2014 Chalone Vineyard, Chenin Blanc, Estate Grown Heritage Vines, Chalone, Monterey County.
Chalone’s 2014 Heritage Vines Chenin is a true classic and a stunning dry white wine, it is intensely mineral driven, steely and chalky with tight citrus, white peach and a faint trace of dried honey. Without question this is one of the top Chenin Blancs in the new world, I bet this beauty with age 30 years! This wine is a throw back to some of the 1970’s Chalone wines that really put Monterey on the wine world map, this place oozes history and it has a real sense of terroir. The 2014 Chalone Chenin was crafted from old vines on ancient seabed soils by Chalone winemaker Robert Cook, it’s masterpiece of elegance and vivid detail. The unique limestone, granite and clay soils, cool nights, elevation in the Gavilan range near the Pinnacles and shear remoteness really show up in the details of Chalone’s wines, especially true in their limited production whites like this Chenin and in their Pinot Blanc, the rare offerings are worth searching out, I’ve been lucky in the past to try older vintages of them and they can be mind-blowing even at 15 or 20 years old, as is their Chardonnay, which has real similarities to Burgundy when aged. Chalone’s Chenin Blanc comes from a plot originally planted in 1919, just after WW1, it is old school head trained and is very small yielding which adds to the extract and vitality, it takes a bit of time to flesh out on the palate, but is serious stuff with lime, lemon, wet river stones, rosewater, quince and hints of tropical notes to go along with that core of white peach and crisp mineral essence. Look for beeswax, verbena and honeyed pear over the the next decade to unfold, but it’s thrilling and expressively vigorous now, it would be gorgeous with oysters, chèvre, white fish and or mussels in it’s youth. It was fermented in 60% neutral French barrels and 40% in stainless tank, then aged about 6 months in cask before bottling, it has hidden richness and is vibrantly fresh, this is simply rocking good dry Chenin!
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Clusel-Roch, Cote Rôtie “Classique” Rhone, France.
After having some of the 2011 recently, the 2012 Closel-Roch seems leaner, lighter and more tart, but that being said, it is a fine effort with deep garnet/purple color and very pleasing, especially with air and food. The Domaine Clusel-Roch Cote Rotie is all organic and comes from the Cote Brun, an area with schist and dark mica soils, these wines are rustic for the region and while usually almost 100% Syrah, there is an inter planting of about 4% Viognier which is co-fermented and thrown in as well with native yeasts and lots of stems, everything here is holistic in approach and the wines tend to take time to show well. The 2012 is meaty to start, though not big, with layers of bacon, earthy notes, blueberry, tart plum, cherry/kirsch and boysenberry leading the way, taught on the palate, with extra moments in the glass there is mineral and floral dimension with flinty stones, violets and spicing lavender, all of this is backed up with peppercorns and black olive along with light cedar, cinnamon and cassis/currant. This vintage is a bit tight, lighter in body and racy still with stem tannin and a touch of greeness, though I think it will fill out some and drink better, more complex and complete in a few years, so if you have the 2009 or 2011 versions, drink them now, and this 2012 in maybe 3 to 5 years time, it will never be a blockbuster, but there is plenty of beauty inside to surprise and reward the patient Rhone enthusiast. I love the wines of Clusel-Roch, these are soulful terroir wines and have old world charm, from their Galets Gamay to their top Cote Rotie and Condrieu these are lovely offerings.
($60+ Est.) 91-93 Points, grapelive
2013 Lagier Meredith, Malbec, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley.
Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith’s mountain Malbec is a lovely rich wine with deep fruit, brambly spices and a lingering finish, it is neither a copy of a Cahors or an Argentine style wine, it is a red that they have made their own, and certainly one of the best and most compelling examples of this grape to be found in California. I would say this Malbec has more of a Bordeaux quality about it, almost Cabernet like in style with blackberry, dark currants (cassis notes), cherry and sweet plum along with cedar, briar, lavender spice and cigar wrapper leading on the full palate, and while this is a big mouthful of wine it doesn’t feel heavy, it reminds me a little of Ridge Monte Bello in it’s character and finesse, this is wonderfully crafted stuff. I adore this current set of wines from Lagier Meredith, and usually I would love the Syrah best, but this vintage I might just go for the Malbec! The Tribidrag a.k.a Zinfandel too really stands out, this is a winery to check out in a big way, these beautiful and textured mountain wines from up high on Mount Veeder offer a lot and are unique, especially this tasty and gripping Malbec. The tannins are firm, but refined giving plenty of structure and control without being aggressive and there’s enough acidity to lift the dense fruit, air and time in the glass reveals violets, white pepper, hints of vanilla and blueberry, this wine and the Lagier Meredith Mondeuse are very interesting Napa reds that deserve a little searching out, drink this 2013 Malbec over the next 3 to 5 years, it is an impressive wine!
($48 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Costal, Chablis, Premier Cru Vaillons, White Burgundy, France.
With the Collet’s and Raveneau consulting, the Domaine Costal Chablis have a lot of talent going into them, and of course the savvy of Kermit Lynch behind the project almost puts it over the top, but they deliver, especially for the price, and this 2014 Vaillons in particular is a beauty with good depth of flavor and mineral steely character. Over the last 5 to 10 years Kermit has developed many value priced labels to help ease the pain of skyrocketing prices in top Burgundy, two of those that have continued to attract bargain hunters are Savary and Costal in Chablis, they are no longer well kept secrets, so you’ll need to get on it early to secure them, with many of the 2014’s selling out. With all the bad news coming out of the region and Chablis especially, hail and frost damage is going to make it hard to keep prices down, the vintage 2014 is a must grab year, before the lean amounts of wine really starts to get severe. For the good news, this 2014 Vaillons from Domaine Costal is a recent release and you should be able to get it, again you should not wait, it is a brilliant effort with striking citrus, white flowers, brisk acidity and solid extract showing lemon, green apple, liquid mineral, river stones and hints of straw, honey and zesty lime. This vigorous Premier Cru fills out on the palate, but stays nice and tension filled with balance and an appealingly pure Chardonnay soul/core throughout with Chablis terroir markers, like flinty spice and tangy crisp detail, light clove, fig and hazelnut play almost out of reach in the background. This well crafted white has control and finesse to really please the hardcore Chablis nuts, it is an alluring wine with a hint of austerity and old fashioned charm, sublime with cuisine and makes for a fine summer sipper. Drink over the next 3 to 5 years, the Domaine Costal Premier Cru Vaillons is a very complete and lovely wine, with very little buyers remorse to worry about!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Sciaccarellu, Rouge Frais Imperial, Corsica.
The young and lush Rouge Frais Imperial from Domaine Comte Abbatucci is an all biodynamic wine made from 100% Sciaccarellu, a native grape that originally came from Tuscany where it is still found though rare, known as Mammolo it was once in many Chiantis and in Vin Nobile and was thought to have been brought to Corsica by the Etruscans, along with the more famous Sangiovese that has now become Niellucciu. The new Abbatucci Rouge Frais Imperial is bright with red fruits, hints of violets and balanced with savory mineral, spice and earth notes to contrast with red cherry, plum and mountain berry fruits that fill the medium-full palate. This pure Sciaccarellu certainly delivers fine drinking pleasure with silken texture, ripe tannins and nice fresh acidity, it has everything for your needs in a fairly direct red that provides enjoyment of terroir and does not need much in the way of time or air to get going in a fun way. This wine can deal with lots of food options and cuisine, it’s focus makes it happy with meat, spicy dishes and hard cheeses, especially sheep cheese, it would make an excellent choice with outdoor meals, BBQ’s and grilling on the deck. You could even put a slight chill on it for warm afternoon picnics. Domaine Comte Abbatucci has a stunning array of wines, and they seem to get better and more complex as I taste each vintage, sometimes I get a bit concerned with the pricing, but the quality is always there throughout the range, especially in this red and the Rose bottlings. Kermit Lynch’s collection of Corsican wines are the elite of the Island with Abbatucci, Leccia and Canarelli leading the way, you should continue to explore these wines or start to, as they really are intriguing examples.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Laurent Combier, Cap Nord, Saint-Joseph Rouge, Rhone, France.
The Cap Nord Saint-Joseph Syrah from Laurent Combier is an organic red made from 20 Year Old vines on north-eastern exposure, hence the name “Cap Nord” and it is a lovely expression of varietal and terroir with it’s granite soils giving mineral complexity and floral notes to go with a pure juicy nature. The 2012 Cap Nord shows cool climate bright acidity with dark fruit and medium weight, fermented using native yeast and aged in large cask highlights the true character of the grape and place with flinty/pepper spice, violets, black raspberry, sweet plum and tart blueberry. Imported by Charles Neal, the Domaine Combier wines are great values and interesting wines with Laurent Combier really coming into his own as a winemaker, be sure sure to also check out his Crozes-Hermitage as well, it is really a bargain, not costing much more than a Cotes du Rhone, but this Cap Nord is in particular a beautiful wine with graceful tannins and easy textures. I enjoy this 2012 Cap Nord a lot and it was especially distinct with cuisine and it really hit the spot for my Syrah craving, I’ll be drink more of this no question and I’ll be following it over the next vintages as well.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2009 Domaine Henri Gouges, Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru, Clos des Porrets St.-Georges, Monopole, Red Burgundy, France.
The Gouges wines are always a class act, and this 2009 surprises for it’s reserved and elegant character in such a warm vintage, I had expected a bit more weight and fruit, but it was remarkably fine and detailed with stunning mineral tones and subtle layers, it was almost crisp and delicate, while still providing depth and lingering grace. This 2009 Clos des Porrets St.-Georges Monopole is a beauty, a friend and client opened it from their collection of under $100 Burgundies to see where the vintage was going and shared it among a few curious souls, it’s refinement and balance were admired greatly and while not a blockbuster, it impressed and it certainly looks set for a long life, with solid tannins, good acidity and dark fruit intensity. It is as with all Gouges, a bit shy at first, slow to reveal much with an earthy punch to start with, opening to rose petals, graphite, ceps, gravelly loam and bright mineral before a core of black cherry, wild plum and steely currant fruit emerges. Solid, but light to medium weight showing, this is at a stage prior to it gaining back some weight and richness, though still exciting to drink, a nice size glass allows thought and pleasure to unfold, there is a heavenly silkiness that develops and an array of spice, floral tones and light cedar that adds complexity to this Burgundy. Lots of promise to be found here, if you own this bottle, you’ll be very happily rewarded by it’s glorious nature, it’s all Gouges, but be patient, I think another 5 to 10 years will be an ideal waiting period, maybe longer, but who has the time? The Henri Gouges Nuits-St.-Georges offerings are rock solid choices in Burgundy, and remain excellent values, and I’m happy to see my experience with them re-enforces that opinion, this was a real treat and a thrill.
($80+ Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Fazenda Pradio, Mencia, Tinto, Ribeira Sacra, Spain.
Xabi and Martina Pradio run this small all natural winery in Galicia’s Ribeiro Sacra as well as a guest house and restaurant that highlight their family traditions and respect for their land, the history and terroir. Xabi farms and makes the wines organically, no chemicals or additions are ever used, and like Lapierre in Morgon, Beaujolais, he is using almost no sulphur. The Mencia is fresh, vibrant and alive with flavor and fruit with spice, mineral and lifting acidity, this 2014 especially is an impressive effort with dark fruit at the core and rich medium weight, this is a textured wine that gives a lot for the price. Not as out-right beautiful as Guimaro, but certainly a wonderful expression of this grape and place, you’ll want to find Fazenda Pradio and enjoy the wines. The 2014 Tinto/Red is all Mencia, stainless steel fermented with native yeasts and without any added sulphur, finishing at just above 12% alcohol, this is vivid and expressive Mencia with subtle floral and earth tones that folds into dark cherry, black plum and wild berry on the palate with hints of flinty stones, lavender, pepper and blood orange. Nice bright acidity and satiny tannins hold things in place with traces of anise, strawberry and savory elements adding complexity to this stylish offering from Pradio, drink over the next couple of years, but right now is a great time to enjoy this Mencia.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Nigl, Gruner Veltliner “Freiheit” Niederösterreich, Austria.
Nigel’s 2015 Freiheit Gruner is bright, fresh and steely crisp with light body and mineral charms, while not as exotic or extract filled like the 2013, it certainly surpasses the 2014 in pure quality and is a damn good drinker. Followers of Austrian wines are all trying to find the magic again after the highs of the amazing 2013 vintage, and while 2014 was terrible, it was a big let down in comparison, so the pressure was on when it was time to taste the 2015 wines, and expectations were sky high, so look for first reviews to be a bit flat, though the offerings are very good, it is a vintage to buy and enjoy, the wines have solid flavors and concentration with nice ripe tones, they should make for short and mid term agers as well, in some cases they get close to 2013’s, but there is nothing to hold you back from being very happy with them, especially Nigl’s base Gruner Veltliner Freiheit, this is a wonderfully focused and clear style with brisk acidity and zesty citrus layers, perfect for summer and everyday pleasures. The Nigl 2015 starts with lemon, white flowers almond oil and liquid mineral leading to a transparent palate of lime, white peach, light green apple and wet stones. This dry white come alive with food, while feeling slightly severe on it’s own with austere tangy character and traces of earthy loam. Not overly complex in it’s make up, it still holds your attention and does everything asked of it, drink over the next year or two, it has potential to gain a point with a little bottle time, but it is not supposed to be that serious, enjoy and quaff it up young.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2015 Schlossgut Diel, Rose de Diel, Nahe Germany.
The Diel Rose de Diel, Rose of Pinot Noir, is a beautiful pink wine that is dry and mineral crisp with wonderful bright flavors and surprising depth, in fact all these 2015 vintage Schlossgut Diel offerings are stunning. Caroline Diel’s latest set of wines show gorgeous detail, life and extract with her dry Rieslings really standing out, but don’t miss a chance to try her Pinot Noir red and this Rose. This Nahe estate is one of the regions best and they have long focused on drier style wines, it has a great sense of place with a unique mix of soils to work with that includes spicy slate, gravel, clay and quartz that gives plenty of ripe character along with mineral essences that lends elegance and length to these wines. The 2015 Rose de Diel is lovely with a start that shows liquid roses, pink citrus, sour cherry and distilled strawberry along with wet stones, flinty spice, fine sweet herbs and hints of blueberry and tart plum. While flavor filled this Rose is vivid, vibrant and crisply delicate and hauntingly lingering, this is one of my personal favorites of the season, those that have been long time Diel fans will find the 2015 Rose de Diel a very special expression, those that have never tried Diel will want to find this rare offering! Other wines to look for by Diel include the “Caroline” Pinot Noir 2013, all the Trocken Rieslings, especially the Pittermannchen Grosses Gewachs and the Dorsheim Trocken, as well as the more fruity Feinherb “Von der Nahe” a special cuvee requested by Terry Theise. Also, 2015 Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese offerings fro Schlossgut Diel should not be missed, they will gain from years in not decades of cellaring! For sooner joy, get this Rose de Diel and drink it over the next year or so, it is a great example of German Rose.
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive