In October Seattle’s Full Pull Wines celebrated its five-year anniversary with one person I spoke to traveling all the way from California for the sold-out event (read a Focus Report from Full Pull’s early days here).
Below, I talk with friend and former blogger Paul Zitarelli about the impetus for Full Pull, where the company has gone over the last five years, and what’s next. Zitarelli also talks about their négociant-style Full Pull & Friends wine offerings, reviewed below.
What was your original vision for Full Pull Wines and how has that vision evolved over the last five years?
The original vision for Full Pull was to serve as a matchmaker, a connector, between the most compelling Washington wineries and the people who care about the story behind the wines they drink. I would select wines to offer by doing gads of research – trips to eastern Washington and Woodinville, appointments in Seattle, loads of tastings – and then choosing only those bottles that combined great wine with great stories.
Members of our mailing list got to hear those stories, and access those wines, via e-mailed offers that we would send out several times each week. When our members read about a wine that interests them, they can order it, and it arrives a week or two later in our Sodo warehouse. We’re open for pickups every Thursday and on occasional Saturdays. We also ship wine, but the core of our business was and remains local. Over the last five years, that vision has expanded beyond Washington, although the Northwest is still a solid point of focus for us. But the curation model remains the same.
What have you learned about Washington wine?
To see everything from vintage Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine made in the cold Columbia Gorge to 17%-alc Zinfandel made at hotter-than-hell Stonetree Vineyard at the top of Wahluke Slope, it makes me realize that the full spectrum of winemaking is available to us here in Washington. It truly is early days around here, and the chance to watch the continuing evolution of the industry is one of the most exciting aspects of running Full Pull.
What has been your biggest surprise running Full Pull for five years?
Just how much appetite there is for buying wine this way, for a good story. I think it comes from the fact that we live in a commoditized world, but wine stubbornly resists commoditization. Because it’s such a diverse product, there’s a real hunger to know: why should I care about this particular bottle? Who grew the grapes? Who turned those grape sugars into this delicious alcohol? Some people really want to know more about the wines they drink.
Tell me about how the Full Pull & Friends wine offerings came about.
I’d been wanting to do négociant-style wines for a long time, and we just had to wait until we had the volumes to support it. I was interested in finding unique opportunities for our list members, whether that meant older vintages or vineyard-variety combinations that I love but wasn’t seeing much anymore.
Because we’re buying in large quantities, typically a barrel, and buying direct from our winery partners, we’re able to offer these wines to our list members at well below par value. This also explains why our winery partners frequently don’t want their names published. They need to retain their ability to charge higher prices!
We’ve also taken it a step further this year and partnered with one of our favorite young winemakers in Washington right now, Morgan Lee. We harvested fruit from several outstanding vineyards in 2014. All of that juice is barely even into barrel, so it will be awhile before we see it, but as you can imagine, we’re all very excited about the potential.
What do you see as the future of Full Pull over the next five years?
At least for the next year or two, the plan is to continue to see where the négociant model takes us, while maintaining laser focus on sourcing the finest Northwest and occasional import wines for our list members. In general, I’d like to continue to grow organically, and not too fast. Right now anyone can still sign up for the list but it’s possible as we continue to grow we may need to move to a waiting list model to make sure we can fill as many of the orders we receive as possible because some of the wines we offer are highly allocated. That might happen in the next five years.
Photo courtesy of Rasmus Rasmussen.
Note: These are reviews for wines received and sampled prior to October 1st when my responsibilities changed for Wine Enthusiast to cover all of Washington. All wines sampled blind.
Full Pull & Friends Syrah (50%) – Grenache (50%) Columbia Valley 2012 $34
(Excellent/Exceptional) This is a somewhat aromatically reticent wine with notes of white pepper, high toned barrel spices, and coffee. It’s supple in feel, rich yet restrained, coating the palate from end to end with layers of fruit flavors that linger on the long finish. One wants a bit more from the aromas – presumably they will come on this young wine – but one sip makes you quickly put this to the side. 14.9% alcohol. 45 cases produced.
Full Pull & Friends Cabernet Franc Bacchus Vineyard Columbia Valley 2012 $30
(Exceptional) This is a moderately aromatic wine with notes of dried herbs, pencil lead, cocoa, and cherry along with a penetrating raspberry note. The palate is full bodied with a supple, textured feel that simply dazzles. 100% Cabernet Franc. 14.9% alcohol. 45 cases produced.
Full Pull & Friends Merlot Klipsun Vineyard Red Mountain 2012 $34
(Excellent/Exceptional) This is a moderately aromatic wine with notes of toasty barrel spices, coffee, red fruit, and licorice. It’s rich and full bodied with palate coating coffee and red fruit flavors with a mesmerizing texture and the tannins surprisingly well in check for this often burly vineyard. 100% Merlot. 14.9% alcohol. 45 cases produced.
Full Pull & Friends Cabernet Sauvignon Angela’s Vineyard Red Mountain 2012 $34
(Excellent) This wine starts out lightly aromatic and locked up before opening to reveal high toned notes of herbs, cherry, plum, and coffee. The palate has tightly wound cherry flavors that show a lot of depth, intensity, and purity, leading to a lingering finish. Delicious stuff and a very pure expression of Cabernet that displays both elegance and power. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.4% alcohol. 75 cases produced.
Full Pull & Friends Cabernet Sauvignon Bacchus Vineyard Columbia Valley 2012 $34
(Good/Excellent) This is an aromatic wine with pronounced barrel notes of coffee, toast, and char followed by cherry, blackberry, and scorched earth. It’s supple in feel with abundant cherry flavors and an elegant style, narrowing toward the finish. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.8% alcohol. 120 cases produced.
Full Pull & Friends Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $34
(Excellent/Exceptional) This is an immediately appealing wine with notes of cocoa, cherry Leudens, coffee, blackberry, and barrel spices. The palate is rich and sumptuous but far from over the top, with a firm scaffolding of tannins that offer plenty more time in the cellar for additional development and enjoyment. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Best after 2017. 14.5% alcohol. 56 cases produced.
Full Pull & Friends CVBDX Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $34
(Exceptional) This is an aromatically complex wine with notes of maraschino cherry, vanilla, cassis, coffee, woodspice, and licorice with secondary notes of leather starting to develop. The palate is rich and layered with waves of fruit flavors that coat the palate fromt end to end, leading to a long, lingering finish. A thoroughly delicious, hedonistic wine that is in a sweet spot right now. Best at 62 degrees. NB: Throwing some sediment. 36% Cabernet Franc, 34% Merlot, 18% Petit Verdot, and 12% Malbec. 14.5% alcohol. 56 cases produced.
Full Pull & Friends Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $34
(Exceptional) The 2007 vintage in Washington was one for the ages and what a glorious look back at it this bottle is. It’s redolent with cherry, cassis, coffee, mocha, and woodspice accented by herb and earth tones. The palate is power packed, incredibly rich, and dense – a multiple swallow wine if ever there were one – with a long, lingering, richly flavored finish, with extended time in barrel and bottle playing a prominent part in the show. This wine punches well above its weight class and is drinking beautifully now but still with a long life ahead of it. NB: Throwing some sediment. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.9% alcohol. 168 cases produced.