April 19, 2019

Hello friends. It feels a little silly to call Andrew Latta a buzzy winemaker—he’s been working in Walla Walla for over a decade and a half. His eponymous label, however, is much newer to the Washington wine scene, and it’s just about as buzzy as buzzy can be.

We have an exciting trio of wines from Latta today—with exceptional pricing that’s only available for this offer—and a lot of ground to cover. So, without further ado:

2015 Latta Roussanne Lawrence Vineyard
Andrew’s Roussanne is the only white wine in the Latta lineup. This vintage is now totally sold out at the winery—the only small parcel of this wine left lives with Latta’s local distributor. Luckily, we work with them regularly, and they are reserving said parcel for our list members.

The key to Andrew’s house style is a thoughtful focus on place. The vineyards he works with were all meticulously selected after years of hands-on research. Lawrence Vineyard is the home of this Roussanne. It’s a cool site on the Frenchman Hills overlooking the Royal Slope, one that Andrew used to make Viognier when he worked for Charles Smith. However, he has always been attached to the Roussanne grown there.

Sitting 1450 feet above sea level, the Roussanne block is made up of silt loam soils and fractured basalt. While sites that sit lower on this slope are threatened annually by frost, the Roussanne is protected by its elevation and the angle of the incline. Josh Lawrence, the vineyard manager and owner, and Andrew work together to create a distinctive growing technique for these grapes. Roussanne needs to be aggressively managed because of how easily it can brown. The program in place simultaneously allows increased airflow in to cool down the Roussanne block but offers protection from afternoon sun on the west side. The balance allows for these grapes to get the long, cool growing season they prefer. The result is an incredible example of Washington-grown Roussanne.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[TEXT WITHHELD]”

2015 Latta Syrah Dana Dibble
Before starting his own label, Andrew Latta was best known to many of our list members as the assistant winemaker at K Vintners. He was responsible for shepherding some of our favorite Washington Syrahs from vine to bottle. 2015 marks the first release of Syrah under his own label. It doesn’t feel hyperbolic to say: this is one of the most exciting Washington releases in recent memory.

The juice is all sourced from Tablas Creek clonal plantings in Freewater Rocks Vineyard in the Rocks District. Andrew has been working with this vineyard for over a decade, so I’ll let him introduce it: Freewater Rocks vineyard is located in the Rocks District of Walla Walla. Planted in 2000 in the core of Freewater Cobbly Loam this is an OG vineyard site with four generations of fruit farming behind it. The wine carries “Dana Dibble” for the man who grew up on the dirt, the third generation farmer who transformed these hardscrabble orchards into the manicured rows of vines standing among the stones today. Dana and Andrew have collaborated on many vintages and vineyard projects over the years and we felt his work deserved recognition, hence the “Dana Dibble”.

This Syrah is cofermented with 2% viognier, which is also sourced from Freewater Rocks Vineyard. 50% whole cluster, this Syrah spent two full years in neutral French oak before bottling. There’s freshness abounding here. The nose is deeply floral, fruity, and funky all at once, as crushed bramble fruit makes way for purple flowers and mortadella. It’s the holy trinity of the Rocks: fruit, flowers, funk. The palate doesn’t disappoint, either. It’s silky and staining, full of dark fruit and smoked meat. The listed alcohol is 14.1%. I’d consider this bottle a must have for any fan of Rocks Syrah.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[TEXT WITHHELD]”

2011 Latta Wines Grenache Upland Vineyard 
As we’ve said before, there are many perks to our growing neighborhood of wineries, and this offer represents one of them. This is technically a reoffer. This wine has been sold out for years—the winery is now on the 2015 vintage. Recently, a distributor in another state went out of business and had to return their allotment of 2011 Grenache. Andrew reached out to us first. We have access to the only bottles left of this wine in the world; and better yet, Andrew has given us a one-time-only pricing. Any reorders of this wine—if possible at all—will be at the original $45 price-tag.

Excerpts from the original offer: Grenache loves growing in old riverbed soil. Think about Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a favorite home to most of the Rhône varietals that we know and love. The soil there is made up of mostly rocks (known as galets) that have been smoothed over by years of the Rhône river. Well over 70% of the grapes grown in Châteauneuf are Grenache—these grapes love the warm rocks. Here in Washington, many of our river bed soils are at lower elevations, making growing stubborn Grenache grapes a little harder because of cooler temperatures. Grenache can already be finicky to grow, even in the warm, rocky environments that it likes, and can be even more difficult in areas susceptible to freeze.

Upland Vineyard stands apart because it’s on the anticline formation of Snipes Mountain. In layman’s terms, anticlines and synclines are folds in the grounds that go up and down (usually together) and are created by compressional stress. Synclines sink into the ground while Anticlines project upward, bringing soil that you would normally find at lower elevations up to higher ones. What that means for grape growing is that Upland Vineyard has perfectly-suited-for-Grenache riverbed soils at elevations that prevent freeze and let these grapes mature perfectly. The result is astounding.

Andrew and the Upland team were ruthless with yields in 2011, dropping enough fruit that the final yield was a mere 2.2 tons/acre. He used 50% whole clusters (stems and all), and this spent about two years in barrel (neutral 500L puncheons) before bottling. Grenache is light on skin pigments, and in a cool year like 2011, the result is a wine with a delicate pale ruby color. Don’t be fooled. That color belies this wine’s heft (14.7% listed alc) and power. But let’s begin with the aromatics: beautiful, fresh, and lively, with raspberry fruit, and bramble, blossom and pastille all taking a turn. In the mouth, this is a joyful bottle of Grenache, hitting the trinity of berry/rocks/garrigue on a frame that easily melds richness to freshness. This is a lovely, lovely expression of Grenache, with inner mouth perfume and generosity to spare, and a sneaky sense of wildness.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[TEXT WITHHELD]”

So, what’s changed? In the past few years since we offered this wine, it has steadily and beautifully evolved into an older wine. While still vibrant and full of spry lift, this is not a young wine anymore. We are looking at almost a decade in bottle—and all of the beautiful intricacies that come along with that. Joyful fruit has allowed room for savories to come into their own with bay leaf, dehydrated orange peel, and pinenuts. The florals have turned from spring to late summer, sundrenched and starting to dry. This is a wine that’s just about to settle into what it was meant to be. It’s a stunner—and should be enthralling for just about everyone, especially those who remember this wine in its youth.


Full Pull Grosgrain

April 18, 2019

Hello friends. One of our last stops of the trip last week was with Matt and Kelly Austin of Grosgrain, another exciting new entrant south of town. They too have a beautiful tasting room, with a patio overlooking farms and rolling hillsides. But unlike Valdemar, they actually have some Washington wine ready to sell, and it is excellent.

2018 Grosgrain Old Vine Lemberger Pet-Nat Kiona Vineyard
This was not today’s originally-scheduled offer, but I moved some things around to make it work. The allure of our first Washington Pet-Nat offer was too strong for this bubblehead. Logistics notes first:

This will be a winery-direct order, and we’ll be sending along our numbers one week from today, on Monday May 13, so please try to get all requests in by May 12. This is a one-and-done offer, with a hard ceiling on the amount available to us, so don’t expect much in the way of reorder opportunity here.

Now then, a bit more about Grosgrain and this particular wine. Matt has broad experience in Washington wine, having spent time at Efeste, as the assistant winemaker at Darby, and as cellarmaster at Dunham. But his first stint after graduating from the Northwest Wine Academy seems to have been the most influential. It was with Michael Savage of Savage Grace.

And much like the Savage Grace lineup, the Grosgrain lineup focuses on cool-climate vineyards, and finished wines with low alcohols and bright, vibrant acidity. Better still, the Grosgrain portfolio includes a pair of sparkling wines made in the Petillant Naturel style (sometimes also called Methode Ancestrale).

[And now a brief interlude on sparkling wine production methods. For Champagnes and other Methode Champenoise wines, the base wine is fermented all the way to dryness. Then additional yeast and sugar solution are added to the bottle, which is sealed with a crown cap. The yeast ferments the sugar, which produces a bit more alcohol and also – importantly – CO2: bubbles. Finally the plug of yeast is frozen and disgorged, the bottle is resealed, and voila. With Pet-Nat sparkling wines, that initial fermentation is never allowed to finish. Instead, it is artificially halted with some amount of residual sugar still remaining in the base wine. That base wine is bottled and sealed under crown cap, and then the remaining yeast acts on the remaining sugar, fermenting some/all of that yeast into alcohol and CO2.]

There’s a bit less control possible in the Pet-Nat method, which is part of what makes it trendy with the natural wine crowd. If the yeast converts all the sugar, your Pet-Nat is bone dry. If it gets stuck, your Pet-Nat will have a bit of residual sugar. And oftentimes you won’t know until you start opening bottles. Pet-Nats also have optional disgorgement. Some folks disgorge the yeast plug and wind up with a clear sparkling wine; others leave it in and end up with a cloudy, hazy bubbly (often a little funkier too).

Matt has chosen to disgorge, which I appreciate, because we end up with a sparkling wine that is clear, and also clean as a whistle. I also *love* the source material for his two Pet-Nats: basically endangered species varieties with deep historical roots in Washington. His white Pet-Nat comes from a 1980 block of Chenin Blanc at Willard Vineyard; and his rosé Pet-Nat, the one on offer today, comes from even older vines: the 1976 block of Lemberger at Kiona Vineyard on Red Mountain. If putting a modern spin on these old vines can help keep them from being ripped out, then Matt is doing a real service to all of us who value Washington’s vinous history.

Speaking of modern spin, this lineup has a fantastic design sensibility. Here is what the Pet-Nat bottle looks like. Don’t you just want to crack that crown cap and glug-glug-glug? When you do, the wine pours into the glass pale salmon and comes roaring back out with an expressive nose of red fruit, blood orange, exotic spice notes, and a deep and abiding sense of minerality. It smells refreshing, and sure enough, the 11.3%-alc palate delivers. This is dry and juicy, with a fine soft mousse leading to an extended, mouthwatering finish. Matt only made 150 cases of this, and our allocation is considerably smaller. Believe me when I say that you will be happy you have a few of these in your cooler in July when the BBQs fire up. Skewer something, sear it hard, and down half a bottle of this thrilling, characterful Pet-Nat.


Full Pull Springtime Thivin

April 17, 2019

Hello friends. I think of Chateau Thivin as the little Beaujolais that could. We first offered their Cote de Brouilly bottling in 2013, and every year since it has sold out with our list members and become a hotly allocated November bottle. It goes so well with the odd combination of food you eat on Thanksgiving, it’s the ideal turkey wine.

Thivin is equally fit for warm weather imbibing. The problem is: it never lasts that long. In my household, we have to try very hard not to drink it all upon release in the fall. That’s what makes today’s offer so exciting. Springtime Thivin.

2017 Chateau Thivin Brouilly Reverdon
This wine (from Brouilly, adjacent to Cote de Brouilly) is a ghost in the Thivin lineup. We were actually shocked to taste it; even more shocked when a shipment from France timed up with offering it.

James Suckling: “What a Beaujolais beauty! Ripe and vibrant with a ravishing, silky texture on the palate, where the interplay of delicate cherries, mineral acidity and gentle tannins is spot on. What a long and refined finish! Drink or hold. 94pts”

Wine Advocate (William Kelley): “The 2017 Brouilly Reverdon bursts from the glass with lovely aromas of blackberries, cassis, plums and potpourri. On the palate, the wine is medium to full-bodied, bright and juicy, with sweeter fruit than the 2016 rendition but a shared sense of crunchiness and vivacity. It was only bottled three weeks before I tasted it, but it was already showing very well. Drink 2019-2029. 93pts.”

Okay, those of you who already know and love Thivin have permission to skip down a couple paragraphs. For noobs, here’s the deal. There are ten “Cru” sub-regions in Beaujolais. The Crus generally follow the foothills of the surrounding mountains, whereas wines labeled Beaujolais-Villages or Beaujolais come from the flatlands. (Here is a map of the Crus to get us oriented.) Crus are considered the crème de la crème of the region.

Chateau Thivin has sat in the Cru of Cote de Brouilly on the slopes of the extinct volcano Mont Brouilly since 1383. Their winery is located on the southwestern slope of the mountain. They are best known—especially with our list members—for the Cote de Brouilly bottling. However, with today’s wine, we are talking about the greater Cru of Brouilly itself. Today’s wine comes from Reverdon, which sits approximately 1 km away from the winery, just on the outside of the Cote de Brouilly designation. Reverdon is a 50-year-old pink granite hillside that faces the defunct volcano with eastern sun exposure.

In the bottle, 2017 has proved to be an exceptional, pure vintage for Cru Beaujolais. Across the board, these are wines that could possibly evolve with cellaring, but what’s the point? They are so beautiful right now. Thivin’s Reverdon grapes are hand picked, whole cluster pressed, and raised in stainless steel cuves before bottling. The listed alcohol is 13%. It opens with the absolute best of Beaujolais: crunchy leaves, ripe berries, flowering blooms, and an inherent minerality. On the palate, it has intensity without extreme concentration; it’s somehow deeply serious and vivaciously high-toned all at the same time. There’s a touch of granite throughout—a tribute to the grapes’ birthplace—and gentle tannins round out the lengthy finish. It’s honestly hard to say which bottling I prefer this vintage: this one or the Cote de Brouilly.


Full Pull Special Sangiovese

April 16, 2019

Hello friends. We have access to a special bottle of Sangiovese today; a bottling that is very good even in mediocre years, and then in a vintage like 2015 was so lights-out that we purchased every last bottle remaining in Seattle. After our parcel arrived, I learned that it is also Antonio Galloni’s highest-rated Chianti from the epic 2015 vintage:

2015 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia
Vinous (Antonio Galloni): “[TEXT WITHHELD]

Felsina has been producing this bottling since 1983, and it comes from their famed Rancia vineyard, a high-elevation (1300’-1400’) site in the southern part of the Classico appellation, on limestone-driven alberese soils. It slopes perfectly to the southwest under the Tuscan sun and looks like this. I mean, you half-expect Diane Lane to come walking down a vineyard row, no?

In the winery, the Sangio grapes get the luxury treatment, including a year and a half in 100% new French oak barriques. I see that Galloni’s review focuses almost entirely on texture, and I can see why; for Sangio especially, this is one silky little devil, its robust tannins managed with so much class and precision. But still: some aroma/flavor descriptors would be helpful, right? This is tightly wound for sure, but with a little time in the glass, it begins to unfurl: now rich (14% listed alc) cherry fruit coated with dust, now cocoa and star anise spice, now leafy tea notes. It goes on, evolving with each passing quarter-hour of oxygen exposure. I mean, you could spend the better part of an evening with this bottle as the main event; it deserves a bit of contemplation. I think Galloni’s correct that, in an ideal world, you’d wait five or six years to begin opening these. That said, an hour-long decant before a dinner of braised oxtails or short ribs or maybe a seared duck breast with a cherry gastrique if you’re feeling really feisty, yeah, that you could probably do in 2019 or 2020 and still feel pretty good about yourself.


2018 Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis

April 15, 2019

Hello friends. There is a rhythm to a year of Full Pull offers, and one wine that helps set that rhythm annually is on offer today. It’s a list favorite: the wine that kicked off our expansion into imports seven (!) summers ago:

2018 Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis

I’m going to excerpt broadly from that original offer—because Paul wrote it so beautifully—and we know of at least three list members who have made pilgrimages to Getaria in part because of this write-up. I myself have a fond memory with Rubentis: sitting on the garden patio of Oleana in Cambridge, MA and beginning to build a plan to move west.

Now then, excerpts from that original offer:

—-

Here is what you will do.

You will fly into Barcelona, and, despite the whimsical beauty of its Gaudian architecture, you won’t stay long. The countryside beckons.

You will board a train, and hours later, you will arrive on the coast, at San Sebastian. Because it’s one of the gustatory capitals of Europe, you’ll stay for lunch. This is your lunch.

Now full and sleepy, you will stagger to a bus stop. You will board a bus that you hope is moving in the right direction. This is your bus route.

You’ll exit your bus at Getaria, in the golden light of late afternoon. You’ll walk down the narrow streets until you find your hotel. This is your hotel. You’ll be greeted in a language that sounds more like Greek than Spanish.

This is the view from your hotel room window.

This is where you’ll eat grilled fish and octopus pulled from the Bay of Biscay that morning.

This is what your town looks like from above: a sea, a harbor, a small town, and vineyards. You’ll wonder why anyone would ever leave this place.

The next day, you’ll wander up the hills into the vineyards. This is what the vineyards look like. The vines will be trained taller than your head. You’ll ask what is being grown here.

“Txakolina” will be the answer.

You will fall in love with this place.

Or…

…if all the vagaries of modern life make a trip like this impossible, if jobs and kids and pets and adult responsibilities make a trip like this impossible, we can still visit these places.

That is the beauty of wine. It is a place, suspended in liquid form. It is a place we can visit in our senses as we sip. It is our astral projection. And it’s why I want to write about wines from all over the world. Including Txakolina.

Getaria is Basque country: not quite Spain, not quite France; its own animal. In the vineyards planted in the rolling hills above town, they grow indigenous varietals, like Hondarribi Beltza and Hondarribi Zuri. We’re a looooooooong way from Cabernet Sauvignon here.

The Ameztoi family is into its seventh generation of winemaking. Some of the vines are more than 150 years old. Over time, the wines and local cuisine have grown up together. And so the residents drink Txakolina like water, and what they don’t drink, denizens of Barcelona and Madrid gulp down. A miniscule amount makes its way into the United States, and that’s especially true of today’s specific wine, which has developed something of a cult following among the sommelier set in New York and San Francisco. Fortunately, a small amount comes to Seattle, also.

Like a lot of Txakolina, this has a bit of absorbed CO2, so it is semi-sparkling. Unlike a lot of Txakolina, they have blended a bit of Hondarribi Beltza (a red varietal) into the mix, giving this a delicate pink color. Because Txakolina grew up with Basque cuisine, it is a terrifically versatile food wine.

Rubentis has been a house wine of ours for several years now. It typically arrives in Seattle in spring, and we drink it throughout the summer, both as a cocktail and as a lovely pairing for all the PacNW’s seafood. It has made multiple appearances on the Thanksgiving table, where its low-alc (10.5% this year), high-acid, food-friendly nature makes it a perfect foil for turkey et al. It has made multiple appearances on New Year’s Eve (semi-sparkling, remember?). It has made multiple appearances with breakfast.

It’s a wonderful wine, one of my favorites in this whole wide world; an inescapable expression of a small, very special place.

—-

Not much changes year to year on this wine—it provides steady familiarity in a world chock full of chaos. Consistency is very welcome with a wine this enjoyable. The 2018 keeps with that recent history. Listed alc is again 10.5%, and this kicks off with a core of pink and red berries and melon sunbathing in the salty sea air. As usual, this just smells like a wine that’s been grown by the sea. The lightly spritzed palate shows bright citrus acid with laser-pure fruit, all framed by a sturdy mineral spine. It pulsates with verve and energy. Rubentis: a house favorite, a Team Full Pull favorite, a list member favorite.


Full Pull Exclusive Rose

April 13, 2019

Hello friends. The progress of rosé around these parts has been staggering. And I mean that on both the producer and consumer sides of the coin, which have grown rapidly, and in tandem, over my decade running Full Pull. On the producer side, the rosés have gone from saignée cash-flow afterthoughts to purpose-built, bone-dry killers. On the consumer side, the Seattle market generally, and our list members particularly, cannot seem to get enough pink wine into our homes and onto our dinner (and breakfast) tables.

The enthusiasm for good Washington rosé among our list members has never been higher, and that’s why I think today’s offer is going to tickle so many of you. Because today we have Full Pull’s first-ever own-label, exclusive-to-our-list-members rosé:

2018 Frog Kisser Rose 
I guess I ought to explain the name first, although old-head list members will understand it right away. We’ve said many times over the years that our unofficial motto at Full Pull is: we kiss frogs. The unsaid portion is: so you don’t have to. That truly is the business model in a nutshell. We taste hundreds of wines each month (kissing the frogs) and only present to our dear list members the most special bottles among them.

I’m going to excerpt an email exchange to explain how this project came to be.

PZ: Hi [EXCELLENT WINEMAKER]. We’re celebrating 10 years of FP this year, so if you have any interesting lots that are smaller quantity, let me know.

EXCELLENT WINEMAKER: Would you be interested in a 2018 single vineyard rose? I thought that might work well. It’s a blend of 44% Syrah, 43% Grenache and 13% Cinsault.

PZ: Is it [REDACTED VINEYARD]? Can you say?

EM: Yes, it’s 100% [REDACTED VINEYARD], but we’d prefer you didn’t say that.

PZ: Wow. Please ship a sample ASAP.

Things moved quickly from there. The sample was lights-out, priced well, and we committed to an amount that I *hope* will get us through the summer. We embarked on a rapid label-design project (here’s what the finished bottle looks like). And just like that, the wine is here.

So, as should be apparent from the exchange above, I unfortunately cannot reveal the name of the vineyard where this juice comes from. I can say that it’s a Walla Walla Valley site, and it’s on the Washington side of the AVA. It’s also the estate vineyard for the winemaker noted above, which means he/she is coddling this wine from grape to bottle. The reason why they ended up with an excess of pink juice would too clearly reveal the winery involved, so I’ll just have to ask you to trust me when I tell you that this was purpose-built rosé whose purpose evaporated, leaving an opportunity for us to swoop in.

When I say purpose-built, I mean these grapes were picked expressly for rosé, several weeks before the red-wine harvest and early enough to retain outstanding natural acidity and refreshingly low alcohol (12.8%). The grapes were then direct-pressed, using a rapid and gentle press cycle for minimal color and phenolics.

This pours pale pink with salmon glints, and begins with an exuberant, summery nose. The fruit profile combines red berries and citrus; the stony minerals and greenery reflective of this wine’s solid portion of Grenache, which contributes its signature dusty sagebrush and wildflower aromas. What you notice immediately in the mouth is rippin’ natural acidity. This is crisp, nervy, bone-dry rosé, with wonderful tension and verve. It’s so insistently refreshing, it had me immediately in mind of a hot midsummer deck and a full icy glass of this. For sure it would work as a patio cocktail; beyond that, food pairings abound. Today I want it with a mess of butter-lemon-thyme-roasted chicken thighs next to a salad of early lettuces splashed with a mouth-puckering blood-orange vinaigrette.


Full Pull Spring Reds

April 12, 2019

Hello friends. This time of year, there’s always an onslaught of killer deals on rosé from Europe and the newest pink juice from Washington; we fill your inboxes with Vinho Verde and Txakoli; we collectively salivate over Sancerre and Oregon-grown riesling. In the hustle and bustle of spring’s favorite wines, the category of red wine can sometimes be overlooked. But there is something to be said about a perfect warm-weather red—a quaffable bottle that’s juicy with fruit, bright with acidity, and sometimes made better with a light chill. A bottle of wine that will pair just as well with Easter Lamb and as it does with a grilled ribeye on Labor Day.

You don’t have to miss red wines just because the weather’s getting warmer. There are plenty of wines that are just waiting for long sunny days and nights on the patio. Today, we have four reds to accompany you through next five or six months of camping, boating, picnicking, grilling, and so much more.

2018 Maison Ventenac l Idiot Merlot
Value hunters know to look for the good stuff in the south of France, a region that’s considerably closer to Barcelona (about 2 hours away) than to Paris (more like 7 hours). It’s one of the last still-wild, somewhat untamed regions of the old world. This wine comes from a little Languedoc AOP called Cabardés—which sits squarely at the border between France’s Atlantic and Mediterranean climates. The region’s 500 hectares get equal influence from the dry, cold vent Cers (the Atlantic wind current) and the warm, wet vent Marin (from the southeast), creating a totally unique microclimate for grapes. Because of this influence, the winemaking rules of Cabardés honor both styles of grapes, requiring that the red wine from this region be a blend of 40% Bordeaux varieties (atlantic) and 40% Rhone (mediterranean).

This is truly like no Merlot I have ever had. It’s entirely different than the Merlot that you may be used to—including the beautiful grapes we grow here in Washington. We boast about Washington Merlot because it presents like Cabernet; Maison Ventenac’s Merlot doesn’t present like anything; it’s entirely its own. Juicy red and black berries, anise, sweet spice, black pepper, and clay. The palate has unbeatable texture—the wine was vinified and aged in concrete. It starts off juicy and bright, but slowly ultra-fine tannins creep in on the back of your palate, full of black tea and green, leafy tobacco. It’s hard to know who will like this wine better—lovers of Merlot or lovers of Rhone valley blends. It seems to have a little something for everyone.

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

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

2017 Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois
It’s wine to drink in the shower when you wake up in the morning. That’s what legendary winemaker Marcel Lapierre once said about his Raisins Gaulois bottling—and he isn’t wrong. At 12.5% alcohol, this is appetizing, gulpable joy juice, filled with the crunchiest, mineral-drenched berry fruit; a perfect fit for the endless bbq and grill adventures. Sadly, Marcel Lapierre (a godfather of Beaujolais in many ways) passed away in 2010, but his legacy lives on with the wines made by his son and daughter.

The winery focuses on the specific cru of Morgon, and Raisins Gaulois is essentially their declassified juice. This bottle is almost entirely Morgon juice blended with a few lots from the greater Beaujolais AOC. Because of quirky French labeling laws, this gets the “Vin de France” designation, but it is 100% Gamay from Beaujolais proper. This wine is so perfect this time of year because it still scratches the itch of red wine, but has enough wondrous minerality and rippin’ acidity to keep things easy breezy. We usually offer this wine at Thanksgiving, and while this is the ultimate wine to pair with the combination of food you eat on Thanksgiving, this is equallyfit for warm weather imbibing. Year in and year out—no matter the season—this wine is among the finest wine values in the world.

2017 Povero Cisterna Barbera DAsti (3L BAG IN BOX, Pickup Only)

There’s a lot to like about large-format bag-in-box wines—especially a juicy, delicious Italian red like this one. The value is great, especially given that the wine stays fresh for roughly four weeks after opening. Plus, it’s waaaaaay light-weight compared to your typical glass bottles, which makes it more portable and more environmentally-friendly. High quality bag-in-box wines are dreamy companions for camping, skiing, boating, etc. This particular type of packaging faces some of the same challenges screwcaps did a decade ago—the misconception that the wine inside is cheap and/or awful—but I’m confident that boxed wine will eventually overcome that perception. The positives are just way too positive. And the wine can be so so good.

This box is Piemontese Barbera grown in a mix of marine sands and argillaceous marl that sit 322 meters above sea level. Fermented and raised in stainless steel, it clocks in at 13% alcohol. The nose opens chock full of raspberries, cherries, and blackberries layered with anise-tinged earth, pomegranate acidity, and freshly foraged truffles. This is good, honest, unfussy Italian food wine; pulsating with acidity and vigor. It’s impossibly fresh—downright gluggable, in fact—with subtle complexity that makes me want a perfectly charred Neapolitan pizza or heaping bowl of buttery tajarin pasta. Either would be an excellent choice.