2012 Yann Chave, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone Red, France.
I’ve always loved the Yann Chave Crozes, it was one of my first crushes in the northern Rhone, and the wine has evolved along with my tastes perfectly over the years, and it was fantastic to taste the latest release from Yann Chave. The 2012 Crozes-Hermitage is forward and grappy at first, but opens to reveal added depth and complexity, this is very stylish Syrah and while it drinks great right now even, it should be a solid performer over the next 10 years. The nose is pure and layered with violets, black fruit, minty herbs and a hint of bacon, char and pepper leading to a full and vibrant palate of plum, boysenberry, blueberry and currant fruits along with fresh meat, melted black licorice, lavender oil and kirsch plus subtle camphor, truffle, slate/stones and cedar notes. This is very pleasing Syrah and an exciting young wine, I highly recommend searching this one out, it is always a tough find retail wise, but worth it as the price is super for what you get in the glass and in the bottle, again this is a sublime and brilliant effort from Yann Chave, drink from 2014 to 2024.
($28 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Arianna Occhipinti, Il Frappato DOC, Sicilia, Italy.
The new Occhipinti’s are fabulous wines, some of the best yet from the captivating Arianna Occhipinti, the face of the natural wine movement and one of the most interesting characters in the wine world. The 2012 Il Frappato is super fresh, bright and full of the fruity quality Arianna’s fans adore, this is delicious stuff. Pure and juicy with a light ruby color and a mix of fruit flavors including wild strawberry, lingonberry, mulberry and framboise along with hints of lavender, basil, wet gravel and a touch of candied orange rind. This clear and transparent wine shows the loving touch and playfulness of Occhipinti’s style, but the lingering finish appeals to even hardcore Burgundy fans, it is wonderfully balanced with silky tannins and lifting acidity all in a stylish medium weight wine, drink from 2014 to 2018. Look for added layers, and some earthy evolution and density to develop over the next year or so in bottle, be sure to cellar carefully to elicit the best rewards from this delicate wine, Frappato is a gentle and charming grape and Arianna Occhipinti is one of it’s great champions, don’t miss her latest release.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($39.95)
2012 Silvestri, Syrah “Red Ranger” Estate, Carmel Valley.
One of the best reds from Carmel Valley is Alan Silvestri’s estate Syrah, and this reserve or barrel selection called the Red Ranger, especially good in this vintage and noticeably more distinct than the normal estate bottling. Silvestri is and was inspired by the wines of the northern Rhone Valley of France and I know personally he studied extensively many a Cote-Rotie, Hermitage and Cornas! When he planted his tiny Carmel Valley estate vineyard there were not many that went to way of Syrah, but he has put out some very good wines and I really love what he has done with both these Syrah and the new planting of Barbera. The 2012 Silvestri Red Ranger Syrah is rich and dense, but still with nice acidity and reliable tannins showing plenty of vigor and structure, there is a hint of floral and pepper notes on the nose leading to damson plum, meat and kirsch along with blueberry, boysenberry and earth on the palate while there are hints of anise, cedar, bacon and tangy currants. There is a good opening and evolution in the glass with air, this wine is still wound up and young, and when mature it will reveal more cassis, mocha and earthy tones, with a slightly chalky/mineral note in the background, this is solid impressive stuff, drink from 2015 to 2019.
($45 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Peter Lauer, Riesling “Barrel X” Ayl, Saar (Mosel) Germany.
The family Lauer own a hotel and restaurant in Ayl on the Saar River and run a small winery next door, the Weingut Peter Lauer makes mostly dry style wines and almost everything is from the famous Ayler Kupp mountain home to distinct parcels and terroirs that have wonderful south-eastern exposures and good slopes, this is the perfect home for mineral intense Riesling, and Peter’s two sons Peter (3rd) and Florian run the estate with most winemaking in the capable hands of Florian who calls his wines “Rieslings for advanced learners”. I had not had any Lauer Riesling prior to today and I was quite impressed with their basic offering made for their US importer Vom Boden Imports, the Barrel X which is bright, tangy and full of sizzle. The Saar intrigues me, though my experience is limited with only a few top producers, so it was cool to be introduced to something new, many thanks to Stevie and Josiah at Bay Grape, an urban hip wine store in Oakland, for stocking it and for the nice wine rep that shared it with us, this is a great new place to explore wine, be sure to check it out. The 2013 Weingut Peter Lauer Barrel X starts with citrus pulp, granny smith apples and green apple skin, sea salt and steely mineral essences along with hints of lime, mint and citron, all delivered in a light high-toned style that is very dry feeling, though there is some RS to give balance. This wine does pack loads of acidity and is lip smacking making it a fine summer sipper, it is super refreshing and at 10.4% it won’t weigh you down, and it finishes crisp with a touch of dry extract, more apple and a wet stone chalkiness, drink now.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2011 Holman Ranch, Pinot Noir, Heather’s Hill Estate, Carmel Valley.
Every so often I visit my hometown, Carmel Valley near Carmel on the Monterey Peninsula and check out the local wine scene and I try to spotlight new or special developments in the region, and this summer I looked into some new wineries, including the Holman Ranch Vineyards. Local vineyard guru Greg Vita, winemaker and consultant to many Carmel Valley wineries including Galante Vineyards, showed me (his) Holman Ranch wines recently and he enthused about the potential of this estate just east of the Village in Carmel Valley. These young vines with excellent exposure and soils are beginning to show real promise, I was very impressed with many of the Pinot Noir offerings from the Holman Ranch, especially this Heather’s Hill bottling from 2011 which Vita says comes from mostly Calera clone and some 115 clone, these are slightly austere wines, but I can see why he is excited and I look forward to seeing the 2013 and 2014 wines, as the vine age hits a more mature level. Vita says the 2013 will be a turning point, a break through vintage for Carmel Valley Pinot Noir. Many have tried Pinot here with very mixed results and awkward wines, though some promise has been shown, with Figge and a few others making some fine efforts in recent years. The Holman Ranch has an interesting mix of clones and it’s own unique so called micro-climate, and Vita explained in great detail that the chemistry is really good, the grapes are not showing some of the areas deficiencies that make for unattractive wines, being a native to Carmel Valley I couldn’t help getting excited, I’ve been wondering if ever there was going to be a great Pinot made here for decades, and I finally see there might be in the coming years. The 2011 Holman Ranch Heather’s Hill is earthy with chalky texture, it hits the palate with a spicy intensity, but opens to dark fruit with air and fills out nicely on the palate, it is still serve in many ways and has a few gaps, though I must say it is very enjoyable. The 2012 wine is lighter and comes across quite a bit thinner, this true of the alcohol with 2011 being about 14% and the 2012 coming in at just over 12.5%, so the the 2011 is more generous and deep, I also tried the first releases from 2010 and they were juicy and likable as well, but the 2011′s were more complete and complex. The cool vintage comes through with nice acidity and brisk profile with a core of plum, red berry and cherry fruits with hints of red spice, basil, mushroom and cedar forming a wine that might get better with another year or so in bottle, though drinks well now. I think there is some real potential for the up coming vintages and while it is a nice start it is that glimpse into the future that is what is most intriguing here, Carmel Valley has some complex issues to solve in it’s search for identity and especially in finding a signature wine and grape, maybe it will turn out to be Pinot Noir, for now it is very uncertain, but who knows, and this wine might change the discussion down the road.
($37 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Andreas Schmitges, Riesling, Kabinett “From Red Slate” Mosel Germany.
This gorgeous and bright Riesling is from the middle Mosel and is grown on unique red slate soils, this site used by Schmitges gives a lovely intense fruitiness and spicy character, and while the 2012 Red Slate is Kabinett it has plenty of acidity, savory elements and mineral underpinnings making it feel almost trocken and well balanced with just a bit of juicy sweetness. I am highly impressed with Schmitges and all of their fine offerings, but I’m thrilled by the quality and value in this beautiful Red Slate Kabinett, it should be a must have Riesling for this great vintage and it should age well too. The 2012 Schmitges Riesling Kabinett from Red Slate is vibrant, poised and wonderfully detailed with tangy fresh yellow peach, rose oil, white tea, apricot, spiced pear, apple and lime layers, slightly creamy on the palate with some vivid tangerine and tropical essences along with a flinty spice and loads of steely wet stones. There is a lingering taste of brine, sea salt and honey, but finishes crisp and refined. This is super stuff, a great food wine especially with asian fare, very cool and dynamic with class and style, Schmitges is a winery to check out no question, the Mosel is full of great wines with Selbach-Oster, Knebel, Prum, Thanisch, von Hovel and many more, but you should not overlook Weingut Andreas Schmitges, these are terrific wines and this one surely is one of the best values out there, drink from 2014 to 2025, imported by Dee Vine Wines.
($22 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($19.95)
Napa Valley Hit Hard by Earthquake
August 24, 2014
Grapelive learned there was an earthquake sized at 6.1 centered around American Canyon just south of Napa, this event has caused some major damage and serve injuries in the Napa area, please check your local news sources for further details. The quake happened about 3:20am local time and was felt by more than one million people in Northern California. Our thoughts are with our friends in the Napa area.
2000 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Seven Springs Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Mark Vlossak has been making great Oregon Pinot since the late Eighties with his St. Innocent Winery, based in Salem in the Willamette Valley, remarkably he and his wines still fly under the radar and they are some of the best values in Pinot Noir in the world, bar none. Recently, a winemaker friend pulled a bottle from his own cellar and handed it off to me, and which I shared with my mum, this bottle was absolutely brilliant, glorious and mind-blowing with texture, grace and depth, it is hard to imagine a wine being better or more pleasing at nearly 14 years old and from a vintage no one really rated highly, this is special stuff, no question. St. Innocent makes up to 6 different vineyard select wines each vintage, I’m always a fan of Shea and Temperance Hill, but all are superb wines with Zenith, Momtazi, Freedom Hill and Justice Vineyard being the other current Cru wines here. Sadly, after the take over by Evening Land, Mark was not able to get Seven Springs Vineyard one of Oregon’s true Grand Cru sites, making these older Seven Springs wines that much more exotic and rare. This vineyard is set in Eola-Amity Hills on a perfect palate of soils and with just the right exposure, with a volcanic mix known as Jory and old vines mostly own rooted Pommard clone it provided Mark in 2000 glorious fruit and the wine is showing fantastic now in 2014. The 2000 St. Innocent Seven Springs is still youthful in the glass with a dark ruby hue, no signs of age in the color and a fresh grapey dynamic on the palate with a cascade of red and black fruits including plum, currant, black cherry and brambly mountain berry along with notes of chanterelle, oyster shell, flinty mineral and anise with hints of cedar, saline and faint char that is like a ghost of oak shading. The tannin is silky having melded in perfectly over the years and the acidity is lifting still and provides a juicy framework, this is beautiful and elegant Pinot Noir that is majestic from start to finish, drink now and over the next 3 to 5 years, it is sublime. Note to self, get some St. Innocent 2012 to put away!
($45-60 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Silvestri, Barbera, Carmel Valley.
Alan Silvestri, famous award winning composer who has scored many movies and recently was nominated for another Emmy for his music in Cosmos, owns this small estate deep in Carmel Valley. I remember when he started out there and it was great to catch up on his wines, which are all estate offerings now, with Syrah his main love, but I discovered the Silvestri Barbera this time around, it is the first release for this varietal, and it is absolutely delicious. The 2012 Estate Barbera is lush, vibrant and succulent with a dark ruby, blue hue in the glass leading to a stylish and fruity palate, and while not very similar to it’s Piedmont cuisine, it shows very nice open fruit with black raspberry, loganberry, raspberry and plum along with zesty acidity and sweet herbs and chalky stones. There is very subtle wood/cedar notes and a hint of licorice and a lingering strawberry essence on the finish, this is a fine inaugural effort with this Italian grape, drink over the new few years, best from 2014 to 2017, this was fun stuff, available at the Silvestri tasting room in Carmel by the Sea.
($27 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive