Full Pull Renegade

February 27, 2017

Hello friends. We have the return today of a wine that has become a list mainstay; a killer Grenache (mostly) from the rocks of the Walla Walla Valley:

2014 Renegade Grenache

I believe we’ve offered every vintage of this wine that has existed, beginning with the 2009 vintage and continuing through today. Why? Because it is exceedingly rare to find Washington Grenache at $15, especially one with a backbone from rocks district fruit.

Now then, a quick reminder of what the Renegade program is all about. So, imagine a winery sitting on barrels of wine that they don’t want to release under their own label. There are a myriad of reasons why this could be the case. Regardless, Trey Busch (whose main label is Sleight of Hand Cellars) purchases the barrels, bottles the wine under his Renegade label, and frequently signs a non-disclosure agreement regarding the source of the juice. Here’s what we can disclose about this Grenache:

1. It mostly comes from a youngish vineyard in the rocks district of the Walla Walla Valley (same vineyard source as previous vintages), blended with a little bit of fruit from Snipes Mountain. Hence the Columbia Valley designation this year.

2. The rocks vineyard sells fruit to a very small number of wineries, all of them among the finest Rhone producers in Washington. The majority of this juice came from one of those three wineries.

3. This was fermented with 100% stems and aged for 16 months in neutral barrels.

4. This is delicious Grenache, evocative of its unique origins: the ancient cobbles of the Walla Walla River. And as I’ve mentioned so many times you’re probably bored of hearing it, 2014 was an outstanding vintage for value wines. Because it was both high-quality and high-yield, a lot of excess juice normally destined for higher-end bottlings was cascaded down to the value tier. The biggest winners in this situation: us.

It clocks in at 14.5% listed alc and pours into the glass pale ruby, a reminder that Grenache in Washington can look quite delicate (almost like Pinot Noir), especially if it’s not blended with deeper-pigmented Syrah. That paleness, however, belies the power and richness inherent to this wine. It begins with a nose of raspberry and Kalamata olive, pink pepper and herbes de provence (with extra lavender); an attractive nose, and very evocative of Grenache. In the mouth, what you notice right away is the complete lack of rough edges. This is a soft, easy drinker, such a charming wine texturally that you could be forgiven for missing its complexity. But it’s there in spades. This is characterful, well-priced Grenache, and it put me in mind of an olive-studded lamb tagine.

We’re catching this one at its end of vintage, so this is likely to be a one-and-done deal, with no reorders possible. Please limit order requests to 24 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. 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 Eliminator 12: Barbaresco Edition

February 27, 2017

Hello friends. v12 of the Eliminator is a small version – just three wines – and entirely Barbaresco focused. Lovers of ethereal Nebbiolo, rejoice!

A reminder: Eliminator offers work a little differently than our norm. These will be first-come first-served, and the upper order limits will be the number of extra bottles in the warehouse. So, if we have 15 bottles left, and you want all 15, and you’re the first to jump in, they’re yours. This gives slight advantage to longer-term list members. Our offers are throttled, and it takes about two hours to send offers to the entire list. So list old-timers do get a (small) head start.

Let’s dive in.

2012 Tintero Barbaresco

We’ve offered every Tintero Barbaresco ever made (it began with the 2008 vintage; this is our fifth in a row), and I’m sure we’ve sold the majority of all the bottles of Tintero Barbaresco that ever made it into the US. Our list members know a good value when they see one, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that a Kermit Lynch-imported Barbaresco, at a tariff more often seen for Langhe Nebbiolos, is a fine value indeed. We’re still the best price nationally by a few dollars, and we have 90 bottles remaining.

2010 Veglio Barbaresco

Well-priced Barbaresco from a producer exported regularly to northern Europe, but very rarely to the US. From a gorgeous vintage too. And I’ll stop there, since we have a mere 30 bottles remaining, and this one comes with a nice review attached. Wine Enthusiast (Kerin O’Keefe): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

2010 Albino Rocca Barbaresco Ronchi

This too comes with a shiny review. Wine Advocate (Monica Larner): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

So much to like here. The $17 drop from the $57 release price. Larner’s drinking window, which puts us in early peak territory. And access to a classic vintage from an old-school producer. This drinks as close to traditional Barbaresco as anything I’ve had in a while. The imposing structure (bright acidity and wonderful toothsome tannin). The insistent leafiness. The complex, evolving mix of tar and roses and menthol. If you’re against modernity and over-polishing in the Piedmont, this is the wine for you. 84 bottles available.

All three wines are in the warehouse and available for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Rasa

February 10, 2017

Hello friends. Today we have the new vintage of a trio of list favorites: the outstanding Bordeaux blends and varietal wines from Billo Naravane of Rasa Vineyards.

Rasa is one of these wineries that started up right around the same time that Full Pull did: sometime towards the end of the last decade, right into the teeth of the recession. Brutal. You make plans during an economic expansion, purchase vineyards, purchase grapes, purchase equipment, and then by the time you get to launch, the economy has turned 180 degrees.

This was an exceedingly difficult time to start a winery, but what it means for the crop of wineries launched in the late aughts is that if they’ve survived this long, they’re probably making some pretty damned good wines. And Billo has done more than survive: he has thrived, landing multiple consulting winemaking gigs in addition to his work for Rasa. Echo Ridge, Mackey, Delmas: all thought Billo was the right person to realize their vision. And while it is always fun to see what Billo does with other projects, it is also deeply exciting to experience his wines from the mothership, Rasa.

2013 Rasa Vineyards Plus One Cabernet Sauvignon Kiona Vineyard

Plus One has traditionally been Rasa’s only straight Cabernet Sauvignon, coming entirely from Kiona Vineyard. Planted in 1975, it sits in the heart of Red Mountain. While it may not have quite the name recognition of Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun, its Cabernet fruit (especially the original vines that make up the backbone of this wine) is just as prized by Washington winemakers and insiders. This vintage got a six-day cold soak prior to fermentation, and was then raised in 60% new French oak. It clocks in at 14.9% listed alc, and production is a tiny 124 cases. I love how this vintage begins all supple and silky, then has building tannins that fan out across the palate, offering a wonderful toothsome finish. This couldn’t be confused for anything other than classy Cabernet.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

2013 Rasa Vineyards In Order To Form A More Perfect Union

In 2013 the Perfect Union is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot , 22% Cabernet Franc, and 11% Petit Verdot, from a murderer’s row of vineyards: three sites in the Sagemoor family (Dionysus, Weinbau, Bacchus) and four others (Dubrul, Firethorn, Kiona, XL). This too had lengthy pre- and post-fermentation macerations and was fermented entirely with native yeasts. It was raised in 70% new French puncheons and clocks in at 14.9% listed alc. This too is texturally flawless (Billo is a master of texture), offering satiny fine-grained tannins to balance a mix of plump delicious fruit, dark smoky earth tones, and leafy/floral notes of chamomile tea.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

2013 Rasa Vineyards Creative Impulse DuBrul Vineyard

The blend this year is 69%/31% Cab/Merlot. The fruit got a week-long cold soak and was fermented entirely with native yeasts. It spent 30 months in 60% new French oak (again, all large puncheons), and clocks in at 14.7% listed alc. 135 cases produced, and as usual, Billo captures and harnesses the exotic, sultry, earthy side of the incomparable DuBrul Vineyard. Notes of anise and juniper and incense complicate a core of black cherry and blackcurrant fruit, and loads of minerality. It combines power and elegance effortlessly.

Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

Please limit order request to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull For A Song

February 10, 2017

Hello friends. The first time we offered today’s wine (2009 vintage), it became our biggest-selling item of all-time (only recently surpassed by the 2012 Secret Squirrel Cab) and essentially forced us to move warehouses. That was back in 2012. The next time we offered it (2012 vintage), it became the biggest mover of 2014 (it’s still in our top five of all time) and made me feel very wise about moving to a large warehouse.

Both of those previous vintages went out at [PRICE WITHHELD]. Today we’re able to do even better:

2014 For A Song Syrah

The years when this wine is really excellent tend to be the warmer, higher-yielding vintages, so it should be no surprise that the 2014 is outstanding. Known as a high-quality/high-yield vintage across the northwest, it has led to all sorts of wonderful buying opportunities at sub-$20 prices, as juice usually intended for higher-price bottlings gets cascaded down into value labels like For A Song.

Since it was all the way back in November 2013 that we last offered a new vintage of this wine, allow me to re-introduce the concept: For A Song grew like a sapling out of the ashes of the dearly-departed Olsen Estates winery. The Olsen family had been growing grapes in the Yakima Valley for 40 years when, in 2006, they decided to launch a winery to feature their fruit and build the brand of the vineyard. That winery, which crushed grapes only through the 2009 harvest, was terrific, and the wines produced never lacked for positive reviews. The problem was never with grapegrowing or winemaking; it was always with selling. Entering a competitive market, in a recession, without a distributor, proved too great a challenge to overcome.

When Olsen Estates went out of business, all their juice, in bottle and barrel, was purchased by their distributor (Vinum), who created the For A Song label as a house brand to find happy homes for all that quality juice. Since then, the project has been such a runaway success that Vinum has kept the band together. It is still Kyle Johnson, the former winemaker at Olsen Estates, making the wines, and he seems to have a real knack for Syrah.

This is indeed 100% Syrah, and it comes from three sites under the Sagemoor family of vineyards: Weinbau, Sagemoor, and Wooded Island. It spent sixteen months in barrel, of which 20% were fourth- and fifth-fill (the remainder completely neutral). Aromatically, this has plenty in common with the ’09 and the ’12: lovely white-flower topnotes and espresso bass notes surrounding a core of good Yakima Valley blueberry and boysenberry fruit and silty minerals. The texture (14.4% listed alc) is impressively dense and unctuous for a wine at this price point. There’s a real sense of presence here, of weight and character, and the overall package brings an enormous amount of aesthetic pleasure. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this vintage keeps the streak alive, and this winds up as our biggest seller of 2017.

Wedding planners, party planners, folks needing a Tuesday night house wine: this is a fine candidate. First come first served up to 60 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 So It Begins

February 10, 2017

Hello friends. Well, I never thought I would see the day. I’ve really tried to draw a hard line at March 1 for our first rosé offer of the year. I mean, yes, those of you who have been reading these offers for a few years know my strong belief that accessing the best Washington rosés for summertime requires astute buying during springtime. But this ain’t springtime! February 5 is decidedly winter.

What the go/no-go decision boiled down to was this: we either offer the wine now, or we don’t offer it at all. When it comes to great Washington rosé – especially one never-before-sold to the greater Seattle market – you can guess which way I decided.

As I write this, I’m reminded of the scene in The Two Towers where Theoden King is standing in the downpour in the final moments before the battle for Helm’s Deep. Washington rosé season. So it begins.

2016 Isenhower Rose

Does that mean the Washington winemakers are the uruk-hai? Or the rosés themselves? I still have to think this all the way through.

In the meantime, let me re-offer my annual screed about Washington rosé: When it comes to new-school Washington rosé, spontaneity is way overrated. In our current low-supply/high-demand environment, planning is required. If you want to be drinking the best local rosés in July and August, you can’t purchase them in July and August. They’ll be sold out by then. The trick is to purchase in March and April and May (and now add February!), stash them away in a dark closet or under the bed, and wait for our glorious, all-too-short PacNW summer.

The reason I had to move quickly on this one: so, 450 cases seems like decent production for a rosé. But when one account buys up more than 50% of stock on first tasting, and when another account is threatening to grab another three digits worth of cases, it rapidly becomes time to fish or cut bait. If we end up oversold on this, which is a distinct possibility, look for case stacks at your friendly neighborhood PCC Market, and possibly your friendly neighborhood Metropolitan market. And those may be the only places this wine ends up.

The reason I’m high on this rosé (besides its inherent quality, which we’ll get to soon enough), is that I’m a big believer in Cabernet Franc as a strong rosé variety in Washington, and most of the Cab Franc rosés produced in the state fall into the $15-$20 range; not $10-$15. That combination of price and quality had me thinking that this is this year’s Mr. Pink: a debutante rosé that is going to be exceedingly popular and gone in a blink.

It pours into the glass perfectly pale pink, and immediately offers a nose that shows why Franc is such a lovely choice for rosé. In addition to the watermelon and strawberry fruit, Franc’s compelling greenies assert themselves beautifully: cucumber and sweet pea and watermelon rind. The overall nose is complex and attractive. The palate offers a pinpoint balance of fleshy fruit and bright acidity, and there’s a real minerality that emerges in the mouth. This drinks like rosé filtered through crushed rocks.

Listed alc on the label is 13%, but Brett Isenhower let me know the lab-measured alc is 12.53%. It’s no easy feat to dial in moderate alcs like this during this recent string of warm summers. There’s certainly enough rich fruit here to suggest this will last well into autumn if you can keep your hands on any that long. We have a hold on a significant chunk of this, but the sharks are circling, so I fully expect this to be a one-and-done offer, with no possibilities for reorder.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. 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 Radiohead vs Kenny G

February 10, 2017

Hello friends. We have a new vintage today of one our import hits: Zorzal Malbec from Tupungato in Argentina. And this time, it comes with a bonus: a well-reviewed, all-cement-egg-fermented blend from the same producer.

2015 Zorzal Malbec Terroir Unico

The Michelini brothers first hit my radar back in 2012 when the excellent critic Neal Martin wrote the following in Wine Advocate: [TEXT WITHHELD].

Then Luis Gutierrez came onboard at the Advocate, made his first visit to Zorzal in 2014, and penned the following (warning: LOOOOOONG): [TEXT WITHHELD]

So yeah, that kind of press, it tends to exert sales pressure. A lot of sales pressure. That’s largely why it took until February 2015 for us to be able to make a Zorzal offer of any kind. And even today, it requires timing the offer correctly in order to have enough stock in town to make it worth our while.

I should also say: a wine like this is the exact reason why we offer Washington Malbecs so rarely. In the right hands, Argentine Malbecs just kill it, and at price points that seem impossible. This one, grown at vineyards at 4500’ elevation (4500 feet!) in Gualtallary (which looks like this; amazing), kicks off with the kind of fresh, crunchy-berry nose that is usually restricted to excellent Cru Beaujolais. The palate mixes pure blackberry fruit with a cooling crushed-rock mineral tone, and it seems to fan out across the whole mouth, with a plush mid-palate rolling into a black tea-inflected finish. Balanced, bright, and pure.

Wine Advocate (Luis Gutierrez): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 90+pts.”

2014 Zorzal Eggo Tinto de Tiza

Wine Advocate (Luis Gutierrez): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

We don’t have access to a whole lot of this, so I’ll keep it relatively brief, and say that this is still predominantly (90%+) Malbec, with small splashes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. It’s a nervy beauty, with intense berry fruit drenched in citrus-peel acidity and tangy/salty minerals. The density and purity at 13.9% listed alc is difficult to fathom.

Please limit order requests to 24 bottles of Malbec and 6 bottles of Eggo, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

Full Pull Raconteur

February 1, 2017

Hello friends. One of the most exciting wineries to hit the Washington scene the past few years has been Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen’s WT Vintners. By evening (and probably a good chunk of day), Jeff is the Wine Director at RN74 in Seattle, which means he basically tastes every important wine that comes into Seattle. That gig came after previous stints at Cascadia, Wild Ginger, and Café Juanita. I’d also lay better than even odds that Jeff is going to be Seattle’s next wine pro to pass the Master Sommelier exam. He has a wickedly sharp palate, and a clear point of view, honed from tasting thousands of wines for his various restaurant gigs. To wit, here is an excerpt from Jeff’s winemaking philosophy:

From our inception I strive to be the conduit from which our vineyards speak. Minimal additions are made in the winery beyond yeast and the occasional racking off solids. I avoid the use of new oak in favor of used barrels, which add a bit of texture and little else. Foremost, I want our wines to serve as the champions of Washington’s extraordinary terroir. By utilizing whole clusters, versus just the berries, during fermentation I attempt to coax both greater structure and more savory flavors and aromas in our Syrah. With each vineyard we work closely with the vineyard’s manager and owner to reduce crop loads and find the optimal time to harvest, which is often weeks before our neighbors. By picking early I ensure the vineyard’s voice is heard and not lost to high alcohols and overtly fruity wines. Ultimately, I am attempting to make the wines I want to drink, wines of place, wines that complement a meal and wines that tell a story. I want them to be delicious as they are interesting.

We’ve offered the main-label WT Vintners wines on a number of occasions (and we’ll include one WT wine as a bonus at the bottom of today’s offer), but today’s focus is on Jeff’s newest project: Raconteur Wine Company. While WT focuses entirely on single-vineyard wines, Raconteur is “a series of multi-vineyard wines at maverick level affordability with unparalleled provenance and quality.” (Somewhere John McCain is applauding the use of “maverick.” Or maybe Tom Cruise.)

Both Raconteur wines from the debut release offer fine value for the price, and a clear introduction to Jeff’s house style.

2015 Raconteur Wine Co. White

I will admit, I had my reservations, having never seen Chenin Blanc (75%) and Gruner Veltliner (25%) blended. But what works is that both play on the savory side of the white wine spectrum, and the result is a savory white indeed. The nose offers lentils and sweet corn, earthy honey and peach fruit. The palate is dry and brightly acidic, with a beautiful acid-mineral spine propping up a lovely mix of fruit and savory tones. A unique, complicated Washington white.

2015 Raconteur Wine Co. Red

I thought this Rhone blend was outstanding when I sampled it, and after learning the vineyard sources, the quality makes sense: Les Collines and Stoney Vine and Destiny Ridge for the Syrah; Olsen for Grenache; Boushey for Mourvedre. That is not a list of vineyards that typically makes its way into sub-$20 wines.

This begins with a nose of cherry, strawberry fruit leather, and subtleties of mineral and fragrant garrigue. The palate possesses serious heft and intensity. You can almost see JLT going through barrels in his winery. All the elegant barriques: into WT Vintners. All the rustic, overtly generous barriques: into Raconteur. The result is that this may be Jeff’s most approachable wine yet. It has burly back-end tannins, and a real sense of charm and character throughout. I continue to believe that the sub-$20 red Rhone blend category is one where Washington can really make a splash, and this is another fine piece of evidence.

2014 WT Vintners Mourvedre Boushey Vineyard

Just a quick little bonus here. I wanted to offer it because it’s so rare to see varietal Mourvedre from Washington, and this one was just so damned good. It all starts with the grower, of course, and no one knows Rhone varieties in Washington better than Dick Boushey. Jeff has crafted a glorious wine out of Dick’s farming work, with a super expressive, animal nose of plum, leather, and roasting game birds. Smelled like good Bandol to me. Vibrant, energetic, downright thrilling Mourvedre, with plenty of density and palate-weight on a sculpted 13.6%-alc frame. Really a wonderful take on this variety.

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.