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Vinous

  • By Stephen Tanzer
    Washington: Various Shades of Hot (Oct 2017), 10/1/2017, (See more on Vinous...)

    (La Rata Wines La Rata Washington Red) Login and sign up and see review text.

Full Pull

  • By Paul Zitarelli
    Full Pull La Rata, 9/22/2017

    (La Rata) Hello friends. Today we have the return of a special wine. Offering Elizabeth Bourcier’s La Rata affords me a rare, wonderful opportunity: to write about the vines, the animals, and the people of the incomparable Cayuse Vineyards.As it has been from the beginning, Full Pull is the exclusive retail partner for La Rata. Outside of a handful of top restaurants, we are the only place to source this wine. Now then, let’s get logistics out of the way, and then we’ll get to the fun stuff: LOGISTICS a) Elizabeth and I have agreed to allocate as follows. First, we will make sure that all list members who were allocated last year’s 2013 La Rata will receive an allocation at least equal to last year’s allocation. After those folks are taken care of, we will move onto list members ordering La Rata for the first time, using our normal allocation method (everyone gets one bottle before anyone gets two; formula for prioritizing allocations includes overall orders, frequency of orders, recency of orders, and list tenure, among other factors). b) The wine is already safely tucked away in the warehouse. We will begin allocating La Rata on Wednesday Sept 27 at noon pacific time. Any order requests received after are unlikely to be considered. The wine will be available for pickup as early as Thursday Sept 28. c) Please note that our demand for each of the first two vintages *vastly* exceeded our supply. Given the growing buzz surrounding this wine, I expect this year’s demand to be at least as high. And supply is barely budging upwards. (Gulp.) We’re going to limit order requests to 6 bottles, but likelier allocations are 2 or 3 bottles for folks who purchased last year, and 1 or 2 bottle for newbies. d) Our normal policy about trying to ship in full-case increments will not apply to La Rata. If you end up allocated 1 or 2 or 3 bottles and want those shipped during our upcoming autumn shipping window, we will accommodate that. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to get these beautiful wines into happy homes. ORIGIN STORY Okay, now the fun part. I’ll copy and paste our original La Rata offer from two years ago all the way at the bottom of this e-mail. That’s the long version. The more concise version is this. Inspired by a bottle of excellent Priorat (Clos Erasmus Laurel) consumed during a harvest lunch in 2012, Cayuse assistant vigneronne Elizabeth Bourcier had an epiphany. Much like in Priorat, the stones area of the southern Walla Walla Valley represent a rare region where Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon ripen at the same time, can be picked on the same day. The experiment is born. Grenache from Armada Vineyard. Cab from En Cerise. What starts as “Priorat” scrawled on the puncheons is soon shortened to “The Rat” and then Spanishized to “La Rata.” It’s a name that works on multiple levels. Elizabeth’s zodiac sign is the rat (spirit, wit, alertness, delicacy, flexibility, vitality; it fits). She still, despite having one of the most coveted roles in the Walla Walla Valley, thinks of herself, at heart, as a cellar rat. And how did Full Pull have the good fortune to get involved? Well, Elizabeth was looking for a sales partner. Their team already had three mailing lists (Cayuse, No Girls, Horsepower), and they didn’t need another. They wanted one exclusive partner for the entire production run of La Rata. They liked our model. They liked the list members they had met. They knew me. (And here I have to pause and give many many thanks to Sean Sullivan, who way back when invited me to tag along on some of his Cayuse trips, and introduced me to Elizabeth and Christophe and Trevor and the whole jolly Cayuse gang. None of this would have happened without him.) WHAT’S NEW Since Elizabeth guides this wine so carefully from vine to bottle, I’ll let her introduce the new vintage: The 2014 vintage was a very warm, dry year. The lack of rain and very nice weather through ripening created an excellent vintage. The wines are rich and have a nice concentration while showing balance and purity. The 2014 marks the first vintage that I added a small percentage of syrah to the blend. I believe the syrah complements the grenache and cabernet sauvignon by adding texture and complexity in the mouthfeel with a bit more backbone to the wine. The nose shows the characteristic savory notes and also black currant, red licorice, undergrowth, and dried mushroom. The 2014 vintage La Rata is all about finesse and the tannins coat the palate seamlessly. The underlying fresh, bright character of the grenache is apparent in the front of the palate, but the wine is still firm with lingering tannin. Elizabeth touches on the biggest change this year, which is the addition of 13% Syrah, from Cayuse’ La Paciencia Vineyard (also the source of the outstanding No Girls Syrah), to go with the usual Grenache (53%; Armada Vineyard) and Cabernet Sauvignon (34% Cabernet Sauvignon). I think all of us who love Syrah from this part of the Walla Walla Valley will feel a little tingle up our spines knowing that Syrah is in the mix. Whether it’s the Syrah addition, the vintage, or Elizabeth’s growing comfort with developing this blend, it seems clear that this is the most successful vintage of La Rata to date, notching its best reviews yet from Jeb Dunnuck and Owen Bargreen: Wine Advocate: Copyrighted material withheld. International Wine Report (Owen Bargreen): “The 2014 La Rata is an utterly compelling wine composed of 53% Grenache, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon as well as 13% Syrah. In this vintage some Syrah was chosen to be utilized by vigneronne, Elizabeth Bourcier, because she felt that Syrah added more backbone, structure and complexity. The wine was aged in third fill puncheons and stainless steel for 8 months prior to bottling. This translucent colored red begins with aromatics reminiscent of sea salt, black truffle oil, pink grapefruit, smoked pork shoulder and black tea. The weight, tension and minerality of this wine is apparent, as is the salinity. Complex flavors of black tea, black olives, smoked pork shoulder, Tangerine zest and red cherry preserve create a mouthwatering effect. The acidity is intense and makes savoring this wine highly gratifying. This is extremely captivating now, as the balance and complexity make this one of the most impressive reds from Washington. Limited production. Best 2017-2027. 95pts.” It’s always a trip watching reviewers attempt to capture the salty meaty umami funk that makes this wine so special. My notes this year included things like miso paste, brackish seashell, bacon fat galore. All that to complement raspberry fruit, and all on a classy, texturally seamless frame. Texture is where Elizabeth seems to be making the biggest strides. I love how the Cabernet tannins are present, but they’re so polished and fine-grained you’d almost miss them if you weren’t paying attention. The more you sip this wine, the more you appreciate the level of thoughtfulness that clearly goes into every aspect of it. Speaking of thoughtfulness, a quick word on my annual spring visit to Cayuse. The visit began – as it always does – in the vineyards. But not the usual vineyards. This year, the team was eager to show us what they call their “American jewel”: Hors Categorie. I won’t go on at great length, because this isn’t the wine we’re offering today (sign up for the mailing list here), but allow me to show three pictures from my May visit to this site where the north and south forks of the Walla Walla River converge. Here is the approach to the ridiculously steep site, which looks like Cote Rotie. Here is Christophe showering affection on a baby lamb (there are always animals in the meadows at the foot of the vineyards), and here is a shot showing their very own Cote Brune and Cote Blonde, with two clearly different soil types. By the time we climbed from the bottom of the slope (1300’) to the top (1492’) my knuckles were bloodied and I was completely out of breath. I couldn’t have been happier. A visit to Cayuse is always a good reminder that – if some cult wineries are about marketing and fashionability and conspicuous consumption – Cayuse is, on the other hand, about obsessive farming; about the careful stewardship of vines that allow terroir to tell its story. The vineyards remain the lungs of Cayuse, holy ground in northwest winemaking. I’m grateful to Christophe and Elizabeth for letting me visit each year, and to the warmth and hospitality always displayed by Trevor Dorland and chef Christopher Galasso and Cécile Randon as well. It’s a special group of people continuing to produce extraordinary wine. The fact that our list members have access to one of them is a source of unending delight to our entire team.

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