Category Archives: Wine Articles

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 15, 2017

2015 Eduardo Torres Acosta, Nerello Mascalese “Versante Nord” IGT Terre Siciliane, Italy.
This is the second vintage I’ve had of Eduardo Torres Acosta, the Canary Islands native and now winemaker at top Etna estate Passopisciaro, who is crafting a tiny production Nerello Mascalese from parcels of older vines on the north slope of Mount Etna, averaging 40-50 years old on the volcanic soils that give these wines their pure terroir driven character. The 2015 Versante Nord, made up of at least 80% Nerello Mascalese, a light to medium bodied grape that is often called the “volcano Burgundy” for it’s transparency and lighter ruby hue, along with other various local varietals, including a touch of Carricante (the white grape of Etna) is a earthy treat with just enough reductive funk and liquid shale aromas to make you balk a bit before the beautiful and delicate palate seduces you with silken tannins and layers of red fruits, spices, flinty stones, saline, licorice, kirsch and sweet new leather. Gaining exotic elements and density with air, which also allows the pungent start to blow off in this natural inspired red that flows with briar laced plum, cherry, raspberry and blood orange fruits, Eduardo Torres Acosta ferments with 10% whole cluster in cement vats using native yeasts with a two week on the skins maceration and then raises it in neutral large Slavonian barrel/cask for 16 months, still youthful now this should gain floral perfume and even more textural grace over the next 2 or 3 years, I can imagine this aging well. The Tenerife native has really taken to Sicily, and after working with Arianna Occhipinti, he is showing lots of potential with his Versante Nord Nerello Mascalese, it’s not a mainstream wine, but it certainly has intriguing charms and it really has grown on me, best to decant and or age it a bit longer, best from 2018 to 2024.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 14, 2017

2014 Storm Wines, Pinot Noir, Vrede, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa.
After years at the famed Hamilton-Russell winery, Hannes Storm has struck out on his own with three tiny parcels of Pinot Noir and a little Chardonnay block, his first vintage from young vines in the Bokkeveld shale, clay and granite driven soils of Hemel-en-Aarde was the 2012, and it blew my mind and I couldn’t wait to try this newer releases, and his 2014 Vrede Pinot is exceptional and unbelievably Burgundy like! There is so much going on here, this stuff is killer with an attractive and seductive darkly earthy and sensual start with layers of dusty/stony red fruits, a mix of porcini/truffle, crushed rose petals and pomegranate leading the way with a beautiful natural and elegant mouth feel that is both lively and excitingly rich in texture and detail with tangy plum, black cherry and cranberry fruits forming a powerful core along with velvety ripe tannins and a heady mix of spice, herb and leathery notes, lingering on and on with hints of blueberry, strawberry and mineral. Given time and air the Storm Vrede Pinot Noir, from vines planted in 2008, opens even further and gains structure, density of fruit and more exotically sexy charms, wow, I can’t imagine how amazing this vineyard will be with even more age, because even now it’s awesome! Another thrilling wine from Hannes, who’s brother Ernst is making wine in Santa Barbara, and while flying under the radar is also a producer to search out, it’s a talented family, so while both are great, this South African Storm is really fantastic Pinot, imported by Broadbent Selections, and though not easy to find, is worth looking for. Seriously, while a bit more concentrated than some Premier Cru(s) in a blind tasting this wine would easily be picked out to be a Cotes de Nuits from a warmer/richer vintage, it’s somewhere between a fine Gevrey-Chambertin and a Morey-St.-Denis!
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 13, 2017

2015 Julia Bertram, Spatburgunder “Handwerk” Dernau, Ahr Germany.
A lovely and delicate wine, the 2015 Julia Bertram Spatburgunder Handwerk from Germany’s Ahr region, one of the world’s great Pinot Noir areas, is wonderfully vibrant and light on it’s feet with it’s terroir driven smoky slate character and subtle strawberry fruit, is not as intense as the famed Meyer-Nakel, where she interned in 2009, but without question an impressive wine! Julia’s story is pretty interesting too, going from the 64th German Wine Queen to maker of world class Pinot Noir in Dernau on the Ahr River, her family has made wine for generations, but she, who was born just in 1989 (talk about youthful ambition and calling), is focused on her own thing now concentrating on steep slope old vines on that intense slate. She’s all about lightness and grace, but with texture and length, and this 2015 Handwerk, sourced from various parcels is beautiful from start to finish, it at first feels impossibly dreamy, but gains layers by the minute with exotic spices, rosewater and always the mineralite that shines at this wines core. Julia’s first release was from the 2013 vintage after getting her ”Bachelor of Science” in viticulture and oenology at the University of Applied Sciences Geisenheim, she seems to be on course to be a superstar, her potential is more than promising! The entry level Handwerk is a great value and a gateway wine into the realm of top German Pinots, this wine dances on the palate with soft cherry, flinty/shale, sassafras, wild lavender, blood orange and tart cranberry elements. This wines charm is it’s subtle nature, but don’t be fooled this is a seriously good wine, great with salmon, roasted chicken and cured meats especially, drink from 2017 to 2024, and I can’t wait to try her denser and more barrel aged Cru (Single Vineyard) wines!
($27 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 12, 2017

1999 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling Spatlese, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Germany.
A very complete mature Riesling from Johannes Selbach, the 1999 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spatlese is in a great place right now and was a treat to revisit, as I had once sold these as new back in the day and drank more than a few in the past, at almost 20 it is still laser focused and mineral driven goodness. Thanks Marc, for sharing this beauty on your birthday, cheers, it was a thrill to celebrate with this classic Spatlese from one of my favorite producers in the Mosel. The Zeltingen vineyard is one of the greatest sources for Riesling there is, and it’s intense Devonian blue slate gives exceptional purity, ripe yellow fruits and mixed mineral/stony tones and spicy notes, with Sonnenuhr being a sun catcher spot that gives these old vines the warm exposure they need to produce amazingly balanced and complex wines, also, without question this site offers incredible value, especially for those that want to age their Riesling! Drier that one would expect, this 1999 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr is still very generous with layers of orchard fruits and delicate honeyed sweetness with smoky/flinty wet shale, brine, rosewater and kumquat tanginess with lingering apricot and candied citrus. Gaining textural creaminess and baked peachy notes with air, but staying brilliantly fresh and steely vibrant throughout, as with all Selbach wines there is a grace and authentic pleasure to be found here and with the signs of age adds charm and regal character, I love these wines. Be sure to score the latest releases, the 2015 and 2016 vintages are good as it gets for Selbach-Oster, and don’t miss the Feinherb, Kabinett and Spatlese, while off dry, they are acid driven and well rounded with decades of life ahead of them.
($N/A 30-50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 11, 2017

2015 Val de Mer, Chablis, White Burgundy, France.
The Val de Mer label is a great value lineup of handcrafted wines made by Patrick Piuze, famous for his dynamic Chablis under his own label, at Domaine Moutard-Diligent a Chablis, and while mostly known for their Val de Mer Sparkling Wines this latest basic Chablis is a wine that punches way above it’s price class, making it a real winner for a vintage that has seen a hyper price jump. I tried this DNS Wines imported Val de Mer Chablis along with the no dosage Brut, both make for awesome party wines, they have old world charm and both are vibrant and expressive with mineral driven personalities. The Piuze Val de Mer Chablis AC gives Chardonnay and Kimmeridgian soil purity and highlights the regions terroir, as with all the vineyards he sources from, he tries to get organic or grapes grown “lutte raisonée” (organic within reason) and Patrick goes all native yeasts in his wines with this cuvee seeing only tank fermentation and aging, making it vivid, fresh and steely, but with some substance and density in textural mouth feel. Piuze, who has worked with (or for) Brocard, Olivier Leflaive and Verget over the last decade, partnered with Champagne house Moultard, who bought this winery in Chablis, in 2010 to expand his production, since his own wines sell out in an instant, so Val de Mer was born, and it’s been an immediate success, especially with Bistro(s) and Wine Bar(s) buyers looking for small production authentic Chablis and Sparkling values. In recent years Val de Mer and Kermit Lynch’s Savary have been the savvy choices in this sector, and I’m a huge fan of both options, with this 2015 Val de Mer being a standout. The nose is flinty and chalky with mineral tones, lemony notes, hints of white flowers and brine before a vivacious palate of steely green apple, melon, lemon/lime and crisp pear fruits, subtle earthy elements, oyster shell, dried unsweetened honey and a yeasty rich feel. Lifted by it’s natural acidity, this warm vintage Val de Mer Chablis delivers a full flavored, but balanced wine of graceful detail and is gratefully pleasing from start to finish, drink now, and be sure to watch out for the Cru versions and of course the bubbly!
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 10, 2017

2016 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Trocken Sekt, Dragon Stone, Sparkling Wine, Rheingau Germany.
A fun and vibrant sparkler, the Leitz Dragon Stone Sekt Riesling Trocken has has a smoky/flinty mineral start with soft mousse and a forward fruit and brioche personality on the palate. Coming from the Drachenstein, Dragon’s Stone, above the Rudesheimer Berg on the edge of the Niederwald forest, looking down on the Rhein, with it’s vein of quartzite and loose slate, the Leitz bubbly is easy to love, but with serious underpinnings and inspiring charms. These 2016 Rheingau and Nahe have a special meaning for me, as I was there during the harvest, in particular Leitz, I love the guys there, Johannes and his team took me and treated me better than family! I have walked the Drachenstein many times now, it’s a wonderful hike around the monument and in the shadow of nature preserve overlooking the Rhein and back down to Rudesheim itself, the views are stunning from up there, in my own experience magical, that all give this wine an extra bit of meaning and celebration. The mouth feel is racy, but polished with beautiful white flowers, crystalline wet stones, yellow peach, tangerine/lime, apple skin and toast/bread dough. It has a good energy, tight little bubbles, brisk in delivery, but gains a bit of width with air and is pure crisply dry, just a slight hint of SO2 hides the initial impact, though it does blow off quickly leaving a wonderfully expressive Riesling Sekt that is flavorful and classy. Drink this Leitz Dragon Stone Riesling Trocken Sekt (Brut style sparkling) 2016 vintage anytime, great as an aperitif or even better with cuisine, insanely good choice for crab cakes!
($26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 9, 2017

2016 Sadie Family Wines, Chenin Blanc/Palomino “Skerpioen” Old Vine Series, Swartland, South Africa.
A gorgeous white old vine field blend of Chenin Blanc and Palomino (the Sherry grape!) from Eben Sadie of Sadie Family Wines, probably the most exciting winemaker in South Africa right now, and who is getting lots of well deserve press, this was my first experience with his white(s), but I’ve been a huge fan of his reds, like Eben’s Columella (Syrah & Mourvedre), which are mind blowing in a way that remind you of old school Chateau Rayas, Chapoutier Le Meal Hermitage or pre 1995 Beaucastel without the Brettanomyces! Grown on extremely chalky Swartland soils at one of the coolest sites in the region which gives it’s driving acidity and mineral charms, seriously this natural/traditional white has the presence of a Grand Cru Chablis (meets Breze Saumur) in the glass, these bush vine, dry farmed, organic, were planted between 1958 and 1967 and the concentration and intensity shines here! This Paardeberg winery’s small handcrafted Skerpioen is glorious and vividly flavored with a tight vein of bright citrus, white peach and unripe green apple fruit, flinty/stony wet rock, steely dynamic elements along with unsweetened honeycomb/wax, lemon oil, delicate spices and bitter melon notes. Words fail here to explain the underlying energy, force and beauty that comes through on the briskly dry palate, this is stunning stuff, wow, this white has the x factor and then some, and it’s pale golden hue glistens with a sexy glow, it’s racy and classic in a way that makes the mouth water and get your salvation glands rocking, though it does fill out texturally on the palate in a very seductive way. Imported by Broadbent Selections, Sadie Family Wines are not cheap, but worth every penny, Raveneau and Joly fans both will be muttering to themselves when they try this stuff! Of the world’s great white blends, Mas de Daumas Blanc, Luis Rodriguez Ribeiro, Randall Grahm’s Le Cigare Blanc Reserve and Sadie Family standout this year! Best to allow a few more years on this Sadie Chenin led Skerpioen white, best from 2020-2036.
($50 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive


Sadie Columella Review

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 8, 2017

2016 Domaine d’Ouréa, Tire Bouchon, Vin de France, Rhone Red, France.
The deep and intriguing Adrien Roustan d’Ourea “Tire Bouchon” rouge is a unique Rhone blend of Grenache Noir, Carignane, Aramon, Oeillades & Syrah starts with loose tobacco leaf, stony notes and sweet floral tones along with an almost carbonic (Gamay) like directness of fruit. Adrien Roustan, a natural style vigneron, is a rising star in the Southern Rhone and his Domaine d’Ourea is based in Vacqueyras, he also has vines in Gigondas, and makes some of the most interesting versions of these I’ve tried in recent years, they are very dark and because of the high elevation they are fresher and almost more Syrah like in the glass, he is all organic, which adds to the energy/intensity found in these d’Ourea offerings. The Tire Bouchon (cork puller) Rouge is a serious quaffer, made of 50% Grenache (Noir), 20% Carignan(e), 10% Aramon, 10% Oeillades and 10% Syrah, from vines that are under conversion to biodynamic, and because it includes ancient and rare Aramon and Oeillades (grapes) it must be called a Vin de France, but don’t let that fool you, this is a killer value and a wine of wonderful expression and quality, balanced and complex with unexpected grace and length. Layers of blackberry, tangy currant compote, plum, morello cherry and juicy strawberry all unfold on the full bodied, but not heavy, palate with a lovely spicy contrast of savory peppercorns, chalky gravel, leathery elements, sticky lavender and inner brightness, in a very dark purple/garnet wine. With air a more grippy wine emerges here with boysenberry, blueberry and anise flowing into the mix, this stuff is every changing and fun with ripe tannin, texture and good acidity that cuts a fine lift to this red, the Grenache and Carignane give this wine it’s core and while happy now to allow the minor grapes to have their moment in the limelight, it’s their form that will rise in the next few years, I love it as it is young and vibrant, drink it up now! Note to self (and you) do not miss Domaine d’Ourea 2015 Vacqueyras and Gigondas, imported by Floraison Selections, they will be legendary/classics, awesome cellar bargains, stock up!
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 7, 2017

2015 Viticultores de Ribeira Sacra Y Envinate, Lousas, Vinas de Aldea Vinos Atlanticos, Ribeira Sarca, Galicia Spain.
The gang at Envinate has crafted a gorgeous wine here, after allowing for it to blow off it’s slight reductive funk, it turns beautiful with classic peppered violets and damson plum, and it’s vital medium body gives subtle pleasures and life, wow this 2015 is a seductive charmer, especially after plenty of air. Envinate, which means “wines yourself” is four friends that are from vastly different regions of Spain from the remote Canary Islands to Murcia, they are winemakers Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and José Martínez, all regional stars, if not superstars! Roberto Santana almost singlehandedly has made the wines of Tenerife mainstream and world renown with his volcanic and rustic offerings made from mostly mission grapes, especially Listan Negro, but his partners have had almost the same successes from their areas too, and this 2015 Viticultores de Ribeiro Sacra y Envinate Lousas comes from vines overseen by Alfonso Torrente, and it’s one of the best Envinate I’ve tried! And this is their village level offering! It’s all Mencia (think Syrah meets Burgundy with a touch of Fleurie mixed in!), 100% whole cluster, native fermented in bins and then raised in used mid size oak casks without racking, bottled with a tiny amount of SO2, unfined and unfiltered, it’s a beauty with lovely detail and lots of mineral spice. The grapes are hand tended from steep plots, these Sil River valley slopes look like the Rhein or Mosel and the soils are smoky slate and granite, which gives these Mencia wines their likeness to the Northern Rhone, in particular Cornas and St.-Joseph, as is so in this Envinate Lousas (Slate in Galician) Vina de Aldea, sourced from 60 year old organic vines. The contrast of sweet violets and dusty red pepper (flakes) and flinty notes really is really seductive and entrancing, I love this stuff, this as well as Laura Lorenzo’s Daterra Viticultores and Pedro Rodriguez’s Guimaro are two of my favorite Ribeiro Sacra  and area wines, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years easy.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 6, 2017

2011 Domaine Labet, Chardonnay, Cotes du Jura “Les Varrons” Vin Ouille, France.
A deep and pretty Chardonnay from Domaine Labet, this Cotes du Jura Les Varrons wine is a Vin Ouille, non flor, offering that is fresh and vivid with Burgundy like class with brilliant minerallite and Premier Cru density. Domaine Labet is a traditional house in the Jura, and while they do the oxidative style too, they excel in the topped up barrel style as this one shows clearly, this is a solid label to look for, imported by Charles Neal, and their Chardonnay is always a great choice, especially this version. Julien Labet, who is taking over the Domaine is exploring “natural wines” with his own label, but goes classical here and this 2011 Labet Les Varrons is performing with verve and panache, still vivid and delicately pale in the glass, opening to a medium full bodied Chardonnay with a steely edge, but with maturing flavors and understated richness with layers of bosc pear, golden delicious apple, kumquat, dried apricot, quince and lemon butter as well as wet stones, chalk and briny essences. This distinctly unique Chardonnay gains a bit of earth, spice and fleshy mouth feel with air along with hints of herb and floral tones in a wonderfully balanced wine with brisk intensity and pleasing texture. The single parcel Les Varrons Chardonnay is from 65+ year old vines set on Benthonien and Bajocien limestone with clay and eolien sediment, some of the most ancient in Europe, it is fermented using native yeasts and then raised on it’s fine lees in 225 French barrels, mostly well used, and as a side note Julien (Labet) studied at Domaine Ramonet in Chassagne-Montrachet and in South Africa at Hamilton-Russell, both makers of world class Chards! This 2011 has turned into a slightly exotic and stylish wine, somewhat of a thrill for me to pop the cork on as this wine was a bit of an afterthought, since I was at first after Julien’s own label red blend Metis (Trousseau, Pinot and Poulsard), though now I’m so glad I was able to drink this one, it’s a beauty right now and it will be an intriguing wine to follow further into the future.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive