Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 25, 2018

2015 Jo Landron, La Louvetrie, Muscadet Serve et Maine Sur Lie, Loire Valley, France.
The certified organic Domaine of Jo Landron uses biodynamic practices on his estate, with this cuvee coming from a higher plateau with a mix of soils that includes sandy clay with amphibolite stones of quartz with subsoils mostly of gneiss and treated with amazing care and passion, making for an unbelievable value in top quality white wine, it’s leesy depth and saline remind me more of a fine Premier Chablis than a humble Muscadet! Jo Landron’s Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Cuvee La Louvetrie 2015 is quite dense in textural feel, but lively and vibrant in a magical tension, it’s brilliant in mineral freshness and still ripe and with round glycerin, giving a polished, refined and balanced performance in the glass showing vivid lemon/lime, bitter apple, quince and salty wet stones with a light bouquet of white flowers, crushed sea shells, almond brioche and white peach. This clear Melon de Bourgogne and with a pale green/golden hue, adds a touch of sour herb and a steely core, it saw at least 6 months on the lees, hence the name (Sur Lie) is a refreshing and zingy white, but also with real extract and a serious nature, it will impress anyone for the price, no question and will be a wonderful oyster wine, as well as good for Summer sipping with soft French cheeses and picnics. Imported by Beaune Imports, Jo Landron is a winery to follow and joins Domaine de L’Ecu as one of the regions elite producers pursuing new heights of quality and respecting the land as well as going as natural as possible, making soulful artisan wines, drink this one over the next 2 to 3 years.
($15 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 24, 2018

2014 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Mountain Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain.
One of Randall’s secret series (or less known) of Pinot explorations, the 2014 Bonny Doon Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir comes from a site not far from Hanzell and Van Der Kamp, both of which made the area famous for powerful Pinot Noir and that were planted back in the 1950’s, and while Sonoma Mountain Vineyard came later it offers that same kind of pedigree and complexity, it’s a wine to search out, exclusively available through the tasting room. Pinot Noir is Randall Grahm’s great white whale, he has been trying to make wine that appeases his high expectations, and even though he has gone on to become one of the world’s most renown vintners and icon in California wine, especially with his Cigare Volant Rhone Ranger wines, he has always wanted to make a great Pinot Noir and has felt it was the one thing that got away. I personally have been thrilled with Grahm’s recent Pinots, especially his Enz Vineyard and this beautifully detailed, deeply layered and subtlety spicy Sonoma Mountain Vineyard, it’s an expressive and satiny wine that shows an opulent and vinous mouth feel, but reaches complex depths with velvety tannins that give an underlying grip and power. The nose is full of fruit and floral charm and the entry is wonderfully forward and lush, almost creamy on the palate, it slowly seduces and opens to a medium/full Pinot gaining extra elements with every sip, it goes from a simple pleasure to a seriously profound wine in stages, it demands your attention while a sly smile, it’s a wine that needs an evening to reveal all that is there with racy red plum, sweet raspberry and a core of black cherry along with mineral tones, dried lavender, rose oil, earl grey, dusty red pepper flakes, cedar, vanilla and minty anise. The acidity is lifting, but ultra smooth, the age has given this Pinot a seamless feel and polished class, it’s without a doubt a quality and refined effort, drink now.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Special Report: Two Oregon Rosés You Need to Try!

Grapelive New Rosé Picks

2017 Bow & Arrow, Rose, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Scott Frank’s Bow & Arrow Dry Willamette Valley Rose is mostly Pinot Noir based with a touch of Gamay similar to what you might find in Touraine in the Loire Valley, where he gets most of his inspiration. That said, the Bow & Arrow Rose is at first a dead ringer for a Txakolina Rose with a faint, but distinct spritzy zesty quality and electric vibrancy, I am totally addicted to this wonderfully light and zippy pink wine! Picked to be Rose and whole cluster, direct press with a tiny amount of self captured CO2 this Willamette Valley Rose deliver a excellent performance and is thrilling from start to finish with it’s remarkably delicate palate of acid and mineral driven character featuring a heightened experience of tart cherry, strawberry, nectarine, lemon/lime and faint mouth watering unripe watermelon. This a vivid and tangy, super dry style pink that is an ultimate poolside quaffer and or picnic/porch pounder, I though will be savoring a few bottles at the beach this summer. Scott Franc, winemaker at Bow & Arrow, the Portland based natural wine producer is crafting some of Oregon’s best values and most interesting wines, sourcing from almost exclusively organic if not biodynamic sites, that includes Johan Vineyards, his wines as mentioned lean towards the Loire Valley for their influence rather than the more common Burgundy theme you find in the Willamette, be sure to check out their Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume styled Sauvignon Blancs, as well as their saline/stony Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet like) for the wines and their Gamay based reds especially, with the Rhinestones in particular a wine not to miss, along with a fresh set of Pinot Noirs this is an awesome winery to discover. The Rose gains with air, adding a hint of snappy herbs and rosewater, it’s refreshing charms run deep and I only wish it was in a magnum, drink as much as you can find!
($16-20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2017 Illahe Vineyards, Rose of Tempranillo, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Illahe is an under the radar producer of wonderful Willamette Valley Pinots, but you should check out all of their offerings, they include this amazingly and shockingly dry Rose of Tempranillo, as well as Lagrein, a grape that makes some the most interesting and dark wines of the Alto Adige, a Viognier, Pinot Gris and Gruner Veltliner! Illahe, which means “Earth” or (our) “Place” in the native American Chinook language, is a mostly organic producer with a great sense of sustainable responsibility as well as being part of Oregon’s Deep Roots Coalition, they are based in Dallas, Oregon in the west Salem area of the Willamette Valley set on marine sediments atop ancient siletz rock, with these sedimentary Willakenzie, Bellpine, Wellsdale, Dupee, with patches of volcanic Jory soils giving these wines their soul, life force and character. There are so many intriguing things going on at this winery it could take a novel’s worth of text to relate it all to you, but I digress, I was talking about their pink stuff! The Rose of Tempranillo is whole cluster and direct press from all hand picked small lots and barrel fermented and aged like a white wine, but with just enough skin contact to achieve it’s golden/pink salmon hue and it comes in at a vibrantly fresh 12.5% natural alcohol, with it’s acid intensity it has a riveting personality and old world charm and zesty feel, it’s bursting with energy showing tart melon, wild peach, tart yellow and pink citrus as well as sour cherry fruits along with a racy spiciness, steely mineral, loam and wet flint notes with just enough used barrel influence to give a nice vinous quality. Isn’t she pretty in pink, drink this vivacious Rose of Tempranillo, which has an almost Provence Tibouren feel, over the coming year, it’s tasty brilliant stuff.
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 23, 2018

2016 Drew, Syrah, Valenti Ranch Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
Jason Drew in the last 3 or 4 vintages has arguably been crafting some of California’s absolute best wines, with both his Pinot Noir and Syrah lineup, these are just fantastic reds with amazing purity and intense detailing, it is seriously hard to find anything but near perfection in all of them, but I am always drawn to this Valenti Ranch Syrah, so it was with extreme excitement I got my first taste of this 2016 vintage, and of course it is a mind blowing experience in the glass! Valenti is planted to Chave (Hermitage) and Clone 1 selections and at about 1,300 to 1,400 feet on oceanic sedimentary and gravelly loam soils of the ultra cool climate Mendocino Ridge AVA that allows limits yields and gives classic Northern Rhone character along with deep California fruit and natural low alcohol. Jason co-ferment 5% Viognier, very Cote-Rotie like, with 25% whole cluster using 100% native yeast and guided a gentile fermentation and long maceration before raising the Valenti Syrah in barrels, 75% used French barrique along with 25% Hungarian oak, only gravity flow racked twice to clarify. Drew, since 2013, does all the farming at Valenti, which is now done to organic practices that seems to make this wine explode with energy and terroir personality, in the last couple of vintages it could be my favorite red wine under $50, and this 2016 is not far off if not even better for it’s heighten sensations and delicacy of a lighter vintage, though I do love the density and depth of the 2014 and 2015. If you are on Drew’s list and received this 2016 Valenti, give it another year in bottle at least, but dear God it has amazing potential and it is a sexy, sexy wine with layers of crushed violets, peppercorns, creme de cassis, wild plum, olive tapenade, minty/salty licorice and just the right amount of nervy stem notes. I can’t recommend Drew Family Cellars more highly, or highly enough, this is a must join list, and this 2016 Valenti Ranch Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Syrah is as good as it gets, just give it the time it needs, best from 2020-2028.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 22, 2018

2013 Domaine Francois Lumpp, Givry Premier Cru “A Vigne Rouge” Red Burgundy, France.
This Domaine is getting a lot of buzz for value, and I was very excited to try this Givry, not to be confused with the more prestigious Gevrey-Chambertin, by Francois Lumpp, this area is in the Cote Chalonnaise, not far from the more famous Mercurey. There are a total of 240 acres of red and just 24 acres of white in the 27 climats within the Givry AOC (appellation) that are classified as Premier Cru vineyards, with wines designated Givry Premier Cru that show a vineyard name, or, as allowed, just Givry Premier Cru, in which case it is possible to blend wine from several Premier Cru vineyard sites within the AOC, with this Lumpp A Vigne Rouge cuvee being the former, it’s a single vineyard Premier Cru Givry. The region is known for both red and white with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay being the main grapes as you’d expect and even though it’s a lesser known place, Burgundy fans have long looked here for purity, character and especially value, and with this Francois Lumpp you can see why. Kermit Lynch now imports Lumpp, who was founded in 1991 and produce just about 4,000 cases annually, every wine François makes is from Givry, and interestedly from vineyards that he himself planted and nurtured–something that is exceedingly rare in Burgundy today, his vines are a massale selection of old bud wood grown on in this case a mix of Oxfordian Nantoux Limestone, Fine Marl, and Clay with A Vigne Rouge coming off 15 year old vines with Southern, Southwestern, and at 850 feet above sea level. Givry’s best premier cru sites, which is the case in most of the Côte d’Or (Burgundy) are situated on the mid to upper level slopes of the rolling hillsides, these form the base of Lumpp’s holdings (all of which are in fact Premier Cru plots, except one white Lieu-Dit). Lumpp uses stainless steel to ferment with gentile punch downs then the wine is raised in barriques, of which surprisingly are about 70% new each vintage, the Premier Crus get one year in barrel as this one did with only one racking to clarify before bottling. This 2013 is astonishingly fresh and deeply flavored with a rich dark garnet/ruby hue and a vivid grapey nose that leads to a textured palate that shines with blackberry, plum, bramble berry and cherry fruits along with a streak of mineral, earth and briar adding sweet woody notes along with hint of tobacco, tangy currant, minty herb and apple skin. The tannins are supple, but firmer than you’d expect of a wine of this vintage and there’s a lot of pop from vital acidity, while being rather lush and dense, certainly this Burgundy has ages to go and it’s a huge bargain, best with robust cuisine, and it must be said it has resolved almost all the oak making for real entertaining and stylish wine, drink almost guilt free, best from 2019 to 2026.
($39 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 21, 2018

2014 Chesebro, Syrah, La Mariposa, Cedar Lane Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Mark and Will Chesebro’s single barrel Syrah with a touch of co-ferment Viognier, Cote-Rotie style La Mariposa was just released and was available as of 4/20/18 in their Carmel Valley tasting room, it is a seriously good cool climate Arroyo Seco example that you’ll want to get sooner v. later! Showing a rich body and full flavors, you be surprised by the extremely modest low alcohol, it comes in at just 12.5%, very Northern Rhone like, with air and swirls there’s even more surprises in the glass gaining intense layers of spice, earth, meaty notes and sweet floral tones as well as light kirsch, wild herbs and gripping peppercorns. The main profile leans towards boysenberry, plum and black raspberry fruit which is amplified by Italian green olive and racy spearmint, with a long refined finish that recounts all the mentioned elements. The grippy tannins are well managed by the medium/full density and while easy to enjoy it will show it’s complexity and best form with hearty cuisine, this is an impressive and showy effort from Chesebro, you not want to miss this limited bottling, the 24 cases will go fast, drink over the next 3 to 5 years. One of Monterey’s sleeper wineries, Chesebro offers a quality and value set of wines that offer an authentic well crafted sensibility and restraint, their zippy Vermentino and vivid Grenache Blanc are gems, plus the dusty dry Rose is one of my favorites, if you want to understand and taste Arroyo Seco’s terroir then this is your place to start, these are wines with a true and transparent character of place.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 20, 2018

2015 Weingut Mueller-Catoir, Riesling Trocken, Haart Burgergarten “Im Breumel” Grosses Gewächs, Pfalz Germany.
The fabled estate of Mueller-Catoir, a family owned winery since 1774, going back nine generations in it’s long history is now run by Herr Philipp David Catoir, with Mosel native Martin Franzen, with experience as head of operations at the amazing Schlossgut Diel in the Nahe and well regarded Gut Nagelsforst in Baden, looking over winemaking responsibility, he inherited from Mueller-Catoir’s long time cellar master Hans-Günther Schwarz (one of Germany’s greats) in 2001. Grown on pure sandstone, the certified organic Haart Burgergarten VDP Grosse Lage vineyard is perfect site for a GG dry as well as classic Spatlese and Auslese, it gives a ton of power and concentration and that especially shows in the deep 2015 vintage, there is always a sense of liquid rock and a racy steely edge to this site, even in the sweeter wines, which gives them their distinction, though this is in particular true of the Grosses Gewachs. I am somewhat torn, like importer Terry Theise, I adore the sweet/fruity wines from Mueller-Catoir, he is so happy they make Spatlese from this Grand Cru vineyard, and it is a classic, but I am thrilled by the dry GG and can’t seem to get enough of it, when I can get it! As Terry notes, Müller-Catoir was an early adopter of reductive winemaking in Germany, and implements a gentle handling of the grapes, employing a long skin contact, with an exceptionally slow, light touch during pressing, as well as fermentations at warmer than traditional temperatures, though this one had a cold ferment and all in stainless steel vats as well as aging. The wine is only racked once and later than normal to allow purity of form while gaining from the extended lees aging in the Cru wines, there is always such a overwhelming sense of place and house in these wines and this one takes it to another level, this vintage is somewhere in the mystical experience realm with amazing clarity of form, crystalline mineral focus and a wondrous textural feel, this 2015 is more like what you image a Grand Cru Chablis should be. This 2015 Im Breumel GG highlights it’s mottled sandstone with a chalky profile and makes an impact on the palate with a sublime play between it’s dynamic energy and it’s vinous and level of natural glycerin with layers of stone fruit, tangy citrus and subdued tropical elements along with it’s pure Riesling lime, green apple and mango core as well as a hint of hazelnut, hibiscus tea, wet river rock, brine and vivid saline. With air you find a faint floral perfume, steely vitality giving way to an expanded density, complexity and lingering tart white peach, kiwi and verbena/citron. This is an absolute masterpiece of dry Riesling greatness from Mueller-Catoir, it’s a 20 year wine easy, I only wish I had more! I will appease myself by getting a few bottles of sleeper Spatlese from the same vineyard, while fruity it’s far drier in delivery than you’d imagine and at $30ish it’s a steal, though I hope I will be reunited with this GG in the future, and I can’t wait to try the 2016 soon.
($40-50 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 19, 2018

2014 Girolamo Russo, Etna Rosso DOC “Feudo” Sicily, Italy.
The winery, an organic tiny Etna producer, Girolamo Russo is one of Sicily’s newest stars led by Giuseppe Russo, a professionally trained and performing pianist, who since 2005 has been organically farming his family’s old vineyards, some of which are 100 years old, he works 15 hectares of vines on the cooler North side of Etna around the town of Passopisciaro, one of the most famous areas on the volcano. With mostly the Nerello Mascalese grape, the darling of Sicily these days, it’s a varietal that thrives on the volcanic soils, it makes for a fine tannin structured, silky medium bodied wine that leads to comparison with Burgundy (Pinot Noir) with it’s elegance and complexity, though with it’s exotic lava/ash spiciness it has it’s own terroir character that gives a unique appeal and style. All of Giuseppe’s cru wines are crafted the same way, with native/natural yeast, without fining or filtration, or temperature control at fermentation and employing a gentile 10-12 day maceration, with hand punch downs, with each of the small lots kept separate until blending into each of the wines. The Feudo cru is from 60 to 65 year old vines and allows for a 200 case lot, and it’s a field blend of more than 80% Nerello Mascalese with the rest mostly Nerello Cappuccio along with a few other local black grapes aged in oak cask, with this beautiful 2014 is perfectly balanced and satiny in feel, but don’t be fooled by the first impression, it’s supple mouth feel gives way to glorious complexity and depth with air and time in the glass, it’s a long wine that reveals true terroir and passion of place. Giuseppe Russo was keen to learn his craft and go his own route, so was influenced without extreme dogma by a variety of experiences with his neighbors, all great winemakers, including Frank Cornelissen, the intense natural winemaker, Passopisciaro’s Andrea Franchetti, who crafts bigger and more age worthy wines, as well as Marco de Grazia of the modern Tenuta delle Terre Nere, who’s wines were some of the first to gain international fame from Mount Etna, especially in America, his bottling of single vineyard wines and crus was certainly something that Giuseppe found profound and he followed in his own wines. The 2014 Feudo Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso, imported by Oliver McCrum Wines, is richly textured and with layers of red fruits, mineral intensity and vivid spices with a palate of dried flowers, flinty stones, dusty plums, raspberry and with a core of earthy cherry along with subtle red pepper, cedar and anise adding some lavender, chalk, fleshy strawberry/peach and a hint of candied red citrus. Beautifully detailed, clear in form and round this is a wonderful drinker and would easily hold it’s own against some serious wines, and it should age nicely for another 5 to 7 years, it’s a sexy and well made red, impressive for it’s restraint and grace.
($40-55 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 18, 2018

2016 Le Temps des Copains by Frederic Niger, Gamay “Astra” Vin de France, Loire Valley, France.
This is a new project of Fred Niger of Domaine de l’Ecu, which is like what Gavenat of Cotes du Jura fame is also doing, Fred had long dreamt of collaborating with like-minded growers and the project was kicked into high gear in 2017, because Fred had a near total loss of estate fruit in two successive vintages (2016 & 2017) due to hail and frost in Muscadet in the Loire region. “Le Temps des Copains” means “time with friends” and the wines are a collaboration between Fred and fellow natural driven winegrowers with Niger making the wines at de L’Cru. With Astra being his joint venture with Gamay from Benoît Landron, who is also in Muscadet, but some how managed to get his fruit through the worst of the weather, it’s fermented in tank, then aged in amphora with no sulfur added. This 2016 Astra is bright and textured natural wine with a deep ruby/garnet hue in the glass making for a very attractive and intriguing wine that impresses on the palate with layers of dark fruit, including plum, black cherry, strawberry and a touch of framboise along with mineral tones, mixed spices, soft floral elements, a touch of earth and dusty stones. There is a lot of youthful energy, but it is rather elegant in form and the acidity is perfectly matched to the smooth mouth feel, while the tannins are satiny ripe, all which highlight the class and focus in this wine, it’s impressive and wonderfully drinkable with it’s lifted fruit.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 17, 2018

2014 Via Giusti, Pinot Noir, Giusti Ranch, Estate, Russian River Valley.
The seriously endowed and beautiful estate Via Giusti Pinot Noir flows seamlessly across the palate with a bold dark fruit character and sweet french oak notes that remind you of the better Russian River classics, including Willams Selyem, Martinelli and Rochioli with loads of joyous blackberry, cherry, plum and smoky French oak shadings, it’s brilliant and showy effort. Kurt Giusti, vintner, has deep roots in the Russian River and his family has been a fixture here since 1875, though very under the radar compared to the mentioned wines and a new label to discover, especially this enticing 2014 estate Pinot, a 300 case production wine made from vines on the ranch grown on the Goldridge and Franciscan sandy loam soils, Giusti’s impressive offering comes in at about 14.5% and was made from clones 115, 667 and the dark 777 and was aged 16 months with about 40% new French oak used. Kurt recent brought in winemaker Dylan Sheldon, a veteran who has elegant sensibilities, especially with his own label wines, it’s looking like a perfect match and while he didn’t start this one he helped finish this vintage, and going forward you can expect even further refinement and lift in these wines. A deep hue in the glass is sexy and the length here is extraordinary with lingering kirsch, vanilla and rose petals that add to the seduction found on the full and racy palate that includes black cherry, plum, huckleberry, cola bean, anise, sweet tobacco leaf, a hint of earthy loam, mineral and cinnamon(y) baking spices. There is a copious amount of vinous texture and while overt it has a bright intensity which delivers a focused experience and heightens the enjoyment in this wine that has blossomed in the bottle, it should age gracefully for another 5 to 10 years, even if it is delicious and an opulent Russian River Pinot right now.
($69 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive