2016 Domaine Serol, Rose of Gamay, Cabochard, Cote Roannaise, Loire Valley, France.
Stephane Serol of Domaine Robert Serol is the fifth generation at this winery in the Cote Roannaise, a unique area of the upper most part of the Loire Valley in the Monts de Madeleine hills, which is sometimes called the lost Cru of Beaujolais, since it is closer to Morgon than Sancerre and is a great spot for Gamay. Grown on a vein of granite, these old vines are planted to a special clone of Gamay known as Gamay St. Romain that has it’s own personality and character, it’s slightly less fruity and it picks up wonderful mineral tone in the wines, Stephane is converting to all organic and ferments each parcel separately using whole cluster and cement vats that allows these cool fermentations to bring out vibrancy and pure intensity. Serol’s Cabochard is a beautiful dry Rose is at first austere and with shy leesy subtlety before coming alive on the palate with vivid strawberry, cherry and red peach fruits, citrusy crisp detail, steely notes, chalky wet stones and a light spicy/herby tang. It’s perfect pink/orange hue making for an attractive wine in the glass that lingers with faint whiffs of lavender oil, distilled plum and rose water, this is a wine that gathers intrigue with air and even gains depth/texture when it warms in the glass making it great at the table with sturdy cuisine, it’s impressively focused and one of my favorite Rose offerings, especially this 2016 vintage which is performing awesomely right now. Domaine Serol imported by Floraison Selections (Oakland, CA) also make a sparkling version too that is great for the holidays, but be sure to explore this winery’s red Gamay(s) and this pretty dry pink.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2017 Poe Wines, Pinot Nouveau, Sans Soufre, California.
The Nouveau Pinot from Samantha Sheehan is made from Monterey County fruit, using a plot of vines planted to old Martini (Heritage) clone Pinot Noir, this hand harvested lot became a carbonic macerated beauty, whole cluster in sealed tank for seven weeks, it’s a new wine to celebrate harvest, with some proceeds going to fire relief efforts, because of the devastating blazes that engulfed parts of Napa and Sonoma. Sheehan was inspired to make world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay after touring and tasting in Champagne and Burgundy, she created her own label Poe Wines in 2009, and in short order she has made some absolutely amazing wines, while still under the radar, this winery’s Pinot Noirs especially are thrilling examples of glorious purity and class, my favorites include her Manchester Ridge and Sonoma Mountain’s Van der Kamp Vineyard, both right up there with some of the state’s best cool climate style wines like Littorai, Radio-Coteau, Drew and Hirsch! The 2017 Pinot Nouveau starts with carbonic juicy notes with bubble gum, cotton candy and sweet strawberry fruits along with candied cherry which then quickly contrasted by sappy thyme, Italian green herbs, spice, straw/hay, saline, wet earth and dried nori. Fresh and fruity with a hint of tartness and savory elements that allows this fun wine to be a competent companion to holiday cuisine, drink up!
($22 Est.) 86-88 Points, grapelive
2016 Julien Sunier, Morgon, Cru Beaujolais, France.
Julien Sunier, born in Dijon and an ex-surfer, is now one of Beaujolais most prized winemakers focusing on old vines and biodynamic/organically farmed grapes mostly at higher elevation sites in Cru vineyards with his main wines being an over performing Regnie, a gorgeous Fleurie that isn’t far off Dutraive’s masterpiece, and this fantastically layered and brilliant Morgon. Sunier has parcels on sandy granite soils in “Py”, “Corcellette” and “Charmes” which are all old vine Gamay, he uses native ferments, whole cluster and basket press with long slow maceration and fermentations to achieve delicacy and textural hedonism. The beautiful and lively 2016 Julien Sunier Cru Morgon starts with a heady perfume and lengthy floral tones with violets, sappy herbs, cinnamon stick, mineral notes and a vibrant palate of blackberry, plum and mini garden strawberries as well as hints of walnut/pecan, anise, blood orange marmalade, dusty stones and kirschwasser. This medium bodied Gamay is thrilling, complex and wonderfully balanced highlighting it’s terroir and casting this varietal in it’s best light, Julien’s wines are as good and as elegant as anything you’d find in the region, he joins Foillard, Dutraive, Lapierre and others that make Cru Beaujolais that easily compete with the best of Burgundy. If you’ve not had Sunier’s wines now is the time to start, imported by Floraison Selections, these pretty garnet/ruby hued 2016’s are less fruity than the 2015’s, but absolutely stellar giving a heightened and sexy experience, they also should be fantastic cellar selections, drink now through 2024.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Damilano, Langhe Arneis, Piedmonte, Italy.
This bright and vibrant Arneis by Damilano, who are more known for their Barolo, is a delight in the glass with a golden/straw pale hue and lightly floral bouquet, it’s a light bodied white with good detail and easy to quaff. Perfect after golf and a leisurely Italian lunch with a variety of antipasti the 2014 Damilano picks up flavor and has a nice cut of acidity to be a perfect companion with a food, with refreshing citrus, green apple and anise on the lean palate, it’s got energy and mineral tones that make this white and classy and simple pleasure. The 2014 vintage, not a great year by any means in Piedmonte, still charms and while not a thriller, this Damilano Langhe Arneis gives a darn good performance and is more interesting than most Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Grigios in it’s menu price class, but I think if you have this year, you’ll want to drink it sooner v. later, I think it’s at it’s best right now. This wine is a solid example of Arneis, a rare local varietal that can produce outstanding whites, usually in and around Barolo and Roero zones. Drink the 2014 Damilano Langhe Arneis now, and while this is a worthy vintage for this wine, I also suggest getting the slightly better vintages of 2015 (riper) and the new 2016 which is looking to be much more exciting year in the region.
($15-18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Vieux Chateau Saint Andre, Montagne Saint-Emillon, Red Bordeaux, France.
Made by ex Petrus winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet and son Jeff, who manages the family Berrouet estate in Montagne Saint-Emilion, this savvy pick is an all Merlot red Bordeaux that offers a lot of quality for the money. Delightfully fresh and deep in flavors, this outstanding buy, shows elegant cedary notes to go along with black cherry, mulberry and currant fruit with loamy/mineral tones that give this lush Merlot an earthy edge and sultry mouth feel, this wine is a class act from start to finish. Far from the normal modern over the top right bank it isn’t an over new oaked bore, while still clean and generous in style, this is a fine example of attention to detail from vines to bottle. The deep garnet hue and depth of flavor just gets better with air and time in the glass, this is why you should re-think that no Merlot bias, plus another reason to drink Bordeaux.
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2005 Chateau d’Armailhac, Pauillac, Grand Cru Classe, Red Bordeaux, France.
The Baron Philip de Rothschild Chateau d’Armailhac 2005 is drinking beautifully, I was certain it was a 2001 vintage in a blind tasting, such was it’s refined tannin and lively nature, this is not an overly ripe ’05 that I’ve come to expect, this wine showed pure Pauillac class and velvet wrapped power giving a world class performance against an eclectic group of Bordeaux wines. The Cabernet is purring here with deep currant, blackberry, mulberry and plum fruits on the palate along with traditional loamy/baked clay and earthy tones following an elegant start of floral notes and hints of cedar, delicate smoky wood and cassis in a long finished wine that is almost as good as it’s more well known brother Mouton, in fact I almost like the d’Armailhac better in it’s fresh detail and less obvious smoky oak. One of my worst wines ever was the 2000 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and while 1982 and 1986 were exceptional as one expects, I am not a Mouton fan, so this makes this d’Armailhac’s showing that much more impressive! (for me) With air this red Bordeaux really gets going and fills out, it is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, and surprising as it seems from this vintage it says 13.3% alcohol! Depth comes into focus with time in the glass and touches of kirsch/cherry, blueberry, minty anise and mineral/graphite pop up in this medium full bodied Bordeaux, it’s tannic structure has really rounded and become silky, in fact this is sexy opulent stuff that makes an impact and it should go another decade and then some in the cellar, it is a thing of beauty and terroir purity with it’s lovely deep purply and garnet edged hue, funny it almost tastes more like it’s neighbor Pontet-Canet than Mouton! If you can find it at the wine-searcher price as of Nov. 2017, it is worth every penny, it’s the real deal. Thanks to Russell Joyce of Joyce Vineyards for sharing this wine us, I’m grateful for his kindness and because I may not have bought this bottle myself, though now I almost certainly will!
($70-90 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine du Pegau, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cuvee Reserve, Rhone Red, France.
Laurence Feraud’s gorgeous traditionally crafted 2013 Reserve Chateauneuf is the real deal with wonderful layers of fruit, spice, earthiness and garrigue as well as a showy hedonistic personality that makes you really pay attention to every sip! This 2013 is getting good right now, well integrated with much less of an oaky feel and presence than in the past, it feels fantastic on the palate with beautiful detail and has impressive force and impact showing ripe boysenberry, plum jam, dusty raspberry, ground pepper, creme de cassis, dried lavender, hints of mission fig, crushed stones and saddle leather. This serious Chateauneuf may not be a hyped year, as the 2015 certainly will be, but damn this is thrilling stuff and looks to be a steal when comparing prices of top Chateauneuf-du-Pape offerings, it’s a lovely bottle that delivers everything you’d want from this region. The Pegau Reserve is a deep garnet/purple with a slight brick note on the edges and with air the nose develops floral, game and kirsch elements while the finish lingers with it’s weighty Grenache charms, plus a salted licorice and morello cherries, it’s mostly Grenache 80% as you can taste along with small amounts Syrah, Mourvedre and a mix of permitted varietals. Ms Feraud gets the most out of her old vine plots that are grown on the classic galets as well as sand, clay and chalky limestone, she used carefully sorted whole clusters with stems going for native and natural ferments in cement vats before aging the Cuvee Reserve 24 months in large cask, in well seasoned old neutral oak these days, with extra low sulfur and as little as possible acid added depending on vintage balance. Usually a sexy wine, this 2013 does not disappoint, enjoy this Chateauneuf over the next 5 to 10 years, best to decant and have with robust and rustically simple cuisine for the best experience, also check out Pegau’s Cote du Rhone and Vin de France reds, they are wildly enjoyable too.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Chateau le Puy, Cuvee Emilien, Cotes de Francs, Red Bordeaux, France.
Jean-Pierre and son Pascal Amoreau’s Chateau le Puy Emilien Bordeaux is an all biodynamic red made up of about 85% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Malbec and 1% Carménère grown on a mix of clay, silex and limestone at an elevation of 350 feet above sea level, the second highest vineyards in all of Bordeaux, on the same plateau as the upper parts of both Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. This is a beautiful and stylish wine that delivers a stellar performance in the glass with graceful tannins, a full bodied and wonderful persistence and length, it’s hard to believe it can be this good while being so young, but it is and the Le Puy 2012 should only get better! The Merlot and limestone terroir are singing here with supple fruit, earth and warm terra-cotta notes leading the way, the start shows a hint of acacia, graphite and mulberry before turning generous and complex on the palate with blackberry, plum and rich cherry fruit as well as cedary spices, minty notes, tobacco, sandalwood and loam, finishing with a hint of creme de cassis, anise and cola bean. This fresh vintage has good intensity of attack, but with graceful roundness and while structured and with just the right amount of acidity in it’s veins, it is easy to enjoy now. There is a youthful fruity charm here, though underpinned with plenty of hidden force and with another 5 to 10 years this just might prove to be a classic. I’ve had the 2011 on many occasions and while not a renown year it starred with complexity and density, so I am certain there is a lot to come from this 2012, this is a unique Bordeaux expression that deserves your full attention. Drink this 2012 Chateau le Puy anytime, but I’d say the best window would be 2022-2030. I was grateful Vinopolis Wine Shop in Portland had it in stock for a blind Bordeaux tasting flight, and had it on special, a big thank you to the team there for getting this Rosenthal Selections (Importer) wine to me in time, it’s a jewel!
($40-50 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine de L’Edu “Muse” Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin de France, Loire Valley, France.
Fred Niger’s Domaine de L’Ecu makes some of the finest Muscadet Sevre et Maine there is and he is also crafting some lots of seriously fun exotic wines including amphorae aged white and reds as well as this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon rose. This bright and acidity driven pink is 50% Saignee and 50% direct press giving this tank raised Rose a bit of ying and yang balance of ripe fruit and zesty intensity, it is a harmonious and mineral toned wine with a chalky and stony core showing delicate red berry, watermelon, rose water and sour cherry as well as a hint of caramel, distilled currant and tart spiciness. Domaine de L’Ecu’s Muse, with it’s very risqué label (click on image to make bigger), is a wonderful example of this regions class and age worthiness, as this 2015 is still amazingly youthful, vibrant and austere. I must confess, I almost always shun Rose made from Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot as I usually find them dull, overly fruity or lean/green, so I was thrilled with this wine’s performance, not surprising really considering how good everything is from Domaine de L’Ecu! All organic and biodynamic, Domaine de L’Ecu has really turned up the quality since Fred took over the estate in 2012 and look to get even more interesting with some of his pet projects coming to the market, but don’t overlook his basic Melon de Bourgogne Muscadet Ecu Classic, it’s a amazing oyster companion and one of the best white wines under $20 you can find! Niger’s low sulfur, gentile cellar work and handwork in the vines shows up in the wine’s energy and natural feel, these are soulful terroir wines, I can’t wait to taste his new releases, imported by Floraison Selections, do not miss a chance to sample these exciting and racy Loire wines!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2016 Joyce Vineyards, Chardonnay, Tondre Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The steely fresh new release Tondre Grapefield Chardonnay from Russell Joyce and team is a winner, maybe the best yet from this vineyard I’ve ever tasted with it’s crunchy mineral charms and vibrant/racy fruit this is pure class! As mentioned in many recent reviews here, Russell is one of the rising stars in California’s central coast and is one of a new generation in Monterey that is breaking the old mold and crafting a more seriously exciting and vibrant style of wines, going away from heavy extraction and flashy new oak and making beautifully detailed wines that showcase the unique terroirs of this region. This latest Tondre Chardonnay is the anti-Rombauer, and while I have lots of respect for the success of Rombauer’s famous “Cougar Juice”, this Joyce Tondre is much more thrilling with a Chablis like energy and verve, it’s not a fat and flabby butter bomber, though generous and stylish with a focused harmony and texture. The nose is stony and full of mineral tones, along with hints of white flowers, brine and lemon oil that is classic white Burgundy, I was taken aback at how good this wine started and even more intrigued by the whole performance with it’s vivid bosc pear, granny smith apple and zesty mayer lemon core fruits as well as Italian garden herbs, chalky wet rock, white peach, faint golden fig, a touch of saline, subtle wood, used French oak, a whiff of tropical essences and verbena/kumquat on the graceful finish. This wine stays invigorating even with air, and while the 2016 Joyce Tondre Grapefield, mostly coming from Dijon Clones, gains roundness as it warms in the glass it remains lithe and lean with a medium body and impressive intensity. If you are looking for a stellar post modern Chardonnay that reminds you of just how dynamic California Chardonnay can be, this is a wine to get, drink now through 2023.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive