Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 4, 2015

2012AlbatrossRidgeVivienne2012 Albatross Ridge, Pinot Noir “Cuvee Vivienne” Estate Grown, Carmel Valley.
One of the most exciting wines in Monterey, and especially in Carmel Valley, has to be the Albatross Ridge Pinot Noir(s) made by Garrett Bowlus, these beautifully crafted wines are the highlights of a extensive Carmel Valley tasting and were without a doubt the best Pinot Noir I’ve ever tried from the Valley. The Albatross Ridge estate sits high up, not far from from Talbott’s Diamond-T, across the valley from Garland Park with southeast exposure and set on chalky, ancient seabed, soils, this is a steep site and very cool, perfect for Burgundy style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Pinot Cuvee Vivienne 2012 is a magnificent effort, it is richly detailed with gorgeous fruit and mouth feel with great acidity, focus and vigor, but with refined tannins and elegance throughout. The winemaking is impressive with deft touch and finesse, the 2012 Cuvee Vivienne saw about 30% new French oak, 100% native yeast fermentation and is unfixed and unfiltered, all of which preserves the purity and sense of terroir, Bowlus is very much a winemaker that rejoices in low alcohol and delicacy of flavors, very much as you find in Cobb, Hirsch, Peay and Failla wines from the Sonoma Coast, which the Albatross Ridge resembles. The 2012 Vivienne starts with spice, floral tones and earthy notes, it is medium dark ruby in hue with a palate of black cherry, tart plum and wild strawberry fruits, chalky stones, mineral and a fine creamy texture along with subtle fennel, briar and cedar. This is exciting Pinot and drinks with flourish and style, I loved the play of fruit, savory elements and vibrancy that keeps your attention from start to finish, look for further gains with bottle age and drink between 2016 and 2020. I tasted through the current lineup of Bowlus’ Albatross Ridge, all of which merit mention with a dense and lush estate Chardonnay, a tangy/austere Rose of Pinot Noir and a higher end estate reserve Pinot that displays a bit more power, body and smoky oak, a superb wine in it’s self, but the wine that really stood out for quality and price was this fabulous 2012 Cuvee Vivienne, named after Garrett’s young daughter. Pinot Noir looks set to be the go to grape for Carmel Valley, particularly in the cooler areas, my favorite wines are led by Albatross Ridge, but Silvestri and Holman Ranch are also very good too.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 3, 2015

2013ParsonageXandro2013 Parsonage, Xandro Reserve, Proprietary Red, Estate, Carmel Valley.
One of the great wines of Carmel Valley, Parsonage Village Vineyard’s Xandro Reserve is an opulent blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah wonderfully crafted by Frank Melicia, Bill Parson’s winemaker and son in law, who is making quite a name for himself. I’ve followed Parsonage since the beginning and have many times suggested that these wines are the benchmark wines of this region, this still seems to be the case, especially when it comes to Cabernet, Syrah and big red blends, but other wineries have raised their game and a generation has grown up here making for some serious competition to Parsonage’s wines, wines from Holman Ranch, Albatross Ridge, Figge, Madeleine and Silvestri (Frank Melicia also makes the wines here) all make fantastic wines, all have reached that top echelon, with some others putting in superb efforts from Carmel Valley and just beyond in the greater Monterey area including Arroyo Seco. The Parsonage wines show gorgeous fruit, density and length. While Carmel Valley’s old school reds from the likes of Durney (now Heller) Galante and Bernardus have made good examples, and Bordeaux style reds, the Parsonage wines are richer, fuller and much more lavish, especially the reserve wines that rival Napa and Paso for hedonistic pleasure, though with tiny amounts available the downside is the seemingly high prices keep these wines from gaining mainstream attention, in other words, these wines remain one of the great secrets of the Central Coast. The 2013 Xandro Reserve has a flamboyant and expressive character with a beautiful bouquet of violets, sweet new French oak, creme de cassis and mixed spices leading to a dark fruited palate of boysenberry, blackberry, blueberry and succulent currant with smoke, camphor, graphite, black licorice, cinnamon stick, kirsch, spiced plum, cigar wrapper, vanilla, sage, chalky stones, mocha and cedar. Everything feels textural, thick and sensual, but there is nice vigor, power and focus, making this unique red blend very interesting and dynamic, it shows both varietals in a polished way, similar to some of new generation of westside Paso Robles, this is a deeply colored and full bodied wine, it is ripe, but with refined tannins that holds things together. The 100% Syrah “Rocco” and the Petit Verdot based “Bixby” are also sublime wines and are worth checking out, but this Xandro Reserve really delivers, this is very sexy stuff, drink from 2016 to 2023.
($80 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 2, 2015

2013AlfaroPN2013 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This is a stunning and wonderfully textured Pinot Noir from the Alfaro family Vineyards and is one of the best values in California, period! 2013 is a fantastic vintage for Richard Alfaro’s Santa Cruz Mountains estate, the Pinots show amazing detail, beautiful fruit and with almost perfect balance with lifting acidity, lower alcohol, but with deep rich character and style. I am a huge fan of Richard’s wines and his grapes, these are wines that deserve much praise and attention, in the last few years Richard has found fans in the industry, he now sells fruit to a few superstar wineries, these include Arnot-Roberts, Big Basin and Ceritas, so now is a good time to discover this estate near Corralitos. The estate 2013 Alfaro Family Vineyards Pinot is a bright ruby color in the glass, it is nicely perfumed with violets, roses and fresh black raspberry leading the way and the palate is bursting with bing cherry, dusty plum, tangy currant and sweet smoky notes, black tea, cedar, cinnamon, anise and mineral/flinty elements along with lingering blueberry, vanilla and earthy notes. The 2013 saw about 20% new French oak and was aged about 17 months in barrel, allowing full flavors to develop and this beauty is showing fantastic, it is exciting, vibrant and packed with ripe layers highlighting the cool climate hang-time. I love the vivid juicy nature, this is a well judged and deftly crafted wine with hidden silken tannin, lush mouth feel and is thrilling from start to finish. All of Alfaro’s Pinots in 2013 are looking good, and they should age brilliantly, as well as this one you should check out his other estate offerings, the Lindsay Paige, The Mary Katherine (Organic) and the Trout Gulch. Drink the 2013 Estate bottling over the next 3 to 5 years, though I am convinced the 2013 with go a decade or more, this is tasty and well made stuff, best from 2015 to 2022.
($35 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 1, 2015

2010RaffaultChinon2010 Olga Raffault, Chinon “Les Picasses” Loire Valley, France.
This old school and beautifully crafted Cabernet Franc is a classic example of varietal and terroir with wonderful texture, vigor and depth. The Olga Raffault wines are exceptional values, especially this Les Picasses Chinon that gives tremendous rustic charm, character and pleasure for a remarkable price, and I also really enjoyed the 2014 Chinon Rose as well, these are world class offerings. Interesting and intriguing to note, Raffault also offers older vintage wines from the cellar, recently they releases wines from the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s, all of which have thrilled those lucky few that snapped them up, I tasted an ’89 that blew me away and I also just sampled the 2006 that is still available with very positive results, these wines drink great young, but age fantastically well and at this price you should consider putting a few bottles away. The 2010 Olga Raffault Les Picasses Chinon Cabernet Franc is a dark garnet hued wine in glass with a complex nose of violets, chalk dust, leather and spice leading to a delicately layered palate of black cherry, blackberry, blueberry and plum fruits emerge with green pepper, black olive, earth, mineral and animal in the background along with minty herbs, anise and cedar. As the wine unwinds a fuller sense of mouth feel comes through and the lightly grainy tannins smooth out and a nice tangy currant aftertaste lingers along with lifting acidity. This is a lovely and focused Cabernet Franc that carries it’s sense of terroir with pride, these are pure and gorgeous wine of style and class, drink the 2010 from 2015 to 2025.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 31, 2015

2014ChesebroRose2014 Chesebro, Rose of Grenache, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Mark Chesebro’s wines are all well made and vigorous offerings and his latest set includes some excellent choices with his Vermentino and this Grenache Rose showing really good right now. The 2014 Chesebro Rose of Grenache delivers brisk and steely coolness in the glass with bright intensity and charm with tart cherry, strawberry, watermelon and zesty citrus along with mixed spices, chalk and mineral. This is a light and refreshing wine with focus and vibrant character, it lacks a bit of complexity and depth, but is very pleasant and does everything well. The Rose is available through the tasting room at Chesebro in the Carmel Valley Village, and is worth picking up if you get a chance to visit the region. Chesebro offers a solid lineup of well priced wines and they work well with food, they may not be as polished or flamboyant as some, but still should be noted these wines age well, in particular the reds and the whites always show a lot of vitality and brisk focus. Enjoy the rose of the next 6 months to a year, best from 2015 to 2017.
($18 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 30, 2015

2014AlfaroAlbarino2014 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Albarino, Ryan Spencer Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The newest wine from Richard Alfaro is his Ryan Spencer Vineyard Albarino, a crispy divine white that is a great summer refresher, made from estate young vines that show a lot of potential for this Spanish varietal. A recent visit to Alfaro Family Vineyards revealed a great deal of excitement for some new Malbec plantings and another few hillside acres that will get mostly Pinot Noir, but the current lineup is showing fantastic with glorious Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gruner Veltliner along with this tasty Albarino, of which only 70 cases were made. The 2014 Albarino, aged in neutral oak and steel for 7 months is delicately detailed, at 13% and still has some depth, complexity and swagger with bright citrus, white flowers, unripe green apple, peach and chalky/stones with hints of hay, a touch of leesy brioche and steely vigor. This wine comes through on the palate as energy filled, brisk and a tad austere, this will appeal to old world fans, but still charms with it’s vibrancy and subtle wood notes. The light straw and gold color is lovely in the glass and it gains with cuisine, I had it with Padron peppers and salt, and a squash frittata, it was a perfect foil and the cool chill of this Albarino made it easy to quaff on a warm summer night, lovely. It will very interesting to follow Alfaro’s Albarino as the vines get some age on them, it certainly is a much more intriguing option than Sauvignon Blanc would be in this region of the Santa Cruz Mountains, which sits pretty close to the Monterey Bay and it nicely cool, not too different from northwestern Spain. Drink this white over the next year or two, best from 2015 to 2018.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 29, 2015

BrutRose2009 Caraccioli Cellars, Vintage Brut Rose, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This classy and lees Brut Rose from Caraccioli is an impressive American sparkler that is a blend of Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, done in true Methode Champenoise giving a true grower producer taste. This is a wonderful pink bubbly that delivers a stylish array of flavors and a pretty delicate color with a light salmon and orange tint in the glass with a fine bead, creamy mousse and nice vitality throughout. Not thrilled about the price, but that said, it certainly pleases the palate with bright tart cherry, citrus and strawberry notes to go with rich yeasty toast, brioche, hazelnut and a bit of earthy briar and rosewater. The mouth is vigorous and lively and the Caraccioli never dulls the senses, this has energy, depth and finish, feeling clear, transparent and light with some sexy character and it is a very alluring effort. This is rather pricy, that is true, especially when you consider the range of choices in that price class, though definitely a worthy offering, without question one of the best California sparkling wines available, drink this one over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2020. I tasted this in their fun tasting lounge in Carmel by the Sea, where they offer it by the glass at a special and fair rate, I must say and the experience was very positive and youthful, I’d go back for more without hesitation.
($57 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 28, 2015

2013GroissReserve2013 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Gruner Veltliner, Weinvietel Reserve, In Der Schablau, Austria.
The Groiss Reserve in a much denser, richer and sweeter version of Gruner Veltliner, but with fabulous energy and balance, this is remarkable stuff that feels almost about spatlese in weight and feel. This deeper and more hedonistic wine is fairly unique, as we almost always see bone dry selections of this varietal, so it kind of throws you off a bit, being off-dry sweet, and want to compare it to Riesling, and Groiss does a fantastic job here, making a stylish and complex Gruner that while honeyed and lush also holds it’s fruit and weight in check with vigorous acidity, mineral tones and a nice play of salty/savory elements that adds dimension. The nose is lightly floral with spice, citrus, marzipan and baked peach leading to a full and decedent palate with gorgeous mouth feel with a mix of stone fruits, almond paste and wet stones. A hint of dried pineapple, saline, oyster shells, steely notes, white currant and honeycomb add complexity and there is a lingering finish of lemon/lime, minty herbs and summer melon. This was quite a treat and was amazing with spicy Chinese cuisine and curry with enough fruity character to refresh the palate and give heightened pleasure, this was a winner from start to finish. 2013 was a spectacular vintage, especially for Groiss, I wish I had got another few bottles to cellar, this one in particular would be interesting to follow, though I do admire her 2014’s as well, her drier wines are some of my favorites of the year. Drink this opulent Reserve In Der Schablau Gruner Veltliner over the next 3 to 5 years, I imagine it should be best from 2016 to 2020.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 27, 2015

Maddie132013 Madeleine “Maddie” Vin de Table Red, California.
Damien Georis’s Madeleine label makes some wonderful and flavorful wines including Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Pinot Blanc, plus this red blend Maddie a cuvee of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon done with a nod to the Loire Valley. The French, and Bordeaux trained, Georis also makes the namesake wines of Georis Winery in Carmel Valley, owned by Belgian Walter Georis, the famous Carmel restauranteur. Madeleine is made at Georis Winery, but is very much Damien’s own baby and are unique wines that are part of a new generation of Carmel Valley and Monterey wines. I have long been a fan of Madeleine, but this was my first chance to try the Maddie red and I was excited by what I found, this is a great little wine and a real value, it is full flavored and lush with mostly Cabernet Franc character and nice verve and focus. The Maddie 2013 starts with a dark garnet hue, a pretty nose of red fruits, spice and floral tones that leads to a medium full bodied palate of black cherry, dried currant, plum and raspberry fruits with subtle pepper, black olive and cedar notes along with a bit of chalky/stones, dusty tannins and a lift of acidity. The soft texture coats the mouth and light herbal notes, tobacco and cinnamon come up in the background, but the finish is lush and lingers with loads of fruit sweetness, making for a very pleasing experience. This wine should develop a more subtle nuance over the next year or so, maybe even gathering a austere side with time, but most people will adore it’s youthful forwardness and charm, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 26, 2015

2014AlfaroRose2014 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Rose of Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Richard Alfaro’s vivid pink Rose of Pinot Noir is full of Pinot fruit and boldly lush to start with loads of tart cherry, a hint of blue fruit, a kiss of wood and sweet herbs and spice before quickly turning more vibrant and austere with a burst of acidity, mineral and red citrus coming to the fore. The dark pink wine has ruby edges and feels textural in the mouth, but manages to stay vinous and lively with tangy plum, peach and watermelon shinning through with some anise and earthy charm, this is a great food wine and perfect for summer, it is a full flavored Rose and is refreshing at the same time. Like I mentioned it almost tastes like a chilled red at first, but instead of feeling hard or tannic, this wine turns crisp with nice bright fruit, staying more balanced, poised and dry than I would have imagined, this is delightful and savvy stuff. On the Rose scale the Alfaro Rose of Pinot Noir is most certainly Californian, but with an almost Italian Rosato character to it, and it gives an insight into the beautiful detail and complexity of the vintage, it makes my mouth water for the upcoming releases of the Alfaro Family Vineyards Pinot Noir! The Alfaro Family Estate in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Corralitos is a must visit, just south of Santa Cruz city and close to Aptos, it is a cool climate site that makes for amazing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and even Gruner Veltliner, Albarino and Syrah. The Alfaro Rose is a tasting room wine, but can be bought on line at www.alfarowine.com as well, it is perfect right now, but should stay interesting over the next year or so, though I bet my bottles won’t last long!
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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