2015 Ser Winery, Rose of Nebbiolo, Olof Vineyard, Lake County.
Ser Winery is a artisan Santa Cruz based winery that sources single vineyard fruit to craft unique terroir expensive wines, it is the solo project of Nicole Walsh, ex Bonny Doon winemaker, and her latest set wines are all worth searching out, especially her lovely Rose of Nebbiolo. The 2015 Ser Rose of Nebbiolo busts from the glass with a pretty color and lots of tart cherry, the varietal’s natural acidity giving plenty of energy and laser like focus, but it is refined and charmingly juicy/fresh on the palate with mineral tones and subtle spices. There are layers of red peach, bright citrus, plum water, watermelon, red apple skin and strawberry as well as a hint of bitter herb, wet stones and rosewater. This is cool and crisp in mouth and has a nice dry feel without being too austere, everything is well judged and balanced. This is something out of the ordinary and really fun, this is a groovy California pink made from an Italian grape with French sensibilities, I really like it, and Nicole’s other new wines include a Dry Orange Muscat, very different, and a great set of Coastview Vineyard, Monterey, offerings, a Chardonnay, maybe the best of her wines in this vintage, a lovely earthy Pinot Noir and a fine meaty and spicy Syrah, plus a wonderful Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir and a wild Cabernet Pfeffer from old head trained wines in Cienega Valley, that tastes a bit like rustic Negrette and Loire Franc! This is winery to keep an eye on, and for the moment grab this superb Rose of Nebbiolo, sourced from Lake County and it’s mineral rich mixed volcanic soils, it’s highly pleasing and refreshing, impressive stuff from Ser!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Jean-Francois Ganevat, Cotes du Jura Chardonnay “Le Montceau” Jura, France.
Jean-Francois Ganevat can’t make enough wine to satisfy the world’s overwhelming thirst for his lovely and intriguing Jura wines, his tiny estate vineyard holdings only allows about 1,700 cases to be produceed, so he is exploring his options by buying fruit and making some Vin de France wines to bump up the numbers, some of which are really fun wines, but it is his estate, biodynamic stuff that has the world’s attention, especially his amazing Chardonnays, that can be compared to the best in Burgundy! People, including myself, have said these wines remind them of Raveneau or Jobard in intensity and style, and without question this are marvelous hand crafted wines with mineral intensity, dynamic acidity and have gripping leesy depth. The non oxidative stuff is just plain gorgeous, in particular look for the 2012, 2013 and the new 2014 wines, like this beautiful and crisp 2014 Le Montceau Cotes du Jura Chardonnay, grown on ancient Marl (limestone) and native yeast fermented, it has that vitality and vigor you dream about in white Burgundy, but with Ganevat’s touch and the terroir influence that is making even the Burgundian’s jealous these days! In this modern world with the reality of demand and climate change, these old vine Chardonnay plots in the Jura are going to be highly sought after and prized Crus for the long run and small artisan producers like Ganevat are all ready superstars, and wines like this show why, even though many worry traditional and old school Jura styles may fade away or lose their place. This concern is well worth considering, but we also need to celebrate those that manage a balance of styles and craft passionate wines, like Ganevat, these are honest wines of the nature and they have a seductive charm and flair that even importer Kermit Lynch couldn’t pass up, these rare goodies from the Jura are some of the hottest wines in his portfolio! The Le Montceau starts with zesty citrus, chalk, white flowers and cool mineral tones with a palate of vibrant lemon, lime blossom, wet stones and flinty spice along with hints of clove, pear and yellow fig. With air things fill out a bit with apple, hazelnut and earthy notes, though always brisk and steely. Magic with food, seafood, cheeses, especially Comte, this vivid Chardonnay is lovely and joyous, it should drink wonderfully over the coming decade. All the current Ganevat offerings are stunning, be sure to search these wines out, the Savagnins and Chardonnays are awesome, but so too our the traditional Jura stuff including the Macvin and Vin Jaune!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling Kabinett, Oberhauser Leistenberg, Nahe Germany.
The delicate and slate influenced Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett should not be overlooked in Donnhoff’s amazing 2015 Rieslings, it is not as showy as the super sexy Spatlese and Auslese offerings or as vital and intense as the Trockens, but it is an awesome wine and seriously one of the great values in the wine world. Finding words for the Donnhoff 2015’s is rather more difficult than you’d imagine, these exceptional Riesling are some of the finest wines I’ve tasted in my lifetime, period, and they should go on to be legendary in the years to come! To get an idea on just how good and fine these wines really are at this young stage you need not look father than this gorgeous Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett with it’s beautiful detailing and finesse highlighting the quality of vintage and terroir, it is loaded with fresh fruit, mineral and persistent acidity and depth of extract, but does it with grace and lithe, almost feline instill if you can grasp my meaning. The classically slightly off dry Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett starts with a light and magical perfume of white flowers, flinty spice, tropical notes, a hint of earthy brine and clove with a sense of green fruit before a lovely seamless energy filled palate races toward your senses with green apple, tangerine, lime blossom, apricot and pineapple along with liquid mineral, distilled rose petals, wet stones, minty herbs, dried ginger and creamy melon sorbet. You can feel the density, though not heavy, with faint sweetness perfectly matched by acid and saline with glorious length, but it’s vibrancy and lightness of touch makes for an elegance that is rarely reached in a wine in the this price class, though more and more common in Donnhoff’s wines! This is a pleasure filled joy to drink, even now, and it should age 10 to 15 years with ease, for quilt free quaffing, you should stock up on this Kabinett while it’s still available, and for serious cellaring do not miss the Brucke, Kirschheck and Krotenpfuhl Spatlese and Auslese, as well as any and all Trockens from the Estate to the Grosses Gewachs from Felsenberg, Dellchen and of course the Hermannshole! Everything Donnhoff is thrilling in this vintage 2015, do not miss any, and for a bargain and balanced complexity be sure to find some of this Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett!
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Bibich, Debit, Dalmatian White, Croatia.
One of the summer’s most fun and refreshing wines comes from Croatian superstar winemaker Alen Bibic of the Bibich winery in Skradin, not far from the beautiful port city of Sibenk on the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia. This winery founded over a hundred years ago, in 1906, is making some of the best Mediterranean influenced wines around and is a must try winery, and while Alen’s reds are legendary, I was surprised to find just how much joy was to be had in his whites, especially his Debit, a local grape that makes for an intriguing white wine with a fine cut of acidity and bright mineral laced character with a light to medium body. The stainless steel fermented and aged Debit comes from rocky dry farmed and head trained vines, the warm days and sea cooled nights gives this wine it’s poise and flavor filled vitality it bursts from the glass with citrus, white flowers and tropical notes with a hint of flinty spice and wet stones. Bright tangerine, melon and peach lead the way along with mango, lemon/lime, basil leaf and a nice dry saltiness. This is a pleasing crisp wine with a nice balance of juicy fruit and brisk elements, great with sea food, salads and just plain summer sipping! Debit is an interesting grape, it hasn’t been studied, though some claim it might be related to Italy’s Trebbiano, I find it more similar to Pecorino, and it drinks a little like a fine Soave, though less floral, the terroir influence makes it unique and clearly Bibich has it nailed, this is lovely stuff.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Saint Cosme, Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
Louis Barruol’s Chateau de Saint Cosme is one of the great wineries in the southern rhone and produce some of the most sought after Gigondas out there! His little Cotes-du-Rhone though, made of almost entirely Syrah, is one of the region’s best value wines, and this 2015 is stunningly delicious and full of flavor. It always seems odd such a major player in top Grenache based wines like Barruol uses so much Syrah in his Cotes-du-Rhone, but then again so does Chave and Clape too, somehow it all works and the wine is deep in color and character and detailed with dark fruits, a plush mid palate and spicy length. The 2015 was 100% Syrah from Vinsobres and Gard with the grapes partially de-stemmed, with fermenting and aging in tank only, this makes for a fresh style and with just enough tannin to age, though complex enough and plush enough to thrill in it’s youth, and this 2015 does just that and with style! The palate is filled with layers of black and blue fruits, blackberry, boysenberry, juicy plum, fig and a touch of cassis along with cracked peppercorns, olive, lavender oil, violets, camphor, porcini, anise and mineral/stony notes. Round and textured the Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone reaches a full-bodied weight, though still poised and vibrant, this is a class act, especially in this price range, I’ve been a fan of this wine for at least 10 years, I just love it, drink in over the next 3 to 5 years, this 2015 is one of the best yet!
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Epoch Estate, White, Paso Robles.
The gorgeous and stylish White from Epoch Estate comes from estate vineyards, Catapult and Paderewski, in the western/cooler Willow Creek District, and is formed of about equal parts Viognier and Grenache Blanc and is a near perfect ying and yang of northern and southern Rhone styles with the result being a true west side Paso wine with flair and substance. Jordan Fiorentini, a major superstar winemaking talent in the California wine world, has crafted a beautiful white with this 2014, it is richly full and expressive on the succulent palate, but remains fresh and lively, she did some unique stuff here, this is a no malo wine, aged in a combination of concrete, both French eggs and Italian tulips were used, plus stainless and neutral French oak, and had a portion of the Viognier macerated on it’s skins for 24 hours, and it got 5 months of lees or Sur Lie. Not only an interesting approach, but a fine tuned blended wine that delivers maximum pleasure and detail with supple and elegant textures and length with an array of honeysuckle, white peach, apricot, hints of kiwi and vibrant mixed citrus, tropical notes, dusty ginger and clove spices, chalky/salty along with clarified cream, pepper, distilled white rose and jasmine, finishing with an almost tangerine/passion fruit sorbet note, while still briskly dry and vital. Fiorentini went to great lengths to get the best out of the Viognier without adding sickly perfume or cloying sweetness, this is a wonderful wine and shows what can be done with white wine in this region, it is not too surprising though as I can honestly say, I have many times thought Tablas Creek’s Chateauneuf inspired Esprit Blanc was their best wine in certain vintages, but Epoch really has done a masterful job here, and while the reds are sublime at this winery, I’ll be keeping an eye on this sexy white too!
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Once & Future, Petite Sirah, Palisades Vineyard, Calistoga, Napa Valley.
Joel Peterson, the founder of California’s iconic Zinfandel house Ravenswood, has started a new project that takes him back to a simpler time and back to his signature style of winemaking with his new label Once & Future, it was great to catch up with him and taste his latest wines. The cask samples of 2015 Zinfandel were amazing wines, but it was the current 2014 Petite Sirah from Casitoga and the famed Palisades Vineyard, a historic site on the east side of the valley that is perfect for this dark heritage varietal, that caught my attention. Joel broke out his redwood open top fermenter saved from his earlier days and crafted an amazing wine, a pure and balanced Petite Sirah, one of the best I’ve had in years in fact and one that should age wonderfully with deep fruit, spice and stunning length. At about 14.5% alcohol, this is neither wimpy or full blown, it’s a gorgeous example of class and varietal with lovely textures and detail showing blackberry, cassis, cedar/wood spice, anise, blueberry and a mix of black cherries and currants, along with an array of pepper, cinnamon, sage, mulberry and smoky/stony mineral, with sweet tannins and decedent form. This is a brilliant wine, almost subtle, but gloriously seductive, I tasted this along side Joel’s 1992 Ravenswood Belloni Zinfandel, from his recently rescued wine library, and what a classic gorgeous old wine, in perfect shape and beautifully mature, it shows his prowess and the ability of Zinfandel (and Petite Sirah) to age and become almost Bordeaux like at a certain point, and you can see how and where the Once & Future Petite Sirah will go in time, if you can wait of course, because this 2014 is drinking fantastic right now! It looks to be legendary and shows Joel still has lots of life left in himself too, this project, made at his son’s winery, Bedrock Wine Co. is tiny, but allows him to do things the way he always wanted and express California’s rich history in Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, this hand-crafted wines are well worth searching out!
($55 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Rose of Pinot Noir-Zweigelt, Sommerwein “Angel’s Kiss” Weinviertel Austria.
The Groiss Rose is fast becoming one of my favorite pinks and joins an elite set of Austrian Rose, especially from this 2015 vintage, wines from Prieler, Nigl, Knoll and Brundlmayer, plus this beautiful Groiss Rose, all excelled in this great year, and have really lifted the lid off and let these marvelous out and show that Austria makes some fantastic Rose wines. The Groiss “Angel’s Kiss” is finely focused, delicate, lovely textured and vibrant, showing off the class of the Pinot Noir and the spicy flair that the Zweigelt brings, it shines with a gorgeous pinkish/orange hue in the glass and it is refreshingly stylish on the palate with pretty fruit and mineral detailing. Fresh citrus, red peach, sour cherry and strawberry notes lead the way along with steely and stony elements, hints of basil/herb, peppered watermelon and rosewater add to the complexity of this wonderful dry and brisk wine. Nice fruity vs. savory tension adds vitality and vigor to what is an impressive effort again from Weinviertel’s talented Ingrid Groiss, this is a winery to look for, especially her Gruner Veltliner, Roter Veltliner, Riesling Reserve and her glorious field blend white Gemischter Satz. All of her wines sell out fast and are hard to get, so you’ll need to put in some work to find them, but they are well worth the time and trouble, in particular you’ll need to act fast to get the Rose Sommerwein “Angel’s Kiss” it’s not a wine to miss for these late days of Summer.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Casa Nuestra, Dry Chenin Blanc, Saint Helena, Napa Valley.
One of the last remaining secrets of Napa Valley, Casa Nuestra’s gloriously brisk and vibrant dry Chenin, a wine that defies perceptions and shows old Napa still exists! Gene Kirkham’s Casa Nuestra is a must visit winery, nestled in Saint Helena’s east side on the Silverado Trail, this is not the modern Napa mansion of castle, this is an old rustic farm house with a unique charm and eccentric flourish with goats and sheep near their tree shaded patio and a 50’s and 60’s vibe in the tasting room with odes to Elvis and memorabilia from Kirkland’s career as a civil rights lawyer, this is a fun visit and the wines are unique and vastly different than you’ll find at the neighbors! Kirkham’s love of Loire grapes, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc has even led him to be honored by the Knight’s of Chinon, and these wines are usually the wines that sell out fast, Casa Nuestra sells only direct to their wine club and list and what little is left sells in the tasting room. I try to visit every year to score the Chenin Blanc, though timing is very important, so I was thrilled to see it available when I visited this August, and found the 2015 vintage to buy and taste! As well as that, they just so happened to have a open bottle of their 1989 to sample, which considering the wet year and age was remarkably fresh and lovely though showing a graceful maturity and it’s fading decay with class. This was a special experience, and while the old wine intrigued, the latest release thrilled with focus and clarity, bone dry, dusty and mineral edged the 2015 Casa Nuestra Chenin Blanc is still ripe and has medium weight on the palate with citrus layers, peach notes and crunchy wet stones along with hints of bees wax, verbena, unsweet honey and wild herbs. Steely lemon/lime and orange blossom persist along with a loamy earthy quality in this fine and well crafted effort, this is a wine to enjoy in every stage, it pleases with it’s refreshing almost bitter crisp youthfulness, but you can already sense it with age and be fun in a decade or more, in California Chenin Blanc is seeing a revival and you’ll see awesome examples from top wineries hitting the shelfs soon, look for Sandlands, Littorai, Pax and Broc Cellars in particular, but also search out old time classics like Chalone, Daniel Gehrs, Chappellet and certainly this Casa Nuestra!
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Ridge Vineyards, Lytton Springs, Proprietary Red, Dry Creek Valley.
The stylish and sophisticated 2014 Lytton Springs has an almost subtle appeal in it’s youthful stage, but with classic Zinfandel charm and detail, this is glorious stuff with balance, life and length, one of the most impressive all around Lytton Springs I can remember! Of the latest set of Zinfandel based releases this one is the least flamboyant or overtly fruity by Ridge this vintage, though it it might just have the most going on and certainly it has everything it needs to have to please and age well, while the 2014 old vine Pagani Ranch has lavish extravagance and is a blockbuster now, they both will be great in a decades time, the 2014 Ridge Lytton Springs is less showy and billowing, though still wonderfully seductive and sensual on the palate with black raspberry, boysenberry, cherry and dusty plum fruits leading the way with anise, wild sage, mineral notes as well as cedar, pepper and baking spices. As it opens up the latest Lytton gives a dense mouth feel and lingers with currant, a touch of floral Dimension and red berry along with ripe tannins, a lift of acidity and creamy/smoky mocha. The 2014 Lytton Springs with 69% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah, 11% Carignane and 2% Mourvedre (or Mataro as Ridge calls it) and comes in at a well judged 14.4% Alcohol, from old vines, some dated back to 1902, all added together makes for a historic and impressive showing, this is without question a great wine and a wine that has a real and honest sense of place, it has the allure, sex appeal and spice of a Chateauneuf-du-Page and structured form of a right bank Bordeaux! All the Ridge offerings are gorgeous this Fall, leading the way is 2013 Monte Bello, but the Zin blends from this 2014 vintage are stunning California stars, especially this Lytton Springs, as well as the mentioned Pagani, Ponzo and don’t forget the earlier released Geyserville, they all should drink fantastic for the next 10 to 15 years easy!
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive