What follows is a Focus report on Full Pull Wines. Read a .pdf version of this report here. See other Focus reports here.

Monday, October 5th marks the launch of Full Pull Wines. Full Pull is a new Washington wine-dedicated retailer that aims to hand-select Washington wines and provide them to consumers at competitive prices.

Full Pull is the work of good friend and fellow Washington wine lover Paul Zitarelli. Zitarelli says his goal with Full Pull is to “be able to tell the stories behind the wines, offer compelling prices, and make a great buying experience”. Full Pull will offer hand-selected Washington wines in limited quantities to e-mail subscribers. To purchase an offered wine, subscribers will click a link in an e-mail which will take them to a simple ordering website and voila! Otherwise subscribers just receive an informative e-mail on Washington wine with no commitment or minimum purchase.

There are three reasons wine lovers should be interested in Full Pull. First, Full Pull will focus exclusively on Washington wine, with an emphasis on the state’s many limited production offerings. While Washington has been gaining prominence in the wine industry, many of the state’s gem wines are from small operations that are impossible for consumers to find. Second, Full Pull will focus on hand-selected wines and tell the story of what is in the bottle. Third, Full Pull plans to offer wines at competitive prices through a unique model.

A focus on Washington wine

Several things make Full Pull unique from traditional retailers. First, Full Pull will focus exclusively on Washington wine. A native of Philadelphia, Zitarelli moved to Washington in 2004. Prior to moving to the west coast, Zitarelli enjoyed wine but says he was more of a “foodie” than the “wine geek” many would describe him as now. However, after traveling to Washington’s vineyards and talking to the area’s winemakers, Zitarelli became captivated by Washington and its wine country.

With his new-found passion, Zitarelli began blogging about Washington wine (he has since stopped to focus on Full Pull). While he loved blogging, he began to see a fundamental problem. Many of the wines he was writing about – even many of the Washington wines Gary Vaynerchuck of Wine Library TV was raving about – were made by extremely small wineries. These wineries had limited distribution inside Washington and most had no distribution outside the state. While Zitarelli loved trying these wines and writing about them, he knew that most people would never be able to buy the wines.

Frustrated, he started looking for a solution. Zitarelli, who completed his MBA earlier this year, began to envision getting exceptional, hard to find Washington wines into the hands of consumers. Zitarelli had long been a subscriber to Jon Rimmerman’s Garagiste, a Seattle-based wine retailer who sends out offerings via e-mail. Zitarelli enjoyed Rimmerman’s writing and loved the buying experience, which ties the wine offerings to the story behind the wine. With Garagiste focusing mainly on non-Washington wines, Zitarelli saw an opportunity. He decided to provide the same type of experience and offerings but focus exclusively on where his passion was – Washington wine.

Hand-selected wines

Another thing that differentiates Full Pull is that Zitarelli plans to offer only wines he has personally tried and found compelling. While most retailers quickly taste through hundreds of wines when deciding what to stock, few are able to give in-depth attention to a particular wine or winery. Even fewer are able to travel extensively across Washington, visit its vineyards, and talk with the winemakers. This is where Full Pull looks to differentiate itself by bringing the story inside the bottle right to your inbox.

Of course, this works only if the wines Zitarelli selects are interesting wines and he is able to convey this convincingly to consumers. Having followed Zitarelli’s wine blog and sampled a large number of wines with him in both private and professional settings, I am confident this will not be a problem. Zitarelli brings to Full Pull both an insightful palate and an incisive writing style. His wine reviews are an excellent balance of descriptive, educational, and humorous. For example, blogging about Boudreaux Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Zitarelli writes:

“Lovely, medicinal nose that brings dark cherries and berries screaming up out of the glass, along with cola and caramel notes. Generous, fascinating palate with waves of flavors: dark-chocolate-covered cherries, tropical fruits, Dr. Pepper, brambly blackberries, baking spices. Grainy-tannins, medium-low acid, and a lingering finish. My preference is usually for high-acid, leaner wines, but this is a good reminder to me that an occasional bottle like this, which is so rich and brings so much pleasure, is worth savoring.”

What I love about this description is that you feel like you have tasted the wine after reading it. If you have actually tasted it, you find a well-written description that also brings new insights. I find Zitarelli’s frequent mention of a wine’s acidity and tannin profile particularly informative and always look forward to hearing his thoughts on wines. While Zitarelli says he personally favors high acid, low alcohol, low oak wines (hear, hear), he plans to offer a broad range of styles, varietals, and price points.

Competitive pricing

Full Pull also differentiates itself through a unique delivery model. To provide competitive pricing, Full Pull’s wines will be offered at a discounted price to people who either pick-up their wines at the south-of-downtown Seattle store or accumulate a full case before having the wine shipped. Full Pull also plans to limit costs by opening only one day a week, on Thursdays, for customer pick-ups (Full Pull will also be open by appointment). All of this, along with limiting inventory on hand largely to customer orders, allows Full Pull to save on costs: savings Zitarelli passes on to customers.

For customers picking up wines, Zitarelli plans to make the experience enjoyable and have a variety of bottles open. Those picking up wines should also note that Full Pull is located a few blocks from wine retailer Esquin who hosts a free Thursday afternoon tasting, allowing for a fun one-two punch.

A Full Pull

In naming the business, Zitarelli used an expression from a former co-worker who referred to a ‘full pull’ as a perfect day when you feel truly content. Zitarelli says “When I was thinking about names for the company, I looked at my mission, which, at its highest level, is to facilitate happiness. When I think about happy days, I think about the phrase ‘Full Pull,’ so it was a natural fit.” Zitarelli’s goal is to help you have more ‘full pull’ days by offering some of Washington’s best wines.

Full Pull’s mailing list is currently open (www.fullpullwines.com). Zitarelli may close the list in the future to keep it manageable and to ensure a positive customer experience. The first e-mail offering is scheduled for Monday, October 5th. Zitarelli expects to send about three offerings per week. While he is elusive when asked what his initial offerings will be, he guarantees they will be interesting with an appropriate amount of pomp and circumstance for the launch. We will all find out starting next week.