2014 Champ Divin-Fabrice et Valerie Closset, Pinot Noir, Cotes du Jura, France.
The Jura is one of France’s major hot spots and while we all like those funky geeky wines made from Trousseau, Savignin and Poulsard, there is also some great sites for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with many well know Burgundy houses sneaking into the region and buying up some good old vine plots, but there are small vignerons showing off their talents as well, and especially charming is this Champ Divin Pinot from the Clossets. A husband and wife team, Fabrice and Valerie Closset, who farm all biodynamic, are making a stylish range of Jura wines, I am very impressed and look forward to following their progress, I am smitten on their Champ Divin Pinot Noir, this is a vibrant and pure wine with distinct flavors and energy showing a range of red fruits, mineral and spices, ripe tannins, fresh acidity and a delicately lingering finish. Subtle earthy tones add to the juicy nature of the Closset Champ Divin Pinot, with black cherry, blueberry, violets and currant jam taking center stage along with red tea, plum, truffle and apple skin on the fringes. The finish has dusty plum, more cherry, a hint of cedar, wet stones and rosewater, everything feels complete and silky with youthful fruit character, there is a lot to admire here and it is a lot of fun to drink with a light to medium body and plenty to keep your attention, this can easily replace many Bourgogne Rouge wines at almost twice the price, drink over the next few years, best from 2016 to 2019.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Julien Sunier, Fleurie, Cru Beaujolais, France.
The Sunier Fleurie is the most exotic and developed of this artisan winemaker’s current lineup of 2014 Cru Beaujolais and is a real beauty, for Gamay fans this a must try wine. I have been very impressed with the last few vintages of Julien’s wines, they seem influenced by Lapierre or Foillard in many ways, this is a big compliment and a statement for the level of quality and style achieved in a short time, these are delicious wines, made in the natural way with native yeasts and almost no sulphur. The 2014 Fleurie explodes from the glass with dark berries, violets, rose oil, pepper spice and a hint of walnut leading to a vibrant and vivid palate of blackberry, black cherry, plum and wild strawberry fruits, sweet and sour herbs, cedar and dusty and sticky lavender. This light to medium bodied Gamay flows with silky tannins and pure acidity, it displays focused transparent flavors, textural layers with a lush mouth feel and the lingering tangy currant and anise makes for a lovely and fetching wine. While the Morgon impresses for it’s more tightly wound and robust fruit, this Fleurie just drinks wonderfully and is much more expressive at this stage. Julien Sunier should be on your radar if you like top Cru Beaujolais and these 2014’s are looking like his best yet, in particular search out his Fleurie for it’s grapey charm and it’s ready to please nature, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling, Roxheimer Hollenpfad, Trocken, Nahe, Germany.
This beautifully detailed and rather delicate dry Riesling is very aromatic, vivid and wonderfully balanced with a light body, polished acidity and enough extract to deliver length and substance for aging. The Donnhoff Roxheimer Hollenpfad is a bright and stylish young Riesling with plenty to admire right now, but looks to be a wine that will improve and fill out over the next 3 to 5 years in bottle, so some faith and patience will be needed to get the maximum from this 2014, though lovely as it is. I really enjoy the fresh and vibrant feel and weightlessness on the palate with subtle and graceful layers of lime, white peach, tropical essences, tangerine, salty spices, rose oil and white flowers all hauntingly appearing and fading in and out along with wet stones and crunchy mineral notes. This steely Trocken is pure and crispy lean, it has bits that remind me of Pouilly-Fume and Chablis, but without question is centered around it’s own terroir, this is all Nahe in the glass and should deliver long term rewards, I am highly impressed with the 2014 wines from Donnhoff, mostly for the precise expression of vintage and devoted craftsmanship in the winemaking, these are wines of inner power and outward shyness with finesse. Certainly Donnhoff’s Roxheimer Hollenpfad could be a Grosses Gewachs, but since it is not, you can find it at what has to be considered a remarkably fair price for what is in the bottle, this austere and thoughtful Riesling is one I hope to re-visit again and again, drink from 2018 to 2024.
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Louis Antoine Luyt, Pipeno, Pais, Coelemu, Chile.
The fresh and fun Pipeno Pais line from Louis Antoine Luyt are from some of the oldest vines still producing wine grapes in the world and are certainly the most affordable piece of history you can drink! The Pais grape is known as the Mission Grape or Listan Prieto, it was carried to the new world by the Spanish Missionaries in the later half of the 16th century, and Luyt’s Pipeno wines come from areas around those original Mission sites, which are set on 300 million year old soils similar to Morgon and Cote de Brouilly in Beaujolais with iron rich layers and granite schist. Luyt’s Pipeno Pais Coelemu is delightfully bright and earthy with dark berries, spice and an almost tart/herbal vermouth note, light in tannin and medium bodied making for a great food wine and easy like a Beaujolais, it is make in an ancient and traditional way, all natural, so it isn’t overly polished and you get an honest and interesting wine. This lively 2015 Pipeno Coelemu starts with sour cherry, raspberry, minty herb, plum and red pepper spice along with zesty red peach, dried orange rind and truffle notes, this red will settle some in bottle and get a bit fuller on the palate with short term aging, but it is seriously all about enjoyable quaffing and is great for picnic, BBQ and parties, especially for the adventurous! Drink ex-Lapierre winemaker, of Morgon in Beaujolais, Frenchman Louis Antoine Luyt’s vibrant Pipeno red over the next year or so, it is like drinking history, especially when you realize the vines are close to 300 years old!
($17 Est. 1L) 86-88 Points, grapelive
n.v. Eric Rodez, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Brut Champagne, Ambonnay, France.
There isn’t many people more passionate about terroir and quality than Eric Rodez and it shows in his fantastic Champagne, and better for us is the fact that these wonderful cubes are delightfully affordable and without pretense or brand envy, these wines are in the same league as Krug and Vilmart. Eric practices mostly bidynamic principals in the vineyard and in some cases he goes further, even to the point of treating vines with essential oils, or as Charles Neal his importer puts it, he treats his vines with aromatherapy if needed! In the cellar, his two years working at Champagne Krug gave him his core beliefs, though he is influenced also by his time in both Alsace and Burgundy, he uses a combination of tank and wood, uses barrel aging and uses lots of very old reserve wines in the blended non vintage cuvees. Rodez has only 15 acres in Grand Cru Ambonnay, mostly Chardonnay and a touch of Pinot Noir, and this gorgeous 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs comes from between 15 and 20 separate lots, from different plots in his vineyard, this enhances the complexity, with the base vintages being 32% from 1999, 19% from 2008, 24% from 2007, 16% from 2006 and 3% from 2004, all aged 53 months Sur Lie, with 18% aged in cement/enamel lined tanks and 82% aged in small Barrel. Most of his wine goes through malo, though you still find energy and finesse in these luxurious Champagnes, I adore these offerings from Eric Rodez, especially this one. The nose is amazingly deep with layers of brioche, hazelnut, lemon pie and fig leading to a full bodied palate that shines and sparkles with apple, white berry, citrus, exotic tropical fruits, textural creme brûlée, baking spices, wet stones and mineral tones along with a glorious beading from the fine mousse. This is seductive, richly flavored and vibrant bubbly, absolutely world class and eye-poppingly sexy! Drink this stunning non vintage Blanc de Blancs Rodez over the next decade, best from 2016 to 2021, I know I will. (Disgorged Oct. 2014- 4 gram dosage)
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Louis Antoine Luyt “Cruchon” Pinot Noir, Coteaux de Trumao, Valle del Bueno, Chile.
The Cruchon Pinot Noir by Frenchman Louis Antoine Luyt is from old vines of Massale Selection, these are a mix of original old Burgundy clones thought to have been brought to Chile in the mid 1800’s, and this all natural wine is a light and flavorful treat. Luyt is working with a collection of growers throughout Chile, and he is most interested in the ancient Mission Grape plantings that can be around 300 years old and counting, the Mission Grape, called Pais in Chile and known as Listan Prieto, which seems certain to have come from Spain, though may in fact be either related to a Greek grape or maybe a grape that was at home in north Africa. It seems that Listan Prieto is different even from the Listan Negro found on the Canary Islands, also thought to be a Mission Grape, that it in fact is a separate vine all together. Luyt himself, worked at famous Beaujolais producer Lapierre and is a passionate Natural Wine advocate, his wines are organic, raw and terroir driven with low alcohol and fresh transparent flavors, though they can show a mix of earth and funk, especially when young, though they tend to clear up and get deeper with a few years in bottle. The Cruchon Pinot Noir is one of his newest wines in Chile, where he has found a welcoming home, it shows delicacy and bright red fruits with mineral tones and savory spices, the 2014 version is the best yet, as it has more character and pretty layers of cherry, strawberry and peachy fruit with hints of plum, briar, truffle, wild herbs, rhubarb and earthy cranberry. The Cruchon comes in at 11.5% and has a soft ruby hue, it feels more like a Fleurie Beaujolais than a Bourgogne and while youthful and tangy, it should gain a bit of weight and complexity in the bottle and the finish is quite impressive for such a light wine. The tannins are faint and silky, while the acidity is driving and vibrant, which makes this subtle and delightful wine seem almost Rose like at this stage, though it does deepen in feel with air and cuisine, give it a short time in the cellar, best from 2016 to 2019, this is a wine with unique charms and will elicit both raves and a few boos, be your own judge, I found a hint of intrigue and was left delighted. Luyt’s must try offerings include his Carignan “Legno Duro” and Pais de Quenehuao, as well as his fun Pipeno line made also from 200 to 300 year old Pais vines!
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Damilano, Barolo “Cannubi” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2010 Cannubi by Damilano is a massive and youthful Barolo that needs plenty of time resting in the cellar, but those that have this beauty will be rewarded with an amazing wine, I would guess the best window for enjoying this Barolo will open around 2020. There is so much packed into this tannic beast that it is hard to keep up with it on the palate, the nose too is far from formed yet, but there is gorgeous violets, smoke, earth, spice and deep fruit essences that need constant swirling to see, smell and feel, and the mouth is richly flavored with brandied cherries, raspberry, wild plum, mocha, melted licorice, tar and truffle. This is a meaty wine with classic Nebbiolo character, there is lots of vigor and extreme tension that make it difficult to fully enjoy at this stage, though the structure is impressive and there is a lot to get excited about, this is going to be a thrilling Barolo, all need is money and patience! After lengthy air and chopping you catch a glimpse at the inner beauty here and can just make out the glorious detail, dried roses, sweet strawberry and mineral notes tease you like a haunting ghost. This is serious stuff, and I know I’ll be jealous of those that have this bottle of Cannubi, drink from 2020 to 2032, great vintage and wonderfully crafted, bravo.
($95 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Aia Vecchia, Lagone, Toscana Rosso IGT, Italy.
With great vineyards in both Bolgheri and Maremma, Aia Vecchia makes some fantastic wines, at the top end from Bolgheri is there Sor Ugo that comes from vines close to Ornellaia and Sassicaia, and is a wonderful Cabernet blend, as well as making some awesome value wines from both areas with a superb Vermentino and this stunning Lagone rosso. This 2012 Lagone red blend has Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese mostly and comes from both estates, this is a wine that delivers way beyond it’s price class and a great wine for the savvy buyers that want wonderful quality and compellingly friendly wines. I must say, this Lagone is very impressive and I would recommend it for wine lists and or parties, it has alluring dark flavors, rich texture and nice depth and length, this red offers a lot of bang for the buck. The nose has warm earth, dark flowers, black fruits with hints of spice and toasty wood leading to a lush, round palate of blackberry, baked cherry, tangy currants, plum and creme de cassis with cedar, mint, mocha, anise and sweet tobacco. This leans toward medium/full body and feels creamy in the mouth, but has a nice burst of acidity and refined tannins holding it together, it makes for excitement and joyous drinking, perfect with a vast array of cuisine, and is pretty darn tasty stand alone for a drinking all on it’s own. Again this Aia Vecchio is a bargain red that gives great Tuscany charm for a great price, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2020.
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine A et P de Villaine, Mercurey “Les Montots” Red Burgundy, France.
Aubert de Villaine’s family estate in Bouzeron is still one of the best deals in fine and early drinking Burgundy wines, these wines are a far cry from his day job wines at Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, where he is the managing director, but they make for exciting and well crafted offerings for savvy wine buyers and enthusiasts. Imported by Kermit Lynch, the de Villaine wines have a very sexy appeal and can be outstanding, and they usually are fruit forward, but with poise and vibrancy that give them the ability to age well, even though I would bet most people enjoy them young and fresh. The estate is farmed with biodynamic practices and the wines show a beautiful inner energy and charm, especially good in this 2013 vintage are the Rully white and in particular this wonderful Mercurey red, which is full of flavor and intensity, and if I’m honest I like it better than the more acclaimed 2010 and 2012 vintages, this is really stylish and excellent stuff. The 2013 de Villaine Mercurey Les Montots starts with an almost Gamay expression with dark floral scents, spice and juicy berry fruits leading the way, but starts to tighten up and get focus on the palate with pure Pinot character coming through with tangy red cherry, plum, red peach flesh and black raspberry layers along with mineral, pepper, cinnamon, cedar and sweet tea notes, the mouth feel is robust, but medium bodied making for a focused and vivid Burgundy. The wine changes a bit in the glass, it keeps your attention with much allure and detail, and the finish is crisply zesty, though with lovely lingering currant and strawberry fruit as well as hints of anise, saline and truffle, drink from 2016 to 2022.
($48 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 La Stoppa, Trebbiolo Rosso, IGT Emilia, Italy.
Elena Pantaleoni’s famous natural wine estate of La Stoppa continues to intrigue the wine world with a unique set of wines from Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy, from her savory Ageno orange wine to a set of Frizante sparklers, a sweet passito Malvasia, then there are the reds, a Barbera and this Trebbiolo red blend of 60% Barbera and 40% Bonarda. The wines farmed here by Elena and her vignaiolo Giulio Armani are all organic, fermented with their native yeast in a combination of stainless tank, concrete vats and cask, with an all natural approach, without any chemicals or additives other than a tiny dose of sulphur at bottling, these are pure expressions of La Stoppa and Emilia. The 2013 Trebbiolo Emilia IGT Rosso is surprisingly forward and different from the last two vintages and really shows the deep and dark fruit of the Barbera with much less reduction (funk) in the nose, though hints of animal/game remain and the mouth feel is fuller and has a certain density and persistence that impresses, this wine has an inner force and vitality. There is an array of layers and a cascade of flavors to enjoy here with floral/dried violets and rose oil, hints of horse, saddle leather, lavender, minty herbs and cinnamon wrapped around a core of tangy plum, black cherry and raspberry fruits along with a touch of earth, truffle, cedar and mineral on the vibrant palate. There is some licorice and tart currant that comes through with air along with faint blueberry and briar notes making for a very pleasing Trebbiolo that feels a bit more ripe and polished than prior efforts, but that is a very good thing and I love this 2013 and it should appeal to a wider audience, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive