Ξ October 5th, 2010 | → 2 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Wine News |
For his first anniversary, Full Pull Wines’ founder Paul Zitarelli is backpacking in The Enchantments, located in the Cascade Range, Washington. The area is well named. But had the omens experienced by Mr. Zitarelli on launch day, October 5th, 2009, prefigured failure, perhaps he would now be touring Death Valley. From this subscriber’s email:
“I’d like to recount October 5, 2009 as a flawless triumph, but let’s go with the truth instead. The truth is that on the morning of October 5, after one of the great restless nights of my life, I got out of bed, showered, proceeded to slip while executing a towel-grab maneuver that could only be described as routine, cracked my head on the side of the tub, and lay there dazed until Smoke Bomb (our cat) unleashed a worried meow in my face. I might have actually conked out for a few seconds. Only Smokey truly knows.”
Mr. Zitarelli goes on to describe a series of technological snafus, all of which seemed to be aligned to end his noble wine retailing experiment before it even began.
“Certainly there were several apocalyptic omens that day. The universe seemed to be saying: ‘This is a terrible idea. You will fail. Expect more head welts.’ And so the lesson I take away from that shall-we-say challenging first day is: screw omens. The 363 days since have not been without challenge, but those struggles have been easily outnumbered by countless joys.”
But he did not fail. Instead business is thriving, if my visit to his busy warehouse one Thursday this summer was any indication. In Seattle for a badly needed vacation, I read notice of Walla Walla-based Rôtie Cellars’ wine club launch party at something called Full Pull in the Sado district. An admirer of Rôtie owner and winemaker Sean Boyd’s work, the wines from whom I tasted first just months before, I decided to made my way down the industrial avenues, arbitrary one-ways and dead-end alleys of Sado before arriving in front of what appeared at first glance to be a garage. It may well once have been. But today it serves as Full Pull’s warehouse and tasting space. For Full Pull Wines is quite a special business.
Mr. Zitarelli, a bright and restless soul by most popular accounts, travels Washington State visiting wineries big and small, the well-known, the obscure, and the up-and-coming, getting deals on modest allotments of hard-to-get wines. Working from a list of subscribers, he then periodically sends an email alert. Folks then buy only what they want, a single bottle or a case. If shipping is required then one must wait until they’ve amassed a full case. Thursdays are of special importance because it is the only day Full Pull is open. It is then subscribers may exercise the option to pick up their purchased wines, but also to taste the offerings of visiting wineries, such as Rôtie’s that day. Costs are kept low, prices competitive.
I could hear voices spilling out of the warehouse, the bright Seattle sun momentarily blinding me to the happy crowd inside. The room was warmly lit by Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Very simple late ’80s university student decor throughout. And the feeling of the room was collegial, folks freely mixing. Aiding my introduction to Full Pull Wines that Thursday was the charming and energetic Emily Resling who works for both Full Pull and Rôtie in various capacities. According to her Linkedin page:
“Copywriter, website updater, image taker, bio maker, attention getter, event coordinator, vox populi liaiser, awareness spreader. If it’s wine or food related, and it needs special attention from a creative brain, I’ve got it covered.”
I spent a few minutes chatting with her.
So what is going on here?
Emily Resling “Full Pull Wines is a Washington wine retailer. Paul Zitarelli sells to a private list. Anyone can be on the list. You just sign up through the website. One day he might close it, but for right now it is open. He sells only Washington wines. And only the best wines. That doesn’t mean the most expensive, by any means. He gets out there frequently, he and his wife. He’s a total vineyard geek. He gets into the land, figures out who is doing great stuff, and that is what he sells here. We just did an offer for Renegade Red which was, I think, under $10. We can do that. We did an Abeja, which is certainly more than $10. We have a pretty great list of Washington wine fanatics! We either ship, or on Thursdays you can pick it up; we call it the Pick Up Club. Folks can come and just hang out all day. Paul will usually have a few wines open for tasting, and not just Washington wines. They are wines from all over the world. It’s a pretty good little scene we have!”
What is your part in all of this?
ER “Umm, helper? (laughs) I do events for Paul here in the warehouse; and for Sean [Boyd] I started and now own his wine club. This was kind of a no-brainer for me. I have this beautiful space where I throw events, and I have this wine club, and I needed a space to launch it, so it was pretty easy. I asked myself if I could use the space. I said Yes. (laughs) And here we are! My anxiety dream of only three people showing up did not happen!”
Are you a wine geek?
ER “Definitely. I’m a somm. I’ve been in the restaurant business my entire life, since I could walk. I retired from restaurants three years ago to just go freelance. I’m a freelance hustler in the wine business, that’s what I call myself. I have a small collection of really great clients, and Paul and Sean are among them.
“Paul is a Harvard grad. He got a Masters at UW; then after graduation, in that bubble of time, he asked himself what was he going to do? He was so passionate about wine (he wrote his own wine blog), so he just decided to give the biz a try. He knew he had to do it right away, before he got too far along his career path. It was kind of a now or never thing. He went for it. His wife is terrific. Kelly Larson is her name. She’s got steady job and is very supportive. She’s got the insurance. She said to Paul, ‘Just do it. Make it happen.’ So he rented this space in July last year, opened in October, and it’s been gang-buster ever since! People love Washington wine, and he is the go-to guy. Oh, our tasting table is from an old racket ball court! The stools were made by one of our great clients; he’s a carpenter. It’s such a great community here. I guess that’s what wine does.”
Can I get a picture?
ER “Of course. Got to include the flair! My mom’s going to love it; she made this apron. If I don’t wear it now, then when?”
I take leave of Ms. Resling and say hello to Sean Boyd, deep in a conversation with Sean Sullivan, author of the excellent Washington Wine Report. I ask Mr. Boyd a question.
Sean [Boyd], any words of wisdom?
Sean Boyd “Mourvedre and Grenache will be our focus. I’ve really contracted a lot of Mourvedre. I’m really excited about the different blends it’s going to offer. I think it’s because of my old age that I’m really starting to like Mourvedre. It’s either that I’m getting grumpy or jaded! I like the smell of iodine and freshly cut meat. Mourvedre fits in well. Big game. Some blending with Syrah; I love that combination. But I’ll probably flip flop it, do 88% Mourvedre and 12% Syrah. But we’re only going to do about 50 cases. We’re still going to concentrate on North and South; they are our flagship wines.”
After catching up with folks, I took my leave. Happy Birthday to Full Pull Wines. And rock on, Rôtie!