Wow. It’s here already. Tonight. We will celebrate six years doing business in Rye – that’s quite a long time. When I started I certainly envisaged being around for a long time, but that was back when the economy was strong, bankers weren’t ogres, and we were at war everywhere, and everyone wanted a drink. One year later we were still at war everywhere, the economy was rumbling, bankers were still nice people and wine was still being drunk. Then all of a sudden bankers weren’t so nice anymore and what better way to diffuse our own miss-applied fiscal responsibility than to blame everyone else, especially those who worked in Wall Street and Washington. We stopped being at war everywhere (thank you Obama) but the economy had chronic diarrhea and our wallets had nothing left to bleed. Wine sales weren’t recession proof because over here we still view wine as a post-prohibition drug, unlike the French, for example, who see wine as a social benefit and waist-line ‘shrinker’. That’s still where we are now as we wade through our 6th year. But it’s been a hell of a ride! We just topped $75,000 in donations to charities in our locale, we have sold more than 500,000 bottles of wine, we have touched the lives of thousands of residents, we have watched babies born and whilst we haven’t sold them anything yet we watch them with pride as our future customers! We have had some great ‘temps’ work at the store bringing with them innovative ideas that are not tainted with preconceived notions of what the wine business should be all about. I have been blessed with having Marina and Bruno still work with me – thank you both enormously. And the best part is that we have become a part of this great community here in Rye and that’s down to you, our customers.
Hopefully I’ll see many of you tonight as we taste through 110+ wines and munch on Gary’s nibbles! It looks like a beautiful day out there and this evening will be no exception.
Organizing an event like tonight is always daunting and it is always a double edged sword. The last few days we have seen a precipitous drop in sales which augers well if it’s because everyone coming tonight is holding off before ordering cases from the tasting! So we have also been a little quiet on the buy side as we approached tonight’s event. However we did receive two very special cases of wine this week – Figgins and Doubleback. Let’s start with Figgins.
For more than 30 years the Figgins family has been producing wines at their Leonetti cellar. What started as Gary Figgins’ vision to produce world-class wines in Walla Walla turned into an American success story. Today Leonetti wines are some of the most sought after wines in the world. If you are a Parker hound you may be surprised to know that he has only scored Leonetti’s cabernet below 90 three times since 1989 – most of his scores are 95. I also remember Leonetti merlot being priced around $25 in the early 90’s. Now, if you can find it you’ll pay over $100 – for the present release, and hundreds for anything older. Enter Chris Figgins, Gary and Nancy’s son. Bred with an entrepreneurial spirit Chris’s comment on his wine-making sums up his creed: “Building upon ones forefather’ legacy is both a privilege and a responsibility. We do so with a passion, focus, and utmost attention to quality. To do otherwise would be to dishonor the very foundation we are entrusted with”.
I understand that Chris may have taken over the helm at Leonetti but he also makes his own wine under the label Figgins. His 2008 Estate Red is the inaugural release. The wine has loads of fruit bearing down on it, from the red raspberry to red apple, blueberry and currant. Then you get the non-fruit flavors of Madura tobacco and wet leather, cedar shavings and cigar box and finally you get your tongue wrapped around the little berries like cassis, blackberries and elderberry. Some might say I’ve just described a fruit bomb – a classic 100 point Parkerized wine, I say I’ve described a perfect balance between breakfast, lunch and dinner – did I mention that Chris rides motorbikes too? With luck he and I will be riding this September through some mountains in Washington eating steaks and drinking great wine!
As to the actual cosmetics of the wine it’s a blend of cabernet sauvignon, petite verdot and merlot. 70% new French oak, 30% second fill French oak, 22 months. The wine is sold out and was only available to members of Chris’s wine list – a very small list because he only makes a tiny amount of the wine. I received 6 bottles, I’m keeping one and I’ll offer the other 5 to the first takers – the wine is $110 per beautiful bottle. If there is great demand (and I’m sure there will be, I will do my utmost to get hold of more)
The second case we got is tied to the first. Drew Bledsoe shouldn’t require much introduction. Former NFL Quarterback he was the number one overall draft pick in 1993 when he signed with the Patriots. He retired a wealthy man in 2007 and decided to make a smaller fortune by using his larger fortune to build a winery in his home town in Walla Walla, Washington. Fortunately, along the way, he remembered his good friend Chris Figgins (see the connection?) and being not quite as stupid as some sportspeople he enlisted the help of an expert. Chris makes Doubleback wine for Drew. A similar blend to the Figgins, 76% cabernet, 14% merlot and 10% Petite Verdot, aged 20 months in 50/50 new and neutral French oak. When I tasted the Doubleback there was a definite comparison between it and Figgins but there was also something quite different. Where Figgins is a wine reminiscent of your favorite leather armchair the Doubleback had a ridge of acidity in it that made you want to rush out and buy a modern sofa – maybe in the Sinatra style. Both wines were amazing and both wines have a mystical value to them – they’ll keep for probably 25 years and they are so beautifully packaged they may just lie in a glass cocoon in my cellar for that length of time.
Similar story to the Figgins – tiny quantity, possibly 18 bottles available (same price $110), sold out at the winery, join the list but wait maybe years for an allocation. Let me know if you are interested – and if you like slip over to the website to see the bottles and the links.