Full Pull Vast Network of Wine Spies

November 30, 2018

Hello friends. The VNoWS™ is coming through in a major way this holiday season. Here was the dispatch I received in October:

Yo. I assume you sold this but could you check and see what you sold it for and if it was successful? I might be able to get [REDACTED] cases of it at [REDACTED PRICE] and I have a sample here we could try to see if it made sense.

Well, I checked. And the answers were: yes we sold it (in April 2015), yes it was successful, and what we sold it for was 26.99 TPU. I sampled the wine, realized it is basically library estate grown Rocks District Syrah at six years past an epic vintage, drinking beautifully. That was exciting. Then I did some quick math and figured out what we could offer the wine for today. That was more exciting still:

2012 Result of a Crush
Okay, so logistics first, since I suspect this will be popular. We have a hold on the entire library parcel available to western Washington, and that hold evaporates Monday at 12pm. So we’ll be placing our order Monday morning, which means I’ll ask everyone to please try to get order requests in no later than Sunday night. If our list speaks for the entire parcel, we get the entire parcel. If not, I’ll shed a single tear and release the remainder out into the wild. I’ll be optimistic and set order ceilings to 12 bottles, but my instinct is that actual allocations will land in the 3- to 6-bottle range.

Now then, here’s what we said about this wine three-and-a-half-years ago: This is the gateway drug into the gloriously funky world of Reynvaan, and it’s a family project: Since 2011, sisters Amanda Reynvaan and Angela Reynvaan Garratt have been producing approachable red blends and Rosés from elite vineyards throughout the Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley in conjunction with their brother and consulting winemaker, Matt Reynvaan. The family started out in the wine business in 2004, launching Reynvaan Family Vineyards in Walla Walla, which quickly developed into a Washington State cult winery. With the Result of a Crush project the family aims to produce wines that are distinctive, affordable, consistent in quality and showcase the owners’ sometimes whimsical attitude toward wine.

Here is what we know about the 2012:
1. This is single vintage, coming from 2012.
2. It still has the smooching lips label that belies the seriousness of the juice inside.
3. It is mostly Syrah and Viognier, with some Cabernet Sauvignon.

I’ll begin my note with the last sentence written in my notebook: “spectacular vintage for this wine.” And indeed it is, beginning with a funky, no-doubt-about-it rocks Syrah nose: smoked ham, green olive, flowers, boysenberry fruit. The umami/savory character is just outrageous on the nose. It’s so appetizing, and the palate delivers, with a mouthful of plush red and purple fruit paired to loads of bacon-fat. The swirling stew of meats and olives and fruits is just glorious, and the texture has a level of richness and polish that was just not possible in the cooler/leaner vintages. As far as I know, this remains the most accessibly priced entry point to Syrah fruit from the rocks of the Walla Walla Valley, and it continues to punch well above its price class.

A brief update from my recent tasting: the aromatic expressiveness and savory outrageousness of the nose have only been dialed up by bottle age, and texturally, this is marvelous, with nary a rough edge in site. It’s a savory umami bomb, made for winter meal-pairing or quiet contemplation. Long time list members know my opinion that good Washington Syrah starts to unfurl beautifully at five or six years past vintage, and here is a prime example.

Full Pull Thanksgiving

November 29, 2018

Hello friends. It’s almost that time of year again—the six straight weeks where you’re forced to eat your weight in roasted birds, imbibe alcohol nightly at countless holiday parties, don ugly sweaters, cut construction paper into various festive shapes, and try to stay sane while listening to your relatives’ hot takes on politics. It all starts in less than a month with the first event: Thanksgiving.

Oh Thanksgiving. Take one part thoughtful occasion to step back with friends and family and give thanks for all we hold dear; one part excuse to drink heavily in the company of loved ones; a dash of 3am Black Friday shopping; add a pinch of salt and a half cup of heavy whipping cream; stir.

In my household, Thanksgiving was always an excuse for my dad to open magnums of California Zin and my mom to gleefully force every guest to go around the table and share what they were thankful for. While I still follow my family’s examples for expertly crafted turkey and slight emotional coercion, the wine list has changed drastically. You will not find many beefy red wines on my Thanksgiving table. Thanksgiving is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a holiday that calls for affable wines that will help you thrive for 12 hours in the face of well-meaning family members; you need wines that are your friends.

So, we have a Thanksgiving six pack of obliging buddies for you this year. All of these wines follow three simple rules to ensure a successful dinner:

1. Moderate alcohol.

Remember: marathon, not a sprint. You want to be buzzed enough to hear Uncle Bruce’s opinions about the recent midterms without losing your mind, but you don’t want to be passed out before the cranberry sauce slithers out of the can.

2. High acid.

One look at the smorgasbord that is the Thanksgiving table is enough to make a trained wine professional turn to beer. Or whiskey. But no! Said trained wine professional will then remember that the hallmark of a versatile wine is acidity, and if high versatility is needed on Thanksgiving, then high acid is needed on Thanksgiving, enough acid to cleanse that battered palate and prepare it for the next round of culinary abominations.

3. Moderate price.

Thanksgiving is, statistically speaking, the most likely day of the year to host someone who will drop an ice cube (or two) into their wine, someone who will mix their wine with Sprite, and/or someone who will mix their red and white to make “moonshine rosé.” This is not the day to bust out the Grand Cru Burgundy; this is the day to seek out values. You won’t see a TPU price above $20 today.

Without further ado, here is this year’s six-pack of Thanksgiving wines:

NV Domaine du Prieure Cremant de Bourgogne
The first drink you have on Thanksgiving day should be a Kir Royale. (Maybe even before any of your guests arrive). This lovely, low-alcohol apéritif oozes with festive holiday charm. Ingredient #1 for a Kir Royale is usually Champagne. However, we’re trying to keep Thanksgiving affordable, and Domaine du Prieure’s Cremant drinks like a baby Champagne at a fraction of the cost. This is 70% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, and 5% Aligote, grown on soils of brown marl, white marl and shattered limestone. The nose combines white peach fruit, lemon meringue, roasted almonds, flaky croissant, and chalky mineral. So appetizing. In the mouth, this has a fine mousse, rippin’ acidity, and a wonderful palate-staining character with a touch of fruit. Delicious on its own, or as the aforementioned Kir Royale, mixed with the next bonus wine.

NV Domaine du Prieure Creme de Cassis de Dijon
You can’t have a Kir Royale without the Cassis This is far afield from the usual wines we offer, so I’ll let the folks at Prieure explain the process: Made from macerated, real blackcurrants (a woody shrub grown for its piquant berries) rather than flavorings and, the addition of the name Dijon means that the currants (“cassis”) used were grown only in the commune of Dijon. These currants are picked quickly at their peak ripeness and are immediately immersed in alcohol where they macerate for 3 months. Sugar is then added to balance out the tart flavor of the currants – it also makes the liqueur syrupy. Production is completely natural from start to finish; no fruit juice additives, colorings or flavorings of any kind are permitted. More than 13 pounds of fruit are used to produce each bottle.

As you can imagine, this smells and tastes mostly like… wait for it… blackcurrants. Blackcurrants with a bit of woodsy charm. Crème de cassis is often used as a descriptor for Cabernet Sauvignon aromas, so if you like the smell of Cab, you’ll probably like the smell of this. The palate is dark, sweet, and tangy—a delightful addition to a glass of bubbly. You can also sip a little of this after dinner, either on its own, or with a nice cheese (Delice de Bourgogne if you want to keep it all in the Burg family). Heavenly.

NV Les Vignobles de Jacques Cremant de Limoux Rose
You’ve had your Kir, now it’s on to the bottle you should open when your guests arrive—something to keep everyone entertained because the turkey is definitely not done yet. Deep in southwest France sits Limoux, a sparkling wine enclave of Languedoc-Roussillon. Southeast of Toulouse, and closer to Barcelona than Paris, Limoux sits within the cooler foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. This region’s sparkling wines may be the oldest on official record. A regional legend says that Dom Pérignon actually got the idea of the Champagne method from passing through Limoux. Whether that story is true or not doesn’t really matter; what matters is that the sparkling wines of Limoux are delicious and worth knowing for any bubble head.

This bottling is a special one, a one-time thing. It’s made by a well-known Domaine in Limoux—which must remain nameless—for one of our local distributors. It’s made using the Traditional Method, and the grapes are 60% Chardonnay, 25% Chenin Blanc, and 15% Pinot Noir. It clocks in with 12% listed alcohol and opens with plentiful fresh raspberries, ripe honeycrisp apples, lemon curd, marcona almonds, earthy leaves, and subtle salty-sweet brioche. On the palate, it’s impeccably elegant—a vibrant sparkling with creamy texture and downright tingly bubbles. There’s a subtle earthiness from the Pinot Noir that accentuates this bottle’s charm. It’s a celebration-worthy bottle to drink before, during, and after the Thanksgiving feast.

2017 Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc
We had the pleasure of meeting Jules Taylor earlier this fall, and if I could invite one extra person to my Thanksgiving table it would be her. Born in Malborough in the year that grapes were first planted there, Jules took on a post-grad degree in viticulture and winemaking at Lincoln University in New Zealand. She then went on to work eight vintages in Italy before returning to Marlborough and becoming the winemaker for Kim Crawford, where she worked for almost a decade before going off on her own. Jules has one of the most impressive resumés in New Zealand. Marlborough is in her blood, and she knows how to make wine that’s representative of the place she calls home. What I want to share with you today is a quote from Jules—one that feels entirely appropriate for Thanksgiving. “Italy brought home to me the importance of enjoying great wine with the people you love in a place that’s important to you. Drinking wine should be less about status and more about creating good memories.” If that isn’t exactly what Thanksgiving is about, I don’t know what is.

