Full Pull Epic Fail

September 22, 2018

Hello friends. On September 7, we managed one of the more epic fails in Full Pull history. Some of you already know about it; many of you don’t. And while it’s tempting to move on and never talk about it again, there’s a good wine to be had, and ultimately, that takes precedence over my lingering embarrassment.

2015 Saviah The Jack Reserve
At 10am on Sept 7, our offer began to roll out to our list members for Saviah Jack Reserve. The 2012 vintage. Just after 10:30, I received a panicked phone call from Saviah’s local rep: “bro, it’s the 2015 vintage that’s available; not the 2012.” At that point, I yanked the offer, but some damage was done: more than half the list received the email, and hundreds of you placed orders.

Eventually we figured out what happened: the local warehouse from which samples were pulled still had a bottle or two of 2012 kicking around, and that’s how the 2012 ended up in the rep’s sample stash, and how it ended up being poured for us. So I sent mea culpa emails to the list members who had ordered, then set about the depressing task of zeroing out all those requests.

What I also mentioned in those apology emails: “Soon we’ll taste the 2015 vintage, and if it’s up to snuff, we’ll offer it.” And I have to tell you; I was kind of rooting for the 2015 to be mediocre, so I could just put this whole episode behind me. But no dice. It was great, and our list members deserve to have access to it. So here we go again with the story of The Jack Reserve; this time with the correct vintage.

It begins in May 2013, when we offered the 2009 Ellanelle Cabernet Sauvignon. And explained that the ‘L’ and ‘L’ in “Ellanelle” are Leonard and Leslie Brown. The Brown family has been farming in the southern Walla Walla Valley since the 1970s, and they’re hugely influential in that part of the valley. But it wasn’t until 2001 that they began converting some of their orchard land into wine grapes. The family has two main labels: Watermill for wine and Blue Mountain for cider. And then beginning with the 2008 vintage, Len and Leslie began Ellanelle as a reserve label, producing exactly one wine, and keeping production low. That 2013 offer included a 93pt Gregutt review in Wine Enthusiast. And as it turned out, that was the only Ellanelle wine ever reviewed by Enthusiast. Soon after that review came out, and soon after our offer went out, Len and Leslie shut the project down.

Fast forward to November 2016, and our offer for the 2011 Jack Reserve. That wine waaaaay over-performed its price point, and was a big mystery right up until the moment I saw the cork, which read “Ellanelle.” My speculation back then was that the 2011 Jack Reserve was actually repurposed Ellanelle Cabernet Sauvignon, and that we were getting a well-reviewed $35 Cab for considerably less. If the Browns wrapped up the project in 2013, they almost certainly would have had the 2011 in bottle (hence the Ellanelle corks) and the 2012 vintages in barrel (this is how the ’12 Jack Reserve ended up with Saviah corks). They already had a tight relationship with Rich Funk (he buys a lot of their fruit, and he made the family’s wine in the early days), so he would make perfect sense as a buyer for those bottles and barrels.

After the success of the 2011 and 2012 vintages, you might be surprised that there was no Jack Reserve in 2013, nor 2014. But it actually makes sense. By the time Rich realized how well the wine was being received, it would have been late 2016 or early 2017, and you know what vintage would have been in barrel at that point and just waiting to be designated as the new Jack Reserve? Bingo: 2015.

What is nifty about this program is that Rich has very much kept the ethos of the old Ellanelle wines alive here. The vineyards are similar (both the ’12 and the ’15 feature Brown properties Anna Marie and McClellan; the ’12 also included Dugger Creek, while the ’15 is rounded out with Summit View); the blend is similar (2012 was 78/14/8 Cab/Merlot/Franc; the 2015 69/21/10); the barrel regimen is similar (23 months all in French oak; Rich dialed back from 60% new in 2012 to 30% in 2015).

The wine’s profile is more similar to the ghost-2012 vintage than the 2011, and that should come as no surprise, since 2015 was closer climatically to ’12 than to ‘11. This begins with a nose of crème de cassis, soil, and high-cacao chocolate. With time and air, savory subtleties begin to emerge: beetroot and tea leaf and mineral. That savory edge could very well come from Summit View, a Sevein vineyard in the neighborhood of Ferguson. This part of the Walla Walla Valley is rapidly developing a reputation for basalt-driven mineral/soil tones that add wonderful layers of complexity to valley Cabernets. This is rich (14.8% listed alc) and intense, fanning out and saturating the palate. The intensity, the complexity, the polished texture; all aspects more commonly seen in the $40-$60 range. This definitely over-delivers its tariff by some measure.

One final logistics note. The entire (small) production of this wine is being split among three retail accounts in western Washington, all longtime supporters of Rich Funk’s wines. We’re going to send our initial order one week from today, so please try to place all order requests by Sunday night. There’s a chance we’ll get a second bite at the apple, but knowing the other two retailers involved, I wouldn’t count on it.

Full Pull Anniversary Week 6 of 6: Singular Rocks Syrah

September 21, 2018

Hello friends, and thanks for joining us as we wrap up Anniversary Week 2018! Full Pull launched a little more than nine years ago, on October 5, 2009, and we use the occasion of our anniversary week to blast out some of our most compelling offers of the year. Today marks the sixth and last of our sextet of Anniversary Week offers, and we’re wrapping things up with a beauty; a singular Rocks District Syrah that is among the most challenging-to-source bottlings currently coming out of this special part of the northwest.

2016 Delmas Syrah SJR Vineyard
I say challenging to source for a few reasons. First, because there are only three places in the United States to purchase this wine: direct through the Delmas mailing list (now closed, but you ought to consider joining the waiting list); from our esteemed colleagues at McCarthy & Schiering (please consider reaching out to Jay and Dan if we end up with painful allocations again); and through the Full Pull list. Not a single restaurant has this wine on its list. Not a single somm can humblebrag about Delmas.

But I have to admit: even we’ve been a dodgy source. Max allocations of the 2014 vintage? 2 bottles. Last year’s 2015? 1 bottle max allocations, and dozens of list members shut out entirely. This year production has nudged upwards (all the way to 230 cases!), so I’m cautiously optimistic that allocations will improve marginally, but after that recent K Vintners allocation bloodbath, I’m emphasizing the word “cautiously.”

On the allocation front, my plan is to run allocations on Wednesday at 12pm so that folks picking up this weekend will have access to the wine. As usual, we’ll favor breadth over depth, so that everyone gets one bottle before anyone gets two, and our formula for prioritizing allocations will include overall orders, frequency of orders, recency of orders, and list tenure, among other factors.

Now then, the starting place for what makes Delmas Syrah special is the same as for every special wine in the world: the land. Specifically, SJR Vineyard, owned by Steve Robertson and located here, at the far southwestern edge of the Rocks District , with 8 acres currently in production, and another 2 acres planted last year. It’s mostly Syrah, with a little Grenache and a little Viognier. Brooke Robertson (Steve’s daughter) is now managing the vineyard, after several years getting her viticulture master’s at Cal Poly and working at Harlan Estate in the Napa Valley. I had a chance to hang out with Brooke in the vineyard last year, and she is a dynamo, with fascinating ideas about how to grow grapes in the rocks. The future seems bright indeed for this vineyard.

On the winemaking side, Billo Naravane MW (it still gives me a kick to write the Master of Wine initials after Billo’s name) has been the consulting winemaker since day one, and what a joy it is to see Billo – who is a Rhone savant – working with rocks fruit. Here’s what the always-eloquent Billo has to say about the site: “SJR Vineyard produces Syrah with an amazing sense of terroir; there is a haunting earthiness and minerality that is present in all of the wines from this vineyard. The resulting wines have that rare combination of elegance, finesse, and power without heaviness. SJR Vineyard is a site that truly has something spectacular to say.”

This 2016 has a full 8% Viognier coferment, and saw a 153-hour cold soak (that’s nearly a week). It was raised entirely in French oak (60% new) for 14 months, and it clocks in at 14.5% listed alc. This has a super-expressive, double-take rocks nose: yes marionberries and blueberries, but also a whole cavalcade of shapeshifting savory tones: black olive tapenade and smoky bacon fat; candied violets and Asian spice (star anise, Szechuan peppercorn); the brackish kelpy notes inherent to some of the most thrilling rocks Syrahs. I adore this nose – it’s completely aromatically arresting – and yet what distinguishes this from past vintages of Delmas is mouthfeel. This is so seamless, so pleasurable, such a lavish wine-drinking experience. Color me smitten.

International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): “[TEXT WITHHELD] 96pts.”

I should probably also note that Jeb Dunnuck hasn’t gotten his hands on the ’16 Delmas Syrah yet, but he did review a barrel sample of 2016 SJR Syrah made by Todd Alexander for Force Majeure, bestowing a 97-100pt score and calling it “a holy [EXPLETIVE] wine.” This is a special vineyard to be sure.

Full Pull Anniversary Week 5 of 6: 2012 Cabernet Price Drop

September 20, 2018

Hello friends, and thanks for joining us as Anniversary Week continues! Full Pull launched nine years ago today, on October 5, 2009, and we use the occasion of our anniversary week to blast out some of our most compelling offers of the year. Today marks the fifth of our sextet of Anniversary Week offers.

And this one has been building. Even as early as spring 2016, when we offered the 2010 Beresan Cabernet Sauvignon, I heard the questions: what about the 2012? Well, our list gobbled up piles of the 2010, and then piles of the 2011, so when the time came to move into the 2012, who do you think got dibs?

2012 Beresan Cabernet Sauvignon
And here I have to pause and thank Mr. Tom Glase. Many a winery would have gotten on the other side of that pair of (unfairly-maligned) cool vintages and immediately taken a price hike. Instead, for our Anniversary Week, Tom is offering us the exact same TPU pricing that we had for the ’10 and the ’11, a price considerably lower than the cellar-door tariff of $35.

Of course long-time list members will recall that we’ve been offering Beresan Cabs since well before the ’10 and ’11 vintages. In fact, our first vintage was the 2006, a wine we offered in conjunction with a fascinating Paul Gregutt blog where he tasted a six-year vertical of Beresan Cabs. What I love about that blog entry was that PaulG published his scores from when he had initially reviewed the wines for Enthusiast, and then revised scores based on how the wine was drinking at the vertical tasting. One wine went down a point (the 2005 vintage, from 92pts to 91pts); all the others increased, by anywhere from one point to a whopping eight points. The conclusions I think many of us drew from the exercise: first, as PaulG himself said in that post, “Beresan makes my short list of the most important, consistent, stylistically riveting small wineries in Washington. It is also among the state’s best value plays…”; and second, that Beresan’s Cabernets generally improve mightily with age.

Beresan really is one of the gems of the Walla Walla Valley, and it starts with their outstanding estate vineyards. This Cabernet is 60% Yellow Jacket Vineyard (located here) and 40% Waliser Vineyard (located here). Both of these estate sites are in the rocks; both are farmed by Tom Waliser (one of the valley’s finest growers). Waliser Vineyard was planted in 1997, Yellow Jacket in 1999. That is early days as far as the rocks are concerned. As the folks at Beresan note, “The vineyards are planted on old cobblestone riverbed soils, providing the wine with unique and distinct earthy minerality qualities.”

That beautiful rocks Cabernet fruit was brought to bottle by Tom Glase, who makes Beresan wines in addition to his own Balboa wines (in fact, as of last spring, the wineries merged into one entity). It spent about two years in barrel (all French, 30% new), and now has another four years of bottle age. Perfect. It clocks in at 14.8% listed alc and pours into the glass inky black-red, then comes roaring back out with a super-expressive nose of crème de cassis, loamy soil, cedar, and violets. Classic Cabernet (and this is indeed 100% Cab). I love how primary the fruit still is here, how densely layered: currants and berries, cherries and stone fruits; the list goes on. But as usual with this Cab, it isn’t only about the fruit: there are earthy/minerally savory tones galore thanks to all those good cobbles. Texturally this is just in a glorious place right now, likely a year or two shy of its peak drinking window, with the tannins still very much present but also polished by the extra bottle age. The finish is long and satisfying, the lingering chew redolent of earl grey tea. I was left gobsmacked by the quality-for-price here and wondering if this is the finest vintage of Beresan Cabernet to date.

Full Pull Anniversary Week 4 of 6: Exclusive Bubbles

September 18, 2018

Hello friends, and thanks for joining us as Anniversary Week continues! Full Pull launched about nine years ago, on October 5, 2009, and we use the occasion of our anniversary week to blast out some of our most compelling offers of the year. Today marks the fourth of our sextet of Anniversary Week offers, and the new disgorgement of one of the most well-loved wines we offer: our bubbly extra brut rosé from Block Wines, our winery-within-Full Pull.

NV Block Wines Extra Brut Rose Marchant Vineyard D.2018
While Morgan Lee makes all of the still wines under the Block label, Christian and Juergen Grieb have been our partner winemakers for this sparkling wine since the beginning. They are the Washington-focused sparkling winemakers behind Treveri—so too our Full Pull & Friends Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature. We consider this partnership extremely special. While the bubbles scene in our state is growing, sparkling wine producers are still few and far between. Christian and Juergen are experts on the matter of Washington sparkling.

This wine is made from 100% Washington Pinot Noir. Abundant just south of us in Oregon, Pinot is much harder to find in our neck of the woods. That is part of what makes this bottling so special. Treveri has access to a small amount of Pinot Noir—not nearly enough for their own commercial rosé production, but perfect for our purposes. True to the block name, this juice comes from a single block of a single vineyard called Marchant. Marchant Vineyard is a cool-climate Yakima Valley Vineyard; just cool enough to be perfect for Pinot. In fact, that’s all they grow there. Our fruit is pulled from the block closest to the farmhouse on the property: hence the “Farmhouse Block” designation on the label.

This disgorgement pours into the glass a bit darker than previous years; a few more hours of skin contact yielding a color more reminiscent of wild roses. It opens abundantly with ripe fruit (strawberries, cherries, plums, nectarines), fields of gladiola, lemon curd, saltine crackers, and granite. In the grand tradition of this wine, we settled on a brisk five grams per liter dosage, which puts us in the “Extra Brut” category. And while it’s wonderfully dry, one of my favorite things about this wine is that it still manages to find breadth. Expertly balanced, it’s bright and clean, zeroing in on succulent fruit while oscillating between saline minerality and vibrant acidity. There are lessy subtleties as this wine zips through the palate and ends with a lingering touch of berries and earth. With Thanksgiving around the corner, this bottle is as fit as ever for the family table. You could really pair this wine with just about anything: a touch of cassis, vermouth, or lillet for a killer aperitif; roasted pork shoulder glazed with apricot preserves; mushrooms expertly browned in the highest quality butter; shakshuka; ashed ripened cheese and marcona almonds. Versatility reigns.

This wine is so special for our team; sparkling wine plays a big role in the lives of Team Full Pull. Paul and Kelli decided to embark on Full Pull itself after a handshake agreement about life, expectations, and sparkling wine. Nick and his wife toasted their wedding with Marie Copinet champagne. Dennis told me with a wink that he once loved sparkling Shiraz. Universally, these bubbly bottles weave their way into our most cherished memories.

But truly, for me, sparkling wine is best when it marks the celebratory nature of everyday life. A Sunday evening spent celebrating a friend’s birthday; the Monday afternoon you finally pay off your student loans; a random Tuesday in November with no rain; Wednesday’s failed attempt at making soup dumplings; the Thursday night popcorn and netflix ritual; Friday, finally; a leisurely Saturday morning brunch with no other plans. These are the moments that make up our lives—and they are the ones that sparkling wine is truly made for.

Full Pull Anniversary Week 3 of 6: Take Me Home

September 17, 2018

Hello friends, and thanks for joining us as Anniversary Week continues! Full Pull launched about nine years ago, on October 5, 2009, and we use the occasion of our anniversary week to blast out some of our most compelling offers of the year. Today marks the third of our sextet of Anniversary Week offers, and the sophomore vintage of one of our most popular Oregon Pinot Noirs ever.

Without being too hyperbolic, a truly good, inexpensive Willamette Valley Pinot Noir might just be about the toughest bargain to find. We’ve all had those moments of optimistically cracking a fifteen dollar Willamette Pinot, only to be bitterly disappointed by the juice inside. That experience is consistent with, hmmm… nine out of every ten Pinots at that price point? So, in the fall of 2016, when we we received an email from one of our favorite Oregon wine people about a killer deal on single-vineyard, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, we knew we had to taste it.

The wine—2014 Take Me Home Pinot Noir—was a total knockout with a dynamite label. We offered it, sold out almost immediately, and it’s been a heartbreaking reorder target ever since. Today, we have the long-awaited return.

2015 Take Me Home Pinot Noir
Take Me Home is a winery project from said favorite Oregon wine person—who we’re keeping anonymous here but who you can probably discover with some good old-fashioned internet sleuthing. He developed this brand in 2014 while consulting on a Pinot Noir bottling from a prominent Willamette vineyard. Favorite Oregon wine person opted to take his payment for this work in wine—and that wine became the first vintage of Take Me Home Pinot Noir.

This year, the wine comes from a prominent vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. It’s one that we have featured three times before; a favorite vineyard sourced frequently by a winery we know and love. Josh Raynolds (Vinous) has reviewed two 2015 Pinots from this site. One earned 92pts and costs $52; the other 94pts/$65. (One more clue: it’s both Live and Salmon Safe Certified. If you can figure out the vineyard from those clues, then congrats; you’re a serious Oregon wine geek!) The soil is all volcanic basalt, and the blend is made from hand-picked Pommard and Wadenswil clones, cofermented with native yeasts. It spent 18 months in neutral French oak before bottling.

I can’t say much more about this one than what I’ve already included above, so let me jump straight to a tasting note. Clocking in with a listed alcohol of 13.5%, this wine expresses what I love so much about the Eola-Amity Hills: spiced fruit. Pinot Noir from Eola-Amity always has this wonderful spice box nose embedded in all of its fruit. Take Me Home is no exception—its ripe red berries and raspberries surge with hints of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, red pepper flakes, and dried green herbs. The palate is mouth watering with tart fruit, blood orange acidity, sarsaparilla, and crunchy leaves. Texturally, this has energy and verve that hint at an old-world wine; the power and pleasure make it clear that this comes from one of the beating hearts of new world Pinot: Oregon.

Full Pull Anniversary Week 2 of 6: You Win Some You Lose Some

September 16, 2018

Hello friends, and thanks for joining us as Anniversary Week continues! Full Pull launched about nine years ago, on October 5, 2009, and we use the occasion of our anniversary week to blast out some of our most compelling offers of the year. Today marks the second of our sextet of Anniversary Week offers, and it was a wine originally intended as a Block Wines Syrah with the same $50 price point as our Ankleroller. But fate intervened, and it turns out this wine will be a one-off. Because of that, we decided to bottle it under the FP&F label and also to give it FP&F pricing.

2016 Full Pull & Friends Syrah Boushey Vineyard (FPF-27)
Early in 2017, I received an anguished phone call from Morgan Lee. There had been a forklift accident at the winery, and two puncheons had busted open; one full of 2015 Discovery Vineyard Cab, the other full of 2015 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, both destined for Block Wines. We had other barrels of Disco Cab, so that wine was not a total loss, but the entirety of the ’15 Boushey Syrah was in that puncheon.

It was heartbreaking for both of us at the time. And then recently I got to relive the heartbreak when I saw Sean Sullivan’s review in the September Wine Enthusiast of Morgan’s own 2015 Boushey Syrah for Two Vintners. Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[TEXT WITHHELD] 95pts.”

To put that review into some context, Sean has reviewed 6,551 wines to date for Wine Enthusiast. Only 11 of those have earned better than a 95pt review: 10 96ers and a single 97. Those 11 wines come entirely from Cayuse/Horsepower/Hors Categorie (7), Charles Smith/K Vintners (3), and Quilceda Creek (1), and range in price from $90-$240.

With the benefit of hindsight, do I wish I hadn’t overreacted to the accident, decided we didn’t need two Syrahs in the Block Wines lineup, and told Morgan he could take all the Boushey Syrah fruit from the 2017 vintage on? Um, yes. But you win some and you lose some in this great game of wine. I certainly didn’t make the right decision in this instance, but at least our list members are the beneficiaries of one magnificent vintage of Boushey Syrah, made by Morgan Lee, at highly-accessible pricing.

This was fermented with 50% whole clusters and aged for 18 months in one neutral (blessedly intact) puncheon, which means overall production is a measly 52 cases, considerably less than many of our FP&F bottlings. I wonder if this one will last out the year. It clocks in at 14.8% listed alc and pours inky black-purple. The nose is an ever-evolving pastiche, but the core is marionberry fruit and savory notes of black olive tapenade and smoky ham hock. I couldn’t believe how long this took to unwind during its time in puncheon, but unwind it has, into a palate-saturating marvel with a seamless attack and mid-palate. Boushey Syrah always seems to carry a heavier tannin profile than is typical for the grape, and that’s true here. Not that this drinks like Cab – it doesn’t – but the finish does offer a pleasing toothsome character, an attractive leafy farewell.

Full Pull Eyrie

September 15, 2018

Hello friends. One of the real treats of the Pacific Northwest wine trade is being able to attend Oregon Pinot Camp. (Yes, it’s a thing.) Paul went a few years back, and this year, I was honored to be selected as part of the cohort. Without a doubt, the highlight of the trip was a small gathering held at Eyrie’s Outcrop Vineyard House, which sits along Eyrie’s estate vineyard by the same name, adjacent to the winery’s original vineyard, Eyrie. There lay the original plantings of Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley.

Eyrie’s history is long—and worth the read. For the sake of space, here are the unofficial CliffsNotes: A trip through Europe in the early ’60s convinced David Lett of the singular beauty of Pinot Noir and that the grape could only reach its highest expression in difficult environments. He blazed a trail north to Oregon, where he was convinced he could find just such a clime. In 1966, he settled on a site in the Dundee Hills, at a time when banks wouldn’t give loans to winemakers interested in this area because it was universally known that the Willamette Valley was too cold and too wet for grape-growing. There, he planted Eyrie Vineyard.

In 1980, at a blind tasting hosted by Robert Drouhin, the 1975 Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve Pinot Noir finished second to the 1959 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir—by two-tenths of a point. This set into motion Domaine Drouhin’s establishment of its Oregon outpost, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, and solidified Eyrie’s status as the benchmark producer of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. David Lett continued for the coming decades to create honest, terroir driven wines, and now his son, Jason, continues the tradition.

My visit to Eyrie this past June was special for many reasons. First off, their generosity and hospitality is unmatched—the entire trip featured many bottles like this. My favorite part of the evening was walking from the Outcrop house to neighboring winery Sokol Blosser by way of Eyrie’s original vines. Jason guided us through the vineyard, pointing out the tree from Eyrie’s iconic label, showing us how to tell Chardonnay and Pinot Noir leaves apart (it’s the shape of the petiolar sinus, the empty space surrounding the stem of the leaf), and talking about his father’s vision over 50 years ago. Jason knows that piece of land like family, and treats it with the same tenderness. He’s managing the near-impossible dual feat of carrying on a family tradition while carving out space for his own vision, and doing it with a preternatural sense of calm and equanimity. The results of his work are clear: Eyrie’s wines are as spectacular as they’ve ever been.

2016 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris 
Eyrie is best known for its Pinot Noir, but David Lett blazed the trail for white varieties, too. He planted the first Pinot Gris vines in the country. This pioneering nature is present stylistically. Eyrie’s white wines have a mind of their own—and truly differ from their Oregon counterparts. Eyrie takes a slower approach to this wine, aging the Pinot Gris 3 -4 times longer than many other wineries. The juice goes through extended aging on the lees and full malolactic fermentation that provides texture. This results in unusually rich and supple texture for a wine that’s zippy with acidity. A perfect combination for aging.

Clocking in at 12.5% alcohol, this Pinot Gris opens with a wildly fragrant nose of orchard fruit, lemon cream, honey, wildflowers, and saline. The palate is bright and mineral driven, with incredibly leesy texture for such low alcohol. Gregutt suggests it’s a perfect summer white, but I would also call it dreamy for fall. It’s a fine balance of weight and racy acidity, which basically begs for a dinner tables filled with my favorite autumnal eats: creamy soups, sauteed mushrooms, roasted root vegetables, toasty bread with caramelized onions and chevre.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[TEXT WITHHELD] 92pts.”

2016 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Blanc
A true hidden gem of the Eyrie lineup, this beauty rarely leaves the clutches of Oregonians, and it’s one we’re lucky to source when we’re able. Pinot Blanc is a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. In other words, you have a vineyard full of Pinot Noir, and all your vines have red grapes, except for one cane, whose grapes are all white. Weird, huh? And then a few geneticist/vigneron types propagated these mutant vines into vineyard blocks all their own. Voila Pinot Blanc!

This one kicks off with bright, flowery nose chock full of citrus, pears, melon, and hay. Like the Pinot Gris, this wine conveys a wonderful sense of fullness and silken texture with only 12% listed alc. It begins delightfully fruit forward, but slowly hints toward savory and finishes full of minerals. Pinot Blanc like this is a fine alternative to your favorite Chardonnay. Treat it as such. Find a plate of scallops, a bowl full of crab bisque, or a filet of sole meunière and drink up.

2015 Eyrie Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
2015 was the warmest year in Oregon on record—but a cooling pattern in September allowed the grapes to drift slowly into optimal ripeness. Eyrie is no stranger to customizing harvest due to weather conditions. In less knowledgeable hands, this wine would be entirely different. But thanks to years of experience (and probably just a little bit of luck from the genetic lottery), Jason and his team preserved beautiful, natural acidity, making a Pinot Noir with near perfect typicity for their terroir.

The 2015 Willamette Pinot cuvée is a blend of 72% estate grown Pinot and the rest fruit from organically-managed, older-vine sites around the valley. All hand picked and destemmed, this wine undergoes native primary fermentation in a range of different fermenters—from small bins to five-ton wooden cuves. It then undergoes malolactic fermentation in mostly neutral barrels (11% new) and is bottled after 23 months. It clocks in at 13.79% alcohol.

What I love most about Eyrie’s Pinot Noir is its innate sense of place—and that place is the Willamette Valley. It smells like bright red berries, tall grass, Dundee dirt, and thickets of wild roses. The palate is savory Pinot at its finest—spicy, earthy juice just spotted with wild berries and macerated strawberries. Its light tannins and acid hint at years and years of aging potential. This is a special, terror-specific wine that deserves a place in your cellar (or basement, garage, shelf, under the bed etc. Really, put it wherever you store your wine).