Hello friends, and happy new year! I hope you all had a fabulous, festive, restful couple of weeks. Thank you for welcoming us back into your inboxes for another year of good stories, great people, and compelling wines.
We’re going to kick off 2023 with a wine that has been enormously popular among our list members but has, in recent years, become more difficult to source. We offered this every year from 2013 to 2018, but then have only been able to offer it once in the past four years. I suppose when we offer a wine that is really meant as a value gift to the winery’s wine club, there’s always the risk that the club will snap all of it up. That’s what has been happening in recent years, so I’m delighted that we have access today (and it’s time-limited, one-time-access-only) to the inimitable VdP.
2020 Rotie Cellars VdP
This began as one of those deals that proves there is no substitute for feet on the ground, for local intel. On just about every trip to eastern Washington, I learn about some kind of opportunity for our list members that could never have been unearthed from behind a computer screen, and that was the case with our original (2010) vintage of VdP.
But at the time, I thought it was a one-off, some wacky French-labeled bottles originally intended for Quebec. I figured we’d get a little parcel of 2010, and that would be the end of it. But then there was the response. Our list members, to put it mildly, freaked out over that wine. We had originally set an upper order limit of 24 bottles, and then our max allocations ended up being, I think, 4 bottles. Sean Boyd sent us every bottle he possibly could, and that was the beginning of something special.
As usual, the Rotie club has gobbled up the vast majority of this wine, and now we get one quick shot at the remainder. Since we haven’t offered this in some time, here are some reminders about the project:
1. VdP is a club-only wine for Rotie Cellars. Traditionally, this wine is a little gift from Sean Boyd to his club members: a well-priced Vin de Pays from the same vineyard sources that go into the higher-end ($58-$75) Rotie bottlings.
2. Like with the previous vintages, I’m expecting access to one parcel, one time, with prospects for reorders unlikely. Please try to get order requests in by Sunday night, and then Sean will be sending one truckload over the mountains.
3. Sean doesn’t share the exact vineyard breakdown, but as I mentioned above, these are not declassified barrels. They come from the exact same sites that go into wines like Rotie’s Northern Blend, Southern Blend, Dre, Little G, etc.
In 2020, VdP is an even split of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, and it clocks in at 14% listed alc. The nose is super-expressive, with a terrific sauvage edge, something wild and spicy and brambly about the aromatics of red raspberry and garrigue, dark minerals and smoky spices. That wildness carries onto the palate, too, which conveys terrific impact and red-fruited palate saturation. It’s a characterful, complex mouthful, with sneaky structure and undeniable pleasure.
Sean always pitches this as party wine, and I get it: there’s plenty of yum factor for wine noobs and wonderful complexity and polish for the more experienced tasters in the crowd. Year in and year out, VdP is a total charmer, true to the French Vin de Pays wines it’s based on, seemingly born to pair with cassoulets and other stews combining silky legumes and savory pork products. Many thanks to Mr. Boyd for continuing to offer such a fine opportunity to our list members.
Hello friends. Today we have the return of one of the most popular wines we offer, a wine that is well-loved by list members and FP team members alike: our all-Pinot-Noir Block Wines Extra Brut Rosé: [Please note: we’re also going to include the new vintage of our Block Cabernet below. Production was so small for the 2019 vintage that it really only makes sense as a nothing-to-see-here bonus wine.]
NV Block Wines Extra Brut Rose Marchant Vineyard D.2022
Why has this become such a darling wine to all of us? I think it boils down to versatility. Here are some potential uses:
It works on its own as an aperitif. If you’re throwing a winter party, you will make your guests very happy if you greet them with a glass of pink Block bubbly. For the guests that don’t care much about evaluating the wine itself, pour it into flutes or coupes, and the party is officially started. For the wine nerd who wants to hide in the corner and evaluate this for a few minutes, pour into a regular white wine glass and let them be their socially awkward self. They’ll find a delicate pale salmon-colored beauty that explodes out of the glass with aromas of strawberry danish (the ripe fruit and the yeasty croissant layers both) and chalky minerals. And then a palate with wonderful insistent fruit impact, all lifted by nervy acidity and a fine mousse. What a balanced, characterful disgorgement this ’22 is!
It is also terrific in many sparkling wine cocktails. You could use it in a kir royale or French 75 or bellini, but better still, use it to make an alt-mimosa, subbing ruby red grapefruit juice for the OJ. It’ll be delicious with your French toast or smoked salmon benedict or boursin-studded scrambled eggs.
And speaking of food, this wine has proven to be a capable food pairing partner on the dinner table. It’s as comfortable next to a simple roast chicken as it is to a vinegary side salad, and it’s delightful with a mixed cheese board or charcuterie plate. There’s acid and bubbles aplenty to cut through richness; and then Pinot heft and earthiness to stand up to complicated flavors.
Finally, it works for celebrations. Sometimes in our rush to remind folks that sparkling wine is wonderful with food, we in the wine trade forget what a simple pleasure it is to pour something beautiful and bubbly into a glass and to use it to toast the major milestones or daily victories. There’s a reason sparkling wine was in the founding covenants of Full Pull*; it’s a regular reminder to pause and be grateful and cheer the good moments.
*For list newbies: When Full Pull started back in 2009, my wife and I developed a simple agreement. Her responsibility: supply several years of steady income and health insurance. My responsibility: keep at least one case of sparkling wine on hand at all times. It seemed like a reasonable deal at the time, and it has served us well since.
Now then, a few quick reminders on this project. The Pinot Noir comes from a single block of a single vineyard called Marchant, a cool-climate Yakima Valley Vineyard; just cool enough to be perfect for Pinot Noir, and that’s all they grow there. We’re pulling from a block closest to the farmhouse on the property: hence the “Farmhouse Block” designation. Christian and Juergen Grieb of Treveri are our partner winemakers for this bottling, and it really is a wonderful partnership. They’re Washington-focused sparkling winemakers, which means very little Pinot Noir (unlike in Oregon, where Pinot Noir is practically a weed at this point, it is quite scarce in our home state). We’re very fortunate they allow some of their precious Pinot stash to make its way into this bottling that has become so special to so many of us.
2019 Block Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Block 1 Discovery Vineyard
Bonus wine: our new Block Cab, where production is down nearly 70% compared to the 2018 vintage, a combination of lower yields and the never-satisfied maw of Starside, which keeps gobbling up more and more of our precious Discovery Vineyard fruit. So, I’ll keep this a little shorter than normal, and just remind everyone that this project combines an exceptional winemaker (Morgan Lee – Two Vintners/Covington) and an exceptional grower family (Milo and Kay and Oliver May of Discovery Vineyard). Disco is a special site, one that the Mays originally planted out in 2005 with a commitment from the Golitzin family of Quilceda Creek to purchase fruit. It was used by QC for their program from 2007 through 2011, when their own estate site in the Horse Heaven Hills came online.
To get us oriented, here is a map showing Discovery in relation to Champoux. As you can see, Disco sits high up on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River. The proximity to the river and the steeper slope both help with frost problems that are all too frequent at Champoux. Wind also whips up off the Columbia, gently dehydrating grapes and leading to little buckshot Cabernet berries with very high skin-to-juice ratio, which leads to incredible tannic structure in finished Cabernets from Discovery.
This ’19 was barrel-fermented in once-used French oak barrique, clocks in at 14.8% listed alc, and begins with a nose that layers appealing savory nuance (graphitic minerals, beetroot) over a core of good pure Cabernet fruit (blackcurrant, black plum). Barrel threads of smoky cedar and cocoa powder complete a complex, inviting nose. In the mouth, this a stainer through and through, easily fanning out across the entire palate. As always with Disco Cab, the structural underpinnings are strong, with bright veins of acidity cutting through the rich fruit, and all of it supported by polished, gorgeous Horse Heaven tannins. Like in years past, I would defy those who believe Cabernet can’t express terroir to taste this wine and tell me it isn’t chiseled out of the May family’s Horse Heaven dirt.
Hello friends. It’s no mistake that our first import offer of the year features Italian white wines. As prices continue to climb into the stratosphere for White Burgundy and Sancerre and Grosses Gewachs, underknown, underappreciated, under-the-radar Italian whites look like better and better values with each passing year. I suspect we’re going to feature a number of them in 2023, from Alto Adige in the north to Sicily in the south; but let’s begin in the Veneto, a region in northeastern Italy with a narrow growing zone penned in between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea.
On this map of the Veneto, you can see that the Soave Classico zone is due east of Verona, on soils that transition from limestone-heavy in the west to volcanic in the east. Only white wines are produced in Soave, and they must come at least 70% from the Garganega grape. I think my soft spot for Soave has developed over the years mostly due to my love of Italian restaurants, and my loathing of the insufferable numbers of insipid Pinot Grigios that seem to dominate most wine lists. But almost always, hiding in the corner, is an equally-well-priced Soave that almost without fail brings more pizazz to the table than that dullard PG.
Graziano Pra’s Soave is one of the very best: a “reference-point producer in Soave,” per Antonio Galloni, and a benchmark value in Italian white wine. He has been producing Soave in the western (volcanic) part of the region since the early 1980s, and his vines are 30-50 years old, with naturally low yields. Today we’ll have two of his Soave Classicos, and then a charming little bonus red at the bottom. And just remember: March 1 is only seven weeks from tomorrow! Soon there will be green things growing again and longer days and warming weather, and we’re all going to want some of Graziano’s remarkable Soaves tucked away when that time comes.
2021 Pra Soave Classico Otto
James Suckling: “TEXT WITHHELD”
Otto is the calling card Soave for Pra, and even though it’s priced modestly, the vineyard material is anything but, with vines ranging from 30 to 60 years old. I want to share two pictures of Graziano in the vineyards: this first one to show how steep and rocky this area is; and this second to underscore how this region really does sit in the shadow of the Alps.
The production for Otto is straightforward – it’s aged on its lees for about six months in stainless steel tank – and the goal very much the honest expression of Soave terroir. Listed alc is 12%, and this kicks off with a nose combining tree fruits and stone fruits, jasmine, and lots of crushed-rock minerality. I know what Suckling means calling this wine “gastronomic” – you want it in a pichet on your table, ready to be poured next to all manner of delicious food. It’s versatile, brightly-acidic, but with impressive depth and fruit impact for such modest weight. I like to take the first spring raabs of the season and put them on a cheesy flatbread. Some pepper flakes and grated pecorino, a big glass of Otto, and you’ve got everything you need for springtime ecstasy.
2019 Pra Soave Classico Monte Grande
Vinous (Eric Guido): “TEXT WITHHELD”
I’m a believer that “high-end” Soaves are some of the most incredible values in the world of white wine. We offer them whenever we can get our hands on them: Pieropan Calvarino, Suavia Monte Carbonare, Inama Foscarino. And Pra’s Monte Grande. I put high-end in air quotes because those four wines range from 24.99 to 39.99, which these days gets you like villages-level Chardonnay in Burgundy. These glorious Soaves compete with world-class white wines that cost two or three times as much. At some point, the world will catch on and prices will rise, but in the meantime, let’s smash and grab what we can.
Monte Grande comes from a single vineyard, and it’s a blend of 70% Garganega and 30% Trebbiano di Soave, which is actually a relative of Verdicchio. The Trebbiano is treated normally, but the Garganega clusters are allowed to slightly raisinate for a few weeks before fermentation. The wine is then fermented and aged in huge neutral 30 hectoliter botti (the equivalent of more than 13 barriques) for about a year.
The result is a marvel, beginning with its fascinating aromatic profile. Yes, there’s fruit aplenty – pear and kiwi and rainier cherry – but the non-fruit elements share equal billing: insistent minerality and spicy cardamom and earthy wheatberry. Just wonderful complexity, and so appetizing. The palate is a balanced beauty (13% listed alc), conveying such wonderful sappy vinous goodness paired to mouthwatering acidity. It’s a world-class white wine, no question about it.
2020 Pra Valpolicella Morandina
Bonus wine: bright fresh Valpol from a single vineyard planted in 2001, it’s a mix of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Oseleta, fermented in tank and then aged in 20 hectoliter botti for six months before bottling fresh and young. It pours light ruby with garnet edges, and pops out of the glass with a super-expressive nose: red cherry and pink peppercorn, tea leaf and mineral. The palate is juicy, nervy (12.5% listed alc), with buzzy vibrancy to its leafy mineral-soaked red fruits. Save this for spring and summer and give it a light chill, or enjoy it now with your next roast chicken.