Hello friends. I guess Figgins Estate Red is a spring release wine now.
After eight years in a row of us offering it between September and December, last year this was a late January offer, and now here we are in March. No matter, of course: these are wines built for the long-haul, and if the winery wants to store them in bottle for six additional months, more power to them.
This particular vintage may be worth the extra wait, if the early press and buzz have anything to say about it:
2016 Figgins Estate Red Wine
Thirteen days ago, I received the following email from Figgins’ local reps:
The Figgins family is extremely happy to announce the impending arrival of 2016 Figgins Estate Red Wine! After the warmer than usual trifecta of 2013-15, it was awesome to return to a normal Washington growing season in 2016. It was a truly fantastic vintage and the resulting wine is incredible. As always, the wine is densely colored to the rim of the glass. Precise mouthfeel, dense fruit, and soft tannin with incredible freshness are hallmarks of the 2016 Figgins Estate Red. Reviews of this new release are all tremendous, highlighted by a 98 point review by Jeb Dunnuck.
To add to the excitement, we are happy to offer a special pre-arrival price for all orders shipped within three weeks of arrival, currently slated for March 1. We ask that you please send us your MAXIMUM REQUEST no later than this Friday, February 21 at 5:00 PM so we can plan and allocate accordingly.
If it had been a normal week, I would have scrambled to turn the offer around, gathered our orders, and sent in our request by the afternoon of Friday Feb 21. But it was not a normal week; it was a vacation week for me, so I chose to do something we haven’t done before: pre-purchase a parcel of Figgins based on our internal data from previous vintages. It’s an educated risk, but it’s one that allows us to secure the best possible pricing for our list members.
So, the good news is: the wine is already in the warehouse and ready for post-allocation pickup as early as this Thursday. The bad news is: we may not have purchased enough; or perhaps we bought too much. We shall see…
You may recall that this is Chris Figgins’ own project, separate from the Leonetti family of wines, and a wine that seems to have achieved its own cult status in a very short period. What distinguishes it, and makes it so intellectually interesting, is that it is very much a Bordelaise project. Figgins is a winery with one vineyard (planted mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot) and one red wine (anything that doesn’t make the cut gets sold off on the bulk market), which is a real rarity in Washington. Putting all your eggs in one vineyard basket is gutsy indeed, but Chris Figgins has the skill and experience to make it work.
Unsurprisingly, Chris’ emphasis when he talks about the wine is the vineyard, not the winery. Located in the Mill Creek drainage of the Walla Walla Valley, this is as far-east a vineyard as I know of in the Walla Walla Valley, bumping right up against the Blue Mountains. The soils are deep, rich loess, and this area gets enough rainfall that dry-land farming (no irrigation) is possible in some years. It’s a haunting, high-elevation (1750 ft) site, where exactly 17 minutes past sunset each night, a load of cold air from the Blue Mountains comes roaring down Mill Creek canyon. You can feel the air change when you’re standing there, and the grapes feel it too: an instant diurnal shift that helps retain lovely acidity in the finished wines.
It’s going to be a real treat to watch this wine evolve as the vines dig deeper, and even the evolution from the inaugural 2008 vintage to now has been fascinating. To see this kind of quality from early-leaf fruit augurs well for the future. And this 2016 seems to be something of a watershed moment, earning the strongest reviews yet from both Tanzer (matching the 2011’s 94pt review) and Dunnuck (topping his previous highs of 97pts for the 2010 and 96pts for the 2009, 2012, and 2015). This is a special wine in the making. Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 94pts.” [Context note: recall that Tanzer can be abstemious with points. In his annual set of Washington reviews, only two wines – L’Ecole Ferguson (95pts) and Leonetti Reserve (96pts) – earned stronger reviews among Bordeaux blends. I choose to include Tanzer’s reviews nevertheless, because his tasting notes always strike me as both dazzling and accurate, and I trust you all to adjust for his curve.]
Jeb Dunnuck: “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 98pts.”
Hello friends. Last year was a year of growth for Full Pull. There were new deals to be had, new wineries to write about, new wines to taste, new distributors to meet with—but perhaps the most notable new thing of 2019 was the launch of first-ever own-label, exclusive-to-our-list-members rosé. It was a runaway hit, immediately selling out on the first offer, with no chance for reorders or sampling at the tasting table. Today, we are back with the sophomore vintage—with 50% more inventory than last year. Hopefully, we’ll be able to pour some rosé for you while you pick up throughout the summer… but no promises.
2019 Frog Kisser Rosé
I’ll start with a quick reminder about the name. 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.
We had been dreaming about a private label rosé for some time, but it felt more and more relevant over the last few years. 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 the decade we’ve been doing this. 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 opportunity finally presented itself during our 10th anniversary year. We reached out to one of our favorite Washington wineries—a frequent partner in our Full Pull & Friends label—to see if they had anything interesting we could work with for a private label project. The conversation went something like this:
Paul Zitarelli: 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? It’s a blend of 44% Syrah, 43% Grenache and 13% Cinsault.
PZ: Is it [REDACTED VINEYARD]? Can you say?
EW: 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. (Including the procurement of thiswonderful label.) Once the 2018 sold out, we immediately reached back out to EXCELLENT WINEMAKER to see if we could do a second vintage. In 2019, the vineyard and grapes are exactly the same. Unfortunately, as should be apparent from the exchange above, we still cannot reveal the name of the vineyard where this juice comes from. What we can say: 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 they are coddling this wine from grape to bottle. The original reason why they ended up with an excess of pink juice would too clearly reveal the winery involved, but I can say this is purpose-built rosé whose purpose evaporated, leaving an opportunity for us to swoop in.
What do we mean by purpose-built rosé? 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 a perfect pale pink and begins with a bright nose of raspberries and red grapefruit; stony minerals and sagebrush; flowers and lazy summer days spent laying in the grass. It's the end of July in a glass, peak summer. Once again, the palate is chock full of rippin’ natural acidity. It's crisp, nervy, bone-dry rosé, with wonderful tension and verve. It's always this time of year when I start to get antsy for warmer weather, and the delivery of rosé in our warehouse makes the gloom and doom just a touch more bearable. Feel free to start drinking it now—in March—or wait until summer to pair it with BBQ chicken legs, grilled pizza with summer tomatoes, or any type of herby salad with a punchy vinagrette. Or my personal favorite rosé pairing: pork banh mi from Billiard Hoang, my neighborhood Vietnamese pool hall.
Hello friends. During this time when we’re all grasping for whatever silver linings we can, today we have a wine that I suspect will bring great pleasure to many of you who mourned this wine’s passing four years ago.
2015 Secret Squirrel Cabernet Sauvignon
Yes, it was January 2016 when we last offered a Secret Squirrel Cab. That was the 2013 vintage, and at the time, I said the following: The 2013 vintage will not only be the sophomore vintage of Secret Squirrel Cabernet, it will be the *final* vintage. (Now let me pause to facepalm, cry into my soup, and scream into my pillow. Much better.) Am I privy to the calculus that went into this decision? No I am not. Would I have argued against this decision? Yes, yes I would.
Is it more than a little embarrassing that after calling 2013 the “final” vintage of Squirrel Cab, it skipped exactly one single vintage before returning? Yes, I feel shame. However…
…that shame is seriously mitigated by the fact that I never wanted Squirrel Cab to go away in the first place and in fact argued strenuously against its disappearance.
Now then, reminders on the project. Secret Squirrel is a project for the Corliss family of wineries (Corliss Estates, Tranche). The name is obviously pretty playful, as is the packaging, which features a horny squirrel getting ready to attend an Eyes Wide Shut-themed party. But the juice inside? It’s deadly serious. I mean, really serious, really high quality, really bottle aged juice. So let’s focus on that.
This new 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. This Cabernet is a blend of four Corliss Estate sites: Red Mountain Vineyard and Canyons Vineyard on Red Mountain, Blue Mountain Vineyard in Walla Walla, and Blackrock Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. It was aged for two years in French oak, more than 50% new (as a general rule, $20 new world wines are not aged for two years in majority expensive French wood) and clocks in at 14.5% listed alc.
It kicks off with a nose of crème de cassis and black plum and earth, all swaddled in barrel tones of smoky cocoa nibs. This possesses all the heft and generosity of the warm 2015 vintage, but where it surprises is with its robust scaffolding of structure; especially the chewy espressoey tannings, which emerge in mid-palate and carry this wine through a long, satisfying finish. Just like the ’13 Squirrel, this is actually something of a brooder (to be fair, the Corliss Cabs are notorious brooders too), and I suspect that despite it already being five years past vintage, its best days are still very much ahead of it. I don’t often say this for $20 Cabs, but consider a multi-hour decant if you’re opening this in 2020; with time and air, the aromatic expressiveness really ratchets up, and the densely packed fruit layers begin to unfurl.
Hello friends. This time of year—when the sun starts setting later and later, flowers bloom and my allergies go wild, and spring produce starts popping up in my kitchen—there is nothing I crave more than the green pyrazine notes of Sauvignon Blanc. To be more specific, there is nothing I crave more than the twinkly, grassy, funky notes of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
2019 Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
Wine Spectator (MaryAnn Worobiec): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93pts.” [Context note: Wine Spectator has reviewed 2065 $20-and-under New Zealand Sauv Blancs in its history. Exactly one wine (1996 Cloudy Bay; 94pts) earned a stronger review. And there are only three other 93s, from the 2000, 2004, and 2005 vintages. All that to say: Spectator consider this a QPR outlier to be sure.]
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc gets a bad reputation. It may have fallen into the same trap as Merlot—becoming too popular too quickly and flooding the market with forgettable plonk. Or it may be because Sauvignon Blanc is not considered as serious as some other white wines. I personally think it’s all nonsense. I love NZSB and will bang the drum as long and as hard as I have to. NZSB is easy, appetizing, gulpable joy juice filled with the most delightfully zesty green-tinged fruit. It is what I desperately need in my glass these days.
Today’s wine comes from Marlborough. Nestled on the northern tip of the southern island of New Zealand, Marlborough is the wine region that put this country on the map. New Zealand’s vine heritage has roots that date back to the 1800’s, but Sauvignon Blanc was barely planted in Marlborough just 30 years ago. Now, it’s the grape that defines a nation, thanks to people like Allan Scott.
Allan Scott is a name well known in Marlborough. He has worked every harvest since 1973 and planted some of the region’s most famous vineyards—including the first commercial one, Marlborough Brancott Vineyard. Allan and his wife Catherine started the Scott Family Winery in 1990 and still run it today with their three (adult) children. Their vineyards are planted along the stony, free draining mid-Wairau Valley river flats in Rapaura, an area that’s known for beautiful structure and more elegant aromatics than the heavier clay soils of the lower Wairau. This bottle is sourced from three vineyards—Wallops (est. 1985), Moorlands (1980), and Omaka (2000).
As a reminder, we’re in a totally different hemisphere, so these grapes were harvested in April, about 5-6 months before Washington’s own 2019 Harvest. The grapes were picked in the middle of the night and fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and clocks in at 12.5% listed alcohol. Meyer lemon, stone fruit, key lime, lilies, and tall grass immediately jump from the glass. But that’s not all. There’s an intense minerality at play here, and an herbaceousness that elevates the entire package. It smells like sunshine; the promise of a summer day coming to realization. The palate is mouthwateringly juicy—alive with limey acidity and notes of passionfruit and guava—and studded with savory subtleties. Much like Gruner Veltliner, another savory, green glass, I find NZSB to be endlessly pairable. Some of the greatest hits include fresh chevre, asparagus and peas, chicken paillard, lemony pasta with clams and breadcrumbs, and all sorts of raw seafood.