Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 29, 2016

2014DoqiKisi2014 Doqi, Kisi Qvervi, Kakheti, Republic of Georgia.
Recent finds and historical evidence puts Georgia at the heart of the birth of the wine trade, it is believed now that Georgian wine dates back 8,000 years, making it the oldest wine region. Truth be told, borders were not drawn as they are now and whether it was present day Georgia or Armenia or what is now Turkey may never be truly certain, but it looks as it was here, in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. The Qvervi, a clay vessel used to ferment and store wine, is a Georgian invention that is now on the UNESCO World heritage list of cultural items and is an iconic symbol of ancient winemaking, not just in the past, but it is now finding a home in Western and modern winemaking from Europe to Oregon, and California along with it’s little brother the terracotta Amphora, though in Georgia the Amphora is used only to transport the finished wine, not make it, the Qvervi, which is buried in the earth, is Georgia’s tool of choice. Also, for a long time we though of Georgia as a red wine making country, though in fact, something that I learned recent at a brilliant seminar given by Lisa Granik MW, it is white wine which is most made/grown in Georgia, with grapes like this Kisi, and Mtsvane, as well as the most widely planted varietal Rkatsiteli. The Doqi Kisi Qvervi is a skin contact white with lovely aromatics and fine texture with tannic vibrancy and slightly cloudy showing a light pink/yellow tint, it is an “Orange” wine, though not as savory or as wildly funky as some, this would be a great way to start your exploration into Georgian traditional wine, Doqi also does the same wine without Qvervi, fermented in stainless, both lovely and fresh with the stainless much clearer and much more delicately crisp and mineral driven, but I adored the Qvervi with it’s exotic nature and spicy herb/anise bite. Green tea, minty fruit with lime, tangerine, white flowers, quince and stone fruits lead the way on the crunchy palate with hints of peach, dried orange rind and flinty stones make for an interesting wine with structure and racy/edgy character. It will take time to understand or get a handle of Georgian wines, Kekheti is the main growing region and it is very difficult to really tour or explore still with many places only accessible by foot, or 4X4 if you are lucky, there are many zones and terroirs, plus dozens of native varietals, as well as European grapes, study is on going. Importer Blue Danube brings in the Doqi wines, all of which are quality made and worth checking out, especially this Kisi made in Qvervi and both the Qvervi and oak aged red Saperavi wines, as well as the stainless (these whites taste more like Gruner Veltliner and or Albarino) and Qvervi Rkatsiteli. Georgia is a poor country, especially outside the cities, so every sold bottle counts, and the country is still rebuilding it’s wine industry from Soviet times and wars, both civil and with Russia in 2008, it will be intriguing to see what happens in the next 5 to 10 years, but even so it’s influence is spreading, whether it is in the “Natural Wine” moment or the use of Qvervi, you can see it in wines like COS in Sicily and Foradori in the Alto Adige, both owing their style to Georgian traditions. Look for the Doqi wines, they are a glimpse of the origins of wine and they are wines you can enjoy for their quality and pleasure.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 28, 2016

2015CampChard2015 Hobo Wine Company “Camp” Chardonnay, Sonoma County.
Winemaker Kenny LikItprakong created the Camp line of wines in 2013 to highlight value in Sonoma County and craft interesting varietal wines, and he makes Zinfandel, Cabernet and this pristine and lovely Chardonnay. This fresh styled Chardonnay is 98% pure Sonoma Valley and Alexander Valley Chardonnay and 2% Viognier, it was natural yeast fermented in stainless steel then transferred to neutral, well seasoned, French barrels to finish Malo, which ended up at about 10 weeks, everything done was designed to preserve freshness and purity of detail. All the vineyards sourced were (are) organic or sustainably farmed and the results are not only a success, but make for an impressive Chardonnay with class and vibrancy, this may not go down as a legendary wine, but it is a brilliantly drinking Chardonnay that tastes for more distinct than many in the $50 range! At a wonderfully low alcohol of just 12.6% and with bright mineral tones this Camp Chardonnay is vibrantly refreshing, and has many similar qualities to a fine Chablis, but remains a true California example with lively apple, pear, wild peach and lemony fruits with hints of cream, golden fig, clove spice, key lime and subtle tropical elements. The acidity is fine and smooth and subtle brine and stoniness help balance it all out, you won’t need to think to much, this is a beautiful quaffer to enjoy with friends and cuisine, even those that usually pass on Chardonnay will be intrigued, and those that do will love this even more. Drink this clear and well made wine over the next year or so, one of the best under $20 Chardonnays I’ve tried, along with Signal Ridge Vineyard of Mendocino, well worth exploring!
($15-18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 27, 2016

2011VajraAlbe2011 G.D. Vajra, Barolo “Albe” Piedmote, Italy.
I often I get quizzed on what I think the best world class red wines are that sell for under $50, without question it seems to be getting harder to chose, not for the lack of options, but because there are so many, you just need to think outside the box a bit, away from Napa Cabernet, some Pinots and Burgundy, with Italy and Spain being great places to explore, and in particular this G.D. Vajra Albe Barolo stands out. Here you get a tremendous value in quality Nebbiolo from a top winemaker, Giuseppe Vajra, and this 2011 is perfectly happy to opened right away, though structured enough to age well for a decade with lovely ripe fruit, mineral, spice, beautiful detail and a solid soul of terroir along with nice sensual magnetism. All of Vajra’s wines have a raw sex appeal and are gloriously lovely to drink with texture, delicacy and life and this 2011 flows with vibrant flavors starting with dark berries, mixed floral tones, a bit of earth, game and stones along with a light touch of wood and classic Nebbiolo markers through out and lengthy finish, while less intense and deep than his Cru bottlings, you certainly can see the class and talent in this wine. I must say, this wine might make my top five or for sure top ten red wines under $50, that I would buy, along with Remelluri Rioja, Jean Foillard Morgon, Salvo Foti Etna Rosso and St. Innocent Oregon Pinot Noir, plus Lucia (Pisoni Family) Syrah, Stolpman Syrah, Alfaro Family Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains and Guimaro Mencia Ribera Sacra! Just a few awesome choices, though I left a hundred great wines out! So, if you need to bring something special with exceptional pedigree and with the lust factor, without breaking the bank check out Vajra’s Albe Barolo and it’s layers of black cherry, damson plum, hoisin, melted black licorice, crushed violets, cedary spice and lingering distilled strawberry and framboise notes, it has satiny ripe tannins and smooth acidity, making it very charming and graceful, though much more rewarding when matched with friends and cuisine, this is another brilliant offering from Giuseppe Vajra and team, best from 2018 to 2024.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 26, 2016

2015ShaeferGaacherSpat2015 Weingut Willi Schaefer, Riesling Spatlese, Gaacher Himmelreich, Mosel Germany.
There is something everyone in the wine world agrees upon, and that is Willi Schaefer Riesling, and especially the Gaacher wines, are some of the greatest wines on earth! From famed Riesling/German importer Terry Theise to Robert Parker, there is no question Shaefer is one of the top estates in the world, these wines have a cult, or religious like following, it is almost impossible to find them on the shelves of a wine merchant, in fact it is almost a rule of life if you ever see a bottle, you buy it, regardless of why you entered the shop in the first place, you never even look at the price, and walk away with a cat like grin on your face, these wines are treasures, no matter the vintage or vineyard, no matter the sweetness level. The 2015 is a vintage to cherish and covet, so being able to preview a Willi Schaefer Spatlese Gaacher Himmelreich was a prized treat and a rare gift, huge gratitude to Terry Theise and Wine Wise for having a sample of this glorious nectar, it is always a thrill to taste these wines and this Gaacher Himmelrich did not disappoint! One of my most cherished wine moments is drinking a Shaefer Auslese, it was so amazingly poised it didn’t feel heavy and it’s silky complexity so divine you can’t imagine the joy, it almost brought tears to my eyes, and this 2015 Spatlese has that kind of wow factor! From the steep slate of the Mosel this fine and delicate example hides it’s extract and power behind layers of lacy acidity, flinty mineral and heavenly creamy textures, this is a case where the must weight and sugar doesn’t translate into overt sweetness or density on the palate as such, this wine is purity and refinement with subtle richness and graceful lines, it is truly feminine and feline with exotic charms and velvet muscles supporting everything in sleek and beautiful fashion. The highlights are balanced savory notes against hedonistic and pleasing layers of rose petals, tangerine sorbet, fresh orchard picked apple and apricot, lime and delightful tropical array to contrast against cool wet shale/stones, minty herb, saline and tangy ginger. This wine seduces completely with youthful raw sexy appeal, but certainly she will age with glorious rewards, when something is this gorgeous it will be insanely difficult to wait, that is why patience is a virtue! There is much more to come in this stunning wine, no doubt it will become legendary, it is well advised to lock a few bottles up, I can imagine a window of 12 to 30 years of age to peak enjoyment for this traditional Mosel classic, best from 2025 to 2040!
($40 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 25, 2016

2015UntiRose2015 Unti Vineyards, Rosé, Dry Creek Valley.
One of California’s most coveted and sought after Rosés, the Unti Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County is a beautiful pink made from about 55% Grenache and 45% Mourvedre. Mick Unti picks early to keep vital acidity and vibrant character, this is a bright and mineral focused example of fine Rosé that sings in the glass with a pale salmon/pink hue and zesty tart cherry, red citrus, watermelon and steely mineral as well as wet stones, chalk and rosewater. This is really good stuff with lingering flavors and crisp detail, with air it fills out and feels expansive, but still brisk and structured, this is a Rosé that excels with cuisine especially, but that can also be wonderful for warm day patio sipping, modeled after modern Bandol and Cotes de Provence wines the Unti is slightly lower in natural alcohol that one might expect from a warm climate Rosé and is crafted with finesse and passion for complex Rosé. Unit’s lineup this summer is impressive and full of depth, Mick’s white are stunning, especially his Vermentino and Cuvee Blanc, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Picpoul, while his reds, from the 2013 vintage are showing sexy aromatics and deep black fruits, be sure to check out Unti’s Zinfandel, Grenache and Montepulciano! All the Unti Vineyards wines remind me of a cross between Tablas Creek and Ridge, high praise indeed in my book, drink the lovely and fresh Unti Grenache/Mourvedre Rosé over the course of the summer, but hurry to get some, it sells out fast!
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 24, 2016

2013LagierMeredithZin2013 Lagier Meredith, Tribidrag, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley.
Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith are making some fantastic wines from their estate high up on Mount Veeder in Napa’s Mayacamas, the western mountains that separate the Napa Valley from the Sonoma side, and their Zinfandel a.k.a Tribidrag it’s original Croatian varietal name, is a stunner, fast becoming one of my absolute favorite Napa reds. Their Syrah is already legendary, but I adore this Tribidrag almost as much, it has lively mountain fruit and tannins with brambly spices and unique terroir charms that make it wonderfully intriguing and entertaining. While ripe and hedonistic with opulence and succulent dark fruit it has vital acidity, mineral notes and plenty of savory character with blackberry, plum, wild raspberry and blueberry fruits, flinty stones, briar notes, hints of cedar, anise and fresh cracked peppercorns. With air, floral essences emerge with violets and spring flowers, as well as earthy currant, fig and sage come through on the medium full palate that feels delightfully old school and lighter than the alcohol would suggest, in fact this is a sublime and elegant wine with lots to admire. If you want a rare expression of Zinfandel, you’re hard pressed to find a better or more fun wine, this wine has joined the elites of California’s top Zins, along with Bedrock, Ridge, Turley, Brown and Biale, be sure to look out for it and the rest of Steve and Carole’s lineup, the mentioned Syrah, and their Malbec are excellent as well, don’t miss them!
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 23, 2016

2015Farmlands2015 Johan Vineyards “Farmlands” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Dag J. Sundby makes some compelling wines, from Norway Sundby has hit the Oregon wine scene like he’s always been a part of it, and in a short time made a big name for himself, along with his winegrower Dan J. Rinke, all the wines are from organic grapes with all of the Johan estate being farmed biodynamic. The main estate Pinot Noir and his Gruner Veltliner are the signature wines, but be sure to check out his fabulous Pet-Nat Sparkling Pinot Noir and maybe the best deal in American wine, the Farmlands Pinot Noir! The 2015 Johan Vineyards “Farmlands” Pinot Noir is made from all biodynamic estate grown grapes, native yeast fermented and spends 9 months in French oak, inspired by the wines of Burgundy and the natural wine movement, it is an unfiltered, unfined Pinot without any additives, no egg whites, no cooper sulfate and no enzymes just natural and pure as can be. The 2015 is rich and detailed with low 13.3% alcohol a beautiful deep color and layers of dark fruit with mineral and spice as well as gentle wood notes, this is impressive stuff and as mentioned one of the best deals in American wine, let alone classy Oregon Pinot Noir with real depth of terroir and character. The layers of plum, black cherry, tangy currant and blackberry fruits dance on the palate in youthful harmony with ripe/sweet silky tannins, bright acidity, a medium body and good length with hints of fennel, cedar, dusty stones and flinty pepper. The smooth textures show the grace and finesse of the winemaking and without question highlights the pleasures of the vintage, which is in many ways similar to the 2014 with it’s forward style, drink over the next 2 to 5 years, it’s a beauty.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 22, 2016

2015VonWinningReiterpfad2015 Weingut Von Winning, Riesling Trocken, Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad, Pfalz Germany.
the 2015’s from Germany are gorgeous and powerful wines, you are are going to want these for the hedonistic youthful pleasures and for long term cellar aging, this is a vintage to love from day one until even past your own mortal lifetime! From the Mosel, Ahr, Rheingau to the Pfalz and beyond Riesling excelled producing vibrant, concentrated and aromatic wines with loads of extract, mineral intensity and vigorous acidity, it is especially exceptional in regards to dry and medium sweet styles, you might have to search a bit harder for TBA and Eiswein, though a few stickies were made they are not finished fermenting, as some are from grapes picked in mid January! In the case of the Pfalz, Von Winning has made one of the greatest set of dry wines you’ll ever encounter, and while the Grosses Gewachs haven’t even been bottled yet, the cask samples are amazing, something heavenly beyond mere words, one of the stars and in finished bottle was the glorious Reiterpfad Trocken, this is a dry Riesling so good, I even blurted out it was better than Raveneau! I had recent enjoyed a stunning bottle of Raveneau Montee and it was still fresh on my mind, and I can tell you, this Von Winning (Ruppertsberger) Reiterpfad Trocken is right up there with it, this is freakishly good stuff with wonderful steely mineral tones, lush textures and stylish length, it is crystalline, vivid, rich, but crisp and sharply focused. Native yeast, and fermented in cask, the Reiterpfad feels like a Premier Cru Chablis, but with pure Riesling soul and terroir character with lime blossom, tangerine, green apple, quince, lemony marmalade, peach/stone fruit along with sea salt, white tea, briny notes, wet stone and verbena. There’s exotic leesy density, hints of tropical essences that contrast well against the vigor, bright acids and tangy chalkiness in this stunning Riesling. Big thanks to Terry Theise the importer for introducing me to von Winning, and turning me on to their mind-blowing Sauvignon Blancs, and to Andreas Hutwohl of Von Winning’s talented team for showing me his wines and letting me take this Reiterpfad home to study! The brilliant Von Winning 2015’s are without a doubt, along with Donnhoff, Schaefer, Selbach and Loewen, are must haves, do not miss, in particular this fantastic Reiterpfad Trocken.
($37 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 21, 2016

2013TenuteRubinoMarmorelle2013 Tenute Rubino, Negramaro “Marmorelle Rosso” Salento, Italy.
From Primitive to Spumante, Tenute Rubino makes wonderfully crafted modern wines in the Salento region of southern Italy, and this juicy Negramaro is great example with depth of fruit, balance and textural harmony, showing dark fruits, spice and ripe satiny tannins. Tenute Rubino offers some of the best wine for the money, with traditional grapes and sharp packaging, Li Veli and Tenute Rubino are making Salento a very worthy for specialized wine tourism, reviving account varietals like Susumaniello as well as highlighting, in Tenute Rubino’s case, Brindisi terroir. The 2013 Negramaro Marmorelle Rosso IGT Salento with a touch of Black Malvasia to add a bit more flourish and aromatic complexity sees only a short spell in wood to give richness of detail while remaining fun, lively and pure, it displays lush plum, black cherry, raspberry and concord grape fruits with hints of cedar, pepper and mild lavender, lilac and sweet herb notes. This is a great party or house wine, super with outdoor cuisine, can even be served with a slight chill for BBQ’s in the summer months and full enough to stand up to robust foods, it’s a solid and pleasing red to quaff over the next year or so, simple, but worth your attention. Be sure to check out Tenute Rubino’s much more serious Punta Aquila Primitivo, it’s a wildly entertaining red that offers more intrigue and layers, very old vine Zin like in style, this is an impressive winery to look for.
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 20, 2016

2013RymePetNat2013 Ryme “Crackling Carignane” Pétillant-Naturel Sparkling Red Wine, Testa Vineyard, Mendocino.
Ryme Cellars is the husband and wife project by Ryan and Megan Glaab, both immensely talented winemakers with an amazing background in wine, even at such young ages and Ryme reflects that, it’s a young winery with an old soul, tasting their wines is a thrilling experience. They make a wide range of wines with no dogma or fashionable pretense, from Aglianico to “His” and “Hers” versions of Vermentino, these are wines of the earth, organic, natural and made with love of California terroir, but of old world (ancient) character, in other words they are a modern throwback with native yeasts, low sulfur, well used seasoned wood (neutral French) and without fining or filtration, with many of the reds fermented whole cluster and with stems and some of the whites seeing skin contact. That brings us to this wonderfully sensual and earthy old vine Carignane Pét-Nat sparkling red wine, a wine that has similarities to a robust Lambrusco, but deeper and more textural with vibrant tiny bubbles and zesty fizz, this is one of the most serious and impressive Pét-Nats I’ve every tasted, Megan explained that they left the dark Carignane on it’s lees for two years, which certainly added the complexity and depth, and while most opt for light and charming in Pét-Nat, Ryme is more like a cross of rustic Lambrusco from Emilia in Italy and Sparkling Shiraz from Australia, though the style is unique, highlighting the varietal and California origins. Dark berries, woodsy mushrooms, dried flowers and crisp spices lead away in this robust food craving sparkling red, it even has a meaty layer to go with plum, blackberry, cherry and blueberry fruits. Lingering currant, anise, porcini and pepper notes shine through and are lifted by the natural acidity and the soft bubbly mouse. This brilliant and joyous dry Crackling Carignane Pét-Nat should be served with an intense range of food, a spicy charcuterie plate, Turkish lamb or grilled meats and friends, especially as it is only available in pop-top big bottles!
($60 Magnum Only) 93 Points, grapelive

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