2011 Domaine du Gapillon D’Or 1806, Gigondas, Rhone Valley Red, France.
The Chauvet family’s Grapillon D’Or estate is one of the classic properties of Gigondas, and it is an old school wine of great character and rustic charms. I’ve been a fan of this wine since the late nineties and have almost never been disappointed with this lovely and spicy style Gigondas, and this 2011 is a super example of why we love old world Grenache with loads of pepper, earth and dusty stones adding to the sweet fruit essence. The 2011 Domaine Grapillon D’Or 1806 starts with dried flowers, game, raspberry, chalk rock and cracked peppercorn with a deep garnet/red color and framboise note, leading to a sweet and savory palate of boysenberry, spiced plum, strawberry, pomegranate and cherry jellies along with licorice, lavender, all spice/herbs and gravel with touches of saline and grilled meat. Everything unfolds in a pleasing manner and there is no hint of wood, and the balance of earth, spice and fruit is near perfect, this is delicious Rhone red wine. This classy and stylish Gigondas, coming in at 14.5% from 2011’s ripe vintage is not overly polished or refined, but still does everything you’d want and maybe a bit more, drink over the next few years, best from 2014 to 2018. I was glad to recapture some fond memories and taste the latest from Grapillon, founded in 1806, as the new label plainly states now, and it is great to see this long time champion of traditional style Gigondas remaining faithful and of great quality, this is really interesting old school Grenache that beats expectations.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Lester Family Vineyards at Deer Park, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Richard Alfaro does a wonderful selection of non estate Cru bottling, these include a Schultze Family Vineyards, a Garys’ Vineyard farmed by the Franscioni and Pisoni Families, and this stunning Lester Family Vineyards at Deer Park Pinot Noir. These compliment his own estate and Trout Gulch offering that he farms with his crew and his own hands, and of which I have mentioned many many times here, all of the wines Alfaro makes are great and worthy of searching out. The new release of Lester Family Vineyards at Deer Park is a rich and opulent Pinot with a gorgeous ruby/red hue and wonderful bouquet of rose oil, incense, mocha, red fruits and baking spices leading to a lush, silky full palate of raspberry, plum and cherry fruits with touches of cinnamon stick, cedar, tangy currant, smoke and earthy/loamy notes. This wine feels decedent and layered with smooth refined tannins, but there is plenty of vigor and lift too with acidity and drive adding balance and grace to this Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noir. The wine opens nicely and gives waves of pleasure, sweet fruit, nuance and finesse with a lovely strawberry and truffle/wild mushroom component coming through along with spice, dried flowers and mineral tones with a whiff of toasty wood. The Lester Family at Deer Park is a real jewel, it shows loads of character and depth, but is stylish and only about 13.5% alcohol making for a focused and dynamic offering from a winery already on a roll with 2012 and 2013 wines that are glorious, drink this one from 2014 to 2021.
($40 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2012 Matthiasson, Refosco, Matthiasson Estate Vineyard, Oak Knoll, Napa Valley.
One of Napa’s top vineyard managers, Steve Matthiasson is making a name for himself as a winemaker, and his estate wines are some of Napa Valley’s most interesting and unique wines, especially this rare northern Italian grape Refosco bottling. This was the first time trying this opulent and unique red from Matthiasson, and I can tell you it was a stylish and wonderful experience, this is super stuff with dark fruit, hints of herb, spice and mineral. Refosco, found mostly in Friuli, Colli Orientali Italy, but is also widely planted in Slovenia and even Croatia, it is a tannic and identified by it’s red stems, making for powerful and sometimes very rustic wines, though modern and gentile winemaking has tamed this varietal in recent decades. Refosco has been around for a very long time, it seems to be first praised in the first century by Roman writer Pliny the Elder, it is mentioned in his text as a famous good wine, and the Hapsburgs are said to have built a railway from Austria to the Trieste region to have the wine transported! And now Matthiasson is creating a new chapter for Refosco here in Napa Valley, and after having it for the first time recently, I think it is a success and should be celebrated! The 2012 Matthiasson Refosco starts with a Gamay meets Syrah character with an extra kick of tannin making for a quite serious and powerful red, showing red cherry, blackberry, plum and strawberry fruits along with rocky/mineral, dried flowers, hints of game, truffle and sweet tea, plus minty herbs, anise, blueberry and tangy currant notes. There is a touch of wood with cedar notes and the wine coats the palate and is very full and round, almost creamy in feel, this is classy stuff and well crafted, drink from 2015 to 2022. (Please note the image above is not the Refosco label which is white with blue)
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Sandlands, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua’s own label Sandlands is gaining traction and this new set of releases are stunning, especially the Soberanes Syrah which is showing the true potential and character of this Pisoni farmed vineyard. Tegan is the head vineyard manager and winemaker for Turley Cellars and has a true gift for old vines and unique varietals, this a hard working talented winegrower and under his own label Sandland he explores a more delicate and raw style of crafting his wines, though all the latest wines are full of flavor, deep in profile and wonderfully poised and balanced. This 2012 Soberanes Syrah from Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands is a cool climate, northern Rhone style wine, it is stunningly terrific with violets and pepper on the nose, blueberries, boysenberry, tangy currant/cassis and juicy plum fruits to start the palate along with hints of sage, licorice, chalky/stones, briar, bacon/cured meat, cedar and black olives, finishing long and with a lovely play of sweet and savory on the aftertaste. This expressive and intriguing Syrah (only 13.2% Alcohol) is full of intensity, vibrancy and vigor, but still gives fine detail and finessed class, of all the great Syrah coming from this site, this has shown the most harmony and should age wonderfully for another 3 to 5 years and beyond. Tegan Passalaqua’s Sandlands wine are a must find, don’t miss this one if you are a Syrah fan, and the this whole cluster, native yeast, Alban clone version from Soberanes is a star, an impressive example of winemaking, site and vintage!
($48 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine du Vissoux, Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes, Cuvee Traditionnelle, France.
Pierre-Marie Chermette’s Vissoux old vine Beaujolais is a Gamay wonderland and one of the best non Crus I’ve ever tried, this is serious and beautiful wine that offers joyous fruit and intriguing complexities. The 2013 Pierre-Marie Domaine du Vissoux Cuvee Tradittionnelle Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes starts with a deep garnet/purple hue that shines brilliantly in the glass, with a opulent palate of fine detail and subtle density displaying black cherry, plum, blackberry, strawberry and sweet currant along with hints of pepper, minty/anise, walnut oil and salted/chalk stones. Made with organic grapes and low sulphur, Pierre-Marie Chermette is hand crafting his wines in the style of Lapierre, Foillard, Julien Sunier and others that have made Beaujolais a worthy companion to Burgundy and a fantastic world class region. This wine especially is a fabulous value, richly flavored, transparently spun and gloriously delicious, this is a Gamay of class and finessed charms, don’t miss this one if you are a fan of this varietal, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Alfredo Maestro Tejero, Tinto Castrillo de Duero, Spain.
Coming from 70+ year old Tinto Fino (100% Tempranillo) grown at elevation on clay, loamy soils in Burgos, Ribera del Duero from a single vineyard parcel called La Ladera using all natural techniques and about 20% whole cluster in fermentation. I always am drawn to this wine and have been a fan for many years now, this is special stuff from a great guy and super winemaker. A Ribera del Duero, though because of his rebellious nature, Alfredo Maestro chooses not to label it as such after lengthy arguments with Ribera del Duero rule makers, but if anything that even makes this wine even more interesting and noteworthy. Alfredo follows his own path and passions in making his natural wines and should be admired for crafting wines of unique distinction and quality, and this Tinto, made from very old all organic Tempranillo vines and no new wood is beautiful, detailed and rich in flavor. The nose is spice and plumy with red fruits, figs and cedar notes leading to a palate of dark cherry, blackberry and currant fruits with licorice and English toffee notes. This lush and refined Tempranillo is graceful, with smooth tannins, round texture and a lengthy finish.
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com
2013 Christian Venier, Cheverny, Les Hauts de Madon, Loire Valley Red, France.
This crisp and spicy loire red is lovely and fresh with tangy red fruits, lifting acidity, mineral notes and soft fine tannins, making for a stylish and easy drinking wine. Christian Venier’s Cheverny is a cuvee of Gamay and Pinot Noir from near his home in Madon, and this pretty wine was completely new to me, a big thanks to Stevie and Josiah at Oakland’s cool wine store and wine hangout Bay Grape for turning me on to this one, I love it and will be getting a few more bottles for sure. It is funny, as I get more wine than I can go through, and certainly can never begin to make notes for them all, but sometimes you just need something different to enjoy for yourself, and this wine really hit the spot, this is really delicious and interesting. At 12% is was very enjoyable and I was able to have a few glasses and still have plenty of energy, it shows strawberry, cherry and plum fruits along with peppery spice, a hint of chalk and saline plus tea, cinnamon and violets. This Gamay/Pinot is very quaffable and is great with food, lighter fare especially, it is not overtly fruity and while brisk at first sip, opens nicely and turns delightfully smooth and more complex with air. More Gamay comes through in the glass, but the Pinot structure and brightness stays start to finish, this is a name to watch for wonderful drinking vibrant and vivid Loire wine, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($21 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Alfredo Maestro, Albillo “Lovamor” White, Castilla y Leon, Spain.
This rare varietal, Albillo, makes for a unique and interesting white wine, especially in the hands of Alfredo Maestro, a brilliant natural winemaker that uses old vines and a gifted touch to create handcrafted wines near the Ribera del Duero region. The Lovamor white is brisk and full of live and extract showing citrus, chalky minerals, hints of tropical essence and white peach in a tangy dry style with a salty edge. Coming from organic and dry farmed vines, the Alfredo Maestro Albillo made with some skin contact and aged in neutral vats, without sulphur and wild yeast fermentation. These wild vines are between 110 and 120 years old on limestone, giving intensity and regal class to this beautiful and savory white, plus the 6 day skin contact adds a golden color and exotic twist. The finish is surprising long and has spring flowers, dried herbs and orange peel. Alfredo Maestro is one of the best at natural wines in Spain, and his wines really make an impression, you really should check them out, and especially his Tinto’s from old vines, which are mostly Tempranillo, but also some Garnacha from near Ribera del Duero and also the Madrid region, these are lovely expressions of place.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com
2013 Eva Fricke, Riesling, Trocken, Rheingau Germany.
Eva Fricke’s basic QbA Trocken is stylish, zippy and dusty dry with yellow peach, lime, grapefruit, green apple and mango notes along with sizzling acidity, mineral tones and salted gravel. A recent glass at the Slanted Door convinced me again, Fricke is a talent to be followed and her wines are chiseled from the soils of her terroir. This fresh and vibrant young Riesling is very charming now with firm serve character and a surprising amount of natural extract, making it a wonderful food wine, but less a fruity sipper, best to pair it up with something enjoyable and take in the subtle nuances, as the wine unfolds in the glass, this is a serious glass of dry Riesling that can match up to almost any food option you can throw at it, including ginger beef! I really am impressed with all of Eva Fricke’s offering for 2013, which was a rather more difficult vintage in Germany, compared to 2012 and 2011, and her wines seem to not have missed a beat, in fact, I think I like the 2013’s a little better at this stage than her 2011 and 2012 wines, those I think need a bit more time to evolve yet. The weathered slate and quartzite earth of her region on the mighty Rhein shine through and the winemaking is focused on intensity and dry quality Rieslings of distinction, drink this Rheingau Trocken from 2015 to 2022.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Piedrasassi, Syrah, Santa Barbara County.
Sashi Moorman’s Piedrasassi label is home to some of California’s most exciting Syrah, and this new vintage, 2012 Santa Barbara County is wonderful and extremely northern Rhone in style, dare I say very Cornas, with deep complexity, stem inclusion and spicy character. While the Syrah is the main focus, Sashi has been experimenting with Sangiovese and a unique skin contact white made from Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino, both of which are interesting and very tasty, as well Moorman makes the Stolpman Vineyards wines, plus his project with Raj Parr, Domaine de la Cote, crafting Pinot Noir. The latest Piedrasassi Syrah starts with blueberry, violets, black olives and dried celery seed and pepper leading to a palate of boysenberry, tangy plum, blackberry and cherry fruits along with mineral, earth and basil/licorice with a hint of cedar and briar. This is thrilling stuff, well judged and with a beautiful dark garnet hue, you can drink it now and or age it a few years, this wine is very worthy of your interest and will deliver an evening of rewarding Syrah. The nice cool climate firmness and non aggressive alcohol and vibrancy really keep the energy and focus, this is top drawer California Syrah, drink from 2015 to 2021.
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive