Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 21, 2018

2014 Chesebro, Syrah, La Mariposa, Cedar Lane Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Mark and Will Chesebro’s single barrel Syrah with a touch of co-ferment Viognier, Cote-Rotie style La Mariposa was just released and was available as of 4/20/18 in their Carmel Valley tasting room, it is a seriously good cool climate Arroyo Seco example that you’ll want to get sooner v. later! Showing a rich body and full flavors, you be surprised by the extremely modest low alcohol, it comes in at just 12.5%, very Northern Rhone like, with air and swirls there’s even more surprises in the glass gaining intense layers of spice, earth, meaty notes and sweet floral tones as well as light kirsch, wild herbs and gripping peppercorns. The main profile leans towards boysenberry, plum and black raspberry fruit which is amplified by Italian green olive and racy spearmint, with a long refined finish that recounts all the mentioned elements. The grippy tannins are well managed by the medium/full density and while easy to enjoy it will show it’s complexity and best form with hearty cuisine, this is an impressive and showy effort from Chesebro, you not want to miss this limited bottling, the 24 cases will go fast, drink over the next 3 to 5 years. One of Monterey’s sleeper wineries, Chesebro offers a quality and value set of wines that offer an authentic well crafted sensibility and restraint, their zippy Vermentino and vivid Grenache Blanc are gems, plus the dusty dry Rose is one of my favorites, if you want to understand and taste Arroyo Seco’s terroir then this is your place to start, these are wines with a true and transparent character of place.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 20, 2018

2015 Weingut Mueller-Catoir, Riesling Trocken, Haart Burgergarten “Im Breumel” Grosses Gewächs, Pfalz Germany.
The fabled estate of Mueller-Catoir, a family owned winery since 1774, going back nine generations in it’s long history is now run by Herr Philipp David Catoir, with Mosel native Martin Franzen, with experience as head of operations at the amazing Schlossgut Diel in the Nahe and well regarded Gut Nagelsforst in Baden, looking over winemaking responsibility, he inherited from Mueller-Catoir’s long time cellar master Hans-Günther Schwarz (one of Germany’s greats) in 2001. Grown on pure sandstone, the certified organic Haart Burgergarten VDP Grosse Lage vineyard is perfect site for a GG dry as well as classic Spatlese and Auslese, it gives a ton of power and concentration and that especially shows in the deep 2015 vintage, there is always a sense of liquid rock and a racy steely edge to this site, even in the sweeter wines, which gives them their distinction, though this is in particular true of the Grosses Gewachs. I am somewhat torn, like importer Terry Theise, I adore the sweet/fruity wines from Mueller-Catoir, he is so happy they make Spatlese from this Grand Cru vineyard, and it is a classic, but I am thrilled by the dry GG and can’t seem to get enough of it, when I can get it! As Terry notes, Müller-Catoir was an early adopter of reductive winemaking in Germany, and implements a gentle handling of the grapes, employing a long skin contact, with an exceptionally slow, light touch during pressing, as well as fermentations at warmer than traditional temperatures, though this one had a cold ferment and all in stainless steel vats as well as aging. The wine is only racked once and later than normal to allow purity of form while gaining from the extended lees aging in the Cru wines, there is always such a overwhelming sense of place and house in these wines and this one takes it to another level, this vintage is somewhere in the mystical experience realm with amazing clarity of form, crystalline mineral focus and a wondrous textural feel, this 2015 is more like what you image a Grand Cru Chablis should be. This 2015 Im Breumel GG highlights it’s mottled sandstone with a chalky profile and makes an impact on the palate with a sublime play between it’s dynamic energy and it’s vinous and level of natural glycerin with layers of stone fruit, tangy citrus and subdued tropical elements along with it’s pure Riesling lime, green apple and mango core as well as a hint of hazelnut, hibiscus tea, wet river rock, brine and vivid saline. With air you find a faint floral perfume, steely vitality giving way to an expanded density, complexity and lingering tart white peach, kiwi and verbena/citron. This is an absolute masterpiece of dry Riesling greatness from Mueller-Catoir, it’s a 20 year wine easy, I only wish I had more! I will appease myself by getting a few bottles of sleeper Spatlese from the same vineyard, while fruity it’s far drier in delivery than you’d imagine and at $30ish it’s a steal, though I hope I will be reunited with this GG in the future, and I can’t wait to try the 2016 soon.
($40-50 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 19, 2018

2014 Girolamo Russo, Etna Rosso DOC “Feudo” Sicily, Italy.
The winery, an organic tiny Etna producer, Girolamo Russo is one of Sicily’s newest stars led by Giuseppe Russo, a professionally trained and performing pianist, who since 2005 has been organically farming his family’s old vineyards, some of which are 100 years old, he works 15 hectares of vines on the cooler North side of Etna around the town of Passopisciaro, one of the most famous areas on the volcano. With mostly the Nerello Mascalese grape, the darling of Sicily these days, it’s a varietal that thrives on the volcanic soils, it makes for a fine tannin structured, silky medium bodied wine that leads to comparison with Burgundy (Pinot Noir) with it’s elegance and complexity, though with it’s exotic lava/ash spiciness it has it’s own terroir character that gives a unique appeal and style. All of Giuseppe’s cru wines are crafted the same way, with native/natural yeast, without fining or filtration, or temperature control at fermentation and employing a gentile 10-12 day maceration, with hand punch downs, with each of the small lots kept separate until blending into each of the wines. The Feudo cru is from 60 to 65 year old vines and allows for a 200 case lot, and it’s a field blend of more than 80% Nerello Mascalese with the rest mostly Nerello Cappuccio along with a few other local black grapes aged in oak cask, with this beautiful 2014 is perfectly balanced and satiny in feel, but don’t be fooled by the first impression, it’s supple mouth feel gives way to glorious complexity and depth with air and time in the glass, it’s a long wine that reveals true terroir and passion of place. Giuseppe Russo was keen to learn his craft and go his own route, so was influenced without extreme dogma by a variety of experiences with his neighbors, all great winemakers, including Frank Cornelissen, the intense natural winemaker, Passopisciaro’s Andrea Franchetti, who crafts bigger and more age worthy wines, as well as Marco de Grazia of the modern Tenuta delle Terre Nere, who’s wines were some of the first to gain international fame from Mount Etna, especially in America, his bottling of single vineyard wines and crus was certainly something that Giuseppe found profound and he followed in his own wines. The 2014 Feudo Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso, imported by Oliver McCrum Wines, is richly textured and with layers of red fruits, mineral intensity and vivid spices with a palate of dried flowers, flinty stones, dusty plums, raspberry and with a core of earthy cherry along with subtle red pepper, cedar and anise adding some lavender, chalk, fleshy strawberry/peach and a hint of candied red citrus. Beautifully detailed, clear in form and round this is a wonderful drinker and would easily hold it’s own against some serious wines, and it should age nicely for another 5 to 7 years, it’s a sexy and well made red, impressive for it’s restraint and grace.
($40-55 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 18, 2018

2016 Le Temps des Copains by Frederic Niger, Gamay “Astra” Vin de France, Loire Valley, France.
This is a new project of Fred Niger of Domaine de l’Ecu, which is like what Gavenat of Cotes du Jura fame is also doing, Fred had long dreamt of collaborating with like-minded growers and the project was kicked into high gear in 2017, because Fred had a near total loss of estate fruit in two successive vintages (2016 & 2017) due to hail and frost in Muscadet in the Loire region. “Le Temps des Copains” means “time with friends” and the wines are a collaboration between Fred and fellow natural driven winegrowers with Niger making the wines at de L’Cru. With Astra being his joint venture with Gamay from Benoît Landron, who is also in Muscadet, but some how managed to get his fruit through the worst of the weather, it’s fermented in tank, then aged in amphora with no sulfur added. This 2016 Astra is bright and textured natural wine with a deep ruby/garnet hue in the glass making for a very attractive and intriguing wine that impresses on the palate with layers of dark fruit, including plum, black cherry, strawberry and a touch of framboise along with mineral tones, mixed spices, soft floral elements, a touch of earth and dusty stones. There is a lot of youthful energy, but it is rather elegant in form and the acidity is perfectly matched to the smooth mouth feel, while the tannins are satiny ripe, all which highlight the class and focus in this wine, it’s impressive and wonderfully drinkable with it’s lifted fruit.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 17, 2018

2014 Via Giusti, Pinot Noir, Giusti Ranch, Estate, Russian River Valley.
The seriously endowed and beautiful estate Via Giusti Pinot Noir flows seamlessly across the palate with a bold dark fruit character and sweet french oak notes that remind you of the better Russian River classics, including Willams Selyem, Martinelli and Rochioli with loads of joyous blackberry, cherry, plum and smoky French oak shadings, it’s brilliant and showy effort. Kurt Giusti, vintner, has deep roots in the Russian River and his family has been a fixture here since 1875, though very under the radar compared to the mentioned wines and a new label to discover, especially this enticing 2014 estate Pinot, a 300 case production wine made from vines on the ranch grown on the Goldridge and Franciscan sandy loam soils, Giusti’s impressive offering comes in at about 14.5% and was made from clones 115, 667 and the dark 777 and was aged 16 months with about 40% new French oak used. Kurt recent brought in winemaker Dylan Sheldon, a veteran who has elegant sensibilities, especially with his own label wines, it’s looking like a perfect match and while he didn’t start this one he helped finish this vintage, and going forward you can expect even further refinement and lift in these wines. A deep hue in the glass is sexy and the length here is extraordinary with lingering kirsch, vanilla and rose petals that add to the seduction found on the full and racy palate that includes black cherry, plum, huckleberry, cola bean, anise, sweet tobacco leaf, a hint of earthy loam, mineral and cinnamon(y) baking spices. There is a copious amount of vinous texture and while overt it has a bright intensity which delivers a focused experience and heightens the enjoyment in this wine that has blossomed in the bottle, it should age gracefully for another 5 to 10 years, even if it is delicious and an opulent Russian River Pinot right now.
($69 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 16, 2018

2015 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir “Arley’s Leap” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
John Paul is an Oregon legend and his wines just as legendary, especially his Pinots, like this one from A slightly younger vine planting within Abbey Ridge vineyard, that was planted in 1990, and Cameron Winery, part of the Deep Roots Coalition is sustainably farmed, non-irrigated and has been fanatically Burgundy influenced, since Paul started producing wine here in 1984. He uses mainly Dundee Hills fruit, the estate Clos Electrique and Abby Ridge, as well as a newer parcel in Ribbon Ridge, his Clos Electrique and his Abby Ridge bottlings are his top old vine cube’s, but his regular Willamette Valley, Dundee and Reserve offerings are stunning as well, with this Arley’s Leap being new to me, and one I was thrilled to get my hands on! The eponymous hero, on the label, was Bill and Julia Wayne’s old dog Arley, who survived a jump from a second story balcony when startled by a cat. Abbey Ridge is one of the highest vineyards in Dundee and is picked relatively late, it’s farmed pretty much all organic and allows for deep flavors and complexity, it’s significantly cooler and with it’s Jory soils, which are volcanic based there is a lot of natural acidity that helps with balance and gives these wines tremendous aging structure along with a slightly exotic character. 2015 is looking like an outstanding vintage in Oregon and John Paul took advantage of the year to craft an amazing set of wines, and in my opinion, this Arley’s Leap is a sleeper, in particular it’s a earthy dark beauty that is wonderfully expressive and intriguing. This 2015 shows the years ripe personality, at 13.9%, but thrills for it’s brilliant energy, tanginess, a porcini note, forest floor and rustic charm that resembles a fine Nuits-Saint-Georges! This stuff entrances with a heady mix of plum, black cherry, strawberry, dusty red spices, minty herbs, crushed violets and a touch of leather adding to the dense kirsch, currant and wilted rose petals, making for an amazing palate and bouquet, it’s very much sex in a bottle as only a great Pinot can be! Paul employs traditional Burgundian winemaking and subtle well integrated French oak, it’s as good as it gets, drink over the next decade, it will fascinating to see how this ages!
($46 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 15, 2018

2017 Skylark Wine Company, Rosé of Grenache, Pink Belly, Mendocino County.
Skylark’s Pink Belly is always a favorite Rosé of mine, since the 2007 vintage (their first) I have always had it and it just gets better with each vintage, with this 2017 really setting a new standard for quality and thrill, even after such a lovely fresh vintage in 2016. Robert Perkins, winemaker and John Lancaster (wine director at Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco) are the men behind the label and are two of the nicest people, and talented, as you could ever meet, craft small batch wines with a core focus on Rhone/Languedoc style offerings including this Tavel like 100% Grenache Pink Belly Rosé and their Corbieres influenced Red Belly which is a gorgeous Carignane, Grenache and Syrah blend that melds a fruit forward palate with earthy tannins and dusty spices perfectly. The Pink Belly almost jumps out of the glass with it’s delicately pale salmon/pinkish hue and floral tones, it’s vibrantly crisp with tart cherry, watermelon and racy citrus fruits, steely mineral, lavender, rosewater and a little bit of jolly rancher and bubble gum, which is not sweet and is balanced out by a touch of wet stone and brisk acidity, it lingers with strawberry essences. Perkin’s employed a whole cluster pressing here and fermented the Grenche lots separately then blend together after primary are done, the fruit comes from two Mendocino sites, one at Kurt Ashurst’s Grenache vineyard in Hopland, our first pink vineyard, but to meet the demand of this tasty wine, Skylark added fruit from Charlie Sawyer’s stellar Grenache site above Ukiah, where they get their main Grenache Noir grapes for their Red Belly. Everything makes it a great poolside quaffer or porch-pounder, in my case a beach at sunset pounder! This 2017 is more expressive and upfront, but still is very dry and refreshing, it should be great for the long warm days of Summer and still tasty until next winter’s chill, don’t miss this stuff!
($19 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 14, 2018

2017 Arnot-Roberts, Rosé of Touriga Nacional, California.
Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, the minds behind California’s Arnot-Roberts winery, craft a bunch of awesome tiny production wines, everything from Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet to Trousseau Noir and this unique Rosé, which is 100% Touriga Nacional, that Portuguese red varietal found in Port, from Lake County mostly with the bulk coming off the Luchsinger Vineyard usually, a site that was planted in 1999 on volcanic cobble over ancient riverbed stones at about 1,400’ in the Clear Lake AVA west of Kelseyville, where they also get some of their Trousseau. This has become a cult, must have, dry Rosé each year, much in the same way most of us in the wine business need Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé, it’s a real wine geeks wine! Brilliantly cool on the nose with light red fruits, floral notes, mineral and spice notes leading the way to a delicately crisp palate of tangy cherry, strawberry, dusty red spices, steely/flinty wet rock, citrus brightness along with unripe watermelon and rosewater. This wonderfully dry and vivid Rosé is one of the most complete and pleasing pink wines in California, drink up and get while you can!
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 13, 2018

2016 Vincent Gaudry, Sancerre, La Constellation de Scorpion, Loire Valley, France.
This Sancerre from Vincent Gaudry was recently renamed to La Constellation de Scorpion, it’s t​he cuvée formerly known as “Esprit de Rudolf” it’s a certified Biodynamic single old vine parcel grown on flinty Silex soils which is barrel fermented & aged in French oak. Gaudry was the first Biodynamic producer in Sancerre, and this wine is crafted in the same way as the classic Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume’s are, it’s an intense Loire Valley mineral driven Sauvignon Blanc with is naturally imbued with density and volume on the palate. Gaudry has blocks that are massale selections with 90 year vines, he also does a basic stainless steel tank version plus an exceptional whole cluster Sancerre Rouge (Pinot Noir) that is mind-blowing, this is a label and winery to discover and follow, and is now imported by Floraison Selections. This Sancerre starts with a certainly austerity and a hint of volatile acidity with a faint polishy note before opening up on the richly textured palate gaining immensely with air, it becomes a highly rewarding wine that is both leesy and steely with round peachy fruit, sizzling lemon/lime and with notes of quince, gooseberry and white melon along with flinty smokiness and garden herbs. As this Gaudry cuvee La Constellation de Scorpion warms it fills out and gets even better, it is an impressive Sauvignon Blanc with it’s own personality, this is a wine that could not be from anywhere else! Given the style and quality, it’s remarkable that it’s not at a higher price point, as it compares well against Bouley and Cottat!
($33 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 12, 2018

2014 Le P’Tit Paysan, Petite Sirah, Monterey County.
One of Monterey’s sleeper wines and best values, Ian Brand’s Le P’Tit Paysan Petite Sirah is an extremely pleasing full bodied red with lots of unique personality and balanced terroir driven character, which includes an inner energy (lift) and subtle refinement. This brilliantly purple/garnet hued Petite Sirah (Durif) was fermented with partial whole cluster, about 30%, getting a long cold soak for gentile extraction with lees aging in barrel, Brand using mostly neutral, used French barriques, for 11 months, and some bottle resting before release, allowing for a wine of graceful tannins and the utmost purity. This Petite comes off Pierce Ranch Vineyard in the San Antonio Valley, it’s a site that gives warm days and cool nights, perfect for getting even ripeness with lower sugar levels, in fact Brand had his blocks picked at a very lively 22 Brix or below, but still has textural density and lush mouth feel and length with an intriguing low natural alcohol. The area’s limestone, shale and decomposed granite soils add to the wines quality and gives a stony influence, which reminds me somewhat of a Northern Rhone Syrah, similar to the Halcon Vineyards Yorkville Highlands version, it’s one of few other recent examples of Petite Sirah that takes this stylistic path, which I am thrilled about! This Le P’Tit Paysan Petite Sirah, with 2% Counoise, is deeply colored and with a nose of dark floral tones, wild sage, black fruits and mineral charm before leading to it’s full bodied and structured palate of blackberry, racy currants, tree picked plum and sweet kirsch along with a touch of chalk and flint, minty anise, cedar and incense. While full and firm as you’d expect from this grape, this wine is evolving and gains a satiny vinous side, lingering with blueberry and violets, though stays focused and bright throughout, it also is wonderful with robust and rustic cuisines, plus it was beautiful with hard cheeses and cured meats, this is a hard to beat for the price offering from a talented winemaker, drink for the next 3 to 5 years.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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