Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 18, 2017

2013 Gerard Boulay, Sancerre, La Cote, Loire Valley, France.
Gerard Boulay is one of the elite Sancerre producers, they farm by hand and all organic in the historic village of Chavignol, where the domaine owns about 8 hectares with the youngest vines being 45 years old on “terre blanc” soils, most are closer to 70 years old and the Boulay family has been making wine in the area since the late 1,300’s. The wines here are full of vitality and have intense mineral elements, the soils, Kimmerridgian, are the same as found in Chablis, this is especially true of the famed Crus, in particular La Grande Cote, where Boulay has a tiny parcel that they in fact first produced as a single Cru in 2010. Boulay is all about ripe fruit and natural winemaking, no chemicals in the vineyards, always native yeasts and almost no sulfur added, he employs mostly ferments in wood cask and ages in large foudres and neutral large 300L barrels allowing leesy weight to these steely Sauvignon Blanc(s) they truly reflect their terroir, Boulay himself says “C’est la nature qui fait le vin” (Nature makes the wine). To accomplish his goals, great care is taken to ensure quality and transparency, everything maybe come down to nature as he says, but to get the job done, clean and highly sorted grapes are only allowed to be pressed and details show in his passion in the vines as well in the cellar. The 2013 vintage La Cote Sancerre is brilliant, complex and full of energy with layered flavors showing elegance, vigor and beauty throughout with sappy herbs, spice and yeasty notes adding pop to the lemon/lime, white flowers, gooseberry, subtle peach fruits, as well wet stone, chalk dust, lemon grass and brioche. Fine acidity and old world austerity define this amazing example of Cru Sancerre, it is brisk, crisp and feels almost saline, and as mentioned there is a dynamic steeliness and lingers with crushed flinty rocks in a lifted medium weighted white wine that certainly begs for matching cuisine, seriously it wants regional goat cheeses like chèvre, delicate sautéed white fish or even claims, oysters and dishes with fresh picked tangy herbs. I loved the 2012 even more, as it was a touch exotic and more expressive, but this 2013 has plenty of charm and power and is not far off, but be sure to look for 2015 and 2016 Boulay, as these vintages look set to be a cut above for the region, these are great wines and Sauvignon Blanc offerings that can age 10 to 15 years with ease.
($55 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 17, 2017

2014 La Marea, Grenache, Old Vine, Besson Vineyard, Central Coast. (By Ian Brand)
Ian Brand is a vineyard whisperer and finds wonderful old vine plots off the beaten path and he has a thing for central coast Grenache, so much so he created a Spanish inspired label just for his Grenache, or Garnacha single varietal wines as well as a single vineyard Albarino call La Marea, crafting tiny production offerings that should not be missed, like this beautiful 2014 Besson Old Vine Grenache. Benson sits just outside both San Benito and the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA’s in a no mans land that is technically in Gilroy I guess, on the Hecker Pass, it was planted back in 1910 and is dry farmed and all organic and has gained fame in the past with Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon label, with his Clos de Gilroy certainly bringing this site to the public’s attention, but also now has the Grenache darling Angela Osborne of A Tribute to Grace crafting her own version of geniusly delicate Grenache from here, the New Zealander along with Ian both make outstanding wines, each with their own take. The La Marea is restrained and textured, but with gorgeous and pure fruitiness, this is wine of great detail and class, it reminds me a lot of Joan d’Anguera’s wonderful Altaroses Granatxa from Spain’s Montsant region. Ian Brand’s 2014 La Marea Old Vine Besson Vineyard delivers light floral tones, mineral, wild strawberry and sappy spices to start before filling out on the silken palate showing black cherry, tangy plum, pomegranate and vibrant boysenberry fruits along with dusty stones, pepper, sticky lavender/sage, minty black licorice all which highlight the terroir and the gravelly clay and loamy soils. Ian Brand is a winemaker to follow, his wines are intriguing throughout his lineup of wines, you’ll want to grab a few of these La Marea while they last, they are so tasty, but also be sure to check out his I. Brand & Family Mourvedre, one of the best wines of the year I’ve tasted, as well as his value priced Le P’Tit Paysan label, and especially his Petite Sirah and Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend, both awesome bargains. This medium weight 2014 Old Vine Grenache La Marea shows an elegant side of the grape, but still full flavored and vigorous in nature, it’s a pretty little thing to enjoy in it’s vibrant youthful best, it’s a serious effort with loads of charm that will surprise even the most hardened Gigondas fans!
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 16, 2017

2013 Theopolis Vineyards, Petite Sirah, Estate Grown, Yorkville Highlands.
Theodora Lee’s Theopolis Vineyards is one of the top sites for Petite Sirah in California, her vines hug steep terraces in the Yorkville Highlands and have received amazing critical acclaim since being established in 2003, with her success first coming from the wines made by Mike Officer at Carlisle, and more recently with Paul Gordon’s Halcon version, which I just reviewed. Lee’s beginning her own wine journey now and I was thrilled to taste some of her latest offerings from Theopolis, and her 2003 Petite is an impressive expression of varietal and place with deep intensity and full throttled flavors, it’s more of a studied classic version of California Petite Sirah than the more Rhone(ish) or Cornas like Halcon Vineyards from the same vineyard, this mostly due to the partial whole cluster in the Halcon, and some of it is from the aging in different oak, both are brilliant, but nicely different too, the Theopolis is richer in palate and shows a sweeter opulence. The Theopolis Vineyards Estate Petite Sirah is wonderfully opaque with a dark black/purple hue in the glass, full of dense fruit and power, it weighs in at 14.8%, but still feels remarkably balanced with it’s high elevation and cool climate acidity, it was aged 23 months in 100% French oak, with 25% new, which adds to the class and refinement in this serious wine that has that “wow” factor and impact. Theodora also has a Petite Sirah rose, a couple of sourced Pinot Noir(s) and an estate grown white made from the hybrid “Symphony” grape, a unique crossing of Muscat and Grenache Gris, all of which I will review soon as well, but her Petite Sirah is her flagship wine and the one you should search out, I recommend getting on her list to get these limited offerings. The 2013 Petite starts with decedent and thick black and blue fruits with layers of blackberry, blueberry, fig paste, sweet tree picked plum and cherry liqueur as well as dark chocolate, mixed spices,minty herb, cedar and crushed acacia/violets. Only 285 cases were made of this fruit loaded wine, it really demands your attention with every sip and should age another decade easy with it’s firm structure and healthy ripe tannins, best to enjoy this Petite Sirah with hard sleep’s cheese and or robust cuisine, including lamb or hearty mushroom dishes. Mendocino County is on fire right now, not just with their gorgeous Pinots, but with Syrah, Carignane and Petite Sirah with Mendocino Ridge and the Yorkville Highlands getting their moment in the sun, look for this Theopolis label as well as producers like Signal Ridge Vineyard, The Princess and the Peasant, Halcon Vineyards, Pax (Carignane), Baxter, Skylark Wine Company and especially Drew Family Cellars! These are some of the most exciting wines I’ve tasted from California in recent years with 2014 and 2015 being must haves from this region, bravo to Theodora on a great wine and a truly terroir driven vineyard.
($38 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 15, 2017

2015 Bernard Baudry, Chinon, Les Granges, Loire Valley, France.
The 2015 Baudry is ripe with fruity appeal to go with classic terroir charm showing dark fruits, bell pepper, earth and mineral freshness, this is a really lovely little Loire Valley Cabernet Franc that offers a lot of value and is a great way to explore Chinon Rouge for the first time. Bernard Baudry and son Matthieu farm all organic and craft small batches of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc from Chinon, they hand pick every bunch of grapes, everything gets de-stemmed and everything is gravity fed, they ferment with native/natural yeasts and aged in a combination of wood and cement tanks and neutral cask/barrels depending on the plot/site, with this Les Granges being fermented and aged in exclusively cement, fermentation lasts about 15 days and the Cabernet Franc spends between 7 and 10 months in concrete vat before bottling, this example is fresh and vibrantly flavored with smooth tannins. The 2015 vintage shows the years warmth and this Les Granges is fairly impressive with density and rich layers, it almost feels creamy on the palate, certainly no wood was needed here, delivering blackberry, sweet cherry, plum and tart currant fruit along with minty herb, bell pepper, crushed violets, dusty stones, leather and a hint of licorice. With air this wine adds hints of iron, chalk, lavender oil and cranberry notes giving a sense of complexity, even though this little Chinon, which was grown on sand and gravel soils from vines planted in the mid eighties, is simply joyous and easy to love, much less serve or austere than can be the case, in fact this vintage is pure and opulent, drink now.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 14, 2017

2015 Drew Family Cellars, Syrah, Valenti Ranch, Mendocino Ridge.
It’s hard to imagine anyone in California making a better set of wines in the last few vintages than Jason Drew at Drew Family Cellars, with his Pinot Noir and Syrah offerings being especially charming and thrilling wines, these are amazing wines that deserve your attention. Drew’s making wines with cool climate character and old world sensibilities with loads of mineral, spice and lower natural alcohols, but still showing fully ripe and detailed fruit. While his Pinots get all the headlines, Jason Drew’s Syrah is some of the best wine being made in California and the 2014 and 2015 vintages have taken them to that next level, they have classic Northern Rhone elements while still being true to their own terroir, these wines don’t just mimic the French, they take our own wine (California) to the equal plane, firmly showing our potential with Jason’s latest 2015 Valenti Ranch Mendocino Ridge Syrah reaching the rarified heights of top Cote-Rotie(s) delivering gorgeous layers of black and blue fruits along with a savory/earthy edge. This brilliant wine, 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier co-fermented with 50% whole cluster, all native yeast ferments all done in gentile cool fashion to allow super fresh flavors, while aged in large French cask with 50% in a new Puncheon, finishing up with 13.2% alcohol making for a brightly focused with a nice cut of acidity, but deeply complex and textured that will remind you of Cote-Rotie producers like Bernard Levet and Domaine Jamet and or Saint-Joseph’s Andre Perret! This seductive Syrah starts with a subtle perfume of violets, incense, creme de cassis, truffle and bacon fat, which leads to a medium weight (light footed) palate of loganberry, plum, blueberry and tangy black currant fruits along with a spicy core of peppercorns, cinnamon stick, dried lavender, flinty stones as well as hints of black olive, anise, kirsch, game and delicate wood notes. This Valenti Ranch is grown at about 1,350 feet above sea level on the Mendocino Ridge not far from the Anderson Valley, which is marine influence with cold ocean breezes, in fact this region is typically cooler on average than Ampuis, the French village near the famous Cote-Rotie, and this vineyard is planted to 50% Chave Selection Clone and Clone 1 Syrah, with maritime sedimentary soils all of which adds to the intensity and to the uniqueness of this beauty. This lively and alluring Syrah has satiny mouth feel, refined tannins that adds to the youthful hedonism and pleasure, but certainly there is even more to come in this wine’s future, it has the potential to aged decades, this is stunning juice!
($48 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 13, 2017

2015 Inspiration Vineyards, Inspiracio White, Sonoma County.
Jon Phillips’ Inspiration Vineyards latest white Rhone blend Inspiracio is a well crafted micro wine offering, it’s 50% Marsanne, 35% Roussanne and 15% Viognier gives a rich palate, but with finesse and crispness showing apple, citrus and stone fruit along with some mineral, stone and spice. The 2015 starts with a hint of white flowers, honeysuckle and bruised pear, lemon/lime, fennel and apricot before filling out on the palate with a subtle creamy/oily mouth feel as well as a touch of brioche and almond bitterness that balances the lushness in this white. Inspiration Vineyards makes a set of about a dozen wines, all in tiny amounts, just a few barrels of each, and all offering wonderful value and quality for the money, Phillips has a few vines himself, but also sources from many small plots throughout Sonoma County, focusing on old vines and cooler Russian River Valley sites, be sure to look for his Zinfandels, Rhone blends, Pinot Noir and his Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, plus Phillips’ proprietary Zinspiration pink made from Zinfandel. All of these wines are available from their wine club and with some also being available while supplies last at their website, with the limited nature of these bottlings, I suggest getting on their mailing list so you know when they get released, I like the mentioned wines, as well as the Inspiration Vineyards Grenache, the Dry Creek Zin, the Russian River Pinot and the single varietal Viognier. The 2015 Inspiracio white is pretty, detailed and drinking mature, it’s a stylish example of a California Rhone, it’s generous, round and full bodied, but still focused and with lifting acidity, drink now.
($29 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 12, 2017

2016 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling Kabinett, Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl, Nahe Germany.
Grown on a mix of Loess and Quartzite, the bright and crystal clear Donnhoff Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl 2016 Kabinett Riesling shows wonderful vibrancy and refreshing form with a crisp minerally dry feel on the palate with only the faintest hint of sweetness giving a subtle generous expansion. There is a stunning almost raw sunlight gold hue and a lovely mix of white flowers, kumquat, lime and yellow peach that unfolds with the first sip along with saline, wet stones, verbena and apple skin. Vivid acidity matches the Kabinett’s natural sugar perfectly, and at 8.5% this lighter style Riesling is easy to quaff, but still with enough complexity to you savor every moment of this classic Nahe. These German 2016’s are such great wines, especially Donnhoff’s lineup, and it will be a vintage to stock up on, in particular I have found the Kabinett and Feinherb wines to be thrilling little Rieslings that offer lots of value and charming detail, drinking drier that you’d expect at this point and can be enjoyed right away. This wine really turned on the style with food, I had it with a light Asian curry noodle dish, but it also would go well with most anything cuisine you throw at it. Also from this vineyard look for the Premier Cru (Erste Lage) Trocken Kahlenberg, it’s a more powerful wine with a sizzlingly dry and gripping Riesling, both are sublime terroir laced offerings from Donnhoff that will be rewarding many years to come.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 11, 2017

2014 Joyce Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Estate, Carmel Valley, Monterey County.
The Joyce Estate Pinot Noir Vineyard in Carmel Valley was planted back in 1990 and a tiny block of vines quite close to the Carmel Valley Village and is set on dusty/tuft laced with chock rock, it makes for an interesting expression of Pinot, very distinct from Russell Joyce’s other offerings, this especially true of his 2014 Estate, a later release avail only at their tasting room in Carmel Valley. The 2014 is tightly wound, briar laced and still remarkably youthful in mouth feel showing primal grapey freshness with plenty of grip, delivering a firm palate like a young Pommard with black cherry, dried currant, bramble berry, dusty gain tannins and plummy body, lifting acidity and a kiss of sweet oak. With delicate swirling in the glass a pretty spiciness, floral tones and earthy stones come through in this crunchy Pinot Noir with hints of lavender tea, shaved vanilla and tart vine picked forest berries. This wine slowly grew on me and I became charmed by it’s unique terroir character, and even though it’s not as satiny and beautiful as Joyce’s wonderfully textured 2016 releases, this wine impresses in it’s own right for it’s more masculine presence and it’s bright ruby/garnet hue, it is certainly a wine that will benefit from more time in bottle and it’s much more complex with cuisine. It’s not a big wine, but it is chewy and has a forceful nature and will appeal to those that enjoy a more rustic wine with pointy elbows, it would great with tartare, blacked salmon and or grilled pork sausages. There is more potential here, I am thinking another 3 to 5 years will reveal a completely different wine, it will be intriguing to see. One of Monterey’s brightest new stars, Russell Joyce’s current set are not to be missed, in particular and mention here on in prior reviews, the Joyce Gabilan 2016 Pinot is a stunner along with the 2015 Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah, two of my favorites, plus their Gamay/Grenache Rose and dry Riesling are joyous wines.
($45 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 10, 2017

2013 La Spinetta, Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG “Bionzo” Piedmonte, Italy.
Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta Bionzo Cru Barbera d’Asti is a beauty with rich detail, full flavors and a kiss of sweet toasty oak, it’s a luxurious Barbera with a deep garnet/purple hue in the glass and a medium/full palate, it’s wine to take very, very seriously, it shows soul, length and lingering complex fruit, earth and spice. This 2013 shows the richness of the vintage and the understanding of the winemaking to highlight it, it’s crafted as if it was a ripe year Premier Cru or Grand Cru Burgundy rather than a typical rustic Barbera, Rivetti and his team carefully sorted the grapes here and raised this impressive wine in new medium toast French barriques from Bionzo’s 45-55 year old vines that are grown at over 1, 200 feet on calcareous soils, this site faces south and really delivers brilliant vitality and layers, especially in a year like this one, this is a Barbera that packs a punch and shows refined tannins that holds everything together in a graceful form. The 2013 is all about deep fruit, but there is subtle and charming mineral tones, mixed spices, mouth feel and inner perfume, it starts with crushed violets, black currant, cherry and blackberry along with chalky stones, anise, cinnamon, vanilla, cedar and mure. There’s a creamy opulence to the texture that gives a sense of density, but also a nice cut of natural acidity that sets the individual elements off in this Bionzo Barbera d’Asti Superiore, this is certainly not a shy wine and it’s a Barbera that can sit at any table with the likes of a Burgundy, Bordeaux or one of it’s cousins like a Barolo or Barbaresco and provide a thrilling experience, especially with robust cuisine, drink this special wine over the next 5 to 10 years. I love Barbera is all it’s styles from peasant/rustic to Cru class and this lavish example is clearly a modern classic from La Spinetta that was one of the first wineries to take Barbara to the next level, I’ve been a huge fan of La Spinetta since the mid nineties when I discovered their Barbera Gallina and the un-oaked Ca’ di Pian, before I could afford their Barbaresco Crus!
($54 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 9, 2017

2016 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Roxheimer Hollenpfad, Nahe Germany.
The Hollenpfad Trocken is crazy good, and it is a real sleeper in Cornelius Donnhoff’s wonderful set of dry 2016 Rieslings, it should be a wine that catches your attention as it delivers GG quality and intensity that will even thrill the socks off Chablis fans, with it’s mineral driven palate and dynamic energy. Sizzling with youthful acidity and flinty crushed stones this 2016 Roxheimer Hollenpfad Trocken is beautifully detailed with brisk vibrancy showing delicate white flowers, layers of tangy and zesty citrus fruits, as well as stone fruit pit, green apple flesh and skin, a touch of yellow mango, verbena, saline infused wet rock and sea mist. Vigorous, dusty dry and electric, but with loads of crunch and extract that gives plenty of substance and depth, this is serious, slightly austere stuff from Donnhoff, maybe not as open or as concentrated as the 2015’s tend to feel, though maybe more pretty and seductive, both vintages are off the charts from Donnhoff! The Roxheimer Hellenpfad is a vineyard dominated by iron rich red sandstone, and Donnhoff uses a combination of stuck and stainless with sponti (native) ferments, employing all means to capture freshness and terroir character in each wine, they also reflect the dedication to quality and focus of Donnhoff, one of the world’s best wineries, let alone being a top German estate. Terry Theise, Donnhoff’s importer says this riveting Hollenpfad is the best yet from this vineyard, who I am to argue? This is great stuff with lingering lime, yellow peach, chamomile/herbs and subtle iodine/savory tones, look for this one to gain with 2 to 5 years in the bottle and it should go a decade and a half easy, sadly the only problem this wine has, is that it has such competition from it’s own stable mates in Donnhoff’s glorious lineup!
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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