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Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 7, 2020

Latest Review

2018 Sadie Family Wines, Tinta Barroca “Treinspoor” Old Vine Series, Swartland, South Africa.
Every single time I have a Eben Sadie wine I am left monumentally and profoundly moved by them, they are are some of the world’s most amazing efforts, especially these old vine bottlings like this gorgeous, dark and textural Tinta Barroca Treinspoor and his Rhone style blend Columella, which is without a doubt one of my top 10 wines I’ve ever had! This Treinspoor old bush vine Tinta Barocca is deep in complexities and inky in color with a fresh intensity on the palate with concord, black currant, plum and kirsch leading the way before the whole bunch array of spices, floral tones, dried herbs come out along with crushed stones, pomegranate and tart strawberries. With air this wine continues to impress and have a serious impact adding savory and earthy notes and a seductive texture, this is absolutely addictive stuff, it is totally unique in taste and style, sitting somewhere between an old school Burgundy with its silken form and nice acidity and a Corbieres (as this grape reminds me of old vine Carignan), with its country like raw appeal, authentic nature, with sage/lavender and a touch of game, plus a sense of remoteness. Tinta Barroca is a Portuguese varietal that is now primarily found in the Douro region, especially in the cooler sections of this River Valley on the northern facing hillsides as it has delicate skins and it is a common blending grape in Port wines where it adds color, acidity and complexity. The 2018 Sadie Tinta Barroca is joyously fresh and vibrant in the glass and gets more intriguing with every sip, but is also wonderfully comfortable, not a diva, this wine is not flashy or sexed up, but it delivers much more than promised, enjoy it with simple cuisine and friends. I will buy more of this wine, no question, plus Sadie’s Cinsault and Chenin based offerings too, which are some of his best values.

Winemaker Eben Sadie’s Treinspoor 100% Tinta Barroca, a grape that he loves mostly for blending, is sourced from a vineyard planted in 1974 on decomposed granite and Swartland’s table mountain sandstone, on the western side of the Malmesbury zone. According to the winery, this vineyard is located next to the old railway line (treinspoor) and was named accordingly and simply in this case. The area is fairly warm, causing a bit of concern as the thin skin of Tinta Barocca is prone to sunburn, but Sadie and team have been confident enough to express this grape solo because the old bush vines have formed a great framework to keep the bunches sheltered from the intense South African sun. The deep inky color and zesty acidity of Tinta Barroca have made it a favorite component, as mentioned, in Sadie’s blends for a long while now. While best as a blender, this wine proves, as the vines reach a certain maturity it has all the qualities and expressiveness too be a single varietal bottling. Sadie believes that Tinta Barocca captures the Swartland region in its purist form (like Mencia in the Ribeira Sacra? maybe.), high praise indeed for a grape that is almost unheard off to most of the world, he adds that it seems to need much more time to really show its best and that he suggests some cellaring will benefit those that have patience. I wouldn’t know about that sadly as I couldn’t keep my hands off it! The Teinspoor was crafted using whole-cluster fermentation and it was naturally fermented with minimal intervention, as is the way with all of Sadie’s wines a noted natural style winemaker. After maceration and primary fermentation the Tinta Barroca is pressed into concrete along with older oak casks and was aged for about 12 months. If you’ve not heard of Sadie Family, you need to change that and South African wines are suffering from a COVID related and ignorant government lock down a export ban, so it is a great time to support our friends there and buy their wines.
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 6, 2020

2017 Maison M.Chapoutier, La Ciboise, Costières de Nîmes, Rhone Valley, France.
The Chapoutier La Ciboise Costières de Nîmes Rouge is one of the world’s best values in red wine, made from a classic Rhone blend of mostly Grenache along with some Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan sourced from this little known part of the Rhone valley in the Gard set on hardened clay, limestone and schist soils called Gress which has been producing quality wines since Roman times. These vines are littered with small pebbles deposited by the Rhône river during the Quaternary Period and are well drained, the vines go deep to get moisture and refreshment making them work hard and pushes concentration of flavors, which Chapoutier’s La Ciboise showing an intense inky purple/black color and impressive density, this 2017 is a pleasure filled full bodied vintage and expressive with layers of pure blackberry, boysenberry, dark currant and juicy plum fruits along with an array of spices, warm earthiness, crushed lavender, sweet violet floral tones and melted black licorice. This 2017, from a warm year has loads of character and stuffing, it shows just how delicious these Costières de Nîmes can be and this La Ciboise is pretty awesome stuff, it should drink for another few years, it would be a fun wine to stock up on, especially when you can find it for under $10!

Nîmes is a historic Roman town and world unesco heritage site with some of Europe’s greatest still in use Roman ruins including its famous double-tiered circa-70 A.D. amphitheater still used for concerts and interestingly bullfights, which were common in this area of France until modern times, in fact this part of France almost had the feel of America’s old west too with the French version of cowboys. Positioned well between Avignon, Marseille and Montpellier, Nîmes is part of the Rhone Valley wine region, but much less regarded than areas like Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Rasteau, though a great place to get bargains, like this savvy Chapoutier made wine. Nîmes is also very close to Tavel, the Rhone’s only AOC that is totally devoted to Rosé, so there plenty around here to enjoy and it is easy to drink well on the cheap. The Chapoutier La Ciboise is from machine harvested grapes and each varietal is fermented separately then blended later to taste with the wine aged only in cement tanks and only for a few months before bottling, it is intended to be an easy and fresh Cotes du Rhone or Cotes du Ventoux style wine to pop in its youth, its dark and lush flavors make it great with country fare and simple but robust cuisine. I could drink this stuff almost everyday, it makes for a sublime Tuesday night pizza wine.
($10-15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 5, 2020

2016 Cameron Winery, Nebbiolo, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The 2016 Cameron Nebbiolo is truly a gorgeous wine and can easily be considered an American Barolo with its pure varietal character and profile, this vintage is just stunning and shows that this grape can be just as majestic in the Willamette Valley as it is in the Langhe! The Cameron Dundee Hills Nebbiolo shows a deep garnet color with just a hint of classic brickish magenta on the edges and the wine displays an earthy element along with pretty floral notes on the nose before revealing exceptional layers of traditional dark berries, plum, brandied cherries and black fig fruits along with blood orange, anise, dried lavender and a light cedrary spiciness. There’s so much to love here, the supple tannins and velvety mouth feel, but with structured at its core this wine gets better and better as it opens in the glass, filling out completely and becoming seamless and gaining depth with every sip, making for an exquisite Nebbiolo experience. The Cameron Nebbiolo shines in this vintage and the warmer site here allows riper flavors to come through and a lovely sense of richness, while still having the energy, leathery-earthiness and natural acidity the grape is known for, and interesting enough the alcohol is somewhat lower than warm year Barolo(s) that are coming in at 14.5% and higher, at 13% this wine delivers a fine balance and is fantastic with rustic cuisine.

The Cameron Nebbiolo is sourced from the winery’s Clos Electrique cru vineyard in the Dundee Hills, set on the Jory (volcanic) soils, famous for winemaker John Paul’s Pinot Noirs, which are some of Oregon’s greatest wines. This estate vineyard consists of, according to the winery, approximately 3 acres of Pinot Noir, 2 acres of Chardonnay, half an acre of Italian white grape varieties, including Friulano and 1 acre of Nebbiolo, that was first planted back in 1994. Cameron’s John Paul, who is a huge Italian wine geek and Barolo enthusiast, believed that Nebbiolo could thrive here as it was on a similar parallel and that hazelnut trees do well in both Piedmont and in the Willamette Valley, in fact Paul cleared an ex-hazelnut orchard to plant his two clones of Nebbiolo. Very early on it was clear he was right and that Nebbiolo could be a huge success, and this 2016 rises to a level of greatness. Cameron uses non irrigated vines that are farmed all organically which adds to the wine’s concentration and traditional old world winemaking techniques in the cellar with this Nebbiolo seeing extended elevage having adopted, as Paul notes, the long aging regimen typical of Barolo and Barbaresco to be more evolved and mature on release. The Cameron or Cameroni Italian inspired wines are outstanding, especially this Nebbiolo, plus their series of whites, like the Friuli style blend and the Pinot Bianco and the Ramato, skin contact Pinot Gris.
($37 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 4, 2020

2019 Arnot-Roberts, Rosé of Touriga Nacional, California.
Another one of the world’s most interesting Rosés, the Arnot-Roberts Rosé of Touriga Nacional is one of California’s most sought after pink wines and joins Bedrock’s Ode to Lulu, Skylark’s Pink Belly, Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris (especially the reserve), Ian Brand’s P’Tit Paysan Pierre’s Pirouette, Ryme Cellars’ Aglianico Rosé and Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avola Rosado as must have Summer treats! Rosé is in full swing now and the warm August weather makes these wines exceptionally timely and refreshing, but these wines are serious too, in particular this one by Arnot-Roberts with its cool and textured profile and bone dry subtle fruit, it is a wine that develops in glass glass and goes wonderfully well with a variety of cuisine options. I really love this Arnot-Roberts Rosé of Touriga Nacional after it gets some air and a touch of warmth as it unfolds its fruit and spicy elements, it displays a mineral driven character along with layers of sour cherry, plum water, seeped rose petals, a touch of peach flesh or melon as well as subtle strawberry along with a streak of citrus, saline, wet stone and dried herb. This vintage is surprisingly round and supple, almost creamy at first before finding its form and adding some steely/racy vitality, this stuff keeps you guessing and while cooly poised as a crisp sipper, it deserves to matched with a meal, whether a brunch menu or steamed mussels, and it makes for a great companion at the beach. Duncan (Arnot) Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, of Arnot-Roberts, who grew up together in the Napa Valley are now one of the modern stars in California, known for their impressive lineup of site driven wines from their awesome Trout Gulch Chardonnay to their ultra geeky cool Trousseau! As well as a fine selection of Syrah, Cabernet and Pinots that are very limited production gems.

The Arnot-Roberts Rosé is has a vivid pink and pale salmon hue which sets of an instant smile and gets the saliva glands going plus the aromas of tangy fruit, flowers and crushed rock add to the compelling nature of this Rosé that was crafted from a blend of about 80% Touriga Nacional and 20% Tinta Cao, both rare red varietals in California from Portugal, where they are commonly found in the Douro Valley, the Dao region and or Port wines. These intriguing Portuguese varieties are sourced from mostly the Luchsinger Vineyard in Kelseyville, the long time source for this wine with the Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao grown at over 1,300 feet elevation above Clear Lake, in Lake County, set on volcanic rocky soils, as well as a bit coming from the St. Amant Vineyard in Amador County with granite soils. The grapes, which are farmed using organic methods, were picked to be exclusively Rosé and this wine is a non saignee made wine and comes in at just 11.3% natural alcohol, which is again notable, because instead of being sharp and simple, this wine has a real presence on the palate and a depth that belies its total sum. This vintage is not as electric or thrilling as earlier versions, but the restraint and depth make for an impressive performance and it grows on you making you wish you had another chilled bottle handy! This Arnot-Roberts Rosé of Touriga Nacional was fermented with native yeasts, after a short cold soak on the skins and then aged in stainless steel to preserve fresh details, all with hand crafted and precise winemaking by the talented Duncan Meyers and Nathan Roberts. I have been enjoying these wines, especially this one since about 2012 or there about and never miss a chance to get a bottle or two each years with their Trousseau, as noted above, and the North Coast Syrah also being favorites, as well as the mentioned Trout Gulch Chard, I recommend keeping an eye out for them.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 3, 2020

2018 Ridge Vineyards, Carignane, Buchignani Ranch, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.
This beautifully inviting Ridge Carignane is inky purple and starts out almost giving the impression of young Rioja with the kiss of toasty American oak, but quickly evolves in the glass to a flavor profile that is more in line with Ridge’s Zins and delivers loads of dark berry fruit, racy herbs, light floral notes and a kick of spices. One of my secret favorites in Ridge’s awesome lineup of wines is their dark fruited and medium full bodied Buchignani Ranch Carignane, which unlike most of their bottlings is a single varietal wine instead of a field style mix of grapes, so I was thrilled to find it available on the website, as usually this one is a tasting room or wine club only offering, which in past I would have to almost literally beg for! 2018’s long and cooler growing season, as well as Buchignani Ranch’s location, made this wine exceptionally well balanced and full of life, but with a stunning depth of flavor, showcasing this grape in its best form. Carignan or Carignane is a grape mostly found in the south of France with serious plantings in the Languedoc’s Corbieres as well as being one of Rhone grapes found in Chateauneuf du Pape as well as being a minor player in Gigondas too, along with have a home in Spain from the Priorat to Rioja, plus the Italian island of Sardinia. It has been in new world a long time, probably longer than most other noble French varietals and Zinfandel, Carignane grows well here in Sonoma County, especially in Dry Creek and Alexander Valley, as well as Mendocino where most solo efforts seem to come from, as well as seeing a newer set of planting in Paso Robles, thanks to selected clones being brought over by Tablas Creek and the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel.This 100% old vine and hillside grown Carignane gets better and better with air and time and is an outstanding vintage with density, graciously smooth tannins and lively acidity, a highlight of this grape’s character that allows the wine to feel balanced and spotlights the wine’s distinct detailing.

This 2018 version clearly excels in the glass, as dark as Petite Syrah and with the vintage’s freshness it really is delicious adding blackberry, plum, tangy currant as well as anise, lilacs, a hint of mission fig, cedar and a touch of earthiness that really appeals as this Carignane opens up, gaining a welcome textural richness and supple quality, I wish I bought more bottles! Ridge notes that Stan Buchignani’s ranch is located on Dutcher Creek Road, in the hills on the far western edge of the Alexander Valley appellation, very close to the border with Dry Creek. Stan’s grandfather, Dominico Cerruti, first planted a five acre block way back in 1927, then his father, Dino, added another seven acres in the 1940s, with last of the property planted, early 1950s, making for some seriously old vines all in their prime. The vineyard’s climate bears a strong resemblance to that of upper Dry Creek Valley three miles to the south, where days are quite warm. Fog, which tends to hang low in the valley, burns off sooner in the hills. Carignane from the Buchignani Ranch is complex, its fine structure much like that of a field-blend zinfandel. In keeping with Ridge’s Zins and Rhone varietals the Buchignani Ranch Carignane was de-stemmed and fermented with native yeasts and aged in used American oak that saw a long air dried seasoning that prevents the wood from being overt and limits the accenting flavors allowing texture and purity of fruit to shine while still having a kiss of toast and a rich profile. In this wine most of the barrels used were at least three times filled with just 10% being one time used and the Carignane was aged ten months before a gentile filtering before bottling. Ridge uses a minimal dose of sulfur during the winemaking process so the wine feels fresh and expressive, but without the worries of funk or off flavors developing. This Buchignani Ranch Carignane is absolutely the joyous comfort wine I was looking for and it is awesome with an array of cuisines, it is really worth every effort to get it!
($34 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 2, 2020

2019 Cruse Wine Company, Sparkling Valdiguie, Deming Vineyard, Napa Valley.
The latest Sparkling Valdiguié Pétillant Naturel by Michael Cruse is a delicious and quaffable bubbly, similar to last years in style with fresh red peach, strawberry, seeped violets, candied watermelon and a tangy blueberry/cranberry note along with a creamy vibrant mousse, adding a touch of leesy brioche and a touch of mineral all flowing on the palate. Cruse, who is making some of California’s best sparkling wines is certainly gifted with Pet-Nats, and I am in particular fond of this one, it really is a pure California treat, it is a lovely Summer bubbly. Michael Cruse’s sparkling wines are joyous stuff rom his super rare and luxurious Methode Champenoise Ultramarine to these Pet-Nats that offer fun drinking pleasures at a tasty price. The Rosé like pinkish/orange hued Sparkling Valdiguie makes for a nice celebration in these weird times, I opened it to celebrate my Arsenal winning the FA Cup and just to smile on a Saturday night.

Cruse sourced the grapes for his Sparkling Valdiguié Pet-Nat comes from the Deming Vineyard in Napa Valley’s northern warmer end in the town of Calistoga on loamy, deep soils, that Cruse says, allows this 60+ year old bush trained vineyard to be both organic and dry-farmed, which adds to the intensity of concentration and shows this varietal in its best light. Cruse continues noting that his Valdiguié was whole cluster pressed using the same slow steady cycle as for his traditional method sparkling wines. The wine was then fermented a small stainless steel tank with a touch of skin contact to achieve that light pink tint, finishing at about 11.5% natural alcohol, which is a touch riper and drier than the 2018 version. Towards the end of the fermentation the wine was bottled, stored, and then riddled, and disgorged for clarity, with Michael adding that there was zero additions made here, no yeast, no sugar, or sulfur added, it is pure, fermented, grape juice, and that is exactly what you taste in this delightful bubbly.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 1, 2020

2018 Waxwing Wine Cellars, Pinot Noir, Lester Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This new 2018 Waxwing Lester Pinot is really filling out nicely and drinking fabulously well with very crisp details forming here showing beautiful layers of black cherry, raspberry, dried cranberry and plum fruits along with a touch of sweet toasty oak, spices, mineral and orange tea. This wine has lots of personality and gains complexity in the glass as it unfolds with each sip adding some mocha and sassafras, delicate floral tones, an element of wild herb and a faint touch of tangy garden strawberries, this might be one of my favorite of Scott Sisemore’s wines to date. Sisemore, the UC Davis grad, has almost 25 years in the business and has blossomed as a winemaker after starting his own Waxwing Wine Cellars back in 2006 or so and his 2017 vintage and especially these 2018s have taken his wines to the next level, these are an exciting set of releases that show the best of the year and show off the terroir of each place exceptionally well, especially in this Corralitos Pinot Noir. The Waxwing Pinots are made with hand crafted care and with gentle techniques to express the grapes more nuanced flavors and Sisemore typically uses about 25% to 40% new oak depending on the year’s concentration. This electric ruby colored Pinot is impressive and highlights this regions quality and it goes great with fresh cuisine, I though enjoyed it with lightly smoked salmon and speck, that Alto Adige specialty cured ham that his smoked with applewood.

The Lester Family Vineyard, farmed by the hugely talented Purdy Foxx, just over the hill from Richard Alfaro’s estate about mile or so from the tiny tiny hamlet of Corralitos, it is a classic cold-climate location, very close to the Monterey Bay’s cold ocean water, with sandy, loamy soils that are well drained and bring out a deep sense of fruit. The sandy soils, as Sisemore notes, are a result of the region’s origin as an ancient sea bottom and formed by the geological activity associated with the San Andreas Fault pushing up that seabed, with that movement forming successive marine terraces, in fact that is how the Santa Cruz Mountains were originally formed. The vineyard’s cold climate, as mentioned, is due to that heavy marine influence, plus it lies at about 600ft elevation with good exposure, Lester is only 2-3 miles from the Pacific so it gets plenty of fog during the summer which are pretty warm here, so this refreshes the vines nicely. Scott says the fog can bring challenges in reaching full ripeness in colder years, but in great vintages like 2018 the marine influences makes for slow and even grape development that makes cool-climate Pinots so compelling as this one certainly is. The new Waxwings are worth your attention with Scott’s Deerheart Vineyard Pinot, this Lester Pinot and his selection of Syrahs all delivering great performances, I suggest checking out this micro winery based in Belmont, just south of San Francisco, the mailing list here has a real fun set of offerings all of which are limited bottlings.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 31, 2020

2017 Desparada, Picpoul Blanc “Electra” Luna Matta Vineyard, Paso Robles.
Vailia From’s Desparada wines in Paso Robles’ Tin City is a must visit for those searching out interesting wines that are hand crafted with an artists touch and come from the heart and her Electra Picpoul is a wild and imaginative interpretation of this grape. Maybe a one off the 2017 is far an away different than the classic Picpoul de Pinet of France’s Languedoc and even the California versions made by Tablas Creek and Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon in that the Desparada Picpoul is richly textured and almost full bodied with luxurious mouth feel and at this stage showing off mature baked peach, apricot and melon fruits, rather than the zippy lime and mineral tones. Picpoul Blanc, also a Chateauneuf du Pape varietal, is a grape that seems well suited to California and easily capable of making for a great wine and with climate change looks set to play a role in the state’s white wines of the future, so it’s exciting to see how many different ways it can be done with Vailia’s experimental version being of an interest. This supple and lush 2017, maybe I should have opened it a year ago, feels beautifully round and while the acidity has faded it still has loads of life and goes nicely with soft cheeses and grilled shrimps, it opens with hints of marmalade, dried pineapple, gingery spices, reminding me a little of an aged white Bordeaux.

Just one barrel made, of this Desparada Picpoul Blanc Electra and Vailia From aged it in a neutral French oak Bel Air cask on the lees to achieve the mouth feel and depth you find in this unique wine. This exploration, I have to say is pretty successful overall and I hope we see lots more Picpoul and by many more producers that are willing to be creative. In more recent vintages, Vailia has turned to Sauvignon Blanc for her alternative white wine program and she’s turning out some thrilling stuff, her use of amphora has added another level to her wines as well. Desparada’s main lineup features Bordeaux and Italian influenced reds with her Sackcloth & Ashes Bordeaux Blend being Vailia’s star wine, it is crafted using (in the current release) 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petit Verdot, 23% Cabernet Franc and 8% Malbec sourced from sites ranging from Paso to Santa Ynez. The packaging and label at Desparada are exquisite and gorgeous, something of which I rarely mention, but it has to be noted when they are this beautiful and the wines just as good. The Electra Picpoul Blanc from Luna Matta Vineyard, a limestone based site in west Paso Robles that supplies From with her Italian varietals, but I hope she gets more of this grape in the coming years. I had forgot I had this bottle tucked away, it turned out to be a pleasant find in the stash, I am now motivated to check out some of Vailia’s new stuff, especially her Chenin Blanc(s), which she didn’t have when I visited last time.
($38 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 30, 2020

2016 Clos Saint Jean, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
The 2016 vintage in Chateauneuf du Pape is going to be remembered as a legendary year and the wines are stunning, especially the cuvee normal bottling from Domaine Clos Saint Jean, which is not only a fantastic wine, but a stellar value with deep flavors and density giving intense drinking pleasure. The wines at Clos Saint Jean always present themselves on the palate with impressive mouth feel and concentration with this one very much continuing this style and delivering a profound Chateauneuf experience. This fantastic Clos Saint Jean is full bodied and distinctly layered with black raspberry, boysenberry, juicy red plum, cherry and pomegranate fruits along with an array of accenting elements including delicate earthy tones, snappy black licorice, creme de cassis, mocha, pepper and a lingering chalky/stony note. With air things get even better and robust food adds further enjoyment allowing more details to shine through with beautiful florals and the tannin tames into the background with opulent grace. The estate vines at Clos Saint Jean are located primarily in the Le Crau zone, a plateau that widely believed to be the most iconic terroir of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with its iron-rich red clays topped with those magnificent river stones. I am a big fan of these Clos Saint Jean wines and while I love the more subtle vintages, this is impossible to resist and makes me want more, every sip brings a new smile.

Clos Saint Jean is a family estate founded in 1900 by Edmund Tacussel, whio In 1910 started bottling the estate’s wines with the name Clos Saint Jean, with the property now run by the Maurel brothers, Pascal and Vincent along with famed oenologist Philippe Gambie that has been a consultant here since 2003. Vincent Maurel’s Clos Saint Jean Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge is made with mostly Grenache, but with small amounts of Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault, plus in some vintages there can be a tiny bit of Vaccarèse and Muscardin too, all grown in this classic terroir. The vines are set on clay and limestone with the famous galets (the round stones that litter the vines, sourced from plots in and around the famous (as mentioned) Le Crau cru, which famously provides the fruit for Vieux Telegraphe. All grapes are de-stemmed before fermentation and the maceration usually goes for about month to extract allow the regions character and ferment to total dryness. The Grenache for this Chateauneuf is aged in only concrete vats for 12 months, while the remainder is aged in used demi-muids of French oak. The Grenache at Clos Saint Jean is treated with kid gloves and with holy respect, sustainable in the vines and ultra gently handling in the cellar to capture every nuance and this 2016 shows it in its best possible light making for a giving, hedonistic and transparent wine.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 29, 2020

2016 Bodegas Mas Alta, Artigas Tinto, Priorat D.O.Q, Catalonia, Spain.
The luxurious and dense Mas Alta Artigas is a pure Priorat wine with dark ripe fruit from tiny yielding all organic vines set on a mix of schist, clay and limestone soils on steep rocky slopes, this wine is lush and modern with clean and well defined details. This wine is a well crafted effort from vines that range from 15 to 90 years old, these plots are also at between 250 to 450 meters above sea level which aids in retaining acidity and helping the overall balance here. The Bodegas Mas Alta is located in the village of La Vilella Alta, in the Priorat zone, is owned by Michel & Christine Vanhoutte, a couple from Belgium that fell in love with this region, and with a cellar led by three elite enologists Michel Tardieu, Philippe Cambie, one of France’s top consultants famous for his efforts in Chateauneuf du Pape and Bixente Oçafraim. The Artigas Tinto cuvée at Mas Alta has the highest percentage of Garnatxa at about 70% in their lineup, but also has small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and old-vine Carinyena (Carignan) that was aged in French oak for 16 months with about one third of the barrels being new that smooths out this powerful wine and adds a sexy sweet toastiness.

This vintage of Mas Alta Artigas was all hand harvested, with the grapes being partially de-stemmed, employing a natural yeast fermentation in concrete, with a 30 day maceration to extract all of the character of the wines. The 2016 shows rich blackberry, plum, boysenberry coulis and sweet cherry fruits along with hints of smoke, minty herbs, licorice, vanilla and creme de cassis. As mentioned this terroir is mostly very stony with a majority of the vines planted on dark schist, known locally as llicorella, with a few parcels also on clay-limestone soils all of which adds to the depth of complexity in the Mas Alta wines. I have had the Mas Alta Black Slate many many times, but this was my first time trying the Artigas and it turns out to be a real crowd pleaser with its inky purple color in the glass its very inviting and the smooth tannins, but the powerful full bodied feel grabs your attention. This is a textured and structured Priorat that certainly thrills those that enjoy the bolder style and lavish fruit, it is especially good with hard cheeses and brisket, its intense dark flavors go great with smoky and savory meat dishes. Of all the intriguing Spanish offers I’ve tried this week, this one got the best response from the majority of tasters, in fact this bottle lasted just a few minutes, it is easy to understand its appeal.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive