Category Archives: Wine Articles

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 11, 2020

Latest Review

n.v. R. Pouillon & Fils, Cuvee de Reserve Brut Champagne, France.
The beautiful and creamy moussed Reserve Brut by Champagne R. Pouillon & Fils is a luxurious comforting bubbly to celebrate life and smile through these stressful times, it is wines like this that keeps attitudes adjusted and fears in check allowing relaxed smiles as well as moments of tranquility and gratitude to shine through. The recent disgorgement, from the winter of 2017, of R. Pouillon Reserve Brut is a blend of 60% of wine from the 2015 vintage and 40% of a Reserve base from a solar tank that dates back to the ’90s which gives the Champagne a sense of complexity from the maturity of the older wines, but a fresh feel and with the richness of the year showing making for a sparkler that offers an array of flavors and depth including opulent baked apple, lemon and golden fig fruits along with hazelnut, brioche and mineral tones as well as a burst of acidity and that lavish and elegant mousse of creamy though lively small bubbles. The Pouillon family’s holdings, as the winery highlights, are in Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Avenay Val d’Or in the Grande Vallée, Epernay and Festigny along the Marne River, and Tauxières-Mutry, just to the north in the Montagne de Reims, with the majority of the vines being Pinot Noir, along with small parcels of Chardonnay and Meunier.

This inviting Cuvee de Reserve Champagne was crafted using 65% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay and 20% Meunier with the grapes grown in the Vallée de la Marne and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ area, part of Champagne with a stellar reputation for quality, especially Pinot Noir, which gives these wines their wonderful structure. According to Pouillon’s importer Schatzi Wines, the Pouillon family has been growing grapes in the region for over a century, but it wasn’t until 1947 when Fabrice’s grandfather, Roger Pouillon, decided to produce wine from his holdings along with the help of his wife, Bernedette, and his uncle, Louis Baulant, a well-known winemaker and consultant in the region, with Fabrice Puillon now leading the family’s small estate and cellars. Fabrice has converted this grower producer house to organic farming and tightened up the cellars with all gravity flows and special enameled fermenters, he ages his base wines in a combination of stainless steel and mostly older or neutral oak including large demi-muids as well as small barriques with everything allowed to go through malo-lactic fermentation which adds to the regal mouth feel. As the grapes are picked with loads of vibrancy the wines retain high-toned aromatics, natural acidity and energy, as this Reserve Brut shows, making its balance impeccable and a solid grower fizz offering to enjoy over the next 5 to 10 years.
($60 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 10, 2020

2016 Domaine Xavier Gerard, Condrieu “L’Arbuel” Northern Rhone, France.
This long time Cote-Rotie and Condrieu estate was just plugging along with a solid lineup of offerings, but the transition to the younger generation has turned this little known Domaine into a real super star on the rise with the talented and hard working Xavier Gerard now running his family’s vineyards and cellar, I can attest to a dramatic upturn in quality here after tasting vintages 2013 to 2016 with his 2015 Cote-Rotie and the set of Condrieu bottlings, like this gorgeous cuvee L’Arbuel are all stunners! This tiny estate has focused on their main holdings in the mentioned Cote-Rotie and Condrieu plus a little parcel in Saint-Joseph to great effect and Xavier is proving exceptionally gifted in hand crafting the wines, bringing passion and energy to the cellar, while continuing to employ traditional and organic methods. I wrote about his Cote-Rotie, which reminds me of classic Rostaing La Landonne and the other cru Condrieu, the La Cote Chatillon, which is a spectacular and dense version, but I somehow missed posting my impressions of the most delicate and mineral driven cuvee L’Arbuel, which comes mostly from the highly regarded family parcel at Marmouzin, but also blended with a new parcel of in the Corbery lieu-dit that sits higher up on the granite slopes that give this bottling its cooler personality. The L’Abuel is sublimely balanced and while nicely fleshy and textural it has plenty of zip and natural acidity that really lifts this 100% Viognier to the next level.

Beautifully detailed and showing the absolute best character of the region and of Viognier grapes, the 2016 L’Abrbuel Condrieu delivers a stunning performance in the glass, reminding me of some of the modern classics, including Yves Cuilleron and Christine Vernay’s Domaine Georges Vernay, it gives layers of stone fruit and seductive aromatics that put it among the world’s best versions of this varietal. The wine evolves nicely with air revealing a honeysuckle perfume, fresh citrus and creamy apricot and tangy white peach as well as hints of spice and verbena making for a highly desirable white wine to enjoy with langoustine (small lobster) or spot prawns and or simple goat cheese filled ravioli pasta. The Xavier Gerard Condrieu(s) are made in separate lots with intense selections of the Viognier clusters and individual berries which are all seeing a natural or native yeast fermentation in cuve (small vats) afterwhich the wine spends close to one year in a mix of mainly used 500L and 225L barrels before final blending and bottling, again great care is given to each lot with these Viognier showing pure terroir influences and expressions. There’s a lot to admire in this wine and the whole collection of Xavier’s latest releases, I can’t wait to explore the 2017 and 2018 vintages that should be coming out soon, but the 2015 and 2016s are majestic wines that should not be missed with this Condrieu L’Arbuel being one of the top values, no question for the quality in the bottle.
($50 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 9, 2020

2017 Envinate, Táganan Parcela Margalagua, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
The Envinate Táganan Parcela Margalagua is one of the most unique and rare bottlings in the Canary Islands and this 2017 is beautifully delicate, layered and full of intrigue with volcanic influences, mineral tones, subtly exotic fruits and racy spices made from 100 year old all organic vines on the island of Tenerife in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. This Táganan Parcela Margalagua is crafted using natural methods and consists of many local varietals, but is seemingly dominated by Listan Negro, one of the Mission grapes brought here in the 1500s, as well as having rarities like Vijariego, Malvasia Negra, Baboso, Negramoll and a few others that are largely unknown. According to the winery, led by winemaker Roberto Santana, along with Laura Ramos, Jose Martínez and Alfonso Torrente, the Táganan vineyard, with its name coming from the Guanche word the native Canary language meaning slope. It is also the name of the northwestern part of Tenerife where the vines grow wild and low on cliffs of pure volcanic rock just above the Atlantic Ocean that provides the life and freshness in the wines. The distinct Parcela Margalagua “mother of water” is a single parcel sitting up at about between 100-250 meters of elevation, adds to the intensity of flavors here with flavors that include brandied cherries, briar laced raspberry, tangy strawberry and cranberry fruits as well as touch of smoky shale, earthy leather, crushed rock, dried cayenne pepper and light floral notes. This wine has the wine geeky presence of a top Jura wine with its pale color and low natural alcohol. The Canary Islands were a stop on the way to the new world for the Spanish explorers and Missionaries, who first brought vines here, allowing them to replenish supplies and these islands have long been a treat for winter travelers that wish warmth and rustic old world charms.

The classic field blend Envinate Táganan Parcela Margalagua gives a glimpse into Tenerife’s agrarian past, according to Santana, the old original vineyards on Tenerife were historically inter-planted with many different grape varieties and planted on their own roots as Roberto adds, was typical of the phylloxera-free remote Canary Islands. This side of Tenerife experiences a fairly temperate climate, enabling grapes to ripen at moderate alcohol levels, as mentioned, while retaining bright acidity, which this wine highlights perfectly. The grapes, which are back-breakingly farmed as the those low clinging vines require deep knee bends, they need to be very low to the ground to keep from having the winds beat up the canopy and are hand-harvested, sometimes having mules haul the grapes down the hill. The Táganan Parcela Margalagua’s grapes are all co-fermented using 100% whole cluster with wild or naive yeasts, and as importer Jose Pastor explains, in older open-top 500L French oak barrels with a gentle maceration and pilage. The wine then was aged in well seasoned French barrels for just under one year imparting no oak accents, allowing the full terroir to show through and the Táganan Parcela Margalagua was bottled with ultra low sulfur and unfined and unfiltered. I have followed Roberto Santana’s career from his time at Suertes de Marquis, where he made his first splash in the wine world with his Canary Island wines, which were largely unheard of until he basically put them on the map to now with his Envinate he’s made them a real go to wine for enthusiasts! This Táganan Parcela Margalagua opens up nicely becoming supple, in a Pinot like expression, and adds hints of pomegranate, savory and salty notes, plus a touch of guava flesh making it a lovely medium bodied wine that goes great with lighter food choices, its tasty stuff indeed.
($52 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 8, 2020

2018 Dr. Loosen, Riesling Kabinett, Ürziger Würzgarten, Mosel Germany.
Absolutely one of the most obvious terroir wines in the world and a classic German wine, the Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Kabinett is nearly perfect in every way and this vintage, especially is everything Ernest Loosen desires in his wines, it is luscious, complex, and true to its roots. At about 9% alcohol, this Urziger Wurzgarten Kabinett is lovely and flavorful with pretty aromas of tree picked peach, ginger, seeped rose petals and smoky flint before more racy elements come through on the creamy and zesty palate, the residual sugar playing more of a textural role rather than outright sweetness adding feel and length exquisitely with layers of green apple, candied lime, mango and dried pineapple along with wet shale and tangy kumquat, gaining a traditional exotic and spicy edge that this site is known for with time in the glass. The “Spice Garden” is as Dr. Loosen notes, a blazing red, with a vain of iron rich volcanic soils over weathered slate and insanely steep, the Ürziger Würzgarten Cru vineyard sits the picturesque amphitheater formed by this dramatic bend in the river, forming a natural sun basket that helps ripen the Riesling grapes and gives these wines their signature profile, with some of Dr. Loosen’s oldest vines clinging to this famous hillside. Ürziger Würzgarten’s wines are completely unique, complex and lavishly tropical by nature and Loosen’s example is compelling and tasty, going great with spicy dishes with some heat and super with grilled prawns and chili crab!

The weingut Dr. Loosen has been in the same family for over 200 years and with mostly ungrafted old vines that average around 50 years old, in some of the best sites in Mosel, giving Ernst Loosen an awesome selection of grapes to work with. Loosen always seems to produce stunningly intense, world-class wines that not only show terroir, but also a sense of purity wrapped in a luxurious package. With crop yields, according to the winery, almost half of what is permitted by law, only moderate use of organic fertilizers, and old-fashioned cellar practices these wines deliver exceptional quality, quite remarkable for such a large company, showing its commitment and respect for its core mission. The 2018 Ürziger Würzgarten Kabinett saw a cool fermentation in a combination of stainless steel tanks and traditional Fuder oak casks with fermentation stopped by chilling to keep from having it go all the way dry, making it fruity and zippy with acidity with grapes all being picked by hand and carefully sorted to be sure no noble rot has infected the clusters to keep this one a more vibrant Riesling. The vines for this one average well over 60 years old and set on that smoky red slate and red volcanic sandstone, this more than anything make this wine what it is and I highly recommend this vintage, it is an awesome version and a sublime Summer wine.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 7, 2020

2018 Sadie Family Wines, Tinta Barroca “Treinspoor” Old Vine Series, Swartland, South Africa.
Every single time I have a Eben Sadie wine I am left monumentally and profoundly moved by them, they are are some of the world’s most amazing efforts, especially these old vine bottlings like this gorgeous, dark and textural Tinta Barroca Treinspoor and his Rhone style blend Columella, which is without a doubt one of my top 10 wines I’ve ever had! This Treinspoor old bush vine Tinta Barocca is deep in complexities and inky in color with a fresh intensity on the palate with concord, black currant, plum and kirsch leading the way before the whole bunch array of spices, floral tones, dried herbs come out along with crushed stones, pomegranate and tart strawberries. With air this wine continues to impress and have a serious impact adding savory and earthy notes and a seductive texture, this is absolutely addictive stuff, it is totally unique in taste and style, sitting somewhere between an old school Burgundy with its silken form and nice acidity and a Corbieres (as this grape reminds me of old vine Carignan), with its country like raw appeal, authentic nature, with sage/lavender and a touch of game, plus a sense of remoteness. Tinta Barroca is a Portuguese varietal that is now primarily found in the Douro region, especially in the cooler sections of this River Valley on the northern facing hillsides as it has delicate skins and it is a common blending grape in Port wines where it adds color, acidity and complexity. The 2018 Sadie Tinta Barroca is joyously fresh and vibrant in the glass and gets more intriguing with every sip, but is also wonderfully comfortable, not a diva, this wine is not flashy or sexed up, but it delivers much more than promised, enjoy it with simple cuisine and friends. I will buy more of this wine, no question, plus Sadie’s Cinsault and Chenin based offerings too, which are some of his best values.

Winemaker Eben Sadie’s Treinspoor 100% Tinta Barroca, a grape that he loves mostly for blending, is sourced from a vineyard planted in 1974 on decomposed granite and Swartland’s table mountain sandstone, on the western side of the Malmesbury zone. According to the winery, this vineyard is located next to the old railway line (treinspoor) and was named accordingly and simply in this case. The area is fairly warm, causing a bit of concern as the thin skin of Tinta Barocca is prone to sunburn, but Sadie and team have been confident enough to express this grape solo because the old bush vines have formed a great framework to keep the bunches sheltered from the intense South African sun. The deep inky color and zesty acidity of Tinta Barroca have made it a favorite component, as mentioned, in Sadie’s blends for a long while now. While best as a blender, this wine proves, as the vines reach a certain maturity it has all the qualities and expressiveness too be a single varietal bottling. Sadie believes that Tinta Barocca captures the Swartland region in its purist form (like Mencia in the Ribeira Sacra? maybe.), high praise indeed for a grape that is almost unheard off to most of the world, he adds that it seems to need much more time to really show its best and that he suggests some cellaring will benefit those that have patience. I wouldn’t know about that sadly as I couldn’t keep my hands off it! The Teinspoor was crafted using whole-cluster fermentation and it was naturally fermented with minimal intervention, as is the way with all of Sadie’s wines a noted natural style winemaker. After maceration and primary fermentation the Tinta Barroca is pressed into concrete along with older oak casks and was aged for about 12 months. If you’ve not heard of Sadie Family, you need to change that and South African wines are suffering from a COVID related and ignorant government lock down a export ban, so it is a great time to support our friends there and buy their wines.
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 6, 2020

2017 Maison M.Chapoutier, La Ciboise, Costières de Nîmes, Rhone Valley, France.
The Chapoutier La Ciboise Costières de Nîmes Rouge is one of the world’s best values in red wine, made from a classic Rhone blend of mostly Grenache along with some Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan sourced from this little known part of the Rhone valley in the Gard set on hardened clay, limestone and schist soils called Gress which has been producing quality wines since Roman times. These vines are littered with small pebbles deposited by the Rhône river during the Quaternary Period and are well drained, the vines go deep to get moisture and refreshment making them work hard and pushes concentration of flavors, which Chapoutier’s La Ciboise showing an intense inky purple/black color and impressive density, this 2017 is a pleasure filled full bodied vintage and expressive with layers of pure blackberry, boysenberry, dark currant and juicy plum fruits along with an array of spices, warm earthiness, crushed lavender, sweet violet floral tones and melted black licorice. This 2017, from a warm year has loads of character and stuffing, it shows just how delicious these Costières de Nîmes can be and this La Ciboise is pretty awesome stuff, it should drink for another few years, it would be a fun wine to stock up on, especially when you can find it for under $10!

Nîmes is a historic Roman town and world unesco heritage site with some of Europe’s greatest still in use Roman ruins including its famous double-tiered circa-70 A.D. amphitheater still used for concerts and interestingly bullfights, which were common in this area of France until modern times, in fact this part of France almost had the feel of America’s old west too with the French version of cowboys. Positioned well between Avignon, Marseille and Montpellier, Nîmes is part of the Rhone Valley wine region, but much less regarded than areas like Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Rasteau, though a great place to get bargains, like this savvy Chapoutier made wine. Nîmes is also very close to Tavel, the Rhone’s only AOC that is totally devoted to Rosé, so there plenty around here to enjoy and it is easy to drink well on the cheap. The Chapoutier La Ciboise is from machine harvested grapes and each varietal is fermented separately then blended later to taste with the wine aged only in cement tanks and only for a few months before bottling, it is intended to be an easy and fresh Cotes du Rhone or Cotes du Ventoux style wine to pop in its youth, its dark and lush flavors make it great with country fare and simple but robust cuisine. I could drink this stuff almost everyday, it makes for a sublime Tuesday night pizza wine.
($10-15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 5, 2020

2016 Cameron Winery, Nebbiolo, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The 2016 Cameron Nebbiolo is truly a gorgeous wine and can easily be considered an American Barolo with its pure varietal character and profile, this vintage is just stunning and shows that this grape can be just as majestic in the Willamette Valley as it is in the Langhe! The Cameron Dundee Hills Nebbiolo shows a deep garnet color with just a hint of classic brickish magenta on the edges and the wine displays an earthy element along with pretty floral notes on the nose before revealing exceptional layers of traditional dark berries, plum, brandied cherries and black fig fruits along with blood orange, anise, dried lavender and a light cedrary spiciness. There’s so much to love here, the supple tannins and velvety mouth feel, but with structured at its core this wine gets better and better as it opens in the glass, filling out completely and becoming seamless and gaining depth with every sip, making for an exquisite Nebbiolo experience. The Cameron Nebbiolo shines in this vintage and the warmer site here allows riper flavors to come through and a lovely sense of richness, while still having the energy, leathery-earthiness and natural acidity the grape is known for, and interesting enough the alcohol is somewhat lower than warm year Barolo(s) that are coming in at 14.5% and higher, at 13% this wine delivers a fine balance and is fantastic with rustic cuisine.

The Cameron Nebbiolo is sourced from the winery’s Clos Electrique cru vineyard in the Dundee Hills, set on the Jory (volcanic) soils, famous for winemaker John Paul’s Pinot Noirs, which are some of Oregon’s greatest wines. This estate vineyard consists of, according to the winery, approximately 3 acres of Pinot Noir, 2 acres of Chardonnay, half an acre of Italian white grape varieties, including Friulano and 1 acre of Nebbiolo, that was first planted back in 1994. Cameron’s John Paul, who is a huge Italian wine geek and Barolo enthusiast, believed that Nebbiolo could thrive here as it was on a similar parallel and that hazelnut trees do well in both Piedmont and in the Willamette Valley, in fact Paul cleared an ex-hazelnut orchard to plant his two clones of Nebbiolo. Very early on it was clear he was right and that Nebbiolo could be a huge success, and this 2016 rises to a level of greatness. Cameron uses non irrigated vines that are farmed all organically which adds to the wine’s concentration and traditional old world winemaking techniques in the cellar with this Nebbiolo seeing extended elevage having adopted, as Paul notes, the long aging regimen typical of Barolo and Barbaresco to be more evolved and mature on release. The Cameron or Cameroni Italian inspired wines are outstanding, especially this Nebbiolo, plus their series of whites, like the Friuli style blend and the Pinot Bianco and the Ramato, skin contact Pinot Gris.
($37 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 4, 2020

2019 Arnot-Roberts, Rosé of Touriga Nacional, California.
Another one of the world’s most interesting Rosés, the Arnot-Roberts Rosé of Touriga Nacional is one of California’s most sought after pink wines and joins Bedrock’s Ode to Lulu, Skylark’s Pink Belly, Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris (especially the reserve), Ian Brand’s P’Tit Paysan Pierre’s Pirouette, Ryme Cellars’ Aglianico Rosé and Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avola Rosado as must have Summer treats! Rosé is in full swing now and the warm August weather makes these wines exceptionally timely and refreshing, but these wines are serious too, in particular this one by Arnot-Roberts with its cool and textured profile and bone dry subtle fruit, it is a wine that develops in glass glass and goes wonderfully well with a variety of cuisine options. I really love this Arnot-Roberts Rosé of Touriga Nacional after it gets some air and a touch of warmth as it unfolds its fruit and spicy elements, it displays a mineral driven character along with layers of sour cherry, plum water, seeped rose petals, a touch of peach flesh or melon as well as subtle strawberry along with a streak of citrus, saline, wet stone and dried herb. This vintage is surprisingly round and supple, almost creamy at first before finding its form and adding some steely/racy vitality, this stuff keeps you guessing and while cooly poised as a crisp sipper, it deserves to matched with a meal, whether a brunch menu or steamed mussels, and it makes for a great companion at the beach. Duncan (Arnot) Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, of Arnot-Roberts, who grew up together in the Napa Valley are now one of the modern stars in California, known for their impressive lineup of site driven wines from their awesome Trout Gulch Chardonnay to their ultra geeky cool Trousseau! As well as a fine selection of Syrah, Cabernet and Pinots that are very limited production gems.

The Arnot-Roberts Rosé is has a vivid pink and pale salmon hue which sets of an instant smile and gets the saliva glands going plus the aromas of tangy fruit, flowers and crushed rock add to the compelling nature of this Rosé that was crafted from a blend of about 80% Touriga Nacional and 20% Tinta Cao, both rare red varietals in California from Portugal, where they are commonly found in the Douro Valley, the Dao region and or Port wines. These intriguing Portuguese varieties are sourced from mostly the Luchsinger Vineyard in Kelseyville, the long time source for this wine with the Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao grown at over 1,300 feet elevation above Clear Lake, in Lake County, set on volcanic rocky soils, as well as a bit coming from the St. Amant Vineyard in Amador County with granite soils. The grapes, which are farmed using organic methods, were picked to be exclusively Rosé and this wine is a non saignee made wine and comes in at just 11.3% natural alcohol, which is again notable, because instead of being sharp and simple, this wine has a real presence on the palate and a depth that belies its total sum. This vintage is not as electric or thrilling as earlier versions, but the restraint and depth make for an impressive performance and it grows on you making you wish you had another chilled bottle handy! This Arnot-Roberts Rosé of Touriga Nacional was fermented with native yeasts, after a short cold soak on the skins and then aged in stainless steel to preserve fresh details, all with hand crafted and precise winemaking by the talented Duncan Meyers and Nathan Roberts. I have been enjoying these wines, especially this one since about 2012 or there about and never miss a chance to get a bottle or two each years with their Trousseau, as noted above, and the North Coast Syrah also being favorites, as well as the mentioned Trout Gulch Chard, I recommend keeping an eye out for them.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 3, 2020

2018 Ridge Vineyards, Carignane, Buchignani Ranch, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.
This beautifully inviting Ridge Carignane is inky purple and starts out almost giving the impression of young Rioja with the kiss of toasty American oak, but quickly evolves in the glass to a flavor profile that is more in line with Ridge’s Zins and delivers loads of dark berry fruit, racy herbs, light floral notes and a kick of spices. One of my secret favorites in Ridge’s awesome lineup of wines is their dark fruited and medium full bodied Buchignani Ranch Carignane, which unlike most of their bottlings is a single varietal wine instead of a field style mix of grapes, so I was thrilled to find it available on the website, as usually this one is a tasting room or wine club only offering, which in past I would have to almost literally beg for! 2018’s long and cooler growing season, as well as Buchignani Ranch’s location, made this wine exceptionally well balanced and full of life, but with a stunning depth of flavor, showcasing this grape in its best form. Carignan or Carignane is a grape mostly found in the south of France with serious plantings in the Languedoc’s Corbieres as well as being one of Rhone grapes found in Chateauneuf du Pape as well as being a minor player in Gigondas too, along with have a home in Spain from the Priorat to Rioja, plus the Italian island of Sardinia. It has been in new world a long time, probably longer than most other noble French varietals and Zinfandel, Carignane grows well here in Sonoma County, especially in Dry Creek and Alexander Valley, as well as Mendocino where most solo efforts seem to come from, as well as seeing a newer set of planting in Paso Robles, thanks to selected clones being brought over by Tablas Creek and the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel.This 100% old vine and hillside grown Carignane gets better and better with air and time and is an outstanding vintage with density, graciously smooth tannins and lively acidity, a highlight of this grape’s character that allows the wine to feel balanced and spotlights the wine’s distinct detailing.

This 2018 version clearly excels in the glass, as dark as Petite Syrah and with the vintage’s freshness it really is delicious adding blackberry, plum, tangy currant as well as anise, lilacs, a hint of mission fig, cedar and a touch of earthiness that really appeals as this Carignane opens up, gaining a welcome textural richness and supple quality, I wish I bought more bottles! Ridge notes that Stan Buchignani’s ranch is located on Dutcher Creek Road, in the hills on the far western edge of the Alexander Valley appellation, very close to the border with Dry Creek. Stan’s grandfather, Dominico Cerruti, first planted a five acre block way back in 1927, then his father, Dino, added another seven acres in the 1940s, with last of the property planted, early 1950s, making for some seriously old vines all in their prime. The vineyard’s climate bears a strong resemblance to that of upper Dry Creek Valley three miles to the south, where days are quite warm. Fog, which tends to hang low in the valley, burns off sooner in the hills. Carignane from the Buchignani Ranch is complex, its fine structure much like that of a field-blend zinfandel. In keeping with Ridge’s Zins and Rhone varietals the Buchignani Ranch Carignane was de-stemmed and fermented with native yeasts and aged in used American oak that saw a long air dried seasoning that prevents the wood from being overt and limits the accenting flavors allowing texture and purity of fruit to shine while still having a kiss of toast and a rich profile. In this wine most of the barrels used were at least three times filled with just 10% being one time used and the Carignane was aged ten months before a gentile filtering before bottling. Ridge uses a minimal dose of sulfur during the winemaking process so the wine feels fresh and expressive, but without the worries of funk or off flavors developing. This Buchignani Ranch Carignane is absolutely the joyous comfort wine I was looking for and it is awesome with an array of cuisines, it is really worth every effort to get it!
($34 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 2, 2020

2019 Cruse Wine Company, Sparkling Valdiguie, Deming Vineyard, Napa Valley.
The latest Sparkling Valdiguié Pétillant Naturel by Michael Cruse is a delicious and quaffable bubbly, similar to last years in style with fresh red peach, strawberry, seeped violets, candied watermelon and a tangy blueberry/cranberry note along with a creamy vibrant mousse, adding a touch of leesy brioche and a touch of mineral all flowing on the palate. Cruse, who is making some of California’s best sparkling wines is certainly gifted with Pet-Nats, and I am in particular fond of this one, it really is a pure California treat, it is a lovely Summer bubbly. Michael Cruse’s sparkling wines are joyous stuff rom his super rare and luxurious Methode Champenoise Ultramarine to these Pet-Nats that offer fun drinking pleasures at a tasty price. The Rosé like pinkish/orange hued Sparkling Valdiguie makes for a nice celebration in these weird times, I opened it to celebrate my Arsenal winning the FA Cup and just to smile on a Saturday night.

Cruse sourced the grapes for his Sparkling Valdiguié Pet-Nat comes from the Deming Vineyard in Napa Valley’s northern warmer end in the town of Calistoga on loamy, deep soils, that Cruse says, allows this 60+ year old bush trained vineyard to be both organic and dry-farmed, which adds to the intensity of concentration and shows this varietal in its best light. Cruse continues noting that his Valdiguié was whole cluster pressed using the same slow steady cycle as for his traditional method sparkling wines. The wine was then fermented a small stainless steel tank with a touch of skin contact to achieve that light pink tint, finishing at about 11.5% natural alcohol, which is a touch riper and drier than the 2018 version. Towards the end of the fermentation the wine was bottled, stored, and then riddled, and disgorged for clarity, with Michael adding that there was zero additions made here, no yeast, no sugar, or sulfur added, it is pure, fermented, grape juice, and that is exactly what you taste in this delightful bubbly.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive