Chris Figgins, the son of Leonetti Cellar founder Gary Figgins, assumed full responsibility for winemaking at Leonetti in 2001. For years Leonetti purchased grapes, but over time moved to using Estate grapes from their own vineyards. The genesis for FIGGINS was the idea of making one wine from a single estate vineyard.
During a recent trip to Walla Walla, we had the good fortune to visit the FIGGINS Wine Studio, located just outside of downtown. We were greeted on arrival with a glass of the 2009 Estate Red. Definitely a “you had me at hello” moment.
The wine was a brilliant bright red in color. It had a rich, plush, seamless quality to it that you rarely find in such a young sample. The blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Verdot was packed with red and black fruits. Simultaneously elegant and powerful. I would love to sit down with a bottle over a long dinner, but can already tell that the wine rivals the best Bordeaux style offerings from Washington state.
After savoring the last bit of the ’09, we were offered an opportunity to barrel taste with Assistant Winemaker Michael Moyer. Michael has previously worked with acclaimed wineries like Étude and Peter Michael, and his passion for winemaking is inspiring. The protocol at FIGGINS is to separately barrel the different varietals based on location in the vineyard, and the same varietal from the same location might be aged in either new or used oak barrels.
We tried six different Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon samples from the 2011 and 2012 vintages. Each sample in its own right was special – I have little doubt that the finished product upon blending will be wines that are off the charts good.
We were also given the opportunity to taste barrel samples from a new FIGGINS 2012 Pinot Noir project. Both samples were from the Willamette Valley and exhibited an exhilarating sweetness and richness of fruit. I’m excited to learn more about this in the coming year and will likely leap at the opportunity to buy the first Pinot Noir made by Chris Figgins.
The attention to detail and quality at FIGGINS is apparent in every aspect of their business. In fact, a week after our tasting appointment we received a thank you note from our winery guide Kirsten.
I’ve been on the Leonetti mailing list for 20 years and wondered about the need to purchase FIGGINS (same winemaker, same appelation), but was won over by this visit. As was my wife, who astutely signed us up for the mailing list and purchased some of the soon to-be-sold-out ’09 Estate Red. I am certain these wines will be harder to come by in the near future.
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