2013 Domaine des Costes Rouges, Marcillac Rouge “Tandem” Mansois, South West, France.
A tiny country estate in the wilds of southwest France, the Domaine des Costes Rouge is a wife and husband property run by Claudine and Eric Vinas, they do everything themselves and grow their Mansois vines organically. Eric is a former restauranter, but still offers farm made fare/cuisine who happen to search out their beautiful hillside winery. The wines are all estate and organic grown 100% Mansois, these are natural, rustic and charming wines with terroir and real unique personality, the latest set are especially appealing and engaging. The Domaine des Cotes Rouges Tandem 2013 is bright, lightly fruity with medium weight and shows tangy red fruits, earth, spice and soulful character, it was fermented in cement vats in their underground/cellar keeping the process naturally cool then the wine is raised in cement tanks until the following spring, then the wine is bottled and rested until fall. The 2013 Tandem starts with plum and cherry fruit with hints of raspberry, cranberry and blueberry along with a Loire Cabernet Franc like bell pepper note, game, wet/loamy earth, truffle, wild herbs, a touch of red and black pepper, fig and stone/mineral. There is a bit of zesty acidity, mild tannin rawness and vigor. but still pleasing and easy on the palate, and it’s hard not to enjoy the pure honesty of this wine, it’s sense of place and the true nature, with low alcohol, about 12%, this is a fun and expressive wine. Enjoy this Marcillac, imported by Charles Neal, over the coming year or so, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2010 Uccelliera, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
There is a lot of intense hype about the 2010 vintage Brunello wines, the expectations are sky high and many critics are jumping all over themselves to declare it the greatest year for Brunello in our lifetime! Will all this swirling around it is hard to see the forest for the trees, but yes it will be a classic vintage for this Tuscan region and it will be good to get some of these mythical wines for the cellar, but these wines are going to take some time to develop, fill out and right now on release are not showing their potential, much the same way Burgundy tends to be. If you were as excited as I was to taste these wines, you’ll need to take a deep breath and relax, they have plenty on offer, it just will need a few years in bottle, the best show reduction and are tight as a banker’s wallet. The new 2010 Uccelliera, from a long cool year in the hilltop town, will be majestic, it has everything in raw form to become a 95-98 point wine, but there will be a waiting period of 5 to 10 years to get the full picture here. Tasted on January 23, 2015 the Uccelliera brunette di Montalcino showed a closed nose with reduction and earthy red fruits, it has a remarkably pure and expansive palate revealing little of it’s future greatness, though the basic blackberry, plum, minty herb, tobacco, kirsch and savory spice are attractive, and while pretty shut down you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Polished firm tannins, good acidity and mineral tones make it clear this is one of the best structured Brunello vintages since 2004, and while the feel is somewhere in between a young Bordeaux and a young Burgundy, there is no question the quality is there and that this is a special wine, this is a serious Sangiovese Grosso. With air more beautiful elements come to play in the Uccelliera with incense, rose petal and cedar spice, licorice and meaty notes unfold, it will certainly be a joyful experience to revisit this well crafted wine in a few years, drink from 2018 to 2030.
($75+ Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Auguste Clape, Le Vin des Amis, Vin de France, Rhone Red, France.
The Kermit Lynch imported star of Cornas, (the) Domaine A. Clape makes some of the world’s finest and most distinct Syrah, and these wines sell out very quickly, but savvy wine lovers looking for a value should explore Clape’s Cotes du Rhone and this Vin de France in particular, the Le Vin des Amis is a pure Syrah that way over delivers in quality and detail at the asking price. Even in a restaurant with high margins this wine makes an excellent choice, giving lots of terroir character, dynamic flavors and it has the added benefit of being a deep Syrah wine that doesn’t mind being opened young. The latest Le Vin des Amis, from 40 year old vines grown a ways away from Cornas on river stone soils, it is fermented just like the top cuvees with whole cluster and native yeasts in cement cuves, and while the Cornas wines go on the spend almost 2 years in big foudres, the Cotes du Rhone and this Le Vin des Amis are aged half year in old foudres (neutral wood cask) and 6 months in the cement vats before release. While the Le Vin des Amis misses some of the power and intensity of the granite soils, it makes for a pretty impressive Syrah non the less and this 2013 is wonderful and full bodied with a deep purple hue in the glass and beautifully transmitted detail and old world charm, this is very much a northern Rhone Syrah with a nose full of violets, scorched earth, lavender, iron/mineral notes, camphor and blueberry and concord grapey notes leading to a lush palate of blackberry, boysenberry, plum and fig paste along with black olive, celery seed, minty herbs, currant/creme de cassis, european salted licorice, crushed stone and peppercorns. The fruit lingers expressively on the finish and with air some some nice savory and meaty elements shine through, while the alcohol is at a low 12%, with modest tannins and fresh acids, making for a wonderful wine with all kinds of food choices, this wine is a winner, especially in this vintage, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
n.v. Sebastien Branger, Eclipse, Brut Sparkling Melon, Muscadet, Loire Valley, France.
Along with his father, Sebastien makes a few hundred cases of this glorious bubbly, all handcrafted method traditionnelle from his tiny 1.5 acres of vines in Muscadet, these older plantings from 1964 and some from 1985 offer brisk intensity and plenty of briny sea flavors that come through in this sparkling Melon. The Loire is the Prosecco, this is the hot spot for quality and value in Champagne style sparkling wines these days, and while Branger’s Eclipse is not cheap at $20, it is certainly a superb offering that rivals many $60 Champagnes, this is great stuff. The Eclipse is a very dry Brut, 12% alcohol, was bottled April 11, 2013 then disgorged on July 7, 2014, after spending some good time on the lees, and the classic terroir of clay and gneiss shines through with excellent mineral and salty flavors, perfect with oysters. The Eclipse shows vibrant citrus, green apple and chalky gravelly notes with a core of lemon/lime and melon along with steely mineral, hazelnut, bread dough/yeast with a fine mousse and an energy filled flow throughout. This vivid and unique sparkling Muscadet should age beautiful as well, a good 10 to 15 years, but it does give loads of pleasure and elegant detail now, drink from 2015 to 2025.
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Knoll, Gruner Veltliner, Loibner Wachau, Federspiel, Austria.
The Emmerich Knoll wines always impress and are some of Austria’s most beautiful expressions of Riesling and Gruner Veltliner, and these 2013 offerings are sublime, especially the Federspiel Gruner Loiben which shows a vibrant and vivid crystalline mineral tone and lifting acidity. The 2013 vintage, for me, is a good a vintage as I’ve ever seen in Gruner Veltliner, these wines are full of life, intensity and incredibly pure with dry extract and a pretty range of flavors and tangy dynamic fruit. In particular Emmerich Knoll’s 2013 Federspiel Loibner Gruner almost defines the year and varietal to perfection, this is glorious and pleasing stuff with fresh lemon/lime, white peach, almond notes, crushed stones and liquid steel, it tingles the palate and is wonderfully crisp, though it does expand with air to reveal a bit of density, this is sublime Gruner and a massively appealing foodie wine. Being a Federspiel it feels a bit on the lighter side, coming in between the 11.5 and 12.5 alcohol, mandated by the category and there is certain playful quality and charm, making it easy to love, but it is a serious effort and will age well over the next 3 to 7 years, drink from 2015 to 2022. While the 2012 vintage was good all around and 2011 shined especially bright for Riesling, the 2013 vintage in Austria is the year of Gruner Veltliner, you should be sure to get them, these are electrifying and exciting wines with loads of character, quality and elegance, with Knoll one of the top of the top, do not miss.
($33 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Coche-Dury, Meusault AC, White Burgundy, France.
Fantastically rare, wildly priced and insanely desired the Coche white Burgundies are the absolute best there is, it is always a special moment to try these elusive masterpieces, and for me this week was one of those wonderful occasions. Coche’s Corton-Charlemagne is maybe the most sought after white wine in the world, one of the elite, along with Domaine de la Romance-Conti’s Le Montrachet, these two stand alone as the top Chardonnay wines for collectors, these two regularly see auction prices over $3,000 per bottle, sometimes much more, and one cannot leave out Domaine Leflaive’s Batard-Montrachet, maybe my personal all time favorite Chardonnay. While it is hard to talk about a $350 bottle as a value or in fact post it as a wine of the day here, it is important to showcase these wines for the glorious experiences they are and let people know these do stand up to expectation and are sometimes worth every penny, and it my case, someone else’s penny. I consider myself lucky to have had a few opportunities to sample Coche-Dury, and I must thank for long suffering boss (at my day job) for digging into his personal stash for our holiday staff party and opening this glorious wine, plus all the other magical bottles as well. The 2012 vintage Cote de Beaune wines are going to be even more rare and expensive than ever, a great year marred by huge crop loss due to hail storms in the region, this tiny crop produced highly concentrated and powerful wines, and this exotic Coche Meursault is filled with intensity and is deeply layered with stunning liquid mineral and stony elements somehow balancing the shear force of fruit density and richness, this wine is truly spectacular even now, but it should not even begin to show it’s best until 2020 or so. The nose is pure terroir and varietal with white flowers, steely mineral and match stick leading the way with citrus, quince, kiwi and stone leading, before a core of apple and lemon curd come out with air, there is a mouthful of wet rocks, hints of clove, butterscotch, briny notes and salted toffee as well with lingering creme, lime and honeycomb. This is amazingly gorgeous wine, I can only hope I get a chance in 10 or 15 years to see it in it’s prime, but I think that might be too much to asked for. For those with the means or if you have a bit of play money burning a hole in your pocket, I say lucky you, get this wine and lock it away, drink from 2018 to 2028.
($350+ Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2012 Hoopes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
I was turned on to the Hoopes wines by Tim Gaiser MS, and while I liked the 2010 and 2011 wines, the 2012’s are really a step up and Hoopes winemaker Anne Vawter looks set to be a star. The Oakville based Hoopes is a property to watch and I highly recommend getting some of the 2012, especially the regular Napa, it is one of the best young Cabs I’ve tried so far. Voter comes from Walla Walla Washington and grew up around the likes of Leonetti and other top Columbia Valley wines, she went to UC Davis and then worked under the famed Heidi Barrett, she has helped turn out some great wines at Paradigm, so she is major talent on the rise. The 2012 Hoopes Napa is a lush and full bodied Cabernet with a deep purple/black hue, wonderfully elegant with creme de cassis, acacia flowers, smoke and mineral tones coming from the glass, on the palate rich and decedent fruit fill the mouth, showing blackberry, currants, dark cherry and plum as well as sweet tobacco, sage/spice, cinnamon stick, licorice and soft wood vanilla notes, this is stylish stuff, with hidden power and tannic structure, but with finesse and a refined nature. I was impressed by this effort, in particular, the more expensive Oakville cuvee seemed a touch over done, though it should settle into a superb wine as well given some time in the bottle, though I think the quantity and price on offer in the regular Napa Valley bottling makes it the better deal. I should imagine the 2012’s will age beautifully for 15 to 20 years, best from 2018 to 2022 I suspect, but honestly this Cabernet Sauvignon is very approachable now and is easy to love, enjoy with cheeses and or any meat dishes, get this winery on your radar!
($50 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Chandon de Briailles, Savigny-les-Beaune, Les Lavieres, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
This gorgeous Pinot Noir from Chandon de Briailles shows the total commitment to quality this domaine strives for, Chandon de Briailles is Demeter certified 100% biodynamic, organic and each wine is a pure showcase of terroir and vintage. I have been lucky over the years to follow Domaine Chandon de Briailles, and even recently taste back to the 2001 vintage, these are wonderful Burgundy expressions and while savvy wine enthusiasts have known about this under the radar label, I’m going to recommend scoring these 2011 wines, they are vastly underrated and showing beautifully now, and they will age delightfully too, especially sexy and alluring is Domaine Chandon de Briailles’ Les Lavieres Premier Cru Savigny-les-Baune 2011. I’ve tasted this on two occasions over the last year and sampled three different bottles with consistent results, which I must say were great experiences, this is a classy and elegant wine with inticing perfume, mineral charm and detailed fruit, it shows violets and rose petals, kirsch, lavender oil, tea spice, light earthy notes, a hint of stems, along with a core of black cherry, raspberry and plum fruit. The wine is seductive, smoothly textured with silky mouth feel and good length, it is about 12.5%, but feels dense and medium full on the palate with nice tension, some savory elements in the background and a solid push of acidity driving it, this is really a fine Cote de Beaune that is expertly crafted, no new oak used or needed and partial whole cluster, about 20% stems, adding intensity and complexity, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($52 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Amido, Lirac “Hommage” Rhone Valley, France.
This small estate in the Rhone, is really an exceptional find, they make delicious wines and offer great value, mostly from Lirac, not far from Gigondas in the southern Rhone. Charles Neal, the importer said he just happened upon them at a small local wine fair a few years back and was impressed by their basic Cotes du Rhone, a neat little example that sells for about $10, but their Lirac AC really is a bit more special and has plenty of what you’d want from Rhone blend, it is very much a baby Chateauneiuf du Pape. Then, there is the Hommage Lirac, this is even better, a special cuvee that seems modeled on the famed Chateau de Beaucastel, it is primarily Mourvedre about 60% with the rest a balance of Grenache and Syrah, this stuff is dark and deeply flavored, powerful and earthy in style, seriously endowed wine that grabs your attention. The 2011 Homage from Domaine Lirac oozes into the glass with a purple/black hue with deep garnet edges and makes an immediate palate impact with black and blue fruits, scorched earth, meaty notes and peppery spices along with a thick tannic texture. There is lavender, crushed violets, liquid stones, bacon, cassis, blueberry, boysenberry, leather, dusty loam and baked cherry layers and hints of wild herbs and tar along with salted black licorice. This is heady, vibrant stuff, an impressive effort and begs for hearty winter fare, this would go especially well with lamb, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Delaire Graff Estate, Botmanskop, Proprietary Red, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
South Africa has some old vineyards and makes some great wines, and even though I don’t get to taste much of the really great stuff that often, I can certainly sense that good things are happening again in this often overlooked region and from what I did taste recently from Broadbent Selections there are some really good wines available and even more on the way, values and quality. A new one for me was Delaire Graff Estate, from the Stellenbosch region, near the Cape and set in one of the most beautiful wine areas you’ll ever see, near the ocean and with mountains that remind you of the mesas of the American southwest deserts, with glorious vineyards dotting the wild landscapes. The Delaire Graff is an old property and while it has changed hands a few times in it’s history it carries it’s past in the bottle and the latest set of wines are superb, but especially their Bordeaux style red blend Botmanskop which is as good as the latest few vintages of Opus One and would give many a Medoc estate a run for their money. The 2012 Delaire Graff Botmanskop is a cuvee of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec, though I was lead to believe there might be a touch of Pinotage as well, but not officially confirmed, it was gently de-stemmed and fermented whole berry and raised in French oak for about 16 months, the result is a full bodied and elegant wine of graceful fruit, soft wood notes and richly finished. The 2012 shows deep garnet and red/black color and a classic Cabernet and Cab Franc nose with violets, hay, tobacco leaf, smoke, graphite and creme de cassis notes leading to a palate of red and black fruits, spice and cedar with blackberry, opulent cherry and plum along with pencil shavings, vanilla, mocha and mineral/earthiness. This beauty lies in between the heady Napa and Austere outer Medoc in style with polished refinement, good vigorous life, and a super lovely smooth lengthy finish, this is really impressive stuff, a steal at this price, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($25 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive