2016 Bow & Arrow, Air Guitar Red, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This Bow & Arrow Air Guitar is an unique Loire Valley, think Anjou, inspired red blend bursts from the glass with carbonic/whole cluster juiciness and bright intensity, made with natural wine stylings it’s a cuvee of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc, and while it seems at first to playful and fruity like a Cru Beaujolais, it takes on a more serious cord with air gaining the Cabernet’s tannic grip and the spicy stems while filling out in the glass. This ruby/garnet Air Guitar is from organic sites, with the Cabernet Sauvignon from Borgo Pass Vineyard and the Cabernet Franc from the biodynamic Johan Vineyard, it highlights the vintage with ripe flavors and expressive charm, and all though I think Scott Frank’s other red blend, the Gamay and Pinot Noir Rhinestones is revolutionary and a next level wine for Oregon, this one too grabs my attention and the effort is to be admired with layers of fresh picked blackberry, racy cherry, plum and tangy currant fruit along with a hint of jolly rancher, cinnamon, black olive. light mineral, with a herbal stemmy nervy groove and a faint cask note from the used French oak punchon it was aged in. While the winery says the rocking good Air Guitar is a self deprecating poke at attempting French style wines in America, it is certainly not a failed attempt and I’m continually impressed by their wines, especially their Gamay and Pinot Noir offerings along with their Sauvignon Blanc(s) and their sensational Melon de Bourgogne, which is briny saline and muscadet like, this is a winery to follow, and as a bonus the prices are stupidly reasonable. This is fun stuff from Bow & Arrow, drink now or hold for up to 5 years, these 2015-2016 reds and 2016-2017 whites plus the Rose are the best yet from these guys, don’t miss them.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Corison, Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa Valley.
Cathy Corison’s historic run continues with her 2014 Cabernets, and while the 2012 and 2013 versions were absolutely amazing wines, I must admit this 2014 St. Helena Napa Valley might be my all time favorite, it is a stunning wine without a single flaw I can detect. Winegrower Cathy Corison, the first woman winemaker/winery owner in Napa Valley, produces an artisan crafted, age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon that is terroir driven in the same way you’d think of the top Pauillac Bordeaux(s), sourcing great benchland vineyards between Rutherford and St. Helena, as well as growing her estate grapes for her Kronos and Sunbasket with organic practices, these are wines of depth and energy that have very few rivals. It’s been a top producer since 1987, with the Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon being sourced continuously from three benchland vineyards near the winery set on classic Bale gravelly loam with plenty of Rutherford dust, gravel and cobbles that allows for good drainage and aiding in ripening of grapes, Cathy works hard to achieve full ripeness without high sugars to promote lower natural alcohols and more life in these deeply flavored wines. Cathy’s winemaking is largely non-interventionist in style, she has always leaned toward the natural and her wines always show each vintage individually, she handles the grapes with extreme care and this Napa Cabernet saw a full 20 months of barrique aging, impressive for it’s purity and freshness this 2014 is just awakening in the bottle, but is remarkably balanced and joyful in it’s youth, though don’t be fooled this is a wine for the ages and is built to go 25 years at least with deep powerful fruit, solid tannins and vibrant acidity that explodes every detail on the palate. Layers of blackberry, marionberry, cassis/currant, plum and kirsch fruit core elements on the full bodied palate along with a surprising mineral note, sweet tobacco leaf, acacia/violet floral tones, a touch of smoky vanilla, sage, cedar and minty anise. Certainly less opulent and juicy than the 2013, I think this 2014 (which is like 1992 meets 2001) is even more captivating, complex and serious, it’s a thrilling Cabernet Sauvignon, this a wine that expresses the true greatness of Napa Valley, it’s honest and delivers a world class performance, it’s one of my top five Cabs of the vintage, maybe even in the top two so far with Ridge’s Monte Bello! This gorgeous black/purple and garnet stuff feels built and dense with an underlying grace, drink between 2021 to 2030, though it will be so hard to keep from opening it sooner, if you do, be sure to decant and have with robust simple cuisine.
($100 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive
2017 Lioco, Rosé of Carignan “Indica” Mendocino County.
One of California’s new generation of wineries, Lioco, owned by the Licklider family, the husband/wife duo Matt and Sara Licklider, they focus on natural style wines from cool climate sites, mostly extreme coastal ones in western Sonoma (Coast), Mendocino and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Matt has built up Lioco, especially in recent vintages, to a level that reminds me of Arnot-Roberts and Ceritas, his latest set of wines are very impressive with his Chardonnay, La Marisma, Santa Cruz Mountains being a huge stand out, it’s one of the best Chards I’ve tasted this year, but you’ll want to check out Lioco’s Pinot Noir, Saveria Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains, their Carignan “Sativa” Mendocino County and especially this intriguing Rosé. Lioco’s Indica Rosé of Carignan is a true natural Rosé, pick at about 19 brix and direct pressed with broken berries but still whole cluster in stainless steel tanks with a long cold ferment and extended malos, making for an intensely bone dry and refreshing pink wine from an old vine vineyard in the Talmage area in Mendocino. This site is rocky with a red clay underpinnings gives a burst of flavor to this wine, Licklider and winemaker Kai Kliegl really did a masterful job on this pink, it’s a mineral fresh dry Rosé, 100% old vine Carignan, from a vineyard that was planted back in the 1950’s, it comes in at only 11.9% and has plenty of driving acidity, but still appeals on the palate with tons of personality and character, it’s delicately pale salmon/pink and impresses for it’s cooly crisp details. Bright citrus, with unripe orange, watermelon, strawberry and tart cherry fruits on the brisk palate along with a steely mineral core as well as minty herb/sage, rosewater, chalky wet stones and apple skin. This flavorful and expressive Rosé is another top notch dry pink wine from California, perfect for our late blooming Summer, and Lioco is a winery to follow, without question these new releases are stunning!
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Sonnet, Pinot Noir, Tondre’s Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Anthony Craig’s Sonnet Tondre Pinot may be the best yet from this vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, it’s depth and delicacy is glorious and his long experience with this site and his input on planting has really paid off, this wine is everything you’d want in a classy Pinot Noir. Sonnet’s blocks are mostly Pommard clone set on the sandy loam making for a powerful, earthy and spicy expression and Craig has crafted a beauty from a concentrated vintage, it shows a gifted touch and the wine is very textural and lingering with a wonderful array of red fruits on the palate and sweet ripe tannins along with nice lift, it’s refined acidity giving an inner brightness and expressive tension. Racy black cherry, plum and strawberry fruits lead the way with hints of briar, tea spices, candied orange peel and soft oak notes, there’s so much to admire here it takes awhile to take it all in. It was great to catch up with the Sonnet wines and winemaker Anthony Craig, it was absolutely a thrill to see how good the current set of wines are drinking, especially this 2015 Tondre’s Grapefield with it’s layered fruit, pretty ruby/garnet hue, subtle floral perfume, length and wonderful mouth feel, it’s a special wine that deserves merit and praise, it’s elegant medium bodied form is a joy to behold in the glass, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2017 Reeve, Riesling “The Prism” Mendocino County.
The Reeve Riesling “The Prism” is ultra high acid example that bristles with electric shock like vibrancy and steely verve, this is one of the better versions of this varietal you are likely to find, it reminds me of the Rheinhessen’s Wittmann, which is saying a lot! Reeve, a new label by Noah and Kelly Dorrance, Missouri natives now based in Dry Creek, is a small winery, a follow up to Dorrance’s success with Banshee Wines with a focus on Sangiovese, but also crafting small lot wines like this wonderful Riesling, as well as a lineup of Pinot Noir(s) using the talents of Ross Cobb (Cobb Wines, Hirsch, Flowers, Williams Selyem) and Katy Wilson (LaRue, Kamen, Flowers) in the winemaking. Reeve works with only sustainable, organic or biodynamic vineyards and this vivid Prism Riesling shows the energy and purity that comes from great farming, and care in the cellar with extremely clear and clean layers of flavors, it shows lime, grapefruit, white peach and tangy quince along with a steely core of mineral, wild herb, spice and delicate citrus blossom in a wine of lightness and zest. The heightened acidity is eye popping and is very refreshing, but with time in the glass a more complex side starts to show up with verbena, kiwi, wet river rock, rosewater, faint tropical notes and lemongrass/bitter extract adding to the whole experience in this impressive and intense California Riesling. Enjoy with oysters, cured meats/melon and sushi, especially a creamy Toro or Uni, drink up, and be sure to check out all the Reeve offerings, I highly recommend their Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and their Rose, even though it will be hard to find, and if you get up to Sonoma, you should check out the winery and tasting room.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Chateau Pradeaux, Bandol Rouge, Provence, France.
Etienne Portalis, the fourteenth generation, winemaker at Pradeaux has made a brilliant and deep Bandol in the 2013 vintage, it is my pick for #Mourvedre day, it is a traditional and old school wine that is made with the blessing of the warm Mediterranean sun and his family’s old vines. The Chateau Pradeaux, founded back in 1752, is a Provence legend and the house style is natural and powerful with Etienne only using whole cluster with stems, these are wines that have firm structures from the raw/authentic skin tannins and wines that can age many decades, that said, this 2013 shows a beautiful freshness of detail and refinement after it’s extended time in large used cask. The 2013 is deep in color with a dark garnet hue around a blackish core with an earthy profile that opens to a full bodied and complex wine, which almost 100% Mourvedre with a tiny amount of other black grapes, it reveals layers of dusty blackberry, kirsch, plum and boysenberry fruits, peppery briar spice, leather, chalky stones, anise, bitter coco and a touch of floral lift with a mix of violet and lavender as well as a cedar/tobacco element. This 2013 is drinking with an impressive palate impact with plenty of dry grip and force, but turns generous with air with a ripe opulence allowing lots of pleasure and textural charm, it’s a serious example that will gain further with short to mid term cellaring. Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant, Chateau Pradeaux is without question, along with Domaine Tempier, is a standard barer of the region, and this 2013 is a beauty that will be perfect with rustic and simple country cuisine, it’s a big, bold and robust Bandol with a natural sex appeal and inner energy, drink over the next 10 to 15 years.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2016 Martha Stoumen, Nero d’Avola, Mendocino County.
Martha Stoumen is a new vigneron that you should check out, she’s already got an amazing CV and is one of California’s stars in the natural wine movement, though I find her wines well crafted and pragmatic without the usually natty clumsiness, there less dogma and more passion crafted. Stoumen is to California what Bow & Arrow is to Oregon. This ruby/garnet hued Nero d’Avola, inspired by her time at COS, where she worked with Giusto Occhipinti, famous for his natural wines, some of which are aged in amphora like the ancients made them and where his niece Arianna Occhipinti crafts her natural styled offerings too, in Vittoria on the southern side of Sicily where Frappato and Nero d’Avola are grown. Stoumen believes in organic/holistic vineyard management and leases and farms most of her vineyards where she can, otherwise she only buys grapes grown by generational farmers that understand their land and respect their total environment, something Martha admires and respects. Her Nero is bright and tangy with a garnet garnet hue in the glass and it shows a burst of wild cherry, plum and red peach on the palate, reminding me of the mentioned Occhipinti and with it’s light wood note it has almost a Jean Foillard Morgon class to it, this is highly entertaining low alcohol wine, at 12.4%, with a fine structure and a mineral tone adding an array of spices and chalky stones to the vivid/vibrant fruit core. This is a medium bodied, but full flavored wine that impresses from start to finish, it has tons of personality and charm, it captures the true Nero d’Avola varietal essences along with it’s California terroir, it is utterly delicious and thought provoking, it’s a wine to spend an evening with and is best enjoyed with rustic cuisine and romantic company. Layers of bitter coco, anise, cedar, earth, florals and tangy raspberry join the party with air, this Martha Stoumen Mendocino Nero d’Avola is seriously good and complexly layered, while staying fresh and playful throughout, drink now.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Etienne Becheras, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “Le Prieure d’Arras” Northern Rhone, France.
Etienne Becheras, a fifth generation vigneron, has a small estate domaine with parcels in both Crozes-Hermitage, where the family lives and in Saint-Joseph, which are all farmed organic and where he has spent the better part of his adult life rebuilding the vineyards and rescuing parcels so his domaine more resembles what it was in his grandfather’s era. I had had his beautiful and soulful Saint-Joseph a few times in the past, but earlier this year I got to meet the man himself at one of his importer’s, Rosenthal Wine Merchant, west coast stops and taste through the extended lineup, all which impressed me further, his 2015’s are absolutely gorgeous, especially this Crozes-Hermitage Rouge Le Prieure d’Arras, from his home grown Syrah vines. Becheras, an ex-Rugby player, is a big guy and you can tell he works hard on his steep slopes, he is a man of the earth and there is no pretense nor illusion of fame or wealth, he will just pursue his own passion and make wines that are traditional and pay homage to his ancestors, his life and that of his wines reflect this terroir. The 2015 Le Prieure d’Arras, 100% Syrah is pure Crozes-Hermitage, slightly rustic and authentic, but with alluring aromas of violets and sweet black fruits leading the way to a medium full palate of boysenberry, blueberry, damson plum and tangy currant fruits along with leather, minty licorice, peppercorns, greek olive, a hint of truffle and lingering kirsch. The ripe tannins make their presence known, though it’s youthful freshness keeps things vibrant and the fruit always things covered, with air this Crozes expands and adds flint and loamy earth as well as bitter lavender adding a nice contrast to the flow of blue and black fruit, this is a wine that you can’t seem to let go of, every sip grabs your attention and seduces with it’s depth, dark garnet/purple hue and natural power of attraction, it’s an amazing wine for the price. Etienne Becheras uses old school methods in the cellar, whole cluster, native yeasts and extended elevage in well seasoned used cask, there is nothing fancy employed, but it all works here and I highly recommend all of his wines, they are terroir driven and will reward cellaring in the short and mid term, drink this one over the next 5 to 7 years.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Trocken, Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg “Ehrenfels” Rheingau Germany.
The Leitz 2011 Trocken Schlossberg Ehrenfels is really a (pre Leitz VDP labeling) Grosses Gewachs and it’s pedigree shows, this under the radar bottling is amazingly pure and terroir driven, racy and mineral focused, but with dense extract and leesy class that provides a Puligny like mouthfeel and textural beauty. The Grand Cru (Grosse Lage) Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg is one of the world’s absolute best vineyards and it’s stunningly picturesque, it is one of my favorite places on earth, it’s a site of special serenity and energy rising above the Rhein River with it’s ancient castle “Ehrenfels” that gives it it’s name overlooking a narrows that used to be a place where (boat) tolls were paid to pass, but it’s the vines that are the real historic interest hanging on to the steep slate hillsides. Leitz’s plot and parcels here are arguably the best with direct southern exposure and with the most intense slopes, making for incredible intensity in the wines, and this gorgeous 2011 is really blossoming in the bottle and drinking amazing right now. My two extended visits to the Rheingau have had lengthy hikes up here, it’s almost perfectly between old town Rudesheim and Assmannshausen, and even in the rain it’s a must when visiting the region, and it’s right across the Rhein from where the Nahe meets up giving a view up the western part and vineyards past Bingen. Johannes Leitz, one of Germany’s best wine producers, loves purity of form, he prefers extra clear musts and cold/fresh ferments, and while the top crus get aging in stuckfass, he uses lots of glistening stainless steel vats, his wines are full of energy, charm and try to highlight each vineyard site, this is especially true in the Rudesheimer Berg Crus, each have their own personality and it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite between them, the Roseneck, Kaisersteinfels Terressen and (this) Schlossberg all offer a unique expression, like Puligny, Chassagne and Meursault do. The 2011 Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg “Ehrenfels” Trocken, which was happily drunk with fresh sushi, really got my attention for it’s depth and richness while being so dynamic and vibrant with perfect pleasure and tension, it flowed across the palate with beautiful texture showing a lovely white flowers and rose petal perfume balanced up with a nice mouth watering salinity and flintiness with lime, green apple, lemon curd, white fig and almond notes along with steely mineral, brioche, peach pit, apricot flesh and river stones. With air the body gains and it rivals an aged Burgundy for impact and grace, without losing it’s Riesling quality and sense of place, it’s as mentioned an under the radar wine and vintage that I wish I had more of! Drink now and for the next 5 to 7 years, it is a white wine that even appeals to red wine drinkers, it’s something you should always keep a eye out for, especially since the newer vintages are labeled GG (Grosses Gewachs) an fetch a much higher price!
($39-55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive (reviewed 5/18/18)
2017 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
I recently tasted three brilliant California dry Summer Rosés that you should get on quickly, Lioco’s Rosé of Carignan, the Reeve Rosé of Pinot Noir, which I reviewed last week and Richard Alfaro’s Alfaro Family Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Rosé of Pinot Noir, always a favorite of mine and an awesome value. The Alfaro dry Rosé is well balanced and does have full Pinot flavors, while still being zippy, vibrant and cooly crisp, it’s just not overtly severe or stingingly acidic, great on it’s own for warm evening sipping pre dinner or beach/sunset quaffing. This 2017 is a pink Pinot with a depth of flavor and texture that is not all that common, the grapes were de-stemmed and placed in temp controlled tanks where the grapes’ own weight did the crushing, then after a very long 20 hours on their skins, the grapes were pressed and the juice was cold-fermented in a large stainless steel tank, which lasted about 4 weeks, with the wine then rested for 4 months in neutral oak, all of which goes a ways in explaining the wine’s completeness and mouth feel. It’s a serious Rosé from start to finish with a brightly vivid salmon/pink hue in the glass and a burst of distilled raspberry, watermelon, strawberry and zesty citrus, wet stones with lovely floral notes on the nose with lingering rosewater, mineral and a hint of spice on it’s steely frame, it comes in at just over 13% natural alcohol, which allows a fullness of expression and giving the impression of density, though still feeling light and refreshing on the palate. Complex and compelling all by itself, this Rosé certainly can match up with a variety of cuisine, from robust and spicy, perfect with BBQ and lighter fare as well including shell fish, poultry dishes and cured ham, stocking up while it lasts is a good idea, drink over the next 5 to 7 months, no need to wait.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive