2012 Ostatu, Rioja D.O. Crianza, Rioja Alavesa, Spain.
The new Ostatu Crianza is a stunner! This is a fine and beautiful Rioja with an amazing amount of detail, depth and class for the price, it is shockingly good and a great example of individual house style, terroir and varietal coming together in one wine. Ostatu makes a super lineup of wines from Rose/Rosado and white to Crianza and Reserva(s) all from the upper reaches of Rioja Alavesa where it is slightly cooler and has more interesting soils. I think this Crianza is favorite, I like and admire the finesse, structure and freshness to be found here and it just does everything well, it is a hugely pleasing Tempranillo with grace, vigor and length. The 2012 starts with a haunting and heady perfume of violets and acacia flowers, a hint of smoky wood, deep dark fruits and a mix of cinnamon and anise leading to a round palate of blackberry, plum and creamy black cherry fruits, tangy dried currants, vanilla, a touch of mineral, stones and lingering compote. The fruit is ripe, but with bright pop, silky tannins and very subtle cedar wood and the whole is a complete package, this is a vibrant, rich and balanced red of nice density and medium/full weight, it should drink wonderfully over the next 3 to 5 years, but honestly you should enjoy this Rioja Crianza now and often, you just can’t find this kind of pure and delicious wine at this price, this blows away Bordeaux and Napa options in this price class.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Neighborhood Vineyards, Albarino, Silt and Strata, Central Coast.
In the future Neighborhood Vineyards will be making wine in San Francisco from vines at their Alemany Farms Vineyard in the City, they may even get their first crop this harvest, but in the meantime we can enjoy the latest offerings of Central Coast wines they have put out, and especially good is the new Neighborhood Vineyards Albarino! Elly Hartshorn is on a roll, her latest Pinots and this great Albarino Silt & Strata are all outstanding, and I can’t wait to see her San Francisco Wines get started, it is an awesome project that will add a lot of fun to the San Francisco wine community. Her just released Albarino is one of the best made from this Spanish grape from northwest Spain and parts of Portugal and it shows true cool climate varietal character and zesty mineral driven intensity. The 2014 Neighborhood Vineyards Silt & Strata Albarino starts with delicate rose petal and white flower, sea shore essences, wild herbs and nectarine leading to a palate of brisk citrus fruits, unripe green apple, apricot and peach pit, river stones and mouth watering saline. This is a vibrant white wine with loads of eye popping acidity and refreshing zing, a great summer crowd pleaser that finishes with a hint of basil and tangerine, this is a light bodied dry Albarino that really pays tribute to it’s roots. Only a couple of barrels of this bright and lively wine were produced, so you’ll have to look hard, but it will be worth it, drink over the next year or so.
($18 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
2013 Knez, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley.
Anthony Filbert makes some beautiful wines and the latest Knez release is a glorious example of Pinot Noir with stunning detail, refinement and class, starting with a clear perfumed bouquet, delicate fruit and subtle layers of earth and mineral all wrapped up in balanced texture, do not miss this 2013 Knez Anderson Valley. Coming off estate vines mostly planted to heritage clones and farmed with great care to the land and fermented using native yeast the 2013 Knez has a gorgeous natural feel and is very compelling in the glass, though I suspect it will really fill out and gain depth with another year or so in bottle, the vintage seems more generous that 2011 or 2012, but I think there is more to come. Filiberti still is part of Anthill Farms, and has made wine at Penner-Ash, Bergstrom and Williams-Selyem, he resume is very impressive, but his wines more than speak for themselves, this is a talented and passionate winemaker that is really hitting on all cylinders and turning out some majestic and exceptional efforts. This 2013 is lovely, and a superb value, showing a ruby red hue, an enticing floral nose and a palate of finessed fruit including dark raspberry, black cherry, plum and wild strawberry along with stone and mineral notes, spice, tea, fennel, rose petal, herbs and tangy died currant, plus saline, red peach, cedar and a hint of loamy/dusty earth. There is lifting acidity and satiny tannins in the medium bodied Pinot, and there is a juicy brightness throughout, this is a young and vibrant wine that turns a tiny bit shy on the mid palate and needs a little time to unfold, A year should bring even better rewards, drink this beauty from 2016 to 2020.
($34 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Denis Jamain Domaine de Reuilly, Pinot Gris, Reuilly AC, Loire Valley, France.
This is an electric and intriguing white from Denis Jamain at Domaine de Reuilly in France’s Loire Valley, and it is unique for being Pinot Gris and that with it’s subtle skin contact it is sometimes thought of as a Rose. The 2014 is more golden in color, it is not as pinkish in hue as it can be, but it still will be drunk as if it was a Rose, even though it is not from a red grape, and why not, it is exotic, delicious and vibrantly refreshing. This mineral driven wine is exciting and vivid with steely notes, zesty acidity and is totally dry on the palate, this is a great Summer sipper and goes well with lots of cuisine options, and it is just too cool and fun to miss, so don’t! The latest version of the Jamain Pinot Gris, again starts with the golden color with a faint hint of orange this year, with white flowers, pea gravel, peach and a mix of citrus, sour cherry and tropical fruits along with flinty mineral, saline and melon notes. Rather than fruity or savory, this wine always shows mineral and stones foremost, it is delicate and detailed with a kick of acidity, it is best served very chilled and should be drunk over the coming year, young and vital. This is a wine that is not easy to classify or put into a perfect box, but it has a niche and a solid following, it’s a Pinot Gris gone native, an example of a terroir stamping it’s mark on the varietal and a winemaker guiding it to a special place, I love it for it’s style and racy character, I highly recommend you look out for it and enjoy it on the warm days ahead, drink from 2015 to 2017.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Giovanni Rosso, Barbera d’ Alba DOC, Donna Margherita, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Giovanni Rosso Barbera Donna Margherita is a pretty and stylish effort with surprising depth and length for this difficult vintage, if you are buying 2013 Barbera, then you will want to check this one out, one of the finest efforts I’ve tasted for the year. Davide Rosso is doing some fabulous work here and his lineup is amazingly strong from Barbera to Barolo, he is a guy to watch, and if you’ve not tried his wines, it is time! The latest Donna Margherita Babera d’ Alba is darkly hued, brightly flavored and subtly spicy. The nose features sweet fruity notes, floral elements with hints of mineral and herbs leading to a fresh mouth full of blackberry, plum and tangy currant along with mint, mix spices, cedar and anise, the finish shows fine tannins and lingering fruit essences. Drinking superb right now, best over the next few years, 2015 to 2017.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Rafael et Fils, Pinot Noir, Lauren’s Cuvee, Donnelly Creek Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Marc Rafael has been inspired by the new generation of young winemakers and the new generation of growers making and farming to produce lower alcohol, European style wines, this especially shows in the new and elegant Rafael Lauren’s Cuvee Pinot from Anderson Valley’s Donnelly Creek Vineyard. This beautifully detailed Pinot comes in at Burgundy like 12.9% Alcohol and shows the soft and brighter side of this varietal with juicy red cherry, plum and strawberry fruits, tea spice, rose oil and dried flowers along with silky tannins, red peach notes, vibrant acidity, cinnamon stick, anise, light toasty wood/cedar and a whiff of vanilla wafer. While known for his esteemed Napa Valley estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Marc deserves a lot of credit for his new and delightful Pinot, it is a worthy and serious effort, a great addition to his lineup of hand crafted wines, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Knoll, Riesling, Federspiel, Loibner Wachau, Austria.
Knoll is one of the top performers in Austrian white wine, there is no question year in and year out these are wines to cherish, but 2013 is a remarkable and special vintage, and you should search them out. The basic level Federspiel Loibner Riesling is a very brisk dry wine with vigorous acidity and light extract, but it has plenty of flavor and sex appeal with exotic fruit and stony mineral adding to the classic lemon/lime and white peach core along with dried apricot, hints of grapefruit, tangerine, lemon grass, straw, brine and white tea. This wine is electric, zesty and mouth watering, it shows an austere nature with a steely edge, though very poised, likable and pleasing, especially compelling with food, I was thrilled how well it went spicy lobster and crab meat, and it would be gorgeous with speck, or cured ham as well as many other cuisine choices. With air it looses some of it’s sharper edges and as it warms a few notches in the glass there is a feeling of more density and width, and there is a bit more bouquet with subtle white flowers, and sandy salty seashore notes. This is a year to own any of Knoll’s wines, and this one is a top value and drinks fantastic, best from 2016 to 2024.
($36 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Kesner, Chardonnay, Heintz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
Ever since Jason Kesner started making his own wine, after being assistant winemaker at Kistler, his wines have been spectacular, and these 2013’s look to eclipse all prior efforts, especially fascinating is the Heintz single vineyard Chardonnay, this is a wine that rivals the best from Peter Michael, Aubert and Ramey, a while a bit richer, it is in the same league as Ted Lemon’s best at Littorai, plus while not really comparable to white Burgundy, it does remind me a little of the Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey wines in texture and drive, high praise indeed! This Kesner 2013 is deep and full flavored with layers of lemon, honeysuckle, tropical fruit, kiwi, quince and clove spice with just a kiss of oak toast, wet river stones and hazelnut. This wine has vigor, zesty intensity and certainly will age 10 years easy, beautifully and artfully crafted showing class, hedonism and focused detail, this is serious stuff, delicious and decedent and almost half the price of the wines of which it competes! Drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years, though I like I mentioned I can see this being a fun option to cellar for a decade too, best from 2016 to 2021.
($60 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2013 Lise et Bertrand Jousset, Exile, Rose Petillant Naturel (Gamay) Vin de France, Loire Valley Sparkling Wine, France.
the Exile, from non estate fruit comes from 50 year old Gamay vines and it a beautiful and fun Rose Sparkler that is set to cheer up your Summer, this Pet-Nat is lively, flavorful, the extra year before bottling really helps give more depth and detail, this is an exciting example. The grapes come fro an organic vineyard in Loire-et-Cher, and Jousset put in the ultra artisan effort to produce a complex and stylish Petillant Naturel, and while it may not be as thrilling as their estate Chenin Blanc version, it certainly will entertain anyone looking for serious bubbly, and it shows a bit more sassy/flamboyant nature with the Gamay really shinning through. The nose has nice lees notes, sour cherry, herbs and a touch of brioche along with a mix of fruit and floral elements leading to a dry, tight moussed palate of subtle citrus, tangy cherry, strawberry, watermelon and the tiniest of hints of blueberry plus a steely mineral core. This is bright, fresh and vivid Rose and it remains zesty and vibrant in the glass, but with a surprisingly decedent mouth feel and wow factor, with Pet-Nat’s all the rage, you’ll want to jump on board the Love them bubbles Train soon, and this one is an exceptionally good place to start these really good Dry Sparklers, these are hand crafted wines that make for great alternatives to pricier Champagne and way better than mass produced Charmat method, these are all natural wines that create their own bubbles and offer superb quality and value along with lots of smiles and joy, if you’ve not caught the Petillant Naturel bug yet, now is a great time to start, it is a real craze, but with serious staying power, and Jousset, imported by Return to Terroir makes some of the finest offerings. Drink the Exile Gamay Rose Pet-Nat over the coming couple of years, it will be a great sipper on warm afternoons and is fabulous pre dinner and with meals, drink from 2015 to 2017.
($21 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Giovanni Rosso, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Here is a serious and charming Nebbiolo from Davide Rosso, who is making a big name for himself in recent vintages, this a label to buy now and keep an eye on, the latest set are some of his most compelling offerings, especially good is this Langhe Nebbiolo, which is on par with many a costlier Barolo! I tried some of his earlier 2008 wines and loved them immediately for their quality, character and finesse, this guy is making some beauties! There is more joy in this Nebbiolo that one would hope for in a wine in this price class, in fact as mentioned, you could easily be fooled into thinking you were drinking a Barolo, maybe not a top Cru, but you get the idea, this is great stuff. The nose of Davide’s Giovanni Rosso Langhe Nebbiolo starts with dried roses, hints of incense, tar, kirsch and menthol leading to a complex palate of black cherry, damson plum, balsamico dipped strawberry and dried red currant along with iron tinged mineral, salted black licorice, cedar and olive/herb notes. The weight is medium bodied, with 14% alcohol, good fine tannins and well judged acidity and focus, this shows youthful grip, but is alluring and hard to resist, drink from 2015 to 2021, impressive, classy and pure all the way.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive