Buying Wine

Barrel tasting with Chris Figgins

Chris Figgins, son of Leonetti Cellar founder Gary Figgins, assumed full responsibility for winemaking at Leonetti in 2001. For years Leonetti purchased their grapes but over time have 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.

For the second year in a row my wife and I had a tasting appointment at FIGGINS Wine Studio on the Friday of Cayuse Release Weekend. Located just outside of downtown Walla Walla the Studio is the winemaking facility for FIGGINS, Doubleback and Toil Oregon.

We were greeted upon arrival with a glass each of the recently released 2012 Toil Oregon and 2010 FIGGINS.

Toil is a new Pinot Noir project from Chris Figgins using fruit sourced from the Ribbon Ridge AVA in the Willamette Valley. The wine itself was young, fresh and earthy with strong acidity. There were great flavors of tea, blood orange and mandarin on the palate. Our timing was perfect as the first release of Toil to mailing list members happened a little over a week ago. This is a strong first effort and I look forward to following Toil over the coming years.

The 2010 FIGGINS is big and brawny with an explosive nose of chocolate, leather and graphite. The palate was alive with flavors of menthol, red fruits and black currants. This is an exceptional wine that needs upwards of a decade in the cellar.

As we were finishing our pour of the ’10 FIGGINS, Chris Figgins himself arrived to taste some barrel samples with us. Although Chris and I have corresponded in the past year this was my first opportunity to meet him in person. I’ve been on the Leonetti mailing list for 20+ years and vividly recall the first time I met Gary Figgins at a release party in the mid nineties. As with his dad, winemakers don’t come nicer than Chris, who shared stories and gave us some insight into his vision for Leonetti, FIGGINS and Toil.

We tasted through the following barrel samples from FIGGINS and Doubleback:

  • ’13 FIGGINS Cabernet Sauvignon Sunrise Block
  • ’13 FIGGINS Merlot
  • ’13 FIGGINS Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 4
  • ’13 FIGGINS Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 7/8
  • ’13 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon McQueen Vineyard
  • ’13 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon Lefore Vineyard
  • ’13 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon Bob Healey Vineyard
  • ’13 Doubleback Malbec Bob Healey Vineyard
  • ’12 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon McQueen Vineyard

The samples were all exceptional but the FIGGINS Merlot and the two McQueen Vineyard Cabs really stood out.

As far as what’s to come? Chris mentioned a new project featuring Washington Aglianico. The vineyard called Serra Pedace is located high up in the SeVein project in the southern section of the valley. More to come on this. It also sounds like there will be new facilities for both FIGGINS and Doubleback in the next few years.

Prior to tasting the FIGGINS and Doubleback wines I figured I had myself covered by buying the Leonetti wines. What I learned is that each winery is distinct, with their own approach to making world class wines. I now find myself on the FIGGINS and Doubleback mailing lists, too.

These are truly some of the most exciting wines being made in the state of Washington (and Oregon if you include Toil). Plan your buying decisions accordingly!

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3 thoughts on “Barrel tasting with Chris Figgins

  1. Hi Tom,
    Great write up, love all of these wines. I am on the lists for all of the wines above. Just curious, did he mention if they will be expanding the line ups to include any single vineyard bottlings of the barrel samples you tasted?

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