Category Archives: Wine Articles

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 29, 2020

Latest Review

2016 Domaine de l’Austral, Saumur Puy Notre Dame “Cuvee 253” Loire Valley, France.
Domaine de l’Austral, which debuted with this vintage 2016 when Pauline Mourrain and Laurent Traubat took over this estate in Saumur, what was formerly known as Château Tour Grise​, when the previous owners, Philippe and Françoise Gourdon decided to retire, but only doing so after making sure the property was in good hands. The site was originally founded in 1990 and Certified Organic in 1998. The expectational fresh, pure and medium bodied 2016 Domaine de l’Austral 100% Cabernet Franc Saumur Puy Notre Dame “Cuvee 253” comes from single parcel of vines set on chalk. Knowing the quality of the fruit and the heightened personality of the year, this husband and wife team decided to let the wine express itself without manipulation or additions in the cellar, hoping to capture the most transparent expression of terroir as possible. The couple as per the norm with this region is leaning toward holistic growing with biodynamic practices being employed including a focus on healthy, living soils with a rich and diverse microbic presence. Pauline and Laurent do all their fermentations naturally using indigenous yeasts and long or extended macerations, and for this special cuvee, one of their very first bottlings in fact, it was aged exclusively in a concrete egg. This estate, imported by Floraison Selections in Emeryville, is going to be a winery to watch making honest, great priced, authentic wines of place. This Cuvee 253 has some raw tannins and while supple show a structured nature that will serve it well for years to come and the acidity is bracing, those that love Cab Franc from this region will beam smiles of contentment at the taste of this l’Austral Saumur Rouge.

The wines at Domaine de l’Austral are vinified and aged in the estate’s historic underground troglodyte cellar that was cut from the natural limestone for which Saumur is famous for and for which gives the Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc grown here their striking characteristics. The new label and proprietors are already creating a buzz about their wines are were very quickly taking in by the prestigious Renaissance des Appellations and have achieved peer recognition and been already awarded a price at the Competition “Vignerons et Terroirs d’Avenir” (Winegrowers & Terroirs of the Future). And this wine shows why they are on the radar and look set to be stars, this Domaine de l’Austral, Saumur Puy Notre Dame “Cuvee 253” is vivid and lively with classic Cab Franc flavors with the tiniest hint earthy leather and bell pepper this 2016 shows racy red currant, briery raspberry, plum , cranberry and cherry fruits with loads in minerality and chalky stoniness as well as snappy herbs, anise, sandalwood and touch of floral notes. I was highly impressed by the youthfulness this Saumur displays and the value on offer, this would be incredible with duck breast and or rustic country cuisine and I can see huge potential rewards for those looking to cellar some Loire Franc, like the wines of Olga Raffault in Chinon. This dark and subtle wine has lots of hidden joys to unfold given time to open completely and looks to be diamond in the rough, not quite a wallflower, but a tad shy, though certainly delivering much more than expected, especially with food. The Mourrain and Traubat lineup here at Domaine de l’Austral is all about small lot Cabernet Franc, with many unique site offering, plus a Chenin Blanc and a Sparkling Cabernet Franc Rosé, all of which should grab your attention.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 28, 2020

2019 Le P’Tit Paysan by I. Brand & Family Winery, Rosé, Pierre’s Pirouette, Central Coast.
The new Rosé is made from a classic Bandol blend of 56% Mourvedre, 26% Grenache and 18% Cinsault and is grippingly fresh and crisply detailed with ultra sharp and tangy flavors, making for a well structured Summer wine. Brand who is has become an influence and a focal point for authentic for the Monterey, Chalone, Santa Clara and San Benito parts of the central coast region with a fabulous selection of mainly Rhone style wines like his old vine Grenache and Mourvedre bottlings, as well as a savvy lineup of Cabernet Franc and a powerful Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon from an old vine vineyard right near the famed Monte Bello. The Le P’Tit Paysan line is Ian’s valued packed collection with the Pierre’s Pirouette Rosé being one of the most popular and a real bright spot for warm day quaffing.

The 2019 is similar to the 2018, but maybe a touch or a fraction cooler and drier in style with a Provence style light/pale salmon/pink hue in the glass and vivid ruby grapefruit, tangy sour cherry, strawberry and under ripe watermelon fruits along with salty wet stones, a nice mineral pop, spice, dried herb and seeped flowers. The grapes were brought into the winery for Rosé with lower Brix, well before the regular red batches came in and Brand did a short soak and stainless fermentation to preserve purity and vibrant freshness making for the wines zesty character and low alcohol feel on the lithe palate. This non Saignée Rosé is a non fruity and more retrained style making a quiet and purpose minded pink wine made to be a loyal and competent friend with a meal and a refreshing personality to enjoy in peace, great for picnics and beach or porch sipping.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 27, 2020

2019 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Vermentino, Adelaida Disctriict, Paso Robles.
The latest release of Tablas Creek’s Vermentino is one of the best and is perfect for Summer days, afternoons and evenings with excitingly fresh detail and a vividly pure form, its crisp and lively personality make it exceptionally well suited for warm weather and lighter cuisine. This vintage Vermentino marks Tablas Creek’s eighteenth bottling of this traditional Mediterranean varietal that thrives in a variety of soils and is widely planted though still not as well as respected as it should be and it has made a big impact in California in recent years finding a home in Paso Robles, thanks to Tablas Creek and their French Partners Chateau de Beaucastel for bringing their Chateauneuf du Pape cuttings over. Vermentino goes by a few names including Favorita in Piedmonte Italy and Rolle in parts of France and it arguably is best expressed band at its best on the Island of Corsica where it is called Vermentinu. While known principally in Sardinia, Corsica, and Northern Italy, Vermentino is also grown in the Rhone Valley, and as mentioned it is part of the collection of varietals in the famous Chateauneuf du Pape as well as in Côtes de Provence as a minor partner with Clairette and Marsanne. In California, the Vermentino grape has a few interesting champions, of course Tablas Creek, but also Randall Grahm of the iconic Bonny Doon Vineyard, who even makes a sparkling example, one of the first to bring Rhone style wines to a wider audience, in fact Grahm has told me that Vermentino could be one of the most important white grapes in the State with huge potential and the ability to counter the effects of climate change. Other important bottlings of California Vermentino include Ryme Cellars in Sonoma, where Megan and Ryan Glaab make two unique version, one with skin contact and Monterey’s Arroyo Seco AVA has fine expressions of Vermentino as done by Mark Chesebro, as well as Unti Vineyards in Dry Creek, where Mick Unti makes a striking version, to name a few of people finding a place of pride for this varietal in their lineups.

The 2019 Tablas Creek Vineyard Vermentino is dynamically vivid and brightly focused with a racy array of lemon/lime, white peach and subtle tropical notes, turning on the vibrant acidity mid palate adding some tangy tangerine, melon and wet stone in a zippy dry white wine that, while lighter in frame, has a nice sense of depth, mineral tones and extract. There is delicate floral notes and a sea shore salinity that make this vintage of Vermentino stand out and make it lip smacking, it is totally refreshing and entertaining on its own and great with food, especially sea foods, sardines, oysters, mussels in both and or creamy cheeses. The 2019 Tablas Creek Vermentino is 100% single varietal and comes from organic vines in the West Side of Paso Robles in the Adelaida District as was fermented exclusively in stainless steel, with Tablas’ winemaking team led by Neil Collins looking for vibrancy and purity of flavors. At 13% natural alcohol, the new Vermentiono feels electric and taut with near perfect balance between ripe fruit and tangy lift, thanks to the long cool even growing conditions. I am a huge Vermintino fan, especially the wines mentioned above and enjoy it in many different styles from the richer Tuscan and Sardinian versions, grown on sandy soils and clay or partial volcanic, that can be quite full bodied to the stony Corsican wines where they rival Chablis for class and complexity. The Corsica Vermentinu is not monolithic or done one way, the Island has many different soils and micro climates and the wines are produced using various methods and aged in diverse ways, like stainless, large cask and even amphora, as well with some getting lees aging too. Some of the best examples are imported by Kermit Lynch, look for Arena, Yves Leccia, Clos Canarelli and especially Domaine Comte Abbatucci. Tablas Creek has brought the best of the Rhone to California and they excel in their white wine examples from the zesty briny fresh Vermentino and Picpoul to the waxy Marsanne, plus Grenache Blanc as well as the powerful and oily rich Roussanne, these are all prime and thrilling wines to explore hitting the full range of what these grapes can do! The Vermentino was everything it promised to be at the beach and pleases without pretense or loudness, it is a joyous brisk white that with provide lots of fun over the coming year.
($27 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 26, 2020

2018 Vinca Minor, Old Vine Carignan, Mendocino County.
The Vinca Minor label was new to me and I was left very impressed by their latest release, an old vine Carignan from the all certified organic Hawkeye Ranch Vineyard in Mendocino County, home to many exciting ancient plots of Carignan, a Rhone varietal and famous in Corbieres in France’s Languedoc region, that seem to be finally getting the attention they deserve, especially wines as pretty and quaffable as this one. The Vinca Minor Hawkeye Ranch Carignan was done very much in line with modern trends or a lighter more natural style with a easy rustic charm using 100% whole cluster and indigenous or native yeast fermentation with classic foot and hand gentle maceration and pilage without any chemicals or additives with ultra low sulphur. The 2018 Carignan was raised in neutral, well seasoned, French oak barrels for 16 months which really allowed a supple texture to emerge and it has a graceful and detailed medium bodied palate led by blackberry, plum, candied cherry and currant fruits accented by liquid flowers, that reminds me a little of Ruche with this perfume taste along with a touch of loamy earth, brambly spices, cedar, whole cluster herbal notes and crunch, along with a hint of grilled rosemary, lavender, fennel and mint. The nose will fool you, it has a gamey funk at first and takes a while to clear off making you think this will show brett or an earthy edginess, but it blows to reveal the dark florals and red berry fruits, best to decant or be patient, the best is just a moment or two lagging a minute or so behind. Vinca does this Carignan, as well as a Mendocino Red, which has 35% French Colombard (a lesser white grape usually found in Brandy production, as in Cognac) co-fermented with full stems with Carignan and Valdiquie and a Carignan Rosé, plus a zippy Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc.

Vinca Minor is a small (family) micro winery based in Berkeley that was started in 2013 by Jason and Emily O’Hara Charles with a love of old vines from Mendocino that sparked an obsession with Carignan. Jason, who was pursuing a photo journalism after college traveled the world from Mexico City to the wilds of the Spanish countryside, fell hard for wine during a stay in New York as a server in Manhattan, where he found himself, as he puts, it surrounded by passionate wine experts. It convinced him to take the wine plunge, moving to California to be a harvest intern, which in turn led him back to Europe and to Pomerol, where he learned winemaking at Chateau Haut Goujon in Lalande de Pomerol. Saying he served soil, sun and grape he returned to California working for many famous and well known wineries in Napa Valley. Since then, he and his wife started their urban Vinca Minor winery and tasting room on Fourth St in Berkeley with a focus on natural wines. They are fascinated by California’s northern most wine regions, like the almost forgotten old vine sites in Mendocino County, like where this tasty wine comes from. The Charles family call their winery a great adventure in exploring wine’s history in Northern California and hoping to put it in the bottle. The winery’s name, Vinca Minor commonly known as vinca, periwinkle or dwarf periwinkle comes from the love of these blue/purple flowers and their labels showcase the their admiration of floral artistic expression. Vinca Minor, like Broc, Martha Stoumen and Las Jaras makes an interesting lineup of what is affectionately called “Glou Glou” or glug glug wine(s) in a similar vein, though distinct differences are there to be discovered, and it is well worth experiencing these Vinca Minor efforts. This fun Carignan has a nice freshness and no pretense, enjoy it with simple cuisine and drink it sooner v. later, as there is not reason to wait.
($32 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 25, 2020

2018 Hundred Suns, Gamay Noir, Tualatin Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Renée Saint Amour and Grant Coulter’s Hundred Suns is one of Oregon’s most exciting micro winery projects and I love everything they are doing here, especially their out of the box Pinots and this Gamay from the Tualatin Estate, a wine that saw 60% whole cluster carbonic fermentation, 40% traditional de-stemmed using small yielding selections of ripe fruit and indigenous yeasts and aged in amphora. Grant who for about decade worked under Mike Etzel at Beaux Freres, working his way up to head winemaker now consults and oversees the winemaking and vineyards for the upcoming Flaneur Winery, as well as these Hundred Sons, a label he started in 2015 getting fruit from top sites, including Etzel’s Sequitur Vineyard and Dick Shea’s famous Yamhill Carlton site. While the attention is rightly on his Pinot Noir bottlings, which are delicious, totally unique and stylish in way few Oregon can match with some carbonic fruit forward expressive flavors and whole bunches crunchiness that remind me of Philippe Pacalet, in Burgundy, Jean Foillard of Morgon fame and Timo Mayer in Australia’s Yarra Valley! Now, the Gamay always sells out fast, don’t let that bum you out, just get on the list for the next vintage and grab some of the Pinot Noirs, the Old Eight Cut Pinot is one of the best values in Oregon and the mentioned Shea and Sequitur single vineyard wines are off the charts! This wildly delicious ruby/garnet Gamay Noir is serious and passionately, in not painstakingly, hand crafted nectar, and while not an easy find with so little of it available, it is really worth the search.

The Hundred Suns 2018 Tualatin Estate Gamay is incredible in the way it has Gamay’s punchiness, but supple textures and remarkable depth, it is pretty lavish and flamboyant with loads of personality and charm showing racy plum, cherry and strawberry fruits along with cinnamon, cool chalk, Asian spices and crushed violets. The name “Tualatin” originates from the native peoples of this part of Oregon and means “gentle and easy flowing,” referring to the Tualatin River that meanders on its way to the confluence with the more famous Willamette River. Tualatin Estate Vineyard, originally established back in 1973 by wine pioneers Bill Fuller and Bill Malkmus, is one of the oldest and most respected vineyard cool climate sites in Oregon’s Willamette Valley near Forest Grove in a rain shadow in the Valley’s far northwest on marine sedimentary soils. This vineyard is mostly planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat and Pinot Blanc, with a tiny selection especially for Grant of true Gamay Noir, which all goes into this fascinating wine. The winemaking here is intriguing, the whole-cluster carbonic batch was done in sealed tank then aged in neutral French oak with the de-stemmed traditionally native yeast fermented batch getting its elevage in the terra-cotta Amphora for seven months, with both then being gently racked to blending tank for settling and bottled unfixed and unfiltered. This Gamay opens up with luxurious results and at 14.1% natural alcohol there is tons of palate impact, while still retaining the grape’s energy and enjoys a sexy mouth feel. I am saving a bottle for extended aging, as I am with a few single vineyard Pinots that I think will bring even greater rewards in 5 to 10 years, Hundred Suns should be on your radar, these offerings are stunning singular wines.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 24, 2020

2018 Pax, Syrah, Sonoma-Hillsides, Sonoma County.
The Pax Syrahs, especially this one, the Sonoma-Hillsides, are the gold standard in California for authentic varietal character and quality for the money, with this Sonoma Hillsides being one of the most sought after versions in the state. The 2018 is turning out to be an incredible vintage for California Syrah and this Pax Hillsides shows why with intense dark fruit and depth, but with a sense of delicacy and lower alcohol giving the wine elegance and inner beauty, there’s a lot to unpack here with layers of black raspberry, minty herbs, lavender oil, a hint of olive and an unfolding of plum, fig and blueberry notes all adding dimension in the glass. The earthy nature or gamey element is subdued at present, but should come out with time along with a rich floral component as this wine hits its stride. That said, this wine comes with heavy expectations and its deep purple and garnet color invites comparisons to famous addresses in the Northern Rhone. Pax Mahle is one of California’s best known, influential and respected winemaker, who has been incredible helpful to a whole new generation of small producers. Pax, a Rhone specialist, but who also has branched out into making some natural style alternative wines in recent years from unique and rare grapes, is most know for his towering and age worthy single vineyard Syrah bottlings, including his Castelli-Knight, Alder Springs and the Griffin’s Lair bottlings.

This wine,100% Syrah, the multi vineyard cuvee, 2018 Sonoma-Hillsides, was hand crafted with old world influence using a combination of whole bunches (100% Whole-Cluster), with Pax’s fermentation using only indigenous yeasts. In his Syrah these days there is a variety of vessels for elevage with some getting concrete vat(s) and some getting used French casks including larger barrels or puncheons, but with this wine though, Pax aged it completely in the cement tank for 10 months. all of which the allow the wine to show its true nature in a clear transparent form. Pax Mahle has been on top of the Syrah game in California for years and has refined His style, which has been honed or the last decade has come to match his personal vision of what Syrah should be, and that follows some of the great wines of France’s northern Rhone region, most like Cote-Rotie and Hermitage, but these are not wines that mimic those wines, these California wines should be looked at as equals, not copies, and they have their own personalities. The 2018 saw fruit sourced from top sites like Castelli-Knight Ranch, in the Russian River, Griffins Lair Vineyard, in the Petaluma Gap area of the Sonoma Coast and the Nellessen Vineyard, in the Sonoma Coast with a cross section of Sonoma’s soils including volcanics, marine sediments and some broken shales, sandy loams and gravelly elements. This Hillsides Syrah finished at 12.9% natural alcohol, but don’t be fooled, this is a dense wine that will really gain with some bottle age, be patient and be rewarded.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 23, 2020

2017 Weingut Mueller-Catoir, Scheurebe Trocken, Haardter Manderling, Pfalz, Germany.
I love Scheurebe and this Mueller-Catoir is one of if not the best dry version, with this ripe and expressive 2017 showing everything the grape has to offer, it delivers intensity and aromatic quality, it’s a thrilling German white wine from one of the most admired wineries in the Pfalz. This vintage is bursting from the glass with jasmine, liquid roses and spearmint lifting to the nose while the light to medium bodied palate delivers tangy grapefruit, white peach, quince, sour apple and pineapple fruits along with chalky mineral, saline, clove spice, wild fennel and the crisp, lip smacking finish keeps things severe and refreshing. Shuerebe, a very aromatic grape, also known as Samling 88 (Austria), was a seed crossing of Riesling and a little known varietal called Bukettrbe back in 1916 by Doctor Georg Sheu, hence the name, which became official as tribute to its creator. I should state my thanks for those details to Anne Krebiehl MW who presented these facts in her book “The Wines of Germany” also noting that for many years, it was thought Scheurebe was a crossing of Riesling and Silvaner, but recent studies has proved otherwise. Scheurebe grows best in Calcareous soils, with Muller-Catoir’s Pfalz version regarded as maybe the greatest expression of this grape, in particular their Trocken single Cru Haardter Mandelring example. The full range of wines at this property are amazing from the thrilling dry wines to the finely balanced sweet wines, everything at Mueller-Catoir is class, when it comes to the Pfalz, this and Von Winning are must try wines.

I’m a huge fan of Mueller-Catoir, thanks to long time importer and Riesling guru Terry Theise, who really introduced to the full lineup here many moons ago, their Rieslings are some of Germany’s best, but they have this awesome Scheurebe, as well as a great dry Muscat (Muskateller), maybe the best I’ve ever had, along with Pinot Blanc and Rieslaner, of which they do a fabulous sweet wine from. Weingut Mueller-Catoir has been family owned since 1774 with 9 generations tending the vines, as Theise notes, the winery is now run by Philipp David Catoir, who has Martin Franzen as his cellar master, hailing from the Mosel and formerly at Schlossgut Diel, took over the winemaking from the legendary Hans-Günther Schwarz in 2002. Müller-Catoir has gone holistic in recent years and farm mostly organic, but remain very practical with absolute quality demanded of the grapes here, there is no compromise at this place, they focus on purity and terroir. The vineyards in Haardt, where this wine comes from, are composed of primary rock (urgestein) and sandstone, with an increasing proportion of gravel lower on the slopes. This estate and the region has a long history of winegrowing with the Burgergarten site being first planted close to 700 years ago, and, as the winery notes. Mueller-Catoir which has a tradition of reductive winemaking implementing a gentle crush, a long skin contact, slow gentle pressing, and then ferments at warmer, according to the winery again, than customary fermentation temperatures in stainless steel to promote transparency, which this lovely Scheurebe shows, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years.
($49 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 22, 2020

1986 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Estate Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountain.
This 1986 Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot, shared with us by the winemakers Junior Banuelos and Denis Hoey at Odonata was showing beautifully, incredible really for a 34 year old wine with pretty details and a core of fruit without a severe fragility or sous bois, it impressed a crowd of Pinot Noir fans to near silence and awe! Hoey, owner at Odonata was mentored by Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard’s Jeff Emery and had access to this beauty, which we tried with an equally good 1985 version, it was tough to pick between them, in fact maybe more people liked the more expressive 1985, but I admired the delicacy of the 1986 and lighter frame that reminded me of a perfectly aged Burgundy with dried rose petals, a touch of damp earth, Christmas spices along with strawberry, cherry and plum fruits at its core, lingering on the medium bodied palate with minty herb and mushroomy accents. Jeff Emery began his career at the iconic Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard in 1979, serving an apprenticeship under the owner, Ken Burnap, and never moved on, basically taking over the winery in 2002. The original Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard property was a living history of the region, so it was sad when those old vineyards were lost to development in the later part of the 2000s, though Emery and Burnap to our eternal gratitude saved a big library of their wines and treasures like this can be found and admired. This wine’s color was impressive too, pretty dark crimson and with a gentle orange/brick edge, surprising, but seductive and still with a structured mouth feel.

When I was learning about wines and starting a career in the wine business I remember these wines from the 1990s, which were raw, robust and gripping wines that paid no heed to the modern approach and fashion of over polished and fruit bombs that were the rage at the time, though they could really blossom with age and patience, as this 1986 clearly shows. For many years, the Santa Cruz Mountains region was dominated by four wineries, Ridge Vineyards, David Bruce, Martin Ray/Mount Eden and Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, each with their own stylistic character and charm. They very first Petite Syrah I tried that I remember was a Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard version, they of course called it by the grape’s true name Durif, spurring me on to learn the history of the varietal, a process that captured my passions for wine knowledge, at the time it wasn’t all there on the internet! The Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, known now more for Pinot Noir was also a Rhone producer before it was a thing and made some cool Grenache over the years as well, so if you find old bottles of this winery around be sure to not miss them, especially the estate vineyard Pinots like this one if you see it, plus that Durif, they probably will live 50 years! The Santa Cruz Mountains region has many fabulous wineries and vineyard sites to explore now and Emery and Burnap are part of its legendary period in the 1970s and 1980s that led to many winemakers to be inspired to give this place a try, including Dennis Hoey at Odonata, who wines are getting better and better and well worth digging into, with his Santa Cruz Mountains efforts being exceptional!
($N/A) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 21, 2020

2010 J. Rochioli, Pinot Noir, Little Hill, Russian River Valley.
One of California’s most famous and historic Pinot Noir producers, Rochioli continues to make their rich and age worthy wines that when young show opulence, luxurious oak treatment and loads of pure Russian River flavors, but once they get some age they shed the more obvious sweet/smoky wood and gain a fine sense of delicacy and secondary complexity, as this 2010 Little Hill Pinot is doing right now. The Little Hill section sits below the Sweatwater and Big Hill plots on the southern side of the Rochioli estate just west of Westside Road and was mostly planted on this higher bench in the mid nineties to a collection of clones, mainly their own (Rochioli) West Block selection, along with some Pommard and Romanee-Conti, which all add to the depth and structure. With southeastern exposures and the ancient and not so ancient river bed soils make the Rochioli estate with its cooling influences from the marine gap that cuts up the river’s track a top Pinot Noir and Chardonnay area, along with neighbors Williams Selyem, this was ground zero for great Pinot Noir in the 1980s and 1990s when the grape was finally getting the attention in deserved in the state. The Little Hill, being part of the J. Rochioli single parcel series, gets aged in French oak, with probably 40 to 50% new medium plus toast barrique for between 15 to 18 months, plus some bottle resting before release, then of course I gave it another seven years in my own storage, which allowed it to develop to near perfection. I have learned to age my Rochioli wines, sometimes the hard way and I especially love them around ten years after release, oh and I definitely mean the Chardonnay as well!

The Rochioli family, now led by Joe Jr. and Tom Rochioli along with long time cellar master Terry Berring make seriously delicious and impactful wines, and I’ve long been a fan and while I have had access to many great wines over the years, Rochioli has a special spot in my heart, considering it took more than seven years for me to get on their mailing list, it seems unlikely knowing my general lack of patience! There is a surprisingly diverse cross section of soils across the Rochioli’s property and they pick and ferment each block separately. Tom notes, while this is a common practice in Burgundy, it was his dad who started it in the Russian River, with Rochioli being a pioneer, they were one of the first in the area to introduce, what they call a micro-batch process. Tom Rochioli believes that being able to taste unique differences between the diverse soil and clonal diversity that typifies the Russian River, plus a more hands off approach in the cellar, is what makes Rochioli the iconic producer it is. The 2010 is still a flamboyant and expressive wine with a nice freshness and vintage marker very much alive in the flavor profile, it delivers tasty layers of black cherry, tangy red currant, plum, cranberry and pretty strawberry fruits, a touch of loamy/stony earthiness, cedar and rose petal floral notes, adding a hint of black tea, cola bean and sassafras. With time in the glass the silken medium bodied palate pleases even more and the wine takes on a class and grace you’d expect from such a wine and the graceful length impresses, every sip is magic for this wine, absolutely in its prime spot, this was a particularly great bottle, I wish I had more!
($100-150 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 19, 2020

2017 Cume do Avia, Caíño Longo Tinto, Dos Canotos, Ribeiro, Galicia, Spain.
The native grape, Caiño Longo is usually used in blended wines, but is capable of doing lovely solo efforts and this bright low alcohol red wine from the talented group of friends at Cume do Avia from Spain’s Ribeiro D.O. is a fabulous effort with a crisp bright personality, similar to Fleurie (Cru Beaujolais Gamay) with a crunchy mineral freshness and racy red fruits. This winery is a hot ticket right now and they farm and use varietals with local significance, they have small plantings of thirteen different indigenous Galician grapes, all selected from ancient vines in the Ribeiro zone, and they have plans to plant many more, especially the long forgotten ones that they hope to re-discover and add to their collection. Led by Diego Collarte and his brother Álvaro, both grew up in Vigo, the latest city in the region, Cume do Avia is like many young Spanish producers that are school friends that have turned away from glitz of city life to get back to their roots, sometimes lost to 3 or 4 generations and finding their mission in the hard work of remote wine regions and long overlooked old vines using natural/organic farming as well as historic methods in the cellar, as they employ here. The terroir here, which is renown for white whites and close to the border with Portugal, is mainly granite based, but there is a diversity of soils in some of vineyards that Cume do Avia have near the Avia River, and this adds spice and complexity to their wines, with some sand, schist and even slate soils here as well. There is an underlying depth and richness though things are kept in firm check by its vibrant form, it certainly rounds out with food and should be allowed time to fill out, then it will show its best and bring a more joyous experience.

The 2017 Caíño Longo Tinto Dos Canotos fills the glass with a vivid ruby hue and delicate floral perfume as well as crushed red berries that leads to a medium bodied vivacious palate with under 12% alcohol, making for a refreshing and zippy red wine that adds that mineral tone, light spices and herbs gaining strawberry, sour cherry, vine picked briar laced raspberry, tangy red currant and lingering earth, rose petal and cinnamon. The lighter frame opens up texturally with air, but the wine stays quite puckering, tartly detailed and is great with a slight chill, it is strikingly vivid stuff and fun, being like Pinot in its ability to go with many cuisine options. These wines are serious efforts that enjoy your attention, though they have a friendly personality, like this one does and drink in what we call a Glou Glou (or glug glug) style, which is reserved for wines that don’t need much over thinking and are easy to quaff. The wine, coming form hand tended and harvested using biodynamic/holistic practices in the vineyards, and fermented with indigenous yeasts with some whole bunches, then the wines are aged in neutral vessels, some including chestnut casks that were more common in older times. This winery admits it has been a tough journey since they started in 2005 to now, where they have a demand for their wines with some disasters and set backs along the way, but I love this intense and vigorous Caíño Longo Tinto Dos Canotos and I can’t wait to taste more of their efforts, and I hear they had a big step up with their 2018 releases, so that is even more exciting. There is a lot to find joyous in the single varietal bottlings, but I also would not miss the blended efforts, make with Souson, Caiño Longo and Brancellao as well as others.
($42-50 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive