2014 Cooper Mountain Vineyards, Pinot Noir “Life” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Life Pinot Noir from Cooper Mountain Vineyards is a biodynamic natural wine without the use of sulfur or sulfites with native yeasts and a more vineyard intensive approach to achieve balance and healthy structure/stability in the wine. The 2014 Life shows the ripe and forward natural of the vintage without being too sweet fruited or heavy, it comes in at about 13% alcohol and has rich layered black and red fruits, a hint of earth and spice and nice detail with plenty of extract and textural pleasure, it has a bit of what you find in the no sulfur cuvees that you see from Cru Beaujolais, I was suggest it might be modeled after Lapierre of Morgon in style. It is very direct, not overly complex and still has an allure with blackberry, cherry, plum and fig fruits along with kick of juicy acidity, blueberry tanginess with loam, sweet herbs, a touch of cedar and baking spice. For those seeking vegan, low sulfur, organic wine that has a sense of terroir and value might want explore Cooper Mountain Vineyards, especially this Life Pinot Noir, this Demeter certified biodynamic all estate grown producer is making some solid efforts, I also liked their slightly lessy Pinot Gris, which is a bargain at about $15.
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Whitcraft Winery, Pinot Noir, Pence Ranch, Pommard Clone, Santa Ynez Valley.
This unfined/unfiltered native yeast and whole cluster Pinot Noir from Drake Whitcraft might be the best wine I’m tried from this producer that is celebrating their 30th anniversary. The beautiful Pommard Clone Pence Ranch Pinot is alive with flavors and complex detail with a wonderful textural array on the palate and elegant lightness, it is stunningly only 12.6% alcohol, making those low alcohol zealots salivate, while making those that like a more finessed Pinot Noir that still has ripe and complete character impressed as well, numbers don’t mean anything unless there is a reward and substance in the wine, and this one delivers. The vibrancy of youth still over shadows the whole picture, but you can see the potential in this 2014 Whitcraft, it starts with floral and spicy notes on the nose and a bright ruby/garnet red hue in the glass with just a hint of cloudy unfilteredness, that clears quickly and the palate is an explosion of wild cherry, plum and pomegranate fruits with hints of mineral, chalky stones, cedar and lively pepper, red tea, cinnamon and a touch of smoke. With air a gorgeous silky sensation coats the mouth and satiny tannin and a framboise note lingers on, but lifted delicately with a peach and blood orange burst of acidity, this is a deftly crafted wine that should fill out in all the right places. This will be a fun wine to revisit in 5 to 10 years, not cheap, but very impressive, drink from 2018 to 2028.
($60 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
nv Vajra, N.S. Della Neve, Extra Brut Rose, Sparkling Wine, Piedmonte, Italy.
This is beautiful and exotic Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir made in a brisk and vibrant, ultra dry style bubbly from Giuseppe Vajra, better known for his Barolo, this handcrafted Champagne style sparkling is a stellar effort. The color is vivid and striking in the bottle and the glass and the palate is as cool and steely as some of those geeky Pinot Meunier cuvee(s) that we grower producer Champagne fans covet, if you are fans of Prevost, Savart or Bouchard you’ll want to get ahold of this beautiful bubbly, Vajra has done with Sparkling what he did with Riesling, both are wines that you would never have expected to come from Piedmont and in particular the heart of Barolo! This severe and tangy Rose is alive with intensity and energy with a dynamic mineral core, a light dusting of spices, faint florals and lots of zesty citrus along with a subtle brioche leesy feel, all perfectly set against tension filled acidity. The profile is much more refined than the hue of bright pink would lead you to believe and mousse is poised almost delicate in the mouth, the main thrust is red peach, apple skin, earthy strawberry and mandarin orange with a hint of anise, wet stones and the impression of rose oil. There is a vigorous and edgy tone that stays throughout, this brilliant Extra Brut never dulls or loses it’s lightness, this is a fantastic and intriguing wine that just plain and simple rocks!
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Sergio Mottura, Grechetto, Poggio della Costa, IGT Bianco, Lazio Italy.
The tank raised Grechetto Poggio della Costa from Sergio Mottura is a vibrant and leesy white that delivers fine detail and energy, one of the most beautiful wines made from this varietal from vines grown on volcanic soils that straddle the Umbria and Lazio regions of central Italy. Mottura also makes DOC Orvieto, also a great example of region, but this Poggio della Costa pure Grechetto is on another level with green apple, citrus blossoms, lemon/lime, summer melon, white peach and tangerine sorbet all vivid and lifted by natural acidity and terroir driven spice and saline elements from the mineral rich soils. This wine is amount medium weight and has a touch of brioche that adds texture and a sensual quality to this steely and tangy wine, it’s sublime balance and it’s hint of exotic nature make it irresistible and refreshing, drink over the next year or two. Sergio Mottura also does a Burgundy barrel aged version of Grechetto, the Latour a Civitella, named after the Louis Latour sourced French oak, this is also very much worth seeking out, it is fuller in body and seriously sexy with a Premier Cru Chablis like taste and feel, and it certainly grabs your attention, but for my tastes the Poggio della Costa Grechetto wins for it’s expressive and impressive sense of place and value.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Tempier, Bandol Rosé, Provence, France.
The steely and luxurious 2015 Domaine Tempier Rosé is a must have wine for summer, made up of a blend of 55% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, it shows all the style and substance that is expected of this famous Domaine. The vitality in Lulu Peyraud and winemaker Daniel Ravier’s latest Rosé highlights the organic farming and clear focus in the cellar allowing terroir and soul to show through, this Rosé was crafted 50% by saignée and 50% by direct press, which allows the wine to have power, mouth feel and still be intensely vibrant and detailed. It spent 6 months in Cuves, large neutral cask to fresh out and heighten the textural pleasure, it is not as old school funky/cool as Chateau Simone or the Tibouren based Clos Cibonne, but still has good aging potential, even though with Tempier I can’t imagine waiting too long to drink this hedonistic rite of summer. The first impression of the 2015 is one of joyous reunion, the gorgeous hue of which you can’t help smile at, pinkish/orange, it invokes warm sunset images and romance with a play of mineral, wild lavender, spiced rosewater and tangerine leading up to sour cherry, watermelon, wet stones, bright saline, red peach, zesty citrus, ruby grapefruit and very faint soft wood sensation. There is a great play of tangy/savory elements set against a lavish and lush sorbet forwardness that appeals and this tension runs the length of this fine Rosé, it’s funny too people, while complaining at the price adore this wine, though I can’t help think it is a bargain when compared to the $100 offerings from Domaine Ott or Chateau d’ Esclans, and I can’t fathom a summer without a few bottles! In a new age where there is a lot of great pink wines, Domaine Tempier is still the benchmark, don’t miss it.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 No Girls, Grenache, La Paciencia Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley.
No Girls is a spin off from Cayuse with Christophe Baron over seeing and making the wine since the first release in 2008, though his assistant Elizabeth Bourcier is now taking over the winemaking duties for this amazing project, they craft two wines, a Grenache and a Syrah from a single vineyard La Paciencia (The Patience) in the Walla Walla region. No Girls the name is a shout out to some of the town of Walla Walla’s colorful past and historic sites, the label is from a handwritten sign outside a former bordello, it was to keep the women outside from seeing what was going on inside! Forgetting the story a moment, the No Girls Grenache is a monumental wine of profound presence, this stunning example of varietal and terroir is on par with any great Grenache be it Rayas, Sadie Family or Alban, this is gorgeous, sensual and dreamy wine that seduces with purity of unoaked fruit and natural earth, spice and inner life force. It is complexly wild and dramatic while still being focused, detailed and serene, this amazingly compelling Grenache was native yeast fermented, whole cluster without using barrel or cask, but old school vat raised, and even in such a difficult vintage there is no way not to be completely seduced. The 2011 La Paciencia Grenache starts with earthy spices, wild flowers, minty herb, truffle and mixed red berries leading to a full and vigorous palate that does not feel heavy or overly ripe, there is a sensation that you get that reminds you of a Grand Cru Burgundy, a sense of thrilling, spine tingling enlightenment and pleasure, this stuff is sexy as hell with strawberry, black cherry, plum, vine picked raspberry along with black olive, loam, peppercorns, salted licorice and light gamey notes. Persistent and long lingering in the mouth and mind this No Girls seduces and takes no prisoners, like I said there is not many wines that are on this level, it really is is rare company, more open knit than it’s cousin Cayuse this is a bucket list new world wine!
($130 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive
2015 Andrew Murray, Esperance Rose of Cinsault, Curtis Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley.
The 2015 Esperance Rose is 100% Cinsault and it shines brightly pink in the glass with crisp dry fruity character in the glass, this is vibrant and delicious Provence style Rose. Tangy with stony/mineral elements this classy pink has loads of energy, Andrew has crafted another great wine and value, this wine and his basic Syrah are stunning values and great easy to drink Rhone/Provence inspired beauties, especially this unique and flavorful Rose of Cinsault. The palate is brisk and tart with watermelon, sour cherry, citrus dipped strawberry and red nectarine as well as a mix of bitter herb, pepper, saline and sticky lavender adding complexity and contrast. Impressive for it’s presence and persistence this is a serious Rose, it certainly can be sipping cool and refreshing, but is more likely at it’s best with cuisine and it’s got got guts and is robust enough to stand up to bold flavors and meat dishes even, this is flexible and focused Rose. Andrew Murray is making some of his best wines yet, his whole current lineup from whites to reds and this pink are worth exploring, these are quality wines that have soul and poise. Drink this Rose of Cinsault over the next year, perfect for the beach, backyard and warm summer nights.
($19 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2011 Giovanni Rosso, Barolo, Cerretta, Piedmonte, Italy.
Davide Rosso’s gorgeous and silky Cerretta Cru Barolo is a young Nebbiolo that you can enjoy even now, though it certainly can age a decade or more, the 2011 has lush almost sweet tannins that add structure, but fold beautifully into the wine with any harsh edges. This striking Barolo has deep flavor, charm and hedonistic pleasure flowing in smooth layers from start to finish, this is pure as can be, traditionally crafted and wonderfully detailed with poise and terroir infused nobility. The 2011 Cerretta is denser than the basic Serralunga with a lavish texture, but still has the vibrant intensity and style, all the Giovanni Rosso wines are sublime, especially this one with it’s Burgundy like elegance and lengthy satiny mouth fell and graceful presence in the glass. The palate of the 2011 Cerretta starts with dried roses and dark floral tones, hints of cedary spice, minty herb and a cascade of red fruits with plum, cherry and tangy vine berries leading the way along with loamy earth, tarry salted black licorice, lavender tea and a touch of game. In it’s expressive youth the fruit feels full and ripely opulent, but I can sense the overall extract and complexity is all there for some fantastic evolving over the next 5 or 7 years in bottle. It is really joyous now, and it would not be bad to celebrate it’s openess with cuisine sooner v later, it is nice to be able to buy a bottle of great Nebbiolo and pop it open and totally feel no quilt and get maximum understanding of the place and varietal, this is that wine, it’s worthy of your cellar with out a doubt. I’m a huge fan of this winery and their 2008’s and 2010’s are masterpieces, but if you want a sleeper vintage to covet these 2011’s are fantastic!
($90 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Signal Ridge Vineyard “White Zin” Dry Rose of Zinfandel, Mendocino Ridge.
Though the name is playful and ironic, this is serious stuff with a vibrant dry character, very removed from the sweet blush almost pancake syrup style of white Zinfandel that is made for people that hate wine! Stephanie Rivin and team at Signal Ridge Vineyard are making some really well made wines way up in the Mendocino Ridge AVA above the Anderson Valley in the wilds of Mendocino County, this family run and hand crafted producer makes a lovely set of offerings, including a great Carignane, Zinfandel, some bubbly, a crisp Chardonnay and a superb Pinot Noir. This “White Zin” Dry Rose is the latest and was done on a whim, it has turned out remarkably well and bone dry brisk. Rivin needed the grapes ripe, but with vigorous acidity and nature provided the raw material to get this fun pink done, at 13.7% it is not a wimpy Rose, but it is seriously dry and vital with a refreshing bitter/savory kick and lingering stony elements to go along with juicy citrus, watermelon, sour cherry and hints of raspberry as well as rosewater, fennel and sage. This is one of the best Zin roses I’ve tried, the steely mineral and mouth watering saline and chalky wet rock complexity sets it apart and it already has me chuckling at the thought of serving “White Zin” to my friends, this is a cool wine, look for it and drink without pretense over the next 6 months to a year, impressive again from a winery to watch!
($17 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Paolo Scavino, Barolo, Bric del Fiasc, Piedmonte, Italy.
Scavino’s Fiasco Cru is from Castiglione Falletto, first made in 1978, though it has been in the family since 1921, it is one of the most sought after wines in Piedmont and the 2012 is lovely, elegant and textured capturing the soul of Barolo. It was an honor to meet and taste with Elisa Scavino, all of the 2012 and 2013 Nebbiolo wines were stunningly pure and detailed from the basic Langhe Nebbiolo to the gorgeous Bric del Fiasc, this was one of the best young set of Barolo I’ve tasted in years! The 2012 Bric del Fiasc starts with a deep perfume of red rose petal, mineral and subtle cedar and a mix of red and blue fruits leading to an expansive palate with amazing mouth feel and textural pleasure. The layers of black cherry, damson plum, tangy currant and lush strawberry linger for days along with sweet tannin, hints of tar, minty herb, anise and saline rich stones. A light earthiness and fresh personality highlight the energy and complex nature of this beautiful Nebbiolo that is showing remarkably gracious, but should be wonderful for decades, this is impressive wine, a world class Barolo that pleases with finesse, though has an underlying power and terroir force that drives it. The Paolo Scavino Bric del Fiasc should be coveted and cellared, it is a glorious wine, and if you want to grab a value, you should search out the Barolo normale, which is also extremely lovely and retails for $45, these 2012’s are classic styled Barolo and are incredibly seductive!
($98 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive