Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 5, 2020

2018 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling Feinherb, Graacher Domprobst “Alte Reben” Mosel, Germany.
One of the sleepers in Johannes Selbach’s fabulous collection of 2018 wines is the stunning old vine Graacher Domprobst Feinherb that delivers a dry style and energy driven palate with a fantastic play between crystalline mineral lightness and the extract density that comes through as textured layers. This is incredible Riesling, in a lineup of incredible Rieslings from slate slopes above the Mosel, making it hard to see its individual excellence, in fact it did take time and reflection to get clarity on this Graacher Alte Reben Feinherb which, when focused on, gives a performance that rivals the best of the region with layers of generous green apple, lime, mango and quince fruits, dried ginger spices, smoky flint stoniness, citron/verbena and salted melon sorbet, in a weightless and steely frame. The acidity hides the residual sweetness (off dry), again showing why a non trocken (dry) can be more balanced and still drink crisply dry, especially in a wine of this purity and quality, where exceptional work was done in the vineyards and experience in the cellar that allowed this wine’s unique true personality and soul were allowed to come through without forcing it into a category that would have changed its life force. Some will say that if Selbach had fermented a shade or two drier he could have made a GG out of this wine, but that would take away more than it would have given, this wine is better for the extra fruity quality and it certainly drinks much drier than the average Burgundy or California Chardonnay, but the point is Selbach has revealed the absolute best of the place and grapes to shine through, it is magnificent and a Riesling that shows the heart of the Mosel. The Graacher plots are on primarily blue Devonian slate with a layer of loam underneath, that brings out the fruit, and it’s that expression that Johannes celebrates and spotlights here, this is a special old vine section and this Riesling, which came in the winery with about Spatlese must weight, bursts at the seams with gorgeous tension and intensity, though presented with grace and poise.

Selbach’s holdings in the middle Mosel includes some of the best old vines in the region with about half of their vines being on their original rootstocks, in Zeltinger Himmelreich, Schlossberg, and Sonnenuhr; Wehlener Sonnenuhr; and, Graacher Himmelreich and this one from Graacher Domprobst. These vineyards are set on the classic weathered Devonian slate and are on a very steep, contiguous slope that gathers the sun and the reflection off the river with perfect south and south west exposures. These vines make for an impressive set of parcels, which are all picked separately, of course by hand and each is faithfully fermented to create very individual wines that pay great respect for each site and what story they each want to tell, I am in particularly fond of certain sites and over the 20 plus years I’ve been enjoying and tasting Selbach-Oster I have developed favorites that speak to me personally, like Zeltlinger-Schlossberg, which no matter how it is treated and or sugar level it makes my heart sing and beat a little faster, though I always love the Kabinett, always a guilty pleasure. 2018 has proved more difficult to fully understand and my vision has been blurred by greatness, all of the Selbach wines are brilliant to point where it is terribly difficult to pick out the highlights, hence the need for reflection, but I highly recommend looking for and searching out all of the single parcel wines, like the Bomer, Rotlay and Schmitt, plus this Graacher Domprobst Feinherb, which is a steal for the quality on offer! Johannes uses traditional oak fuder in his cellar, adding, according to his importer Terry Theise, a few new large casks every couple of years and the ferments are done in a combination of fuder (German oak cask) and stainless steel, predominantly these wines are allowed to start with “Sponti” or with wild yeasts, and aged on the lees for an extended period. This wine was fermented in those old Mosel Fuder barrels, some up to 60 years old, almost as old as the vines themselves, this stuff deserves your attention and it should really gain with another 10 years in the cellar, if you could keep your hands off it!
($38 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Book Review “The Wines of Germany” by Anne Krebiehl MW

The Wines of Germany
by Anne Krebiehl MW

I am really glad I got this book, The Wines of Germany, by Anne Krebiehl MW, Anne has done an amazing job of research here on this incredibly informative tome and she has with some talent made it easy to understand and readable. With German wine law being as dysfunctional as it is, she has made it as clear as possible, which was no easy task even for a Master of Wine, like she is. You can through the pages see Krebiehl is passionate about her subject and knows her stuff, she has a real grasp of Germany’s past, present and future. The layout and chapters are well thought out and go by with surprising ease, this includes a ton of history of both Germany, its wines and individual personalities, plus a great overview of each of Germany’s 13 main regions, from the Mosel to the Rheingau and beyond. There is everything you’d want and more about climates and terroir, plus it goes deep on winemaking styles and almost every varietal and where they thrive, with a heavy lift on Riesling, as one would expect, as well as a nice amount of time given to Spatburgunder, Germany’s name for Pinot Noir. It was also good to see loads about my favorites and old friends, like Donnhoff, Leitz and Selbach, to spotlight just a few.

Of course there are things, grapes and producers that were overlooked, but overall there is so much is here, there can be no complaints, plus there are some great finds here, and I will be doing my best to get my hands on some of Anne’s recommended wineries and future stars, including Gesine Roll of Weingut Weedenborn in the Rheinhessen and Weingut Benedikt Baltes in the Franken region, to name a few. There are plenty of pages dedicated to the classics and the established stars too, with many interesting tidbits about the domaines and I learned a lot, and I’m well informed about German wine and have visited many times! There’s much here that you’ll want to have on hand or close to hand if you are studying the wines of Germany or planning to travel there to visit the main wine areas as well as the lesser known spots. I got my copy early out of England, but it is now widely available and on Kindle too, if you are an acid freak or Riesling fan you’ll want this book.
($40 Est. Paperback – Kindle SALE $16.17 – as of 4/4/20)

94/100 Rating, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 4, 2020

2016 Saint Jean du Barroux, par Philippe Gimel, Ventoux Rouge “La Source” Rhone Valley, France.
The Saint Jean du Barroux wines are made by Philippe Gimel, the talented winemaker who is an ex chemist that first worked at top names such as Château de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape, as well as La Janasse, Pierre Bise and Château Devès, names his Ventoux cuvées of Saint Jean Du Barroux after an element of the surrounding terroir, like this La Source Rouge being influenced by a local natural spring near by. The Cotes du Ventoux area in the Rhone’s Luberon is located close to Provence in the foothills of the chalky Mount Ventoux, the highest site in the area, made famous as terrifying and tough stage on the Tour de France, it’s a great and very underrated growing region renowned worldwide for incredible values in Rhone reds, made mostly from Grenache and Syrah. This 2016 La Source by Domaine Saint Jean du Barroux is absolutely fabulous with the depth, perfume, ripe smooth tannins and concentration of flavors that rivals many wines three, four or five times the price, this is stunning lavender scented wine that delivers layers of rich boysenberry, dusty plum, pomegranate and strawberry fruits along with dried flowers, wild garrigue (herb/shrub) or sage, peppercorns, licorice as well as lingering creme de cassis and kirsch, adding a touch of loamy stones and clay contrasting savory elements.

The dark purple/garnet hued, full bodied and aromatic 2016 vintage Saint Jean du Barroux La Source Ventoux Rouge, crafted using 70% Grenache, 25% Carignan and 5% Cinsault all from organic vines set on classic rocky top soils over limestone and hardened clay, it easily could pass for, and tastes like a top-flight Gigondas or Rasteau with exceptional purity, made from a tank raised selection. Gimel pays careful attention to each parcel and he, according to the winery, harvests and sorts by hand, does his fermentation using indigenous yeasts in cement tanks, where it also spends its elevage, and he only bottles after the wines age 18 months at the minimum. Imported by Eric Solomon of European Cellars, the Saint Jean du Barroux wines have a fanatic following with Rhone fans and bargain hunters, these are insanely good wines, especially in years like 2016 and this wine in particular is a steal with its serious palate impact and deliciousness. Philippe Gimel founded his estate back in 2003 and has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, these wines are stand outs in an area that doesn’t get that much press, which maybe good for those looking for fantastic Rhone expressions at everyday drinking pricing, and at a time like we have now with Covid-19 stay in place orders, this La Source is a wine to stock up on. I highly recommend trying the Saint Jean du Barroux Ventoux Rouge offerings, drink up!
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 3, 2020

2018 Sandlands Vineyards, Red Wine, Lodi California.
The latest set of Sandlands are looking pretty awesome, and I started by opening the new 2018 Lodi Red, which is equal parts Cinsault, Carignan and Zinfandel, which takes a leading role in the profile at this stage with its raspberry fruit standing out, though it gets more complex and interesting with time and air, making for a delicious California blend that is bursting with expressive flavors. This dark garnet and purple wine has beautifully textured layers of ripe and smooth dark berries, tangy cherry, from the racy Cinsault, as well as plum, pomegranate and a hint of blueberry fruits. Behind the fruit there is an array of spices, mineral notes, touches of anise, floral dimension and a very subtle wood element. There’s a supple mouthfeel and old vine concentration that is a hallmark of Passalacqua’s wines, who for the past eleven years has worked for Turley Wine Cellars, starting as harvest intern, as he notes, and now as Larry’s head winemaker and vineyard manager! The Sandlands Vineyards label is his personal project, with Tegan and his wife Olivia Passalacqua making a tight collection of wines that are mostly from vines set on sandy soiled sites from across the state. Their lineup includes, what he calls, the forgotten classic California varieties, that as mentioned are primarily grown in decomposed granite (sand), from regions and vineyards that have been farmed for many generations (of California families), but have remained, as Tegan adds, the outliers of California viticulture. This head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted vineyards are extremely special to Passalacqua, which he says harken back to California’s roots of (wine) exploration, wonder, and hard work.

The 2018 Sandlands Vineyards Lodi Red was an intentional blend of three old vine vineyards, so while not a heritage field blend from a single interplanted site, it does have that kind of feel and personality in the glass. The plots include some1886 Cinsault vines from the Bechthold Vineyard, as well as some 1900 Carignane from the Spenker Ranch and some grapes from the 1915 Zinfandel vines from Passalacqua’s home ranch, at the Kirschenmann Vineyard. Tegan Passalacqua, who is a Napa Valley native, has really stamped his name on the current lineup of Turley and has because a leading voice in California wine, promoting the state and its history with almost every breath. He got his start in the wine industry working in winery labs in Napa, as well as traveling around the world to gain perspective and experience with some influential regions and winemakers. He notes, he has worked in the cellars of Craggy Range in New Zealand with Doug Wisor, along with two of my high heros, Eben Sadie, of Sadie Family Wines in the Swartland of South Africa and Alain Graillot in the Northern Rhone Valley of France! The Lodi Red finished up at 13.3 % natural alcohol and stays very lively and fresh throughout, it is an easy wine to enjoy and is delicious with lots of food choices, I enjoyed it with grilled spicy chicken burritos, but would love to have it with Cajun cuisine and or BBQ pork, plus it will be fabulous with burgers too. While it is tough to find the Sandlands stuff, I highly recommend joining the mailing list, they are really tasty, fairly priced and each wine is unique.
($30 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 2, 2020

2015 G.D. Vajra, Barolo DOCG, Coste di Rose, Piedmonte, Italy.
New to the Vajra collection is the Coste di Rose Cru Barolo from a unique vineyard site high in the hills and set on deep sands, so sandy in fact the Vajra’s call this site the beach, over marl and clay soils that gives this Nebbiolo its awesome perfume and amazing texture, just when you thought this winery couldn’t get any better, a wine like this comes along and you get blown away all over again! The 2015 shows the vintage’s warmth and smooth tannins making for a compelling young Barolo, it should age exceptionally well, but certainly it will be very enjoyable all along the way, though I can imagine the upcoming 2016 will be the for collectors to stock up on, with the years more structured form, that said I love this 2015 very much and adore its almost Burgundy/Pinot Noir like class and silken mouth feel, and I imagine it will firm up with another year or so in bottle. The estate of GD Vajra is situated in Vergne, the highest village in the Commune of Barolo with Nebbiolo, being the main varietal, but also planted with Dolcetto, Barbera, Freisa, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and of course their legendary Riesling, which is one of my favorites, to name a few. The vineyards are at heights of 350-400 meters, which plays a big part in the wines’ complexity and aromatic quality that winemaker Giuseppe Vajra achieves with his amazing collection of offerings. I tasted the Coste di Rose at this years Slow Wine Tasting in San Francisco, which thankfully happened before the Cover-19 shutdown, where Vajra’s importer(s) showed us the latest Bricco Della Viole Cru Barolo, the Riesling, which I have reviewed earlier and this new Cru, that I haven’t tried, and while the Bricco Della Viole remains the flagship wine, this Coste di Rose is right up there!

The vines at Vajra, according to the winery, are some of the last to be harvested in the region, giving them long hang times as the higher altitude often pushes their pick dates well into October. Giuseppe Vajra, who took over from his dad Aldo, continues to makes wines in line with tradition, but also uses technology and state of the art facilities to craft these wines. The Barolo wines get about a 30-40 day cuvaison, gently extracting the fine tannins from the skins. Vajra notes that there is a small percentage of stems are left in durning the maceration and primary ferments depending on the vintage. The G.D. Vajra wines are not adorned with flashy sweet/toast French barriques, these wines are exceptionally pure and transparent versions of Barolo and the wines are aged in large (mostly older) Slovenian oak barrels for between 42-48 months before bottling. I’ve been lucky to have had the chance to try most of Vajra’s Barolo bottlings since the 2008 vintage and have been blessed to have tasted with Giuseppe on more than a few occasions and it has been a stellar rise in stardom for this humble and gifted winemaker, when you mention great winemakers in Italy, let alone Piedmonte, Vajra is almost always mentioned, especially by those in the know. The 2015 Coste di Rose starts with its heady rose petal perfume, delicate earthiness and red fruits on the full bodied, but ultra luxurious palate, with the tannins well hidden at this point, again making this feel more like a Chambolle than a rustic Barolo, delivering a silken cascade of brandied cherry, raspberry, plum and balsamic dipped strawberries along with fresh mineral tones, snappy herbs, light cedar and sandalwood notes, as well as licorice, mint, blood orange zest and lingering mulberries. Drink this beauty over the next 5 to 15 years. ($69-85 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 1, 2020

2018 Cruse Wine Company, Tannat, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County.
Mostly known for his divine Ultramarine Methode Champenoise sparkling wine and his fun lineup of pétillant naturel, Michael Cruse also makes some really good still wines some of which come from unique places and crafted from lesser known varietals, like his Valdiguie, also known as Napa Gamay, because it was long thought to be Gamay and this Tannat. This firmly tannic black grape is originally from France’s Basque region and found in wines from Irouléguy in the Pyrénées, as well as famously also in the Madiran AOC in France’s southwest, plus Tannat has proven to be quite delicious in the new world with serious versions coming from Uruguay and the grape is seeing some success in California, where it was only a minor player, though it has been here for nearly a century, and a blending grape until more recently. Cruse gets his from one of the best vineyards in Northern California, Alder Springs, in Mendocino County, mostly known for Rhone varietals, especially Syrah. Located just 12 miles east of the beautiful Mendocino Coast, and 3 miles west of the legendary Redwood Highway 101, the site is remote and challenging, but makes for fabulous wines, this region is bordered by a dramatic coastline, the Eel River and is also home to enormous Redwood trees. The Alder Springs Vineyard, In the far northern Mendocino County, past Anderson Valley, is farmed by Stuart Bewley, who has been growing some of California’s most sought after wine grapes since 1993. Cruse is making lots of fun stuff, like this Tannat, with his pop top Sparkling Valdiguie pétillant naturel being one of my personal favorites, as well as his Sparkling St. Laurent Blanc de Noirs pétillant naturel, made from a rare Austrian red grape grown in Carneros.

Michael Cruse, like most from this new group of California’s talented winemakers and micro wineries is not interested in making blockbuster and oak driven wines of the prior generation, but instead he is looking for purity and youthful drinking pleasure in his still wines, like this one, using natural methods and indigenous yeast fermentations and without the use of new barrels. Tannat can be very rustic, fiery and dusty dry, it is naturally high in raw tannins, polyphenols and pigment, making for chewy wines that tend to need some robust cuisine to tame the gripping force on the palate, though Cruse has managed to present the grape in a more generous and stylish form with a lacy freshness, ripe black fruit flavors and vivid details. Interestingly, Bewley has an array of three different Tannat clones including 794, 474 and 717 at Alder Springs, which would seemingly add to the complexity in this wine. Alder Springs is not a monolithic site with many micro climates, a mix of plots and many soils from which to chose like marine sediments, gravels, clay, broken stones and basalt to name a few, along with various hills and slopes. The dark purple and electric garnet hued 2018 Cruse Tannat starts with a hint of sweet florals, black fruit, wild herbs and mineral tones before filling out on the ripe and impeccably smooth, especially for Tannat, palate with layers of blackberry, blueberry, plum and black cherry fruits, minty licorice, a touch of deep blood orange, a hint of iron and delicate spices. This wine is very textural in mouth feel and it is wonderfully fresh, with satiny tannins, refined natural alcohol at 13%, good acidity and will be exceptionally fan with simple and rustic country style cuisine, it’s a delicious and easy to drink wine to drink over the next few years. Cruse has tamed the beast!
($39 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 31, 2020

2018 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli, Timorasso – Derthona DOC, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmonte, Italy.
A few years ago, Walter Massa of Vigneti Massa almost single handedly brought the rare Timorasso grape back from extinction and now it is one of the hottest white wines made in the Piedmonte region, and we are seeing many great producers jumping on the bandwagon, including the famed Vietti and this beautiful expression by the legendary Barolo maker Borgogno. Tasted at Slow Wine earlier this year, the 2018 Borgogno Derthona DOC should be arriving to the United States soon, though you’ll have to really work hard to get your hands on it as it is extremely limited, but you’ll be greatly rewarded for your hard work and search if you get your hands on it. Borgogno’s Timorasso from organic vines is lightly floral, medium bodied with a lovely texture and fine minerallity, it delivers a polished and lively performance highlighting the grape’s best qualities with layers of peach, citrus and quince fruits, leesy notes, white flowers and an array of herb and spices along with a nice saline and wet stone element. Derthona is the ancient name for Tortona, the town in southeast Piemonte, hence the appellation Colli Tortonesi (Tortona Hills) name. The Timorasso is widely believed to be one of the longest-aging white varieties in Italy, with many of the producers saying it takes a few years to get itself together in the bottle, adding a depth of flavor and making more of a palate impact with honeyed notes and it deserves serious attention, going well with a variety of foods including poultry, pork and fatty fish and decedent shellfish, even lobster and or crab dishes. The Borgogno Timorasso doesn’t come cheap compared to other examples, like the Massa, which I also recommend trying, but it is a gorgeous white wine that is joyous rarity, that will be great addition to the cellar or a special occasion.

The Borgogno Dertona DOC comes from the Monleale, mostly hillsides around Tortona set on classic clay and limestone soils with good ripening coming from the great southeast and southwest exposures, making for a more full bodied version, in some ways like the dry rich Alsatian Rieslings, but with a bit more softness and opulence, like Burgundy, especially when allowed to age. This 2018 which was aged, mostly in tank for 18 months is very refined and has remarkable clarity with a delicate light pale color and subtle acidity, which is very rounded. Borgogno, also known as “Giacomo Borgogno & Figli” which was founded back in 1761 by Bartolomeo Borgogno, was one of the very first elite Barolo producers and has an amazing track record for great wines, with their Nebbiolo bottlings being some of the most desirable wines in Italy. The Farinetti family acquired this historic winery in 2008, but is firmly committed to quality and the estate’s traditions, with Andrea Farinetti, according to the winery, who graduated from the oenological school in Alba, took over in 2010 giving a youthful excitement to this legendary property. The 2015 marked the first vintage of their Timorasso white after a purchase of the vineyard sites and the conversion to all organic practices. Borgogno also brought back the use of concrete for fermentations to give an extra element of classic and soulful expression to the wines throughout the range. You should never miss a chance to try the Borgogno Cru Baroli, like those from Cannubi, one of the world’s greatest vineyards, Liste and Fossati, which are exceptional or Grand Cru sites, plus their Riserva, which is sometimes aged 20 years in the cellar! I also love their de-classified Barolo, Langhe Nebbiolo called “No Name” as it offers an awesome value, and now I am going to keep an eye out for this Derthona!
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 30, 2020

2016 Fedellos do Couto, Loma dos Ares, Red Wine, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain.
The Fedellos do Couto, founded in 2011 by Luis Taboada, and based in his family home, is a small and intriguing winery headed up by winemakers Curro Barreño and Jesús Olivares who are focused on crafting wines from the local terroir and local varietals, like Mencia and Godello. The Loma dos Ares is made mostly from parcels in the Bibei zone using old vine Mencia, about 40%, and with small amounts of Muraton, Bastardo, Caiño Tinto, Negreda, Aramón, Gran Nero and Garnacha Tintorea making up the rest of the blend, sourced from vines set mainly on granite, sand and schist based soils. According to their importer, Eric Solomon – European Cellars, Lomba dos Ares, is Curro & Jesus’ village wine coming from their oldest and steepest vineyards on the west bank of the Bibei River, that separates Ribeira Sacra from Valdeorras, with these vines averaging about 70 years old. This dark ruby and magenta hued 2016 is bright and fresh, but still with the old vine concentration showing vivid red fruits leading the way delivering loads of whole cluster crunch and tangy flavors that remind of some Jura red wines with a crisp and mineral vibrancy. There are layers of earthy/spicy raspberry, tart plum, cherry and lingonberry fruits, along with snappy herbs, light floral tones, a touch of saltiness, racy cool climate acidity and dusty tannins, making this a wine that refreshes on the medium weight palate making it perfect for Spring and Summer drinking and goes well with many cuisine options.

The Ribeira Sacra, which is a very historic wine growing area in Spain’s green Galicia region just northeast of the Portuguese border near the Mina and Sil Rivers that was prized by the Romans who cherished the wines from this steep and remote region. This area has seen a huge amount of excitement in recent years with wines of outstanding quality making quite a slash with wine critics and wine lovers, these new generation of Ribeira Sacra wines are led by the likes of Pedro Rodriguez of Guimaro, Laura Lorenzo of Daterra Viticultores, Envinate and this Fedellos do Couto label. There is a respect for the land and the hard work that goes into making these wines, it is not easy here with few roads and ultra steep, mostly terraced vineyards that doesn’t allow much but back breaking labor and hand work, so you see mostly now organic and natural style wines, including this Loma dos Ares. The wine, a co-ferment of all the varietals in cement vats, using hand harvested grapes, with 100% whole cluster and natural yeast fermentation employing a long, gentle maceration with pigeage lasting between 40 to 60 days. After primary the wine was racked over to a combination of neutral 300-500L French oak barrels for an elevage of about 10 months before being bottled. This 2016 vintage is pretty and well structured, it should develop nicely for many years to come, even though it is super easy to love now, especially with its restrained natural alcohol, which at 12.5% adds to the wines cool and vivid character, this is fabulous stuff.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 29, 2020

2018 Dard et Ribo, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “C’est le Printemps” Northern Rhone, France.
René-Jean Dard and François Ribo, who produce some of the most sought after natural Syrahs, are famously media shy and hermit like vignerons from Mercurol, north of Valence, founded their tiny Northern Rhone estate in 1984 with a small cellar and micro parcels of vines and a focus on non intervention wines. Jamie Goode, the English wine critic and natural wine expert, says that René-Jean Dard and François Ribo accidentally became known as natural winemakers, as they commonly don’t use any sulphites (added sulfur) at all, although, he notes, they are not religious about it and really were just trying to make wines they themselves were interested in drinking. Their fame has more to do with their attention to detail and very hard vineyard work and the exceptional quality of their grapes, especially the ones that go into their Crozes-Hermitage bottlings, that are still outstanding values and are more commonly available, like this wonderfully expressive C’est le Printemps. Dard and Ribo have close to ten hectares of vines, with half of that in Crozes-Hermitage, as well as some in Saint Joseph, and a small plot on the hill of Hermitage, which goes into their unicorn version of this legendary site. Their production is about 65% Syrah, which they are most known for, but they also do close to 35% white wine, which a mix of Marsanne and Roussanne parcels, again mainly in Crozes.

I recently got a few bottles of the classic black label Crozes, from the 2017 vintage, plus one of this lovely fresh 2018 “C’est le Printemps” which I had never seen in person prior to this vintage, it is Dard and Ribo’s quaffer or Glou-Glou version almost like their idea of a Nouveau, made for early release and early drinking and it fits the bill perfectly with loads of pure fruit, light spiciness and soft tannins. The Crozes-Hermitage vines are from organic plots, farmed without chemicals, mostly hillside, set on iron rich red clay soils with gravel and alluvial stones scattered throughout the vines, which give these wines true terroir character and even this version shows the classic detailing, a pretty crushed violet bouquet and flavors with layers of blueberry, damson plum, currant and black raspberry fruits, along with snappy licorice, saline and iodine, mineral tones plus cinnamon and peppery spices. This wine shows a nice juiciness, a ripe personality and a tank raised like vibrancy of form, adding a hint of earthiness, mission figs, lingering kirsch and lavender. This medium bodied, low sulfur, drink now, Syrah, which reminds me of Maxime Graillot’s Domaine des Lise Equinoxe in style, but maybe slightly more complex and expressive, I really should have bought more of this from SommSelect! Happily, I have found these Dard and Ribo to live up to my expectations and I hope to explore more of the limited stuff in the future, they are delicious.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 28, 2020

2018 Inspiration Vineyards, Viognier, Canihan Vineyard, Sonoma Valley.
Jon Phillips’ new labels and new releases have transformed this winery and I am thrilled with the results so far, in particular I really like the 2018 Canihan Viognier with its beautiful honeysuckle bouquet and fleshy apricot that bursts from the glass. While not classic Condrieu by any means, it is a lovely California version of this grape with a richer mouth feel and denser impact on the full bodied palate, but is well balanced and not overly fruity or heavy with a nice cut of acidity and less obvious oak shadings and it is joyous with food, especially spicy shrimp and calamari. Phillips, who is the Chairman of the Board for Family Winemakers of California, started Inspiration Vineyards in 2002 after studying through one of the UC Davis extension programs and making some vintages of home wines. Jon moved to the Russian River area and set up shop originally on Olivet Lane, but now makes his wines in an urban winery in Santa Rosa and has a few acres of estate vines with a focus on Zinfandel and like his peers does Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from classic Russian River sites, plus some intriguing Rhones, like Grenache, Syrah and this Viognier. This white will appeal to those that have enjoyed Joseph Swan, Kunde, Alban and Cold Heaven expressions of this varietal and for those that are looking for an expressive alternative to buttery Chardonnays or grassy Sauvignon Blancs.

The 2018 Viognier shows a bright golden color and starts fresh, dry and tangy, getting more lush and rounded with air and matching cuisine delivering layers of the mentioned apricot, tangerine, melon, apple butter, marmalade and golden fig fruits along with a touch of brioche (lees), herbs, wet stones and an echo of the florals. This highly aromatic Viognier is pleasantly ripe and mouth filling and offers a solid value for fans of this grape and the regional wines. I can’t wait to try some of the other new wines sporting the new art labels with the Ceja Farms Grenache, especially after trying the Sheldon Wines version, and as noted before Dylan Sheldon joined Jon here at Inspiration in 2016 and his influence and synergy here has brought a lot to the newer wines in the collection. The use of new oak is limited and the wines have gained vitality and natural fresh details, but still full of flavor with a lighter touch in the cellar. There are a bunch of wines in the lineup to discover, in addition to the Viognier and Grenache, look for their 2018 Branley Pinot Noir, the 2018 Palindrome Vineyard Syrah from Dry Creek Valley, a low alcohol Ray’s Zin 2018 from the Russian River Valley, a luxurious full throttle 2018 Zinfandel from the Gallaway Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley and the 2017 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Inspiration sells almost exclusively direct and all of the bottlings are very limited, like this one and the wines are terrific values, so check them out on their newly updated website.
($29 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive