2015 Joyce Vineyards, Syrah, Tondre Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The quaffable and elegantly framed 2015 Joyce Vineyards Syrah Tondre Grapefield is a lush and spicy red that has satiny texture and lingering length with a light feeling medium cool climate palate. Russell Joyce and crew used about 20% whole cluster and a 4 to 5 day cold soak maceration is this beauty with native yeasts and raised using only neutral French oak, aged on the lees for 13 months then bottled unfined and unfiltered, making this a lovely and pure wine, maybe one of best wines I’ve tasted from this vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, grown on gravel, loam, sand and granite. The nose is pretty and lightly perfumed with crushed violets, peppery sage and minty herb along with mure liqueur and blueberry tart leading to a dense, but energy filled mouth with boysenberry, kirsch, savory salty anise, stones and cured meat as well as faint cedar, damson plum, lavender and cinnamon. Gains a bit of weight with air, without heaviness, and finishes long and ripe, the warm vintage adds to the refined tannins, at 14.2% it is not shy, but it shows a more delicate nature than the number and year would suggest, this is a wonderful effort from Joyce and this wine delivers a lot for the money, and according to winemaker Russell Joyce the 2016 looks even better! There’s an excitement growing around this winery and the current lineup is impressive, especially the Pinots and the dry Riesling, but don’t overlook this stylish Syrah, available at their beautiful new tasting room in the Carmel Valley Village.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Ian Brand, Le P’Tit Paysan, Le P’Tit Pape, Central Coast.
The wonderfully pure and stylish 2015 P’Tit Pape California Rhone blend by Ian Brand gushes with distinctive Grenache based red fruits, but with delicate complexity of detail making for a joyous youthful red. The P’Tit Pape 2015 is a savvy blend of 62% Grenache, 19% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre, 3% Counoise and 2% Cinsault that shows tangy pomegranate, kirsch, strawberry and dusty red berries along with a hint of blueberry and cranberry as well as sweet and savory spices and chalky stones all folding together nicely, after starting with tight focus, it opens to silken layers. Medium weight at this point and very fresh and vibrant, this new P’Tit Pape reminds me of Domaine la Barroche’s basic Chateauneuf du Pape cuvee, it’s a remarkably refined effort that shows no traces of barrique (oak) in it’s flavor profile allowing the wine to clearly express itself without any need for bling. This is a wine truly comfortable in it’s own shoes, and while it’s inspired by Chateauneuf du Pape it is really a serious bargain wine, priced right to compete against Cotes du Rhone Villages and Gigondas, and even though it comes from a warm and concentrated vintage it doesn’t reflect heat or heaviness in any way, this wine, while ripe graces the palate with natural acidity and harmony, it is rewarding throughout gaining subtle lavender, anise seed, pepper, tart currant and rose oil elements that help make the vivid fruit stand out. It’s a tough choice between the earthier and dark fruit driven 2014 and this 2015 that is more red fruit, mineral and lengthier, both offer great value, it comes down to personal preference, which in my case leans me toward the 2015, it’s a wine I see more of in my own future, be sure to look for it!
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2016 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Scheurebe Spatlese, Nahe Germany.
What a gorgeous and sexy wine with an underlying exotic nature, but also extremely well balanced and structured from the Munsterer Dautenflanzer Grand Cru site with slate and sandy top soil, the Kruger-Rumpf Scheurebe Spatlese 2016 delivers an array of fruit, spice and lifting acidity. Fruity and flowery this vintage shows fleshing summer melon, lemon/lime, passion fruit and nectarine as well as wet rock, minty herb, flinty mineral spices and distilled jasmine and plumeria/hibiscus. Delicately sweet and lush on the medium weight palate, this Scheurebe is wonderfully seductive, though not cloying or honeyed, it feels drier and more crisp than you’d expect from a Spatlese highlighting the vintage and allowing flexibility in cuisine choices, seriously this lovely and lacy wine is less sugary than most Pinot Grigio(s), Gewürztraminer(s) and Muscat(s) no question, and it’s brilliant with Asian spicy foods, plus it does have good extract and stays firmly focused throughout. I was in the Nahe around harvest time last fall and tasted Scheurebe with Georg Rumpf in the vineyard, so I was thrilled to taste the finished wine, especially as it lived up to my expectations in every way, this 2016 is stunningly stylish, maybe less flamboyant than the 2015, but every bit as delicious, drink over the next 5 to 10 years.
($25 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Antony Thevenet, Morgon Cru Beaujolais, France.
The juicy and concentrated the young Thevenet’s Morgon is a focused and tasty Gamay wine that sits somewhere between Foillard and Lapierre on the style/quality curve, not bad for a new winery, in fact Anthony worked in the cellar for Foillard, as well as Descombes in recent years prior to making his own wines from some of his family’s famous vines, some of which are as old as 150 years. Thevenet is a follower of the natural wine movement, along with organic wine growing he uses almost no sulfur in the finished wine, much in the same way Lapierre does things. The sandy granite driven soils and old vines give clear terroir character even in his base cuvee, especially in this 2015, which flows with blackberry, cherry, plum and dusty cranberry fruits along with walnut, minty herbs, earthy loam and orange zest. This is a winery to follow and this 2015 Morgon Cru Beaujolais is a fun and easy to love wine that pleases with dark fruit, a lovely purple/blue color and spicy mineral tones as well as light floral notes, drink now, as the warm and ripe vintage begs to be quaffed with it’s generous/open style.
($26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2016 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Feinherb, Winkeler Jesuitengarten, Alte Reben, Rheingau Germany.
One of the my favorite Rieslings of the 2016 vintage so far is Spreitzer’s dense Jesuitegarten Alte Reben, think of it as a more generous GG with a touch of off dry lustiness with a rich character and amazing focus! From vines not far from the Rhein on a mix of loess, sand and gravel, the Jesuitegarten benefits from an almost lake effect, since this site sits near the river’s widest point and it vines ripen earlier here, making for opulent Rieslings, but still with vibrant acidity and crystalline mineralite. Less fruity than the Kabinett and Spatlese, the Alte Reben Jesuitegarten feels dry on the palate, but has what I call lush intensity with an almost full body feel, or as Terry Theise says, it’s chewy, and it drinks like a red wine with the massive extract and structure adding a counter weight to the lavish fruit core, regardless of what this wine is labeled, it’s a Grand Cru class white with gorgeous detail and length. This Riesling is beautiful, curvy and tom boy like, just think of Scarlett Johansson in a glass. The 2016 Spreitzer Feinherb Jesuitegarten Alte Reben is riveting from start to finish with a heady bouquet of spring flowers, sea shore and citrus which leads to a textured palate of green apple, mango, pineapple, lime sorbet, apricot and white cherry fruits with hints of saline/brine, wet stones, spiced herbal tea, verbena, sweet melon flesh, rosewater and lingering tangerine. This open and stylish Riesling delivers a rush of elegant pleasure and should go decades, this is super impressive and a value, if you’ve not had Spreitzer in recent vintages you are missing out, my visit to the winery last fall was mind-blowing and while I thought 2015 raised their game to the next level, these 2016 wines take it even further, Andreas and Bernd are killing it! Imported by Terry Theise and Skurnik Wines, these 2016 Spreitzer’s are coming online as I speak, but with the GG’s coming later in the year, these are seriously awesome Rieslings, especially this Jesuitegarten Feinherb, but also look for the dry Rosengarten GG and the Muschelkalk Trocken, as well as the sweeter Kabinett and Spatlese offerings which look set to be classics.
($33 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
More on Spreitzer and my Rheingau Visit
2013 Windy Oaks Estate, Syrah, Vaccaro Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.*
It’s exciting times at Windy Oaks Estate with a wonderful set of releases from Jim Schulzte’s cellar and a few new surprises in the vines, with a Syrah vineyard right next store coming online and new blocks of Grand Cru Burgundy clones, including a small parcel of hillside Chambertin clone and an expansion of planting/cuttings of their SBC (Special Burgundy Clone) which is a cleaned up version of de la Romanee-Conti! With Alfaro Family Vineyards and Windy Oaks Estate, Corralitos is a must visit sub region of the Santa Cruz Mountains and it’s killing it with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it’s a great weekend drive, which I did enjoying gorgeous sunshine and scenic vistas, and great wine, and a vineyard spin with Jim Schultze, who started with the 1999 vintage and who has become a leading light in handcrafted small lot Pinots in the area, I’ve always been a fan. Even though I didn’t get to taste the Grand Cru Burgundy clone wines, the releases sold out, but I was thrilled with the new Syrah release from those vines at the neighbor’s southwest facing hillside, it is a steep slope at a 1,000 feet above sea level with a view of the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay. It is everything you’d expect from a Burgundy inspired winemaker and a cool coastal climate site with seductive delicacy, it’s a medium bodied Syrah with lovely finesse and length with an array of black, blue and red fruits as well as lightly spiced and with a pretty perfume that makes it like a subtle Cote-Rotie. The profile of this Windy Oaks Syrah is opulent, but refined with heady florals and restrained used French oak shadings, it was very gently fermented with open top tanks and raised for almost 24 months in once and twice used Burgundy barriques, then aged in bottle for a year before it’s recent release. The 2013 Syrah has violets, rose petal and lavender oil on the nose with boysenberry, strawberry, plum and blueberry fruits along with fine silky tannins, mild acidity as well as having savory tones, mineral, dusty spices, kirsch, cedar, vanilla and tangy/minty herb and fennel. This is not an overly rich or dense wine, it comes in under 14% and feels satiny almost Pinot like, it’s all about charm and grace, not power, drink now and for the next 3 or 4 years, it’s a beauty and a shows an intriguing softer side expression of Syrah.
($45 Est.) grapelive
*I just accepted a position with Windy Oaks Estate*
2013 E. Pira e Figli-Chiara Boschis, Barolo, Mosconi, Piedmonte, Italy.
Chiara Boschis has crafted a legendary wine in this 2013 Mosconi Barolo, it’s far more concentrated and muscular than the elegant and open 2012, a wine I loved too, but without question this 2013 is a thrill to the senses and a Barolo for the ages, less hard and glacial than the 2010 with impressive fruit density and satiny/firm tannins. The cliche, much over used, iron fist in a velvet glove, though somewhat trite does seem to fit and while you can open this bottle even now and find a wonderland of Nebbiolo pleasure and be seduced by it’s raw sex appeal, it will certainly gain more subtle charm and detail with another 5 to 10 years in the bottle. Grown at over 1200 feet above sea level on Monforte d’ Alba’s Barolo limestone(Marl) and sandy tuft in Cru Mosconi with vines that are over 50 years old, which makes for an intense and complex wine, Boschis crafted a beauty, she allowed a two week fermentation with good, but not aggressive extraction and then raised the 2013 Mosconi in lightly toasted French oak, one third new and the rest of various levels of used to tame the tannins without getting too much of an oaky presence, an approach that seems to achieved all expectations in this vintage, it saw 24 months in the barrels and an additional year in bottle before release. The nose is lovely with a mix of dark flowers with rose petal and black violets adding a sweet perfume to the earthy tones, spice and mineral elements along with kirsch and mulberry leading to a rich and full palate of cherry, damson plum, cranberry and raspberry/strawberry leading the core of red fruits along with salted black licorice, dried lavender, porcini, chalk/stone, blood orange and light vanilla. This vintage really pumps out opulence and energy from start to finish and promises to just get even better with cellar time, Chiara has gifted us a great Barolo and this is one to cherish, now available nation wide from Skurnik Wines, drink from 2020-2034.
($100 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2016 Weingut Merkelbach, Riesling Spatlese #8, Urziger Wurzgarten, Mosel Germany.
The wonderfully textured and classically pure, the pre-sample of Merkelbach’s 2016 Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese #8 is slimmer and lithe version of this historic vineyard with loads of spice, sweet fruit, mineral and smooth, but zesty acidity that makes for a lovely wine that feels incredibly well balanced and a bit drier than it is. This iron rich and red slate vineyard in the middle Mosel is a glorious site, one of the most unique terroirs in the world, it produces very sexy Riesling with surprising aromas of dark flowers, mixed spices, Asian tea, flinty/shale and exotic tropical essences, with the 2016 Merkelbach showing a slightly more subtle tone and with a more earthy element adding complexity and gives focus to the sweetness. This sample of 2016 Merkelbach certainly impresses, and I must thank Terry Theise for pushing me in this wine’s direction, he’s been singing their praises in recent vintages, this is a winery on the rise and they offer solid quality for the money in a traditional styled wine and these are Rieslings that will age fantastically well. The palate is creamy with yellow peach, lemon/lime, green apple, apricot, pineapple and honeyed verbena as well as that liquid steely mineral and earthy spice edginess. Lingering jasmine, white lavender/rose, green melon flesh and tangerine add to the pleasure in this Spatlese, which is not overt or flamboyant like Loosen, Prum or even Christoffel versions, but with grace and charm in league with Schaefer and Selbach. Imported by Skurnik Wines and Terry Theise, Merkelbach’s 2016’s should be shipping by the end of this summer and they should be on your radar, especially this intriguing Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese #8, drink from 2019 to 2034.
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
n.v. Mouzon-Leroux, L’atavique, Tradition, Grand Cru Extra Brut Champagne, Verzy, France.
This is an exciting new to me grower producer that does a biodynamic Extra Brut from estate vines, 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay from Verzy, it’s a thrilling and dry style Grand Cru bubbly. Interestingly it is from mostly 2012 vintage, about 65%, with the rest a blend of leesy reserve wine from 2009 to 2011 with very low dosage, hence the Extra Brut, and it was native yeast or natural fermented with the lots going through full Malo, so that very little sulfur had to be used and 25% of the total sees oak in the process. This Champagne is extremely brisk and vividly vibrant, but with complex layers and ever expanding depth on the palate with zingy citrus, orange blossom, apple, white cherry, fig and hazelnut leading the way with a steely core and lemon zest along with wet stones, before opening to brioche, a hint of smoke, chalky spice and quince. The mousse is remarkably fine and caressing allowing lovely texture and mouth feel in such a taught Champagne, it’s not a crowd pleaser really, but a jewel for the enthusiast, and also when looking for this beautiful sparkler don’t be confused, some retailers list it as a Brut and some even list it as a vintage 2012, it’s all the same cuvee, and the price is anywhere from $60 to $100, but in California the average price is a very fair $74. The Mouzon-Leroux cuvee L’atavique is a special Champagne for grower fizz fans, imported by The Source (California) is certainly a great effort to search out! Happy Bastille Day, Viva La France!
($74 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Raul Perez-La Vizcaina de Vinos, Bierzo Blanco, La del Vivo, Lomas de Valtuille, Spain.
One of Raul Perez’s new projects, La Vizcaina de Vinos, is to explore the vines of his hometown in Bierzo’s Vatuille de Abajo and his intriguing La del Vivo Bierzo Blanco is a stunning white wine made from two plots La Poulosa, planted in 1940, and Las Villegas, planted in 1925, which are a mix of clay and sand and planted to Godello and a rare native varietal Dona Blanca. The gifted talent of Perez is on display in this amazing white, textured, lively and complex with dusty dry crisp detail, it was about 80% fermented in 500 and 700 Liter barrels, with about 20% of the grapes fermented on the skins and aged in clay amphorae that adds to the slightly savory tones and an almost tanniny structure to balance the lush and round Godello mouthfeel. This is beautifully crafted stuff and thrilling, and while I adore the Perez Mencia based reds, this wine was the surprise when I met him and tasted through his wines recently at the Skurnik Wines West portfolio tasting in San Francisco. If you like Premier Cru white Burgundy or dry Riesling you’ll want to find this wine, it has the intensity and mineral/terroir driven focus you’ll adore, plus a bit of exotic character that might remind some of Foradori’s top white offerings. It joins a few of my new favorites in the Galicia region, Laura Lorenzo and Nanclares as must have white wines as well as longtime favorites Guimaro and Luis Rodriguez, with it’s medium full body, lightly floral and spicy with a palate of green apple, peach and lemon/lime along with chalky wet stones, tart kumquat, tangerine, kiwi and golden fig. Subtle yellow/gold in the glass this La del Vivo really grabs your attention and seduces with an elegant and steely beauty, it matches fleshy fish from sardines, salmon to sea bass or tuna even as well as soft cheeses or poultry. 2014 was a cool and difficult vintage, but has turned out some vibrant and dynamic whites, including this one by Raul Perez, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive