2015 Alfredo Maestro, Tempranillo, Vina Almate, Penafiel, Vdt Castilla y Léon, Spain.
Alfredo Maestro’s Vina Almate Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) is from organic vines near Madrid in Penafiel grown on river stones, clay and alluvial soils in this warm continental climate area not too far away from Ribera del Duero. Maestro is a leader in natural wine and loves the old vines found near his hometown, he uses all organic farming, no added sulphur in most of his wines and uses almost no new oak to present wines and his region in the purist form, and his wonderful entry level Vina Almate is fresh and juicy with lovely deep color and subtle earthy tones along with an almost Beaujolais like vibrancy, and it’s great with a slight chill too, showing dark berry, plum, cherry and strawberry compote along with spicy tobacco leaf, lavender/anise, peppered violet and saline/stony loam. This ripe and tangy unfiltered Vina Almate 2015 cuvee was fermented with native yeasts, with 80% whole cluster, which adds to the spice and structure while allowing for ripe and smooth tannins, and aged a short time in tank and neutral French cask. Alfredo Maestro wines are imported by Jose Pastor Selections and are widely available, though limited, so look for them, I’ve been a huge fan over the last 5 to 7 years and the wines are just getting better and better with each new vintage, in particular these 2015’s! The authentic and raw detail are welcome in this pleasing Tempranillo adding a earthy/savory element to this fruity warm vintage wine, if you want a true “natural” wine at a great price, you should check out all of Alfredo Maestro’s wines, especially this fun Vina Almate, drink now, it’s great everyday stuff and super with tapas and BBQ!
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Ryme Cellars, Vermentino “Hers” Las Brisas Vineyard, Carneros.
The Ryme Hers Vermentino is bright tangy and lightly saline infused, in other words it’s a fresh and mouth-watering white with racy leaness and subtle concentration. Megan and Ryan Glaab’s Ryme Cellars (a blending of both their first names) is a tiny micro production winery focusing on hand-crafted small lot wines that reflect terroir and varietals, but with a twist and unique style with a homage to the ancient ways and old world, while being at the same time proud young California winemakers that want to express themselves and the native fruit. Between this husband and wife winemaking team they have put time in at some of the best wineries in the state including Pax, Peay and Windgap (where they make their wines) as well as legendary places including Marcassin and Sine Qua Non!, plus a stint at Australia’s Torbreck Their wines include Cabernet Franc, Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ribolla Gialla and a pair of “His” and “Hers” Vermentinos, with “His” being a long skin macerated “Orange” style wine and this “Hers” being a whole cluster pressed and clear style white, age in stainless and neutral cask with partial malo, with a delicate pale green/gold hue and vibrant acidity. I love this gripping 2015 Ryme Cellars Hers Vermentino, Las Brisas Vineyard, a cool climate site with deep clay soils on San Pablo Bay, it has an almost Riesling like intensity and a forcefully dry and brisk palate that is slightly dusty and even a touch savory with white peach, lemon/lime, gooseberry and hint of mango fruits, traces of herb, dried citrus rind and spring jasmine along with a vigorous energy/intensity, salty wet stones and loamy/mineral. This wine gains some depth with air and can go with a array of cuisine, but can also be enjoyed as a crisp summer quaffer, it’s a very interesting wine that highlights vintage and place well and should drink nicely for another 2 or 3 years easy.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Joseph Roty, Gevrey-Chambertin, Red Burgundy, France.
The Roty 2014 Gevrey is a highly attractive and earthy seductive Pinot Noir with vitality an vigor in a medium bodied wine that has deep fruit layers along with particularly interesting detail and natural finesse. This dark ruby hued Burgundy has plenty to like and admire with loads of character and flavors, starting with a nose that mixes dried flowers, iron/mineral notes and spicy red fruits that leads to a rich palate of black cherry, plum/currant and marionberry fruits with loamy/earth/leather, allspice, meaty elements and mure. This wine is finely balanced and lengthy with a youthful rawness that should gain in class and elegance with time in the bottle, this Roty has a solid structure with firm/dusty grained tannins and fresh acidity that are matched with impressive depth of fruit, though it can be enjoyed even now, patience will be rewarded in my opinion. Those looking for a great example of old school, old world Burgundy charm at a modest price, considering the rise of costs of well crafted wine from this region that has been hard hit by hail and tiny crops in recent years, this is a producer, imported by Atherton Wine Imports (on west coast) is one to search out, along with Drouhin-Laroze and Frederic Esmonin. This Cote de Nuits red gives Burgundy fans their terroir fix with vivid clarity and in a certain style, I imagine this would be cherished by those that prefer less polished wines or authentic wines and the Francophile! This Domaine Joseph Roty 2014 Gevrey-Chambertin AC Bourgogne Rouge will be best from 2020 to 2030, and be sure to check out the less expensive Roty Marsannay Rouge and the more powerful single Cru bottlings!
($68 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2016 Joyce Vineyards, Rose “Turbidity Current” Monterey County.
Russell Joyce’s latest set of wines are highly entertaining and charming with good fruit, balance and energy, especially good are his Pinot Noirs, his vivid Riesling and this wildly fresh Rose. The 2016 Rose is made from Gamay Noir and Grenache and with light maceration giving a bright and vibrant pink/ruby hue in the glass with lifted detail and succulent zesty juiciness. The core is citrus driven with zingy grapefruit, sour cherry, strawberry, fleshy peach and watermelon along with hints of mineral, snappy herb and rosewater. Light and crisp, but with open flavors that are brisk and lingering, this Joyce vineyards Turbidity Current Rose is wonderfully fun and will be a summer day treat.
($25. Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Sheldon Wines “The Red Hat” Field Blend Napa Valley.
The Sheldon’s brilliant and elegant red field blend The Red Hat is truly lovely stuff with graceful texture and layers of spice, earth and refined black fruits, this wine, a 60 case, 2.5 barrels, 12.8% cuvee of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah is medium full with supple tannins and wonderful mouth feel. I was thrilled to find this in the cellar, drinking with family, especially after reviewing the up coming 2015 already, I guess I didn’t get to it earlier, which may have been a reward in it’s self as it is really showing well right now! This wine is from old vines, head trained in an almost feral site that is part of a holistic orchard in many ways with organic practices and many inter planting of other crops and trees, it’s co-picked and co-fermented with native yeasts and mostly whole berries and low sulphur, in a very natural way. The nose is perfumed with violets, acacia and peppercorns with light cassis notes leading to a polished palate of blackberry, tangy currants, plum and tart blueberry as well as pepper, black olives, minty anise, kirsch, savory tobacco leaf and subtle leather notes, lingering with mineral, lavender and briar/cedar notes. No new oak, only well seasoned casks allow remarkable purity to shine through, The Red Hat 2014 is a special wine that is getting better in the bottle, it is unique, a California wine first and foremost, but with an old world style with it’s lower alcohol and leaner structure, this micro winery’s hand-crafted small lot The Red Hat is in the same league as offerings from Wind Gap, Arnot-Roberts and Broc Cellars, all modern lighter fashioned wines by a new generation of inspiring winemakers.
($48 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 La Voix, Pinot Noir “Rebel Rebel” Quinta del Mar Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County.
Steve Clifton’s solo project the La Voix Winery is his first gig since splitting with Brewer-Clifton, one of the Sta. Rita Hills top Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producers that he co-founded with Greg Brewer back in the mid 1990’s, and is showcasing his own path in winemaking with a set of small lot hand-crafted wines. I got up with Clifton at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine fest and got to taste through his latest releases both from his Italian inspired Palmina label and these beautiful and natural La Voix wines, which included a lovely Chardonnay, a Bordeaux blend from a high elevation site in the Santa Ynez Valley and this stylish Rebel Rebel Pinot Noir. The Rebel Rebel is named after David Bowie’s classic song, that was the first cover that a young rocker Steve Clifton recorded! Clifton was a musician and performer for years before he got into wine seriously and this Pinot Noir reflects this song (as a Rebel) in it’s character since it is the first wine he has made from outside Santa Barbara County as well as being a wine that is completely different to the Brewer-Clifton stuff of the past and present, maybe more a true mirror of his own personality, less zen purity and more Rock n Roll is how I might think about it. The 2014 Rebel Rebel has ripe fruit, lots of spice, earth and racy texture with intriguing lush layers and amaro notes along with a flamboyant core of deep red cherry, plum and wild raspberry fruits, plus cinnamon/exotic spice, dried flowers, loamy/stony elements and a touch of sweet oak. Made using native yeasts, in open-top fermenters with an extended maceration with about 10% whole cluster, then aged for a year in French wood with only about 10% new, the La Voix is a highly attractive Pinot Noir that was crafted from selected clones 50% each 115 and 777, modern Dijon, that give this wine it’s dark color and vibrancy as well as it’s rich mouth feel and impressive length. I’ve always admired the Brewer-Clifton wines over the years, as well as Steve’s own efforts with Palmina, and it’s great to see his rocking it into the future with these La Voix offerings, drink the Rebel Rebel Pinot over the next 5 to 7 years.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Rhys, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley.
The new Rhys Anderson Valley 2015 Pinot is a dark and lively young wine that shows the vintage’s concentration and impressive mouth feel, but with nice cool climate vibrancy and definition, this is an exceptional wine for the price, though you’ll need to get on their mailing list to get this one, otherwise look for it on restaurant lists. I was thrilled with the latest set of Rhys releases, I was in particularly drawn to their new wines from Anderson Valley, with this cuvee being a standout and an excellent starting point to get into their style, but I also must say that each Rhys wine showed fantastically well, other highlights were the single vineyard Bearwallow Vineyard, Anderson Valley 2013, their home or signature Alpine Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains 2013 and the Horseshoe Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains 2012. Rhys in recent years has become a top Pinot house in California with a fanatical fan base that beg, cheat and steal to get these wines, they are darkly rich, textured and lengthy wine that show luxurious and lavish layers, Rhys is in the same league as Pisoni, Seasmoke, Pahlmeyer’s Wayerer, Littorai, Rochioli and Peter Michael. Why I picked the entry level Anderson Valley to focus on? Well, I seriously enjoyed it just as much as the top end stuff and though it’s youthful charm and energy gave it an exciting edge and it was a touch brighter and more floral in it’s delivery with vivid pure fruit and less chewy, sometimes a touch less is more, and that was my opinion, even though the single vineyard wines will most certainly live up to their famed potential, and I must note that 2013 is a vintage that needs time to show their best, if you have them be patient! The 2015 Rhys Anderson Valley Pinot starts with a mix of red and blue fruits, earthy spice and lovely rose petal notes that leads to a fine palate of medium weight and gorgeous mouth feel with a core of black cherry, wild berries, racy currants and plum fruits as well as a hint of smoke, blood orange, tea spices, vanilla/cinnamon and brambly herbs. In the glass this is as Pinot as it gets with vigorous detail and lingers with a mix of blueberry and strawberry leaving a pretty fruit and mineral impression on the finish, it’s a wine that can be enjoyed right away and in the future, drink from 2018 to 2026.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Mail Road, Pinot Noir, Mt. Carmel Vineyard “Blocks 3, 5” Sta. Rita Hills.
As winemaker at Screaming Eagle’s sister winery Jonata and making the Hilt wines Matt Dees has made a name for himself and his new Mail Road wines are gorgeous, especially the Mt. Carmel Pinots and in particular this 2013 Mail Road Mt. Carmel Vineyard Blocks 3 & 5 Pinot Noir, which comes from organic, own-rooted, heritage clone site in Sta. Rita Hills made famous by Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton at Brewer-Clifton in the late 1990’s and later by Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman at Sandhi Wines. Mail Road is a project owned by Mt. Carmel owner Ronald Piazza and Michael Palmer who brought in the ex-Staglin trained man Dees to craft small lots of ultra premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from this Cru, and after tasting the wines I am sure these will be highly sought after wines, these are not cheap wines certainly, but they show a remarkable sense of purity and inner energy that remind me of the early Brewer-Clifton classics from this amazing vineyard with glorious detail and class. Interesting Matt Dees, known as a naturalist or non conformist in his winemaking style, took a more modern Burgundy route with his set of Mail Road wines and this Mail Road Blocks 3 & 5 Pinot was 100% de-stemmed, cool fermented with seems like native yeasts and aged in French oak, with about 40% new, for almost year in the barrel. I must say the oak is well integrated and even subtle with just a hint of toastiness and vanilla sweetness in the background, you get elegant layers of silken red fruits, spice and floral tones that impresses for texture and length in a medium bodied Pinot. With air the wine gains weight, presence and intrigue, this stuff is stunning when unwound in the glass, showing a darker and more dense side, but still vibrant and focused with black cherry, plum and dark berry fruits along with hints of coco, violets, rose liqueur, mineral notes and chalky and dusty elements, finishing with lovely saline, light anise, tangy and vibrant red peach/currant/strawberry. A cut of acidity helps lift this wine and it’s refined/satin tannins providing a solid core that leads me to believe this Mail Road Blocks 3 & 5 Pinot will age with potential to improve even further, this can be considered an outstanding wine to cherish over the next decade, it delivers the Wow factor!
($105 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2015 Stolpman Vineyards, La Cuadrilla, Ballard Canyon.
Stolpman Vineyard’s vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano and vineyard crew selected the individual vines for this red blend of mostly Syrah 68% with 20% Grenache and 12% Sangiovese in the 2015 vintage, it changes with each season/year, the La Cuadrilla is a special wine of high quality and value with the profits going to Stolpman’s full time vineyard workers. The winemaking is classic old world in style, the grapes are fermented with native yeasts in concrete vats and aged in neutral cask resulting in a deeply flavored wine with great fruit intensity, spice and pure harmony, in particular this 2015 is a very serious offering showing the vintage’s concentration from smaller than normal yields which adds to the depth and rich mouth feel. Layers of blueberry, boysenberry, currant and plum fruits lead the way along with crushed violets, framboise, peppery notes and subtle earthy/savory tones, this 2015 La Cuadrilla opens beautifully on the palate with unique intrigue and graceful texture, it’s more round and less edgy than prior releases, though still energetic and entertaining throughout, lingering on and on with velvety tannins, juicy/freshness and an aftertaste burst of cherry, sweet tobacco, lavender and a mineral element. The lush density is quite alluring and forward, but this La Cuadrilla, that comes in 13.9%, is finely balanced, it should drink with aplomb for many years, it’s one a California’s best kept secrets and a fun wine to enjoy in the near future. I love this stuff, bravo Stolpman!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Jaffurs, Syrah, Santa Barbara County.
I’ve long been a fan of Craig Jaffurs and especially his Syrah wines, so it was wonderful to taste his wine again on a recent trip to Santa Barbara, he and partner winemaker Dan Green are crafting small lot wines, mostly Rhone varietals, though they do make a fantastic Petite Sirah and a lovely Pinot Noir as well. The 2012 Santa Barbara Syrah came from six selected sites, Tierra Alta, Ballard Canyon, Verna’s, Los Alamos, Thompson, Los Alamos, Larner, Ballard Canyon, Bien Nacido, Santa Maria and Kimsey, Ballard Canyon with some Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Grenache and a touch Viognier in the blend, which all add up to a fascinating and complex Syrah that delivers a full bodied and textured mouth feel and deep flavors. This Jaffurs Santa Barbara County Syrah was de-stemmed, but fermented in whole berry form and aged in used barrels, both French and America wood was used, it’s a dark wine with a brilliant garnet/purple hue in the glass with a cascade of black/blue/red fruits on the palate including damson plum, boysenberry, sweet cherries and racy currant/blueberry as well as hints of perfumy violets, smoky/embers, minty anise and white pepper. The extra few years of age have really allowed the tannins to melt in the mouth with a silken feel, while still holding everything together nicely, the balance for such a bigger style wine is impressive, at 14.5% it’s quite bold and rich with serious presence, it’s a wine that punches way above it’s price and shows expressive length and detail, length and hedonistic charm. Interesting exotic spice, lavender oil, creme de cassis, a trace of tapenade, kirsch and earthy/game make for an intriguing background and the lingering finish on this pretty and stylish Syrah, it was awesome with food, especially my porcini and duck ravioli! Tasted from half bottle, this 2012 Jaffurs Syrah Santa Barbara County should continue to provide heady and polished drinking pleasure for years to come, though it’s in a sublime place even right now, best from 2017 to 2024, it’s a class act in the bottle.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive