Full Pull Feeding Frenzy

July 26, 2017

Hello friends. Every year when Jeb Dunnuck’s annual set of Washington reviews for Wine Advocate is released, there is a feeding frenzy for the best-reviewed wines still available. Fortunately, because we support many of these wineries all year long, our list is often offered dibs to some of these gems:

2013 Gramercy Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 97pts.” [Context note: The only Cabs to rate higher in this set of reviews: a pair of 100-pointers from Quilceda Creek, and a 99 for Sheridan’s Block 1.]

This is vintage two of Gramercy’s reserve program for Cab. It comes from Bacchus, Phinny Hill, and Leonetti Loess Vineyards, and it was aged for 22 months in 65% new French oak. Listed alc is 14.2%, and production was a miniscule 243 cases.

As in understand it, Gramercy was flooded with requests for this wine after the review was released, and they’re now sold out via the cellar door. We have dibs on the last handful of cases remaining in western Washington, but those dibs evaporate quickly. We have to place our order by Monday noon, so please try to get all requests in by tonight or Monday morning.

Please limit order requests to 6 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive this week or next, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Baby Chateauneuf

July 26, 2017

Hello friends. We’ve already offered a number of terrific wines from the outrageous 2015 vintage in Europe, but today’s may wind up as our finest value of the year; a baby Chateauneuf-du-Pape for a dozen dollars:

2015 Jean Royer Le Petit Roy

The lowest price I see online for this wine is 14.98, and even if we were offering it for fifteen bucks, I’d be talking it up as a great value. At our price today (which we secured by committing to a metric truckload), it’s run-don’t-walk territory.

I don’t toss around the term “Baby Chateauneuf” lightly. Nor do I toss it around often. Looking back at the archives, I believe I’ve only used it for two wines: La Chaussynette from Mas de Boislauzon, and Renjarde’s Massif d’Uchaux. That these are two of our most popular import wines of all time should probably tell you something.

Some Baby CdPs take a lot of explaining. Not so much this one, since Jean Royer is himself a Chateauneuf-du-Pape producer. Since 1985, he has been crafting well-regarded, well-reviewed CdPs in more of an old-school style than the newer, blowsier CdPs currently in vogue. There’s also a (thin) Washington connection here. Royer’s pal, fellow rugby enthusiast, and jet-setting oenologist Phillipe Cambié is also the consulting oenologist working with Ste Michelle on the Tenet Wines (we’ve offered their outstanding Pundit Syrah a couple times).

Petit Roy is a blend of declassified barrels of Royer Chateauneuf, along with concrete tank-aged parcels from his vines just outside the boundary of the AOC. It’s about as close to CdP as you can get without being allowed to put it on the label. In any regular vintage, that’s a recipe for good value. In 2015, it’s off the charts.

This blend of Grenache (mostly), Syrah (some), and Mourvedre and Alicante (dollops) clocks in at 14.5% listed alc and begins with a nose that puts you in the southern Rhone immediately: brambly raspberry, loads of dust and dried garrigue, and appealing hot-rock minerality. In the mouth, this conveys wonderful richness and intensity without ever putting on too much weight. It has something to offer both wine-drinking crowds: outright pleasure for the don’t-think-too-much chuggers, and sneaky complexity for the contemplative types. I would love to slip this into a blind flight of $30-$50 Chateauneuf-du-Pape and watch it dazzle. For ribs on the grill this summer; for roasts and braises when the weather turns cold; for a killer mid-week house red that will turn heads, this is a go-to bottle.

It would also be a killer summer-into-autumn party/wedding wine, so let’s open it up: first come first served up to 240 bottles, and the wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Friends and Neighbors

July 26, 2017

Hello friends. We like to talk a lot about our growing neighborhood here in SoDo. Mostly because things have shifted so much in such a short amount of time. Having lots of neighbors is a nice change—only a few years ago it was just a handful of business around the Urban Works parking lot. One of those original businesses, our neighbor since 2014, is Structure Cellars. At the time, Structure was a little urban winery, rapidly growing their space from a basement/garage setup to an actual living, breathing winery. Over the last three years, Structure has been steadily growing, in production and expertise, and the wines they’re creating have the reviews and acclaim to prove it.

For those of you who haven’t met Brian Grasso and Brandee Slosar, they make the wine and run the tasting room at Structure—with the help of their two pups, Valentine and Nubbin. While Brandee has always been a oenophile, the winery truly grew legs after Brian’s wine epiphany in 2007, which came from a visit to Walter Dacon Cellars after winning a wine sales contest at the restaurant he worked at. Once Brian was hooked, there was no turning back. While Brian cut his teeth at Washington favorites such as Darby, Baer, and Sparkman, the duo always pursued their own projects. The first barrel they made was the 2008 Destiny Ridge Syrah. It was created and meticulously tended in a friend’s garage. The couple’s first official winery location was in the bottom of their first house as a married couple—a real fixer upper, as described by Brandee, in Ballard.

Structure Cellars was truly born out of this house; a house that had more in common with the wine they were making in its basement than either could ever imagine. The two jumped into a life of making wine and fixing up their house—which if you’ve ever embarked down either of these paths, you know that just one can be an arduous task. On one particularly overwhelming night, Brian gave Brandee a tumbler full of red wine (we like to call this an “industry pour”) to calm her down. The wine was the first they had ever made together, the 2008 Destiny Ridge Syrah, and as she gulped, he told her, “You know, this house is a lot like this wine. It’s got good bones…great structure.” From that moment, Structure Cellars was truly alive.

The large majority of Structure’s wines are usually reserved for their beloved wine club. That means that we’ve never really had the right fit or opportunity to offer any of the wines —until today.

2014 Structure Cellars Foundation Syrah

Syrah holds a special place for Structure—and it is safe to say that it’s the varietal they have become most known for. While Brandee’s choice is always Cab Franc, Brian truly loves Syrah. It was the first barrel the team ever made—and it seems fitting that a Syrah be the first wine we ever offer from them.

Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91 pts.”

This Syrah is sourced primarily from two outstanding sites—Wallula and Upland—and clocks in at 14.5% listed alcohol. The nose is straight Syrah—richly peppered with a back bone of blackberry, blueberry, and cherry. On the palate, it boasts rich fruit flavors upfront that are balanced out perfectly by a finish that’s spicy and earthy. Touches of green olive, anise, and tobacco all come through—with none of them overpowering the others. Three years past vintage, and this wine is drinking delightfully, but you could enjoy it for the next five to seven years. Think about pairing this with the other flavors you usually love in Washington Syrah—smoky barbeque pork, cured meats and stinky, soft cheeses, a BLT with thick cut bacon, or roasted rosemary potatoes.

We grabbed the last handful of cases remaining of this wine, so this is likely a one-and-done offer. Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine is in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Rocks District Cabernet

June 30, 2017

Hello friends. Balboa has long been a list-member favorite at Full Pull. From their wildly popular rocks Syrah to succulent, purple Malbecs and red blends, Balboa provides undeniably good wine at accessible price points. Today we have one of the very best we’ve ever offered: estate-grown Cabernet from the Rocks District of the Walla Walla Valley, for an eye-opening tag:

2014 Balboa Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon

For those of our list members who’ve yet to experience Balboa and the wildly satisfying wines they’re slingin’, the winery was founded by Walla Walla veteran and winemaker Tom Glase in 2005. Tom started his winemaking career by working a harvest for L’Ecole in the late 90’s. He quickly moved on to increasingly more demanding winemaking experiences at Corliss, Ash Hollow Vineyards, and finally, as the head winemaker at Beresan. Almost a decade after the first vintage he worked with L’Ecole, Tom opened up his own shop with Balboa. As a winemaker, Tom has dedicated his craft to making wines that are true to the varietal, terroir, and vintage. The wines at Balboa are dedicated to time and place—they are built to showcase what Walla Walla Valley is capable of.

Like many of our favorite wineries, Balboa truly believes that quality winemaking starts in the vineyard. In their Estate Eidolon vineyard, Tom and his team practice sustainable growing practices and mostly hand labor. They take a minimal intervention approach to crafting their wines—and ferment vineyard blocks individually to capture the true essence of the terroir. Balboa’s use of wood reflects their central philosophy—it is balanced and light, not to detract from the varietal purity and terroir they are carefully selecting. Attention to detail and thoughtful process are the name of the game at Balboa.

The grapes used for the Artist Cabernet Sauvignon come entirely from Eidolon Vineyard, Balboa’s estate site, located squarely in the Rocks. Planted in 1999, and called LeFore before Balboa’s purchase, this ancient riverbed soil is the home for much of Balboa’s Cab, Syrah, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Eidolon is planted a little bit higher than much of the Rocks, which mitigates against the inevitable freeze of the region. What’s most exciting about this particular bottle is the opportunity to try Cabernet from the Rocks, which is much less frequently grown than it’s counterpart, Syrah, at such a reasonable price point.

And truly, this price point is excellent for the wine Balboa is producing. This 100% Cabernet opens with a juicy, fruit forward nose of black cherries, raspberries, blackberries, cassis, sandalwood, and licorice anise. On the palate, it’s structured and bold, full of Rocks minerals and rustic Cabernet tannins.. This is a serious wine—one that truly reflects the power this district of Walla Walla is capable of. Drink this wine with any classic Cabernet pairing, a juicy ribeye, barbeque ribs, or ever a rare, seared duck breast.

First come first served up to 12 bottles total, and the wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Secret Squirrel

June 29, 2017

Hello friends. Every time someone brings in a bottle of Secret Squirrel for us to sample in the warehouse, I have a strong urge to scream like Clark Griswold Sr. in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: SQUIRRRRRRRELLLLL!!!!! This label has been that kind of phenomenon.

And no, before our list members work themselves into a lather, I should say: this is not the return of the Secret Squirrel Cab. That wine is gone, and all indications remain that it is gone for good. But…

…the Cabernet is not the only Secret Squirrel wine.

2013 Secret Squirrel Columbia Valley Bordeaux Blend

I’ll start by saying that we had to commit to a large quantity of wine to nudge our TPU price down to the magic twenty dollar mark, a tariff we were able to hit with the first (2012) vintage of Squirrel Cab, but not with the 2013 (that one was 25.99/22.99 TPU). Am I concerned about committing to such a large quantity? No I am not. Not when a wine drinks like baby Corliss Red for twenty bucks.

Some reminders: Secret Squirrel is a new(ish) project for the Corliss family of wineries (Corliss Estates, Tranche). The name is obviously pretty playful, as is the packaging, which features, as best I can make out, a horny squirrel getting ready to attend an Eyes Wide Shut-themed party. The juice inside, on the other hand, is deadly serious. I mean, really serious, really high quality, really bottle aged juice.

The Squirrel label is mostly a result of Corliss’ Red Mountain estate vineyards coming online. With Corliss Estates making otherworldly wines at the high end of the spectrum, and with Tranche focusing squarely on their Blue Mountain Estate Vineyard, they needed a home for all the excellent Red Mountain juice that didn’t make sense for the Corliss wines. Enter the squirrel. What I love about this project is that it shares the Corliss/Tranche ethos of extended ageing, but it does so at pricing about half that of the Tranche reds, and one-third to one-quarter of Corliss reds.

Will you allow me to say that the winery is a little “squirrely” about the exact blend here? What they will say: it is essentially Cab/Merlot dominant (equal parts) that amount to around 70% of the blend, followed in order by Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. As expected with Squirrel, the fruit is Red Mountain dominant; three of the four vineyards involved are Corliss estate sites on RM: Red Mountain Vineyard, Blackwood Canyon, and Canyons Vineyard. The wine spent 22 months in 35% new French oak (pause and let that sink in: $20 new world wines are not aged for two years in expensive French wood). It clocks in at 14.5% listed alc and begins with a deep, expressive nose, with a core of black cherry and redcurrant fruit swaddled in barrel tones of smoke and cocoa and kahlua. Grace notes of earth and cedar complete an attractive nose. The palate is rich, intense, delicious, a little truffle of a wine with power and intensity to spare. It’s another wonderful, well-priced window into Andrew Trio’s outstanding winemaking!

International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 92pts.”

First come first served up to 36 bottles, and the wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Burgundy Meets Oregon

June 28, 2017

Hello friends. For any Pinot Noir lover, the quest for a beautiful bottle never ends. Whether it be Burgundy gems or California fruit-forward samples, a rare German specimen or delicate and earthy Willamette Valley bottles, Pinot Noir is the type of wine to fit most moods and meals. It is the type of wine to always have on hand. Today, we’re offering you a trio of our favorite recent samplings from our neighbor to the south, Oregon. These bottles range in price, but all three are consistently true to the Burgundian-American style that the Pacific Northwest has become famous for.

2015 Crowley Wines Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Crowley Wines, always a list favorite, always difficult to source outside of Oregon, started making traditional Burgundian inspired Oregon Pinot Noir in 2005. To the winery, this means wine with minimal intervention with aggressive attention to detail, letting nature lead the way. Their central belief is that wines are made in the vineyard—which is a great belief to have when making Pinot Noir. Pinot grapes are incredibly terroir driven, and easily susceptible to weather, location, and winemaker perspective. That is why Pinot Noir from different regions can feels so varied; this low-tannin and thin skinned grape takes on all the qualities of the region it comes from.

The 2015 Crowley Willamette Valley Pinot comes from La Colina Vineyard and Tuckwilla Vineyard, both in Dundee Hills, and Four Wines Vineyard in the Cost Range. Every lot used was 100% destemmed, and the wine was aged for 16 months in mostly neutral oak before bottling. The wine pours a vibrant red in the glass—it’s visibly light and fresh. The nose blooms with cranberry, wild strawberries, and leafy herbs and spices. Lively acidity jumps out the glass and continues on the palate with echos of the cranberry and strawberry from the nose. Like intended, this wine is acid driven, with a strong backbone and remarkable polish, somehow retaining Tyson Crowley’s signature elegance in a vintage that very much wants to be openly delicious. The finish is textured, long, and spotted with spicy herbal notes.

The acid and fruit make this friendly for food or drinking on its own. To me, this is a perfect pinot for the coming summer grilling months—you know, that time of year when you may want to drink red wine but it’s 80 degrees out. Pair this bottle with BBQ chicken legs with dark, char marks, grilled salmon, and all sorts of seasonal grilled vegetables.

2014 Arterberry Maresh Weber Vineyard Pinot Noir

2013 proved to be a difficult vintage for much of Oregon, with late rains providing serious challenges. To everyone’s delight, 2014 proved to be a wholly different vintage, and few wineries showed that better that Arterberry Maresh.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Arterberry Maresh—this is a winery is steeped in Oregon tradition, and its wines can be hard to find. The Maresh family bought their first parcel of land in the Dundee Hills in 1956 and quickly expanded their holdings to include over 140 acres. Due to some friendly peer pressure from a neighboring grape grower the Maresh family planted three acres of vines in 1970, which is now Oregon 5th oldest vineyard, Maresh Vineyard. The winemaking at Maresh farm only continued to grow from there.

Martha Maresh was one of the Maresh daughters, and is still involved with the farming and production at her own winery, Powell Hill Winery. She married Fred Arterberry, who was one of the first winemakers from Oregon to graduate from UC Davis, and they had a son, Jim Arterberry Maresh. Arterberry Maresh is Jim’s project, stemming from his father’s winery, Arterberry, that closed after he passed away. Jim is a relatively young winemaker, which makes his accomplishments at Arterberry Maresh that much more impressive. He began playing around with wine at about 17 years old, and opened Arterberry Maresh, an ode to the two families, in 2007, in his mid-20s, with the release of his inaugural 2005 vintage. Jim represents a new era within Oregon—the era of third generation winemakers.

In June 2016, Neal Martin wrote a round of reviews for Wine Advocate on the 2014 vintage from Arterberry Maresh. He visited the vineyards and spoke with Jim Maresh directly about the difference between vintages, and what happened to break 2013 and make 2014: There was no “Young Thug” rapping at 120 decibels when I visited Jim Maresh. That was a shame because I had been learning the lyrics for the last year. Still, the lack of rap was compensated by some of the best range of wines that I tasted from the 2014 vintage. That said, Jim was less complementary and brutally honest about the prior vintage…

“I sold off 40% of reds in 2013. It was an ugly vintage,” he opined. “Rot didn’t affect the whites but Weber and Juliard were declassified.”

So I asked Jim how he approached the 2014. “In 2014 it cooled down towards the end of the season, so alcohol levels kept under control. I picked most of Maresh Vineyard between 8 and 11 October. I stopped experimenting with whole cluster and went back to basics in 2014. One hundred percent de-stemmed and a long time in old barrels. In 2014, one signature of the wines is the length. They finish so long, which is not normal for a warm vintage. I tend to oxidize hard after the press.”

During my stay in Oregon I was explaining to a couple of people about winemakers with “the knack.” They just get it. They know how to make great Pinot Noir seemingly effortlessly, and practice small things that make a big difference. And Jim Maresh has the knack, because despite his laidback attitude towards life, I reckon he’s not that way at all when it comes to his wines. You can’t make them this good without caring. What’s more, he told me how he sees no reason to price his wines so highly that people can’t enjoy them, a fiscal approach dichotomous to others, they make the error of setting price first and then making the wine to fit it. His 2013s may have hit a bum note, but his 2014s hit the high.”

The Weber Vineyard Pinot Noir truly pushes the boundaries of Burgundy and Oregon. Though much of WIllamette’s Pinot Noir is dedicated to the style of Burgundy, many wines find their own style along the way—a hybrid of new world meets old world, that isn’t any worse, it’s just different. The Weber Pinot Noir is one of the truest Burgundy-style, new world Pinots we’ve tried. Weber Vineyard is planted with Pommard clones and is responsible for noble, vibrantly floral, and structured, acid driven wines—and this bottling is true to the vineyard.

Wine Advocate (Neal Martin): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93 points.”

2014 Arterberry Maresh Maresh Vineyard Pinot Noir

Maresh Vineyard is managed directly by the Maresh family, and serves as Jim’s reference point for Dundee Hills Pinot. It is known for creating complex, layered examples with concentrated fruit, florals, spices, minerality, and acid. Those of our list members who consider themselves Pinot Noir nuts, this is a bottle you shouldn’t miss.

Wine Advocate (Neal Martin): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 95 points.” [Context note: of the 566 Oregon wines Neal Martin reviewed in his 2016 annual report for Wine Advocate, this was the single highest rated wine of the bunch.]

First come first served up to TK bottles total, and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Summer

June 28, 2017

Hello friends. Quick-hitter reoffers today on our two Block Wines whites, now that we’ve hit peak white wine drinking season:

2015 Block Wines Semillion Tauro Block Boushey Vineyard 

Our stylistic goal bends more towards a Hunter Valley (Australia) Semillon than a Bordeaux version. What that means is limey acidity, and (hopefully) the ability to age in profound directions. Having been lucky enough to taste some older L’Ecole Semillons, I can say without question that Washington Semillon can stand the test of time.

To achieve our style, we harvested the grapes nice and early, on September 1, which kept acids fresh and bright and alcohols low (13.3%) despite the warmer year (it also helps that Dick Boushey’s vineyard is in the cooler part of the Yakima Valley). Our partner winemaker Morgan Lee then cold soaked the grapes on their skins for 48 hours to help build texture and mouthfeel. We used three neutral French barrels, and then just a little bit of stainless steel for the extra juice that wouldn’t fit in those barrels; seven months with weekly battonage and partial malolactic conversion.

One of the things I love most about our Semillon is how it pairs with the summer cuisine of the Pacific Northwest. Pan-seared spot prawns, Dungeness crab cakes, sockeye salmon shioyaki-style; the list goes on. Crack a chilled bottle of this with northwest seafood for some serious northwest nirvana. It kicks off with a layered-fruit nose: citrus (lime), tree (pear), and more exotic notes like date and fig. Subtleties of hay and crème fraiche complete an inviting nose. That extra skin contact works wonders on the palate, offering just-right textural heft, a pleasing sense of plumpness, especially in the mid-palate. The lovely finish lingers with notes of chamomile. Drink it this summer for its refreshing character and seafood-pairing possibilities, and then hold a few bottles into the fall (or longer!). It should put on more weight, and it should move those savory notes more to the fore, just in time for a place on the Thanksgiving table.

International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91pts.”

2015 Block Wines Chenin Blanc Gnarl Block Rothrock Vineyard

Long-term list members might remember our old “Save The Chenin” series from back in 2009 and 2010. It began with a conversation with Doug Rowell of McKinley Springs Vineyard, who mentioned to me back then that they had to rip out a lot of their old-vine Chenin, because it was simply not a grape that was in fashion, and hence did not command high enough prices to keep it in the ground. What I took from that conversation was: the way to save good, old-vine Chenin is to drink more good, old-vine Chenin. Here’s another chance to do just that.

Rothrock is a vineyard in the Yakima Valley, northeast of Prosser, that you’ve likely never heard of. But it’s old. How old? Well, the current owner doesn’t know, so I don’t know either, but the estimates are that it was planted sometime between 1974 and 1978. So, about 40-year-old vines: ancient by Washington standards. Here is a picture from our 2016 vineyard trip that hopefully conveys the ridiculous girth of these plants. There’s nothing quite like old-vine material.

In 2015 our Chenin fruit was harvested on August 27. August harvests are rare in Washington, but 2015 was an exceptionally warm year, and we wanted to be sure to preserve as much natural acidity as possible. The grapes were whole cluster pressed and fermented with native yeasts, then aged in two-thirds neutral French oak and one-third stainless steel with weekly battonage and partial malolactic conversion. Finished alcohol is 13.1%, and finished residual sugar is a barely-perceptible 4 g/L (0.4%). It begins with a nose of honeycrisp apple and pear fruit, complicated by that signature Washington Chenin note I usually associate with malt powder. It adds a lovely layer of savory complexity here. The palate offers terrific richness and density for such moderate alcohol. The mid-palate turns creamy, and that creamy texture persists through a long, chamomile-inflected finish. This will only grow more savory and complex with the passage of time.

International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91pts.”