Wine Enthusiast (Christina Pickard): “[TEXT REDACTED]”

2016 Guy Saget Vouvray Marie de Beauregard
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 Vouvray, 100% Chenin Blanc, is sourced entirely from an estate located in Rochecorbon, a village directly west of the city of Vouvray. Rochecorbon sits along the north bank of the Loire River, equal distance between the city of Tours and famed Vouvray house, Huet. I drove through there a number of times this past April, most memorably up the winding hills to find the restaurant that had been recommended to our party by our tour guide at Huet.

Vouvray is heralded for its acidity—which makes it a wonderful wine for food pairing. It can handle brined turkey just as well as rye bread and apricot stuffing. It will elevate the usual mashed potatoes and finally make sense out of canned cranberry sauce. This particular bottle is exceptionally suited for Thanksgiving because it walks the fine line between dry and off-dry. Clocking in at 12.5% alcohol, the nose opens with ripe pear, lemon zest, apple chutney, candied ginger, and chalky minerals. The palate is so spirited with acidity that you could almost miss the inherent fruit sweetness of French orchard apples and summer stone fruit. That fresh fruit subtly and deliciously weaves its way through a fresh, silky mouthfeel that will last well past any pumpkin or pecan pie.

2017 Gobelsburg Rose
An ever-popular Austrian import, this wine is nationally loved by restaurants because of its food friendly character. It’s so well-loved by team Full Pull that—for the second year in a row—we’ve purchased all of the remaining bottles in Seattle for this offer. Rosé is wonderful on the Thanksgiving table—and if you can only choose one rosé, let it be from Gobelsburg. The acidity and fruit play off one another so well in this bottling, creating a wine that’s balanced and ready to pair with anything from finger-food to a plate full of Turkey. A blend of Austrian Zweigelt, St. Laurent, and Pinot Noir from Kamptal (an Austrian DAC), this wine clocks in at a friendly 12% alcohol and is truly a universal food companion.

Wine Enthusiast (Anne Krebiehl MW): “[TEXT REDACTED]”

2016 Frederic Sornin Morgon
Thanksgiving is all about family right? Well, Cru Beaujolais has always felt like a precious family secret—a delicious category of high-quality wines at impossibly low prices. Those in the know stock their cellars with Cru Beaujolais, which in a good vintage can age along the lines of high-end Burgundy, and hope that no one figures out that these wines could easily cost double or triple the price.

Frederic Sornin is a ninth-generation vigneron who took over his family’s Beaujolais estate in 1978. This bottling is 100% Gamay, entirely from Morgon, the second-largest cru of Beaujolais. (What are crus? Ten special hillside growing regions in Beaujolais that create intensely complex, compelling Gamay—especially in comparison to the flatlands used for Beaujolais Villages, straight Beaujolais, or Nouveau.) Morgon is known for its granite soils that provide concentration and structure to Beaujolais’ signature floral, spicy fruit.

This is quaffable, gulpable juice that makes you smile—but it’s so much more than that, too. What I like best about Morgon is its crunchy, mineral-drenched berry fruit; a perfect fit for the endless dishes of Thanksgiving day. It’s delicious and juicy, for those at your table who could care less about what they are drinking, but filled with savory intricacies for your nerdiest wine friends. Cru Beaujolais scratches the itch of red wine, but has enough wondrous minerality and rippin’ acidity to keep you afloat during a long meal. This bottle is one of my favorite discoveries this year—this is the only red wine in the six pack and I couldn’t imagine a better one for the Thanksgiving table.

Full Pull Burg

November 28, 2018

Hello friends. Today we have another in our year-ending Instant Gratification series of offers. These all contain wines that are in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup post-allocation (allocations will take place tomorrow at 10am). We have two more pickup weekends in 2018 (Dec 13-15, Dec 20-22), then our usual two-week holiday closure. Our first open pickup weekend in 2019 will be Jan 10-12.

Back in October, we tasted through the lineup of 2015s from Guillemot, one of Kermit Lynch’s prized Burgundy producers. Our favorites came from opposite ends of the price spectrum: one an entry-level Bourgogne Rouge; the other a flagship premier cru, both punching above their normal class thanks in part to the epic 2015 vintage. Both were also in short supply, so we went ahead and purchased the entire lot of both wines, securing a solid holiday Burg opportunity for our list members, for drinking or gifting. Or both.

2015 Guillemot Bourgogne Rouge
Here is Kermit’s intro to this winery: The Guillemot family has worked Savigny-lès-Beaune vines for eight generations (!) and produces wines with classic Burgundian finesse and balance, all while leaving us a reminder of Savigny’s rustic character. Guillemot is one of the quintessential Kermit Lynch producers, with wines that epitomize the local terroir and emphasize grace and elegance over power and structure. But do not be fooled into thinking that this means they lack aging potential; the Guillemots are very proud of their old wines and thankfully have the foresight to set aside a good supply and follow their wines’ development over the years. A recent tasting at the domaine included a 1989 and 1975 Savigny Blanc, as well as the ‘90, ‘88, ‘85, ‘82, ‘76, ’72, and ‘64 Rouge. There was not a single tired bottle in the bunch. We challenge anyone to find a better deal on Burgundies that are built to last like these.

This is a family deeply interwoven into the fabric of Savigny-les-Beaune, and – no surprise – their gateway Bourgogne Rouge also comes from S-l-B, from the winery’s “young vines.” Youth, of course, is relative, and here means a 32-year-old plot on alluvial soils. The wine is aged entirely in neutral barrel for 18 months, then sees another 6 months in bottle before release. Listed alc is 12.5%, and this kicks off with a very pretty, high-pitched nose: rose petals and red fruits (strawberries, cherries) complicated by tarry mineral streaks. I love the verve and cut and nervy character here; this is classic red Burg through and through, an honest expression of this site through the prism of Pinot Noir. I’d drink this delicious bottle sometime in the next five years, preferably with a seared duck breast by my side.

2015 Guillemot Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Les Serpentieres
Here’s a special wine, from a 1.7-hectare plot of Les Serpentieres on marl soil, the vines 55 years old. It gets a little more new wood than the Bourgogne, still only 10% of the total, and is otherwise treated the same. Listed alc is 13%, and while this shares many of the aromatic features of the Bourgogne (red fruit and flower and mineral), the palate (and especially the texture) is completely different, with notable intensity, deeply attractive silkiness, and sneaky fine-grained tannin. This is one for the cellar.

Wine Advocate (William Kelley): “[TEXT REDACTED]

Full Pull Return Of The Lidless Eye

November 24, 2018

Hello friends. After a multi-year dry spell, we’re back with our second Sauron wine in six weeks. In case you’ve forgotten what that means, these are outstanding wines with long delays between tasting and availability; wines requiring the full attention of Full Pull’s great lidless eye.

Today’s wine will be familiar to long-time list members, but the rest of the world is rapidly catching on, after an eye-popping review for the new vintage.

2016 San Felice Chianti Classico 
Wine Spectator (Bruce Sanderson): “[TEXT REDACTED]”

Quick context note on that review: Wine Spectator has been reviewing San Felice’s Classico since the 1990 vintage, and this is the highest score/strongest review the wine has ever earned. And the previous high was 91pts, so it isn’t even close. This review is also yet another data point in the argument that 2015-2016 were a pair of truly special back-to-back vintages across much of Europe.

I was similarly smitten when we tasted this wine back over the summer. It just had crazy fruit impact and structure for that price point; I can totally see why Sanderson went with a drinking window through 2036. But at that point, there was not enough wine in-country for an offer. I knew more containers were being filled in Italy, so we penciled this in for a late-autumn/early-winter offer, after those cans arrived. Of course, in the meantime, that Spectator review came out, making the situation considerably more competitive.

And then, last week, to the surprise of no one, the wine landed on Spectator’s year-end Top 100, in the #19 slot. It is the least expensive wine in the top 20 by about ten bucks; the other 19 wines range from $26 to $245, with an average price of $85. All this to say: there is *enormous* sales pressure on this wine. It makes me wonder whether our lidless eye is the only one trained on the Port of Seattle currently.

Speaking of the port, here’s my current intel: the container ship should dock this Thursday (Dec 6). If that happens, and if all goes well with customs clearances, the wine should hit the importer warehouse one week from today – Dec 10 – and could conceivably be delivered Tuesday Dec 11 and be available for pickup as early as Thursday Dec 13. That takes a lot of things going right, and I’d put the odds at 40/60. The odds are more like 90/10 that the wine will be available for our last open weekend of the year (Dec 20-22), and then of course there’s always a small chance that something gets hung up and the wine won’t be available until January. But that’s unlikely based on what I’m hearing.

That timeline should give our list members just shy of a week to place orders (please try to submit requests by Sunday evening), and I will proceed to advocate as forcefully as we can for as much wine as we can. I’m certain others will catch wind of this wine’s arrival quickly (perhaps right at this very moment), but my hope is another smash-and-grab job: that we get in and out before anyone realizes we were there.

Now then, the wine itself. As we approach the end of another year, I continue to be thrilled with the way our list members have embraced Chianti over the past few years. It is a terrific value-hunter’s category, but it requires legwork, a lot of frog-kissing to find the princes. And that’s the Full Pull model: we kiss the frogs so you don’t have to. Chianti’s fortunes are improving in the US market, but it’s still walking the line between fashionable and unfashionable, still burdened by the days of swill-in-straw-baskets. No matter. We know better. Fashion or no, we know that Chianti remains one of the world’s beating hearts of Sangiovese, and that the good bottles are really, really good.

As our list members have discovered over the past few years, San Felice is really, really good. The winery sits in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga, at an altitude of about 1300ft. Their grounds encompass 650 hectares of grapes, 17,000 olive trees (!), and an agritourismo (!!). Their Chianti Classico is classic indeed, a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 10% each Colorino and Pugnitello from the calcareous marl soils of Castelnuovo Berardenga in the foothills outside of Siena, aged for a year in large Slavonian oak botti.

The ’16 clocks in at 13% listed alc and drinks more like a Gran Selezione than a humble Classico. As I mentioned above, there is terrific fruit impact and intensity, with the usual red cherry-fruited Sangiovese paired to attractive earth and leaf and flower notes galore. The structure is outrageous. Yes, the usual blood-orange acidity inherent to Sangio, but also in this vintage no shortage of robust, toothsome tannin. Again, not the rustic taverna-wine tannins we’re used to in Classico; instead the polished fine-grained tannins we expect from Tuscany’s best $40 and $50 Sangioveses. This is classy juice in a humble package; certainly the finest San Felice Chianto Classico we’ve offered; perhaps the finest Classico we’ve offered period?

Full Pull Oyster

November 23, 2018

Hello friends. You can’t grow up in the state of Maine without an affinity for shellfish. (I think they kick you out?) The holiday season around my house meant my sister chasing me around the living room with live crustaceans; my mother teaching me to remove lobster body parts with surgical precision; and my father trying to convince me to eat raw mollusks. All of my most cherished memories this time of year include shellfish because winter is without a doubt the best time of the year to eat shelled creatures from the sea—especially oysters.

While oysters have a refreshing quality that may feel most appropriate in the summer months when it’s too hot to turn on your stove, they actually taste best out of cold water. In warmer water, oysters start to spawn, which is not their most appetizing state of being. In December, oysters are at their most plump and sweet as they’ve fattened themselves up for the cold long winter.

Now, I didn’t always love oysters. The turning point for me was when I discovered wine pairing. The textural differences between plush oysters and sparkling wine. A splash of saline brine washed down by an alpine white. The parallel ocean influence in an Atlantic oyster and a glass of Muscadet. The right glass of wine elevates an oyster into something heavenly. It always makes me think of Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast. “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

We all know the empty feeling—for me it usually comes around January when I remember how far away summer really is—and oysters and wine are my favorite seasonal cure. So today, we have three perfect oyster wines for you. And don’t worry. If you don’t like oysters, these three wines are generally just wonderful white and bubbly choices for the coming winter months.

2017 Domaine des Cognettes Muscadet “Selection des Cognettes” 
There is no more eternal pairing than oysters and Muscadet. Why? Because Muscadet sits on the western edge of Europe, where French dirt meets the sea at the mouth of the mighty Loire River. It’s a region ripe with oysters, and the wine there was created to go with these briny snacks. When I think of Muscadet I think of decadent shellfish towers—specifically this one with the late Anthony Bourdain (ouch, it still hurts the heart to type that). I don’t think I knew what a shellfish tower was before this episode of No Reservations—and I definitely didn’t know what Muscadet was—but now I can’t have either without picturing this feast.

This particular bottle comes from Domaine des Cognettes, a family-run 32 hectare vineyard planted on the granite slopes between the Sèvre Nantaise and Maine rivers. The average vine age here is 75 years, and Perraud family treats these old vines with respect. They plant and work as organically as possible, and the grapes are all hand harvested, which is more unusual in Muscadet. The family says, “Our vineyard work is to respect the biodiversity, respect our vines, our soil and our terroir. We want wines to natural taste, unique wines and the best possible. “

100% Melon de Bourgogne with 12% listed alcohol, this bottle opens with a lively nose full of the ocean, pears, ripe melon, and wonderful leesy notes. It’s wild and bright, with a decidedly refined touch. The palate boasts a supreme minerality, full of preserved lemons, green apple, oyster shell, and shortbread. Well-made Muscadet is such a treat to me—its delicious tenacity could demand a much higher tariff from a more popular region of France. Naturally, this is a perfect wine with shellfish of any kind, but it also has the class and refinement to be a knock-out winter white in general. Lemon-butter pastas, creamy stews, savory pies, and whole roasted chickens would all be sublime.

2017 Labbe Vin De Savoie Abymes Jacquere
Les Abymes is the cru where Alexandra and Jerome Labbe farm 10 hectares of Jacquere, an indigenous white grape of Savoie that creates bone-dry, nervy whites that are representative of the region. Abymes is named from the French word for broken—abimé—which refers to the millenia of mountain avalanches which have built a terroir of broken stones. Abymes vineyards in particular are planted atop limestone scree deposited by a record landslide in the 13th century from Mont Granier. Larger boulders are known to speckle the vineyards, too.

This is alpine wine at its best—you can practically hear mountain springs gurgling in the background as you open the bottle. The nose smells like a winter break spent in Jackson Hole; a cold walk along a snowy Maine beach; zipping your parka up at Sundance. It’s full of lemon verbena, icy minerals, and saline. The palate is energetic on its 11.5% alcohol frame, and pulsates with apples, pear, lemon flesh, and the Alps. Refreshing doesn’t feel strong enough a word to describe it. It is a fine alternative to Muscadet when it comes to raw oysters; fresh, alpine air meets deep, salty sea. It would also go hand in hand with any sort of gooey, rich cheese. Truly, the best pairing for this wine though? A long day of skiing.

And finally, Champagne.

NV Copinet Champagne Blanc de Blanc Cuvee Alexandrine 
Champagne and oysters scream romance. Luxury. Celebration. It makes sense—the fine mousse of a brilliant bottle of bubbles, the velvety texture of a perfectly picked oyster—even writing about it feels decadent. However fun it is to order a giant tray of bivalves out, I like eating them best at home. What may run you a mighty tab at any one of Seattle’s shellfish establishments can be enjoyed at home for a fraction of the cost. First, learn how to shuck an oyster. Second, get a mind blowing bottle of bubbles for an unbelievable deal. And when it comes to mind blowing bubbles and unbelievable deals—it’s got to be Copinet.

We have long loved the wines from Copinet, ever since we first offered the 2006 vintage. Chloe Imports, one of our favorite local importers, imports Copinet directly to Seattle, which is why our pricing today is so outstanding. This NV cuvée is a blend of three vintage declared years: 2005, 2006, and 2008, so this is all comes from fruit that is at least a decade old. It is 100% Chardonnay with 12% listed alcohol, 5 g/liter dosage, and made from grapes grown in chalk soil. Disgorged in May of this year, it offers a fresh and vibrant nose with decadent subtleties of mature Champagne. Lemon zest, candied lemon rind, lillies, stone fruit, ancient sourdough starter, and just a touch of savory/smoky subtleties. The palate is a nervy dynamo, with a sturdy citric-mineral spine supporting dense waves of fruit. This wine is palate-staining, all-encompassing in its profile, just waiting for a bright, briny food pairing.

If oysters aren’t your thing, just remember that winter is to Champagne as summer is to rosé—there is no better time to be drinking bubbles than when the cold sets in.

Full Pull Abeja

November 22, 2018

Hello friends. We have the new vintage today of a benchmark Washington Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the ninth vintage in a row that we’ve offered—our first was the 2007, way back in May 2010—and 2018 wouldn’t feel complete without access to this wine:

2015 Abeja Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Abeja has been a hit amongst our list members for years, and is a rockstar example of what the Washington wine world can do. Abeja has always had talented winemakers at the helm, and in 2015/2016 Dan Wampfler (previously of Dunham Cellars) and Amy Alvarez-Wampfler (formerly the head winemaker at Sinclair Estate Vineyards) took over the reins. Dan and Amy are both outstanding winemakers in their own right, and it has been exciting to see what this married duo is doing at the helm of such a Washington wine darling. Last year’s releases, the 2014 vintage, marked the first with Dan and Amy’s influence, and 2015 moves us even more into the Dan and Amy show.

Abeja has built its reputation on Cabernet Sauvignon; at their core, they believe that Cab is the best representation of Washington. Cab is iconic in our corner of the world—and Abeja has played a large role in continuing this trend through bottlings like this one. In the winery’s own words: This is the grape that we believe will increasingly be recognized as the icon varietal of Washington State and comprises the majority of our production. This Cabernet is stylish, elegant, and impeccably balanced. We accomplish this by meticulous viticultural management, utilization of a rare sorting system, gentle handling of the fruit and the wine, customized practices for every lot no matter how small, and carefully selected French oak.

As always, the fruit comes from a diverse and highly regarded group of vineyards around Columbia Valley: Sagemoor farms, Kiona Heart of the Hill, Destiny Ridge, Abeja’s own Heather Hill estate. That is a pan-Washington all-star Cabernet lineup. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot; this wine saw 18 months of French oak, 70% new. It clocks in at 14.8% listed alc, and it aromatically comes right out with soaring berries, cassis, violet, baking spice, herbaceous top notes, and shortbread cookies. A complex, honest Cabernet nose. On the palate, spicy tobacco and fruit prevail, with bright acidity throughout and polished, powerful tannins. This is truly one of the flagship Cabernets produced in Washington, and year after year, it is heartily-loved by our list members. This year is no exception.

2016 Abeja Chardonnay
Another benchmark bottling of one of Washington’s most notable grapes. Abeja has long been producing some of the best Chardonnay in the state, and Dan and Amy have continued this tradition in 2016. The fruit is sourced entirely from three famed white wine vineyards: Connor Lee, Celilo, and Abeja’s own Mill Creek Estate. It spent nine months in 100% French oak, 40% new, and clocks in at 14.1% alcohol. The nose is chock full of lemon cream, citrus rind, green apple, peach, and florals. The palate is wonderfully balanced—bright with acid but fully leaning into its medium body with delightful nutty tones. Its viscosity is decadent, its vibrancy astonishing.

Seattle Magazine Wine Awards: Best Chardonnay, More than $40; “Abeja Chardonnay has long been a benchmark white wine for Washington, and Walla Walla-based Dan Wampfler and Amy Alvarez-Wampfler keep the tradition going with this gorgeous vintage, drawn from a trio of vineyards scattered across the state: Celilo, Conner Lee and Abeja’s own estate Mill Creek Vineyard. Barrel tones of toast and nutty oak (this was aged for nine months in French oak, 40 percent new) swaddle a core of densely-packed apple and nectarine fruit. The seamless texture is seductive as can be. Pairs With: Black cod with lemon aioli.”

2015 Abeja Merlot 
Rebuttal Merlot. We all have friends who “don’t like Merlot.” Maybe they’ve watched Sideways one too many times, or perhaps have only sampled boring or jammy examples of this red offering. Rebuttal Merlot is a bottle of Merlot that you give to your friend who insists they don’t like Merlot. Usually from Washington (because we just might be growing the best Merlot domestically here in Washington), rebuttal Merlot is structured, smooth, thoughtful, and interesting. Rebuttal Merlot makes a Merlot lover out of even the most insistent Merlot denier.

And this bottle is definitely 100% Rebuttal Merlot from some of the best producers of Washington Cabernet. The actual breakdown is 92% Merlot, 4% Cabernet 3% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cab Franc—from Sagemoor, Heather Hill, Kiona Heart of the Hill—which saw 18 months of French oak, 40% new. Clocking in at 14.5% alcohol, this wine opens with a nose that’s lined with raspberry, plum, anise spice, blood orange, and a touch of cocoa. On the palate, it’s vibrant and plush. It shows real depth and charm as it moves from outstanding fruit and lift to deepy defined, creeping tannins. I dare a “Merlot hater” to find anything wrong with this bottle.

Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): “[TEXT REDACTED]”

Full Pull Popularity Contest

November 16, 2018

Hello friends. We’re getting to the point in the year where we can start to look back and reflect on 2018’s offers: what worked well, what died on the vine, etc. In reviewing our most popular wines of the year, the vast majority of them are, sadly, sold out. But one wine in the top ten is still kickin’, as are a pair of wines from late 2017. The holidays are a busy time in wine retail, so no guarantees we’ll be able to reoffer these wines again. Safest to assume it’s last-chance-saloon time for this trio of beauties:

2013 Domaine Pouillon Katydid
Originally offered July 9, and you may recall that we bought the entire remaining stock of the old label design, the one that looks like this. Those are completely sold out, but the winery still has a parcel remaining of the new label. There’s no accounting for label taste – some folks will like the old script, some will like the modern Tettigoniidae – but the important thing to note: the juice inside is exactly the same. And that juice has been enormously popular this year. Here are excerpts from the original offer:

A few reminders on why Katydid has become such a special deal. First, the varieties and vineyards involved: this is a legit Rhone Blend. It’s 53% Grenache, 22% Mourvedre, 13% Syrah, and 12% Cinsault, all from the Horse Heaven Hills (G/S/C from McKinley Springs Vineyard; M from Coyote Canyon). And second, the pricing. It is extremely rare to see Washington Rhone blends at a sub-$20 tariff, let alone sub-$15, and this one was released at $30, so our TPU price today is excellent.

What has me really stoked about today’s offer is that this is a superior wine to the 2012 vintage, with more complexity and more fruit impact. I noted it in March; I noted it even more today. It begins with an attractive, complex nose, featuring plenty of primary fruit (red raspberry, red plum) and all sorts of maturing tertiary goodies: dried cherry and fig, dusty soil, and signature Mourvedre notes of leather spice and roasting game. I love the wildness here, the briary aromatic edge. The palate (14.5% listed alc) is rich and openly delicious, texturally lovely. A plush attack and plump mid-palate transition into a supple finish with just-right fine-grained tannins. There’s a level of polish here – thanks in part to skillful winemaking, in part to the power of bottle age – that is all too rare among wines at this tag. I’d happily drink this with barbequed pork ribs or briskets or sausages this summer, but in my mind, this will show its very best during cassoulet season (what some folks call autumn). It’s a bistro chugger through and through.

2014 Secret Squirrel Columbia Valley Bordeaux Blend
Originally offered December 8, 2017, and an inveterate reorder target ever since. Here are excerpts from the original:

2013 was the second, and final, vintage of Secret Squirrel Cabernet Sauvignon. Do you recall how good that Cabernet was? Any guesses as to where all that good Cabernet went in the 2014 vintage? Would it help if I told you the Cabernet proportion in the 2014 Squirrel is up to 43%? Speaking of the 2014 vintage, this was a warm year in Washington that has been lauded over and over again as a high-quality/high-yielding marvel. And what happens in vintages like 2014 is that a lot of high-end juice gets cascaded down into entry level bottles. It’s not like Corliss is suddenly going to double their production of Corliss Cabernet Sauvignon and Corliss Red. And that material isn’t cascading down into Tranche, which is very focused on Blue Mountain Vineyard. If only there was a “secret” location for that great excess juice.

The blend for the 2014 is 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 13% Petit Verdot, and 9% Malbec, all aged in large-format French oak puncheons (35% new) for about two years. It clocks in at 14.5% listed alc and begins with a nose of deep dark fruit (crème de cassis, black plum) swaddled in smoky cocoa powder barrel tones, and complemented by earthy notes of good clean soil. I found myself shaking my head in disbelief when I tasted this one. If ever a vintage of Squirrel has tasted like baby Corliss Red, it’s the 2014: the supple delicious fruit; the palate-saturating richness; the complexity; the textural polish. The finishing tannins are polished, espressoey, and suggestive of expensive Red Mountain Cabernet. My goodness does this dazzle for the price.

2015 Saviah Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
Originally offered November 19, 2017. The 2016 vintage is not ready for release yet, and in its stead, we have a reoffer opportunity on the ’15, which also comes with a sparkling new review:

Wine & Spirits (Patrick Comiskey): [TEXT REDACTED]

Here are excerpts from the original: For many years, our list members have been the beneficiaries of Rich Funk’s kindness. His tradition had been to retail his Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for $30 for the majority of the year, and then offer a significant price drop for November and December. Beginning in 2013, however, Rich essentially stopped the end-of-year discounts. Except… for a very few partners (I believe the list is down to two now) who have been consistent supporters of Saviah over the years. I’m pleased that Full Pull, and our list members, are counted among those supporters. And honestly: even at $30, this is a strong buy.

Why has this wine become such a hit with our list members over the years? Three reasons:

1) It is becoming ever rarer to see Walla Walla Valley Cabernet at a sub-$25 tariff, let alone $20. 2) Year in and year out, this is a Cabernet that most of us would be happy to pay $30 for. At a lower tag, it way over-delivers. 3) It comes from unusual WWV vineyards. So many times when we see Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon it comes from either the king (Pepper Bridge Vineyard) or the queen (Seven Hills Vineyard). There’s nothing wrong with those two vineyards. In fact, they’re among the standard-bearers for the valley. But… it’s a big valley, full of micro-terroirs, and those of us who care about such things get a little extra intellectual jolt from tasting other sites.

All of the Cabernet in the 2015 comes from McClellan (37%) and Anna Marie (30%) and Dugger Creek (20%) Vineyards (the remaining 13% is Seven Hills Merlot). All three Cab sites are converted orchards farmed by the Brown family of Watermill Winery. Rich Funk (Saviah’s winemaker) was Watermill’s consulting winemaking during their early days, so he still gets access to this lovely fruit. It was raised in 35% new oak for about a year and a half, and it clocks in at 14.6% listed alc. This pops aromatically, with clear Cabernet notes of cassis, beetroot, and loamy earth swaddled in subtle barrel tones of mocha and roasted pecan. The palate has all the richness and suppleness we’d expect from the warm ’15 vintage. It’s seamless texturally, lovely on attack, mid, and a finish that features fine-grained, polished tannins. The fruit is truly delicious here but not at all one-note, instead complicated by robust earth tones and the darkest of high-cacao chocolate. This is a wine that just seems to keep getting better, year in and year out, as those vines dig deeper and deeper into that good Walla Walla Valley soil. Many thanks to Rich for offering us this beauty at such a compelling price!