2015 Olivier Leflaive, Auxey-Duresses Blanc, Burgundy, France.
Olivier Leflaive’s beautiful Auxey-Duresses white is a stylish and rich white Burgundy with clear and persistent layers of fruit delivered with mineral charm and class. This was a surprise in the lineup of new wines from this Domaine, it was the equal of many a Chassagne and Puligny that were 3 or 4 times the price and should be on your lists as a bargain in this vintage as there won’t be that many considering the tiny crops and high quality on offer. At Wildman’s Burgundy preview in San Francisco, these Olivier Leflaive and Christian Moreau (Chablis) really stood out for exceptional quality throughout, and while Olivier Leflaive has always a solid performer, these 2015 certainly have raised the game here, these are the best wines I’ve ever tasted tasted from Olivier Leflaive by far, white Burgundy fans will be thrilled by them. The 2015 Auxey-Duresses is exciting from start to finish with pretty white flowers, lessy brioche and steely verve leading the way along with crisp apple, pear and white peach fruits to go with wet stones, spice, lemon curd and hazelnut. This wine is full of energy, but gathers depth, roundness and mouth feel with air making for an impressive terroir driven Chardonnay. About a year on the lees and about 20% new wood add to the texture and decadence found in this concentrated wine, this is graceful and vivid stuff to enjoy for at least 3 to 5 years.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Drew Family Cellars, Pinot Noir, The Fog-Eater, Anderson Valley.
Another magical Pinot, from Drew in the 2014 vintage, The Fog-Eater Anderson Valley shows a vivacious character and deep fruit intensity making it almost irresistible and highly entertaining from start to finish. This set of 2014 wines from Drew are nothing short of gorgeous and this 2014 Drew The Fog-Eater defines California terroir and beauty with seductive charms, it starts with lively brightness and subtle perfume with vivid cherry, plum and wild raspberry fruits to lead off along with chalky stones, light mineral tones, tangy blueberry and stylish rose petal and minty herb. The flow is seamless on the palate and silken in mouth feel finishing with hints of mixed baking spices, fig and lingering grapey extract, that highlights it’s youthfulness. This pure Anderson Valley Pinot delivers in every way it’s potential and promise, do not miss this vintage of Drew wines these are sublime examples and some of the best wines of the vintage! While I loved the Gatekeeper, I might just like The Fog-Eater more on the second tasting, they both rock, and don’t forget about the Morning Dew Ranch bottling either, bravo Jason and Molly Drew on crafting such an exciting set of wines, drink these Drew 2014 Pinots from 2017 to 2026.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Forman, Cabernet Sauvignon “Chateau la Grande Roche” Napa Valley.
Ric Forman’s second label wine, Chateau la Grande Roche, is a winner in 2014 and is all estate fruit from just below Howell Mountain in Napa Valley, with glorious richness, fresh detail and wonderful layers it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon styled in Bordeaux fashion and a great value for top quality juice. 2014 was a slightly cooler year and the wines are vivid and bright, but with lush ripe tannins and superb balance, there is a chance we’ll all be thinking 2014 is right up there with 2013 given time in bottle, I certainly have loved what I’ve tasted so far, in fact I think Caymus’ 2014 is far better than 2013, though I might be looking for something in my Cabernet that is different than most, but this Forman Chateau la Grande Roche is great stuff. Deeply hued with a core of garnet/purple this is serious in the glass and the nose is alive with crushed violets, sandalwood, graphite and creme de cassis leading to a vibrant and dense palate of classic Napa flavors with blackberry, blueberry, currant and black cherry fruits, lilac/acacia, sweet tobacco, smoke, mineral notes and a mix of licorice, liqueur and vanilla. This full-bodied effort has some life force and is gripping, but unfolds with star quality and length, this is really a fine effort from Ric Forman, you’ll want to have some of this Cabernet Sauvignon around, don’t miss this one, drink over the next 3 to 10 years.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Prieler, Blaufränkisch “Johanneshole” Burgenland, Austria.
Prieler’s 2013 Johanneshole is a stunning example of Blaufrankisch with deep fruit intensity and mineral character with the vintage’s powerful extract and vibrancy on full display. Prieler crafts some of the most stylish wines in Austria and certainly are one of Burgenland’s top producers with a selection of gorgeous Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and one of the best Rose offerings in Europe! They also are widely known for their rich and earthy Blaufrankisch that will remind you of Nuits-St.-George and Crozes-Hermitage, these dark and brooding wines are lovely expressions of terroir and of this unique varietal that has in recent times become Austria’s signature red grape. Prieler does two single site crus, Marienthal and Goldberg, plus a blend of both, as well as this single site Johanneshole, which is the most forward and open of the set of Blaufrankisch, which I in fact almost always like just as much of not even better than the top crus, this is an entry wine that way over delivers. Georg Prieler only makes 8, 000 cases per vintage, each wine is handcrafted and with a selection lovingly imported by Terry Theise to the United States, I’ve been a big fan of Georg’s wines and this 2013 is one of the best I can remember, it has everything you’d want, it’s lively, with energy and verve, and it challenges the senses. The soils here are varied with limestone, slate, schist and pepples and the Prieler Blaufrankisch always translates it’s terroir, will the Johanneshole you get a medium weighted very dark wine with a garnet and purple hue in the glass that has a subtle floral perfume and loads of spices and herbs leading to a poised and finessed palate of huckleberry, dried clay, lavender, mineral/iron tones, saddle leather, black olives, cracked peppercorns, forest berries and raw meaty/earth. Everything comes together with supple tannins and fresh acidity with pleasing silken texture and impressive length, this Blaufrankisch is really starting to hit it’s stride now, but should gain with another 3 to 5 years. Prieler’s beautiful 2013 Johanneshole is a great introduction to Austria’s Blaufrankisch and this mysterious region, be sure to look for this one and keep an eye out for Georg’s amazing Rose and Pinot Blanc!
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine de Montille, Bourgogne Rouge, France.
Etienne de Montille’s stylish and open-knit base red Burgundy really delivers in quality and class for an entry level wine and is hard to resist even now. The 2014 Domaine de Montille Pinot Noir shows pretty detail and a light to medium bodied with satiny red fruits, sweet/succulent floral tones and has plenty of mineral and spice, like most of the Domaine wines this one comes from select plots in the Cote de Beaune and farmed in most cases all organic. Etienne and his sister Alix craft each wine with extreme care and passion, they focus on making a wine that can age, so most vintages, you’d want to hold many years before enjoying them, but lucky for us the 2014’s are bursting with round and open flavors allowing youthful drinking pleasures and less patience is required, even though it will certainly gain with another 3 to 5 years in the cellar. I opened a bottle of this pure and delightful de Montille in February 2017, and while it starts a bit tight, it proved a big hit at the table, let’s just say it got a lot of happy attention and no one was disappointed, and it was up against some serious wines. Bright and focused the 2014 de Montille Bourgogne Rouge leads with a hint of smoke, flinty/graphite, wilted roses and dusty plum with a very appealing ruby and light catching garnet hue in the glass, leading to a sweet palate of silken red cherries along with tangy currant, cranberry, strawberry and raspberry fruits as well as chalky stones, minty herb, fresh earth and peppery spices. This is a Pinot Noir that gives what is expected and a little bit more with a serious and sensual sense of poise and polish, but not completely tame with subtle tannins and vigor, impressive to be sure, enjoy over the next 3 to 10 years.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Hirsch, Gruner Veltliner “Kammern” Kamptal Austria.
The Hirsch 2015 Gruners are an exceptional set of offerings from this Kamptal estate not far from the majestic Danube, west of Vienna, especially his Lamm Cru and this Kammern. Johannes Hirsch does all organic/biodynamic farming, using native yeasts and prefers slow cold fermentations with slightly later releases allowing the wines to develop more fully. The rocky loess and loam soils mostly are old vines facing south to take advantage of the exposure, Hirsch only works Riesling and Gruner, this intense focus and passion shows through in his wines, I have reviewed his Lamm Gruner previous and his Rieslings are stunning as well, but I needed to include the Kammern, which is a delightful and character filled Gruner Veltliner with expressive mineral charm and energy driven palate, this is wine that should not be over looked. The 2015 in Austria is proving to be a wonderful year, especially for the whites in the Wachau, with glorious stuff coming from Kremstal and Kamptal, in fact most all of Austria did great in 2015, like 2013 this is a vintage to stock up on! The Hirsch Kammern Gruner starts with white flowers, crystalline wet stones, almond paste and mixed stone fruit and citrus with lemon/lime, wild tart pear, verbena and melon as well as chalky earth, white pepper and tangy herb. This bright and zingy white is refreshing and taught, but also gives a bit more texturally than most wines in it’s class and has a lovely sense of depth and subtle richness of detail, it’s vibrant and elegant with nice poise and tension. Enjoy this well made Gruner over the next year or two, it gives the same thrill as a 1er Chablis, imported by Terry Theise, and at this price you’ll want a bunch around this Spring and Summer, this is, again, a stylish, brilliant and impressive terroir wine, do not miss.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Feinberb, Hattenheimer Engelmannsberg, Rheingau Germany.
While I say you’ll not want to miss any of the Spreitzer 2015’s, sometimes a wine slips past that you might not have noticed at first, but really shines when you catch it by surprise, or catches you, as was the case with Weingut Spreitzer’s Engelmannsberg Feinherb 2014 that I tasted recently at the Slanted Door. The 2015 version is richer and gorgeous in every way, tasted at the winery last October, it’s a fantastic wine, but this 2014 has blossomed too in bottle, leaving it’s wall flower first impression behind it is showing a subtle elegance and grace with a very dry profile, it’s a classy little Riesling and a fine value. With earthy roses, liquid mineral, green apple, mango and peach leading the way this Spreitzer Hattenheimer Engelmannsberg from the upper Rheingau is pure, lively and rewarding with cuisine especially, showing light layers of flavor, crisp acidity and pretty detail. With food and air a nice lime essence shines through along with a crushed quartz/stone, verbena texture and spiced rosewater, this is charming and entertaining off dry stuff that just has the faintest of fleshy sweetness in it’s stylish delicacy and light baring. This is certainly a wine that needs your full attention to pick up it’s complexities and poise, it’s not overt or a show stopper, but it is a graceful and vital Riesling that has improved greatly since my last time tasting it, drink now, best from 2017 to 2025.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Dolores Cabrera Fernandez, La Araucaria Tinto, Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife, Canary Islands Spain.
Here’s an exciting new producer from one of the most wild wine regions on earth, the Canary Islands, it’s an old vine red made from Listan Negro, one of the historic mission grapes, grown on the windswept volcanic hillsides of Tenerife, an Island closer to Africa than Spain. Not until about 10 years ago did anyone take these wines seriously, but now that have truly found their niche and are highly sought after, with even a handful of producers reaching cult status like Suertes del Marques, Envinate, Fronton de Oro and Crater. One of the winemaking superstars from here, Roberto Santana, helps guide long time grower Dolores Cabrera Fernandez in her efforts, and it is a wine well worth searching out, imported by Jose Pastor Selections, it shows wonderful elegance and texture with exotic spices and a lighter medium bodied grace. This charming Listan Negro starts with delicate floral notes, red pepper spice, flinty/stony mineral and blueberry before layers of plum, fig, chalk dust and lavender unfold on the palate along with a certain salty character and earthy rustic element. This is not any other wine region and the wines are always unique, in some ways you see a similar quality to that of Mount Etna on Sicily, if you had to compare, but in many ways it would be unfair to do so, these are really soulful terroir wines in their own right. I was really impressed by this La Araucaria, and this is a wine I’ll be following in the future, this graceful and naturally pretty with lingering tangy/dusty fruits, pepper flakes and dried violets, I love it.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Brick House, Pinot Noir “Select” Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Doug Tunnell’s entry level all estate Select Pinot from the near perfect 2014 vintage is a lovely and pretty wine, easy to admire for it’s silky texture, open knit style and elegant delicacy. From hand picked barrels from various blocks the Select gives a hedonistic insight into the vintage and the Brick House vines, all organic and biodynamic, Tunnell has a wonderful selection of heritage clones and newer dijon clones to work with and has put together a joyous and complex wine that dances on the palate with with lacy red fruits, spice, earth and mineral tones. While the higher end cuvees will no doubt give more forceful intensity and be classic Pinot Noirs for the cellar, this Select 2014 will be a graceful medium weight wine to enjoy now with bing cherry, loamy earth, plum, mixed floral notes and subtle oak shadings making for a dreamy offering, this poised and detailed Oregon Pinot is an outstanding value. The nose lifts from the glass with wilted rose petals, faint violets, flinty/pepper spice, cinnamon and wild plum leading to the soft and round palate of cherry, raspberry, blueberry, tangy red currant and earthy strawberry fruits that while on the light side linger on and on, this is very classy stuff. This will entice and thrill most Pinot Noir lovers, with subtle savory elements adding further appeal, including hints of saline, iron and cedar that integrate nicely, drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years easy, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go 10 or 15 years without any problem, a superb effort from a top producer and a real bargain!
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Uccelliera, Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy.
The Uccelliera Rosso is a surprising hit from a tough vintage, this baby Brunello is a richly textured, ripe and medium/full bodied Sangiovese that has classic character and detailed flavors. While 2014 won’t go down as a great vintage in Tuscany, there have been some remarkable successes, so as long as you are diligent you’ll be be able to find some real gems, like this Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino. Uccelliera makes one of the top Brunello(s) especially at the price, and their Rosso is never far behind in quality and value, this Sangiovese Grosso (Brunello Clone) delivers layers of deep red fruits, earth, spice and is clean and silken in the mouth. The 2014 Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino starts with dried flowers, truffle, cedar and crushed red berries leading to a palate formed of juicy raspberry, black cherry, strawberry and plum fruits as well as tobacco leaf, loamy earth, leather and minty anise. Pure and round in feel, there is plenty of acidity to keep things energized and a touch of bitter tannins, better to enjoy this stylish red with food to get the most of this bottling. It lingers with succulent tangy currants and a hint of menthol, but it’s not tart or thin, this is really a fine example of careful winemaking and makes for a really charming Tuscan expression, drink from 2017 to 2020.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive