. If you’ve never tried Schiava, let Novacella be your first, for it is one of the best examples on the planet. It drinks somewhere between Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Nebbiolo—lifted, expressive, and downright delicious. It opens with a gorgeous, airy nose of Rainier cherries, pomegranate, almonds, limestone, and rose petals. The palate is ultra-refreshing—energetically alpine—just waiting for a light chill. It is willowy and bright but quickly shows off surprising texture. To me, this is an ideal bottle because it can pair with any summer food. This wine would be sublime with something as hearty as grilled flank steak and chimichurri, but it would also shine with an heirloom tomato and basil salad. That is what’s so glorious about a good summer red—the sheer power of red wine perfectly balanced with beguiling, lithe texture.

 

 


Full Pull Red Mountain

June 11, 2018

Hello friends. Kiona Vineyards is a standout operation in Washington. They are a family of grape growers and winemakers. They create samplings that range from late harvest ice wine to beefy Red Mountain reds from the vineyards their family planted on Red Mountain when there was practically nothing else there.

There is an innate sense of place in the wines of Kiona—as if the wine knows something special about its homeland and if you play your cards right it might just let you in on the secret. Today we have two such wines: a Cabernet that has become a list mainstay, and our first ever Kiona rosé:

2015 Kiona Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
This Cabernet – a hugely popular offer for us in the 2013 and 2014 vintages – carries the generic Red Mountain label. And it would be enough if this was just an excellent Red Mountain Cab for twenty bucks. But it gets better, because the Williams family actually grows every grape that ends up in this bottle. A full 81% of this Cabernet comes from Kiona’s estate vineyards on Red Mountain (70% from Kiona Estate, which has been a hardworking staple since the mid 1970s, and 11% from Heart of the Hill, a west facing portion of Kiona’s estate that sits just slightly uphill from the winery). The other 19% comes from Emory Vineyard—which Kiona does not own, but which they do farm.

With this bottle, we’re essentially looking at estate-grown, estate-bottled, carefully-coddled Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, from folks who have been growing grapes and making wine on this mountain about as long as anyone. For twenty dollars. No wonder this wine has been so popular. It begins with a core of dark fruit (black plum, cassis) swaddled in alluring French oak tones of smoked vanilla bean and complicated by threads of earth and orange peel. The palate (14.5% listed alc) is ripe, rich, and delicious, very much in keeping with the warm 2015 vintage. The tannins, which sneak in at the back end, are fine-grained, ripe, and easy. The entire package is approachable and pleasurable as can be. As usual, this is an honest, well-priced entree into the power of Red Mountain Cab.

2017 Kiona Mourvedre Rose Heart of the Hill Vineyard
Mourvedre around the world, sits in Provence on the French side of the Pyrenees. Some of the most famous—and most expensive—rosé in the world comes from Bandol. Those wines will easily run you $30-$40 a bottle, whereas Kiona’s rosé, also made from the same grape, will run you less than $15.

It pours into the glass medium salmon colored, and offers an attractive nose of plum, mineral, and spice notes (star anise, clove). This drinks dry and brisk, with some notable dissolved CO2 giving this a mouthfeel more like Txakolina rosé than like many Washington versions. The overall character of the wine is bright, brisk, and deeply refreshing, but then the length and complexity manage to surprise and delight. A lovely new pink for our list members, and a terrific summer-into-autumn rosé.