Category Archives: Wine Articles

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 24, 2018

2016 Domaine Font Sarade, Vaqueyras, Les Hauts de la Ponche, Rhone Valley, France.
The Domaine Font Sarade wines are crafted by the father and daughter team of Bernard and Claire Burle and they have done a masterful job of their Les Hauts de la Ponche Vacqueyras 2016, a stunning wine from a stunning vintage, made from 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 25% Mourvedre. I’ve been wanting to try the wines from this small Domaine for a few years, so I’m glad I got my hands on some of this stuff, especially as 2016 is looking like a rockstar vintage, making this particularly good timing. The Burle’s are traditional in their winemaking and are looking to translate individual Lieu-Dits and showcase their unique terroirs, they make a few Cotes-du-Rhone(s), Ventoux, a Rose, Cru Gigondas and Vacqueyras from family owned and farmed vines. The 2016 Font Sarade Vacqueyras is 100% de-stemmed and is fermented and aged in cement vats for absolute purity and allows for the clay and limestone soils to shine through, and with such a vintage as 2016 you get a massively appealing wine, rich in flavor, detail and life, coming in at a full 14.5% natural alcohol this has as much impact as a Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, but at a tiny fraction of the price, making it a steal! This 2016 is grapey fresh at first, with air it gains a deeper almost chocolatey density with an appealing dark purple and garnet hue in the glass, it’s un-endowed by anything except fruit purity and terroir influences with layers of crushed violets, minty herbs, lavender and black currant, boysenberry and radiant kirsch, adding pepper, dusty plum, anise and tart strawberry with air, in an impressive, youthful and compact wine. The freshness combined with perfect ripeness makes this an outrageously good Vacqueyras that while tight expands on the medium/full palate, while the natural tannin keeps everything focused and well structured, this will be an intriguing wine to follow over the next 5 to 10 years, and while I usually like a bit of stem complexity, this wine seems to lack for nothing. It’s hard to imagine not to get a case or two, but harder to imagine not drinking as fast as you can either, this is everything you ever want from this region and more, I say get as much as you can, while you can!
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 23, 2018

2016 Vietti, Barbera d’Asti DOC “Tre Vigne” Piedmonte, Italy.
One of the most reliable and delicious red wines on earth, the Vietti Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne never disappoints with a energy filled palate and a rush of dark fruits it’s one of the best values around. 2016 is turning out to be a thrilling year in Piedmonte for reds especially with sublime Dolcetto(s) and Barbera(s) like this Vietti, it’s deep and ripe in flavor and fresh with exciting acidity. Luca Currado makes some of the best wines in Italy, known for his fantastic Cru Barolo(s), he also, along with Giorgio Rivetti and Giuseppe Vajra does exceptional Barbera as well, these are wines that have raised the Barbera game in recent years. Vietti is a storied winery that dates back to the early years of the 20th Century when it was founded by Mario Vietti, who started bottling wines for himself and focused the family business on the grapes of the region. The biggest rise at Vietti was after World War II when Alfredo Currado, who married into the Vietti family by way of Luciana Vietti, in 1952 starting making wines from single vineyard sources, this was a new idea in Piedmonte’s Barolo zone, he was one of the first to vinify from Cru plots in famous sites such as as Brunate, Rocche and Villero, and he “cru-designated” the wines, also he helped save the local Roero white grape Arneis from extinction, and was later known as the “Father of Arneis”! The Vietti wines come mostly from the Castiglione Falletto vineyards, in the heart of the Barolo zone, these are soulful and remarkable wines that show their terroir and character of sandy-calcareous soil that highlight this area and that gives them unique tannic spine, but with beauty in the nose and lovely elegant details. That said this Vietti comes from the Asti zone with a bit more granite and marl that heightens the perfume and sense of lightness that gives a feline and feminine sensation to the wine with the grapes coming from vineyards in Agliano Terme and several other villages in the hills around Barbaresco.The Tre Vigne Barbera d’Asti is crafted with a cold maceration in stainless steel tank, then Luca fermented the musts for approximately 2 weeks, with gentile daily pumping overs, after which he leaves the wine for an extra week of maceration, then it is racked over to oak for malolactic conversation and raised in a combination of large cask, barriques and stainless barrels for a full 18 months. This makes for a rich and opulent mouth feel and this 2016 while lively, is warm and smooth on the medium/full palate with satiny layers of black cherry, blackberry, juicy plum and spicy/sweet currants in a darkly purple and ruby edged red. Building density as it gets air, this wine is certainly impression in form and delivers a stylish charm that you don’t often see in a wine in this price class adding a vibrant array of secondary elements that includes light wood notes, a mix of florals, mineral tones, a touch of earth and a hint of sweet and sour herbs. I could drink this stuff every day and it’s brilliant with robust cuisine and makes simple dishes shine, it’s a flexible wine that also is absolutely perfect with Fall flavors and Holiday fare, drink often.
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 22, 2018

2016 Weingut Von Schubert-Maximin Grünhauser, Riesling Kabinett, Abtsberg, Mosel, Germany.
The beautiful Kabinett Abtsberg 2016 is a crystal clean and mineral driven Riesling that while off dry and generous has a dry feel and complexity of flavors that make it far more serious than you’d expect. Brilliant layers of classic green apple, lime and peach fruits along with hints of earth, wet slate and a touch of tropical essences all come through on the vivid light/medium palate, this wine really impresses for it’s detail and quality in the glass. The Maximin Grünhaus estate lies at the foot of a long steep south-facing slope on the left bank of the Ruwer river, about two kilometres before it joins the Mosel. The history of this place shines through in the wines and I am always intrigued to hear about it’s past, the estate belongs to the Von Schubert family and is divided into three separate but contiguous vineyards: the Abtsberg, the Herrenberg, and the Bruderberg. According to the winery, each of these vineyards has its own distinct micro-climate, gradient and soil composition, differences in terroir which explain the unique character of the wines made at Grünhaus. The Abtsberg wines harvested from this vineyard were originally destined for the table of the Abbot (or Abt) of the Abbey of St Maximin. The site covers 14 hectares, parts of which have been planted with vines for over a thousand years, set on blue Devonian slate and the hillside runs south-east to south-west, achieving a gradient (slope angel) of nearly 70%. These Abtsberg wines, again according to the estate, are characterized by a finely structured subtle minerality, a racy acidity, generous fruit and great delicacy, of which I totally agree, especially with this Kabinett by Maximin Grünhaus, and they are also amongst the longest lived Rieslings of the region. Stefan Kraml took charge of viticulture and viniculture at Grünhaus. Since that time, the wines of the estate have benefited from his uncompromisingly high standards, the Grünhaus cuverie is sited conveniently close to the vineyards so that harvested grapes can be delivered to the press within a matter of minutes. Grünhaus employs a natural clarifying overnight via sedimentation, then the musts are brought to an optimal fermentation temperature, and fermented with naturally occurring wild yeasts (Sponti) in classic large oak casks (Fuder casks) or in some cases using small stainless steel tanks. These techniques promote optimal development of mineral intensity and fruit purity from the Abtsberg slate soils and ensures the longevity of their Rieslings. Neither the must nor the finished wine are fined and uniquely in the last two years most all the the oak for the barrels has come from the estate’s own forests, and the barrels are crafted by a local cooper, everything done here is to highlight their terroir. I love these wines, they are not flashy or overt, but oh so pleasing and stylish, they are like drinking in history, enjoy the Abtsberg Kabinett over the next 5 to 10 years.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Happy #GrenacheDay 2018 Special California Grenache

2017 Sheldon Wines, Grenache, Luc’s Vineyard, Sonoma County.
It’s tradition for me to dig out a bottle of Sheldon Grenache to celebrate #grenacheday, and today, well September 21st, 2018, I had to change it up as I have drunk all of my old vintages of it, can you hear the tears? So, I opened a new release sample from Dylan and Tobe Sheldon, owners of this small “micro” winery based in Santa Rosa, it being the upcoming 2017 Luc’s Vineyard Grenache from a tiny hillside vineyard in the new Fountaingrove AVA, just south of the Russian River Valley region, with cool Pacific influences and a interesting mix of soils and exposures. Dylan is an evangelist for Grenache and has been since the late nineties and has crafted small versions of his own since about 2003, in fact he made wine at Chateau de Saint-Cosme in Gigondas on his honeymoon, with his wife Tobe, under the famed Louis Barruol! This 2017 was whole cluster, that was very gently bladder pressed on a part Champagne style cycle, a fraction schedule with only two barrels made. The maceration was classic with a lots of hand working and there is some youthful gripping extract, while the texture is round and medium bodied with fine acidity and remarkably delicate in detail and flavor. The aromatics are incredible and you can whiff this stuff from miles away, with a heady mix of deep floral tones, spice and anise coming from the glass before leading to a vivid and vibrant palate of mouth watering layers of tangy red currant, garden strawberry, plum and peppered raspberry that is much more subtle than you expected from the nose in this glimmering garnet/ruby colored 100% Grenache. Crushed lilacs, dried lavender, minty herb and melted black licorice all make fleeting appearances in the back ground along with a touch of iron, dusty pomegranate and briar/savory elements that make this a racy wine, it’s not a wine that isn’t overtly ripe or fruity, but one that should gain from another few years in bottle, it will add a more generous nature over time. Grenache in California tends to be it’s best with either longer elevage and or extra time in the cellar, and this one clearly only hints at it’s potential, as nice as it is now, there’s much more to come.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 21, 2018

2017 Ameztoi “Stimatum” Getariako Txakolina Tinto, Spain.
The Basque Beaujolais! The Ameztoi Stimatum (Esteemed) is 100% Hondarribi Beltza from vines grown on limestone in the Getaria region of northwestern Spain with a vine age from 10 to 100 years old and is fermented and aged in stainless steel. Grown on an exposed peninsula north of Bilbao this red was done with native yeasts and bottled with that touch of spritz like the whites usually have, making for a dry, but fruity fresh, easy to quaff wine with low natural alcohol and soft in tannin. This maybe one of the most pleasing, intriguing and fun picnic wines in the world, it’s deep purple/garnet color contrasts with it’s bright lightness of body. Ameztoi is one of the top producers of Getariako Txakolina with Ignacio Ameztoi being the seventh generation of his family, carrying on their tradition of winemaking Txakolina in Getaria. The winery owns 20 hectares of vineyards in the best sites which are from vines that can almost be seen from St. Sebastian, crafting wines that have terroir and the influence of the cool Atlantic Ocean. This 2017 Ameztoi Stimatum, with it’s skin contact for 20 days is beautifully dark in the glass and has a spicy and floral bouquet opening to it’s light/medium palate with crushed violets, white pepper, fresh picked wild berries, black cherry and racy currant fruits along with a zippy acidity, a touch of cinnamon, basil/herb and a hint of almost carbonic creaminess. Those that like Gamay, Dolcetto or Trousseau wines will love this red, it is so drinkable and friendly with a wide range of cuisines, it just makes for huge smiles, drink this stuff up fresh.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 20, 2018

2017 Pax, Trousseau Gris, Fannuchi Wood Road Vineyard, Sonoma County.
Trousseau Gris, a natural mutation from the red Trousseau grape, most commonly found in the Jura region of France, though more interesting is that it is was once called “Gray Riesling” and was once widely planted in California, but sadly that declined sharply in the 1980s until it was almost completely wiped out by the 1990s. Trousseau Gris can still be found inter-planted in a few old vine Zinfandel vineyards, and Pax’s Trousseau Gris comes from the only standing block in California, the ten acre parcel of the Fannuchi Wood Road Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. These days Trousseau Gris is mostly found in the Jura, Alsace, Lorraine and sometimes in the Champagne wine region, as well as tiny plantings in eastern Europe like Hungary, it makes for a bright and slightly phenolic white, Pax’s looks like it has a touch of skin contact or was gently whole cluster pressed? With a golden hue and pink/orange edges that gives a nice balancing bite to this wonderful fresh wine. Pax Mahle tends to ferment his Trousseau Gris in cement vat with helps with textural feel and he raises it in well seasoned French cask for a period of about 4 months to settle it, making for a dry and focused wine that delivers layers of citrus, spring blossoms, savory notes and shows lemon/lime, kumquat, a touch of orange peel, bitter herbs, wet stone and lingering unripe peach and green melon. Refreshing, briskly crisp, mineral infused and vibrant at under 12% natural alcohol, Pax’s Trousseau Gris has a nice tension and plays well with lighter cuisine, especially good with shell fish, I can imagine clams, mussels and oysters with this fun and unique wine, drink now. Pax, known for his world class Syrah and Rhone style wines, also makes a great set of alternative wines, some that were once under his Wind Gap label, like this Trousseau Gris, but be sure to check out his awesome Chenin Blanc, Carignane, Gamay Noir, Trousseau Noir and his Valdiguie as well!
($26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 19, 2018

2016 Drew Family Cellars, Syrah, The Ornbaun, Mendocino Ridge.
The new vintage of Drew “The Ornbaun” Syrah, a beautiful wine with an intense spicy nature, is a blend of two vineyards, both on silty clay and loam(y) marine sedimentary soils, on the western side of Anderson Valley. With the vineyard sites being on the extreme side of cool climate, one Valenti Ranch at 1,350 feet up, planted to McDowell and Cote-Rotie Clones is just 6 miles from the Ocean and the other Perli Vineyard, which sits at 2,400 feet, that is planted to Chave Selections (Hermitage Clones) with a few vines that are also inter-planted with Grenache and Mourvedre. Drew is now one of the hottest wineries in California with Jason Drew making some of the state’s best wines, the label was founded as a tiny operation, with Jason and Molly Drew starting Drew eighteen years ago with a clear goal in mind, which was to: to craft small lot coastal wines that express site specificity and traditional varietal character. While the beginnings of Drew began in the Santa Rita Hills AVA in 2000, with a set of Pinots and Syrah, they transplanted their small operation to the Mendocino Coast in 2005 to establish their estate ranch and winery, where they craft mostly ultra cool climate and high elevation Pinot Noir and Syrah. The Drew’s continue their long standing partnerships with several local vineyard growers who share their passion for sustainable and meticulous mostly organic farming practices, including Morning Dew Ranch, Valenti Ranch and Perli Vineyard. These vineyard sources are chosen for their climate, clonal selection and complexity of soil types, while Drew’s cellar approach is restrained and his winemaking practices remain focused on traditional methods, that includes a high percentage of whole cluster and native yeast fermentations, with gentile hand punch-downs and in most instances, without any no fining or filtering, as well as using a low number of new barrels per vintage. The 2016’s, and especially this “The Ornbaun” is wonderfully delicate in fruit and deep in spice and lift, taking some serious time to open up in the glass, it has loads of iron, red and black pepper as well as sticky lavender, high toned red currant, cherry and plum, later adding a darker sense of blackberry, boysenberry and blueberry along with hints of violets, chalky stones and wood notes. At this stage it seems a little shy, when compared with 2013, 2014 and 2015, so allow more development in bottle to give rich flavors, even though it is medium bodied and fresh now, perfectly going with food, it should get better, fuller and lengthier over the next 3 to 5 years, patience looks to be rewarded here. I absolutely love the earthy tones, energy and vibrant details of this Drew  “The Ornbaun”, it’s one of the best values in their gorgeous lineup, there isn’t a wine in Jason’s latest set that disappoints and as mentioned in the last two vintages this winery is making some of the best wines in California bar none! The Pinot and Syrah here are just exceptional and if you haven’t joined their list you are missing out.
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 18, 2018

2017 Kelley Fox Wines, Pinot Gris, Maresh Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The racy and unique skin contact (almost like a Rosé or Vin Gris) Maresh Pinot Gris from Kelley Fox, one of Oregon’s stars, is brilliant in detail and is a serious complex wine that almost defies it’s category, as John Paul of Cameron’s Rouge de Gris does, and Fox’s version is interesting for it’s texture and more powerful presence in the glass, while the Loire model tends to be a more pale, austere and minerally crisp in style as Denis Jamain’s Domaine de Reuilly is, by comparison. Fox explains her Pinot Gris with her winemaker experience as follows, it was produced from self-rooted vines planted in 1991 at the historic Maresh Vineyard, the 2017 Pinot gris was 100% destemmed and fermented in two 1.5 ton “macrobin” fermentors. One pigeage (foot-treading) by her, personally, this happened each day with about close to a 14-16 days skin contact prior to the wine being pressed at dryness. The elevage was in an old world if not ancient style uterine-shaped concrete amphora vat. The Maresh Pinot Gris is dry white wine that has the pink/reddish hue of skin contact and has enough acid to feel more Rosé like than a red wine, but with a touch of tannin and savory notes. There’s an almost smokiness on the palate as well as nice generous bright fruits which includes strawberry, apple skins, sour cherry and a peach element as well as mineral tones, dusty stones and snappy spices. This wine is more intriguing than pretty in the taste, but there is an appealing rustic charm that keeps you coming back and it’s much more lovable with food, drink it up!
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 17, 2018

2016 Domaine Emmanuel Darnaud, Crozes-Hermitage, Miss en Bouche, Northern Rhone, France.
One of the Northern Rhone’s best kept secrets and producer of some of finest values in the region, Domaine Emmanuel Darnaud crafts some excellent Syrah(s) from his tiny set of parcels in the Crozes-Hermitage area, he started his domaine in 2001 with just postage stamp (size block) of vines but worked his way up to a more serious set of vineyards, all in southern side of Crozes-Hermitage set on the zone’s Glacial alluviums of mostly smooth pebbles. His painstaking work in the vineyard yields amazing results and how he can sell this beautiful and authentic wine at under $20 is one of the great and most pleasurable mysteries in the world of Syrah! The 2016 is utterly delicious with an earthy intensity that starts with porcini/truffle and gamey Crozes purity before opening to beautiful violets and blueberry notes. Darnaud’s Crozes Mise en Bouche is a fine example of time and place, yummy from start to finish adding bright peppery spice, a touch of anise, dried herbs and damson plum as well as mineral notes and a touch of kirsch. Lighter in frame than some, there’s no whimpiness, but rustic layers of classic Northern Rhone Syrah at it’s best. Fermented in concrete vats and rested in small barrels, this 100% Syrah, 100% de-stemmed cuvee you’d never guess it had one third new oak such is the refinement and quality of fruit found here. This is a vintage to buy as much as you can, it drink lovely now, and should easily go for a decade too! Search this one out, it’s a winner, and a no brainer for the price!
($19 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 16, 2018

2015 Navarro Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Méthode A L’Ancienne, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County.
One of California’s best value Pinots, the Navarro Anderson Valley is a classic wine with very ripe opulence and satiny texture, especially with this 2015 version, which is beautifully full, expressive and full of rich details. This wine is a no brainer when you see it on a restaurant wine list, it’s a low quilt and quality treat with lush textures, warm and generous fruit and delicate spice as well as well judged wood notes. Not far from the Mendocino coast and set in the middle of the Anderson Valley, Navarro Vineyards is a long time local legend and place you must stop at when in the area, they have a vast array of wines to sample with their off-dry Gewürztraminer and this Méthode A L’Ancienne Pinot Noir being two of my favorites to pick up at their tasting room on Hwy 128 in Philo, not too far away Boonville. The family, including Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn, Aaron and Sarah Cahn Bennett run Navarro and are always smiling faces at the winery, which also produce old vine Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Cabernet, A Brut Sparkler, Rosé, their Alsace style Edelzwicker, a top end reserve style Pinot Noir called Deep End Blend as well as a crisp and dry version of Riesling just to name a few! Navarro discovered early on that Pinot Noir wine tastes and smells less manipulated if the fermenting must is punched down by hand rather than using modern pumps, so hence the name and style on the Methode A L’Anicienne, they are looking to capture the purest essence of the vintage and keep a sense of place and while the 2015 is forward in style it has a lovely balance and seamless layers with 40% new French oak, which is way up from normal as the crop was smaller and more concentrated and soaked up the wood well. The Navarro 2015 comes in at under 14%, but feels luxurious on the palate, almost thick with black cherry, plum and raspberry fruits cascading in the mouth with a lush impact along with hints of cedar, tea spices, rose petals, cola bean and smoky vanilla. Not overly complex, but easy to love and rewarding this Navarro Pinot should be enjoyed sooner v. later, over the next 2 or 3 years.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive