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Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 3, 2021

2018 Waxwing Wines, Dry Riesling, Tondre Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The latest set of wines by Scott Sisemore at Waxwing Wines is his best yet with his focus on mainly the Santa Cruz Mountains for his Pinots has paid off, especially his Lester and Deerheart offerings that are really good, but I also love his crisply focused Tondre Grapefield Riesling, the 2018 in particular, which is his driest and most interesting version to date and it really feels almost like a blend between an Australian and Austrian styles. This vintage, long and cool, allowed for more complex flavors and texture to develop, while retaining intense acidity and the Waxwing Tondre Riesling sets the saliva glands alight with mouth watering tanginess with a first impression of ripe (fruit density) giving way to the wine’s brisk zestiness with plenty of lime, green apple, bitter melon and canned peach before opening up with paraffin, almond oil, wild herbs, wet stones and verbena notes all coming out here, it all makes for a tasting white wine to enjoy with cured meats, claims and smoked trout. There’s some nice floral aromatics as well as some cool toned minerallity that shines through on this medium bodied Riesling that has just started to evolve with some secondary characteristics beginning to unfold here with a subtle oily creaminess, a touch of fleshy apricot and gun flint that bodes well for many more years of rewarding drinking pleasures.

Sisemore’s winemaking with his Riesling is very traditional with the grapes being whole cluster pressed and getting a full twenty-four hours for the juice to settle, to drop out the more aggressive phenolic extract or green bitterness before the Tondre Riesling is fermented in small upright stainless steel tanks. Scott care monitored the progress until the sugar and acidity were in balance, then he stopped the fermentation, the results speak to the quality in the bottle with just enough residual sugar to add charm without overt sweetness and this vintage’s acidity is well judged. The finished wine only saw about 5 months on the lees before bottling and it easily met the international requirements to be classified as dry with finished natural alcohol of 12.9%, much in line with German trockens. The Tondre Grapefield set on sandy loams, owned by Joe Alarid, added Riesling in 2006, while sadly large parcels of old vine Riesling in the Santa Lucia Highlands were being ripped out, including some beautiful vines at Sleepy Hollow, to make way for more Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In recent years some very tasty wines have been made from SLH Riesling with Russell Joyce, who gets some grapes from Tondre as well, and Morgan Winery, who have their own plots at their organic Double L Ranch Estate, doing excellent examples, so it was no surprise that this Waxwing is such an exciting wine, it should drink nicely for another 3 to 5 years with ease.
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 2, 2021

2018 Birichino “Scylla” Old Vine Red Blend, California.
The 2018 Scylla California Red Blend is crafted from old vine sites within the state and made from mostly Carignane and Grenache, plus a dash of Mourvèdre, the wine, named after a sea monster from ancient stories, is wonderfully delicious and pure with loads of bright and spicy red fruit along with hints of herbs de Provence, dried sage, pretty floral notes and a with touches of earth and mineral elements. I mostly know Birichino for their exceptional versions of Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault, Enz Vineyard Pinot Noir and Mourvedre and especially their awesome Besson Grenache, from own rooted vines planted in 1910, but they also do some more fun and exotic stuff as well, including a Sparkling Chenin Blanc Pet-Nat and a rare 100% St. George bottling. This garnet/ruby hued vintage, the second edition of this Scylla Red, ended up being 50% Carignan and 48% Grenache along with 2% Mourvedre in the final blend, it shows ripe and smooth layers of boysenberry, sweet plums, pomegranate and cherry fruits that are accented by subtle cayenne, baking spices, mint, anise, crushed peony and loamy underbrush. This is an outstanding bargain and it drinks with a flourish and is quality stuff, it reminds me a lot of Maxime Magnon’s Corbières “Rozeta”, one of my favorite Languedoc wines, but with a distinctive California profile. Birichino has just released a few new wines that also have caught my attention, in particular a very limited Rosé Pet-Nat (Pétulant Naturel) of Cinsault and their Old Vine Montague Vineyard Carignane, from a parcel planted in the late 1920s.

Birichino was founded by Alex Krause and John Locke in Santa Cruz back n 2008 after years in the wine business and with decades, as they put it, of winemaking experience in California, France, Italy, and beyond. Like many small new generation wineries in the state, they are focused on putting out hand crafted limited production and affordable wines from organic or sustainable vineyard sites. The wines here are balanced with a studied natural feel about them, which they add, and have a mix of fruit concentration, savory contrast and are offerings of perfume, poise, and puckishness with refined alcohol, like this wine with its 13% natural alcohol. Birichino sources from a fabulous collection of carefully farmed, family-owned, own-rooted 19th and early 20th century vineyards, plus a couple, as the winery jokes, from the late disco era! Mainly these vineyards are in more moderate, marine-influenced climates of the Central Coast, looking for a vibrance of their raw materials and unique terroir influences. The Scylla Red Blend comes from Carignane grapes from Matt and John Shinn in Lodi’s Mokelumne River, Grenache from the historic Besson Vineyard in the Hecker Pass, between the Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Clara, and Mourvedre from the Enz Vineyard in the Lyme Kiln Valley, part of San Benito County. Birichino’s winemaking relies on minimal intervention, as Locke and Krause most often employing native fermentation, with stainless or neutral barrels used for aging with gentle macerations, few racking and light fining, avoiding filtration altogether when possible. Birichino’s mission is to deliver wines that give pleasure and have a place at the dinner table and or at gatherings of friends, with this Scylla Red perfectly performing in this quest.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 1, 2021

2016 Monsecco, Nebbiolo “Pratogrande” Colline Novaresi DOC, Alto Piedmonte, Italy.
The Monsecco Pratogrande Nebbiolo 2016 is an elegant vintage and a beautiful wine, its classic Nebbiolo personality and profile unfolding on the medium/full palate is impressive and makes for an exceptional value with pretty floral notes, layers of dark berry fruits, earthy elements, dusty tannins and lifting natural acidity. The hills of the Colline Novaresi are set on ancient glacial moraine with mineral rich veins, from volcanic influence and gravelly stones that give these wines a sense of spice, liquid rock and salinity, which this wine shows, along with Nebbiolo’s late ripening depth of flavor and high elevation freshness. There’s a lot to love in this 2016 edition, it is a vintage to stock up on, it has the complexity and seductive charm of some of the finest Piedmonte years, but without intensely powerful tannins, which are still here, though more subtle and refined, allowing this vintage to be enjoyed in its youth and still having potential to age. Monesecco’s Pratogrande starts with herbs, savory (gamey) elements, raspberry and wilted rose petals before leading to a mouthful of damson plum, mulberry, red currant, kirsch and anise, along with cedar, mint, underbrush and a hint of orange rind. With air the fruit comes alive and sweetens, it gains tremendously as it opens and especially with protein rich foods. This Nebbiolo is an absolutely delicious wine and a killer bargain at under twenty five bucks, fans of the more famous parts of the Langhe, will certainly need to check out these Monsecco offerings, which are very savvy buys.

These Nebbiolo wines of this region, which also go by the local name Spanna in the Alto Piemonte, are characterized by their fresh detail and mineral notes with lovely aromatics that comes from the old vines and the high altitudes. The Colline Novaresi DOC is set on the left bank of the river Sesia, just across the river from the Coste della Sesia Spanna area, home to more prestigious Ghemme DOCG zone, a long time home to fabulous Nebbiolo based wines, that are usually field blends containing some Vespolina, Croatina and Bonarda, two rare local varietals, and not too far away from Gattinara, Boca, Bramaterra, Carema, Fara and Lessona. The Monsecco Pratogrande is exclusively made from 100% Nebbiolo that was hand harvested from vineyards close to, but just outside of the Gattinara and Ghemme zones, all from steep slopes of hillside parcels and was aged two years in large Botte (Slovenian oak casks) and then another year in bottle before release. This wine sees a lighter maceration than the top Gattinara and Ghemme versions in search of purity and grace, that this 2016 delivers to near perfection, it gives plenty of fruit density as well as energy and supple textural opulence. The Zanetta family, the proprietors, here at Monsecco are committed to quality and hand craft wonderfully transparent wines that give a true sense of place, these are all estate and organic (grown) efforts that deserve your attention and are worth searching out, in particular this one, along with their other single varietal wines, including the Vespolina, Croatina and Bonarda (Uva Rara) bottlings, plus as mentioned the top Ghemme and Gattinara(s).
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 31, 2021

2019 Broc Cellars, Love Red, North Coast.
Chris Brockway’s latest Love Red, a blend of old vine Carignan, Valdiguie and Syrah, is a Corbieres like, naturally styled and pleasing quaffer that is well, easy to love, with a fresh dark berry fruit profile, nice acidity, spice and with a delicate floral note. Broc Cellars is a small urban micro winery and winemaker Chris Brockway was a pioneer in California’s modern Glou Glou (natural wine) movement as well as one of the first to do Loire inspired Pet-Nat(s) in the state. The Love Red comes from a selection of vineyard sites in Mendocino and Solano counties, but is mostly based the Mendocino old vine Carignan and shows that grape’s main characteristics with vibrant black raspberry, plum, pomegranate and tangy cherry fruits along with a hint of peppery spice, dried herbs de Provence, crushed flowers, a touch of mineral, licorice and loamy earth. The medium bodied 2019 is pure and juicy, but zesty dry in feel, it went deliciously well with pizza and should be fabulous with picnic fare and an array of cuisine choices from hard cheeses to roast chicken, this is fun stuff to be enjoyed without pretense and with friends. I have always been a fan of Brockway’s wines and especially his Carignan based wines, along with his Chenin Blanc and Valdiguie Pet-Nats, as well as the lighter and bright Vine Starr Zinfandel, all of which show a talent for delicacy and low alcohol wines. All of Brockway’s Broc Cellars offerings are exceptional values, especially these Love series bottlings, that includes a white, a rosé, and this red blend.

The dark purple/ruby colored 2019 Love Red, which in this vintage was crafted from 77% Carignan, 15% Valdiguié and 8% Syrah grapes that were harvested early, as Brockway notes, to highlight the fruit and preserve the acidity in this wine, which adds to the taut zinginess here and makes this a red that can be served with a slight chill. In the winemaking, Brockway adds that the Carignan was fermented with a combination of whole cluster and de-stemmed grapes, while the Valdiguié and Syrah were 100% whole cluster, all of which gives a semi-carbonic effect. The Love Red was aged in a combination of neutral French oak barrels and concrete tanks with no additions and finished at 12.5% natural alcohol, making for a pure and focused wine that is made for drinking now, no waiting needed. Brockway sourced the grapes from three vineyard sites that employ sustainable, mostly organic and dry farmed methods that average 70 plus years with the Wirth Ranch, planted in 1948 in Solano County set between Napa and Suisun Valley, the certified organic Ricetti Vineyard, in Mendocino, is the main Carignan source, which was also planted just after WWII and Rosewood Vineyard, which also sits in Mendocino is the oldest of the vineyards, all of which have classic well draining California sandy loam and stony soils. The Broc wines always see spontaneous native yeast fermentations and ultra low to no SO2 in the wines with no new oak, all done to promote vivid flavors, which this Love Red delivers extremely well and highlights the quality of this vintage, I highly recommend it!
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 30, 2021

2018 Grochau Cellars, Gamay Noir, Redford-Welte Farm Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
John Grochau’s latest Redford-Welte Gamay is a beautiful wine with loads of varietal purity and character, very much in the mold of a Thivin Cote de Bouilly Cru Beaujolais with a dark fruited profile, a crunch of mineral, an exotic array of spices and juicy acidity, making for a thrilling and well made effort that impresses with its complexity and structural quality. The 2018 vintage gave a few headaches and lots of stress, but in the end the wines here in the Willamette Valley turned out fresh and delightful, much better than what many thought, especially after some heavy rains came down in early September, causing some to pick early and lose depth, though those that rode them out were rewarded with some warm dry days that brought the vines back into good health and the grapes ended up with nice concentration, a depth of flavor and a bright inner energy, all of which comes through sublimely here in the 2018 Redford-Welte Farm Gamay. This version of Gamay from Grochau comes from the Eola-Amity Hills and all organic vines set on a combination of hillside soils with the volcanic Jory, red and iron rich and the Nekia complex series that are rocky, well drained and include colluvium from basalt and tuffaceous materials. The vintage gave Grochau a lovely medium bodied palate with layers of dark berries, plum, black cherry, strawberry and tart currant fruits along with racy cinnamon, bitter herbs, walnut, anise and liquid peony. I really enjoyed Grochau’s Twelve Oaks Estate Gamay as well, but I maybe leaning towards this Redford-Welte Farm, it is showing exceptionally well right now and is superb with food and a wide range of dishes, even pairing nicely with my mix of left-overs!

Grochau Cellars, founded in around 2002, has been working with sustainable family vineyards since day one and continues to produce high quality and transparent wines from sites throughout Oregon’s Willamette Valley and is especially known for an excellent set of Pinot Noirs, including John’s Commuter Cuvée, which is one of the state’s best values, as well as the single vineyard series, each with their own distinct personalities. I am a big fan of these wines and have followed John’s efforts since meeting him and tasting his wines at a trade show in San Francisco, where he and his wines really left an impression, and I have now got excited by his Gamay offerings, in particular this one from the Redford-Welte Farm, a certified organic vineyard the Eola-Amity Hills AVA that sits on an eastern-facing slope, which gives this vineyard a warm and ripe exposure and a pleasing textural mouth feel. The small berry size gave this wine a bit of grip, and while taut, there is an elegance here and aromatics are beautiful and floral with a subtle red spice and earthiness that is completely seductive in the glass. John Grochau, an ex-professional cyclist, was mentored in winemaking by the legendary Doug Tunnell at the famous Brick House Vineyards in Ribbon Ridge, where Grochau worked for four years, before striking out on his own. He took to winemaking like a duck to water and soaked up his Brick House experience, influencing him to work with traditional Burgundian methods and searching out organic and biodynamic grapes, and where he got to work with true Gamay, all of which paid off in spades. His authentic wines are all crafted with slow and natural fermentations, the use of whole bunches and lengthy elevage with well judged use of oak, as well as employing some concrete tank aging, all to allow the terroir and vintage to show through, as this tasty Gamay shows with some flair!
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 29, 2021

2019 Jolie-Laide, Fresia, Tres Pico Creek, San Benito County.
Scott Schultz’s latest collection of Jolie-Laide releases are a delectable set of hand crafted wines and one of the coolest of these is his beautifully aromatic and tasty Freisa from organic vines in the remote San Benito County, it is a totally unique Cal Ital bottling that show’s this rare varietals true characteristics, but in a style that is strikingly like a Cru Beaujolais in the mold of a fine Fleurie. This grape, which is a distant relative of Nebbiolo, comes from Italy’s famed Piedmonte region and has been making a comeback in its home region in the last 10 to 15 years, led by some fantastic versions made by Giuseppe Vajra of the famed G.D. Vajra in Barolo. The Freisa grape, which is native to the Monferrato and Langhe zones, is also a half-sibling of other Piemontese varieties including Vespolina and some other very obscure grapes, it is a daily deep colored berry with an intense blue-black hue on the vine and is known for its noted strawberry flavor, hence the name, and the Jolie-Laide example faithfully expresses that beautiful wild strawberry essence and core fruit. The garden strawberry led 2019 Tres Pico Creek Freisa is floral and with a touch or feral earthiness from the whole bunches and semi-carbonic maceration with a medium bodied palate that also reveals crushed raspberry, cranberry, pomegranate and plum fruits that are accented by zesty herbs and spices including cinnamon, rosemary, mineral tones and fennel notes. It’s been incredible to see in recent years the rise of fabulous California versions of Italian red varietals, I mean, I’ve been blown away with the quality and range of styles available and this wine is one of the most exciting, along with Ryme Cellars’ Aglianico, the Reeve, Odonata and Sheldon Sangiovese(s), Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avola and Negroamaro, as well as Giornata’s Barbera and Palmina’s Nebbiolo to name a few. Last year I loved the Jolie-Laide red blend of Trousseau, Gamay and Valdiguie, so I was thrilled to see this Freisa being offered, plus the new Clairette, which I will open soon and review as well, along with Scott’s 100% Gamay, the Melon de Bourgogne and a new Rosé, made from Gamay.

The Jolie-Laide Freisa is sourced from the Tres Pico Creek Vineyard, which was planted in 1994 and organically farmed by the Siletto family in San Benito, it is a site that has been gaining some serious gravitas within the natural wine community and has an intriguing selection grapes, including some lesser known Italian varietals like this one, as well as Gamay and other geeky goodies. This rocky site is set on gravelly loamy soils of an alluvial fan situated next to the Tres Pinos Creek where it takes its name, it is a well drained vineyard and has lots of good sun exposure along with cool nights that allow for ripe flavors, while retaining good acidity, that adds to the balance and smooth tannins found in Jolie-Laide’s Freisa. Freisa saw a huge surge in popularity in Piedmonte after phylloxera (which devastated most of Europe’s vines) in the 1880s and it is believed to have likely originated in the hills between Asti and Turin, though as Jolie-Laide’s winemaker Scott Schultz notes, it was often overshadowed by the more popular and more structured Nebbiolo, as well as the fruitier Dolcetto and Barbera wines of the region, though now, plantings of Freisa are on the rise again. Schultz adds that, akin to Nebbiolo, Freisa keeps its natural acidity and has a strong tannin profile, making it a wine that has plenty of aging potential. The garnet/ruby colored 2019 Jolie-Laide Freisa was traditionally foot trodded and fermented with native yeasts using 100% whole cluster with primary fermentation in concrete tanks. After going dry the wine was gently pressed from the cement to neutral French oak barrique(s) for about 12 months to soften the tannic profile, then the finished wine was bottle-aged for another 6 months before getting released to the mailing list. Scott Shultz, who works at Pax Wine Cellars, has worked also at Ryme and with Arnot-Roberts, is one of California’s youthful talents that is focused on interesting vineyard sites and mostly lesser known grapes, he doesn’t do a lot of wine under his Jolie-Laide label, but it is all compelling and transparent stuff, well worth searching out. There was only a tiny allocation available and will be super hard to find in the wild, but I would highly recommend joining their mailing list to get future offerings of this wine, plus the other limited production wines in Jolie-Laide’s lineup.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 28, 2021

2016 Col D’Orcia, Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Tuscany, Italy.
The 2016 Col D’Orcia Rosso di Montalcino is a smashing full bodied and complex wine, proving that this vintage is one to collect and stock up on, this “Baby Brunello” certainly lives up to its name, in fact it is not far off the more expressive true Brunello, I would be hard pressed to know the difference in a blind tasting, such is the quality here. I was immediately impressed by the depth and density of the fruit with a gorgeous array of earthy dark berries along with classic Sangiovese purity and accents, including blackberry, mulberry, currant and kirsch, as well as anise, dried flowers, minty herbs, cedar, mocha and a savory cut of cigar wrapper. The mouth is fairly supple and there is a sense of ripe tannin, but this wine is pretty serious in structure and the natural acidity is well integrated and adds a polished freshness to this fine example of Rosso di Montalcino. There is so much to enjoy in this Col D’Orcia and like the La Torre Rosso di Montalcino, you get much more than expected and this deeply hued wine is remarkable for the price.

Col d’Orcia, which translates to “the hill overlooking the Orcia River”, is one of the original Brunello properties and the largest organic estate in the region, well known for traditional or authentic wines. The Orcia River marks the Southwestren border of the Brunello di Montalcino zone, where there is some volcanic influence in the clay and limestone soils and with warm exposures that adds to the concentration and richness of the Sangiovese Grosso (Brunello Clone) grapes. It is through Col D”Orcia’s efforts that in 1983 that Rosso di Montalcino became a DOC and their’s is an iconic example, which the winery notes, is made with pure (100%) Sangiovese grapes, released one year after the harvest to retain all the freshness and fruitiness of a young wine, but this is year that gave an added dimension to this Rosso and this is fabulous, especially good with hearty cuisine. This bodes well for the upcoming 2016 Brunello that should be legendary, but for exceptional value I recommend grabbing a bunch of these and enjoy them for the next 3 to 5 years!
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 27, 2021

2019 Pewsey Vale, Dry Riesling, Individual Vineyard Estate, Eden Valley, South Australia.
These Aussie Dry Rieslings are such quality values, especially this Pewsey Vale, with intense dry extract, delicate florals and zingy acidity these wines really are refreshing and awesome with a wide range of cuisine and dishes. Australia has some of the oldest Riesling vines on earth, with only a few sites in the Mosel with older parcels, and Pewsey has more than 120 years of experience and history with this grape, having planted their first vineyard back in 1847 here in the high elevation Eden Valley, high above the famous Barossa region, where there is plenty of cool air to refresh the ripening grapes. This winery saw, as they put it, a reinvigorated Pewsey Vale Vineyard in the 1960s to bring their historic vines to glory and putting a sharp focus on the beauty and diversity of Riesling in this unique terroir. This 2019 vintage of Pewsey Vale’s Individual Vineyard Estate Dry Riesling is wonderfully expressive and vibrant with a light and zesty palate that shows a classic steely array of flavors with lime, green apple, orange blossom, fresh picked tart peach, bitter melon, verbena, a touch of saline and wet stones. This Riesling is crisply dry and brisk, too much so for overtly hot spicy dishes, but fabulous with oysters, claims, garlic shrimp and or goat cheeses.

Pewsey Vale does four main Riesling offerings, all hand crafted by the talented winemaker Louisa Rose, who’s collection is a fantastic lineup that includes her Kabinett style Pewsey Vale Prima Riesling, the Contours Museum Reserve (extended aged), the 1961 Block Riesling, which is dry, but concentrated, and this ultra bargain Single (Individual) Vineyard Estate Dry Riesling, a wine that is one of my (less) guilty pleasures and a cool Summer refresher. Pewsey Vale offers up tasty suggestion of their own to go with this wine, including seared scallops, salt and pepper squid, Thai beef salad, or a tomato salad with pickled walnuts and fresh basil. It is great to feature some of Australia’s delicious Riesling and Ms Rose, both of which deserve much more attention, as these wines are sublime and sometimes overlooked, as are most of the whites from Oz, which are much better than most people realize, in particular these Eden and Clare Rieslings, along with the Old Vine Semillon from the Hunter Valley, the Sem/Sauvs from Western Australia, the Chardonnays too, like Leeuwin’s, as well as the “Sticky” tawny style Muscats, which are some of the most interesting sweet wines in the world. Pewsey Vale has been working with organic methods for quite awhile and began certification in 2013 and has now expanded into biodynamics for their vineyard sites, which may explain the energy and extra dimension I am seeing in the latest release, don’t miss these exceptional dry Aussie Rieslings.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 26, 2021

2018 Domaine Paul Jaboulet Anie, Crozes-Hermintage Rouge “Domaine de Thalabert” Northern Rhone, France.
After a fabulous series of successful vintages for this Domaine de Thalabert Crozes, Caroline Frey’s Domaine Jaboulet has raised the game again with this 2018 version, helped by the year’s deep fruit characteristics and striking freshness energy with its natural acidity making everything pop perfectly on the medium/full palate along with an exceptional long aftertaste. As with the last five vintages I’ve tasted and a few which I have extensively reviewed here, this Domaine Paul Jaboulet Anie, Crozes-Hermintage Rouge “Domaine de Thalabert” is a northern Rhone, 100% Syrah, classic with a heightened aromatic perfume and an inviting deep inky color that leads to a remarkably pure cascade of flavors in the mouth, it shows notable layers of boysenberry, damson plum, kirsch, blueberry compote and creme de cassis as well as gorgeous crushed violets, delicate anise, earthy camphor, peppercorns, fig paste and black olives. The finish brings elegant echos of the core elements that are accented by subtle oak usage, nice mineral tones and graceful weightlessness with everything here seeming to be just that bit more lifted and thrilling to experience, this Syrah would be a great one to watch over the next decade, such is the impression it leaves. The recent rise of quality in Crozes-Hermitage really make these wines some of the best values in the region, with this one being an awesome Cru bottling, especially attractive at the price you can get it for. This wine deserves a bit more care in planning than I gave it, as it will be an excellent wine with a well thought out meal and time for it to open up completely, it is a bigger wine than first impressions give, so go with robust cuisine.

The famous Thalabert parcel, as I’ve noted in pas reviews, is located in Croze’s pebble-strewn granite soiled lieu-dit of Les Chassis, which has been owned by Jaboulet since its founding back in 1834 and is regarded as maybe the greatest set of vines in the Crores-Hermitage AOC, all organic and biodynamic. Frey uses partial whole bunches and well judged use of new wood, really putting the focus on the vintage and trying for transparency and luxurious texture in her recent releases, with this 2018 being a stunning wine, joining the 2016 as a favorite of mine. The Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine, now owned by the Frey family, led by the talented Caroline Frey, has been an iconic estate in the Northern Rhone and one of the big three in the region along with Guigal and Chapoutier, most known for their fabled La Chapelle vineyard in Hermitage, Syrah’s most holy site! There’s been wines made here since pre-Roman times, but it was Antoine Jaboulet’s plantings in 1834 and focus on quality which really started to establish the area as one of the major wine producing appellations of the world, after he past the land was passed on to his two sons Henri and Paul, who’s name became company label. The Frey family, who bought the fade glory Jaboulet in 2006, have become big time players in premium French wine production having serious quality properties in Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux, which includes Chateau La Lagune in Haut-Medoc and Château de Corton André in the Cote de Beaune. Caroline, who studied in Bordeaux is one of France’s rising stars and has her hand in many projects, with even a biodynamic high elevation vineyard in Switzerland, of which I am excited to try the wines from. The Jaboulet lineup is full of quality efforts, but without question this one is a standout that is nearly impossible to resist, I know I’m hooked!
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 25, 2021

2015 Lapo Berti, Barolo DOCG, Del Comune di La Morra, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Barolo from the Lapo Berti winery in La Morra is one of the most exciting tiny production wines in this famous region and stellar buy, with this 2015 being a ripe and soft tannined version, making it a serious Nebbiolo that can be enjoyed in its young. This traditionally hand crafted Barolo, that is sourced from small Cru parcels in the La Morra zone, delivers classic Nebbiolo flavors and a sense of place that lets you exactly what this wine is with beautiful supple layers of vintage’s dense and expressive fruit along with subtle earthy elements, sweet herbs, a light cedar/sandalwood note and a porporri of wilted flowers. The 2015 is more overt than the other vintages I’ve tried, but it is not full of heat and or no less event either with pretty black cherry, damson plum, raspberry and a touch of strawberry fruits, chalky stones, saline infused black licorice, amaro/liqueur and a bit of violets. I was convinced to add this label to my yearly rotation of Piedmonte wines by the fact that Oregon winemaking legend John Paul of Cameron Winery actually imports this wine and tries his best to secure the whole production in good years, such devotion, certainly made me more intrigued and I have not been disappointed, especially with the 2013 and this 2015 wines, and I am really excited to see what the 2016 is like, being from a vintage of note, it might be a Barolo worth patiently waiting for and stocking up on, while this 2015 is one to enjoy in the near term. This wine does open up with air, gaining a bit more of a rustic and pure Barolo character, which makes having some good food with it a must to appreciate its full potential.

The Lapo Berti Barolo, as noted, sourced from the Commune of La Morra, and from, notably, the two historic Cru parcels of Bricco Rocca and Fossati, which gives this wine some significant pedigree and prestige in its terroir. This old school Barolo was produced using natural winemaking methods and the carefully sorted and de-stemmed Nebbiolo grapes were fermented with indigenous yeasts with absolutely no additions during the process, seeing very low amounts of sulphites. The Barolo was treated to a gentile and cool maceration period to get a full extraction of flavor, but without a harsh upper cut of tannin, and the wine aged close to two years in neutral barrels in the cellar to allow the wine to develop its satiny mouth feel. According to the winery, the vines are set on the classic sandy marl (limestone and clay) soils, in prime hillside sites with perfect southern exposures, with Fossati giving the wine its inner beauty, textural pleasure and ripe tannin, while the Bricco Rocca brings a feeling of elegance, and in this vintage in particular a heavenly weightlessness, plus its focused detailing and minerality. This deep garnet Lapo Berti impresses for how wonderfully drinkable it is already, though I suspect this wine will firm up when it loses some of its baby fat and should prove nicely rewarding for a decade, if you don’t drink it all up, like I most certainly will. John Paul, who also makes a series of Italian style wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, as well as his famous Cameron Pinot Noir(s), including a fantastic example of Nebbiolo, is a noted Barolo enthusiast and searched out this excellent wine and brought it over at a very reasonable price, I highly recommend this singular Barolo.
($49 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive