Wine of the Day March 5, 2015

1964SittmannSilvaner1964 Carl Sittmann, Silvaner, Oppenheimer Brunnchen, Spatlese Cabinet, Rheinhessen Germany.
The star is fading on this most unique wine, but it certainly merits mention and was a highlight of a casual wine dinner, a big thanks to Fred Daniels, a friend that picked up this bottle in Berlin and brought it back to share, it might be the only time I get to taste a 50 year old Sylvaner (Silvaner) that was is such good shape. Considering it’s age and low acidity, this Silvaner Oppenheimer Brunnchen had some very nice flavors and compelling complexity, it has a deep golden/amber color at this point and was almost looking and smelling like an old Sauternes, creamy/oily texture though not really sweet, this was an intriguing old wine in the glass. The 1964 Sittmann Silvaner in 2015 is a bit fragile and falling, but it starts with dried roses, lemony fruits, baked peach, dusty apricot and tangerine and though the off dry fruit doesn’t collapse it does fade behind a savory wild mushroom layer, which at first was like the sun getting cloud cover, but the porcini and chanterelle notes turn pleasing on their own and wine settles again into a stable play of burnt fruit, autumn foliage and tangy ceps, it is remarkable that the wine held on this long, hats off to Sittmann, a winery I’ve never known and one that started back in 1512 in the Rheinhessen. Sylvaner or Silvaner was really popular in the 50’s and early 60’s, it was an easy drinking fruity wine with less firmness and intense acidity than Riesling, it is believed that Silvaner originated in Romania, near and came west through Hungary, Austria and ended up in Alsace, where it is still very well thought of, and of course mostly Franken in Germany, where it comes in those squat bottles and is prized for it’s fresh character, though still found in the Rheinhessen as well, though it competes with a vast array of other varietals these days. Sadly way past it’s prime, the Sittmann shows hints of it’s former grace, prize winning form and charms, it deserves a shout out for being a very nice example and a seriously fun old wine that had seen better days long ago, I bet this was a really good wine at one time.
($80 Est.) 86-88 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day March 4, 2015

2012RochioliValdiguie2012 Rochioli, Valdiguie, Estate, Russian River Valley.
A trip to Sonoma County and or the Russian River Valley is not complete without a visit to Rochioli, one of California’s great wine estates, and with a quiet winter day I got a chance to taste through their new releases, which is always a pleasure. I’ve been trekking to Rochioli myself since 1996 and every time I’m excited as the first time I came here, and with this visit I was able to get myself the latest release of their tasting room only Valdiguie, formerly thought to be Gamay, and sample this fun and hugely drinkable offering, made from estate vines. The 2011 was a pure and delightful wines, and the 2012 Valdiguie continues in that vein, but is with the vintage a touch more flamboyant and riper, but not overly so, just a bit more personality and verve. Rochioli in their notes, refer to the Valdiguie as a Cru Beaujolais style wine, as it does taste similar to Gamay, but Valdiguie is a lost varietal that originally came from the south of France and most likely the Languedoc, it doesn’t seem to be widely know there or is there much wine made from this grape, there are patches of it found in Monterey, where J. Lohr made the first correctly labelled bottling many years ago, and there is some in Napa, even though they try and call it “Napa Gamay” along with tiny amounts in Sonoma County and the Sierra Foothills. The Rochioli 2013 Valdiguie is bright and fruity on the nose with floral and red berry notes, a good ruby hue in the glass and a palate of morello cherry, strawberry, raspberry and sweet plum fruits, hints of cedar, or walnut, minty herbs and a touch of oak. Overall it is a fresh and simple red that is flavorful and easy to enjoy, it should be a pleasing red for another few years in bottle, best from 2015 to 2018. Apart from the Valdiguie, the tasting room at Rochioli offers a Rose of Pinot Noir, offered in the Spring/Summer, and a Syrah in the Fall usually, though it looks to have found a place on the mailing list along with the estate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc all which are tasting superb by the way.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day March 3, 2015

2013SheldonGraciano2013 Sheldon, Graciano, Ripken Vineyard, Lodi California.
The Sheldon’s have found a wonderful niche, making Graciano, and the 2013 edition is maybe the best yet for this Rioja grape. This varietal from Spain can and is used as single varietal wine, labeled as Rioja Crianza and it is a medium dark grape with lots of spice, mineral and floral perfume, it is also known as Tintilla and can be found in Sherry and in the exotic wines of the Canary Islands as well. The Sheldon’s make the best California version I’ve tasted, and for those that search out the geeky stuff like Arnot Roberts Trousseau, you’ll want some of this gorgeous juice. The 2013 Sheldon Graciano was fermented all natural, whole cluster and raised in neutral French barrel, it comes in at 12.5% alcohol, which you might not expect, but knowing Dylan and Tobe Sheldon look for low brix and elegance, as they always have, you end up with a vibrant, fresh and spicy wine with old school charm and grace. The Sheldon’s are a micro-winery, based in Santa Rosa, a must visit tasting room a.k.a The Sippy Lounge, they have now started a fun growler program (like at a craft brewery, but wine) of fill up wines with both red and white on keg, but their signature wines are their superb Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc from Sonoma, both low alcohol beauties, be sure to check the 2012 and 2013 vintages out, though the wildly appealing Graciano grown on limestone like soils is a very sexy wine and one that sells out quickly, so don’t wait, only 3 or so barrels get produced, luckily the Sheldon’s have found a Sonoma grower with Graciano and look to add to the program starting with the 2014 vintage, which is in it’s own lovely barrel right now. The 2013 Ripken Graciano starts with a mix of sweet and savory lead ins with dried and fresh flowers, minty herbs, chalky stones, umami and hints of bacon bits which set up the palate for vivid strawberry, raspberry, tangy cherry, cranberry and blueberry fruits along with wild plum and a touch of cassis plus warm gravel, fresh acidity, pepper, red tea, cedar and salted European licorice. The tannins are very fine and meld nicely into this balanced lighter to mid weighted wine, it has a juicy feel on the palate and a layered finish, best to enjoy young, drink from 2015 to 2017. This latest set from the Sheldon’s are all hitting their stride and make for glorious post modern drinking, all with alcohol in the 12 to 13% range including their fantastic Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a throwback to the 70’s and 80’s, a tasty retro Cab if you will with wonderful pure fruit, but again, for something extra special, grab this Graciano!
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day March 2, 2015

2012NanclaresAlbarino2012 Alberto Nanclares, Albarino, Salnes, Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain.
This is the single most thrilling Albarino I’ve ever tasted, period. Alberto Nanclares has crafted a masterpiece with his tiny production Albarino Salnes, this wine is crystal clear, persistent and riveting with Riesling like focus and drive and wonderful leesy depth that gives rich detail but never feels heavy, this is euphoric white wine with sublime class and excitement from start to finish. The 2012 Nanclares Salnes starts with hints of white flowers, liquid mineral and a mix of wild herbs and spices with a salty kick leading to a pure and crispy palate of lemon/lime, green apple, white peach, melon and tangy tangerine fruits, cool river stones, brine and lemongrass/verbena. This wine gives the impression of weight with a hint of yeast/brioche, but is vivid, vibrant and eye popping, it has ripe and round textural element along with a austere briskness, it plays with you and is amazingly well judged, I was spellbound by this glorious effort, and though it will be insanely difficult to find, I highly recommend locating some and cherishing it! Great Albarino is like great dry German Riesling, not much gets exported, as the locals drink it up, though some does in both cases make to us here and we are grateful and eager for more, especially wines like this one from Alberto Nanclares. At 12.5% Alcohol and with wonderful acidity this is a fantastic food and summer wine, although not cheap, it is worth every penny and offers stunning quality and comes in at a price that most people with happily pay for a Bandol Rose, like Tempier, so again, it is a fair option for the (special) warm Spring and Summer days ahead, drink this beautiful Albarino from 2015 to 2020.
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day March 1, 2015

2012BernabeNavarroGrenache2012 Bodegas Bernabe Navarro “Tragolargo” Garnacha, Alicante, Spain.
I just couldn’t help but love this unique high elevation Grenache from Spain far south, from mountain vines in the Alicante region, it is wild, earthy, full of exotic flavors and peppery spices. This fun wine is not what you’d expect from the hot and arid south of Spain, as the wine is not jammy and still has austere freshness with a nice array of complexity and mineral stony elements. Bernabe Navarro is part of the Natural wine scene in Spain and organic dry farmed vines form his efforts, this wines are not for everyone, but they are well made and a great value, I have enjoyed the Mourvedre (Monastrell) cuvee in past vintages as well. The wine starts with pepper, truffle, hints of floral tones, dark fruit and lavender leading to a vibrant palate of tart plum, boysenberry, candied cherry and strawberry with minty herbs, red pepper, loamy earth, cedar and game. With a bit of air the mouth fills out, the texture comes out and a nicely balanced wine emerges with supple tannins and gravelly elements forming in the back ground while more lush fruit takes over with raspberry, briar and fennel notes lingering on the finish, this is not a flashy or lavish wine, but a solid country wine that has a lot of character and earthy charm, best with food, drink from 2015 to 2018, this is a wine that grows on you!
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day February 28, 2015

2011SamsaraSyrahMelville2011 Samsara, Syrah, Melville Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Sometimes wines make you rethink your opinions and change your view, especially humbling when you’ve already made a judgement or two, and it the space of a week two Syrah wines from 2011 altered my held believes. I was ready to say, yes there were many nice wines made in 2011, but this tough year should just fade away and everybody should let it go, and we can move on the 2012, 2013 and 2014 which seem much more exciting all round in California. That was a mouthful, but I needed to set up what I wanted to point out, there will and will always be heroic surprises to discover in almost any vintage that will blow you away, for me, those two magical wines from 2011 are this glorious Samsara Melville Syrah, Sta Rita Hills, and the 2011 Lagier-Meredith Syrah from Mount Veeder in Napa Valley (94+) these are wines to search out and cherish, they are from very different terroirs and a quite a bit distinct individual stylistically, but both are fascinating examples of the varietal. Chad Melville’s Samsara Syrah from his family’s estate vineyard is refined, haunting and pure with violets, sea salt, mineral, mixed herbs and dark fruit compote leading the way with a medium full palate of blueberry, blackberry, dark cherry and tangy currant fruits with minty licorice, chalk dust, olive and peppery spices. The is a polished tannic backbone, lifting acidity, along with a beautiful textural mouth feel, the extra time in barrel really allowed this gorgeous wine to fully evolve and reveal itself, this an amazing effort, one of the best yet from Samsara, and it lingers on the finish with coffee bean, kirsch, cedar and back to that blueberry note, stunning throughout, drink from 2015 to 2020. Sometimes a tough year brings out the best in people, and highlights great terroir or vineyards, that is the case here, and it certainly gave me moments to re-think the vintage, be sure and check out the Lagier-Meredith 2011 Syrah and this sublime Samsara!
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day February 27, 2015

2012PattonValleyEstate2012 Patton Valley, Pinot Noir, The Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This beautiful and open Pinot Noir is fantastically detailed and pleasing with gorgeous red fruits, silky texture and lengthy finish, you have to hand it to Patton Valley, they really took advantage of the vintage here and made outstanding wines, especially this estate bottling. While the 2009, 2010 and 2011 wines were pretty and solid efforts, the 2012 is a massive jump up in quality and depth, this is great way to start with Patton Valley and a superb introduction to the glories of the Willamette Valley, if you are new to Oregon wine. This impressive Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir also comes in half bottle, perfect for restaurant lists and in full bottle for home use, the pricing is fair for the wonderful quality in the bottle, their vines are tended in certified sustainable practices and the winemaking is based on the careful attention paid to the grapes from vine to cellar and there is lots to admire in these wines. The 2012 Estate is rich on the nose and on the palate, it starts with deep floral tones, plenty of red fruit and hints of spice and vanilla leading to an expansive palate of creamy cherry, black raspberry, strawberry, plum and blueberry fruits in the mouth with cola, cinnamon, black tea and wild herbs/anise. There is good underlying acidity, satin like tannins, with nice ripeness while not to excess coming in at 14% alcohol and lingering fruit and sweet oak notes being well judged, best from 2015 to 2020.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day February 26, 2015

2013GramenonLaSagesse2013 Domaine Gramenon, Cotes du Rhone, La Sagesse, Rhone Valley, France.
The Domaine Gramenon by Michèle Aubèry-Laurent and her talented son Maxime François is one of the finest organic Cotes du Rhone estates and their wines some of the greatest expressions of intense terroir wine in the region, these are as natural and pure as it gets, true authentic/soulful and passionate examples of what can be done with organic and biodynamic practices. The Laurent’s tiny handcrafted wines are full of energy, drive, verve and exceptional depth with wondrous layers of flavors and heady aromatics, and while they do an amazing Syrah and lovely white wine, it is Grenache that really stands out here and the latest La Sagesse is a fantastic effort that will give many a Chateauneuf a run for their money, if not totally blow them away! The 2013 Domaine Gramenon Cotes du Rhone La Sagesse, coming from 60 year old vines grown on a mix of soils including Clay, Limestone and Sand mostly with some Gravel and Galets Roules, it is made in an old fashioned way with almost no sulphur, no fining or filtration and aging is done in mostly big cask foudres and a few demi-muids, the results are a really sexy wine that flows across the palate with deep flavors, sublime texture and glorious complexity. This beautiful Grenache starts with a mixed floral bouquet with wild flavors and violets, a spicy array of herbs, pepper and mineral along with dark fruits leading to a full and plumy mouth of blackberry, boysenberry, pomegranate, bramble berry, strawberry and tangy currant fruits with briar, earth, sweet and savory gamey notes, chalky stones, saline, licorice, lavender oil and light cedar. There is a kirsch/liqueur element and lively youthful acidity, along with supple supporting tannins that with hold this pretty wine together and the finish is haunting, this is classy and persistent wine that deserves your attention, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day February 25, 2015

2012BeauxFreresUpperTerrace2012 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir “Upper Terrace” Beaux Freres Vineyard Estate, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The unfined and unfiltered Upper Terrace from Mike Etzel of Beaux Freres is one of Oregon’s most exotic and rare Pinots, I would compare it to Burgundy’s Bonnes Mares Grand Cru, it is dark, richly flavored and full of intensity and vitality, and 2012 is a blockbuster vintage. The Upper Terrace, farmed by biodynamic practices and using a mix of clones is a gorgeous and majestic Pinot Noir, it reminds me of the AF Gros and Anne Gros wines and especially their 2012 Vosne Romanee and Clos Vougeot bottlings (which I have just tasted as well) with layer after layer of lavish fruit and mocha notes, but this is still an infant and will need a few years in the cellar to really show itself in all it’s glory, be patient with this one and the rewards should be amazing. The latest and best Beaux Freres starts with a deep ruby hue, a hint of violets, smoke and sweet spices leading to a full palate of blackberry, plum and dark cherry fruits along with a touch of graphite, crushed stones, earth and vanilla, plus cedar, pepper and a finish that lingers with blueberry, strawberry and tangy currants. The texture is lush, but with some firm tannins and underlying acidity in this chocolatey and hedonistic that still needs to shed it’s baby fat and integrate it’s wood, though with air reveals wonderful Pinot fruit purity and detail, this is a monumental wine in the making, it will be great to taste it in ten years time, drink from 2018 to 2026.
($100 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day February 24, 2015

2013PYCMSantenayVV2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Santenay Rouge, Ceps Centenaires, Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
It was a great pleasure to meet and taste with Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey here in San Francisco just after buying and reviewing his early release of 2013 Saint-Aubin Le Banc, and while he is known for his whites, all which were outstanding in this and the last 4 or 5 vintages, not many get a chance to sample is reds, like this old vine Santenay. The 2013 Cep Centenaries comes from a tiny plot, from as the name suggests, 100 year old vines and is made in a way that is in honor of Madame Bize-Leroy, I learned, Colin-Morey de-stems by hand using scissors, leaving a bit of stem attached to each grape to promote freshness and add aromatics, complexity and tannin. This works very here, this wine a barrel sample, is ripe, focused and full of charm and character with rich detail and vigor, it shows subdued floral tones, bright red fruits and mineral notes, but fills out with air. There is layers of red cherry, tart cranberry, raspberry, plum and hints of strawberry fruits along with tea and Asian spices, cedar, baking spice and stony/chalky mineral highlights. This is a Santenay that feels like a Beaune Premier Cru, and while the price is yet to be decided, I would imagine in comes in around $50 US retail and will be considered a tasty value, though there won’t be much of it. This clear and well crafted and seductive red Burgundy will be a wonderful catch and I would guess at a good mid term future, drink from 2017 to 2022.
($TBD-Barrel Sample) 92-94 Points, grapelive