Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 23, 2020

Latest Review

2019 COS, Frappato, Terre Siciliane IGP, Vittoria, Sicily, Italy.
Giambattista Cilia and Giusto Occhipinti’s COS winery is celebrating its 40th harvest with this lovely vintage of their iconic bottling of Frappato, and this 2019 is everything you’d expect and admire about this wine and grape with bright strawberry, lingonberry and earthy red berry fruits, delicate spices, sweet herbs and chalky notes in a medium bodied red wine that caresses the palate with satiny tannins. The COS winery was founded in 1980 by three friends, Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti, and Cirino Strano on the site of a historic, but long forgotten wine estate, and is named after these three friends, COS is the initials of their last names. COS was and is a pioneering estate that helped start the organic and natural wine movement in this part of Sicily and takes great care with holistic methods, including some biodynamic practices in the vineyards and innovations in their cellars with the use of special amphora vessels and using only natural/native yeast fermentations with some wines seeing long skin contact macerations. The soils here in the Vittoria region, unlike Etna’s volcanic influence, are red clay and limestone based, giving incredible vibrancy to the wines and even in ripe years they remain fresh and low in alcohol, with this beautiful ruby red COS Frappato being just 11.5% ABV and the acidity delivers wonderful balance and a citrusy bounce. Frappato’s charms are many, both solo and part of a blend, but it is its ability on its own to offer loads of fruit while still being structured, slightly rustic and having a subtle floral perfume making it highly compelling and excellent with a wide range of cuisines. Giusto Occhipinti of COS, and his talented niece Arianna Occhipinti, with her own label, are benchmark producers of Frappato, as well as the DOCG Cerasuolo di Vittoria, which is Frappato blend with the classic Nero d’Avola, and these are wines to search out. There is a lot to unpack at COS, their collection offers many jewels, including this Frappato, but their Amphora wines are outstanding wines with the Pithos line being really excelling stuff, with the whites standing out here, especially the Zibbibo version which is extremely exotic and perfumed.

The COS team and in particular Occhipinti, extensively researched many aging vessels, with trips to remote parts of Europe, including the Republic of Georgia, where he studied their famous Qveri and eventually decided on a combination of 440-liter clay (terra-cotta) amphorae sourced from Spain along with a collection of large neutral botti (oak cask) as well as concrete tanks (used mainly for this Frappato bottling). The clay, as Giusto explains, is porous like oak but has the advantage that it imparts less flavor to the wine than does even large, old casks and helps with textural quality. He says, all of the aging of his wines is done in one of these three vessels, with stainless steel tanks only being used these days for assembling the wines, clarification and settling before being bottled. The 2019 COS Frappato was produced from all hand tended certified organic estate vineyards in the Vittoria region set on sandy parcels with iron rich red dirt over the limestone and hardened clay at about 300 meters above sea level which allows a nice cooling influence from the moist breezes coming from the sea, all of which add to the zesty personality and complexity in the wines. As mentioned, the winery allowed a spontaneous indigenous yeast fermentation and a lengthy maceration for this Frappato, all done in concrete vats with the wine seeing a elevage of about nine months exclusively in the cement tanks, and as the winery notes, this was followed by three months of rest in the bottle before leaving the cellar. I am grateful for the efforts here at COS, these wines have given me so much pleasure and I was thrilled to meet and taste with Giusto a few years back in San Francisco, where he gave amazing insight on to his passion and evolution as a winemaker as well as his discovery of an ancient bottle on the property that led him to bottle the COS wines in their distinctive squat glass that dates back to 1880 and become their trademark look and widely copied around the world. If you’ve not explored this region or grape, it is way past to try Frappato and especially this COS version. Frappato has gained many fans over the last decade and in some exciting news, there is now some planted in California, inspired by COS and others, I can’t wait to see how this grape does here.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 22, 2020

nv Nanclares y Prieto Viticultures, A Senda Vermella, Vino Tinto, Galicia, Spain.
This unique non-vintage, ultra low alcohol crisp red, A Senda Vermella, is from grapes sourced vines in the Val do Salnes area run this cool Atlantic influenced region, more known for Albariño and is a blend of 60% Caiño Tinto and 40% MencÌa from different organic parcels in the Rias Baixas. Interestingly, this wine was blended from both the 2017 and 2018 vintages and therefor is sort a Spanish version of a Vin de France, that cannot be labeled with a D.O. and has just Vino Tinto by Nanclares y Prieto on the label. This purple/garnet hued A Senda Vermella is brightly fresh, bone dry and tangy, it comes in at under 11% natural alcohol and shows crunchy layers of briar laced black raspberry, plum, cranberry and sour cherry fruits along with zippy acidity, saline, wild herbs, earth, citrus rind and hints of herbal tea, all of which make for a lighter red wine that is great with mussels in tomato broth, grilled octopus and or selection of hard cheeses. I enjoyed it contently with a Monterey style Paella with a wide array of goodies in it, the racy nature of the A Senda Vermella perfectly matched up with the flavorful bounty on the plate, making for a joyous experience on the light to medium bodied, low tannin, palate. I am a huge fan of this winery, they produce an awesome collection of Albariño bottlings, including their classic (or estate) Alberto Nanclares and the vividly clear Dandelion cuvee, which are among my favorites, as well as a small series of lovely red wines, Mencia based mostly, with some grapes coming from the Ribeira Sacra as well. Over the years, since I first sampled the Nanclares wines, I’ve tried to get every vintage I could, these wines are soulful and easy to love, with Nanclares y Prieto Albariño(s) being some of my absolute favorite white wines with stunning mineral tones and Chablis like energy.

The A Senda Vermella (’17/’18) was hand crafted by Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto using traditional methods and low sulfur with 100% whole cluster fermentation with foot-trodden grapes and a longish maceration that lasted close to 20 days. Then the dry wine was pressed and racked mainly used barrels, though about 20% of the vintage was rested in stainless steel tanks. The notes that the 2017 part was in oak and stainless for 22 months, and the 2018 part was aged exclusively in tank for 10 months, before being blend together. This non vintage red gets more depth and complex with air with more dark fruit coming forward as well as its savory kick with a little bite of bitterness in what is otherwise a smooth, simple pleasing and transparently quaffable wine. Silvia Prieto’s presence at Nanclares led to the lineup of red wine offerings being made at this winery and they are a wonderful addition to their portfolio. The Nanclares y Prieto Miñato da Raña, their vintage red, from the Ribeira Sacra sourced grapes is a much more serious offering and one I highly recommend, that said, I’ll most likely get a few more bottles of this fun stuff and of course add many bottles of their fantastic Albariños. Alberto Nanclares, the ex-economist, who took over full time winemaking duties for his Nanclares label in 2007, after employing a winemaking consultant for many years and the wines have been getting better and better, especially after the gifted Prieto joined him full-time just over five years ago. Alberto and Silvia farm a small bunch of parcels, which all trained in the traditional Pergola style with about 12 plots spread around the Rias Baixas with vines, as the winery notes, in the parroquias of Castrelo (South Cambados), Vilariño (North Cambados) and Padrenda (North Meaño) all of them get organic and holistic TLC including a sea weed compost to keep them health and small yields to maximize their character and quality. Come for the Albariño, stay for the reds here, it has never been a better time to discover these wines!
($35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 21, 2020

2018 Jean-Louis Dutraive – Domaine de la Grand’Cour, Fleurie “Clos de la Grand’Cour” Cru Beaujolais, France.
This remarkable wine is one of the best and most iconic in the world, yes, Gamay can produce a wine of majestic beauty and depth, which this 2018 Clos de la Grand’Cour, by the legendary Jean-Louis Dutraive, proves with a flourish, silken layers and a heavenly perfume. This estate in Fleurie hand crafts gorgeous artisan wines that absolutely seduce the senses with natural purity and terroir driven character that highlights the unique pink granite soils and warm exposures, they never fail to impress with racy dark fruits, a mix of crushed violets and seeped rose petal, walnut husk and whole bunches crunchiness with this 2018 delivering layers of strawberry, tangy currant, plum and macerated raspberry fruits along with a pop of spice and stemmy savory/earthiness. The textural feel is exceptional in the Clos de la Grand’Cour with rich fruit density, but dreamy almost weightless and delightfully lingering on the finish with everything lifted by natural acidity as well as this Fleurie’s mineral tones. Raj Parr, the famous sommelier, loves to tell the story that in the last century, a barrel of top Fleurie used to get more money than a Chambertin Grand Cru! And this Dutraive goes a long way to explaining that, it is such a great bottle, it is right up with my longtime favorites from Lapierre, Thevenet and Jean Foillard. There is so much excitement in Beaujolais right now, with a new generation pushing the quality level to new heights with the younger Dutraive and Foillard kids being a part of this movement, be sure to check out the recent vintages from Anne-Sophie Dubois, Julien Sunier, Mathieu and Camille Lapierre, Alex Foillard, Charly Thenevet and Jean-Louis’ son Justin Dutraive, naming just a few, to see the region’s bright future.

The Domaine de la Grand’Cour was originally established in back in 1969, in a Summer of love, and the Domaine de la Grand’Cour best holdings are in Fleurie, with what can be considered Grand Cru sites, these consist of three special lieux-dits, the Clos de la Grand’Cour, a Monopole walled vineyard, where this wine came from, Chapelle des Bois and their Champagne parcel, all of which are holistically farmed following methods inspired by the father of Beaujolais’ natural winemaking revolution, Jules Chauvet. Jean-Louis Dutraive, the fifth generation to run this old estate, has used organic grapes since the 1980s and does most all of his Cru bottlings with 100% whole cluster, which gives these, especially the Fleurie Clos de la Grand’Cour, efforts their glorious complexity and a wildly exotic personality. The Dutraive wines ferment naturally with indigenous yeasts, the noted whole cluster, carbonic and see long macerations on the skins, somewhere close to a month, according to the winery, depending on what the vintage gives. The wines are very gently handled from start to finish and moved only by gravity flow in the cellar, with the Crus being aged for 9 months to more than a year, depending on the individual cuvée. There is a combination of vessels for elevage, mostly though see time in used Burgundy barrels, though this Fleurie Clos de la Grand’Cour, the Fleurie Chapelle des Bois and Dutraive’s Brouilly are sometimes aged partially in stainless, old foudres, larger casks or even cement tanks depending on the vintage. Jean-Louis’ motto in the cellar is what he calls “minimal intervention and maximum surveillance.” This 2018 Clos de la Gand’Cour opens up wonderfully gaining poise and regal quality, adding morello cherry and wild herbs to the medium bodied palate and a much deeper bouquet, in fact this Fleurie got even better on day two, I wish dearly I had more bottles of this rare stuff!
($35 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 20, 2020

1997 Ridge Vineyards, Zinfandel, Nervo Vineyard, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.
I usually review new or current release wines, but this was too good an opportunity to miss, a perfectly cellared bottle to celebrate Zinfandel Day, and wow, did this 1997 Ridge Nervo Zinfandel exceed all expectations with beautiful mature fruit and texture, it in fact reminded me of an aged Rioja Reserva, but with classic Zin, raspberry fruits, cedary spices and dried flowers. The color was exceptionally youthful still, a pleasant surprise, with a deep purple/garnet hue with just a glinting hint of burgundy/orange around the edges and the nose was lightly loamy, with macerated red fruits and woody elements and led to a palate of red berries, plum and the raspberry fruits with a sense of preserves, more than freshly crushed, which is accented by a hint of anise, a slight balsamic note, baking spices, tobacco and a sweet kiss of American oak with a hint of the vanilla and toasted coconut. This wine, enjoyed over the course of an evening, really held up throughout and was graceful and decedent on its own and did wonderfully well with a pasta dinner, very impressive and with a remarkable clarity and welcome vibrancy. This Ridge Nervo Vineyard Zinfandel came from 116 year old vines, at the time of its harvest in 1997, which were located not far from the 101 Highway, between Geyserville and Healdsburg that was originally planted prior to the Nervo family’s purchase of their property back in 1896. When Ridge bought these grapes in ’97, they were from the old eight acre parcel that was about 91% Zinfandel and 9% Petite Sirah, with Paul Draper noting that usual inclusion of Carignan was not included in the final blend in this heavy crop vintage, as it was too light to add anything of merit to this Nervo bottling. I am always blown away with the older Ridge wines, and in fact, many older Zins age well and while they lose that overt fruitiness after about 15 or so years in bottle, sometimes you can even be fooled into thinking they are Bordeaux(s), with a silky mouth feel and a sense of earthy complexity, making for a compelling experience in maturity. The 1997 growing season was a great one in California, producing some of the greatest wines of the decade, and there was a bountiful crop of ripe grapes at harvest time, so much so that winemakers almost didn’t have enough space for all the grapes, many chose to do an intense sorting and selection to make their wines, which led to some legendary efforts.

Ridge, ever the open book, says the 1997 Nervo Zin was fermented using all natural spontaneous yeast and aged in mostly five times used air dried American oak barrels with just 20% new wood being used here with an elevage of about a year. This wine was part of Ridge’s Advance Tasting Program, a series they do that go to their wine clubs almost exclusively, so it was a rare treat to get ahold of this one, which I am grateful for and have to thank my friend and wine professional Alex Lallos who found this gem in a private and well kept cellar, with this bottle being in one place since its release in the early part of 1999. I also scored a 1995 Ridge Oat Valley Carignan, which I will open sooner versus later and I hope it has held up even half as good as this Nervo. Overall the ’97 Nervo has a brilliant structural build with some dusty, drying tannins, as you’d expect in a dense wine such as this, but like all Ridge wines it is very polished and supple. I have been blessed with the chance over the years to sample some very old Ridge bottles and while usually people talk about the Monte Bello, their iconic Cabernet Sauvignon based blend from their Santa Cruz Mountains estate, I also must say the Zin blends, like Lytton Springs, Geyserville and Pagani Ranch, all age well to, with this 1997 Nervo proving this quite loudly and with style. I have also in the past have had 25 year old plus Zins from Joel Paterson of Ravenswood fame, with his early nineties stuff, like Old Hill and Dickerson, which were also fabulous and I had an old Elyse Morisoli Zin, from 1991 that was so good even tasted blind a French friend serious thought it was an outer Medoc wine, he guess it was an eighties Beychevelle! Plus, I can say that Turley and Lamborn’s Howell Mountain Zins are very age-worthy. Zinfandel, also now known by its Croatian (or original) name Tribidrag is having another renaissance and there are some fantastic versions out there, with Ridge, Turley, Biale, Carlisle, Bedrock, Lagier-Merideth and Martinelli being just some of the modern classics, plus in the last couple of years you are seeing more small producers hand crafting lighter and more natural styles as well, including great examples by Broc Cellars, Sandlands, Monte Rio Cellars and Martha Stoumen, giving this grape an exciting new range. It’s a great time to discover Zinfandel all over again, and don’t miss a chance to try an older bottle, especially these Ridge offerings!
($35 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 19, 2020

2017 Guimaro, Mencia, Camino Real, Ribeira Sacra D.O. Galicia, Spain.
One of my favorite producers and wines, Guimaro, made by Pedro Rodriguez, makes red and white wines in the Ribeira Sacra region of Spain’s Galicia provence, based in the Amandi zone, one of the Ribeira Sacra’s best subzones with a south facing exposure set on slate soils, known as Losa, to natives here. These steep vineyard sites are back-breaking hard to work, with everything done by hand, they look more like frightening slopes in Mosel than what you’d expect in Spain, looking down upon the Sil river. This 100% whole cluster 2017 is full flavored with flinty earthy tones showing briar accented raspberry, huckleberry, plum, cherry and cranberry fruits, a touch of smoke, leather, mineral iron and anise, along with a delicately sweet floral essence that balances out the savory elements and dusty dry tannins. Mencia has qualities that remind you of the northern Rhone, but is brighter like Pinot or Gamay with a similar lively personality. The 2017 vintage is ripe, but full of natural acidity and takes a few swirls in the glass to reveal its true depth and textural quality, it is a wine that certainly benefits from simple country cuisine and robust dishes. Pedro’s wines are real, honest and terroir driven with the reds being made mostly from Mencia and the white crafted from Godello, ancient native grapes that require extra care and TLC to make world class wines, which he does at this small winery set in this remote place that was once highly prized by the Romans, who named it the Sacred Banks (Ribeira Sacra) and planted vines on the historic terraces. I have tasted with Pedro a few times, when he has traveled to California, I helped do a tasting with him and even though his English is limited, enjoyed his company and sense of humor almost as much as his wines. I hope to one day get myself over to this part of Spain and see him again, it is without question on my bucket list, his wines really speak to me and I can’t imagine not having a few bottles around for nights I need a smile.

The Rodriguez’s have been farming here for generations and before 1991, Pedro’s family made wine mainly for their own consumption and sold small amounts in garrafones, which are 20 liter glass containers, to friends and to a couple of local cantinas, bars that offer the day’s family meals and maybe a room for a lost wanderer, as very few visit this area, as it is way off the beaten path. I mention all this because the wines from Guimaro, which means “rebel” in Gallego (the local dialect), reflect this, they are wines of rustic charm and character from a region that humbly respects and honors the power of nature, they are wines of place, especially the series of single parcel wines like this Camino Real bottling, from all organic 40-60 year old vines set on the slate with a mix of sand, quartz and granite with a field blend of about 85% Mencía plus tiny amounts of Merenzao, Mouratón, Brancellao, Caiño, Sousón and Alicante Bouschet. In the cellar, Pedro, who was mentored by the legendary Raul Perez, keeps things simple, natural and non intervention in style, employing native or indigenous yeast, spontaneous fermentations in open-top wood vats and long macerations, with this Camino Real seeing a 40 maceration and primary fermentation on the skins, after which the wine was raised in a combination of used oak from large foudre to small used barrique and bottled with ultra low sulfur, unfined and unfiltered. Not always polished, these wines are authentic and compelling in their purity, they are without pretense and better for it. With air, this dark ruby/garnet wine gains more layers and a darker sense of fruit and herbs with the feeling of whole bunches and stems coming through all of which excites the medium bodied palate, this is a wine that couldn’t be made anywhere else and I love that unique joy it brings, I highly recommend finding these Guimaro wines. I suggest starting with Guimaro’s entry level bottling, great for everyday drinking and these single vineyard efforts for more serious meals and don’t overlook the Blanco (Godello) it is crisply Chablis like and awesome with sea foods.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 18, 2020

2016 Grochau Cellars, Pinot Noir, Zenith Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The beautifully aromatic and textural 2016 Zenith Vineyard Pinot from John Grochau at Grochau Cellars is an absolute joy to behold in the glass with ripe layers of silken red fruits, a deep floral array and graceful opulence that perfectly capture the vintage and place, making for a heavenly Pinot experience. I am hugely impressed with the Oregon 2016 wines, they are ultra satisfying now they have had another year in bottle to develop and lose some baby fat, they remind me of some of the state’s classic years, with 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2008 coming to mind, and this Grochau Zenith is finding its groove and delivering a stunning performance, even better yet, it should keep getter better and it is still available from the winery at a very reasonable price. There is a lot to admire here, from its dreamy bouquet to its exceptional length, this Grochau Pinot fills out on the palate with blackberry, red currant, strawberry fruits that revolve around a core of black cherry that is also accented by distilled rose petals, a light earthiness, orange tea and whiff of baking spices with very subtle wood notes. The mouth feel really gets your attention and its lush creaminess thrills the senses, but there is also a very exciting undercurrent of energy and natural acidity, which is non aggressive and gives a sensation of weightlessness in effect, while still providing a structured component to this very well crafted wine. Zenith is a Cru site, owned by Tim and Keri Ramey, with many small climates within its boundaries and a diverse set of soils, including marine sedimentary deposits, mineral rich veins and some volcanic influences that add to the depth of complexity in the wines that come from this highly regarded vineyard, with a stellar resume of success by wineries like Ken Wright, Beaux Freres and St. Innocent over the years, to name just a few.

Grochau Cellars was founded in 2002, after John Grochau had worked at the legendary Erath Winery and notably Brick House Vineyards, where working alongside winemaker Doug Tunnel he gained experience and insight that has guided him in his own path in winemaking style. Grochau, who fell in love with wine while riding bikes professionally in France, especially while cycling through the picturesque Loire Valley and when he retired and came home to Oregon he quickly immersed himself in the wine and food culture, it was at this point he knew it was his calling and after almost a decade in the restaurant business he jumped head first into winemaking, where his talents have been realized. Grochau, notes, he was inspired by the diversity of the Willamette Valley’s soils and microclimates, which he promotes by crafting terroir driven wines, like this Eola-Amity Hills Zenith Vineyard shows effectively, expressively and with glorious detail, sourcing from only organic and sustainably-farmed vineyards. Grochau’s wines are all hand-crafted small lot wines that, which he adds, are slowly and naturally fermented using native yeasts and aged mostly used French oak barrels, with this Zenith single vineyard Pinot being a cuvee a selection of, what John calls, the most special barrels produced from this fantastic vineyard. Grochau made this wine from Pommard clone, coming from Zenith’s block 6G, (planted in 2003) which Grochau explains, is wind protected and has a warmer exposure, giving deeper fruit concentration and powerful fruit than many of the other blocks. I met and tasted with John in the past and really thought his wines were special, so it was great to see his new releases are even more compelling and I look forward into digging into his collection of Pinots, plus his Gamay and Melon. This 2016 is sexy stuff to enjoy now, in particular with hearty foods and or to cellar for another 5 to 7 years, it is a wine that intrigues with every sip, I suggest picking up a couple (or more) bottles to savor over the coming few years.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 17, 2020

2018 Jaimee Motely, Claret “Borronda Block” Massa Estate Vineyard, Carmel Valley AVA, Monterey County.
Jaimee Motely’s newest release is a fun and unique interpretation of an old school Claret, a Bordeaux varietal and co-ferment blend of all organic 45% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon that was, I would think, at least partial whole cluster, semi-carbonic and naturally fermented with indigenous yeasts that makes for an expressive, fruity, spicy and wildly exciting red wine. Now, it won’t appeal to the purest amongst us, but Motely’s Massa Claret with its art deco, throw back label is wonderfully enjoyable as a fresh and quaffable wine from this historic 50 year old Carmel Valley vineyard site, a place close to my heart as a Carmel Valley native. The 2018 Massa Claret starts with shaved cinnamon, leafy notes and juicy red berry fruits in a medium dark garnet wine that bursts from the glass with smooth layers of tangy currant, plum, pomegranate and crushed vine picked wild berries, along with a hint of bell pepper, from the percentage of Cab Franc and a whispering of cedar, olive, anise and minty/sage notes. This lively red blend gains a textural mouth feel, fine grained dusty tannins and lingers with crushed flowers, a touch of earth and kirsch, I’m glad I got more than one bottle, because I really want to see how this (low natural alcohol, 12.8%) Massa Claret develops in the bottle, even though it is bright and delicious now, it might prove to be even more complex in 3 to 5 years. Motely says, rather than a Bordeaux style wine, she more inspired by the co-fermented field blends that she has tasted from the Loire Valley, and I think it has an Anjou kind of thing going on and can see where she was going here. Motely, who has enjoy a fast rise in the wine world, gained her experience by working in both the northern and southern hemispheres in the cellar and in the vineyards as well, she also spent time traveling to Europe to walk the classic vineyards and spoke with vignerons who have a coveted history in the field of viticulture and that inspired her passions for wine and its culture.

Jaimee, who has been an assistant winemaker at legendary Syrah producer Pax Wines, is most known for her work with Mondeuse, a rare Savoie grape and her work at Pax Mahle’s facility in Sebastopol, California. Motely, who was introduced to this rustic old Carmel Valley site by winemaker Ian Brand, was clearly moved by what see saw here, noting that from the moment she first laid eyes on the place, Massa Vineyard, she felt an electric energy (from the vines) coursing through her veins. The Massa Estate sits at about 1400 feet above see level in the mountainous Cachagua area in the deep end of Carmel Valley. The Durney family originally planted 80 acres here in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, where they made long aging and powerful wines before selling the property to the Heller family in early 1990s. The Heller’s certified the vineyard organic, and focused on that niche for many years with Cabernet and old vine Chenin Blanc being their mainstay wines. After the Heller’s past away the Massa Family bought up the estate and continued that tradition, even trying out biodynamics to rejuvenate the vines from some neglect when they took over in 2018. The soils here consist, as Motely notes, are made up of granite, sandstone, and calcareous ancient marine deposits. This dry-farmed vineyard is mostly on their own roots, especially the early Borronda Block Cabernet plantings. This new Massa Claret was aged on the lees in neutral French oak barrels for close to a year then rested for a short time in bottle. Jaimee Motely was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland and has a lifetime of restaurant experience and has worked with Raj Parr, the famous sommelier, at RN74 and fell in love with the new California wine scene, getting her feet wet making wine in 2015. She has quickly gained a reputation for her talents, with her limited lineup of wines quickly selling out, I highly recommend getting on her mailing list and getting some of this stuff!
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 16, 2020

2013 Nervi, Gattinara DOCG, Vigna Valferana, Alta Langhe, Piedmonte, Italy.
The rusticly classic flavored and garnet/orange/brickish hued Nervi Vigna Valferana Gattinara is pure savory Nebbiolo goodness in the glass that engages the medium bodied palate the same way a perfectly matured Burgundy does with a sense of old world charm and silken layers of red fruits, dried flowers, mineral notes and earthy elements. This Nebbiolo from Gattinara’s oldest winery, founded in 1906 by Luigi Nervi and recently bought and run by Robert Conterno who is part of the famous Barolo family, comes from vines in the Vercelli hills on the west bank of the Sesia River and Novara hills, rivals many top names in the well known Barolo. Gattinara is a high quality DOCG zone in the northern reaches of Piedmonte, with a long history of wine growing and has become hotspot in recent with outstanding wines and vintages in this region, which needs to be about 90% Nebbiolo (or Spanna, as the locals call it) along with tiny amounts of Barbera and Vespolina being allowed in the DOCG wines. The 2013 vintage was a nice and ripe year, making for wines that are surprisingly easy to drink in their youth with satiny smooth tannins and good depth and density, which this Nervi shows with distinction, bringing a huge grin to my face and it should please Nebbiolo enthusiasts everywhere. The Nervi Gattinara offers up a leathery and woodsy nose with delicate florals and wild berries to start before a core of cherry, plum and strawberry comes into focus in mouth, as well as anise, cedar, minty herbs, umami, sous bois or sanguine (iron) notes and macerated rose petals. This wine took a little while to open up, but it proved fantastically rewarding, it really deserves a three to four course meal to get all of its complexity and lengthy finish.

The Nervi Gattinara, sourced from all estate organic vines, in the Valferana cru, saw a gentle crush with 100% de-stemmed Nebbiolo grapes with 15 day maceration and fermentation in stainless steel vats with temperature control. After which the wine was racked to oak casks to complete malolactic conversion where it was aged for about three years barrels. The winery focuses on three Gattinara bottlings including a basic normale Gattinara DOCG, the Gattinara Molsino and this brilliant Gattinara Valferana. These single-vineyard Gattinara offerings contain the best fruit from Nervi’s vineyards and show each site’s sense of place, plus it should be noted that these single parcel efforts are only done in the best years, which shows the commitment to only release the highest quality examples possible. While I’ve only had limited experience with these Nervi wines, now Nervi-Conterno, I have always been highly impressed with the ones I have tasted, and this 2013 Vigna Valferana with its balanced structure and persistence made for a remarkable evening and I’ll be in search of more, as well as the current 2016 version. Conterno’s influence here will only bring great things to these Nervi Nebbiolo(s) and while the price per bottle has gone up, they still are reasonable for what you get. These northern Piedmonte communes, including Gattinara, Gheme, Lessona, Bramaterra and Boca, with Le Piene being a winery in particular to check out, are well worth discovering and exploring with a real jump in quality being very noticeable in the last 15 years or so. The Nervi, I’ll add, got even better on day two, revealing even more textural pleasure and perfume, filling out completely, which leads me to believe it will age gracefully for many more years!
($49 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 15, 2020

2018 Drew, Pinot Noir, Morning Dew Ranch Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
The new release of the Morning Dew Ranch Pinot from Jason Drew is a monumental effort and a gorgeous wine in the glass with an inviting deep garnet /ruby color and an enticing floral array that almost seduces you before even this fantastic wine that just gets even better and better as you sip and swirl it. This wine thrills the senses and has amazing inner energy, both from the vintage, which was long and cool as well as the partial whole bunches employed in the vinification that brings out so much complexity and intensity in this wine, this is an enthusiasts dreamland and a Pinot that looks to have an exceptionally long life ahead of it, it certainly should be thought of as a California Grand cru, no question. I’ve been saying for years now that Jason Drew is making some of California’s greatest wines and should be considered one of the best winemakers in the state and this wine again is what I’d put up as proof with its stunning clarity, terroir driven elements and rich palate of pure Pinot joy showing classic black cherry, plum, huckleberry and tart strawberry fruits that unfold along with distilled violets, rose petal, black tea, mountain herbs, Thai basil/sage and tangy citrus. As this Morning Dew, which is from the Anderson Valley appellation and sitting up at between 600-800 feet set on Franciscan series and gravelly Loam soils, opens up fully it gains richness and density with a lovely smooth mouth feel without losing its focus or youthful, almost zesty, crisp freshness.

The Morning Dew Ranch Vineyard sits in the deep end of Anderson Valley, being located on a southwest facing hillside at elevation that helps keep things cool, originally planted by the legendary Burt Williams, the eponymous founder of Williams Seylem, with a selection of California heritage clones and suitcase Burgundy selections. Drew, as the winery notes, sources both a Rochioli clone and an 828 or La Tache clone from two separate blocks at Morning Dew, which gives this wine its unique character. The 2018 vintage, Jason explains, was a cooler vintage which translated to longer hang time, pushing his pick date to extremes, a full two weeks later than a normal year. Drew adds that the 2018 is a classic Anderson Valley Pinot delivering an elegant, finely tuned, ethereal and seamless wine, which I endorse completely! I can’t waiting to see where these 2018s go in the future, they look to be absolutely epic with tremendous potential, they might last 20 to 30 years. This Morning Dew saw close to 40% whole clusters, that gives a nice crunchy bite with a subtle pomegranate and stemmy bite, and was fermented with 100% native yeasts. After malos this Pinot was gently gravity racked twice to clarify and saw just 25% new French Oak with about 11 months in barrel total. The natural alcohol came to a very Burgundy like 13.0%, making for a brilliantly balanced wine that does nothing wrong and impresses greatly, a total class act. There has never been a better time than now to explore Drew’s wines, don’t miss his Syrahs and Pinots, especially this Morning Dew Pinot from this awesome vintage.
($70 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 14, 2020

2016 Luis Anxo Rodriguez Vazquez, A Teixa, Ribeiro D.O. Galicia, Spain.
I fell in love with Luis Rodriguez’s wines the first time I tried them, these are some of the most beautiful and compelling white wines in the world, rivaling some prestigous white Burgundies, they are gorgeously textural and aromatic with stylish mineral tones that thrill the senses. This 2016 A Teixa, made from natives varietals, mostly Treixadura along with tiny amounts of Godello and Albariño, flows gracefully across the medium/full palate with layers of white peach, apple, lemon curd and melon fruits along with a lush fleshy feel, accented by clove, clarified cream, a touch of nuttiness and wet stone. The A Teixa is sourced from a single vineyard, not far the cellar Luis uses, is in this vintage about 95% Treixadura, 3% Godello and 2% Albariño from vines that are about 20 years and set on granitic sand in Ribadavia zone of Ribeiro D.O. which is heavily influenced by its Atlantic Ocean proximity and cool climate. The Ribeiro region, an ancient Galician wine region located 45 miles inland from the coast, close to Portugal, was much prized in the past, but had fallen from favor until recent years when small estates started to reappear in the appellation, and especially Luis Rodriguez, who has created a brilliant collection of wines, with both reds and whites. This 2016 really turns on the charm in the glass and is hitting on all cylinders with a white/citrus blossom bouquet and incredible detailing, this is vintage is in a great place right now, highlighting why this is one of my favorite white wines.

The sublimely talented Luis Anxo Rodriguez Vazquez has been hand-crafting world class Ribeiro wines, from the granite based hillsides of his hometown of Arnoia, since 1988 and his mission has been to make distinctive wines from nearly extinct native grapes. The tiny adega, or cellar, that Luis works in was built by his grandfather and is called Viña de Martín, which is named after the first vineyard that he took over from his uncle Martín. According to his US importer Jose Pastor, Luís works with a mixture old and new techniques including temperature-controlled tanks and a mix of French oak barrels, mostly larger format casks. Luis A Rodriguez Vazquez’s fermentations are all done with native yeasts, and with very low sulfur in the winemaking process to avoid oxidation. The white wines are aged extensively on the lees to promote complex depth and richness. The grapes for this A Teixa were all hand-harvested, de-stemmed and pressed into his big foudres for fermentation, seeing one year aging on fine lees, then lightly fined and filtered, then rested in bottle an additional year before release, so when you open a Luis Rodriguez white you get a fully developed wine of regal elegance. I have had the pleasure of meeting Luis and tasting his wines, all of which, impressed me to the core, and I highly recommend you discover these top notch efforts, especially the series of whites, which remind me of Premier and Grand Chablis in style and substance. This golden hued A Teixa is fabulous with sea foods, including lobster, cracked crab, swordfish and salmon dishes as well as poultry and or soft cheeses.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive