Full Pull Red Mountain

June 11, 2018

Hello friends. Kiona Vineyards is a standout operation in Washington. They are a family of grape growers and winemakers. They create samplings that range from late harvest ice wine to beefy Red Mountain reds from the vineyards their family planted on Red Mountain when there was practically nothing else there.

There is an innate sense of place in the wines of Kiona—as if the wine knows something special about its homeland and if you play your cards right it might just let you in on the secret. Today we have two such wines: a Cabernet that has become a list mainstay, and our first ever Kiona rosé:

2015 Kiona Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
This Cabernet – a hugely popular offer for us in the 2013 and 2014 vintages – carries the generic Red Mountain label. And it would be enough if this was just an excellent Red Mountain Cab for twenty bucks. But it gets better, because the Williams family actually grows every grape that ends up in this bottle. A full 81% of this Cabernet comes from Kiona’s estate vineyards on Red Mountain (70% from Kiona Estate, which has been a hardworking staple since the mid 1970s, and 11% from Heart of the Hill, a west facing portion of Kiona’s estate that sits just slightly uphill from the winery). The other 19% comes from Emory Vineyard—which Kiona does not own, but which they do farm.

With this bottle, we’re essentially looking at estate-grown, estate-bottled, carefully-coddled Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, from folks who have been growing grapes and making wine on this mountain about as long as anyone. For twenty dollars. No wonder this wine has been so popular. It begins with a core of dark fruit (black plum, cassis) swaddled in alluring French oak tones of smoked vanilla bean and complicated by threads of earth and orange peel. The palate (14.5% listed alc) is ripe, rich, and delicious, very much in keeping with the warm 2015 vintage. The tannins, which sneak in at the back end, are fine-grained, ripe, and easy. The entire package is approachable and pleasurable as can be. As usual, this is an honest, well-priced entree into the power of Red Mountain Cab.

2017 Kiona Mourvedre Rose Heart of the Hill Vineyard
Mourvedre around the world, sits in Provence on the French side of the Pyrenees. Some of the most famous—and most expensive—rosé in the world comes from Bandol. Those wines will easily run you $30-$40 a bottle, whereas Kiona’s rosé, also made from the same grape, will run you less than $15.

It pours into the glass medium salmon colored, and offers an attractive nose of plum, mineral, and spice notes (star anise, clove). This drinks dry and brisk, with some notable dissolved CO2 giving this a mouthfeel more like Txakolina rosé than like many Washington versions. The overall character of the wine is bright, brisk, and deeply refreshing, but then the length and complexity manage to surprise and delight. A lovely new pink for our list members, and a terrific summer-into-autumn rosé.


Full Pull La Rioja Alta

June 10, 2018

Hello friends. Today we have the return of a Gran Reserva from one of our list’s favorite Rioja houses: La Rioja Alta. I think we all love LRA so much because they’re old-school, but not painfully so. We consider these wines as Rioja classics—true to this particular part of the world, but still retaining plenty of accessibility.

(And as a special bonus, there’s an extra LRA white and red at the bottom of this offer).

2009 La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904
It’s been a while since we’ve been able to offer a vintage of this wine. LRA didn’t bottle in 2008 or 2006 because of vintage standards—they only bottle Excellent and some Very Good vintages—and the 2007 was in such low stock that we only got a few bottles for our warehouse retail rack. The last vintage we were able to offer was 2005.

Since there are many new list members that have joined over the last two years—and two years is long enough for most of us to forget about the nitty gritty details—here’s a quick reminder of what LRA is all about: La Rioja Alta is a classic Rioja producer, in the vein of Lopez de Heredia. They have stubbornly resisted modernity, going against the grain as much of Rioja has gotten bigger, riper, richer. For that, they are rewarded with love and admiration from those of us who care about terroir expression and who want our Rioja to taste like Rioja, not like new-world Tempranillo. Producers like LRA don’t follow the short-term winds of fashion. They play the long game. They think about how their winery will be viewed in decades, in centuries.

LRA releases two Gran Reservas, the 890 (commemorating the founding of the winery in 1890) and the 904 (commemorating their gaining of most of their most important vineyard properties in 1904). This 904 is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano, aged entirely in four-year-old American oak barrels made in-house (yes, they make their own barrels) for four years. The wine was bottled in November 2014, where it has now rested since, putting us at almost a decade past vintage. Only in Rioja.

Wine Advocate (Luis Gutierrez): [TEXT WITHHELD]

This wine is a marvelous mix of sweet and savory spice, salt and cream, crunchy leaves and luscious fruit. Gutierrez’s description of the palate is spot on—clean and polished yet decidedly serious. It moves so effortlessly between juicy delicious fruit, smoky wood spice, and gripping tannins that it’s hard to see where one begins and the other ends. The texture, the flavors, the overall package are all true to Rioja; LRA’s 904 is a modern classic.

I know calling a $60 wine a “bargain” (as Gutierrez does, and as we would echo) is likely to chafe the chaps of a few, but this really does offer untold pleasures for its price point, and it offers a wine that is glorious now, but will only continue to unfurl over another two decades (at least) in bottle. Many of our list members are already rapturous about previous vintages, so we’re likely preaching to the choir here, but for any lover of Rioja or interested party, this is a bottle you should own.

2017 Lagar de Cervera Albarino Rias Baixas 
La Rioja Alta decided to move away from white wine production in Rioja and search for a more ideal location in Spain. They settled on Lagar de Cervera in Galicia and purchased the winery in 1988. Located in the corner of north west Spain, Galicia is a historic winemaking region that’s over 2000 years old. The region thrives off fishing, which means the diet is mostly seafood and the wines are mostly white—Albarino to be exact. Rías Baixas, where this wine is made, sits just north of the Portuguese border and is the closest Galician DO to the Atlantic Ocean. The region is defined by its hillsides that run along the jagged coastline, relatively temperate days, and the influence of ocean fog. The Albarino is world class.

The 2017 opens with bright citrus fruit, lemon verbena, peaches, and cobblestones. It’s a hot summer thunderstorm in a glass. The palate is razor sharp—moving fluidly from bright, intense fruit to savory green subtleties as it surges along. Acidity is key here, elevating this decidedly delicious white into something greater. It will pair perfectly with all of your summer cooking plans, from locally caught seafood to char-grilled corn. It will also pair perfectly with takeout—cold soba noodles or sushi—on the days when it’s just too hot to turn the oven on.

2012 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Reserva
We pre-purchased a parcel of the ’12 Alberdi, after the ’11 ended up woefully under-allocated (we set order limits to 4 bottles, and max allocations ended up being 2). You may recall that the ’11 came with a 94pt Suckling review; he has not yet weighed in on the ’12.

Alberdi is notable for a few reasons. First, it’s the lowest-priced wine in the LRA lineup. Second, it’s the only 100% Tempranillo in the lineup, coming from 30-plus-year-old vineyards at 1500-2000’ above sea level. And finally, it’s the youngest of LRA’s wines. Which is of course a testament to Spain in general, and La Rioja Alta specifically, and their insistence on holding their wines until maturity. The fact that the youngest wine in their lineup is a 2012 vintage is just staggering. This was aged for two years in American oak; the first year in a new barrel, and the second in barrels averaging three years old. It was bottled in December 2015. The complex nose offers a core of black cherry fruit complicated by earthy notes of shitake mushroom and forest floor, alongside cocoa powder barrel tones. The palate combines rich Tempranillo fruit with the usual Alberdi earthy/leafy nuance. This is perfectly weighted (13.5% listed alc) and offers lingering chamomile chew on the attractive finish.

Full Pull CVBDX: The Return

June 9, 2018

Hello friends. Ten days ago, we sent out our last-call offer on the 2009 CVBDX. Nine days ago, we sold out of the 2009 CVBDX. Eight days ago, the new CVBDX landed in our warehouse. Good timing.

2011 Full Pull & Friends CVBDX (FPF-25) 
This is our third CVBDX, following after the hugely popular 2007 (offered in 2014) and the 2009 (offered in 2017). It is also the most limited bottling we’ve accessed, with production levels at less than half (48%) of the 2009 vintage.

Writing about CVBDX is always a good opportunity to offer some reminders on what this program is all about:

Reminder #1: The Concept
This is far from an original concept in the great big world of wine. For generations, merchant-negociants in Europe, in addition to buying finished bottles, have purchased juice and/or grapes for their own labels. And every time I’m in northwest wine country, I’m tasting not just finished bottles but plenty of juice from barrel as well. In Full Pull’s early years, we simply didn’t meet the volume requirements necessary to bring wines like this to fruition. But starting in 2013, we surged past that level, and the FP&F program was born.

Reminder #2: The Name
Full Pull & Friends. Two clauses. The first (Full Pull) matters because this is juice that we believe in, that we *want* to put our name on, that we feel represents extraordinary value for our list members. The second (Friends) represents our wonderful list members, whose support of Full Pull has allowed us to reach the point where negociant wines were even possible, as well as our partner winemakers, who love seeing their carefully-tended juice get bottled on its own and offered to folks who they know to be enthusiastic about Washington wine. CVBDX? That’s just shorthand for a Columbia Valley Bordeaux blend. And FPF-25 means this is the 25th bottling under the Full Pull & Friends venture.

Of the other 24, all but 2 are sold out, and those are our most recent two offers: 2012 Grenache and the 2018 disgorgement of our Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature. See this page for details; email us if you have any order requests for those other two available wines; and please note that June marks the first month when we’ll be pouring the Blanc de Blancs through the tasting room. I expect the remaining third of production to move quickly.

Reminder #3: The Winery
In some cases with Full Pull & Friends, we’re able to include the name of the winery involved, and in others (like today’s offer) we’re not. I understand the wineries that don’t want their names revealed. They have brand equity to protect, and they don’t want to see their name splashed on a bottle that costs less than half of their own. What I can say is: this comes from a winery partner we’ve deemed “Winery Alpha.” They were the partner for our first ever FP&F wine (2007 Cabernet Sauvignon), and they were the partner for the 2007 and 2009 vintages of CVBDX. This is a winery partner we’ve been working with since early 2010, and we’ve offered dozens of their wines over the years.

This particular wine spent a good long time in French oak, about 50% new. The fruit comes from outstanding vineyards (which by agreement must remain nameless), and it is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot (no precise percentages, but the varieties are in order of their proportion in the blend).

I suspect that those of you who liked the ‘07 and ‘09 versions of CVBDX are going to dig this bottle as well. I know, I know, 2011 was a very different (colder) vintage than 2007 and 2009, but the impact of those climatic effects varies depending on which part of the state we’re talking about. And guess what: the vineyards involved here ([cough] lots of Red Mountain fruit [cough cough]) are pretty damned warm, even in cooler years. Some evidence: our alcohol for the 2007 was 14.5%. The 2009 was 14.9%. The 2011? Wait for it… 14.4%. So yeah, still plenty of generosity and richness here.

But first the nose, which offers red plum and black cherry, good clean soil and lovely green notes (hello Cab Franc) of bay leaf. I love how the palate contains such densely packed layers of fruit, unfurling over hours of oxygen exposure. That fruit is lifted and brightened by wonderful streaks of cool-vintage acidity, and complicated by insistent earthy complexities. This is evolving beautifully, not only in the complexity of its palate, but also in its structure, the finishing lick of tannins combed to a fine sheen by the power of extra bottle age. I’m thrilled we can add another gorgeous vintage to the burgeoning legacy of the CVBDX.

Full Pull Pedestal

June 8, 2018

Hello friends. Long Shadows continues to be on fire, ripping through vintages and selling out immediately upon release. So hot, in fact, that they’ve basically moved to a pre-sell model for the Seattle market. Here’s an excerpt of the latest e-mail we received from Long Shadows’ Seattle representatives:

Another incredible score on another incredible release from the Long Shadows Vintners collection is at hand! 2015 Pedestal Merlot is the combined effort of Long Shadows’ Head Winemaker Gilles Nicault and the legendary Michel Rolland. Long the most collectible of the Long Shadows portfolio, the 2015 release has established a new level of excellence, coming out of the gate with a 96-point review from Jeb Dunnuck.

This beautiful Merlot is sourced from some of the Columbia Valley’s top vineyards (Weinbau, Stone Tree, Conner lee, and Dionysus) and is balanced with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. After spending 22 months in 85% new French oak, the result is a lush and aromatic wine that sings across the palate. Accented by aromas of black cherry and fresh roasted coffee, the flavors evolve on the tongue from bright blackberry at the start to a long bittersweet chocolate and baking spice finish.

Now, let’s make this even more enticing, shall we? While this wine arrives in our central warehouse Monday, May 21, we are thrilled to offer a special pre-arrival pricing offer. There is a finite amount of this wine available, so staking your claim now is a great idea! Please send me your requests and we will fill them as they are received until we are sold out!

Thanks to our relationship with Long Shadows over the years, we’re still able to secure pre-sale pricing, but only for this first order. And there is a quick deadline for allocation requests. Please submit all order requests no later than Sunday, June 17th. We may not be able to accomodate any orders after that.

2015 Long Shadows Pedestal 
We got to meet with Gilles Nicault at Long Shadows’ tasting room on a recent staff trip to Eastern Washington. Throughout the visit, one thing was abundantly clear—this man loves his job. And what’s not to love? Gilles gets to continually hone his craft working with contemporaries from around the globe on one of the most well-funded and supported wine programs in the state. It’s a pretty dreamy gig—but it’s also incredibly hard work. Gilles shepards wines from grape to bottle while working with a number of different winemakers (with a number of very different styles and personalities). While these winemakers fly in and fly out, Gilles remains behind to care for their babies. His dedicated care is clear from the consistent excellence Long Shadows creates.

To create Pedestal, Long Shadows’ Merlot-dominant wine, Gilles works with Bordeaux-based Michel Rolland, who is probably the most famous consulting winemaker in the world. Now in its 13th vintage, Pedestal has become the poster child for Washington State-grown Merlot and all it is capable of. Consistently, it is bold, brooding Merlot that showcases the structure and power the grape can achieve when treated correctly. In 13 vintages, 2015 may just be the best yet.

Jeb Dunnuck: [TEXT WITHHELD]


Full Pull Crushin’ It

June 7, 2018

Hello friends. It really is better to be lucky than good sometimes. Last autumn, we tasted two wines from Result of a Crush: the 2015 Christmas Cuvee and the 2014 Black Label. Both wines showed beautifully, but we really only had space for one in our holiday schedule. Shocker, I’m sure: we chose to run the Christmas Cuvee for the holidays; not only because of the ho-ho-ho factor, but also because it was the least expensive of the pair. So yeah, on November 21, we offered up the Christmas Cuvee at 27.99/24.99 TPU. At that time, the black label would have gone out at something like 33.99/29.99 TPU.

But now we’re here in early summer, and the winery has moved on to start selling the 2015 vintage black label. Which means they’re a little more eager to see the 2014 disappear. Which means they’re willing to offer compelling prices to certain retail partners who have been working with Reynvann wines since 2009 and who are willing to commit to a metric cuss-ton of wine with perfect confidence that their (in all ways above average) list members will recognize a serious deal when they see one and will snap this wine up en masse:

2014 Result of a Crush Red Wine (Black Label)
Best wine-searcher price I see is 27.00, so our TPU tag today is pretty darned competitive. I should also say: while this now comes in *lower* than the Christmas Cuvee pricing, I’ve always viewed the Black Label as the more serious of the two wines. You can kind of tell by the packaging, and certainly by the juice inside, which is 100% declassified Reynvaan juice, with no purchased bulk juice involved.

Here is a quick reminder about the winery from the Reynvaan family, in case we have some list newbies who haven’t taken the plunge on our previous RoaC offers: Since 2011, sisters Amanda Reynvaan and Angela Reynvaan Garratt have been producing approachable red blends and Rosés from elite vineyards throughout the Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley in conjunction with their brother and consulting winemaker, Matt Reynvaan. The family started out in the wine business in 2004, launching Reynvaan Family Vineyards in Walla Walla, which quickly developed into a Washington State cult winery. With the Result of a Crush project the family aims to produce wines that are distinctive, affordable, consistent in quality and showcase the owners’ sometimes whimsical attitude toward wine.

This particular bottling is 85% Syrah, from both of the family’s estate vineyards – In The Rocks and Foothills – along with 10% Foothills Viognier and 5% Foothills Cabernet Sauvignon. It clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and comes roaring up out of the glass with an outrageous savory nose, beginning with a mineral note so sanguine that it reminded me of nothing so much as a good boudin noir. Followed by waves of mixed berry fruit, wildflowers, and smoky/meaty ham hock. This is a pretty damned solid impersonation of the higher-end Reynvaan aromatics; like Jay Pharoah’s-Denzel-impersonation-level good. The palate continues the theme – all savory umami goodness – but does so on a textural frame that is bright, balanced, propulsive. The finish is all naughty salty briny goodness, so appetizing and just begging for another bite of food. The thought of this with earthy barbequed pork ribs this summer makes my mouth water instantly.

Full Pull Rosado

June 6, 2018

Hello friends. In Europe, there are twin beating hearts of Mourvedre. The first exists in Bandol, a region of Provence on the French side of the Pyreness; the other lays just over 1,000 kilometers away in Jumilla, Spain. These regions are separated by more than just miles—they are also separated by price. We’ve long known that Spanish wines provide the best bang for your buck in the Old World, but Jumilla, where we find ourselves today, is home to some of the best rosés you can find in all of Europe—at a fraction of the cost of their French counterparts.

2017 Bodegas Olivares Rosado Jumilla
Here at Full Pull, we’ve long loved Bodegas Olivares. They are a winery that shows the brilliance of Spanish wine so exceptionally. In Jumilla, Mourvedre and Grenache can be grown and produced by top notch winemakers at century-old estate vineyards for a fraction of the cost of any equivalent Bandol or Washington rosé. Olivares, for example, has a single vineyard (Finca Hoya de Santa Ana) in Jumilla, with vines as old as 80 years, healthily growing in a sandy moonscape that has never caught a whiff of phylloxera. Places like this simply do not exist in Washington yet—we don’t have the years under our collective belt. And places like this do exist in France—but you can only access those bottles at triple the price. This is what makes it even more exciting that we’re able to get our hands on this type of wine at this cost.

Olivares’ rosado is Bandol-inspired, 30% Monastrell (Mourvedre’s Spanish name) and 70% Garnacha from their estate vineyard. While the rest of Jumilla lays closer to sea level, Finca Hoya de Santa Ana sits at considerable elevation (2700ft), allowing for large diurnal shifts and excellent acid retention. A picture perfect place for rosé. This bottle clocks in at 13% alcohol and leads with peaches, strawberries, and wildflowers. Its acidity comes to play with radiating citrus. The palate is downright delicious—summer in a glass even on the spring day we tasted it in Seattle—surging with grapefruit and orange, green herbs and watermelon rind, rocky slopes and mountain minerality. A bottle like this from its twin-location Bandol would likely cost at least $30.

While this wine is utterly delightful on its own, this kind of verve and energy is really destined for food pairing. Think of a summer full of grilled calamari with lemon and arugula, Ezell’s fried chicken, avocado eaten by the spoonful, and BBQ’d anything. This is the bottle to have for it all.

2015 Olivares Monastrell Altos de la Hoya 
Originally offered February 28th, 2018, this is one of the best red deals we see year in and year out. Excerpts from the original: Olivares’ Monastrell, made from 95% old vine Mourvedre and a little Garnacha, is vinified in 10,000-liter stainless steel vats, and then matured entirely in neutral barrels (some small, some large), allowing the old-vine fruit material to truly shine. The nose is outrageously complex and expressive for a sawbuck wine: luscious red and black fruit, slow roasted game, saline minerals, and loads of herbaceous spice notes (cracked black peppercorns, fresh picked tarragon). The palate just hums with energy, led by a mix of downright delicious fruit, minerals, and anise-tinged earth. You don’t really expect $10 wines to have much in the way of presence, let alone terroir expressiveness, and yet this bottle has both.

Wine Advocate (Luis Gutiérrez): [TEXT WITHHELD]

Full Pull Coda

June 5, 2018

Hello friends. A house style is what can set a winery apart in a sea of stand-out Washington wines. The grapes in our corner of the world are proving more beautiful and complex every vintage—and the amount of wineries is growing exponentially—how can winemakers set themselves apart? Ben Smith has mastered this art with Cadence, creating a Red Mountain vineyard-focused bordeaux lineup that is consistent year in and year out. His house style focuses on three components: textural elegance, carefully-tended structure, and finely-tuned balance. This style allows Cadence to hyper focus on creating high-quality, delightfully ageable wines. We’re here today with the newest release of Ben’s best-priced wine, consistently one of Washington’s best deals vintage after vintage.

2016 Cadence Coda
Coda is an incredible value, year in and year out—and 2016 is no exception. Ben makes exactly four single-vineyard wines for Cadence, all from Red Mountain. Two come from the estate Cara Mia Vineyard, one from Ciel du Cheval, and one from Tapteil. And that’s it. Ben carefully crafts the blends for those high-end ($45-$60) wines, and then whatever barrels aren’t included during those blending trials end up in Coda. What that means for Coda is that it’s always a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot, always a blend of Cara Mia, Ciel du Cheval, and Tapteil, and always barrels that were raised with the exact same care as the higher-end bottles. This year, Ben said they were ruthless with declassifying juice from the Bel Canto and Camerata bottlings, both sourced from his Estate, Cara Mia. Which means a full 61% of the juice used for Coda this year is from Cadence’s estate vineyard.

The blend in 2016 is 36% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot, and it clocks in at 14.4% listed alc. Although 2016 marked the return to something closer to normal temps across the state, Ben says that his harvest did not alter too much on hot hot Red Mountain. Red Mountain has no problem creating bold, luscious fruit, so what sets the best winemakers in this region apart is tannin management. The elegance and freshness Cadence manages to achieve from this notoriously warm place is astounding. As always, this wine is a testament to Ben Smith’s winemaking skills.

The nose opens with abundant plum fruit, herbaceous spice, flowering orange blossom, and an intense minerality. It’s a smart, thoughtful beginning—a nose showcasing the best parts of Washington’s take on BDX. The palate doesn’t disappoint, rich with deep red fruit, textured earth, and ample acidity. If tannin management is the name of the game, Ben knows exactly how to play it. Coda shows off the strength and power of Red Mountain without punishing the imbiber. It’s elegant, structured, and balanced. You could easily lay this wine down for 5 – 10 years, but given the price, you could also give it a decant and enjoy it sooner. In my mind, Cadence always proves to be one of the best examples of what Red Mountain can achieve. It’s the kind of wine you give to a friend who has never had Washington wine—or never heard of Red Mountain.