Category Archives: Wine Articles

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 21, 2021

Latest Review

2019 Pax Wines, Pineau d’Aunis, Bearg Ranch, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County.
One of the rarest red wines in California, this carbonic and spicy lighter red wine is Pax’s super geeky and limited Pineau d’Aunis, a light skinned red grape found in the Loire Valley, mostly around Touraine and Anjou, which is mainly used in blends and in the region’s Rosés. Those that love the Jura and Beaujolais will go crazy for this juicy medium bodied wine that shows a crunch of whole cluster, racy red berries, a touch of wild flowers and peppery spices with brambly raspberry, tangy plum, strawberry and a pop of orange/peach as well as cinnamon, basil, anise and a delicate earthiness that adds a nice bit of umami. Best to enjoy this one with a nice chill and friends, it is a fun, low alcohol and no pretense wine that should provide smiles and pleasure for a year or so. Pax also recently released a wine called Dazed & Carbonic, that is a crazy blend of co-fermented Syrah, Viognier 70% and 30% whole cluster, carbonic Trousseau Gris, as well as a 100% Trousseau Noir and a new dry Rosé called Roggae Rosé that is a blend of whole cluster Gamay and Pinot Noir, all of which are small lot whole cluster/carbonic fermented in tank with natural methods, being a short elevage in vat or neutral French oak.

Pax, known for incredible Syrah bottlings, in recent years has developed a fun lineup of rarities and natural style wines including Gamay, as well as old California favorites made from Mission and Charbono, along with the Jura and Savoie, Alpine inspired wines like Trousseau and Mondeuse. This new Pineau d’Aunis joins this geeky group and it is a quaffable addition that unique set, though it will not be easy to find as so little was made, but it is worth the search. Pax’s collection of unique quaffers are offered first to their wine club and I recommend joining, because these wines are so fun and very affordable. Pineau d’Aunis, which is also known as Chenin Noir, is an ancient Loire Valley grape that was much more widely planted and celebrate in the past, in fact it was hugely popular as far back as 1246, when it became a favorite of King Henry the Third of England, though it has become a rare varietal in modern times and is more of a curiosity these days. Pineau d’Aunis, as mentioned gets called Chenin Noir, however in DNA testing it has been confirmed that Pineau d’Aunis is not in fact related at all with Chenin Blanc, nor is it related to Pinot Noir, which it sometimes gets confused with. This bright ruby colored Pax Pineau d’Aunis is likely the only version of this grape in California and is set on the volcanic gravelly soils of the Bearg Ranch near Healdsburg, where Pax has his tiny plots of Gamay, Trousseau and Mondeuse.
($38 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 20, 2021

2019 Domaine Huet, Vouvray Sec, Le Mont, Loire Valley, France.
One of France’s iconic wines, Domaine Huet Vouvray is always a treat when finds its way into your glass, and for me, especially the dry Sec style, like this gorgeously pure and crystalline Le Mont cru bottling that shows just how delicious these wines can be with fresh and vivid wild peach, melon, crisp apple and lemony fruits that shine with wet stone, steely mineral tones along with un-sweeten honeycomb, clove and a hint of herbs. The 2019 vintage looks set to be a classic with great fruit intensity, vivacious natural acidity and that cool chalk note from the prime terroir that this Le Mont vineyard site sits on, in the best of the Vouvray zone in this tranquil Loire Valley region that allowed both generations of Huet’s to overcome their war scares and produce some of the most beautiful Chenin Blancs ever produced. This wine, one of the last made under Jean-Bernard Berthomé, Gaston Huet’s long serving winemaker and cellar master, really captures the essence of this winery, the place and the history here. The Le Mont, is easy to spot as Huet, it couldn’t be anything else and I love the fine and dry detailing on this vintage, even though it can age, it is absolutely lovely young and fresh, proving itself an outstanding companion to sea food and or cheese. I have been lucky enough to taste through the full collection of Huet and more than a few occasions and while I gravitate to these drier style wines, there is a real thrill to try the fabled Cuvée Constance, a heaven late harvest Chenin that rivals the illustrious Chateau D’Yquem! This brilliant and saline infused Le Mont Sec saw a temperature-controlled fermentation in large, old oak demi-muids as well as stainless steel vats, with only partial lots going through malos, depending the vintage, and the wine was then blended and raised just under a year in the bigger format demi-muids.

Domaine Huet, originally founded back in 1928, is an iconic estate and Vouvray producer, it is renown for some of the world’s most compelling Chenin Blanc bottlings ever put in bottle with a complete range of styles, including some of the longest-lived off-dry and sweet versions, as well as brisk natured bone dry bottlings, like this gorgeous Le Mont Sec, that is always one of my favorites in the lineup. Domaine Huet was formed when Victor Huet purchased the” Le Haut Lieu” vineyard and started producing some of the greatest wines in France before the estate expanded in the mid-1950s, when the legendary Gaston, Victor’s son, added vineyards on the Première Côte, with this Le Mont site, with less clay and more stone, being purchased in 1957 and famed Clos du Bourg, which took a little longer to acquire, finally being added to the portfolio in 1963 after being farmed by Huet for a decade. Gaston Huet, who took Huet to new heights, was an early convert to biodynamics and became fully bio in 1990 and certified completely in 1993 with top enologist Jean-Bernard Berthomé leading the winemaker from 1979 to 2019, when he finally retired and turned the cellar over to his protégé Benjamin Joliveau, a Vouvray native who worked hand-in-hand with Jean-Bernard for the last decade, starting in 2009. This transition looks be be seamless and traditions under the American (brother and sister) pair of Sarah and Hugo Hwang looks secure and quality in the last 20 years since I started following has only gone up, if possible! Like I mentioned above I have had lots of experience with Huet, including some 50 plus year old cellar direct bottlings and I can tell you these 2019s are the real deal, and this Le Mont Sec is an insane value for the quality it displays. The 2019s look to have a long life ahead, they have brisk and youthful tightness, but the underlying concentration and ripeness, at 13.5%, bodes well for those that want to cellar them, these are as good as I’ve ever tasted from Huet at this stage.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 19, 2021

2017 Ridge Vineyards, Zinfandel, Pagani Ranch, Sonoma Valley.
The 2017 Pagani Ranch Zinfandel, made from 84% Zinfandel, 7% Petite Sirah and 7% Alicante Bouschet, is incredibly dark and purple hued in the glass with enticing aromas of crushed berries, seeped flowers, chocolate and brambly spices, all of which are echoed richly on the full bodied and supple palate that fills the mouth with black raspberries, sweet plum, creme de cassis, sandalwood, Turkish fig, sticky lavender and mocha notes. The historic Pagani Ranch was originally planted in the traditional way with interplanted black grapes and saw the main plantings beginning in the early part of the 20th century with many old zin vines being well over a hundred years old, which shows in the beautiful concentration and depth in this outstanding and classic Zin blend from Ridge, one of America’s greatest wineries. Like Lytton Springs, in Dry Creek, there is a good dose of Alicante Bouschet here, which acts like a secret sauce here and adds to magic, while the Petite Sirah adds color, chocolate and a bit of a backbone to this hedonistic vintage. Probably the last pick in Ridge’s Zin collection of vineyards, the Pagani, originally planted back in 1895, is always lush in texture, but still brightly focused with good natural acidity even in what would be considered a warm year, adding to the overall charm and balance, this wine should age well for another decade or more. These Ridge Zin based reds are pure California wines, bringing out the best of what the state has to offer and go great with our varied cuisine, though they are especially good with BBQ and or Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes.

Angela and Felice Pagani came from Italy to Sonoma Valley in the late 1880s and purchased the ranch that now bears their name and is run by Felice’s granddaughter, Norma Pagani Amantite and her son Dino, who are carrying on the family’s heritage and traditions. Ridge has been making Pagani Zinfandel since 1991 and this vineyard on the western side of Sonoma Valley continues to be a star in their stellar offerings of Sonoma vineyard sites. The majority of the vineyard, set on Haire clay loams with a tiny amount of red soils, was planted ninety to one hundred twenty years ago, surviving though as Ridge notes, a few portions of it were replanted between 2013 and 2018, including many of Ridge’s sections. The hand harvested grapes were 100% de-stemmed and crushed with only native yeasts for a natural primary and natural malolactic fermentations, as the winery continues, the must was pumped over a floating cap and pressed at about nine days, enough time to go dry and extract the wine’s intense color then it was racked to 100% air-dried American oak barrels. The Ridge Pagani usually sees close to 15% new, 15% one-year-old, 20% two-year-old, 20% three-year-old,15% four-year-old, and 15% five-year-old wood with an elevage lasting fourteen months in the barrel before bottling. Ridge employs a low SO2 regime on all their wines to preserve the fresh fruit and keep the natural nuance of each vineyard site, with just enough new oak to provide a sense of refined elegance and luxuriousness, in this case, it shows to be well judged and subtly gives a smoky toastiness. While I loved the 2018s, this 2017, which maybe surprisingly has slightly lower alcohol, is showing extremely well and is full of pleasure.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 18, 2021

2019 Dirty & Rowdy, MSG, Red Rhone Blend, Chalone AVA, Monterey County.
It was a sad day last week when I found out that Dirty & Rowdy family wines was being dissolved, as I had really grown to love these wines, especially their awesome Chateauneuf du Pape inspired MSG Rhone style red, made from Chalone grapes coming off this chalky limestone and decomposed granite soil region in the Galbilan mountain range, and their selection of Mourvedre based offerings, as well as their super rare Barbera from Mendocino. I sulked around a few days, wondering what I would say about this and what wine of theirs would I open to begin the process of acceptance, then I got word that there might be a phoenix rising from the Dirty & Rowdy ashes and I perked right up, with the help of this gorgeous 40% Mourvedre, 40% Syrah and 20% Grenache blend. The King is Dead, Long Live the King, or something to that effect, as I have confirmed the half of the Dirty & Rowdy family is going to introduce a new label, with Hardy Wallace announcing that he has created the ‘Extradimensional Wine Co. Yeah!’ label and will carry on the traditions started with Dirty & Rowdy while striving to take it up a notch or two. While absorbing this good news, I cherished this, my last bottle of the MSG and rocked out to its pleasures in the glass with its deep purple/garnet color and heady mix of dark fruits, bright savory stem induced umami crunch and its lush textural quality. These wines always show a seductive raw sex appeal and earthy transparency that find irresistible with this 2019 giving a fantastic performance, equaling the experiences I had with the stunning 2018 version with dense layering of fruit, but with fresh and lively detailing that highlight the vintage’s outstanding quality, especially here on the central coast, with black raspberry, plum, pomegranate and creme de cassis leading the way with hints of lavender, pepper, chalky stones, minty herbs and a touch of welcome funk.

This Dirty & Rowdy label was founded by friends Hardy Wallace and Matt Richardson, and Dirty & Rowdy’s original mission was to create ‘untinkered with wines’ from vineyards all over California, which was certainly accomplished with hard work, humor and a force of will. To quote Dirty & Rowdy’s Hardy Wallace “We don’t make wine by numbers, recipes, or additions, but we aren’t zealots … unless we’re talking about that spicy fried chicken” meaning these wines were made from carefully hand picked grapes, sourced from organic vines and allowed to ferment naturally with old school non interventional methods with indigenous yeasts, foot trodding and lots of whole cluster. Extra attention was paid to picking dates and phonetic ripeness, which in the case of this MSG, really paid off with incredible depth, aromatics and the delightfully low natural alcohol, that come in at a near perfect 13.5%, making for an expressive and thoughtfully balanced wine that still has a serious and powerful impact. Only a few barrels were made of the 2019 ‘MSG’ (Mourvedre, Syrah, and Grenache) that was fermented with 100% whole bunches and then aged in well seasoned or neutral French oak. I must note, I spied on Hardy’s Instagram account he got some amazing Chalone Grenache this year and I cannot wait to see what he does with it and I highly recommend getting on his and wife Kate Graham’s new list at Extradimensional Wine Co. Yeah! Sadly, the drought has affected some of my favorite northern California sites and Wallace confided to me that the Barbera didn’t make it to harvest this year, but he told me he got some awesome old vine Carignane and will do a special bottling, and I’ve all over that! This cool toned MSG, with its rocking Live Monterey County label that reminds me of a Kiss meets Monte Python scene, is a delicious Rhone red, that adds hints kirsch, tartare, dried flowers and anise with air, that is best served with friends and hearty foods. Dirty & Rowdy will be missed, but I’m thrilled to see Hardy’s next adventure, which I am sure will be a massive hit!
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 17, 2021

2019 Domaine Guiberteau, Saumur Rouge, Loire Valley, France.
Guiberteau’s hill of Brézé wines in Saumur are rare gems and highly sought after, especially the intensely mineral driven Chenins, but I love the basic Saumur Rouge here, in particular this 2019 is absolutely awesome with a deep and concentrated palate and classic terroir influences and flavors with blackberry, tangy currant, bell pepper, stony notes along with crushed violets, wild herbs, anise and cedar all play parts in the gripping medium bodied wine. This bottling comes from three parcels within the Saumur zone that were planted between 1955 and 1957 on ancient silt and sandy soils over a limestone bedrock that gives this wine its class, mineral tones and lively acidity, while allowing beautiful ripe fruit to shine through. The Guiberteau Saumur Rouge, 100% Cabernet Franc, was carefully hand sorted and picked in the vineyard and 100% de-stemmed, then saw an indigenous yeast fermentation before a short elevage and bottled quickly after being aged for just 6 months in tank, without any oak. Guiberteau, for his reds tends to raise them in stainless and concrete for between 6 months and a year, though his top wine, the Saumur Rouge Les Arboises, a monopole on Brézé is fermented and macerated in cement then aged for 18 months in most new oak barrels, though that wine is a true unicorn and virtually impossible to find.

The Domaine Guiberteau, discovered and brought to the American market by the late Becky Wasserman, who’s life has been celebrated this last month since her passing, mostly regarding her excellent collection of Burgundy producers, though it shouldn’t go unnoticed that her company was savvy enough to find gems, like Guiberteau, in the Loire. Guiberteau, which has become one of the most sought after domaines in Saumur, with their wines already stringently allocated, and found in some of the best restaurants in France, as well as here, has a very limited production. The rise of this small estate has been meteoric since its founding around 2000, with it becoming all organic by 2003, with Romain Guiberteau, who took over the management of his family’s vineyards back in 1996, running this estate which has top notch holdings, with most in the legendary terroir of Brézé, with hillside plots on chalky soils planted to Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Guiberteau, who under the mentoring of Clos Rougeard’s Nady Foucault, made his first wines, and that experience convinced him to use the family grapes to produce a domaine wine and the rest they say is history. This little Saumur offering is a steal in the lineup and while the entry level Cab Franc, it can be cellared for a decade if you have patience and pride varietal purity, which I do. The Guiberteau wines usually take a while to loosen up, but this 2019 is showing great and has plenty of depth to keep your interest for many years to come, it really impressed me with its exceptional purity and it was fabulous with a range of foods.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 16, 2021

2020 Jolie-Laide, Melon de Bourgogne, Rodnick Farm, Chalone AVA, Monterey County.
This 2020 Jolie-Laide Melon de Bourgogne is a bright and vibrant white wine with beautiful tension and mineral charm, it shows a touch of peach, honeydew and green apple to go along with a zesty citrus blast in a refreshing and bone dry lighter framed wine that shows clean and finely focused detailing, making it natural companion to briny sea food dishes. This vintage was crafted with restraint and is less leesy relying on its steely nature to entertain and it does just that with a subtle roundness emerging with time and air in the glass in this ultra pale wine that showed really well in a recent blind Loire Valley varietal tasting and did exceptionally as a pairing with Pico, a soft goat Brie like cheese. The Jolie-Laide Melon adds touches of tangy herb, delicate white flowers, saline infused sea shells and wet stones, giving it a brisk and un-fruity personality, while still confidently pleasing overall and having a good balance. Winemaker Scott Schultz, who has worked for Pax Mahle for many years, is one of the rising stars in California and his Jolie-Laide lineup continues to impress, especially his Halcon Vineyard Syrah, his Trousseau, Cabernet Pfeffer and Gamay blend, the solo Gamay, the Shake Ridge Rhone Blend and this one.

The Melon de Bourgogne or Melon grape is a variety of white grape grown primarily in the Loire Valley region of France and most famously in the Muscadet region, though, while rare It is also found in North America, especially now in Oregon where it started to take off in around 2007, but it has been here in California longer, much longer in fact than we originally knew. Recent DNA testing has shown that plantings here in the Chalone AVA that have been called Pinot Blanc since the 1970s turned out to be Melon! Here in Scott Schultz’s Melon de Bourgogne, the grapes come from the chalky soils of Chalone and the organic Rodnick Vineyard, one of the sites that was used in the classic Chalone Estate wines made by Dick Graff and Phil Woodward. Jolie-Laide’s winemaking is low intervention and natural using whole cluster pressing, cement and neutral wood with some skin contact in the whites, though this one seems less so than other vintages that I’ve tried. Melon, like Picpoul, Vermentino and Albarino is finding a welcoming home in Monterey County, after discovering it had been here quite awhile, and this one, perfect for oysters, is really worth searching out. Jolie-Laide’s new Fall releases are about to drop and I’m excited to see what is coming out, it is a great time to join this mailing list, these wines are incredibly impressive small lot wines, not to be missed.
($26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 15, 2021

2013 Casa Nuestra, Cabernet Franc, Estate Bottled, Napa Valley.
The 2013 Casa Nuestra Cabernet Franc is a beautiful and uniquely Napa version of this grape, as it is neither Loire or Bordeaux like in style, though hints of both of those regions certainly make brief appearances in the background with a touch of earthy bell pepper, chalky mineral and ripe fruit kissed by sweet toasty oak notes. I have been a long time fan of this winery and try to drop by this rustic and friendly site off the Silverado Trail between St. Helena and Calistoga, and I always try to pry loose some of their prized Chenin Blanc, as well as the Cab Franc, the dry Riesling and the St. Helena Tinto field blend. Owner Gene Kirkham, a fan and promoter of civil rights and folk music, was so committed to his Loire Valley varietals and such was the quality, the French honored him with a celebration in Chinon, the classic region known for Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. Casa Nuestra’s Cabernet Franc, which the winery notes, is one of the longest running single varietal Cabernet Franc programs in the country and is one of Napa’s best kept secrets with a dark purple/crimson color in the glass and a heightened bouquet of florals and baking spices along with a full bodied palate of blackberry, cherry, plum and currant fruits all fitting together nicely with the notes mentioned above echoing on and on along with a touch of dried herbs, cedar, toasted coconut and coco powder. This wine feels excellent and has plenty of structure and depth, while softening with age as it comes into a mature drinking period and will be sublime with seared duck breast and raspberry reduction and or simple meat dishes as well as hard cheeses. The family traditions continue here at Casa Nuestra with Hannah Kirkham, who is the director of guest service and the wine club manager here, keeping everything running smoothly. Casa Nuestra in recent years has attracted the attentions of Tegan Passalacqua, the famous winemaker and vineyard manager at Turley Wine Cellars, who has bought fruit for both Turley, that do a special friend blend bottling and for his own Sandlands label, doing a limited Casa Nuestra dry Chenin!

Casa Nuestra was founded as a winery by Gene Kirkham back in 1979, even though the Kirkham family previously bought a vineyard in Oakville, one of the first hillside plots there in 1956, which was an old style vineyard that was planted to “blacks” or a mix of red grapes, that we a heritage field blend site these days. The Oakville vineyard produced a distinct and singular wine and became an almost cult hit, way back before we had those, it had Charbono, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Pinot Noir, Rofosco, Alicante Bouschet, Napa Gamay (Valdiguie), Negrette and in fact a tiny bit of Gray Riesling, also known as Trousseau Gris and maybe more all mixed through out the vineyard and these grapes were all blended in.These wines went out of fashion in the 1980s and most growers ended up ripping up most of their vines and replanted them to a single varietal, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, or to Chardonnay as well as Merlot, but the Kirkham’s understood the old style field blend was going to be lost here in California if nothing was done to protect them, so he kept them and then in 1994 grafted many of their original vine cuttings to his St. Helena property, where the winery sits to keep this precious heritage going. Casa Nuestra is mostly coveted for their dry Chenin Blanc, dry Riesling and this Cabernet Franc all of which sell out fast to their wine club and direct to consumer program, as none of their wines are available outside of the winery. All the vines the winery uses are organic and farmed to low natural yields to give the truest sense of the terroir and concentration in the grapes, and the winemaking as reflects a kinder and more gentle approach as well. In the winery they take great care in the handling of the grapes and use old traditional methods, like employing small basket presses and special low impact pumps, then they use the best suited oak from both France and America to age the wine, depending on the varietal. If you want to taste Napa’s history and visit a more down to earth old homestead, rather than the modern almost palace like estates, this is a place to discover and I highly recommend getting on their mailing list and club to get the rarities, and this Cab Franc.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 14, 2021

2001 Chateau Tour Grise, Saumur Puy Notre Dame “Les Vigneux” Loire Valley, France.
The absolutely stunning and pure 2001 Les Vigneux, a special cellar direct release from the famous and highly regarded Chateau Tour Grice that has since transitioned into new ownership and are now made under the Domaine L’Austral label, with the former owners Philippe and Françoise Gourdon retiring, but not before crafting some of their best wines and hand picking their successors to continue the traditions here. The deep garnet/red colored Les Vigneux is a beauty in the glass with a surprisingly fresh nose and vibrant palate that shows a bouquet of earthy violets, green spices, chalky stones and wild berry notes before a firmly structured and mineral toned mouthful of blackberry, mulberry, cranberry and dusty cherry fruits with a hint of plum, sandalwood, cedar, bell pepper, flinty spice and saline infused black licorice. This wine perfectly captures its terroir and still has incredible youthful fruit for a twenty year old wine and delivers a sublime Cabernet Franc performance, proving the age worthiness and divine character of this grape. The Les Vigneux is a small single parcel in Saumur that is set on classic Silex limestone soils and is one of the most prized sites in the region and of Tour Grise, which obtained full biodynamic certification back in 1998, this wine clearly shows this fabulous vineyard at its very best and it far exceeded my expectations, I only wish I had bought a lot more!

La Tour Grise estate, which is only a total of 20 Hectares, was one of the first generations of biodynamic converts in the Loire Valley along with the more well known Nicolas Joly and a few others, Philippe Gourdon founded this domaine in 1990 and got biodynamic certified in the following years as noted. These wines are a true reflection of the commitment and passion of these pioneers, with Philippe farming his own single plot in Saumur with hand cared for love and hard work. I have really enjoyed the Chateau Tour Grise and the L’Austral wines in the past, especially the rare Tour Grise Brut sparkler and these single vineyard Cab Francs, as well as their light and juicy Chenin Noir (Pineau d’Aunis). This Cabernet Franc a deep and authentic wine of glorious natural detail and complexity with purity of form and place. The Chateau Tour Grise wines were naturally vinified, with long macerations and indigenous yeasts and aged in the estate’s historic underground troglodyte cellar that was cut from the natural limestone for which the Saumur AOC is famous for and for which gives the Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc grown here their striking characteristics. The new owners, Pauline Mourrain and Laurent Traubat have faithfully made their own wines, as mentioned above under the L’Austral label, and employ many of the same methods that the Gourdon’s used, though in recent years have taken things to the next level, so it will be well worth following this winery that use a combination of cement and used French oak to age these wines. This 2001 Chateau Tour Grise Cab Franc was cellar aged in bottle and was just re-released in a special limited offering from importer, Floraison Selections, and is a steal, especially for Loire enthusiasts and savvy collectors.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 13, 2021

2019 Domaine Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Santenay Premier Cru Rouge, Les Gravieres, Red Burgundy, France.
The super young and fresh PYCM Santenay Rouge Les Gravieres Premier Cru starts with a flash of rectuctive funk, but blows off quickly to reveal a gorgeous dark fruited Pinot Noir that, after fully opening, way out performs for the price point, making for a stellar red Burgundy value from a top performing producer, that while best known for his whites, does a fantastic job with his red grapes. The deep and floral palate will have you thinking this was a Cote de Nuits, maybe a Vosne-Romanee or Morey-St.-Denis with a more blue tone to the fruit and violets on the nose, rather than the Cote de Beaune, but shows just how good things are getting in these parts, especially in St. Aubin and Santenay. As mentioned this 2019 vintage is full of blue fruit and black cherry with tangy currant and purple plum showing up on the racy, tension filled, medium bodied palate that fills out with air adding a silken roundness with time in the glass, giving hints of earth, baking spices, orange tea and a kiss of toast wood, along with the partial whole bunch pop or crunch of wild herbs, cinnamon, pomegranate and a cool mineral tone. Most of the higher end Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey wines are way beyond my budget, but I am a huge fan and have been lucky enough to have tasting with him on a few occasions and have found my sweet spot in his lineup with a few of his under the radar bottlings, which not only can I afford, are absolutely awesome bottles, like this one, along with the whites from Rully and Pernand-Vergelesses that offer tremendous value at the money they fetch. In particular I admire and love the Rully Blanc “Le Cailloux”, that s a wine that could easily be mistaken for a Chassagne-Montrachet, which great as I can not aford his Chassagne anymore!

One of Burgundy’s biggest stars, Pierre-Yves Colin is the eldest son of the famed Chassagne winemaker Marc Colin, has gained international stardom in the last decade or so, especially for his Cote de Buane whites from a fabulous set of vines throughout this southern zone, and is heralded for his incredible and mineral intense Chardonnays. After working as the winemaker at his father’s domaine from 1994 to 2005, he established his own domaine, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey after he married into the famous Morey family, from plots of vines he inherited from his family. Since that time, he has rapidly become, as it has been widely reported, a star in the Cote de Beaune and is now considered one of Burgundy’s top producers, along with the new generations at Coche, Jobard and Roulot. Now working alongside his wife Caroline, who has begun bottling mostly reds under her own label, Pierre-Yves own reds have seemingly got even better, which I doubt is a just by chance, as Caroline has proven to be very gifted in her own right. The Premier Cru “Gravieres” is on the Chassagne side of Santenay, as the winery notes, directly adjacent to 1er “Clos de Tavannes”, which is generally considered one of the top sites in the village and are 50 plus year old vines set on the classic clay and limestone soils of this rolling hills terroir. Pierre-Yves used 50% whole cluster and 50% de-stemmed berries will all indigenous yeasts, employing a cool and gentle extraction during a lengthy maceration before the wine was aged in 20% new wood. The Les Gravieres saw about a year in the small 228 French oak barrels and then bottled unfined and unfiltered, and like his whites, Pierre-Yves makes his reds in a fashion that rewards some patience, but still can be enjoyed in their vigorous, but polished youth, as this 2019 vintage clearly shows, this brilliant stuff.
($65 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 12, 2021

2018 Pax, Chenin Blanc, Buddhas Dharma Vineyard, Mendocino County.
Tasted blind, in a study of Loire varietals against some of the French classics, this 2018 dry and mineral driven Chenin Blanc by Pax Mahle of Pax Wines really showed well and was old world enough to be mistaken for a fine Savennières, impressive stuff and a big step up from the last couple of vintages with crisp detailing and a purity of flavors. The medium bodied palate is nervy with lots of energy from the long cool growing season, but with good complexity and nice fruit density showing vibrant peach, fresh citrus and Asian pear fruits along a touch of clove, tangy herb and honeycomb to go with the steely element, a faint leesy note and wet stones. You can see this wine gaining a fuller and waxy richness in time, though I love the way it is drinking right now, it is in a perfect place and it would be great with a variety of cuisine options, from soft cheeses to oysters on the half shell as well as a nice companion with poultry dishes. Chenin has seen a big time re-emergence in California and there are some fantastic versions available now, after many years in the shadows, with this one along with the likes of Lieu-Dit, Littorai, Jaimee Motely and Sandlands being exceptional wines to explore along with classics by Chappellet, Chalone and cult favorite Casa Nuestra, all worth searching out.

Pax’s Chenin Blanc is sourced from the Buddhas Dharma Vineyard, a vineyard that was planted back in 1944 in the wilds of Mendocino County, just north of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and is highly regarded for the quality of the fruit. This exceptional site is all dry farmed, grown using holistic principles, virtually organic, without the use of any chemicals, it s located at the base of Enlightenment Mountain set on gravelly volcanic soils. Pax is high on the later releases from this Buddhas Dharma Vineyard site due to a cooler vintages, especially this one, which gave him the opportunity to harvest slightly riper fruit, but with good natural acidity, and it allowed him to take a more Burgundy like approach in the winemaking. The Pax 2018 Buddhas Dharma Chenin was 100% whole cluster pressed and fermented with indigenous yeasts in a combination of neutral French oak as well as a couple of new Stockinger Austrian barrels, which are not as toasty sweet as the French when new. After primary fermentation the Chenin, as the winery notes, naturally went through full malolactic conversion and raised in the same neutral French oak barrels and Stockinger Austrian barrels for 10 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. This lightly golden white is a great alternative wine, and a change of pace to enjoy in these later Summer days. Pax is just on to the 2019, and from everything I hear it should be pretty close in style and quality, with a similar vintage, in case you can’t find the 2018.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive