Wine of the Day November 25, 2014

2012BlackKiteRest2012 Black Kite, Pinot Noir, Kite’s Rest, Anderson Valley.
Black Kite is one of the most prized Pinots in the state and the 2012’s are some of the best wines to date from this winery, if you’ve not had a chance to try them, this is the time. Well respected winemaker Jeff Gaffner of Saxon Brown, crafts all the Black Kite wines, which are mostly from single vineyard Anderson Valley sites, though Black Kite has expanded and now includes wines made from the Santa lucia Highlands, will fruit coming from Garys’ Vineyard and Pisoni’s newest star, Soberanes Vineyard. The Anderson Valley bottling remain the stars here, and I was thrilled to taste though a set of 2012’s, which were of top quality and certainly well crafted, the Stony Terrace made from Rochioli clone was an eye opener and was my favorite of the set, but the best value and not far off was the Kite’s Rest, a most true Anderson Valley terroir wine in style with slightly lower alcohol and a bit more tension, live and vibrancy. The 2012 Kite’s Rest is by far the best version of this wine that I’ve tried, it shows more finesse, transparency and still has depth and hedonistic pleasure, when people imagine balance, this is what they are hoping for and there is subtle oak influence along with (ripe) nice fruit intensity. The nose begins the journey with dried roses, tea spice, hints of violets and red currants coming from the glass of this brilliantly ruby hued Pinot leading to a succulent palate of black cherry, juicy plum, raspberry, strawberry and cranberry fruits mixed with hints of stones, saline, chalk, smoke, vanilla and cinnamon plus anise, earthy tones and red peach. The mouth is filling, playing with vivid flavors, round texture and lifting acidity, gaining some weight, but never heavy or dulling, this is beautiful and rewarding Pinot Noir, drink from 2015 to 2019.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 24, 2014

2010CastellodiAmaCC2010 Castello di Ama, Chianti Classico “Ama” DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
The Castello di Ama 2010 Ama Chianti Classico is beautiful, old school and earthy with a cool vintage vibrancy and feel, this is a very stylish example of terroir. Mostly Sangiovese as per normal, the baby in Ama’s lineup doesn’t disappoint and the little bit of Merlot doesn’t take away a thing here, and of course Castello di Ama does do a single vineyard Merlot that is off the charts good, and a wallop to the wallet, in the same league as many exclusive Pomerol offerings, but back to the little Classico, it represents a fine value in today’s world and I highly recommend it. Castello di Ama is one of Tuscany’s most respected and celebrated producers, and certainly gives a quality product, Ama is between Gaiole and the famous Radda in the heart of the Classico zone, it sits on unique and historic terroir with olive groves and vines facing the sun from beautifully farmed hills, the Castello was originally built in the 12th century and the winemaking start not to long after that, though the modern Ama got going in the mid to late sixties (1960’s) becoming one of the finest Chianti Classico producers and home to some of the world’s great wine. The 2010 Ama Classico starts with wet earth, forest notes, dried roses and minty herbs along with a mix of red and black fruits plus a touch of mineral and game leading to a refined palate of black cherry, plum, blackberry and currant fruits with added complex layers of dusty stones, licorice, cedary spice, loamy notes, iron/mineral and tobacco/cigar wrapper. The cool vintage is highlighted by lifting acidity, Bordeaux like feel, a bit of tannic rustic charm and the medium weight, but it makes it seem far more elegant and with out question it is fabulous with food, the vibrancy and lively character are very pleasing and the wine should drink well for 5 to 10 years, drink from 2014 to 2018+, this is a wonderful Ama and a well crafted effort.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Extra: Tasting California History in the Glass

2012BucklinAncient2012 Bucklin, Ancient, Old Hill Ranch, Proprietary Red, Sonoma Valley.
Will Bucklin’s latest Zinfandel blend from the historic Old Hill Ranch is a stunner, this is an awesome wine and one of the best reds of the vintage in California! First planted in 1852 and becoming California’s first vineyard to be planted with Zinfandel, Old Hill Ranch in Sonoma Valley, not far from Glen Ellen has the state’s oldest Zinfandel vines and this bottling features fruit from vines that were planted in the 1880’s! The Old Hill Ranch is more than that, it is also a Heritage Vineyard with dozens of varietals inter planted making an intriguing palate of complexity and diversity, much like Bedrock, the vines at Old Hill Ranch are living history and a tribute to California terroir over mono varietal labeling, this was the old school way of doing things in the state and it is nice that we can still cherish and taste the past and the future in one one. Zinfandel plays a big role, this long lost Croatian varietal also known as Tribidrag (not Plavic Mali as once thought) or known by Italians as Primitivo, but it is not the only story of these heritage sites with many black grapes playing a part too, like Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Grenache, the Mission Grape along with many others, and even a few white grapes thrown in too, all this adds to the great tapestry that forms these wines, especially Bucklin’s Old Hill Ranch Ancient. I have tasted the 2012 Ancient on three occasions now, it is very impressive stuff, in fact in a recent panel it went up against the fine and highly rated Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape and in my opinion came away the clear winner! The 2012 Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Ancient starts with a burst of raspberry, floral tones, bramble/briar and earthy spice leading to an array of gorgeous layers on the palate with loganberry, currant, plum and frambois leading the attack along with minty herbs, pepper, cinnamon stick, game and anise making a presence as well as cedar, sweet tobacco leaf and dried flowers. Like Ridge, this is a wine that should gain over time and it will be interesting to see how it develops in the bottle, I can easily imagine great things to happen over the next 10 to 15 years, this wine, at this price is a rewarding option for medium cellaring, it is fantastic now, but with patience there should be lovely results. This is full bodied wine, no question, extremely hedonistic, but everything is poised, sharp and structured with supple tannins, a fair bit of natural acidity and remarkable depth and length. The alcohol is about 15.4%, but you’d be hard pressed to feel it, if you are honest, and there is good ripeness and pleasure, though not cloying or syrupy, this is not a candied Zin or porty wine by any means, and it should age well for another decade at least, this is spectacular California wine with a glorious history and future full of joy ahead of it, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive


avail at

Wine of the Day November 23, 2014

2014VissouxBN2014 Domaine Vissoux-Pierre Chermette, Beaujolais Primeur (Nouveau) Gamay, France.
This is really good good! Not your typical Beaujolais Nouveau, maybe that is why Pierre Chermette doesn’t label it Nouveau at all, there is a tiny “Primeur”sticker on the neck, otherwise it says Beaujolais only, and to tell you the truth it tastes way better than it should for such a new wine, and I think I’ll be quaffing a few bottles over the next month or so. The Domaine Vissoux/Pierre Chermette wines are wonderful examples of top notch Gamay and are surly some of the best offerings for the money in the region, and while I love Foillard’s wines if you are going to pick just one Nouveau or Primeur to drink this holiday/celebration season I’d go with the Vissoux/Chermette, it is more complex, deep and rewarding. The 2014 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais Primeur is dark with violet/purple and garnet color, fresh flavors and surprising length showing a juicy plum, sweet strawberry, tangy cherry and dried currant along with hints of walnut, red peach and a mix of candied jells, plus a hint of earth, spice and mineral. There is a vibrant youthful zest and this is pure fun in the glass, but it has nice palace, elegance and a medium textural feel, making this fun little Gamay worth searching out, certainly a nice option for Thanksgiving table, and taking Nouveau to stylish heights! Drink now! In a world that takes itself way too seriously, this is a fun way to enjoy a few silly moments, and it is delicious.
($14 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive


avail at ($12.99)

Wine of the Day November 22, 2014

2013ArnotRobertsTrout2013 Arnot-Roberts, Chardonnay, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Trout Gulch Chardonnay comes off a vineyard above Aptos in the cool south Santa Cruz Mountains, not far from the ocean on a loamy hillsides that face mostly south, this is a great site for Chardonnay and Pinot. Duncan Meyers, Arnot-Roberts winemaker loves this vineyard, now farmed by Richard Alfaro and his team, and this new 2013 is a stunning and delicate wine that has loads of drive, energy and layers of subtle fruit. This brisk, about 13% alcohol, Chardonnay is believed to be old Wente clone and there is a hidden deep concentration and complexity underneath the zippy acidity, very much like stylish white Burgundy, this is very polished and elegantly textured wine that will be pleasing young and fill out and age well. The 2013 vintage looks set to surpass 2012 in quality, which was super in the Santa Cruz region, and this is awesome and classy Chardonnay with citrus flower, honey, peach, apple and lemon leading the way with hints of golden fig, clove and verbena notes. The mouth feel even so young is inviting with hints of butter creme/butterscotch and the finish is like old school white burgundy with mineral, hazelnut and a mix of citrus and pear. This seriously delicious and well crafted wine by one of California’s brightest stars will develop nicely over the next 3 to 5 years, drink from 2015 to 2020. This Chardonnay and their two Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir offerings are amongst the most exciting of the new 2013 vintage lineup at Arnot-Roberts, be sure to check them out, along with the Syrah and Trousseau!
($54 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive


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Wine of the Day November 21, 2014

2013NiglAlteReben2013 Weingut Nigl, Gruner Veltliner, Alte Reben, Kremstal, Austria.
The 2013 wines from the Wachau and Kresmstal regions are the finest and more intense I’ve seen, it might be the best vintage for Austrian whites in my generation and Nigl’s lineup is fantastic, especially this Alte Reben, which is showing purity, heightened extract and powerful acidity. This Alte Reben Gruner is amazing, it shows a dynamic force of nature, terroir and vitality way beyond the normal and will age wonderfully as well, this is special stuff, and while not inexpensive, it is a superb value and intriguing Gruner Veltliner, it is right up there with Brundlmayer and Knoll in terms of quality and stylistically. The shear force of acidity and wonderful and graceful fruit and texture will blow your mind, it is dry and gripping, but the underlying extract is impressive. The 2013 Nigl Alte Reben starts with mouth watering lime and mineral essences with hints of grapefruit, white flowers, almond oil and thai basil leading to a stony/steely palate of lemon/lime, white peach, apple-skin, papaya and sea brine with loamy earth and wild herbs. This is vivid, eye popping Gruner with citrus rind and pip bitter elements, it finishes dusty crisp and vigorously fresh, this is glorious and would be a must have with food wine, enjoy with sea food, pork and poultry and lighter not overly spicy Asian cuisine, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($43 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 20, 2014 Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day

2014FoillardBN2014 Jean Foillard, Beaujolais Nouveau, Gamay, France.
The new harvest is done and now it’s time to celebrate, and of course it is always that third Thursday in November that brings the joy, Beaujolais Nouveau day, a made up holiday and worldwide party, not that we didn’t have reason to party before, but it just got better with fresh juicy Gamay, and the tradition lives on. I always sample a few of these zippy and fruity new wines, but I must say I rarely find one better than Jean Foillard’s and while playful, it certainly can be called serious wine. The 2014 is looking pretty good, I must say it is even better than the last 2 or 3 vintages, almost on par with 2009! So if you want something a bit more savvy this year, I recommend the new Foillard, it is really delicious and pretty darn stylish with good depth, length and it has a nice play of fruit and tangy savory elements. The nose is juicy fruit, waxy concord grapes, blackberry, cherry and fresh picked plum along with spice cake, walnut and red citrus and peach notes. this year has a vivid garnet hue, vibrant flavor and even a hint of tannin, with zippy acidity and crisp finish it is a light and bright red weighing in at 11.5% alcohol, making it easy to quaff. Hints of earthy loam, saline and chalk/stones add to the complexity, but enjoy it for the youthful expression of this fun Gamay, Happy Beaujolais Nouveau day! In case you might not know, Jean Foillard makes some of the great wines of Beaujolais, especially his Morgon Cote de Puy, as good as any premier cru Burgundy, and his Fleurie, which is hauntingly heavenly!
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 19, 2014

2013KRSpatMD2013 Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling, Munsterer Dautenpflanzer, Spatlese, Nahe Germany.
Georg Rumpf’s 2012’s were stunning Rieslings and these 2013’s from a much more difficult year are almost a match, especially this beautifully balanced Spatlese Munsterer Dautenpflanzer, it just might be the best Riesling for the money you can find this year. The 2013 Kruger-Rumpf Munsterer Dautenpflanzer is a fine and wonderfully crafted Riesling that while a Spatlese, feels comfortably dry on the palate, the sweetness never seems out of place or heavy, the acidity and extract give the wine a dynamic presence in the mouth and lift, this is a marvelous white from the Nahe and will be a wine that will gain with age as well, though I certainly plan to enjoy more than a few bottles sooner vs later, it will be a treat with traditional San Francisco holiday crab dinners and be joyous with any foods I place in front of it. Georg’s wines deserve attention, they offer some of the best values in the Nahe and are classically styled and refined with mineral intensity, depth and elegant flare, be sure to grab all the 2012’s you can still find, but also don’t miss these 2013’s, they are lovely wines. This Munsterer Dautenpflanzer Spatlese starts with white roses, citrus blossoms and steely mineral notes along with verbena, tropical essence and yellow fruits leading to a tangy palate of honeyed grapefruit, kiwi, lime, apricot, white peach, apple and pineapple fruits, there’s a nice play of sweet, savory and mixed spice with the texture gaining weight and roundness with air, there’s the magic of sugar, giving smooth pleasing sensations behind the vigorous tension and forceful nature of the acidity and extract, this wine feels as generous and as serious as a white Burgundy with complexity, density and finesse, but is all Riesling in character and terroir. There’s some detailed nuances of minty herbs, crushed stones, sea salt/brine, loam and flinty elements that are well placed and the finish is lush, hinting at sweetness with tangerine, sorbet and lemon tart. This is again, top class stuff, it should make for lot’s of happy campers out there, this is an opulent and focused Riesling with grace and class, drink from 2016 to 2026.
($27 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 18, 2014

LassaigneLaCollineN.V. Jacques Lassaigne, Champagne “La Colline inspiree” Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs, Montgueux, France.
Emmanuel Lassaigne looks set to be one of Champagne’s brightest stars, this tiny grower producer in Montgueux (in Aube) does some fantastic Chardonnay Champagne from chalky limestone vineyards that have 25 to 45 year old vines. The cuvees he does are all zero dosage and mostly intensely dry Extra Brut in style, but these are seriously endowed bubbly(s) with striking opulence and depth, and while vigorous and precise they have a similarity to Krug and Vilmart with exotic notes and richness. While there is an up rise in pure Pinot Meunier in single vineyard grower Champagnes and it’s all the rage, with good reason, it is important not to forget just how great these Chardonnay wines can be, especially these Jacques Lassaigne offerings from Emmanuel Lassaigne, and in particular this sexy La Colline inspire Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs. The La Colline inspire is wood raised, one of the only wines Emmanuel does in oak, it uses old Chablis barrels, and it shows in the density and fullness, though still firmly dry and mineral driven, this is wow effect Champagne with layers of flavor and structure, beautifully detail and gorgeous from start to finish featuring lemon oil, banana, clove, steely mineral, spiced apple, pineapple and hazelnuts. Hints of saline, earth and crushed stones add to the complexity, this is a Champagne of amazing craftsmanship and controlled power with elegance and classic quality, this is blow your mind stuff, you could drink this wine still (flat) and it would never miss a beat, but with it’s heavenly mousse it is utterly glorious, it should age well too, but it would be more than difficult to be patient here, it is just stunning, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($90 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive Flashback: 1994 Dunn Howell Mountain

1994DunnHMcs1994 Dunn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley. (Magnum 1.5L)
Even sucking down the dregs of a Magnum that had been open the night before the Dunn 1994 Howell Mountain was stunning and seemingly at it’s peak, I would highly suggest if you have 1991, 1992, 1993 or this 1994 Dunn in your cellar you start popping corks, I think it is time on these great wines. I’m grateful to John Fluhmann, a client with a soft spot for Bordeaux and classic Napa Cabs, he bought this Mag in and let myself and a colleague finish it off, that was kind and very helpful for us to see where this wine was at, it was also good as we both are Dunn fans and this was splendid stuff and wonderfully open and enjoyable. These early nineties Dunn’s are sublime, and at 13% or under at times, they are very Bordeaux like and intensely flavored with lots of dark fruit, tannin and glorious length. This 1994, a great vintage, shows maturity now, at year 20, and everything there is here is ready to go and wonderfully displayed at this point. The nose is floral, mineral driven with spice, cedar and even a hint of game leading to a palate of black and red currants, minty herbs, plum, blackberry, creme de cassis, dried flowers, leather and cherry, along with licorice, loamy/earth stones and tobacco/cigar wrapper. There is a hint of smoky wood, but everything is folded together nicely, it almost tastes like Haut-Brion mixed with Beychevelle it has the mineral essence of Pessac along with a bit of tar, clay tang of the outer Medoc, but still a fruit driven Napa wine of great detail and class, hats off to Randy Dunn, this wine is a glorious legacy, drink now through 2018. This is a brilliant Cabernet Sauvignon, I love these mature Howell Mountain wines, this is sublime, I hope I get a few more chances to enjoy these great California wines, Dunn, Ridge and Diamond Creek all rival the world’s best, especially the early nineties offerings, which still can be found and not at terrible prices, in fact some or below current release prices of top wineries.
($300+ Est. Magnum, $100-200 in 750ml Est.) 95 Points, grapelive