Category Archives: Wine Articles

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 17, 2018

2018 Poe Wines, Pinot Nouveau, Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain.
Samantha Sheehan’s Poe Wines Pinot Nouveau is a wine is crafted/made in a Beaujolais Nouveau style, and according to Samantha it is an homage to the idea of celebrating the end of the vintage, and as well as giving a tease of of the upcoming vintage. Sheehan harvested just a couple tons from a Pinot Noir block that was planted back in the 1980s at the Van der Kamp Vineyard, on top of Sonoma Mountain, which is set on the alluvial and mineral rich soils that makes this site so exceptional. It was made from a selection of Mt Eden, Swan, Calera, Martini, and La Tache clones that was all whole cluster that went into a stainless steel tank, and then sealed the lid tightly closed for six weeks, Sheenan explains, that In the absence of any oxygen, the grapes went though an intracellular fermentation, or as we call it, full carbonic maceration. The 2018 is a beautiful version, showing the complexity and purity of vintage, while still being fun and easy to love with a light savory tone holding the fruity nature in check, it shows pretty tart cherry, plum and red berry flavors adding strawberry and just a hint of carbonic cotton candy, tropical and bubble gum and crisp acidity in this vivid light/medium bodied and ruby colored Nouveau. There is more to come with air as the palate refines and gets more Pinot like, it proves California Nouveau is not a gimmick and opens up nicely to become a more complete with floral notes and a dusting of spice and herbs lingering with the fruit essences on the finish. Serve slightly chilled and enjoy with food, it will impress with the holiday fare too, it also highlights the underlying nature of the 2018 vintage which looks exceptional, it whets the appetite for the wines to come. Poe Wines has an amazing set of wines as current releases, these are some of Sheenan’s best offerings to date, I can’t stress enough, you should get on her list and get these new wines, especially her new Sparkling Rosé, which is absolutely outstanding, her Pinot Noir, her Pinot Meunier and her Chardonnay, all of which are studied examples of varietal and place as well as being stellar wines.
($28 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 16, 2018

2016 Desparada, Syrah “Niobe” White Hawk Vineyard, Santa Barbara County.
Vailia From’s Desparada White Hawk Syrah is a show stopper with deep layers of black and red fruits, making it a great version of this singular vineyard, made famous over the years by Adam Tolmach of the Ojai Vineyard, Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non and Maggie Harrison of Lillian, it sits on the southern facing slope of Cat Canyon some 21 miles from the Pacific and 2 miles north of Los Alamos in Santa Barbara County on Arnold sand and Elder shaly loam. Vailia who got turned on to this fruit because she buys Sangiovese from here aged her White Hawk Syrah in 25% new French, 25% onetime used and 50% neutral (French) barrels to let the fruit express itself, and that it does, it feels dense and lively in the mouth somewhere between the delicate Ojai version and a more fruit forward style wine like an Alban Syrah giving the same thrills of both in a well crafted wine and it’s a great first 100% Syrah effort from Vailia, who considers herself an Italian and Bordeaux varietal producer. Desparada is a very unique all women winemaking team led by Vailia that makes craft wines in her winery in Paso Robles’ Tin City, an artisan industrial park that supports the micro producers in the region. I’ve followed these wines for quite awhile now and have always been impressed by their spirit and character, but I recently tasted through the new releases and found they have reached the next level and have gained impressive detail and grace, I especially loved her set of Sauvignon Blanc(s), her “Suitor” a fabulous red blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Sangiovese and 4% Cabernet Franc, it’s a beauty that over delivers for the price too, plus Soothsayer, a cool cuvee of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Barbera, and this “Niobe” White Hawk Vineyard Syrah. The Niobe starts with lifted aromatics with a subtle floral perfume and mineral note before the wave of thick black fruits fills the full bodied palate with layers of boysenberry, cherry compote, wild plum and vine picked berry fruit along with spice, cedar, camphor, dark chocolate, fig paste and dried flowers. There’s a burst of youthful acidity that gives a juicy tone to this lush Syrah, and the sweet tannin is ripe and gives this red a velvet spine, there’s even more to come too, rewarding potential looks like a sure thing, I plan to give the bottle I bought about 3 to 5 years in the cellar. Vailia is also experimenting with some amphora aged stuff, so I also scored a very limited bottling of her clay pot raised Sangiovese, also from the White Hawk Vineyard as well as her Nebbiolo, new Picpoul and the ultra cool Arclight which is a Rosé of Sangiovese, Barbera, & Nebbiolo! My recent visit to Paso Robles was a huge success, this trip confirmed that this region is still defining itself and is bursting with exciting new producers and small wineries that are fully embracing being different and crafting distinct California inspired wines using proprietary blends of grapes, I highly recommend discovering Desparada, Vailia From is putting out some amazing things.
($50 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 15, 2018

2016 Tablas Creek, En Gobelet, Red Blend, Adelaida District, Paso Robles.
Tablas Creek’s amazing red blend En Gobelet (referring to head trained or bush vines) crafted from a unique proprietary Rhone hybrid blend of Mourvèdre 39%, Grenache Noir 30%, Syrah 20%, Counoise 8% and the French Basque grape Tannat 3% that delivers a full bodied and deep wine of rich fruit and spiced complexity. The “gobelet” is an ancestral method of vine training, it was used by the Romans, and before, it allows the vine to grow up and more suited for hand harvesting and works best in warmer and breezy climates such as the Southern Rhone and of course Paso Robles, where you find many old bush vine vineyards. Interesting, the “gobelet” pruning method, which has been replaced mostly in favor of trellised vines which produces more fruit and is easier to harvest, but is perfect for the conditions in Talbas Creek’s Adelaida District vineyards, by allowing air through the vine while providing an umbrella like canopy of leaves/vegetation to shade there grapes, this works best with strong spur varietals like Grenache and Mourvedre that are used here to great effect. The En Gobelet Rouge uses Tablas’ original Chateau de Beaucastel clones for the the Chateauneuf du Pape grapes, as well as Tannat that was also brought over by the Haas (owners of Vineyard Brands wine imports) and Perrin (owners of Chateau de Beaucastel, one of the most prestigious wineries in France) families, the owners of Tablas Creek. Neil Collins, wine director at Tablas Creek, an English transplant who has been with the winery since it’s beginning has over the years, quietly become one of California’s most respected winemakers has put together an amazing set of 2015, 2016 and 2017 wines with both his reds and whites being exceptional throughout the range. I was down to Paso Robles recently to taste from this iconic producer that has through it’s wines and vines has made a huge impact on California wine and certainly helped lift the Rhone style wine movement, and I found some fantastic small batch offerings that I had not tasted before, like this En Gobelet Rouge. The 2016 vintage looks set to be a great vintage for Paso Reds, especially in the more Western and steep sloped vineyard sites, and this Tablas Creek En Gobelet highlights this perfectly, it’s mouth filling density and opulence is hard to resist, but it’s wonderful structure and balance sets it apart, Collins has nailed with this blend, allowing the full potential to flow forth across the textural palate with blackberry, plum, boysenberry, poached cherries and dusty raspberry fruits along with a touch of lavender, anise, pepper, tobacco leaf, chalky stones, leather and light cedary notes. With opening it gains a beautiful seamless refinement and the tannins turn ripe, while never getting dull, and at 14.2% natural alcohol it is not overt or hot, the thrills keep coming and a light floral perfume, sublime cassis, mocha and a hint of game reveal themselves and add to the glorious experience to behold in this special and limited edition bottling. The addition of Tannat to the dark garnet En Gobelet is what sets this apart from the usual Chateauneuf du Pape blend Tablas does in their flagship Esprit de Tablas Rouge, making for a unique purely California wine. A visit to Tablas is a fascinating education and must do when you visit Paso Robles, and the tasting flights always provide wonderful surprises to savor, this time I got to try a Picardan Blanc, a rare Chateauneuf Blanc grape of which there is maybe only 5 or 6 acres of in the whole world, a Picpoul, a 100% Counoise, a 100% Mourvedre and many more along with this En Gobelet Rouge, which was one of my personal favorites, it’s a wine that has a long life ahead of it, drink over the next 5 to 15 years.
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 14, 2018

2014 Epoch Estate, Veracity Red, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles.
A recent trip to Paso Robles was a great chance to catch up with some old friends and check out some new places, I am absolutely blown away by the sense of community and knowledge to be found here, in many cases it is far more impressive than you would find in Napa Valley and there’s a more authentic casualness to be celebrated in the region that impresses and feels comfortable even in the most prestigious of spots here. Also I am impressed with the youth and enthusiasm for new things and ideas, there a lot going on here, it’s not just Southern California’s Napa clone, it’s unique style and terroirs make this an exciting place to be, and I tasted some amazing wines, especially those by L’Aventure, Tablas Creek and Bill Armstrong’s Epoch Estate in Paso Robles’ hillside Willow Creek District. All of the Epoch lineup rocked, I adore their Rosé, the Estate White and the Estate Red, but their more luxurious cuvees are just incredible, especially this Veracity and their inky Ingenuity Red which are made in their fantastic state of the art winery with lots of cement fermentors and a stunning underground cave system. Epoch’s gorgeous Veracity is their Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge style blend made from 66% Grenache with 18% Mourvedre and 16% Syrah and coming off their two estate vineyards, 63% Paderewski and 37% Catapult, on steep slopes, which are set on a mix of shale and limestone soils, that give this wine it’s depth and intensity. Jordan Fiorentini, Epoch’s winemaker, fermented in concrete, stainless steel, and oak tanks and 1⁄2-ton French oak puncheons then raised for 18 months in a combination of mostly wood, but with 8% in concrete eggs with about 24% new French oak overall to make for a powerful, full bodied and elegant wine that has opulence, but feels silky and balanced with a burst of energy and wonderful heightened flavors. A wonderful array of blue and black fruits greet the lush palate with some cool stoniness and spiciness with boysenberry, violet liqueur, cassis and a mix of plum, blueberry and raspberry adding a hint of vanilla, chalk, licorice and dusty chocolate. The satiny density of form doesn’t get flabby or dull the lively nature to be found here and the aftertaste goes on forever, lingering on and on with Pretty detail and a touch of welcome briar, lavender/incense, earth and kirsch. Air allows this Veracity to show it’s graceful textures, and while ripe at 15.4% natural alcohol, it shows great finesse and focus, right up there with great Chateauneuf(s), it certainly deserves all of it’s critical acclaim, this is one of California’s great wines. Drink this stuff over the next decade and try to enjoy with simple, but robust cuisine, and be sure to make Epoch Estate a stop when you get to Paso, their new tasting room is amazing, their people friendly and full of info about the wines, the vines and other fun under the radar places to visit, it’s a must see winery in the area.
($75 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 13, 2018

2017 Martha Stoumen, Carignan, Venturi Vineyard, Mendocino County.
It’s super fun to see a new generation of California winemaker going about re-inventing and discovering new ways to express grapes that never had much of voice here in California, like Martha Stoumen’s new release of Venturi Vineyard Carignan with it’s bright, but dark fruit, fresh flavors and slightly raw earthiness. Carignan also known as Carignane in California, is a grape that is found throughout the Mediterranean regions of Europe with major plantings in Italy, especially on Sardinia, Spain and in France where it plays a prime spot in Corbieres wines, an AOC in the Languedoc, as well as playing a minor role in the Southern Rhone, including Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It’s a deeply colored red grape that most plays a supporting role in old vine field blends in California, blended with Zinfandel, Syrah and Grenache to great effect, though in recent years it has started too come off the shadows and become a varietal that is getting attention as a solo grape or the main focus, in particular there has been some exciting versions from Ridge Vineyards, Sandlands, Pax, The Princess and the Peasant, Skylark, Bonny Doon and Ryme Cellars to name a few. Stoumen’s 2017 Carignan is really tasty and gets even more interesting and deep with air, she uses grapes that come off the historic Venturi Ranch in Mendocino, where Cariginan thrives, this parcel was planted back in 1948 and is extremely rocky, dry farmed with a make up of this old riverbed containing veins of quartz, shale, and sandstone soils all which seems to give the wine a mineral tone, a deep hue and a ripeness of detail with lower natural alcohol, with this one coming in at about 12%, this fits Martha’s style perfectly as she prefers a lighter and lively wine. The nose takes a moment to come alive and blow off a faint funk, very much like an old world country wine, giving some floral notes and brambly spices along with crisp blackberry, earthy/dusty plum and tangy cherry fruits as well as zesty blood orange, red peach along with light herbal elements, basil leaf, pepper and a bit of bite from skin tannins. Stoumen, who worked at COS in Sicily is known for her natural methods and textured wines, she has a lovely touch with her wines and a love for Italian grapes, she does a really good Nero d’Avila, see my review here. (click here) This is a vibrant red wine that gains greatly with cuisine, it has a streak that reminds me a little of Gamay with it’s juicy nature, it’s a playful wine that shows Carignan in it’s purest or naked form, it’s a version that should fill out more as it ages, but good to go right now, drink over the next 2 to 5 years and with food and friends.
($35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 12, 2018

2016 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
John Paul’s Cameron Reserve Dundee Hills 2016 is a beautiful youthful Pinot Noir crafted in classic Burgundian style with a dark ripe vintage backing up the slightly earthy reductive style, it impresses the palate much the same way as does Perrot-Minot’s Nuits-Saint-Georges, but with that Dundee spiciness from the Jory soils. Paul is one of the leading lights in the Deep Roots Coalition and is a firm believer in using only non irrigated (dry farmed) vines as well as striving for true sustainability and traditional methods in the cellar, his wines are authentic, dense and transmit a sense of purity. The Reserve is a special bottling, blended from lots of both of their top estate vineyards Clos Electrique and Abbey Ridge from a vintage that Cameron considers a stellar year with tiny unusually small berries and amazing concentration with incredible flavor and powerful extract of which shows in the Reserve with a deep garnet and ruby hue in the glass and youthful intensity with a tight form that leads me to believe this will age fantastically well and get’s me really excited for the winery’s single vineyard top wines, because if this one is this good, then wow, they will be off the charts! Paul uses only native ferments and longer elevage, between 18 to 24 months (in only French oak small barrels) to allow his Pinots the show their terroir and complexity without being rushed out of the cellar. There is firmness to start here, but with air things just get better and better, dropping it’s gripping graphite/smoke and gamey notes to the background while revealing an inner beauty and perfume of violets and black fruits with layers of black cherry, plum, currant and misson fig fruits pumping on the medium full palate along with a dusting of red and brown spices, cedar, stinky truffle and a touch of char. The mouth feel is impressive and fruit density gloriously presented, while sweet and velvety tannins hold things in place, plus the subtle acidity gives an exciting precision to this 2016 Reserve Pinot and the finish is long and sexy. It really is a stunning wine, just note, it has much more potential and there’s much more to come, it’s still very primal at this stage, it is a wine that should hit it’s full stride in 3 to 5 years and go 15 years with ease! It should be held a while for best results, drink this Cameron Reserve Dundee Hills Pinot from 2023 to 2029 if you can wait, if not, give it plenty of air and enjoy with serious cuisine.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 11, 2018

2016 Bodega Garzón, Tannat, Reserve, Uruguay.
This deeply colored and flavored Tannat from Garzon comes from selected blocks coming from vineyards within 11 miles of the Atlantic Ocean that get plenty of warm sunshine and cool breezes that allows full ripening and balance, making for a complex and spicy wine. Done in modern, but not over done style with clean and clear detail this Garzón Tannat Reserve is full bodied and loaded with rich fruit decadence, but with a nice balance of tannin and acidity that allows a core of tar, spice and bite to offset the dense black fruits, which include black plum, currant, dusty raspberry and a touch of fig, I had this in a blind tasting and was leaning towards an ultra expensive cool climate Aussie Shiraz or maybe something with a touch of Cabernet or Mourvèdre in it, as we were doing Southern Hemisphere, but I got a huge surprise when it was revealed as pure Tannat, then it made such sense, especially after air when this wine added some leathery/earthy notes and brambly spices. This is a powerful and dark/inky wine, and it impresses for it’s unique and ever so slightly rustic character, aged in mostly used French oak and fermented in cement vats it has enough old world charm to make it thoughtful, but enough international cleanliness to please the many over the geek squad, it’s a wine I would buy no question, it also would be great with robust cuisine, as food brings out prettier elements and floral shadings. This Tannat finds the right path between international polish and the more traditional/rustic style like you’d find in a French version, say a Madiran or the Pyrenees Basque Irouleguy, you get a little bit of both and it’s the better for it, fun and impressive stuff from Uruguay, a country that deserves more attention than it gets.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 10, 2018

2016 Payten & Jones “Valley Vignerons” Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia.
Behn Payten and Troy Jones are the down to earth winemakers behind the Payton and Jones Yarra Valley based winery crafting an interesting set of wines in a more laid back and natural style. made with a bit of humor and Aussie honesty, they say the wines aren’t ‘squeaky clean’, they are a bit ‘edgy’, maybe even a bit ‘raw’,but always interesting, with a little soul left in. They reckon drinking these wines is like experiencing a band live, maybe in a small club, as opposed to listening to a studio recorded album, they have minimal intervention, delicious, always smashable. That’s exactly what I found experiencing their Valley Vignerons Pinot Noir, a full on whole cluster carbonic wine that is bright, almost Gamay like with expressive fruit and loaded with spice and floral tones coming off a 20 year plus vineyard in the Yarra Glen zone of the Yarra Valley set on an eastern aspect with silty loams and hardened clay soils with mud and iron stones scattered throughout the site, all of which leans itself to the carbonic maceration and adds to the nice fruity/spicy tension. This 2016 is Payten & Jones’ 10th vintage of VV Pinot and they consider it their best yet and I can see why, this is fun stuff, but a wine that can go toe to toe with much more expensive wines. The bright and tangy medium bodied palate shows pretty rose oil, minty herb (bite) and layers of racy red fruits including fresh picked cherries, wild strawberry, raspberry jam and tart plum along with hints of pepper, tea spice, dried orange peel and very subtle cotton candy/bubble gum. With air a more rustic earthy charm comes into view adding a balance and as they put it a certain “raw” sexiness, it’s wine to search out, especially for the price, it’s a tasty little thing to enjoy now.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 9, 2018

2014 A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines, Red Blend, Swartland, South Africa.
Badenhorst is one of the top wineries in South Africa and their top label, A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines, is all from old vine parcels in the Paardeberg zone of Swartland, it’s an area known for Rhone style wines, especially those made from Syrah and Cinsault, both which feature here in the 2014 Badenhorst red blend. Cousins from Constantia, Hein and Adi Badenhorst started this project, with Adi being recognized as one of South Africa’s great winemaking talents, by restoring an ancient farm and a cellar that had gone neglected back in the 1930’s focusing on Grenache, Chenin Blanc and local favorite Cinsault grown on the farm’s granite soils. All of the wines come from their Kalmoesfontein farm in the Swartland appellation of South Africa, though they do buy a bit of fruit from selected grape growers in the region to fill out the final blends, with their old bush vines, Grenache Noir, Cinsault and Chenin all planted in the 50s and 60s are grown in the Siebritskloof part of the Paardeberg mountain, and they use dry farming and mostly organic methods, calling their wines natural wines crafted in the traditional manner, I would say they are modern old school wines. Badenhorst uses concrete and old casks to make their wines, he’s all about keeping it simple and showing the wines soul and place, after completing his studies at Elsenburg, South Africa’s best wine college, Adi worked a few harvests at Chateau Angelus, as well as with Alain Graillot in the north Rhone, France, and Wither Hills in New Zealand, plus he did stints at local cellars including Simonsig, Steenberg and Groote Post, finishing by spending nine years as the winemaker at the esteemed Stellenbosch estate of Rustenberg. Adi’s 2014 is made from Shiraz 56%, Grenache 17%, Cinsault 17% and a touch of the Portuguese varietal Tinta Barocca 10%, all made whole cluster (he does the same with his white too) with foot treading and twice daily pigeage with primary fermentation in conical oak and concrete vats before going into closed cement vats with 6 months on the skins before pressing, and then the wine is raised in a combination of old casks and giant 4,000L foundres. Badenhorst has varied exposures and the vines are on three distinct types of granite(s) that are found here each providing personality and unique character to the wines, they include Paardeberg, Lammershoek and Lemoenfontein types (soils) plus some different sub-surface geology with a touch clay and some serious shale(s). Think of this A. A. Badenhorst red as a South African Chateauneuf du Pape hybrid with loads of earthy spicy charm and warm fruit with layers of plum, blueberry, poached cherries and boysenberry as well as peppercorns, minty herbs, licorice, lavender oil and flinty stones. With air this wine builds in presence on the medium/full palate gaining a beautiful sense of texture and depth, while still retaining a fresh core and sweet tannin that supplies a gripping mouth feel, providing proof of this wines seriousness and subtle earthy tones add to the mix making this stuff irresistible. This is a wine that simply entertaining, but has real complexity and class, it’s a wine that has a 5 to 10 year future at least, it’s drinking gloriously in this moment, be sure to check out this one, and Badenhorst’s single vineyard 2016 limited edition 100% Cinsault, as both are terroir driven awesome offerings!
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 8, 2018

2014 Baxter, Pinot Noir, Valenti Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
The beautiful and pure Baxter Valenti Pinot Noir from the cool climate site in the western end of the Anderson Valley in the Mendocino Ridge zone is a lovely and elegant wine that showcases both the stylish, though restrained winemaking and a sense of place. Baxter has risen to notoriety in recent years and are best known for their Pinot Noir(s), though they do a few other interesting interesting things including a Nebbiolo, the winery is a father & son partnership between Phil L Baxter and Phil T G Baxter, conceived to produce handcrafted single vineyard wines focusing on the Anderson Valley and surrounding Mendocino appellations with the pair combining more than fifty years of experience. Phillip Baxter the younger is becoming the face of winery and is part of the Anderson Valley generation that has made this region one of the best in the world, and like Jason Drew’s Drew Family Cellars bottlings, the Baxter wines are highly sought after and very limited, also Baxter trained in Burgundy with Pascal Marchand at Domaine de la Vougeraie and has put that to good use, as I noted when I reviewed his 2012 whole cluster Oppenlander a few years ago. The Valenti family originally started farming grapes on their homestead over 100 years ago, and the site is now farmed to organic practices by the mentioned Jason Drew. This Cru vineyard sits high upon Greenwood Ridge in the Mendocino Ridge appellation, according to Baxter, Valenti is nick-named ‘Islands in the Clouds’, because these ridge-top vineyards appear like islands peeking out from the maritime fog above the valley set on Gold Ridge loams, well-drained ancient oceanic soils with decomposed sandstone and with a high iron content and It is just a mere five miles from the Pacific Ocean, a stone’s throw from Baxter Winery. The Mendocino Ridge zone appellation (AVA) is special as it consists only of the coastal Mendocino ridge-top areas above 1200ft, and Valenti is one of the star vineyards as it shows clearly in this 2014 Baxter version with it’s layers of black cherry, plum and racy currant fruits along with wonderfully refined underlying acidity that keeps every detail brilliant and fresh on the rich medium bodied palate, additional notes of mineral, wild herbs, spice and subtle oak that flows in the mouth in a round and seamless fashion. Baxter usually works with native fermentation and per normal with his Pinots it looks like they use some whole cluster, though maybe not a high percentage on this 2014?, once pressed, the wine spent 18 months in a mix of neutral French oak barrels and small bit in stainless steel before being bottled unfined and unfiltered, and aged a further six months prior to release. The aftertaste gets better and longer with each sip and air adding rose petals, blood orange, a touch of vanilla and raspberry cream, this is silky stuff, I think it shows off lots of potential and it could age another 5 to 7 years with ease, but it is drinking fabulously right now, impressive and delicious!
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive