2013 Arianna Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco Terre Siciliane IGT, Sicily, Italy.
What more is there to say, Occhipinti is on a roll, and Arianna’s wines are of great interest all over the world from New York, California and other wine hot spots in the USA to many cities in Europe and even in Asia, in fact on my last trip to Sweden I found Arianna Occhipinti’s wines in remote small villages there, quite remarkable for such a small winery in Sicily. She is a star, not just with the Natural Wine crowd, as mentioned in prior reviews of her wines, she fan base is wide and covers many generations, her wines have mass appeal and her charm and charisma has inspired many a young winemaker, she has send her ideas and concepts far beyond what you’d think was possible. And regardless of the hype and mystic surrounding Arianna, her wines are honest and show an earthy flair with intriguing qualities and character, especially her latest set of wines, and her SP68 Bianco (white) stands out as stylish, perfumed and seductive. The SP68 Bianco is a Zibibbo based cuvee, it is wonderful dry and has a great play between it’s floral intensity and savory elements, Zibibbo is a native varietal that is also known as Muscat of Alexandria which in turn is related closely to Muscat or Muskateller, it is a very aromatic grape that is also enjoyed as a table grape, it does particularly well in hot climates and while it is best known for sweeter styles of wine it does when farmed right produce a fine drier style of wine, and Arianna’s is delightful, soulful and detailed. The nose is a wonderland of jasmine, white rose, geranium, rosemary and salty bin with a chalky essence and crisp medium weighted palate, this is exotic and addictive in the glass, and this 2013 is the best yet in my opinion, with deep complexity and less funky/resiny, in the past the pine needle notes could be oppressive, but in this vintage a marvelous balance is evident and juicy citrus and tropical fruits lead the way, lemon/lime, tangerine and light mango notes along with that liquid flowers, mineral spice and earthy herbs. This soft golden/yellow hued white is pure Sicily in the glass and would be fabulous with their local cuisine, and is a perfect summer and or spicy seafood wine, drink now, from 2014 to 2018.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($26.95)
2011 Domaine Meo-Camuzet, Bourgogne Blanc Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, Clos Saint-Philibert Monopole, White Burgundy, France.
As a huge fan and admirer of Meo-Camuzet, one of Burgundy’s great producers, especially their reds, it was great to re-taste their rare domaine owned vineyard white, the Clos Saint-Philibert Monopole, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, which it turns out is very stylish and lovely Chardonnay. The Clos Saint-Philibert is from an exclusive site planted in the early nineties on a mix of soils with clay, limestone and gravel, it is extremely rare and an exceptional value in today’s sky high Burgundy reality. Meo-Camuzet were long guided by great hands including Henri Jayer, who even mentored the current head of the estate/domaine Jean-Nicolas Meo, who himself has run and made the wines since the late eighties. The white from Meo is focused and sharp, clear and persistent with classic aromas and layers, starting with white flowers, citrus and honeyed nuts leading to a fine and medium weight palate of apple, pear, lemon and white peach along with steely mineral, wet river stone, clove, fig and subtle wood notes with an almost green melon feel and bright acidity. This graceful and vivid, greenish-golden hued Chardonnay is impressive now, highlighting the generous nature of the 2011 vintage, but has the structure and detail to age well for another 5 to 7 years at least, drink from 2014 to 2021, this is beautiful wine.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($39.95)
N.V. Nicolas Maillart, Rose Brut, Grand Cru Champagne, Ecueil, France.
The gorgeous Maillart Grand Cru Rose is an opulent cuvee of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from 100% Grand Cru fruit with minimal dosage giving a rich sparkling wine with loads of vigor, energy and dry feel, this is glorious, dreamy and elegantly crafted. This beautiful and rare handcrafted Champagne was very first experience with this exciting producer and artisan winemaker Nicolas Maillart, and I’m thrilled by his bubbly and can’t wait to try more, this was a great showing and a remarkable find, be sure to check this Champagne house out when you get the chance, especially this majestic Brut Rose. The nose is toasty/yeasty with hints of cherry and strawberry along with crisp citrus and mineral notes leading to a perfectly defined and focused palate of fine beading creamy mouse, hazelnut, steely/stones, truffle, kirsch, pink citrus, fig and clove spice. Everything is alive, vivid and lifting both electric and like floating on a cloud, with an inner peace, grace and harmony, along with a crispness and lingering finish making for an intriguing and seductive non vintage Champagne of worthy Grand Cru implications, this is sublime stuff, drink now and often!
($62 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2012 Yann Chave, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone Red, France.
I’ve always loved the Yann Chave Crozes, it was one of my first crushes in the northern Rhone, and the wine has evolved along with my tastes perfectly over the years, and it was fantastic to taste the latest release from Yann Chave. The 2012 Crozes-Hermitage is forward and grappy at first, but opens to reveal added depth and complexity, this is very stylish Syrah and while it drinks great right now even, it should be a solid performer over the next 10 years. The nose is pure and layered with violets, black fruit, minty herbs and a hint of bacon, char and pepper leading to a full and vibrant palate of plum, boysenberry, blueberry and currant fruits along with fresh meat, melted black licorice, lavender oil and kirsch plus subtle camphor, truffle, slate/stones and cedar notes. This is very pleasing Syrah and an exciting young wine, I highly recommend searching this one out, it is always a tough find retail wise, but worth it as the price is super for what you get in the glass and in the bottle, again this is a sublime and brilliant effort from Yann Chave, drink from 2014 to 2024.
($28 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Arianna Occhipinti, Il Frappato DOC, Sicilia, Italy.
The new Occhipinti’s are fabulous wines, some of the best yet from the captivating Arianna Occhipinti, the face of the natural wine movement and one of the most interesting characters in the wine world. The 2012 Il Frappato is super fresh, bright and full of the fruity quality Arianna’s fans adore, this is delicious stuff. Pure and juicy with a light ruby color and a mix of fruit flavors including wild strawberry, lingonberry, mulberry and framboise along with hints of lavender, basil, wet gravel and a touch of candied orange rind. This clear and transparent wine shows the loving touch and playfulness of Occhipinti’s style, but the lingering finish appeals to even hardcore Burgundy fans, it is wonderfully balanced with silky tannins and lifting acidity all in a stylish medium weight wine, drink from 2014 to 2018. Look for added layers, and some earthy evolution and density to develop over the next year or so in bottle, be sure to cellar carefully to elicit the best rewards from this delicate wine, Frappato is a gentle and charming grape and Arianna Occhipinti is one of it’s great champions, don’t miss her latest release.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($39.95)
2012 Silvestri, Syrah “Red Ranger” Estate, Carmel Valley.
One of the best reds from Carmel Valley is Alan Silvestri’s estate Syrah, and this reserve or barrel selection called the Red Ranger, especially good in this vintage and noticeably more distinct than the normal estate bottling. Silvestri is and was inspired by the wines of the northern Rhone Valley of France and I know personally he studied extensively many a Cote-Rotie, Hermitage and Cornas! When he planted his tiny Carmel Valley estate vineyard there were not many that went to way of Syrah, but he has put out some very good wines and I really love what he has done with both these Syrah and the new planting of Barbera. The 2012 Silvestri Red Ranger Syrah is rich and dense, but still with nice acidity and reliable tannins showing plenty of vigor and structure, there is a hint of floral and pepper notes on the nose leading to damson plum, meat and kirsch along with blueberry, boysenberry and earth on the palate while there are hints of anise, cedar, bacon and tangy currants. There is a good opening and evolution in the glass with air, this wine is still wound up and young, and when mature it will reveal more cassis, mocha and earthy tones, with a slightly chalky/mineral note in the background, this is solid impressive stuff, drink from 2015 to 2019.
($45 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Peter Lauer, Riesling “Barrel X” Ayl, Saar (Mosel) Germany.
The family Lauer own a hotel and restaurant in Ayl on the Saar River and run a small winery next door, the Weingut Peter Lauer makes mostly dry style wines and almost everything is from the famous Ayler Kupp mountain home to distinct parcels and terroirs that have wonderful south-eastern exposures and good slopes, this is the perfect home for mineral intense Riesling, and Peter’s two sons Peter (3rd) and Florian run the estate with most winemaking in the capable hands of Florian who calls his wines “Rieslings for advanced learners”. I had not had any Lauer Riesling prior to today and I was quite impressed with their basic offering made for their US importer Vom Boden Imports, the Barrel X which is bright, tangy and full of sizzle. The Saar intrigues me, though my experience is limited with only a few top producers, so it was cool to be introduced to something new, many thanks to Stevie and Josiah at Bay Grape, an urban hip wine store in Oakland, for stocking it and for the nice wine rep that shared it with us, this is a great new place to explore wine, be sure to check it out. The 2013 Weingut Peter Lauer Barrel X starts with citrus pulp, granny smith apples and green apple skin, sea salt and steely mineral essences along with hints of lime, mint and citron, all delivered in a light high-toned style that is very dry feeling, though there is some RS to give balance. This wine does pack loads of acidity and is lip smacking making it a fine summer sipper, it is super refreshing and at 10.4% it won’t weigh you down, and it finishes crisp with a touch of dry extract, more apple and a wet stone chalkiness, drink now.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2011 Holman Ranch, Pinot Noir, Heather’s Hill Estate, Carmel Valley.
Every so often I visit my hometown, Carmel Valley near Carmel on the Monterey Peninsula and check out the local wine scene and I try to spotlight new or special developments in the region, and this summer I looked into some new wineries, including the Holman Ranch Vineyards. Local vineyard guru Greg Vita, winemaker and consultant to many Carmel Valley wineries including Galante Vineyards, showed me (his) Holman Ranch wines recently and he enthused about the potential of this estate just east of the Village in Carmel Valley. These young vines with excellent exposure and soils are beginning to show real promise, I was very impressed with many of the Pinot Noir offerings from the Holman Ranch, especially this Heather’s Hill bottling from 2011 which Vita says comes from mostly Calera clone and some 115 clone, these are slightly austere wines, but I can see why he is excited and I look forward to seeing the 2013 and 2014 wines, as the vine age hits a more mature level. Vita says the 2013 will be a turning point, a break through vintage for Carmel Valley Pinot Noir. Many have tried Pinot here with very mixed results and awkward wines, though some promise has been shown, with Figge and a few others making some fine efforts in recent years. The Holman Ranch has an interesting mix of clones and it’s own unique so called micro-climate, and Vita explained in great detail that the chemistry is really good, the grapes are not showing some of the areas deficiencies that make for unattractive wines, being a native to Carmel Valley I couldn’t help getting excited, I’ve been wondering if ever there was going to be a great Pinot made here for decades, and I finally see there might be in the coming years. The 2011 Holman Ranch Heather’s Hill is earthy with chalky texture, it hits the palate with a spicy intensity, but opens to dark fruit with air and fills out nicely on the palate, it is still serve in many ways and has a few gaps, though I must say it is very enjoyable. The 2012 wine is lighter and comes across quite a bit thinner, this true of the alcohol with 2011 being about 14% and the 2012 coming in at just over 12.5%, so the the 2011 is more generous and deep, I also tried the first releases from 2010 and they were juicy and likable as well, but the 2011′s were more complete and complex. The cool vintage comes through with nice acidity and brisk profile with a core of plum, red berry and cherry fruits with hints of red spice, basil, mushroom and cedar forming a wine that might get better with another year or so in bottle, though drinks well now. I think there is some real potential for the up coming vintages and while it is a nice start it is that glimpse into the future that is what is most intriguing here, Carmel Valley has some complex issues to solve in it’s search for identity and especially in finding a signature wine and grape, maybe it will turn out to be Pinot Noir, for now it is very uncertain, but who knows, and this wine might change the discussion down the road.
($37 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Andreas Schmitges, Riesling, Kabinett “From Red Slate” Mosel Germany.
This gorgeous and bright Riesling is from the middle Mosel and is grown on unique red slate soils, this site used by Schmitges gives a lovely intense fruitiness and spicy character, and while the 2012 Red Slate is Kabinett it has plenty of acidity, savory elements and mineral underpinnings making it feel almost trocken and well balanced with just a bit of juicy sweetness. I am highly impressed with Schmitges and all of their fine offerings, but I’m thrilled by the quality and value in this beautiful Red Slate Kabinett, it should be a must have Riesling for this great vintage and it should age well too. The 2012 Schmitges Riesling Kabinett from Red Slate is vibrant, poised and wonderfully detailed with tangy fresh yellow peach, rose oil, white tea, apricot, spiced pear, apple and lime layers, slightly creamy on the palate with some vivid tangerine and tropical essences along with a flinty spice and loads of steely wet stones. There is a lingering taste of brine, sea salt and honey, but finishes crisp and refined. This is super stuff, a great food wine especially with asian fare, very cool and dynamic with class and style, Schmitges is a winery to check out no question, the Mosel is full of great wines with Selbach-Oster, Knebel, Prum, Thanisch, von Hovel and many more, but you should not overlook Weingut Andreas Schmitges, these are terrific wines and this one surely is one of the best values out there, drink from 2014 to 2025, imported by Dee Vine Wines.
($22 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($19.95)