Full Pull Cavas

February 15, 2019

Hello friends. It used to be that if you were willing to tiptoe through a sea of forgettable plonk you could find an incredible source of value in Cava. Though time consuming, that was never a deterrent for us. We have always been willing to kiss as many frogs as it takes to find a prince. However, as of late, the minefield of forgettable plonk has become more and more memorable. We’re seeing vintage Cava from century-old vineyards; up-and-coming Spanish producers making thoughtful, terroir driven juice; champenoise method sparkling that spends years en tirage for a fraction of the cost of contemporaries in other countries.

Today, we have three exceptional examples:

NV Torre Oria Cava Brut
The key to finding a great bottle of inexpensive sparkling is to search for the sweet spot right in between price and palate. I am always on the hunt for sparkling wine that is tasty enough to drink on its own, yet cheap enough to not feel bad about opening or mixing into a delicious sparkling cocktail. Torre Oria Cava Brut fits the bill—and has had a permanent place in the Full Pull warehouse for some time now. Long time list members might remember that this sparkling wine is one of our former FP team member Matt Tessler’s enduring legacies. We have list members who literally buy whatever we have in stock every time they come into our warehouse—and with good reason. This is a ridiculous value for sparkling wine.

The winery, Torre Oria, was founded in 1897 in Utiel-Requena DOC, just east of Valencia. It occupies this wonderful transition zone between the Mediterranean climate of the coast and the continental climate of Central Spain. Using sustainable methods and dry farming for all of their vineyards, Torre Oria is known for exceptionally high value and exceptionally low prices. Made from 100% Macabeo grapes, this wine clocks in at a light and lovely 12% alcohol. It opens with leesy and floral subtleties and continues with a core of creamy apricot fruit, lemon zest, and malty notes. The palate is marked by bright scrubbin’ bubbles. From fish and chips to decadent triple-crème cheese, this is a food friendly sparkler to pair with just about anything. Terrific intensity for the tariff, delicious on its own, and a fine choice for a festive sparkling-wine cocktail (a Negroni Sbagliato or French 75, perhaps?).

2016 Pere Mata Cupada Rose Cava Brut Nature Reserva
The 2015 vintage of this wine was one of our favorite sparkling finds last year. This is the newest vintage, which comes with an even better price tag than the 2015 at $17.99.

Thomas Calder has long been a reference-point export agent for French wines (see this Spectator article to learn about what that means), and now seems to be edging into Spain. As usual, he knocks it out of the park in terms of QPR, bringing over a vintage-dated, Brut Nature Cava Reserva. And even better yet—it’s pink. It’s sourced entirely from estate vineyards on calcareous-clay soils in the heart of Penedès, and blends the three usual suspects in Cava (Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel-lo) with Monastrell for color. After 30 months lees-ageing, it is disgorged with zero dosage. Listed alc is 11.5%, this pours pale pink into the glass, and it begins with a glorious nose of strawberry fruit complicated by yeasty bread, green grass, and rose petals. The palate is nervy as can be—softened only by touches of strawberries and cream. The bubbles cascade; the finish makes your mouth water; it all begs for the next sip or—better yet—next bite of food. I’d suggest these crispy pork chops with buttered radishes from the New York Times.

2014 Alta Alella Cava Privat Laieta Brut Nature Gran Reserva
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. Josep Maria Pujol-Busquets and Cristina Guillén, the proprietors of Alta Alella, began growing grapes in 1991, and their vineyards are now 100% organic. The Privat label is their premium line.

First thing’s first: the bottle shape is excellent. It is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Xarello (locally known as Pansa Blanca) and is labeled Gran Reserva, which means a minimum of three years on the lees. Alta Alella more than meets these expectations, disgorging to order to ensure freshness in their bottles. This particular shipment was disgorged in August 2018. It clocks in with 12% alcohol and sees no dosage. Purity is the name of the game here—the nose is focused and bright with lemon, pear, nectarine, stoney minerals, and just a subtle touch of leesy goodness. The palate is ultra dry and carries on the theme of purity with a mirrored profile full of citrus, orchard fruit, and an intense minerality. It’s downright elegant with leesy weight and exuberant bubbles.

Wine & Spirits Magazine: “[TEXT WITHHELD]”

Wine Enthusiast (Michael Schachner): “[TEXT WITHHELD]”

Full Pull BDX

February 14, 2019

Hello friends. Bordeaux is tough. The high end has become the strict purview of the Chinese super-elites; the mid-range and low-end full of a sea of forgettable factory plonk. The whole spectrum risks one big collective laurel-sitting exercise.

And yet.

There is nothing quite like honest-to-goodness Bordeaux. When the occasion calls for a well-seared New York strip hovering on the line between medium-rare and medium, I don’t want new world fruit. I want old-world structure, a little fruit, a lot of earth. I want old-school BDX. And so the chase continues, despite many false starts and blind alleys.

One of the challenges in Bordeaux is the sheer breadth of the region. Local intel is a necessity, and so I was delighted when, in mid-January, one Benoit Fleuré paid a visit to our warehouse. Benoit is a partner in Gabart-Laval, a Bordeaux merchant/negociant founded in 1920 (99 years ago) and on its fifth generation of continuous family ownership.

Gabart-Laval represents small family Chateaux in Bordeaux, wineries that don’t have the resources to deal with the marketing and logistics required to export to the United States. What is brilliant about this model is that the wineries can continue to focus on what they do well – farming and winemaking – and we as American consumers get access to boutique BDX, a rarity on these shores.

Benoit’s entire lineup was impressive, but two wines in particular stood out: one an entry-level beauty, the other a mid-range winner from a storied appellation. In both cases, we pre-purchased parcels to secure the best possible pricing.

2015 Chateau Andriet Bordeaux Superieur
Here is Benoit’s introduction to Chateau Andriet: Château Andriet was founded in 1850 and has been in the Brothier family since then. Located in Périssac, Château Andriet is a human size estate, less than 10 hectares. In the past, the vineyards of Périssac and Vérac were based on the Côtes de Fronsac appellation, but a decree in 1976 changed the appellation to Fronsac and excluded those villages. Now Château Andriet is in the Bordeaux Supérieur geographical area. Thierry Brothier is today in charge of the estate, helped by his son Nicolas. Thierry is also a practising stomatologist, practising from Monday to Thursday, and focusing on the winery from Friday to Sunday.

Yeah, I had to look up what a stomatologist is: “a specialty focused on the mouth and nearby structures; it lies at the interface between medicine and dentistry.” Okay then! Dentist(ish) by week; vigneron by weekend. Maybe the fact that the Chateau isn’t his day job is how Thierry keeps his pricing so competitive… Anyhoo, here is a pic of Thierry; here is a pic of the Chateau; and here is the approximate location. Right bank, and so as you’d expect, this is predominantly Merlot (about 85%), rounded out with Cabernet Sauvignon. Soils are gravel and sand, with average vine age of 20 years.

The wine is aged in neutral oak (French, natch) for about a year, then spends a few months in tank before bottling. Listed alc is 14%, and this begins with a no-doubt-about-it BDX nose: currant and cherry fruit and violets paired to earth tones of cedar and graphite. Benoit apparently asked Thierry how he would describe his wine, and he used one work: authentic. You can very much see that on the palate, which is again honest BDX through and through, the fruit fairly austere and leafy, the wine charming instead with its robust tannin structure, its pencil lead minerality, its food-complementary nature. Good ten-dollar Bordeaux is an endangered species, but if there were more charmers like Andriet, I guarantee it wouldn’t be.

2014 Chateau Le Coteau Margaux
This was one of those wines where I tasted it, immediately asked if we could purchase every bottle available in Seattle (the answer, fortunately, was yes), and then set about trying to understand why it was so good.

The answer, from Benoit, came in the form of a map. This map. As you can see, Le Coteau has some serious neighbors. Their vineyards are located in a classy part of Margaux, which is of course to begin with a classy appellation, among the most storied and important on the left bank. They’re surrounded by 2nd and 3rd and 4th and 5th growth chateaux, all of whom command considerably higher prices than what we have on offer today.

Here is Benoit’s introduction to Le Coteau: Château le Coteau is one of the very last family estates in the prestigious Margaux appellation. It has been in Eric Léglise’s family for at least 6 generations, and he is now the one in charge of this estate, working there with passion and humility. Aware of his ancestors’ work and the singularity of this terroir, neighbor of top Classified growths: Château Rauzan-Ségla, Château Giscours, and Château du Tertre, Eric always applied methods respecting the environment and his terroir: his vines have always been ploughed and never received a drop of weedkillers. At the cellar, the most important for Eric is to bring ripe fruits and as healthy as possible, harvest by hand no matter what, to continue his work plot by plot, and quality ageing.

The blend here is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. Average vine age is 40 years, all on soils of Garonne river gravels, and you can tell from vineyard photos (here is one of Eric standing in the vines; here is a close-up of a Cabernet vine) that these are indeed old vines. Grapes are hand harvested and then spend about a year and a half in French oak barriques, approximately 30% new.

This clocks in at 13% listed alc and begins with a nose offering crème de cassis and cherry fruit, interwoven with persistent threads of smoke and graphite. It’s a gravelly, Cabernet-driven, honest left-bank nose; just wonderful. This drinks like it came out of one of its spendier neighboring chateaux, with terrific complexity and notable intensity and structure. I love the beating heart of minerality here, the sanguine edge. As usual in good Bordeaux, there’s just enough fruit to bring pleasure, and then plenty of other components to ramp up the intellectual intrigue: mineral notes to be sure, but also the finishing toothsome chew of the Cabernet tannins, leafy and delicious. I can’t think of any slab of red meat that wouldn’t be instantly elevated by a glass of this thrilling Margaux.

Full Pull Hidden Cabernet

February 12, 2019

Hello friends. Long have I loved the “red wine” category. Why? Because it rewards homework, and we’re good at homework here at Full Pull. Some red wine is plonk: cast-off, declassified dreck that would have been better off poured down a drain. But some red wine is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, made with care by Charlie Hoppes and his team at Wine Boss.

2016 m100 Red
Pricing/logistics note: we were able to secure a terrific TPU tag for this wine today, a dollar less than the 12.99 TPU we had the only other time we’ve sourced m100 (the 2014 vintage, in December 2016), and well off the internet low of 16.25. But this pricing is time-limited. We get one shot, and we’ll be placing our order one week from today, on March 4. Please try to get all order requests in by that morning.

To be clear (and despite what that wine-searcher link says), m100 is *not* part of the Fidelitas lineup. It is, however, made by Charlie Hoppes at his excellent Wine Boss facility in the tri-cities. Here is a great WinePressNW video interview from back in 2011, showing Charlie in the early days at Wine Boss. It seems clear from watching that video – and from tasting this wine – that he coddles his custom projects the same way he coddles his Fidelitas wines. Are they lavished with the same expensive new French oak and given the same lengthy barrel regimen? Certainly not. But is the fruit quality and winemaking quality top-notch? You bet it is.

A quick primer on Charlie Hoppes: Hired by Mike Januik after finishing the UC-Davis program in 1988, Charlie spent a decade at Ste Michelle, eventually ascending to the Head Red Winemaker position, where he had great influence over Ste Michelle’s successful high-end projects, including Col Solare on Red Mountain. I had a chance to visit Charlie at his Fidelitas tasting room during my research trip for the “Destination Wineries” piece I wrote for Seattle Magazine back in 2014. I noted in that article that, in addition to being an outstanding winemaker, Charlies is also a certified baby whisperer; he later made it a point to call me and let me know that multiple visitors to their tasting room had asked about his skills in baby whispering; all I can say is: it definitely worked for our daughter.

This 2016 vintage marked Charlie’s 29th year working in Washington. This is a winemaker with deep experience, broad expertise, and an impeccable lineup of vineyard partners, and it shows in this red, which takes that 80% Cabernet component and blends it with 16% Merlot and 4% Cab Franc. It clocks in at 14.4% listed alc, and “serious nose” is the first note in my book, not a typical note for a twelve dollar Cabernet. This possesses fruit components (redcurrant, black cherry), earth components (soil, tea leaves), and lovely rose-petal top-notes. The palate has noteworthy intensity and saturation, fanning out seamlessly and pulsing with fruity/earthy Cab goodness. The sneaky structure (fine-grained finishing English breakfast tannins), the palate oomph, the judicious use of oak, the overall sense of balance: all belie the modest price point.

Full Pull Coveted Cabernet

February 11, 2019

Hello friends. We purchased the entire remaining western Washington stock of an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, one of only five Washington wines to make Wine Spectator’s 2018 Top 100 list. This wine is now effectively sold out west of the Cacades. Except here.

2015 J. Bookwalter Cabernet Sauvignon Readers
Wine Spectator (Tim Fish): “[TEXT WITHHELD]”

Closing this wine out also came with a fringe benefit: the ability to knock our TPU pricing down to 22% off release, a solid tag for such a decorated wine.

The Bookwalter family has some of the deepest roots in Washington winemaking. John Bookwalter is the tenth generation of Bookwalters to be involved in American agriculture. That’s a pretty long legacy even by European standards. John’s father Jerry (generation nine) was the first to specifically work in viticulture. After graduating from UC-Davis in 1963, Jerry spent thirteen years farming the San Joaquin Valley in California before moving his fledgling family to Washington in 1976.

There, he helped manage the planting of several Mt. Rushmore level Washington vineyards – Sagemoor, Bacchus, Dionysus – between 1976 and 1982 (that is seriously early days by Washington standards). John has previously recounted to me living onsite at Bacchus and Dionysus as a kid, and as someone who has visited those spots, I feel comfortable saying: they’re out there. Like sagebrush and nuclear reactors and UFO sightings out there.

Remarkably, John survived the childhood of the endless harvest (Sagemoor grows cherries and apples and peaches in addition to vinifera), forged his own path in the wine world for awhile, and then in 1997 returned to the family winery, where he has been ever since. During John’s tenure, the focus has shifted squarely away from whites (which were 90% of production in the late ‘90s) and onto rich, smoky, supple reds from some of the finest vineyards in the state.

As you’d expect, a portion of the fruit is still sourced from Sagemoor properties (today’s wine is 25% Dionysus). Another solid chunk comes from the inimitable Conner Lee Vineyard outside of Othello, which is co-managed by Jerry Bookwalter (today’s wine: 60% Conner Lee; the remaining 15% is Elephant Mountain). Raised entirely in French oak, 30% new, this clocks in at 14.8% listed alc and kicks off with an alluring nose of deep dark Cab fruit (blackcurrant, black cherry) lifted by violets and minty topnotes. The fruit impact and palate saturation are dynamite for a Cabernet in the $20s, and the Cab tannins, which pick up midpalate and carry this through a lengthy, chewy finish, are all espressoey goodness.

Full Pull Deal of the Year (of the Week)

February 9, 2019

Hello friends. I have a feeling y’all are going to get tired of me hyping offers as “the deal of the year.” It reminds me of wineries describing “the vintage of the century” when they just said the same thing three years ago. So yeah, I’ll try to keep the hype in check, but my goodness are we inundated right now with excellent opportunities.

My first stab at the DotY was the 2014 Le Jugement from Three of Cups (and I mean, come on; that was a whole fourteen days ago!). And while today’s discount isn’t quite as staggering (a mere 57% off release, as opposed to 66% off for Le Juge), it has quite a few qualities that could tip the scale in its favor.

2013 Reininger Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
To begin with, it’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Le Juge was a Rhone Blend, which is certainly a hot up-and-comer category. But Cab is Cab. Nothing else comes close to approaching it in popularity.

Next, it’s Cab that’s six years past vintage. This isn’t a 2017 Cab that you need to put in a dusty section of your garage for four years. This is winery cellar-aged Cabernet.

And what a winery! Reininger is one of the stalwarts of the Walla Walla Valley. Part of the old guard. The standard bearers. To taste wines from folks like Chuck Reininger is to be reminded why they bear the standard in the first place. The wines are clean, graceful, stylish. Reininger sources from some of the oldest plots in the valley. And they quietly continue their record of consistent excellence.

To be clear, although our TPU pricing looks more like Reininger’s Helix label, this is indeed main-label Reininger, which comes entirely from Walla Walla Valley fruit. In this case, it is a blend of old- and new-guard fruit, with Pepper Bridge representing the old, and XL Vineyard the new. XL is part of Sevein, a project we’ve written about many times, most often with regards to L’Ecole 41’s Ferguson Vineyard. Here’s the latest map of the Sevein sites, which will give you a sense of where XL is compared to spots like Ferguson and Leonetti’s Serra Pedace.

These fractured-basalt south-valley vineyards are changing the face of the Walla Walla Valley one bottle at a time, and this is no exception. 100% Cab, this was aged in 50% new French oak 20 months before bottling in August 2015. It clocks in at 14.2% listed alc and begins with a nose with notes both primary (black plum, blackcurrant, cedar) and tertiary (dusty earth, leather spice, dried cherry), good indication of a wine about to enter peak drinking. The palate is very Walla Walla Valley, with big brooding black fruit and black tea notes tinged with a savory edge and swaddled in cocoa-powder barrel tones. I love the orange-peel acidity keeping things fresh; so too the way this mixes Pepper Bridge fruit-and-tannins with XL’s insistent minerality. It’s not easy to coax so much complexity out of a 100% Cabernet but this is swimming in subtleties. What a balanced beauty, with years of fascinating evolution ahead.

Oh, and why the deep discount? I don’t know for sure, because I didn’t ask (I was more focused on getting to the point where I could hit Send). But evidence points to the fact that the winery has moved onto selling the 2014 vintage through its tasting rooms (for $50!). Most wineries don’t like to have multiple vintages out there in the marketplace, so there’s extra incentive to find partners to help close out the previous vintage.

Full Pull Block 1

February 7, 2019

Hello friends. Today we have the sophomore release of perhaps the most popular wine in our Block Wines lineup. It comes from the original Cabernet block of a site planted out in 2005 for none other than Quilceda Creek Vintners, and then used by QC for their program from 2007 through 2011, when their own estate site in the Horse Heaven Hills came online. This is as fine a site for growing Cabernet Sauvignon as currently exists in Washington, and we’ve got it:

2016 Block Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Block 1 Discovery Vineyard
I’ve said before that the purpose of Block Wines, Full Pull’s house winery, is to offer truly terroir-expressive wines: single varieties, from single blocks within single vineyards. An alternative explanation: I’m a control freak with strong opinions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You may recall that we submitted the previous vintage (2015) to the Great Northwest Invitational, one of the premier blind multi-panel judgings that happens each year in the Pacific Northwest. The wine had only been in bottle for about five weeks, but apparently even then it was shining, earning a gold medal (one of just 16 golds among 80 Cabernet Sauvignons judged).

This 2016 was entirely barrel-fermented (thanks, Morgan; I know that wasn’t easy!), all with native yeasts, and then pressed into a single once-used 500-liter French oak puncheon and a single new French barrique; so about 30% new wood. It was aged for 21 months before bottling last July, and has now had another 7 months to come around in bottle. We released the ’15 in March last year, but I’m moving this one up because a) it’s delicious and ready to go right now; and b) we only got to pour the ’15 at the tasting table for one month last year (May), and the wine has basically been sold out since summer.

This clocks in at 14.7% alc and begins with a nose of combining new world fruit (cassis, black plum) with old world savory nuance – layers of cedar and graphite and soil – and threads of smoky cocoa. In the mouth, this immediately fans out and saturates the palate; it’s a stainer through and through, again with its balanced mix of fruit and earth tones. As usual with Discovery, the structural scaffolding is strong, with bright veins of acidity cutting through the rich fruit, and all of it supported by polished, gorgeous Horse Heaven tannins. The finish, which sails on and on, is awash in lovely green-tea toothsome chew. Again, I would defy those who believe Cabernet can’t express terroir to taste this wine and tell me it isn’t chiseled out of Kay and Milo May’s Horse Heaven dirt.

Full Pull Last Call Territory

February 6, 2019

Hello friends. Thanks to consistent reorder requests and brisk sales through our tasting room, we’re getting down to last-call territory on one of last year’s most popular Full Pull & Friends bottlings. Which is kind of crazy, since we purchased a parcel intended to last us for two full years, and we’re currently at one year, six days since original offer:

2012 Full Pull & Friends Grenache Olsen Vineyard (FPF-23)
One point worth remembering about any FP&F wine: this is a special bottle, exclusive to our list members. Outside of the Full Pull list and tasting room, there is no place else to source this; it is a one-off treat for our list members.

Originally offered Feb 14, 2018, and here are excerpts from the original: Grenache from Olsen is some of the most prized fruit in the state. A smattering of Rhone rockstars who have worked with Olsen Grenache: Betz, Gramercy, Kevin White, Maison Bleue, B. Leighton. Bob Betz himself said the following about his latest release of Besoleil: The story of Bésoleil begins with our long-held belief that a precise marriage of soil and site can produce a profound expression of Grenache in Washington… While the Grenache in the earliest vintages of Bésoleil was sourced from various vineyards throughout the Columbia Valley, two sites in particular (Olsen Vineyards in the Yakima Valley and Upland Vineyards on Snipes Mountain) have excelled as uniquely distinctive for Grenache. These two sites are the sources for the entirety of the Grenache in Bésoleil today.

So yeah, when we had the opportunity to go long on Grenache from an A+ vintage and an A+ vineyard, we didn’t hesitate. This was raised in large puncheons, mostly neutral (20% new) for 18 months, and clocks in at 14.6% listed alc. The nose contains fruit layers both primary (fresh strawberry) and maturing (fig, dried raspberry), alongside complexities of hot-stone minerality and green savories of garrigue and Castelvetrano olive. The extra bottle age shows itself texturally on the palate, where all rough edges have been sanded down by the power of time, leaving a supple beauty that saturates the palate with its rich mix of fruit and earth notes. This feels like it’s in early- to mid-peak drinking, a wonderful time to access a wine.