Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 25, 2015

2013FotiAurora2013 I Vigneri di Salvo Foti, Aurora, Carricante Vino Bianco, Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy.
Salvo Foti, the King of the Volcano, crafts natural and organic native wines from Sicily’s Mount Etna region and is regarded as one of Italy’s top winegrowers, and his new 2013 Carricante Aurora is living proof, this is a gorgeous white with elegance, style and amazing quality. The 2013 Foti Aurora is stunning with delicate details that remind of top Premier Cru white Burgundy and still shows the pure terroir of Etna with exotic spice, flinty mineral and a lovely pale yellow/gold color, with sexy white peach, tropical notes and kumquat as well as soft butterscotch, salty chalk and lemon marmalade. The main force is a refreshing citrus core, but the acidity is smooth and this refined white, only 11.5% alcohol, feels seductive on the palate with almost satiny texture. This is a light and lifting wine, but with vigor and complexity, the finish is lengthy and leaves lingering dried roses, mixed herb and a trace of honeycomb. This wine comes from steep slopes on lava/iron rich soils, it is surprisingly cool and the grapes develop plenty of character and acidity, and these Foti wines, both his fantastic Nerello Mascalese offerings and this wonderful Carricante are must have, bucket list wines! Drink the 2013 I Vigneri Salvo Foti Aurora over the next few years, best from 2015 to 2020, it is a sublime hand crafted wine that will transport you away to the beautiful and wild island of Sicily, true genius stuff!
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 24, 2015

2012CuilleronStJoe2012 Yves Cuilleron, Saint-Joseph, L’Amarybelle, Rhone Red, France.
When you are craving Syrah and especially Old world stuff, this Cuilleron St. Joe really hits the spot with beautiful details, density and terroir charms, it is hard not to love this wine, it’s deep hue, a black/purple core and lush dark fruits, mineral and mix of spice and earth are just sexy and compelling. Cuilleron sometimes get overlooked, but his his are alluring, well crafted and really solid efforts that deserve a lot of attention, especially his Cornas and Saint-Joseph Syrah wines, but be sure to check out his pure varietal bottling too, they are great little wines and remarkable values, in particular you should search out his Syrah, Viognier and Roussanne, and no question this L’Amarybelle really stands out, this 2012 is juicy, focused and wonderful stuff, and while not quite as good as 2010 and 2011, it sure is good and feels like it might get a bit better in the bottle. I adore this Syrah, it is what the grape is all about with vigor, intensity, soul and stylish character, this a classy wine that starts with a heady perfume of dusty violets, lavender. white pepper and a middle eastern market full of exotic smells leading to a full bodied palate of red and black fruits including a mix of boysenberry, blueberry, kirsch/cherry liqueur, damson plum and mountain berry along with camphor/graphite, slate, wild herbs, chalky/salty licorice, black fig paste as well as cedar, loam, leather and dried flowers with lingering currant notes. This beauty enjoys a cut of acidity and a nice round mouth feel with a hint of tannic bite and at only 12.5% alcohol is very easy to quaff and celebrate an evening with, drink between 2015 and 2021, I will want more of this, and I might not have given it the highest points score, but I certainly recommend it very passionately!
($45 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 23, 2015

2013BeauxFreresWV2013 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
After the blockbuster 2012’s it was going to be difficult to make a follow up, then bring rain close to harvest and you make it even more challenging, but somehow Mike Etzel and his team have done it, and in fact this new 2013 Willamette Valley is a beauty, and delivers the goods with remarkable class and character making the drop off from vintage to vintage almost unseen! The Willamette Valley cuvee, an unfined/unfiltered Pinot from top site in the region, including a bunch of estate fruit along with Zena Crown, Hyland, Gran Moraine and others, makes for an incredible basic entry level wine, but it does come at a price, which has gone up in recent years, luckily so has the quality, pretty much equalizing the cost out and makes it worth the extra cash, remembering too this is one of America’s finest wineries, though it does makes the likes of St. Innocent stand out for value, though on the other hand there are many newer wineries charging much more in Oregon for for lesser wines, no shaming here, but they know who they are. So yes you should be sure to book the sexy new 2013 Beaux Freres, while the top BFV and Upper Terrace need cellar time to lose the reductive nose and show their depth this Willamette Valley is drinking great almost instantly and will prove a reliable pleasure over the next 3 to 5 years and maybe a few more, while the 2012’s can be put away, the 2013 should be enjoyed and drunk sooner. The 2013 Beaux Freres Willamette starts with a mix of aromas and a solid deep hue in the glass with rose petals, wild herbs, flinty red spice, red currants and mineral along with vanilla and cinnamon sticks leading to a medium weighted and silky palate of blackberry, bramble, briar, cherry and tart plum as well as smoke, gravelly stones, anise, tea spices and loamy earth along with forrest chanterelles. The finish brings hints of strawberry, cedar and mocha and while on the lighter side of Pinot there is always an impressive presence in the mouth, an underlying grip, energy and vitality, this is lovely wine and there is no reason not to indulge on this brilliant and well crafted offering, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 22, 2015

2013COSpithos2013 COS, Pithos Rosso, IGT Sicily, Italy.
I sat in recently to hear Guisto Occhipinti speak and show his wines, it was a wonderful experience and a huge education on the region of Vittoria with the bonus of tasting a dozen of his wines together, making it easy to understand and sample them in context. The Island of Sicily, as explained by Guisto Occhipinti is like it’s own continent with many single and unique terroirs, there are five mountain ranges and a huge active volcano, plus warm and cool areas to consider, as well as many differing soils, so he maintains both the land and culture has many influences from the geological history as well as the many invasions and populations have affected the society in this mysterious island. The COS wines are all now farmed biodynamic, they see almost no oak, most raised in glass lined cement and a few done in ancient style Amphora, like this wondrous Pithos Rosso, and all the wines are natural within reason with just a tiny amount of sulphur added before bottling, and native yeast fermentation only. COS and Guisto’s niece Arianna Occhipinti are Sicily’s leaders in natural wines, and they have brought world attention to the region of Vittoria and have highlighted the beauty of the Frappato grape to the wine world, as well as shown Nero d’ Avola in it’s purest expression. The blend of Nero and Frappato, like as in Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, with it’s old seabed/limestone soils, can be a fantastic wine, and both COS and Arianna excel in these cuvees, but I wanted to showcase the COS Pithos and in particular the new release the 2013 vintage, it is a majestic example of clay pot wine, the Pithos is fermented and aged on it’s skins in terra-cotta cuves, Amphora, that are inspired by the the Georgian traditional Kvervi aged reds, an ancient method that goes back at least 3, 000 years, with Guisto using specially made Spanish Amphora and resting the wines under ground for about 12 months. The result is a savory spiced wine of sound color and stability with almost no added sulphur, this is really old school, and they also do a white blend in the exact style, an orange wine, that is also lovely, but it is this 2013 COS Pithos (60% Nero 40% Frappato) that really stood out, it is delicate, focused and gorgeous with silky tannins, vividly pure fruit and a lovely long finish. The nose has hints of chalk dust, wild herbs, dried roses and wild flowers, soft raspberry and Asian spice leading to a refined palate of light to medium weight body, similar to Pinot Noir in mouth feel, with tangy strawberry, plum and red currant fruit, a touch of pomegranate, fennel and roasted herbs along with dance of minerals, and a stylish play of elements that make for a glorious and seductive wine. Drink this COS Pithos over the coming decade, it should be an every changing joy for many years too come, it is drinking exceptionally well and charming even now, though it might be best between 2016 and 2021.
($43 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 21, 2015

2013GroundworkCounoise2013 Groundwork, Counoise, Central Coast.
San Liege’s Curt Schachlin makes a great number of handcrafted wines under his main label Sans Liege and his Groundwork label, the Groundwork always being single varietal Rhone offerings, while the Sans Liege includes mostly Rhone blends, except in the case of his glorious Sancha 100% Marsanne and Curt’s two top Grenache cuvees En Gedi and Pickpocket. The latest Groundwork red, and new to me, is Schachlin’s Counoise, one of the rare Chateauneuf du Pape Rhone red grapes that almost never finds it’s way into mono varietal bottlings, but it’s use is on the rise in Paso Robles in exciting blends since it came to the region along with Cinsault and Tannat as part mainly of Tablas Creek’s cutting they brought from France and their vines at Beaucastel. Counoise is similar to Grenache with red berry fruit, peppery spice and light tannins, and this Groundwork Counoise is a superb expression of the grape and a very tasty wine, Curt was telling me, recently at a tasting in San Francisco, that he found some of this varietal in a small vineyard near his home close to Arroyo Grande and that it gets less than a ton per acre from almost wild shrub/head pruned vines and that he uses partial carbonic fermentation in a self taught technique that really works great on this new Groundwork Counoise wine. The 2013 Groundwork Counoise is medium weight, nicely dark with a garnet/ruby hue in the glass and very expressive with bright boysenberry, raspberry, strawberry and tart cherry fruits, zesty pepper spice, a touch of chalky stones and mineral, minty herb, salted licorice and dried wild flowers. This is a playful and vibrant red that creams to be drunk now and often, it is very pleasing without heaviness or having cloying fruit, this is a perfect Spring and Summer red, almost Beaujolais like in flexibility and style, and in fact I would serve with a slight chill in the heat of an afternoon BBQ party. Drink this little gem over the next few years, I love it, between this and Rochioli’s Valdiguie, I’ve found my Summer quaffers, best from 2015 to 2018. Also be sure to look for Curt’s Groundwork Grenache, Grenache Blanc and Mourvedre, these all really rock for the price!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 20, 2015

2012NeighborhoodPNRuinenlust2012 Neighborhood Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Ruinenlust, Enchanted Hill Vineyard, San Simeon.
From vines adjacent to the famed and majestic Hearst Castle comes Neighborhood Vineyards Ruinenlust Pinot Noir, this cool climate Pinot shows lush texture and full flavors, that you would expect of central coast wines with a deep ruby/red hue, silky and lush mouth feel and long lingering finish. With consulting help from ex Tantara winemaker Jeff Fink, Neighborhood Vineyards has put together a strong two wine lineup of 2012 Pinot Noir, and owner/winemaker Elly Hartshorn is planning to revive San Francisco’s wine growing tradition, she has planted a Pinot Noir vineyard in the City and it should be online in a few years, her Alemany Farms Vineyard is the talk of the town and we are looking forward to seeing this project take shape, she has a block of 828 clone in the ground since 2013 and we should be getting some fruit this fall, though we will have to wait for a production wine for another 3 to 4 years, but it is very exciting, especially after tasting her last set of releases from sourced grapes. Elly’s 2012 Ruinenlust Pinot with it’s beautiful fabric label and it’s Turkish Kilim artifact symbols plus a natural wax capsule make the package really stand out, but what’s inside the bottle is just as impressive and it expresses terroir, elegance and rich layers from start to finish with lovely fruit, spice and cedar wood. The palate expands nicely, but never feels heavy or overly dense, and at 13.8% alcohol it is a refined effort with glorious detail and grace showing black cherry, plum and raspberry fruit, minty/fennel, vanilla, hints of smoke, Asian spice/tea and cola bean. This polished and easy drinking Pinot is really hitting it’s stride and should drink nicely over the next 3 years, this is a winery to watch and get on board with ASAP! Be sure to keep an eye out for Elly’s Cabernet Franc from Paso Robles and her upcoming Albarino, both are super wines as well!
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 19, 2015

2013FieldRecordingsTempVentu2013 Field Recordings, Tempranillo “Ventucopa” Santa Barbara County.
Andrew Jones’ is making some of the best value wines in California and his Tempranillo offerings are some of the best varietal Tempranillo you can get, especially this new Field Recording release from Ventucopa in Santa Barbara. The Ventucopa is a juicy version of Tempranillo with dark fruit, a bit more acidity than the Paso Dead End Ranch, but showing lush texture and real harmonic flavors that dance on the palate and linger on the finish, this is really lovely stuff and drinks great right now. This Tempranillo is somewhere between a Joven and Crianza (Rioja) in style, in fact, it feels like a Chianti Classico with deep color, but with bright cherry and plum fruits. This entertaining red is one of many from Field Recordings, and you should be sure to check them all out, in particular Jones’ Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and his main wine the Fiction Red Blend are of the highest interest and give lots of pleasure, especially for the price. The Ventucopa Tempranillo starts with that garnet/ruby hue, a hint of spice and perfume, leading to a fruit driven mouth with morello cherry, fresh picked plum, minty herb, mineral, aromatic shrub, tangy dried currant and cedar as well as picking up some baking spice and raspberry on the finish. I think it would be fun to hold a few bottles for a few cellars in the cellar, though it wouldn’t be easy as it drinks so good right now, I highly recommend visiting as many Field Recordings wines as you can, they really are super wines and this Tempranillo might be the sleeper in the bunch, drink this Spanish themed red between 2015 and 2020.
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day April 18, 2015

2012SaladinCS2012 Saladin Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley.
This brand new release from Saladin is an outstanding deeply colored and flavored Cabernet with a purple/black core, wild spice and ripe flowing layers from a tiny sloping vineyard on the famous Howell Mountain, it is hard not to love this new California wine. A new and sensational effort by a father and son team that were inspired by the wines of Randy Dunn, this Saladin Howell Mountain is a big and rich Cabernet that shows the quality of the vintage and the unique Howell Mountain terroir with tangy currant, cassis, plum and blackberry fruit, smoky oak sweetness, briar spice, pipe tobacco and acacia flowers. A tannic backbone and restrained alcohol, under 14%, and generous body make this a wonderful Cabernet to enjoy now and for many years to come, if you are looking for a great small production Napa Cab, only a few barrels made, that is not $200 a bottle, you should be looking at Saladin’s latest Howell Mountain, it’s a winner! This wine fills out nicely on the palate, good solid feel, density and it has a wonderfully long and complex finish with peppery lavender, sage, vanilla and mocha notes along with lingering blueberry. There looks to be a long drinking window here, but I wouldn’t be afraid to enjoy it in it’s youth either, though it should pick up more interesting detail and refinement in a few years, drink from 2016 to 2026.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day April 17, 2015

2013LuciaChardSLH2013 Lucia Vineyards, Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The fabulous Lucia SLH Chard 2013 is one of the best yet from Jeff Pisoni, he seems to get better each vintage and of course the vineyards without question are getting better with superb farming by the Pisoni family. The SLH is a blend of select Pisoni farmed sites, it all adds up to a rich and layered Chardonnay with a cool streak of acidity and mineral tones, especially true of this fabulous 2013 vintage, (I was slightly surprised and disappointed last year when I tasted 2012’s and found sweet notes mixed with a hint of under-ripe almost veggie notes in quite a few wines from the region), happily this is not the case in 2013 versions, the year seems as close to perfect as you can get in the Santa Lucia Highlands with Pisoni’s Lucia being one of the best set of wines available. The balance is fantastic in Lucia’s latest releases and the quality for price in the Santa Lucia Highlands generic wines is great, if you were tasted blind again top $75 to 100 Chardonnay and Pinot, you would see just how good theses are, and you can see how accomplished Jeff Pisoni is as a winemaker, the ex Peter Michael man is really a huge talent. The SLH Chardonnay starts with bright citrus, white flowers, steely notes and opens to pear, white peach and apple fruits, clarified cream, saline, clove spice, river stones and honey butter/vanilla. This is impressive and the cut of lemony acidity keeps this full bodied effort fresh and dynamic, it drinks like a fine Chassagne and has a nicely lingering finish, best from 2015 to 2018.
($45) 92 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day April 16, 2015

2012BaxterWholeCluster2012 Baxter, Pinot Noir, Oppenlander “Whole Cluster” Mendocino.
Phillip Baxter, based in the Anderson Valley, joins an elite list of winemakers crafting beautiful Pinot Noir, and his gorgeous 2012 Whole Cluster a new benchmark for sheer beauty, class and quality, one of my top picks from the vintage and an absolute stunner. Baxter trained in Burgundy with Pascal Marchand at Le Domaine de la Vougeraie and has put that to good use, even though in this case with his Whole Custer, it was a totally new experiment, but a hugely successful one, and his talents are on show throughout his impressive lineup of Mendocino and Anderson Valley offerings. The Oppenlander Whole Cluster stands out, it is like a Grand Cru, majestic and regal, somewhat like Burgundy’s Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru does in a lineup up great Crus, it just has that something extra and flamboyantly shows it off. The 2012 Baxter Whole Cluster Oppenlander Vineyard, a cool climate site, starts with violets, rose oil, liquid minerals and is bursting with red fruits in the nose which is incense laced and wonderfully perfumed and spicy leading to a refined, but open knit palate of tangy plum, black cherry, fresh squeezed raspberries, briar, cinnamon and pomegranate along with sappy notes, loam and cola bean. There is a fresh streak of flowing acidity, but an extraordinary texture and well ripened tannins, the stems have melded in perfection to the soul of this wine, leaving a heavenly mouth feel and finish. The structure is sound, the balance superb and while long and silky, it has vibrancy and life, this will gain with a year or so in bottle, though no waiting is needed, drink from 2015 to 2020, this is outstanding Pinot Noir and Baxter is a name to write down in bold letters, you will want this wine!
($60 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive