Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 18, 2018

2015 Claire Ouzoulias, Clos Chante l’Alouette, Saint-Emilion Red Bordeaux, France.
Claire Ouzoulias’ Clos Chante l’Alouette Saint-Emilion Bordeaux is an all organic blend of 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc grown mainly on sandy soils with a high iron content and it shows it the fresh mineral focus and sanguine nature of this lovely old world wine. Making rich and pure wines, Claire is the 6th generation of vignerons in the Ouzoulias family, and to own and farm three small estates in the right bank’s Saint-Emilion region starting back in 1889, and she is leaning towards natural winemaking, taking a different route to her contemporaries that are almost all making new oak driven modern wines, while she prefers hands on approach in the vineyard, hands off in the cellar, with native yeast ferments and less flashy oak treatments with more used wood. This estate wine is from a tiny parcel, about 3.5 hectares in size, again all of which is certified organic allowing for a more fresh style and more lifted with an elegance and subtlety that is hard to find in Saint-Emilion, with this 2015 vintage showing ripe fruit and Merlot driven character with dark berry fruit and a light earthy seduction, it’s a true classic old school beauty with firm, but with supple tannins, a medium full body and density that allows for early drinking pleasures. This Clos Chante l‘Alouette starts with loaminess on the nose with delicate florals, mulberry and cedar (elegant wood) before giving way to a packed palate of black cherry, plum and forest berries along with a touch of Cabernet Franc pepper and wild herb as well as anise and a faint creme de cassis note. This impressive classically styled “Right Bank” wine is just the right amount (a) touch rustic, but wonderfully lengthy and round in texture, it’s especially good with robust cuisine, it would be absolutely brilliant with game birds, duck in reduction sauce and or wild mushroom dishes. There’s plenty of stuffing and fruit here last 10 to 15 years if not much longer, I adore this fine Bordeaux in it’s youth and see no great reason to wait too to enjoy it, though it should gain more complexity over time and will reward some short term patience, best to give it 3 to 5 years more in bottle. Imported by Floraison Selections, Claire Ouzoulias also has a Grand Cru Saint-Emilion, it’s under the Château Franc Pourret label which looks to be a deeper expression as this estate sits on the highly acclaimed limestone and clay soils, and with this one being this good, I am really looking forward to trying it as well!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 17, 2018

2015 Yves Cuilleron, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “Laya” Northern Rhone, France.
One of the Northern Rhone most gifted winemakers, who has gained international fame for his Syrah and Viognier offerings from his Domaine based in the village of Verlieu in Chavanay, he farms a variety of small plots in top Crus including Condrieu and Cote-Rotie, as well as spectacular old vine parcels in Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph that make for wold class wines that shine with a true sense of terroir. The “Laya” Crozes-Hermitage Rouge comes from a single Lieu-dit vineyard south of the Tain L’Hermitage set on granite influenced soils, the grapes 100% Syrah are partially destemmed, with just the right amount of whole cluster and stems, then placed in open vats for a three week cuvaison with malolactic fermentation in small mostly neutral (used) French oak barrels where the wine is left to age for 16 months before bottling. Deeply colored, beautiful purple/black with bright edges the Laya Crozes is vivid and wonderfully earthy in style with layers of dark fruits, graphite/stones, leather, pretty underlying violets and minty herbs. Youthful and fresh it unfolds with a medium body and firm fruit density with boysenberry, damson plum, blueberry and currant all coming through with touches of black olive, leather, cedar, peppercorns and kirsch. Gains mouth feel and width with air, but never losing it’s sharp focus, Yves Cuilleron is, as mentioned in prior reviews, making some of the best wines of his career and his Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage, both his white and red versions, are some of the greatest Rhone values out there bar none! Drink this classic Crozes (Syrah) over the next 5 to 10 years, and don’t miss any and all chances to try these 2015 and 2016 Cuilleron wines.
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 16, 2018

2015 Weingut Kunstler, Riesling Trocken, Rheingau, Germany.
One of Germany’s best wineries and elite winemaker, Gunter Künstler, comes from the famous village of Hochheim am Main, in the eastern most portion of the Rheingau. In 17th century Britain the term ‘Hock’ was used to describe all Rhinegau wines, because of the quality of the wine coming from this area. At that time, wines from Hochheim were much more famous than the Mosel wines and were more expensive than some of the finest Bordeaux, in fact Thomas Jefferson toured the region in 1788 and described Rheingau Riesling as some of the finest white wines in the world writing about what he found as “small and delicate Rhysslin which grows only from Hochheim to Rudesheim”. He was so impressed with the Rieslings that he found here, he took 100 cuttings of Rheingau Riesling back to Monticello. Weingut Künstler in Hochheim Main/Rheingau is more recent to the region and is for Germany a really young winery, it was started back in 1965 by Franz Kunstler, who had been in the former German part of the Czech Republic for generations, and it was only back In 1992 his son Gunter took over the estate, and turned it into one of the finest producers in the country, and in 1994 the estate was admitted to the prodigious VDP. The estate has plots in many parts of the Rheingau from the slate of the famed Rudesheimer Berg to the loess, clay, sand, loam, marl and limestone soils of Hochheimer’s great Crus of Domdechaney, Kirchenstück and Hölle. Kunstler is moving toward all organic, it’s a tough process in this humid area of the Rheingau near the Main River, but he is committed, In the future he will move step by step to 100% organic, plus he ferments with cultured yeast, because it’s often still warm when grapes are being picked and to work sponti (native) would mean a greater risk of volatile acidity. Gunter does most (wines) in Stuckfass, large old German oak, though some is done in stainless as well, he does everything to promote intensity and purity of flavors, he has become a leading light in dry styles and his Rieslings are full of energy and finesse. This Riesling comes from multiple Rheingau sites and is an entry into Kunstler’s lineup of amazing Rieslings, it is a perfect sushi and or picnic wine with zesty acidity, lighter body and a crunchy mineral tone. White peaches, pure steely coolness and roses lead the way on Kunstler’s Trocken along with vibrant lime and tangerine, wet river rocks, lively herbs, kumquat and dry salinity. Not as concentrated as the Holle cru, but this base dry Riesling is beautifully balanced, fresh and an absolute study in place and varietal, this stuff is fantastic for the price, it’s going to be a pleasing white for many years to come, but best in the near term with it’s crisp detail and vivid mouth watering charm.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 15, 2018

2015 M. & C. Lapierre, Morgon Roche du Py “Cuvee Camille” Cru Beaujolais, France.
Even without their famous father around to guide them, Mathieu and Camille continue to make some of the finest Gamay wines in the world and are some of the natural wine world’s most influential. Marcel Lapierre, who sadly past away a few years ago in 2010, took over the family domaine from his father in 1973, even then he was on the road to becoming a legend, not just in Morgon, one of Beaujolais top Cru villages, but in the greater world of wine, he was guided by Jules Chauvet, who was a winemaker, a researcher, a chemist, and a “viticultural prophet” according to Kermit Lynch, the famed importer, and it was Chauvet that first spoke about natural wine and organic practices in the vineyard as well as shying away for modern techniques and chemical additives, of which Marcel perfected and his methods are a model on which top winemakers are using now, including neighbors like Jean Foillard as well as his son Mathieu, who’s wines are maybe now even better. The Lapierre cuvee Camille, grown on a tiny higher elevation plot, like all their wines is 100% whole cluster with native yeast fermentation and aged in used Burgundy barrel with this 2015 showing off the ripe vintage with forward fruit expressiveness and depth of flavors with lovely perfume and round density, it a wine of richness and substance, but not as quite as exotic or flashy as the famed 2009, though wonderfully close in style and what looks like a classic year. Beautiful sweet raspberry, plum and violets lead the way with sexy deep garnet/ruby hue in the glass adding candied cherry, walnut oil, racy spices and with a light anise note as well as a hint of stems and lingering tart currant. It’s a juicy Gamay no question, being easy to love, but it has subtle earth, thrilling intensity/enegy and a serious side too, with fine tannins and lifting acidity that should see this Morgon Cru Beaujolais, grown on almost pure granite, age well for a decade at least, this is glorious wine.
($44 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 14, 2018

nv Andre Clouet, Silver, Grand Cru Brut Nature Champagne, A Bouzy, France.
I bought this Clouet on sale and wow, what a steal, this is some sensationally great bubbly! Jean-François Clouet, who was born and raised in Bouzy, still lives in the 18th century village house built by his ancestors, he takes his lineage serious and respects his family’s traditions and that of the region, and is renown grower producer in A Bouzy. Clouet makes a full range of intense and stylish Champagnes, all of which comes family plots mostly comprised of 100% Pinot Noir from Clouet’s lieux-dits in the Bouzy zone. The André Clouet “Silver” Grand Cru Brut Nature is a non vintage zero dosage Champagne of exceptional class and delicacy, it’s a severe and high toned bubbly, 100% Pinot from mid slopes around the village of Bouzy set on the chalky limestone and clay, it went through full malos and was aged on it’s lees in neutral French oak barrel, adding to the surprising of it’s crisp detail, considering it’s malo/wood winemaking fashion, though like a great Burgundy it changes and gains with time in the glass adding richness to the tight form it initially shows. If ever there was a Champagne that fits all my wants and desires, then this Clouet, imported by Sacred Thirst, fits the bill as I adore Extra Bruts and Non Dosage styles absolutely best of all and this Andre Clouet silver kills it for the price, especially what I paid! Lemony briskness leads the way with hints of hazelnut, brioche and wet river stones adding a touch of white cherry, unripe apple and cool green melon, all lifted by the pure tight beading of it’s electric mousse. The Pinot Noir gives a bite of extract which makes this a fantastic food Champagne, it is perfect for oysters, sushi and mussels in spicy broth, it’s not for everyone, but damn it’s good, it’s without question a thinkers sparkler not a crowd pleaser, which just makes it that much more special.
($29 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 13, 2018

2014 Clos Saint Jean, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Valley, France.
Vincent Maurel’s beautiful and lush 2014 Chateauneuf du Pape old vines is cuvee blend of mostly Grenache, but with does of Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Vaccarèse and Muscardin as well, made grapes grown on the classic terroir, set on clay and limestone, with galets (the round stones that litter the vines, from plots in and around the famous Le Crau cru. The Grenache for this Chateauneuf is aged in only concrete vats for 12 months, while the remainder is aged in used demi-muids of French oak, from vines that are between 50 and 100 years old, hence the impressive mouth feel and concentration of this fantastic Clos Saint Jean. I absolute love this bottling for it’s purity and hedonism, it can only be Chateauneuf du Pape and it continues to be one of the best values for elite and stylish Chateauneuf, it’s a sexy and ultra reliable choice for the cellar! This dark and loaded Chateauneuf Rouge Vieilles Vignes unfolds in deep layers with a full bodied palate of boysenberry, plum and spicy cherry fruits along with violette/creme de cassis, minty licorice, lavender, liquid stones, fig paste and pepper notes, it’s an opulent wine, but has lovely detailing, a firmness of structure and the vintage’s lift allowing for a lighter impression that makes it a joy with food and like 1999 Chateauneufs, especially Vieux Telegraphe, also from La Crau, it should be a surprising ager as well, I wish I had more damn of it, best from now until 2028.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 12, 2018

2017 Drew Family Cellars “The Suitcase” Rosé, California.
Drew’s dry pink wine is 90% Syrah, 5% Grenache and 5% Mourvèdre, picked between 21.5 and 22 brix, from a field blend of their Syrah along with the small amounts of Grenache and Mourvèdre that is inter planted in (the Syrah, which is Chave clone) vineyard. It’s made using direct whole cluster pressing with native yeast fermentation using 50%-50% stainless tanks and neutral French oak barrels, making for a vibrant and textured Rosé. Don’t over look this dry pink from Jason Drew, it has a serious edgy intensity and a dense form, and as I am with all of his wines, greatly impressed, his wine it gains dramatically in the glass both in terms of complexity as well as textually, and while I usually don’t like Syrah as much in Rosé guise, this stuff I absolutely love! Brilliant clear acidity, plenty of raw extract make for a mouth watering experience with a flow of bright flavors with a layered medium weight palate of cranberry, blueberry and wild strawberry fruits in that distilled essences sort way come through with a kiss of citrus, watermelon (without the overtly fruity element) and chunky mineral tones, wild herbs and florals along with a tart, high-toned and tangy cherry note that lingers. This is a Rosé that has a authentic rustic character and charm that seduces the palate and like Drew’s red wine offerings seems to really gain with air, but always has a wonderful inner bright/energy and crisp (powerful) vigor, and while it would not disappoint for easy warm pool side sipping it certainly with be much more appreciated with substance cuisine-wise, the more robust the better. This Rosé by Drew, along with the sister Albarino under “The Suitcase” label are rarities going out mainly to their mailing list, like you needed another reason to get on there list! (You definitely NEED to be on it) Drink this one over the next year, not that you need to be told that of course, because there’s no way to resist it, it’s an intriguing dry Rosé to enjoy now. If you haven’t tried Drew, it’s way past time, these are are some of California’s best wines, especially their Syrah and Pinot Noir jottings from mid elevation sites close to the ocean, on marine sedimentary soils, in the western side of the Anderson Valley and the Mendocino Ridge, these are amazing wines and exciting times for this region.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Special Tasting Report, Oregon Stars

Grapelive Special Report: Some New Oregon Beauties

“While Oregon remains a great source of great and long-lived Pinot Noir, it’s no longer a one trick pony! There is an amazing array of wines to chose from in the Willamette made from varietals you’d maybe not expect, these include Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, Friulano, Riesling and especially Pinot Blanc, just to name a few. It’s a very exciting time to be an Oregon fan, the latest vintages have been extraordinary!” -Kerry Winslow, grapelive

New Oregon Wines to Look For

2016 Bow & Arrow, Sauvignon Blanc, Union School Vineyard, Willamette Valley.
The Loire inspired Bow & Arrow Sauvignon Blanc sourced from the Union School Vineyard in the warmer Southern side of the Willamette Valley is a ripe oak aged example that Scott Franc fermented in large format French oak puncheon and aged in his cellar for 10 months. This is an example of rich and detailed Sauvignon that gives a nod to some of the more classic versions from places like Pouilly-Fume or the Cru Sancerres like those of Gerard Bouley, it’s one of the best, if not the best SB I’ve tried from Oregon. Bow & Arrows winemaker Scott Frank, who worked under the legendary John Paul at Cameron Winery, says the Union School was the first site they got Sauvignon Blanc from and turned out to be perfectly suited to make his traditional style of Sauvignon Blanc, and even though not much in vogue these days this richer and oak influenced wine gets your attention white delicate floral tones and textural mouth feel adding quinces, lemon/lime and fresh picked stone fruits along with leesy brioche, sweet French oak and round melon notes. While dense and with a medium/full body there is still plenty of lift and persistence here with a heightened sense of acidity and vitality of form, this was put together with exceptional care. There is a lot to love in this Sauvignon Blanc, it is very entertaining and has real serious substance to it, and while not Dagueneau, it is a thrill for the money, in fact it’s a steal for the quality, and better yet it has potential to age well too, I bet it gets way better with a few more years in bottle, best from 2019 to 2026.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014 Westrey, Chardonnay, Oracle Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This beautiful and very Chassange like single vineyard Chardonnay, crafted by talented winemakers Amy Wesselman and David Autrey, hence the name Westrey, from the Dundee Hills’ Jory (volcanic) soils of the Oracle Vineyard, it’s a lovely expression of place and class with subtle oak nuance and a refined medium body. This Westrey Oracle Chard is cooly crisp with fine mineral tones and delicate layers of fruit along with modest alcohol that adds to that Burgundy like feel, it has a nice acidic lift and gains a lovely textural presence in the glass while staying vibrant and graceful throughout it’s length. Layers included on the palate include an array of citrus and tangy apple and pear fruit along with a steely form and structure along with hints of hazelnut, wet stones, saline and a light cream note, as well as golden fig, a dusting of backing spice, lemon curd and lime blossom. This vintage was a nice surprise, it’s maturing well and it’s my favorite from this winery, and while I don’t get that excited by Oregon Chardonnay normally, this wine really impresses for it’s quality and value. This worth looking for and it’s ready to enjoy now, it’s in a good spot, best between 2018 and 2022.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2008 Montage Vineyards, Pinot Noir “The Etzel Family Vineyard” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Montage Vineyards is a value wine producer from California based in Malibu, where they have some vineyards, but they got their start being a Negociant, buying lots from quality wineries and selling them on under their own label at reasonable prices. The multiple regional fruit sources led to the name Montage, they first got Pinot from Beaux Freres, one of Oregon’s best wineries, adding some lots from the Sonoma Coast and other regions. The Etzel Family Vineyard Pinot 2008 is an elegant and ripe Pinot, which for ten years old is remarkable fresh and with delicate sweet fruit and subtle smoky French oak, it isn’t quite up to the pedigree of the official Beaux Freres, but this declassified single vineyard, Upper Terrace, was crafted using Dijon clones 115 and 667 from the Upper Terrace of the Beaux Frères Estate. This 5 barrel lot was 100% de-stemmed, with a gentile pressing and with all native yeast fermentation, employing the classic Burgundy style reductive winemaking, it was aged on the lees for 18 months in 25% new French oak barriques. Absolutely a steal at $25 at release, it will be a tough find now, sadly I didn’t get a couple of cases, it shows wild strawberry, cherry and dusty raspberry fruits as well as light minty anise, silky tannins and refined acidity, which matches what you’d expect in such a vintage, it almost has a subtle Grenache like character, which is funny as I know there is Grenache planted up there in the Beaux Freres Upper Terrace! Not as deep or layered as I would have hoped, this is still a lovely wine and easy to love, drink up it’s at it’s peak.
($25-35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2017 Cameron Winery, Pinot Bianco “Giovanni” Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Oregon is without question the newest hot spot for Pinot Blanc (Pinot Bianco), yes you heard correctly, not Pinot Gris, which can be a nice wine here obviously, it’s Pinot Blanc, which in recent vintages has proven to rival top offerings from Alto Adige and the great wines of Alsace, that stands out and this Carmeron 2017 Dundee Hills Giovanni (Pinot Blanc) is a piercing example of this varietal. Absolutely vibrant and electric on the palate with zingy lemon/lime, white peach, loads of Asian pear and green melon notes it adds wet stone, a fine mineral streak and light garden herb and spices. Made by John Paul, the Oregon legend who has some affection for Italian wines, crafts this light white that is wonderfully expressive, unlike the grape’s reputation of serene dullness this stuff is magic and vivid from start to finish, with air it adds a touch of texture, but stays refined, vibrant and virtually weightless, even though it clear has extract, in fact it feeling like a dry Resling in it’s energy, which to me is proof of awesomeness. According to Paul, the briskly dry Pinot Bianco (given the nomer “Giovanni”) is fermented in stainless steel, typically in three different lots with appropriate aromatic yeasts, and bottled in its exuberant youth in the early Spring, it’s also very low alcohol, coming in at just 11.7%.. It’s perfect for Summer with it’s refreshing juicy acidity adding a cool and crisp sensation, drink up.
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Oh, wow, this 2016 Cameron Ribbon Ridge is something else, it has a crazy first impression that goes between a Joguet Chinon (Loire Cab Franc) and an old Beaucastel Chateauneuf! That quickly ducks away and a pure Nuits-Saint-Georges like Pinot Noir comes through, it is somewhere between Domaine(s) Maume and Chevillon in reference, in other words it’s an intense Oregon Pinot from John Paul at Cameron Winery with loads of dark blooding fruits, mineral tones and a leathery/earthy charm. A hint of brett just adds to the old world seduction in this way over delivering wine that comes off Alan Foster’s Ribbon Ridge vineyard site, plus Armstrong Vineyard, with it’s vineyard that was recently converted to dry-farmed grapes, these are set on the AVA’s unique Willakenzie soils, formed by ancient marine sediments as well as some gravelly loams. Both this Ribbon Ridge AVA and the Dundee Hills AVA are both native yeast ferments with the wines aged for nearly 2 years (between 18-24 months as per normal here at Cameron) in a mixture of French oak barrels varying from new to completely neutral and bottled without filtration or fining, pretty classic Burgundy style winemaking as is John Paul’s way of things. Layers of black cherry, racy currants, plum and dusty blackberry fruits dominate the palate along with rose petals, meaty notes, exotically earthy dried porcini, minty anise, cedar and a hint of balsamic as well as bright acidity and a firm frame as you’d expect in a young Cameron Pinot. With more time and air you find wild strawberry, lavender and kirsch, but to get your kicks and the best rewards you’ll want to have plenty of food with this one, duck confit or breast, or game hen would be excellent choices, otherwise robust cuisine options would be preferable. This is another killer value from a top Willamette producer, drink over the next 5 to 10 years, even in this ripe vintage this wine shows focus and at 13.5% natural alcohol it does not lack for balance or complexity, I love it.
($25 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2015 Bow & Arrow, Pinot Noir, Hughes Hollow Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The rather exotic Hughes Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir from Bow & Arrow is amazing stuff, it at first is tight and iron laced that in a way reminds me of young Nebbiolo, but a few swirls brings an exciting array of classic Pinot aromas and flavors out and with further coaxing in the glass a powerful sensation that you are tasting something other worldly. Scott Frank, winemaker at Bow & Arrow, has done some thrilling wines from this unique north facing 30 year old site, and this 2015 is impressive. Hughes Hollow Vineyard, located in the South Salem hills, on Jory and Nekia soils at about 675 feet up, now farmed all organic was a place Frank wanted Gamay from, but had to take Pinot grapes as part of the deal, and mercy be, what deal it has turned out to be, especially as at first it wasn’t even given a name! This vineyard, fast becoming a favorite of mine in Bow & Arrow’s lineup, has it’s own personality, the vines here are own rooted and have been dry farmed from the beginning which adds to the intensity of form and with a vintage like 2015, ripe flavors, a savory bite and crisp acidity dominate. It bursts from the glass marked with the volcanic mineral and spice along with dried roses, tangy strawberries and minty herbs (stems?) before gathering it’s forces for a medium bodied, but powerful palate of black cherry, plum and briar laced raspberry along with cinnamon, black tea, earthy leather/porcini and lavendery incense. This is a gripping Pinot, with a firm structure with young Vougeot like tannins and the length is heavenly and long adding the vintage’s sweetness that offsets the rustic nature of this unpolished wine, this really sexy stuff, drink over the next 3 to 7 years.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 11, 2018

2012 Caprili, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
The 2012 Caprili Brunello is a full bodied and densely pack wine with complex layers and ripe tannins, it’s just hitting it’s stride and should go another decade or two no problem, impressive for it’s palate impact and near perfect expression of terroir and varietal character, it is as pure as it gets. Caprili, run by Giacomo Bartolommei, and farmed organically, is an under the radar Brunello estate in the southwestern sector of the Montalcino zone, close to Tavernelle. It’s in a prime spot of Montalcino, established in 1965 when they split off from the famous Pieve Santa Restituta estate, it sits next to Pieve Santa Restituta and adjacent to Soldera, so you known they are in top notch company. Caprili has perfect exposure, south-southeast at between 225-340 meters in elevation, with soils that is a touch more sandy than in other parts of Montalcino, and influenced by the cooling breezes from the sea to their west, all of which shows in the wines elegance and aromatic charms, especially in this beautiful 2012 Brunello that displays a heightened sensation of fruit and a sensual mouth feel. Caprili works traditionally and naturally in the cellar, with a minimalist approach to winemaking, the Brunello sees fermentation in stainless steel using native yeasts, that takes about 7 to 8 days, that is followed by a lengthy maceration, then aged large neutral casks for 3 years before bottling, released 5 years from harvest. Layered and dense this 2012, 100% Sangiovese Grosso (Brunello Clone) delivers a full force of flavors with dried cherry, raspberry, tangy currant and racy plum fruits along with savory earth, tobacco leaf, cedar, a hint of tar, balsamic/strawberry and incense/floral tones, adding mineral and anise as you swirl this dark garnet hued Brunello in the glass, it’s a pure velvety Sangiovese wine that has a core of Tuscan warmth, with a rich texture and subtle rustic charms, with everything in harmony, with everything as it should be. It’s surprisingly great even now, but should prove a rewarding wine for the longer term as well, best from 2020 to 2030. As a side note, if this 2012 is this good, I can’t wait for the much more heralded 2013!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 10, 2018

2016 Weingut Mueller-Catoir, Scheurebe Trocken, Haardter Mandelring, VDP Erste Lage, Pfalz Germany.
Mueller-Catoir, run by the ninth generation vintner Philipp David Catoir is one of Germany’s finest estates in the Pfalz and has a world wide following for their stylish and intriguing wines, especially their Riesling, but they also do one of the best dry Muscats (Muskateller) you’ll ever want to taste, Rieslaner (no not related to Riesling!) and this amazing dry, but exotic Scheurebe from their Premier Cru Haardter Mandelring parcel. Known for the precision and clarity of focus in their wines, the estate, under the talented hands of Martin Franzen, a Mosel native that made name for himself while at the famous Schlossgut Diel before Caroline Diel took the reins there, (he) implements a very gentle crush, with a long skin contact, employing a slow gentle pressing, and then ferments and ages mostly in stainless steel. The wine is racked only once and very late, adding to the soul and character to these crystalline and transparent wines of outstanding class and density (dry extract) highlighting the mainly sandstone soils of the all organically farmed Haardt vineyard. Scheurebe, also know as Samling 88 or just Samling was created in 1916 by German viticulturalist Dr. Georg Scheu, when he was trying to make a better version of Silvaner, it was long thought it was a cross between Riesling and Silvaner, but DNA testing has made it clear Silvaner was not it’s parent grape, so it is believed to be a cross of Riesling and Bukettraube (Bouquet Blanc) and was finally released to general cultivation after Scheu’s death in the year 1956, in his honor it was officially called Scheu(rebe) (Rebe means Vine in German) and Samling 88 (serial number used by Scheu lab for the plant created) dropped in Germany, though still used in Austria. The wines are highly aromatic, and the variety is often used for sweet wines, although dry Scheurebe wines have become much more common in Germany with two of my favorites being Kruger-Rumpf’s expressive and wonderfully lush and tropical version from the Nahe and this Mueller-Catoir, which is typically a leaner crisper example, though as famous importer Terry Theise says of Scheurebe, it is “…kinky but just not blatant.” Think of Scheurebe as Riesling meets Viognier (as in minerally Condrieu) in some ways, it’s less severe than Riesling, but less fleshy than Viognier, but with the heightened perfume of white flowers, it blows away about 90% of Sauvignon Blancs out there, serving same purpose and fills the gap between Riesling and Chardonnay, though still a curious rarity in the white wine world! The 2016 Mueller-Catoir Scheurebe Trocken Mandelring is a zero botrytis vintage, which adds to the fresh detail and dry finesse, this is hyper focused stuff from Franzen and team, it’s stunningly expressive on the nose with jasmine, orange blossoms and honeysuckle giving a springtime of aromatic heaven before leading to a lithe and fresh, almost tangy brisk middle weighted palate of white peach, kumquat, key lime, tart mango and a flow of zesty citrus fruits along with lemon grass, minty/fennel bitters, candied pineapple and apricot pit. There’s a chalky wet stone element and plenty of mineral to explore here along with a touch spicy crystalized ginger that lingers in this well judged and executed Scheurebe, it’s a lovely companion for Asian cuisine
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive