Category Archives: Wine Articles

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 28, 2017

2015 Bodega Chacra, Pinot Noir, Cincuenta y Cinco, Rio Negro, Patagonia, Argentina.
I vastly underestimated this beautiful wine, tasting it blind I admit I was a confused at first, it almost had a Grenache like juicy/feel until it got unwound in the glass. It started slowly, but really opened up nicely with complex partial whole cluster and stems giving spice and floral tones, medium weight, 40% aged in 1 time used French oak, 60% aged in cement tank/vat allowing fruit to shine. Very impressive. Seriously good and unique. 2015 still young, should gain over 3-5 years, certainly looks like a winner. This Bodega Chacra is a bright ruby red hued Pinot Noir that delivers red currant, plum, briar/spices, cinnamon as well as a core of dark/earthy cherry, as well as hints of lavender, rosewater, loamy notes and faint framboise. Piero Incisa della Rocchetta has made a name for himself in the remote Patagonia, crafting intriguing Pinot Noir from biodynamic vines, with this one coming from vines planted in 1955 grown on mainly composed of clay, pebbles, sand, sediments and limestone soils of these glacial planes and ancient river valley. Incisa della Rocchetta, from the family that owns the famed Tenuta San Guido in Tuscany and makes Sassicaia, one of Itlay’s great wines, now lives in New York when he isn’t at Chacra making mostly natural Pinot Noir as well as a tiny amount of old vine Merlot, he created Bodega Chacra after finding this estate in 2004. He, along with Hans Vinding-Diers, the Danish winemaker at nearby Bodega Noemía, first made wine from Treinta y Dos Vineyard, an organic vineyard that dates back to 1932, before adding the Cincuenta y Cinco in 2006, with both site on their own rootstock, since they have not had phylloxera, making for small berried grapes and densely concentrated fruit, allowing him to use a very gentile touch and still have a wonderful depth of flavors. After having many vintages, I continue to marvel at these wines, they are surprisingly clear for unfined and unfiltered wines, with this 2015 Cincuenta y Cinco being one of the most striking and enticing effort to date, drink from 2018 to 2028, a big thank you to Morgan winemaker Sam Smith for sharing this rare gem.
($55 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 27, 2017

2016 Donnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Hermannshohle, Grosses Gewachs, Nahe Germany.
The barrel sample of Donnhoff’s majestic Hermannshohle GG gives a great insight into this wonderful dry Riesling and the vintage, which may not grab the headlines like the 2015 did, but still looks to be a monumental effort, this slatey historic site has produced a great wine that will certainly be one of the wines of the year! I was amazed by the 2016 Hermannshohle, as tasted with Cornelius Donnhoff, it is a powerful and thrilling white wine that already has a prodigious palate impact and intense purity of form, and from years of tasting cask samples from Donnhoff, I have absolute faith the bottled version will be even better! Donnhoff uses spontaneous fermentations and a mix of stuckfass (oval oak cask) doppelstuck (bigger 2,400L cask) and stainless to capture vintage and terroir of each vineyard, this is clearly showcased in their Grand Crus, which rank up there with the greatest wines in the world, in particular this Hermannshohle GG which shows an elegant grace and underlying power that makes you take notice, there’s no question, when you taste this wine, you know immediately you are tasting something remarkable and special. Of course this is not new news to anyone who has had Donnhoff, one of the planet’s best wineries, but there is a lot to like about the 2016 lineup across the board dry and sweet (fruity) with a varied array of offerings that come from a mix of soil types, like the pebblely/loamy Premier Cru Kahlenberg Trocken, the volcanic influenced Grand Cru Felsenberg Trocken, the clay and grey slate monopole Oberhauser Brucke Spatlese to this pure slate driven Hermannshohle! The 2016 Donnhoff Hermanshohle GG starts with subtle white flowers, loads of flinty spicy mineral and stone leading to a brisk youthful palate of steely citrus, peach and green apple with a core of lime, white currant, a hint of gooseberry and citron that highlights the extract, and while tight, focused and compact now, it looks set to be a classic. Lingering melon, faint mango, saline and wet stone adds to the complexity of detail in a wine of true potential. I hope I get a chance to re-visit this beauty in 10 years, in the meantime don’t miss Donnhoff’s basic Estate wines and the Krotenpfuhl Kabinett, both of which are stellar values. This Hermannshohle GG should be in your cellar when released this fall, it has a rewarding future, I’d put it in the same league as Roulot Meursault and Raveneau Les Clos quality wise, drink from 2022-2035.
($84 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 26, 2017

2016 Casanova della Spinetta, Il Rose di Casanova, Tuscany, Italy.
One of my most favorite summer wines, Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta Rose from Tuscany, the Casanova della Spinetta Il Rose di Casanova is a crisp blend of Sangiovese and Prugnolo Gentile (Brunello & Vino Nobile clone) comes from a high elevation vineyard site with cool nights, but warm southern exposure, it makes this dry pink wine a serious offering that rivals Bandol and Provence in style and quality. Delicate in color with a light palish pink/orange hue, but vigorous and vibrant in detail with lovely flavors of tart cherry, plum water, watermelon, red and pink citrus as well as steely mineralite and faint lavender spiciness. This Il Rose di Casanova is a class act, it follows a more French form with it’s lighter/drier brisk character than the more full bodied Rosato that are more common in Italy, where they tend to go for riper flavors and dark colors in their pinks, this Rose is wonderfully refreshing and a gorgeous package overall. Though a great food companion, La Spinetta’s lovely pink is just as thrilling and easy to love on it’s own, perfect for the hot days of summer and fall, especially this 2016 release, which seems a nearly perfect vintage for Rose. Rivetti continues to really impress with his estate in Tuscany, and while his La Spinetta Barbaresco and Barolo are his jewels, don’t miss out on these Casanova della Spinetta wines, in particular this Il Rose di Casanova, and the Il Nero di Casanova 100% Sangiovese Toscana Rosso IGT. This Rose sells out fast and is very limited, so best be fast off the mark and get as many bottles as you can, it joins a select group of international pinks to celebrate summer with!
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 25, 2017

2016 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Trocken, Maximin 1896 Herrenberg Alte Reben, Erste Lage, Mosel Germany.
The follow up to his amazing 2015’s looks set to almost equal them with these 2016’s, proving the quality of the vines here and the rising talent of Christopher Loewen, who’s new set of offerings are brilliant Rieslings, especially his gorgeous dry styles including this Maximin 1896 Herrenberg Alte Reben Trocken Premier Cru (Erste Lage) that has the class and elegance of a Raveneau, but with the slate driven terroir of the Mosel. This wine is a thrilling and vital Riesling with stunning detail, it’s a shimmering pale wine with crisp layers of intensity, showing white peach, unripe apricot, green apple, lime, tangy mango and white cherry fruits. There’s so mush energy here, it’s bursting at the seams, and there liquid mineral steely frame set up the fruit and salty/briny essences along with flinty wet stones, dusty tea spices, light rosewater and lingering verbena and tangerine. I’ll mention again that the 2015’s were richer, more concentrated and exotic, but these 2016’s have more restraint, a slightly lighter bodied and delicacy without giving up much in the way of power and over all substance, plus I am convince after tasting the 2016’s they will age well and continue to impress well into the future. Loewen is now a bonafide star and his wines should not be missed, others of his 2016’s you shouldn’t miss include the Ritsch Grosses Gewachs, the ultra sexy 1896 Longuicher Maximin Herrenberg Feinherb, coming from Germany’s oldest Riesling vines, plus his wonderfully classic Kabinett and Leiwener Laurentiuslay Spatlese! Imported by Terry Theise/Skurnik Wines, Weingut Carl Loewen has joined the Mosel’s elite, do not miss the 2015 and 2016 Rieslings from this address, and in particular this beautiful mouth wateringly dry old vines Maximin Herrenberg 1896 Erste Lage!
($48 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 24, 2017

2012 Ciacci Piccolomini, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy.
A lovely vintage for Brunello, this 2012 Ciacci Piccolomini shows all the joys of the year, not overtly ripe and with fresh, long and elegant detail this is a beautifully made effort. Good even now, especially with decanting, this wine looks set to be a classic, as it gives rich fruit, spice and mineral with layers of black cherry, plum, raspberry, currant and mulberry along with fresh cut flowers, graphite/flint and cigar wrapper. Look for the medium/full 2012 Ciacci Piccolomini Brunello to gain weight and expression in 5 to 10 years in bottle, this will be a really rewarding wine in the near future as well and for the price it’s a bargain, but also don’t miss the ripe and juicy 2015 Ciacci Piccolomini Rosso di Montalcino, which is a full bodied, flamboyant “Baby” Brunello, which at $25 is a downright steal! Though the style and structure of the Brunello is hard to fault as a more serious wine, it’s livelier acidity and firmer tannins make it a more classic offering, it’s difficult to imagine it not being a stellar choice in a few years time, even though it might be a touch muted and subtle in it’s youth, I’d say it will rise in score a couple of points in 3 or 4 years. That said, I love this vintage for it’s refinement and the touches of almost Bordeaux like qualities. Lingering anise, dried violets, sweet oak notes and strawberry add to the overall depth of the experience. The latest Ciacci wines are brilliant, imported by Indigenous Selections and Skurnik Wines, are well worth searching out, they continue to impress and deliver Tuscan goodness.
($60 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 23, 2017

2016 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling Spatlese, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Mosel Germany.
The latest set of wines from Johannes Selbach are as pure and classic as you can get, lovely and complex offerings that show each site’s unique sense of place a few of the most intriguing and serious of these 2016’s include the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Ur-Alte Reben (Ultra Old Vines) Feinherb, the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spatlese Trocken (Dry), the single block Zeltinger Schlossberg “Schmitt” (Auslese) and especially this wonderfully expressive Zeltinger Schlossberg. I adore this wine, year after year I’m always drawn to this bottling, and the 2016 shines for it’s total pleasure, inner beauty and lush density, it has an open and generous nature, but still gives complex detail and terroir elements with slate driven character. Above the Mosel these vines and soils this is an area that gets good sun and Riesling excels here, and while some might be concerned with the must weight being Spatlese (sugar level) and natural sweetness here, but they need to open their minds and take in the wine as a whole, while yes there is a creamy mouth feel and lingering sweetness, there is also a bright array of flinty/shale spice, juicy acidity, gorgeous fruit and a saline infusion that provides balance. The nose is vivid with yellow and white flowers, crushed stones, light tropical essences, stone fruit and citron leading to a lush palate of white peach, apricot, apple and lime sorbet along with hints of pineapple, verbena, chamomile, wet shale and brine with lingering orchard fruit. This is sexy stuff, less exotic and thick than the 2007, 2005, 2011 and 2015, but with plenty of charm, subtle depth, power and potential. In what might be a sleeper vintage, Selbach-Oster has crafted a great lineup of classically styled Rieslings!
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 22, 2017

2007 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Spatlese, Dorsheim Burgberg, Nahe Germany.
Caroline Diel took the helm of Schlossgut Diel’s winemaking in 2006, in what was already a top winery in the Nahe and a pioneer in dry wines, but since then, she has taken Schlossgut Diel to the next level with the wines showing beautiful delicacy, terroir and length, these are wines that rival the best in the world, especially her Pinot Noir and of course her majestic Rieslings. Just re-released from the Diel keller and tasted at the Skurnik Wines West San Francisco Tasting, the 2007 Schlossgut Diel Spatlese Dorsheim Burgberg, one of Caroline’s first wines at the helm, is a gorgeous and generous Riesling that shows elegance, mineral and complexity with it’s maturity just beginning to come into focus. It was great to see Sylvain Taurisson, Caroline’s French husband and Schlossgut Diel’s charming advocate, in San Francisco, and tasting the latest and up-coming 2016 Rieslings, especially after seeing the vineyards there at harvest 2016 and watching grapes coming into the winery during my visit. While 2016 was in dire shape in the first part of that summer, everything came good in August and September in an almost miracle of nature and the wines are clear, dynamic and intriguing, certainly not as exotic or concentrated as 2015, but they are beautiful, this is going to be a classic vintage and they will get deeper and more interesting in the years to come, both trockens and sweet styles, they look to be rewarding and sleeper cellar wines. In Diel’s 2016 wines be sure to look for the Dorsheim Trocken, Goldloch Grosses Gewachs and for great value snap up Caroline’s lovely Kabinett offerings! But, going back in time, this 2007 Schlossgut Diel Burgberg is drinking fantastic, it perfectly captures the vintage and Caroline’s style, it was a full bodied year and exotically ripe, but while deep and round, it still vibrant and has balanced stony/savory elements to keep the open fruitiness in check, and while a true Spatlese, there is not a rush of sugar or cloying heaviness. This is an exceptional Riesling from a unique Grand Cru site that is notable for it’s quartzite influenced soils, it has a pure crystalline character with a saline and liquid mineralite lift with opulent apricot, vigorous lime, green apple, pineapple/passion fruit and tangerine fruits along with flinty spice, honeyed golden fig, white flowers, white plum, wet river rocks, salty brine and verbena/lemongrass. There is without a doubt a class and grace in Caroline’s wines, and while Diel is most famous for their drier wines, you should never miss a chance to try her Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese, they are amazing wines, and this 2007 is just stunning, this one will go another couple of decades!
($69 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 21, 2017

2016 Arnot-Roberts, Rose, California.
One of the most interesting pink wines in California, the Arnot-Roberts Rose is also one of the most sought after wines in the state year after year, it’s a crisply dry and delicate wine with a refined pale hue that reminds me a bit of Domaine Tempier’s Bandol Rose! The 2016 is more elegant, livelier and succulent in profile than the more concentrated 2015 version, making it one of the best efforts to date from Duncan Meyers and Nathan Roberts, it is said to have a tiny amount of Tempranillo and Grenache (from the Russian River Valley) in this years wine, hence the California designation, but it’s the Portuguese varietal Touriga Nacional (Mostly Luschinger Vineyard-Clear Lake plus Amador) that is the main grape that makes this pink tick, native fermentation and gentile whole cluster pressed add to the fresh/clean character. Bright with lots of verve, the 2016 Arnot-Roberts Rose shows sour cherry, strawberry, watermelon and grapefruit notes as well as spice, mineral tones and hints of salty stones, lavender, peach and rosewater in a brisk/lean form. This is a tangy refreshing wine with lingering mouth watering flavors and is well deserving of it’s hype and reputation, this is lovely summery stuff, thanks to Soif Wine Bar & Merchant in Santa Cruz for the taste and the take home bottle of this rare wine.
($27 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 20, 2017

2015 Bodegas y Vinedos Raul Perez, Mencia, Ultreia Saint Jacques, Bierzo Tinto, Spain.
It was a great honor to meet and taste with Raul Perez, one of Spain’s most heroic and influential winemakers, also known as the godfather of Mencia, at the Skurnik Wines West Portfolio tasting in San Francisco, it was an amazing event and collection with a fantastic array of producers and wines. Raul Perez’s lineup was mind-blowing and lived up to my huge expectations in every way, and I was wildly thrilled with each and every one of these offerings, especially this new Ultra Saint Jacques Bierzo Tinto that delivers wonderful depth and complexity at a price that makes it a bargain by any standards. Perez has mentored many rising stars, including Pedro Rodriguez, one of my all time favorites, at Guimaro and still has Veronica Ortega, who’s wines I recently discovered, working with him. Made from mainly from Mencia, but with some inter planted Bastardo (thought to be Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) coming off vines that average about 75 years old, this dark and ripe vintage shows an almost northern Rhone like character and has a earthy/savory/spicy edge like an lighter Cornas. This Bierzo Ultreia Saint Jacques Tinto was fermented with native yeasts, about 80% whole cluster in large oak cask with long macerations lasting between 2 and 5 months and then aged in mixed vessels including some cement, as well as 225L and 500L oak, unfined and unfiltered. It’s pretty in detail with violet/floral tones, peppercorn and a medium body that flows with sweet tannins, vibrant, but smooth acidity and flinty mineral elements as well as a core of loganberry, plum, candied cherry and tart currant fruits as well as salted black licorice, lavender, pipe tobacco, shale stones, earthy charms and a hint of cinnamon. This 2015 is lovely stuff that drinks very well right now and should prove pleasing for 3 to 5 years, for this price you’ll want a case!
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 19, 2017

2015 The Princess & The Peasant, Pinot Noir, Signal Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
Another impressive wine by the hugely talented Stephanie Rivin, the wonderfully complex and vivid 2015 Pinot Noir is filling with vintage influenced density of fruit and cool climate energy and vitality, making for a highly seductive and thrilling wine. The Princess & The Peasant Signal Ridge Vineyard is a beautiful dark ruby hue in the glass and is followed up by an exciting nose of wild flowers, flinty mineral and a melange of far east spices and blue fruit before opening up to a medium bodied palate of black cherry, plum and cranberry/red apple skin fruits as well as shaved cinnamon stick, minty herb, tangy currant, mission fig and dried roses. It is framed by subtle oak sweetness, good acidity and silken textures that feel lavish in the mouth, but not heavy or taking away from the enticing life force in this alluring Pinot Noir. Stephanie Rivin’s The Princess & The Peasant Pinot Noir plus her Carignane, and all those wines at Signal Ridge Vineyard are rewarding finds, especially this one, it is on a similar level to Anthill Farms Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and the glorious Drew Family Gatekeeper Pinot Noir, as well as reminding me a bit of St. Innocent’s Oregon Pinots, drink this lovely wine over the next 3 to 5 years if not longer!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive