Author Archives: admin

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 3, 2020

2018 Sandlands Vineyards, Red Wine, Lodi California.
The latest set of Sandlands are looking pretty awesome, and I started by opening the new 2018 Lodi Red, which is equal parts Cinsault, Carignan and Zinfandel, which takes a leading role in the profile at this stage with its raspberry fruit standing out, though it gets more complex and interesting with time and air, making for a delicious California blend that is bursting with expressive flavors. This dark garnet and purple wine has beautifully textured layers of ripe and smooth dark berries, tangy cherry, from the racy Cinsault, as well as plum, pomegranate and a hint of blueberry fruits. Behind the fruit there is an array of spices, mineral notes, touches of anise, floral dimension and a very subtle wood element. There’s a supple mouthfeel and old vine concentration that is a hallmark of Passalacqua’s wines, who for the past eleven years has worked for Turley Wine Cellars, starting as harvest intern, as he notes, and now as Larry’s head winemaker and vineyard manager! The Sandlands Vineyards label is his personal project, with Tegan and his wife Olivia Passalacqua making a tight collection of wines that are mostly from vines set on sandy soiled sites from across the state. Their lineup includes, what he calls, the forgotten classic California varieties, that as mentioned are primarily grown in decomposed granite (sand), from regions and vineyards that have been farmed for many generations (of California families), but have remained, as Tegan adds, the outliers of California viticulture. This head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted vineyards are extremely special to Passalacqua, which he says harken back to California’s roots of (wine) exploration, wonder, and hard work.

The 2018 Sandlands Vineyards Lodi Red was an intentional blend of three old vine vineyards, so while not a heritage field blend from a single interplanted site, it does have that kind of feel and personality in the glass. The plots include some1886 Cinsault vines from the Bechthold Vineyard, as well as some 1900 Carignane from the Spenker Ranch and some grapes from the 1915 Zinfandel vines from Passalacqua’s home ranch, at the Kirschenmann Vineyard. Tegan Passalacqua, who is a Napa Valley native, has really stamped his name on the current lineup of Turley and has because a leading voice in California wine, promoting the state and its history with almost every breath. He got his start in the wine industry working in winery labs in Napa, as well as traveling around the world to gain perspective and experience with some influential regions and winemakers. He notes, he has worked in the cellars of Craggy Range in New Zealand with Doug Wisor, along with two of my high heros, Eben Sadie, of Sadie Family Wines in the Swartland of South Africa and Alain Graillot in the Northern Rhone Valley of France! The Lodi Red finished up at 13.3 % natural alcohol and stays very lively and fresh throughout, it is an easy wine to enjoy and is delicious with lots of food choices, I enjoyed it with grilled spicy chicken burritos, but would love to have it with Cajun cuisine and or BBQ pork, plus it will be fabulous with burgers too. While it is tough to find the Sandlands stuff, I highly recommend joining the mailing list, they are really tasty, fairly priced and each wine is unique.
($30 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 2, 2020

2015 G.D. Vajra, Barolo DOCG, Coste di Rose, Piedmonte, Italy.
New to the Vajra collection is the Coste di Rose Cru Barolo from a unique vineyard site high in the hills and set on deep sands, so sandy in fact the Vajra’s call this site the beach, over marl and clay soils that gives this Nebbiolo its awesome perfume and amazing texture, just when you thought this winery couldn’t get any better, a wine like this comes along and you get blown away all over again! The 2015 shows the vintage’s warmth and smooth tannins making for a compelling young Barolo, it should age exceptionally well, but certainly it will be very enjoyable all along the way, though I can imagine the upcoming 2016 will be the for collectors to stock up on, with the years more structured form, that said I love this 2015 very much and adore its almost Burgundy/Pinot Noir like class and silken mouth feel, and I imagine it will firm up with another year or so in bottle. The estate of GD Vajra is situated in Vergne, the highest village in the Commune of Barolo with Nebbiolo, being the main varietal, but also planted with Dolcetto, Barbera, Freisa, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and of course their legendary Riesling, which is one of my favorites, to name a few. The vineyards are at heights of 350-400 meters, which plays a big part in the wines’ complexity and aromatic quality that winemaker Giuseppe Vajra achieves with his amazing collection of offerings. I tasted the Coste di Rose at this years Slow Wine Tasting in San Francisco, which thankfully happened before the Cover-19 shutdown, where Vajra’s importer(s) showed us the latest Bricco Della Viole Cru Barolo, the Riesling, which I have reviewed earlier and this new Cru, that I haven’t tried, and while the Bricco Della Viole remains the flagship wine, this Coste di Rose is right up there!

The vines at Vajra, according to the winery, are some of the last to be harvested in the region, giving them long hang times as the higher altitude often pushes their pick dates well into October. Giuseppe Vajra, who took over from his dad Aldo, continues to makes wines in line with tradition, but also uses technology and state of the art facilities to craft these wines. The Barolo wines get about a 30-40 day cuvaison, gently extracting the fine tannins from the skins. Vajra notes that there is a small percentage of stems are left in durning the maceration and primary ferments depending on the vintage. The G.D. Vajra wines are not adorned with flashy sweet/toast French barriques, these wines are exceptionally pure and transparent versions of Barolo and the wines are aged in large (mostly older) Slovenian oak barrels for between 42-48 months before bottling. I’ve been lucky to have had the chance to try most of Vajra’s Barolo bottlings since the 2008 vintage and have been blessed to have tasted with Giuseppe on more than a few occasions and it has been a stellar rise in stardom for this humble and gifted winemaker, when you mention great winemakers in Italy, let alone Piedmonte, Vajra is almost always mentioned, especially by those in the know. The 2015 Coste di Rose starts with its heady rose petal perfume, delicate earthiness and red fruits on the full bodied, but ultra luxurious palate, with the tannins well hidden at this point, again making this feel more like a Chambolle than a rustic Barolo, delivering a silken cascade of brandied cherry, raspberry, plum and balsamic dipped strawberries along with fresh mineral tones, snappy herbs, light cedar and sandalwood notes, as well as licorice, mint, blood orange zest and lingering mulberries. Drink this beauty over the next 5 to 15 years. ($69-85 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 1, 2020

2018 Cruse Wine Company, Tannat, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County.
Mostly known for his divine Ultramarine Methode Champenoise sparkling wine and his fun lineup of pétillant naturel, Michael Cruse also makes some really good still wines some of which come from unique places and crafted from lesser known varietals, like his Valdiguie, also known as Napa Gamay, because it was long thought to be Gamay and this Tannat. This firmly tannic black grape is originally from France’s Basque region and found in wines from Irouléguy in the Pyrénées, as well as famously also in the Madiran AOC in France’s southwest, plus Tannat has proven to be quite delicious in the new world with serious versions coming from Uruguay and the grape is seeing some success in California, where it was only a minor player, though it has been here for nearly a century, and a blending grape until more recently. Cruse gets his from one of the best vineyards in Northern California, Alder Springs, in Mendocino County, mostly known for Rhone varietals, especially Syrah. Located just 12 miles east of the beautiful Mendocino Coast, and 3 miles west of the legendary Redwood Highway 101, the site is remote and challenging, but makes for fabulous wines, this region is bordered by a dramatic coastline, the Eel River and is also home to enormous Redwood trees. The Alder Springs Vineyard, In the far northern Mendocino County, past Anderson Valley, is farmed by Stuart Bewley, who has been growing some of California’s most sought after wine grapes since 1993. Cruse is making lots of fun stuff, like this Tannat, with his pop top Sparkling Valdiguie pétillant naturel being one of my personal favorites, as well as his Sparkling St. Laurent Blanc de Noirs pétillant naturel, made from a rare Austrian red grape grown in Carneros.

Michael Cruse, like most from this new group of California’s talented winemakers and micro wineries is not interested in making blockbuster and oak driven wines of the prior generation, but instead he is looking for purity and youthful drinking pleasure in his still wines, like this one, using natural methods and indigenous yeast fermentations and without the use of new barrels. Tannat can be very rustic, fiery and dusty dry, it is naturally high in raw tannins, polyphenols and pigment, making for chewy wines that tend to need some robust cuisine to tame the gripping force on the palate, though Cruse has managed to present the grape in a more generous and stylish form with a lacy freshness, ripe black fruit flavors and vivid details. Interestingly, Bewley has an array of three different Tannat clones including 794, 474 and 717 at Alder Springs, which would seemingly add to the complexity in this wine. Alder Springs is not a monolithic site with many micro climates, a mix of plots and many soils from which to chose like marine sediments, gravels, clay, broken stones and basalt to name a few, along with various hills and slopes. The dark purple and electric garnet hued 2018 Cruse Tannat starts with a hint of sweet florals, black fruit, wild herbs and mineral tones before filling out on the ripe and impeccably smooth, especially for Tannat, palate with layers of blackberry, blueberry, plum and black cherry fruits, minty licorice, a touch of deep blood orange, a hint of iron and delicate spices. This wine is very textural in mouth feel and it is wonderfully fresh, with satiny tannins, refined natural alcohol at 13%, good acidity and will be exceptionally fan with simple and rustic country style cuisine, it’s a delicious and easy to drink wine to drink over the next few years. Cruse has tamed the beast!
($39 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 31, 2020

2018 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli, Timorasso – Derthona DOC, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmonte, Italy.
A few years ago, Walter Massa of Vigneti Massa almost single handedly brought the rare Timorasso grape back from extinction and now it is one of the hottest white wines made in the Piedmonte region, and we are seeing many great producers jumping on the bandwagon, including the famed Vietti and this beautiful expression by the legendary Barolo maker Borgogno. Tasted at Slow Wine earlier this year, the 2018 Borgogno Derthona DOC should be arriving to the United States soon, though you’ll have to really work hard to get your hands on it as it is extremely limited, but you’ll be greatly rewarded for your hard work and search if you get your hands on it. Borgogno’s Timorasso from organic vines is lightly floral, medium bodied with a lovely texture and fine minerallity, it delivers a polished and lively performance highlighting the grape’s best qualities with layers of peach, citrus and quince fruits, leesy notes, white flowers and an array of herb and spices along with a nice saline and wet stone element. Derthona is the ancient name for Tortona, the town in southeast Piemonte, hence the appellation Colli Tortonesi (Tortona Hills) name. The Timorasso is widely believed to be one of the longest-aging white varieties in Italy, with many of the producers saying it takes a few years to get itself together in the bottle, adding a depth of flavor and making more of a palate impact with honeyed notes and it deserves serious attention, going well with a variety of foods including poultry, pork and fatty fish and decedent shellfish, even lobster and or crab dishes. The Borgogno Timorasso doesn’t come cheap compared to other examples, like the Massa, which I also recommend trying, but it is a gorgeous white wine that is joyous rarity, that will be great addition to the cellar or a special occasion.

The Borgogno Dertona DOC comes from the Monleale, mostly hillsides around Tortona set on classic clay and limestone soils with good ripening coming from the great southeast and southwest exposures, making for a more full bodied version, in some ways like the dry rich Alsatian Rieslings, but with a bit more softness and opulence, like Burgundy, especially when allowed to age. This 2018 which was aged, mostly in tank for 18 months is very refined and has remarkable clarity with a delicate light pale color and subtle acidity, which is very rounded. Borgogno, also known as “Giacomo Borgogno & Figli” which was founded back in 1761 by Bartolomeo Borgogno, was one of the very first elite Barolo producers and has an amazing track record for great wines, with their Nebbiolo bottlings being some of the most desirable wines in Italy. The Farinetti family acquired this historic winery in 2008, but is firmly committed to quality and the estate’s traditions, with Andrea Farinetti, according to the winery, who graduated from the oenological school in Alba, took over in 2010 giving a youthful excitement to this legendary property. The 2015 marked the first vintage of their Timorasso white after a purchase of the vineyard sites and the conversion to all organic practices. Borgogno also brought back the use of concrete for fermentations to give an extra element of classic and soulful expression to the wines throughout the range. You should never miss a chance to try the Borgogno Cru Baroli, like those from Cannubi, one of the world’s greatest vineyards, Liste and Fossati, which are exceptional or Grand Cru sites, plus their Riserva, which is sometimes aged 20 years in the cellar! I also love their de-classified Barolo, Langhe Nebbiolo called “No Name” as it offers an awesome value, and now I am going to keep an eye out for this Derthona!
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 30, 2020

2016 Fedellos do Couto, Loma dos Ares, Red Wine, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain.
The Fedellos do Couto, founded in 2011 by Luis Taboada, and based in his family home, is a small and intriguing winery headed up by winemakers Curro Barreño and Jesús Olivares who are focused on crafting wines from the local terroir and local varietals, like Mencia and Godello. The Loma dos Ares is made mostly from parcels in the Bibei zone using old vine Mencia, about 40%, and with small amounts of Muraton, Bastardo, Caiño Tinto, Negreda, Aramón, Gran Nero and Garnacha Tintorea making up the rest of the blend, sourced from vines set mainly on granite, sand and schist based soils. According to their importer, Eric Solomon – European Cellars, Lomba dos Ares, is Curro & Jesus’ village wine coming from their oldest and steepest vineyards on the west bank of the Bibei River, that separates Ribeira Sacra from Valdeorras, with these vines averaging about 70 years old. This dark ruby and magenta hued 2016 is bright and fresh, but still with the old vine concentration showing vivid red fruits leading the way delivering loads of whole cluster crunch and tangy flavors that remind of some Jura red wines with a crisp and mineral vibrancy. There are layers of earthy/spicy raspberry, tart plum, cherry and lingonberry fruits, along with snappy herbs, light floral tones, a touch of saltiness, racy cool climate acidity and dusty tannins, making this a wine that refreshes on the medium weight palate making it perfect for Spring and Summer drinking and goes well with many cuisine options.

The Ribeira Sacra, which is a very historic wine growing area in Spain’s green Galicia region just northeast of the Portuguese border near the Mina and Sil Rivers that was prized by the Romans who cherished the wines from this steep and remote region. This area has seen a huge amount of excitement in recent years with wines of outstanding quality making quite a slash with wine critics and wine lovers, these new generation of Ribeira Sacra wines are led by the likes of Pedro Rodriguez of Guimaro, Laura Lorenzo of Daterra Viticultores, Envinate and this Fedellos do Couto label. There is a respect for the land and the hard work that goes into making these wines, it is not easy here with few roads and ultra steep, mostly terraced vineyards that doesn’t allow much but back breaking labor and hand work, so you see mostly now organic and natural style wines, including this Loma dos Ares. The wine, a co-ferment of all the varietals in cement vats, using hand harvested grapes, with 100% whole cluster and natural yeast fermentation employing a long, gentle maceration with pigeage lasting between 40 to 60 days. After primary the wine was racked over to a combination of neutral 300-500L French oak barrels for an elevage of about 10 months before being bottled. This 2016 vintage is pretty and well structured, it should develop nicely for many years to come, even though it is super easy to love now, especially with its restrained natural alcohol, which at 12.5% adds to the wines cool and vivid character, this is fabulous stuff.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 29, 2020

2018 Dard et Ribo, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “C’est le Printemps” Northern Rhone, France.
René-Jean Dard and François Ribo, who produce some of the most sought after natural Syrahs, are famously media shy and hermit like vignerons from Mercurol, north of Valence, founded their tiny Northern Rhone estate in 1984 with a small cellar and micro parcels of vines and a focus on non intervention wines. Jamie Goode, the English wine critic and natural wine expert, says that René-Jean Dard and François Ribo accidentally became known as natural winemakers, as they commonly don’t use any sulphites (added sulfur) at all, although, he notes, they are not religious about it and really were just trying to make wines they themselves were interested in drinking. Their fame has more to do with their attention to detail and very hard vineyard work and the exceptional quality of their grapes, especially the ones that go into their Crozes-Hermitage bottlings, that are still outstanding values and are more commonly available, like this wonderfully expressive C’est le Printemps. Dard and Ribo have close to ten hectares of vines, with half of that in Crozes-Hermitage, as well as some in Saint Joseph, and a small plot on the hill of Hermitage, which goes into their unicorn version of this legendary site. Their production is about 65% Syrah, which they are most known for, but they also do close to 35% white wine, which a mix of Marsanne and Roussanne parcels, again mainly in Crozes.

I recently got a few bottles of the classic black label Crozes, from the 2017 vintage, plus one of this lovely fresh 2018 “C’est le Printemps” which I had never seen in person prior to this vintage, it is Dard and Ribo’s quaffer or Glou-Glou version almost like their idea of a Nouveau, made for early release and early drinking and it fits the bill perfectly with loads of pure fruit, light spiciness and soft tannins. The Crozes-Hermitage vines are from organic plots, farmed without chemicals, mostly hillside, set on iron rich red clay soils with gravel and alluvial stones scattered throughout the vines, which give these wines true terroir character and even this version shows the classic detailing, a pretty crushed violet bouquet and flavors with layers of blueberry, damson plum, currant and black raspberry fruits, along with snappy licorice, saline and iodine, mineral tones plus cinnamon and peppery spices. This wine shows a nice juiciness, a ripe personality and a tank raised like vibrancy of form, adding a hint of earthiness, mission figs, lingering kirsch and lavender. This medium bodied, low sulfur, drink now, Syrah, which reminds me of Maxime Graillot’s Domaine des Lise Equinoxe in style, but maybe slightly more complex and expressive, I really should have bought more of this from SommSelect! Happily, I have found these Dard and Ribo to live up to my expectations and I hope to explore more of the limited stuff in the future, they are delicious.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 28, 2020

2018 Inspiration Vineyards, Viognier, Canihan Vineyard, Sonoma Valley.
Jon Phillips’ new labels and new releases have transformed this winery and I am thrilled with the results so far, in particular I really like the 2018 Canihan Viognier with its beautiful honeysuckle bouquet and fleshy apricot that bursts from the glass. While not classic Condrieu by any means, it is a lovely California version of this grape with a richer mouth feel and denser impact on the full bodied palate, but is well balanced and not overly fruity or heavy with a nice cut of acidity and less obvious oak shadings and it is joyous with food, especially spicy shrimp and calamari. Phillips, who is the Chairman of the Board for Family Winemakers of California, started Inspiration Vineyards in 2002 after studying through one of the UC Davis extension programs and making some vintages of home wines. Jon moved to the Russian River area and set up shop originally on Olivet Lane, but now makes his wines in an urban winery in Santa Rosa and has a few acres of estate vines with a focus on Zinfandel and like his peers does Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from classic Russian River sites, plus some intriguing Rhones, like Grenache, Syrah and this Viognier. This white will appeal to those that have enjoyed Joseph Swan, Kunde, Alban and Cold Heaven expressions of this varietal and for those that are looking for an expressive alternative to buttery Chardonnays or grassy Sauvignon Blancs.

The 2018 Viognier shows a bright golden color and starts fresh, dry and tangy, getting more lush and rounded with air and matching cuisine delivering layers of the mentioned apricot, tangerine, melon, apple butter, marmalade and golden fig fruits along with a touch of brioche (lees), herbs, wet stones and an echo of the florals. This highly aromatic Viognier is pleasantly ripe and mouth filling and offers a solid value for fans of this grape and the regional wines. I can’t wait to try some of the other new wines sporting the new art labels with the Ceja Farms Grenache, especially after trying the Sheldon Wines version, and as noted before Dylan Sheldon joined Jon here at Inspiration in 2016 and his influence and synergy here has brought a lot to the newer wines in the collection. The use of new oak is limited and the wines have gained vitality and natural fresh details, but still full of flavor with a lighter touch in the cellar. There are a bunch of wines in the lineup to discover, in addition to the Viognier and Grenache, look for their 2018 Branley Pinot Noir, the 2018 Palindrome Vineyard Syrah from Dry Creek Valley, a low alcohol Ray’s Zin 2018 from the Russian River Valley, a luxurious full throttle 2018 Zinfandel from the Gallaway Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley and the 2017 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Inspiration sells almost exclusively direct and all of the bottlings are very limited, like this one and the wines are terrific values, so check them out on their newly updated website.
($29 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 27, 2020

2018 Desire Lines Wine Co, Evangelho Red, Contra Costa County.
Cordy and Emily Rasmussen’s Desire Lines Wine Co label is one of the most exciting new wineries I’ve tried in the last couple of vintages and while their Shake Ridge and Griffin’s Lair Syrahs are absolutely outstanding wines, both as good as it gets in California Syrah, I really love their Carignan based Evangelho Red, especially this 2018, which delivers purity of fruit, complex savory/meaty elements from the addition of a bit of Mourvedre and vividly fresh details. There is a joyous cascade of black and red fruits on the full bodied palate plus delicate crushed flowers, truffle/earthiness, peppery spices, crunchy herbal notes, mineral tones and light cedary wood shadings with a mouthful of blackberry, wild cherry, plum and boysenberry fruits. It is exciting that the low percentage of Mourvedre gets its place on the stage with hints of leather, kirsch and firm tannins really supports the deep and concentrated Carignan flavors perfectly and the partial full bunches fermentation makes this wine even more thrilling, this is drinking outrageously good right now and it will age too. This brilliantly dark Evangelho with its seductive purple/garnet color grabs your attention in the glass and with air it gains presence and poise, refining in texture and adding hints of cassis (black currant), tangy blueberry and herbs de Provence and anise. This unique red wine was inspired by old world wines and exploits its California old vines to near perfection, there’s a lot to enjoy here and while I highly recommend Desire Lines Syrah, this wine should not be missed if you see it and I suggest following this winery and joining their mailing list as soon as possible, there is no question Rasmussen’s offering are becoming highly sought after, these small lot bottlings are exceptional.

Winemaker, Cody Rasmussen, who is the assistant winemaker at Bedrock Wine Company under Morgan Twain-Peterson, says his 2018 Evangelho Red Wine is a blend of roughly 90% Carignan and 10% Mourvèdre, that similarly to the 2017, was fermented with 30% whole cluster to make this wine pop and excite the senses and with there hope to create a wine that is fresh and intense, drinkable in the same way a top Cote de Brouilly or Morgon does. Rasmussen adds that he then aged the 2018 Evangelho Red for ten months in neutral French 400L barrels. Cody loves the bigger 400L barrel size for his Carignan, noting that it retains freshness and builds tension in the wine, like all large format barrels, but with a less reduction than the bigger puncheons that he prefers for Syrah and the solo Mourvèdre. Last but not least, because the grape quality is everything when crafting a great wine, its source vineyard matters greatly, in particular when it comes from a historic site like Evangehlo, this awesome heritage site in Costa Contra that is set on deep sand. The vines at the Evangelho Vineyard, now owned by Morgan Twain-Peterson, is over 120 years old, it was planted originally back in late 1890s with mostly Zinfandel and Mourvedre, but with some other things too, like this parcel of Carignan. Rasmussen state that the Evangelho Vineyard near Antioch, is upstream from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and not far from the water’s edge, making it effectively a coastal vineyard in sand dunes with some weathered granitic washed down from of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range over millennia. This vintage is epic and this wine takes full advantage, enjoy it with friends and fun, it goes great with BBQ and or burgers!
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 26, 2020

2019 Pax Wines, Mission, Somer’s Vineyard, Mokelumne River, Lodi.
The Pax 100% Mission is a vibrant and light red wine that feel the need for a chill and enjoyed in its racy youth with a fun sort of Beaujolais like playful juicy cherry led personality, but with a unique blast of dry savory notes and a zippy array of spices from cinnamon to red pepper flakes along with a zesty acidity and fine dusty tannins. Pax, known for their world class Syrah, does a delightful collection of natural style Glou-Glou wines, some of which were started under Pax Mahle’s Wind Gap label that has now been folded into the Pax lineup, these included his Trousseau Gris, his highly sought after Gamay Noir, plus a Petit Manseng, a little known French white grape that is grown primarily in Gascony, and more famously in the Jurançon and Pacherenc in the southwest, plus this slightly wild Mission grape, that is also known as Listan Prieto, found in the Canary Islands and Pais, which is its name in Chile. In California, Mission arrived with the Missions, hence the name, since the original Spanish vines by that time had no had a remembered name, some of the oldest living Mission vines are still at the Mission San Gabriel in Los Angeles that to have been planted in 1771, while the Somer’s Vineyard in Lodi looks like it was planted in the early 1900s. The Mission grape in the central valley of California was mostly used in the production of Brandy rather than still wine and occasionally Mission was used in late harvest wines, known as Angelica, this was the first version that I tried from a 200 year old vineyard in Santa Barbara County.

Pax employed a 100% while cluster and native fermentation allowing for a semi carbonic style of character with the wine getting a short aging spell with a four month elevage in neutral French barrels, plus a month in concrete tank before bottling with everything done to preserve freshness. These grapes, sourced from these old organic vines, came from the Mokelumne River zone on ancient river bed on deep sandy loam soils, which has led to roots that have dug way down to get moisture, since they are all dry farmed and they have huge trunks that according to the winery look like trees being about six feet high. The 2019 Pax Mission (aka Listan Prieto) which was just released reminds me of some of the more interesting Canary Islands wines like Envinate’s Benje and Fronton de Oro’s Tinto as well as a few Pipeno’s (Louis Antoine Luyt) from Chile made from Pais that date back to the first Missionaries in the 1500s. The flavors are slightly earthy and raw with layers of strawberry/rhubarb, umami, dried herbs and rose petals along with the tangy cherry, cinnamon and peppery notes along with grilled orange and wild fennel. The Mission grape is showing it deserves a second chance in California, after almost disappearing in the mid 1900s when it was much maligned and replaced by more noble varietals, mostly from France, maybe not as serious wine, but as an easy drinking quaffer and non pretentious counter culture wine! Enjoy Pax’s light ruby-pale garnet, almost Rosé like, hued Mission, which is just 12.5% natural alcohol and now with lots of laughter, friends and simple cuisine.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 25, 2020

2018 Eden Rift, Zinfandel, Dickinson Block, Cienega Valley, San Benito County.
For those that love Turley, Ridge, Bedrock, Bucklin and or Saucelito Canyon who all use historic old vine vineyards for their Zinfandels should really check out the last Eden Rift Dickinson Block Zinfandel that comes from a small parcel of vines that were planted in 1906, way over a hundred years old and making for a stunning wine of depth and concentration. I have been lucky enough to try the 2017 and this 2018 versions and I can tell you this is a beautifully aromatic and polished expression of Zinfandel with classic black raspberry and plum fruit, a lovely dark purple/garnet color and a delicate array of spices, chalky mineral notes, subtle oak shadings along with pretty floral notes and fresh herbs de Provence. This 2018 is wonderfully textured, vivid in detail and is perfectly ripe, it is a stellar vintage for depth, clarity and it delivers everything with the impression of fine balance and pleasing richness, and this wine does it exceptionally well, hats off to winemaker Cory Waller, who really nailed it here. Walking through this special plot of old Zinfandel vines, which are head trained you might see a couple of odd ball black varietals and maybe some Carignan inter planted, but you can really taste that Zin personality from start to finish. This 2018 gets better and better with air and adds tangy blueberry, kirsch, anise and a touch of coco and the mouth feel impresses with supple/sweet tannin and thrilling full bodied palate, it goes great with rustic cuisine, especially hearty meat dishes and or tomato based pastas, and yes Pizza.

The Eden Rift label, which is the new name for this site, was created in 2016, has brought this old property back to the wine worlds attention which is well deserved with the attention to detail in the vineyards, that were originally started back in 1849, making it one of the oldest wine growing homesteads in California. This wine, the Dickinson Block Zinfandel is one of the most limited in the Eden Rift collection, which is focused on Pinot Noir, which makes sense when you realize that Eden Rift’s neighbored by the famous Calera Estate and Mount Harlan, and where Waller, who has made wine in Oregon and New Zealand, was also an assistant winemaker alongside his brother Mike, the head winemaker at Calera. The Eden Rift wines are all hand crafted and made with indigenous yeasts where possible and aged exclusively in French oak barrels and the grapes which all sustainably grown are hand harvested with serve yields and sorting for quality. The soils at Eden Rift are a mix of limestone and are dolomite-rich that gives these wines their terroir driven flavors, helped along the way by the cool evenings and coastal influence that flows a wind gap into the Cienega Valley. A visit to the estate is an incredible experience, especially seeing the gorgeous terraced Pinot Noir plots with their heritage clone selections like Calera and Mount Eden clones growing on steep eastern facing hillsides. There lots of exciting these happening at Eden Rift and I must also note, their Chardonnay is not a wine to overlook here, like this one it delivers a great performance, I, as you might have guessed, highly recommend checking out the new releases.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive