Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 16, 2017

2013WorkmanAyer2013 Workman Ayer, De Facto Red, Central Coast.
Michel Ayer’s Workman Ayer “de Facto” Red Rhone style blend is a ripe and decedent wine with a deep color and shaded with smoky/sweet French oak that comes across serious, but flirty/sexy on the palate, it is enjoyable and full bodied like the wines of Guigal and Jean-Luc Colombo, very late 90’s early 2000’s. Ayer’s sourced this 80% Syrah, 10% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre from three main sites in the Santa Barbara area, and the breakdown goes like this, 30% Los Alamos Syrah, 25% Ballard Canyon Syrah, 25% Santa Ynez Valley Syrah,10% Los Alamos Grenache and10% Los Alamos Mourvedre, there were a couple of different pick days as well then the wine was blended after fermentations, it was aged in 40% new oak for just under 2 years. Only 100 cases were bottled of the 2013 Workman Ayer, so it’s quite limited and is available through their website and a few wine stores and restaurants, it is very fairly priced considering the small production and quality in the bottle, it’s a sleek and modern artisan wine, rather big at 14.5%, but not over the top with a lot to admire, it’s hedonistic, rich/thick/chewy, spicy and structured. The nose is a mix of cassis liqueur, smoky/sweet wood and liquid violets, but with air the oak tames itself and more earthy/spicy and savory elements appear, the palate is full with black raspberry, boysenberry and blueberry pie filling along with mocha/bitter coco, fig sauce, anise, chalk dust and a hint peppery hot cinnamon, plus dried vanilla. This is a ripe/opulent and forward Syrah led blend with mostly supple tannins, but it does have some impressive muscle and just enough acidity to keeps this lively, this is a fun and easy to enjoy young wine, great with mushroom dishes, grilled meat street tacos, BBQ and or Turkish lamb, drink now.
($38 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 15, 2017

2014TourDuBonEnSol2014 Domaine de la Tour du Bon, Mourvedre, En-Sol, IGP Méditeranée, France.
What an astonishing wine, a gloriously pure Mourvedre from Domaine de la Tour du Bon’s Agnès Henry, this is certainly the wine to lift it out of the shadows cast by the more famous Domaine(s) Tempier and Terrebrune also imported by Kermit Lynch, it’s an old vine Bandol, 100% Mourvedre that was raised in amphora. Agnès was inspired by the wines of Guisto Occhipinti at COS and especially Elisabetta Foradori, who’s amphora wines are legendary and nuanced in such a way that you never get the funky/odd flavors that one sometimes find in natural or ancient method wines, but wines that are clear and vibrant with delicate detail and transparency. Henry’s estate in the hills to the northwest is perched up above the beautiful Mediterranean in it’s own micro climate with glorious sun filled days, but with cooling influencing breezes and nights that allow for good acidity and balance in the grapes, she farms all organic and ferments with indigenous yeasts with this En-Sol fermenting in clay/terracotta before being racked off into stainless tank for a few months before bottling, no fining or filtering was done, though I will be interested in how much skin contact and whether the grapes were all de-stemmed, as I would suspect as the wine is wonderfully round and charming even this young. This brilliant effort gives Bandol a new look and it’s gorgeous to the core, hopefully Henry will keep pursuing this niche and path, there is amazing potential in her style and her terroir is excellent with red soils, clay, limestone and sandstone allowing a vivid array of flavors. The 2014 En-Sol by Domaine de la Tour du Bon starts very similar to the COS Pithos with loamy notes along with red berries and mixed floral tones, bright and pretty, but then it starts to reveal it’s terroir and varietal purity with it’s forceful and tannic backbone, though there is a remarkable grace and velvety/silken coating to the tannins allowing the inner fruit core to shine in all it’s glory with black cherry, wild raspberry and loganberry layers along with lavender, mineral spice and chalky stones as well as lightly bitter anise, dusty plum, pepper, sweet pipe tobacco and rosewater. This Medium/full bodied and dark garnet/ruby red wine opens wide with air, it is ever changing and complex, while showing a subtle elegance and tangy/linging length, time and food is what is needed here for maximum joy, though it is good and magical on it’s own, I can’t even guess on aging potential, but safely can say best from 2018 to 2024, this wine is super or as I would say hyper-limited, but well worth searching out, but even if you cannot find it or afford it, be sure to check out all the Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol offerings, in particular Ms Henry’s stunning Bandol Rose and single vineyard Saint Ferreol Bandol Rouge!
($75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 14, 2017

2015ClapeAmis2015 Domaine Auguste Clape, Vin de France Rouge “Le Vin des Amis” Rhone, France.
The beautiful and old school 100% Syrah Clape Le Vin des Amis comes from near Cornas and is from 40+ year old vines set on galets or river stones, so it doesn’t have quite the intensity of the pure granite sites, but that said, this is a pure and deeply colored joy of a wine that is one of the great secrets in the wine world! Auguste the patriarch , Pierre-Marie the main man and winemaker and now Olivier the grandson at the famed and historic Domaine A. Clape, which was founded back some 250 years ago, are three generations working together to make some of the world’s most sought after wines, in fact Auguste, the former mayor of Cornas, was the first to bottle his own estate made wine in Cornas, paving the way for the following generations and now Cornas is now thought of in the same way Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Cote-Rotie were and are. Clape does five wines, the top being their Cornas, as well as a second Cornas, the Renaissance, the all Marsanne Saint Peray Blanc, a 100% Syrah Cotes-du-Rhone and this Le Vin des Amis that comes from a tiny 1 hectare site, it is a spicy, earthy and fresh red that has terroir character of the region as is a great way to start exploring the Clape lineup. The 2015 Clape Le Vin des Amis is ripe and round on the palate with a deep garnet and purple hue that starts with a mix of crushed violets, lavender oil, black and green olives, peppercorns and tart currants. There is a hint of game/meat, iron, leather, but in the mouth you get blueberry, boysenberry and a touch of cassis. This little Syrah was fermented in cement and raised six months in the concrete vat or cuves then another six months in old foudres, 1,200L French oak casks, the grapes were native yeast fermented and mostly all whole cluster that gives that stemmy green spice, with a touch of celery to the background and a cinnamon/baking spice note. The Le Vin des Amis is a wonderful example of Syrah and place, I love this vintage, maybe my favorite since 2010, it lingers with hints of black salted licorice, blackberry and a mineral/stony/earthy essence that is both humble and darkly sexy, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 13, 2017

2012FeketeBelaJuhfark2012 Fekete Bela, Juhfark, Somlo, Hungary.
At 92 years old, and celebrating his 57th harvest, “Uncle Bela” Fekete Bela is the grand old man of the volcano, hand crafting white wines from this basalt and mineral rich soils in the Fehervari (Cru) zone of the Somlo region of Hungary. Bela only does whites, Furmint, Harslevelu, Olaszrizling and this rare, only found in Hungary, Juhfark which is a gorgeous mineral driven terroir influenced white with bright detail and a brisk dry fresh/fleshy character that is slightly unexpected from a wine that is aged two years in cask before bottling and resting another year in bottle before release, but such is the greatest of Fekete Bela wines, they are lovely/lively and with depth and balance, achieved by listening to his vines and applying his vast experience and passion into making them glorious wine. He dry farms his grapes and uses no chemicals, all of his wines are naturally fermented with absolutely no additions in the cellar, in fact local traditions and winemaking here in the mound of an ancient volcano date back to 1093, though less commercial winemaking most likely was taking place here long before that, and tradition, in fact law was very strict concerning production and quality, back in 1752 it was written into the local law that no addition of even water was allowed, punishable by public lashings! So “Uncle Bela” is very careful to keep yields up in the vineyards to allow for careful harvests that gives more acidity to his grapes and less sugars, this seems very different to modern thought, but his wines are brilliant and stylish with layers of crisp flavors that are enhanced, not burdened by the extended time in 1200L Hungarian oak casks, similar to the Rieslings of Germany that are raised in Stuckfass. The 2012 Juhfark, looks set to be the second to last harvest for the rumored to be retiring Bela, is a beauty, more vibrant than the 2011 I last tasted, and with wonderful precision as well as subtle density and extract, it was left on the lees without batonage and the finesse shows here, allowing a rich mouth feel, but vital and vigorous.The nose is Riesling like, but showing it’s volcanic spiciness along with fresh citrus, tropical notes and tangy stone fruits, this iron/steel white feels light to medium bodied and is amazingly dynamic for it’s age, very youthful, as well as having a hint of chalk/stones, bitter herbs, white cherry, kiwi/mango, a hint of almond, delicate florals and tart lemon/lime. This is a white wine of inner energy and class, unique and with a tense of history and place, imported by Blue Danube Wine Company, the wines of Fekete Bela should be cherished while we can, drink this Juhfark over the next 3 to 5 years.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 12, 2017

2013JMCPV2013 J. McClelland Cellars, Petit Verdot, Napa Valley.
The beautifully purple black and garnet/ruby Petit Verdot by the recently launched J. McClelland Cellars, a new Napa Winery project by the Scotto Family who have brought two of Napa Valley’s cherished sons together to make an interesting series of limited production hand crafted wines. Old timer and Napa guru John McClelland, with a career spanning 57 years has been the prssident or GM at wineries like Geyer Peak, Alderbrook and even Almaden has joined the Scotto’s along with Napa’s Mitch Cosentino, a long time Napa favorite and native son winemaker, these two along with the talents of Paul Scotto, director of winemaking for the Scotto family and producer himself of small lot wines from old vines in the Sierra Foothills are making some really cool stuff, including this Petit Verdot and even a Calistoga sourced Charbono, all the wines are under 600 cases. The Oak Knoll District J. McClelland Cellars Petit Verdot, 90% Petit Verdot with 10 % Malbec from the opulent 2013 vintage is a rich and forward Napa wine with ripe details and sweet/smoky oak giving a decadence and clean modern density on the palate with blackberry, cherry, blueberry and currant compote fruit along with natural peppery/briar spice, floral tones, vanilla and lingering violet liqueur. This is what I remember about Mitch Cosentino’s style, lots of sweet fruit and backed up with dry spiciness, this wine tastes like if you took St. Emilion, a Mendoza Malbec and a Napa Cabernet all mixed into one wine, it shows refined, but firm tannin in a full bodied pleasing red wine, I’d say it falls a bit flat on the mid palate as sometimes the case with both Malbec and Petit Verdot in California, though over all it gives a solid experience and performance, best with cheeses and or grilled meats or duck breast. Petit Verdot, one of the Bordeaux varietals, as is Malbec are not easy grapes to grow, and it almost never is used as a single grape wine, it usually is added in small amounts to add color, floral notes and spice, but here it works pretty well, drink over the next 2 to 3 years.
($40 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 11, 2017

2014jobardblanc2014 Domaine Antoine Jobard, Bourgogne Blanc, France.
Seriously seductive and gorgeous even now, without decanting, straight from bottle and un-chilled cellar temp. this Jobard Bourgogne Blanc 2014 leap from the glass with grace and poised intensity with white flowers, hazelnut and bright mineral detail, this is wonderful Chardonnay. Coming off four single blocks Herbeaux, En l’Ormeau, La Monatine, and Sous la Velle of organic 20 year old vines on classic clay and limestone around Meursault the Domaine Antoine Jobard Bougogne Blanc is a vibrant and stylish example of finely crafted wine, aged sur lie in barrel with beautiful acidity to match the rich leesy texture. These 2014 basic White Burgundies from Roulot and Jobard are stunning and offer tremendous value and quality, especially when you consider their pedigree and wow factor, in particular I found the Jobard a thrilling wine that maybe a bit better at this stage, if you were ever interested in what the fuss was about hand crafted white Burgundy and wanted to sample a prime expression of terroir driven Chardonnay, then you’d find all your answers in a wine such as this, Antoine has it nailed in 2014! The Jobard Bourgogne Blanc has a brilliant pale yellow/golden hue, that most certainly catch even Donald Trump’s fancy, leading to a decedent and vivid palate of crisp stony, almost Chablis like vitality with white peach, apple and lime unfolding brightly and with tangy and lengthy lemon curd, golden fig, spicy liquid mineral/steely element and mouth filling brioche/lessy note. Gaining richness throughout, but staying lively and with savory tones and saline there is a underlying brisk nature that keeps everything lifted and focused, this is poised and energy filled Chardonnay at it’s best, drink over the next 3 to 7 years, impressive to the point of obsession!
($48 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 10, 2017

2014durochegcclos2014 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Clos” Red Burgundy, France.
The Duroche Gevrey Les Clos is a stylish and deep red Burgundy with classic Cote de Nuits dark fruit character and even as young as it is shows remarkably well with palate density and complex vitality. This was an impressive find for Beaune Imports and one of the stars of their Fall portfolio tasting in San Francisco, I had never tried Domaine Duroche prior to this and I’ll be sure keep an eye out for them now, from what I have read, the estate has mostly holdings within Gevrey-Chambertin with a number of Village, Premier Cru and a few Chambertin Grand Cus, including a slice of Lavaut St. Jacques and Beze with the wines now being made by 5th generation winemaker Pierre Duroche, who recently took over from his father Gilles after the 2008 vintage. Pierre’s wines have, as I discovered, a sense of intensity and depth that put them in that elite group of Burgundy that demand your attention and move you with emotion, these are special wines of great class and grace, I would put them somewhere between Mortet and Armand Rousseau, which is high praise and a statement to the quality I tasted here. I tried the 2014 Gevrey-Chambertin (basic) along with Pierre’s gorgeous, but tight 2014 Lavaux St. Jacques Premier Cru Gevrey and of which I might write more about later, as well as this Village Les Clos Gevrey-Chambertin that was showing somewhat more open and expressive on the day with floral notes, spicy black fruit and subtle earthy tones. The poise and restrained tension gives the impression of controlled power and while satiny on the palate there is a good structure and grip to found in Duroche’s Gevrey-Chambertin Les Clos, it was all de-stemmed, native yeast fermented and saw about 20% new oak, pretty standard in artisan Burgundy, but the terroir and nature of place really shines in this wine and it makes an instant impact, this is serious stuff. The palate flows in velvety layers, even with the youthful acidity and tannins with black cherry, currant, tangy plum and bright raspberry fruits form the core here along with mineral and subtle earth, tea and baking spices, light wood notes, dried violets, rosewater and touch of game. Drink this lovely Burgundy from 2018 to 2030, this is a Domaine to start following, Pierre’s wines put to shame lots of wines that cost twice the price!
($57 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 9, 2017

2014meofixin2014 Meo-Camuzet Freres & Soeurs, Fixin, Bourgogne Rouge, France.
An average to very good, but not great entry level red Burgundy from one of my favorite producers Meo-Camuzet, this open knit and bright Fixin gives just enough to make it desirable, though I must admit I usually have higher expectations than I really have for the less expensive Meo’s. I always just to buy a few bottles of the Meo Bourgogne, the Meo Marsannay, which is most often my choice, and the the Meo Fixin, this 2014 (and all the Meo’s) saw a pretty good price jump and a tight allocation, so I was lucky to get a basic Bourgogne and sadly no Marsannay or Fixin, but luck shined and a friend got some and shared a bottle to check out the vintage, so I got a chance to taste and see it over more than a few minutes. The Meo-Camuzet Fixin is from non estate vines and shows ripe and pure fruit, clear and vibrant with a slight edgy and earthy side, but is far less reductive at this stage than the last 2 or 3 vintages, allowing a good first impression, even though it falls a bit flat on the finish, best to give this set of 2014’s another 2 to 3 years to fill out. I can certainly see the promise of the vintage here with dark fruits, mineral tones and floral/spiciness, and being a big Meo fan I can happily drink this Fixin and enjoy it for what it is, though at this price there are other much more interesting wines out there, though maybe if I get the chance to re-visit this Fixin in 5 years time I’d find a beauty, tough to say. Pretty rose petal, baking spices, cedar and red berry fruit lead the way, leading to a core of black cherry, tart currant and forest floor with hint of grilled orange, tea, cola and anise. This light to medium bodied Pinot Noir teases with you, but never really gets to the next level leaving you with a smile, though not a big huge grin. Well made though, with silky form and vivid youthful acidity, hopefully it will gain with some time in bottle and shine in a few years, we will see, I think Burgundy collectors should invest in the Domaine offerings in the Premier Cru and Grand Cru level for this vintage, the rewards look to be bigger, even though the prices are terrifying outrageous, with the vintages and meager crops in Burgundy there is sadly not many super bargains to be had. Again, not trying to be overly critical, as this is a nice little wine that I would happily drink, but I certainly would go for Meo’s Oregon wine, the Nicolas-Jay, first given the choice, as it is far more exciting, complex and deep, especially the 2014, which I re-tasted on the same day with this Fixin.
($50-60 Est.) 87-90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 8, 2017

2004mathernspat2004 Weingut Mathern, Riesling Spatlese, Niederhauser Hermannshole, Nahe Germany.
Wow, what a treat this 2004 Spatlese by Mathern is, this vintage never gets old tasting and almost always over performs considering the never hyped growing conditions or media buzz, and recently I have tried some spectacular from this year, including Kruger-Rumpf and now this one, from a winery I have almost no experience with, even though it has been part of the Terry Theise portfolio and I missed when I visited the Nahe in October. Mother shares some of greatest vineyard space as the famed Donnhoff, and this Mathern Spatlese comes from Niederhauser Hermannshole, yes that Hermannshole, that wondrous site on the Nahe that everyone should speak of in the same sacred way they do about Le Montrachet or Corton-Charlemagne, this is a holy site for white wine in the same way. Okay, Mathern is not Donnhoff and comparing would not be right or fair, but this is a lovely mature Riesling of pedigree and class, showing a grey slate influenced palate and true/pure terroir character, it’s a classic old school Spatlese with exotic tropical flair and lively form that makes for a compelling example of off dry, don’t fear the sweetness, Riesling with just the right amount of sexy mouth feel and low toned acidity to charm and almost thrill you. Why have Spatlese and Auslese become dirty words in modern times is beyond me, they are gifts from God or nature if you like and joyous to experience, people need to get over it, and that is coming from a dry Riesling freak, especially when it comes to aged Riesling, you’ll be so rewarded if you stash away Spatlese and Auslese, and for what pleasure you receive they are some of the greatest bargains in the wine world… Enough preaching, either you get it or you are too stupid to convince, sort of like do you see beauty in the world or just dollar signs, and it’s okay if you are not into Riesling dry or sweet, that’s fine, but these are still some of the best wines in the world. The Mathern 2004 is very expressive and bursts from the glass instantly with floral and the mentioned tropical essences leading the way with a hint of honey and flinty spice, it’s slightly orange tinged golden hue makes you think thick and dense, while the palate feels alive and bright getting fresher with every sip. Pretty rose petal, honeydew and baked apricot unfold in this Spatlese with touches of white fig, a cherry note and wet stones as well as salted caramel, mango and lychee. This is simply a lovely and refined semi sweet wine that can be enjoyed purely on it’s own, easy to understand and with graceful richness/lush textures, but stylish enough to be not cloy, finishing with clarity of purpose and with enough brightness to hold your interest, drink now.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 7, 2017

2015arnotrobertspnclary2015 Arnot-Roberts, Pinot Noir, Clary Ranch, Sonoma Coast.
The six barrel cuvee of 2015 Clary Ranch Pinot by Arnot-Roberts is a beauty, sometimes we forget to talk about how good the Arnot-Roberts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are, when there is their fabulous Syrah, Trousseau and the RPM Gamay Noir around, but this last tasting with Duncan Meyers and Nathan Roberts left me mind-blown with their haunting and gorgeous Pinots. The two new releases from the tiny 2015 vintage look set to be unicorn wines and classics, both this wine, the Clary Ranch Sonoma Coast and the Peter Martin Ray Vineyard old vine Santa Cruz Mountains are fantastic terroir expressions of Pinot Noir with layers you expect from Burgundy and with elegant finessed detail, especially since they are such young wines, they are wonderfully expressive and exceptionally pleasing. Duncan Meyers also poured a special library wine from Magnum, of course it’s not available sadly, but it truly left me dumbstruck, it was a 2012 Arnot-Roberts Coastlands Vineyard Pinot Noir, seriously one of the best California Pinot Noirs I’ve ever had! And these 2015 wines are not far off and should be almost as good with a few years in bottle, in particular the Peter Martin Ray, which is more intense and nervy, needs time to develop, though it was pretty spectacular already, and this more delicate Clary Ranch should gain as well with 2 to 5 years in bottle. The 2015 Clary Ranch Pinot by Arnot-Roberts starts with loam, mineral and rose petal on the nose with a impression of blue fruits, it’s hue glows bright ruby with a garnet core before a vibrant palate of tangy cherry, wild plum and dusty raspberry fruits along with hints of earthy spices, briar elements, blood orange tea, a hint of smoke and soft oak shadings. Where this wine shines is in it’s energy and it’s mouth feel, refined acidity and silky length of flavors. The native yeast fermentations and careful sorting gives ripe/richness, but with remarkably low natural alcohol at 12% making for a lively and fresh style of Pinot that lacks for nothing in complexity and depth, lingering with strawberry, cinnamon/anise, stones and floral notes. These Pinots by Arnot-Roberts are lovely artisan wines that have reached the next level, these are serious offerings to be cherished, wonderfully pure and transparent, showing a sense of place and reserved style, patience too will be rewarded, drink from 2020-2028.
($82 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

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