2013 Fabien Jouves, Mas Del Perie, La Roque, Cahors, Malbec, France.
Fabian Jouves is redefining what we think of as French Malbec, in fact his Cahors is one of the most interesting wines from the region and his natural winemaking practices are highlighting this varietal in a way we couldn’t have imagined, especially this La Roque. Fermented and raise in a combination of cement and neutral oak barrels this pure and delicious Malbec shows wonderful vitality and balance with dark fruits, good acidity and superb length. Some whole cluster and native yeasts add the complexity, and the low sulphur gives this wine the same kind of personality that you find in wines like Lapierre’s Morgon and the wines of La Stoppa, and while the term “Natural Wine” can turn people off in some areas, this wine is beautifully made, clear and focused, you could more easily compare Fabien with Arianna Occhipinti, talents that make honest terroir wine. The 2013 Mas del Perie La Roque Cahors is lively, fresh and vibrant with wild flowers, sweet herb and plum notes leading to a palate of cherry, raspberry, strawberry and tangy currants along with an almost red peach and citrusy dynamic that makes this wine feel refreshing while chalky mineral, anise, tobacco leaf and a hint of cedar comes through with air. The wine takes on a darker presence in the glass with bitter coco, blueberry and all spice coming through, this really good stuff that is modest in alcohol, lively with a medium body and is super pleasing throughout, drink from 2015 to 2019.
($23 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Crater, Listan Negro, Tacoronte-Acentejo DO, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
This Listan Negro (Mission Grape) comes from the volcanic slopes of Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands only about 80 miles off the coast of north Africa in the Atlantic Ocean and was one of first critically acclaimed wines from this remote region. Now we have many great wines from the Canaries, especially sought after is Suertes del Marques and Fronton de Oro, these are intriguing and unique wines and this Crater 2011 is deeply flavored with exotic spices that will appeal to those with a sense of adventure. The nose is full of savory essences, mineral and loamy earth before revealing red berry, dried currants and plum sauce with a palate that is medium in weight with wonderful textural mouth feel and life. There is a core of blueberry, cherry and poached red peach along with red pepper/cayenne, flinty stones, a touch of game, salted black licorice and rustic chalk dust and cedary notes. The tannins are firm, the acidity is juicy in this interesting red which turns more refined and poised with longer in the glass, but this is a wine made for food and can be friendly with a wide range of cuisine from braised goat shoulder to spicy seafood stew, I really think it shines with kabob and Turkish or Middle Eastern fare, best from 2015 to 2018.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Bedrock, Syrah, North Coast.
Morgan Twain Peterson’s basic North Coast Syrah is a blend of five cool climate sites and is made partial whole cluster and with about 40% stems with modest oak makes for a real generous and forward wine. Bedrock can’t seem to miss these days and this new vintage is as good as any they’ve done, with their Syrah and Zinfandel offerings both showing great fruit detail and rich complexity and style. The 2013 North Coast Syrah starts with crushed violets, cracked pepper, cassis and bitter chocolate with blueberry, blackberry and boysenberry on the palate along with vanilla, bacon fat and mocha. This sexy and ripe flavored wine is very pleasing and very opulent, giving Saint-Joseph like character, but truly Californian through and through, best to enjoy this one between 2016 and 2019. Not as nervy as past vintages and with good density and plush layers, this wine will appeal to a wider set of palates and it gets even better with air and time in the glass, very impressive length too!
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Daniel Largeot, Bourgogne Rouge, Red Burgundy, France.
From Cote de Beaune fruit the Chorey Les Beaune based Largeot’s basic Bourgogne is a pretty little wine with good concentration and pure Pinot fruit, drinking exceptionally well and delightful, a perfect soft and graceful Burg for immediate enjoyment. This no frills and pleasing wine over delivers in this price class with clean and persistent layers, it starts with dried rose petals, chalky mineral and spicy red currants leading to a core of racy black and morello cherry along with raspberry, strawberry and dusty plum fruits plus hints of loam, tea spice, tangy cranberry, anise, saline and pea gravel. There is good life and vigor adding lift and energy, but nice smooth tannins and round texture give an almost rich mouth feel, the small crop and well sorted grapes show in this vintage, drink now through 2018, a pleasant surprise in this narrowed range, grab it while you can, imported by Charles Neal.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Arnot-Roberts, Rose of Touriga Nacional, Luchsinger Vineyard, Clear Lake.
The latest version of Arnot-Roberts’ Rose is driving with energy and depth of flavor, it highlights the vintage and style perfectly with shear acidity, spicy mineral and a mouth filling presence. This impressive Rose has pink and red citrus, spice box and juicy melon notes to lead and intrigues with sour cherry, hints of strawberry, watermelon, red peach and grapefruit fruits, along with flinty/pepper spice, steely mineral and river stones. The bright intensity is balanced by textural silkiness as the wine hits mid palate and flavors expand, but finishing refreshingly brisk with a cool crispness, this is wonderful and exciting Rose, something we’ve come to expect of Duncan Meyers, as all of his Arnot-Roberts wines in recent vintages have shown. I am particularly fond of this Rose and his Syrah offerings, but the Trout Gulch Chardonnay and his set of Pinot Noir(s) are lovely and entertaining wines as well, if you’d not tried the Arnot-Robert wines yet, you need to and soon, these are super and classy wines with great style and quality. The Rose is very limited and unique coming off the Clear Lake Luchsinger Vineyard and being from the rare Touriga Nacional grape (most common to Portugal), almost never seen in California, let alone in a dry Rose, in recent years this pink wine has even lured me away from Tempier’s Bandol Rose! Drink this over the coming warm season and into the Fall of 2015.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Karanika, Brut Sparkling Wine, Cuvee Speciale, Blanc de Noirs Xinomavro, Amyntaion, Greece.
This is gorgeous bubbly, and while listed as a Brut it is super dry and vibrant more like an Extra Brut in feel and character, this beautiful Methode Champenoise is made from one of Greece’s best red grapes, Xinomavro and comes from the Northern Geek mountainous region of Amyndeon. Honestly, this is mind-blowing stuff, it rivals the best single vineyard grower Champagnes, it certainly is level at least in quality to the top Pinot Meunier stuff, like Benoit Dehu or Jerome Prevost, and it maybe the most inspiring Greek wine I’ve ever tasted. Laurens Hartman, who’s roots are Dutch, farms all organic and makes his sparkling wine in classic handmade style, he made wine in Champagne and understands every detail of his mountain terroir, more alpine in climate than one would imagine of Greece, even though Greece is home to the second highest set of mountains in Europe after Switzerland. The Karanika Brut is stunning from start to finish, leading with a nose of white flowers, fine yeast, bread dough, citrus and white currant with a super fine mousse, beading bubbles, ultra savvy intensity, almost poised tension in the mouth highlighting the sublime nature of this glorious nectar. The palate has mineral tones, steely and stony fruits including lemon, white plum and quince, plus an almost juice of cherry element along with leesy/brioche, a hint of spice and chalk dust. This Xinomavro sparkler is a marvel and is a must have wine for it’s exotic charm and class, it is hard to put into words just how freaking good this is, and it is pure excitement in the glass. It was a great pleasure to meet and taste with Hartman in person and his still wines were very solid too, though this bubbly really did steal the show. I would even bet on this being a great Sparkler to age in the cellar, though I would be hard pressed not to drink it on any occasion I could think of! I most certainly didn’t discover this great wine, it has been touted by many a great wine critic, but I most wholeheartedly recommend searching this stellar Bubbly out, Karanika is imported by Wine Wise in California, drink now for sure, but best from 2015 to 2022.
($34 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Chateau L’ Argentier, Aramon Rose, Vieilles Vignes, Sommieres, IGP Herault, Languedoc, France.
The Jourdan family has been making wine since 1937 and have a beautiful estate in Sommieres, which is in-between Nimes and Montpellier in the L’Herault region of the Languedoc, in southern France. The Rose from the Jourdan’s Chateau L’ Argentier is a beauty, made from the rare Aragon grape, this almost lost varietal was once the most widely planted grape in the area, but was almost wiped out by Phylloxera in the 1,800’s, and was never really re-planted, so only a tiny amount survives today. This 2014 old vines rose is perfectly vibrant and mineral driven with tangy refreshing fruit essences and crisp coolness, it tingles the palate with light floral tones, pink grapefruit, sour cherry, watermelon and strawberry along with steely notes and stony elements, plus a hint of savory spice. This classic Pink is delightful, character filled and wonderfully charming. I may have found my secret Summer go to Rose for the year, this is really pretty and entertaining wine and a easy way to spend the warm season ahead. Imported by Wine Wise in California, the Chateau L’ Argentier is a winery to look for, their other offering are quite fun as well with a Cinsault old vine red and Coteaux du Languedoc rouge worth looking for as well, though I think the star was this Aramon Rose, drink this gem over the next year, absolutely joyous!
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Lise & Bertand Jousset, Estate Premier Rendez-Vous, Montlouis sur Loire, France.
Chenin is seeing a huge surge in desire with many gorgeous and delicate Chenin Blancs becoming the new white wine darlings, and while Chenin has has a rocky road and up and down cycle in California, it seems to have found a revival in popularity to the point where it has succeeded in getting a serious niche in the market place both in restaurants and wine shops. This is great to see, and we owe this to the new and old pioneers in the Loire that made such glorious wine, like these Lise & Bertand Jousset offerings, especially this latest estate Premier Rendez-Vous, an all natural Chenin Blanc from their own vines in Montlouis sur Loire, made with native yeasts, aged an the lees and with almost no sulphur, and like most of the top Loire estates is all organic, practicing biodynamic methods. Following in the tradition of Nicolas Joly and Francois Chidaine, but definitely showing their own style and terroir influences, their old vine Chenin is wonderfully detailed and elegant with loads of character and striking mineral focus. The 2012 Jousset Premier Rendez-Vous starts with earthy and floral bouquet with a hint of loam, river rock and white flowers leading to a vivid palate of mixed citrus, peach and quince notes, there is an almost grapefruit like tangy sensation and the wine plays delicately in mouth with vibrant acidity, chalky stone notes and lingers on with sweet herbs, verbena, golden apple and lemon. With air the peach elements show brighter and the drive folds nice into the texture, but this wine stays lifting, light and refined throughout, this is really beautiful and dreamy Chenin. The new world, especially South Africa and California are coming on strong too, with many new an exciting wines, in California in particular there is a lot of buzz from producers like Littorai, Sandlands and Field Recordings, and there have been some great Chenins in the past and present in the state too, I love the Casa Nuestra in St Helena old vine dry Chenin, and the Daniel Gehrs Chalone Chenin Blanc was one of my all time favorites, but it is hard to beat the classic Loire Valley wines for magical purity and seduction, all this Jousset is a fantastic wine. Drink this lovely Montlouis, imported by Return to Terroir, over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Cruse Wine Co. Pétillant Naturel, Sparkling Valdiguie, Napa Valley.
The Cruse Wine Co. Pet-Nat bubbly is made in the Methode Ancestrale, bottle fermented naturally, which dates back to ancient times, even before Dom Perignon fashioned the first Champagnes and is making a come back in both the old world, especially in the Loire Valley of France and here in the new world with dozens of small handcrafted wines hitting the market, like this crazy cool sparkling Valdiguie (also known as “Napa Gamay”) from Michael Cruse. I got introduced to an amazing array of Petillant Naturel wines from California last night at Bay Grape in Oakland, they put on a seriously fun “Heavy Pet Nat Zoo” party at their shop/wine bar, this was like a rave for bubbles freaks and a wine geek Mecca of cool and rare sparkling weirdos, I mean that in a good way, this was pure fun and all the wines were interesting, in particular Broc Sparkling Cabernet Franc, Combe by Parr & Stolpman Sparkling Trousseau, Onward Malvasia and the Donkey and Goat Pet-Nat, but if I was to have a favorite I might have to confess to this Cruse Valdiguie Pet-Nat on the night, and it will be a wine I buy, no question. Michael Cruse’s Pet-Nat Valdiguie starts with it’s cool orange/pink hue that seems to glow and draw you in, it has a vibrant fine mouse and offers up zest dry mineral notes, lively fruit and is super tangy refreshing with hints of sour cherry, citrus, exotic tropical notes and lingering yeast, almost brioche Champagne flavors plus lingering strawberry. This is not a wine to over think, it is a simple celebration with a pop top, like beer cap, that is a perfect lead in to lunch or dinner to put a smile on all the faces around the table. I love this new wave of bubbly, it is anti-serious joy in a bottle, I highly recommend checking this one out and enjoy it over the coming Spring and Summer.
($29 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Saladin cellars, Pinot Noir, La Cruz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
The new Saladin Pinot Noir from Keller Estate’s La Cruz Vineyard in the southwest end of the Petaluma Gap is youthfully lush, decedent and richly flavored, made in a modern style that fans of Kosta Browne, Black Kite, Walter Hansel and Sojourn will love. This Saladin release, is their first Pinot Noir, they make a Dunn inspired Howell Mountain Cabernet and bottled a fresh stainless steel aged Pinot Gris from La Cruz as well, and certainly all the wines deserve merit and attention, especially this Pinot Noir made from ripe grapes, de-stemmed and aged in a mix of new and neutral French oak. The 2013 Saladin La Cruz comes in at about 14.5% and has lots of texture, and is very hedonistic without feeling over weight or ponderous with good fresh acidity, coming from this cool and windswept site that allows slow ripening and deep color development, for a first time effort this Pinot comes out a solid offering and a winner. I tasted through the same vintage Sojourn recently as well, all rated between 90 and 95 Points by Parker and this Saladin was right there with them step by step, in fact I honestly would score this one a couple of ticks higher myself. The Saladin La Cruz starts with sweet raspberry, currants and dusty mocha notes with hints of floral tones and vanilla leading to a palate of black cherry, plum and cranberry fruits along with tea, clove, juicy red peach, mineral/stony elements and creamy soft wood (supple tannins) and Christmas spices, everything is still coming together here, I think more restraint and class will show up with bottle age, the oak notes will fold in and play a backseat framing and complex secondary elements will emerge with patience. This will be a very limited release, and looks set to be offered direct, but worth checking out and making the extra effort to find it, drink from 2016 to 2020, this has impressive form and style and is pure Californian in nature, this is well made Pinot that makes the grade and then some.
($45 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive