Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 19, 2020

2017 Drew Family Cellars, Chardonnay, Valenti Ranch, Mendocino Ridge -photo grapelive

2017 Drew Family Cellars, Chardonnay, Valenti Ranch, Mendocino Ridge.
The super rare and limited Drew Chardonnay is a gorgeous wine, it was a real pleasure to get a chance to try it at this year’s Slow Wine 2020 tasting in San Francisco and catch up with the winemaker himself, known for his incredible Pinot Noir and Syrah bottlings from the cool climate Anderson Valley, which are some of the greatest wines in California. The Chardonnay is wonderfully balanced and alive with natural acidity and exceptional length with finely detailed layers of apple, pear. lemon, quince and golden fig fruits with subtle oak accents, clove spice, wet stone, a subtle salty element, mineral and honeysuckle. This Valenti Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay gains a poised sense of texture without being heavy and it has a sensational palate impact, it has a rich concentration, but the vibrant energy of a white Burgundy, it is pure class in the glass and would be a great companion to lobster and or swordfish steaks. Like Drew’s Pinots, this is a wine that let’s you know it is a pure California wine and is completely transparent, it goes to one of my favorites list of top Chards, joining another newcomers, Samuel Louis Smith’s Spear Vineyard, the Ceritas Trout Gulch, Richard Alfaro’s Mary Katherine as well as classics like Littorai, which was also outrageously good yesterday at Slow Wine, Mount Eden, Hanzell and Peay Vineyards, to name a few.

Grown just six miles from the Pacific on an east facing ridge at 1,200-1,350 feet, the Valenti Ranch produces distinctive character from the Mendocino Ridge with deep fruit develop and exciting vitality. The constant maritime winds coupled with, what Jason Drew calls thin marginal soils, made up of Ornbaun Series ancient seabed sedimentary soils lends itself to smaller berry size and naturally lower yields, all of which created the material to make this expressive and impressive wine. Drew used 100% native yeast barrel fermentation on his Chardonnay, the first he’s made in Anderson Valley and since his days as an assistant winemaker at Babcock in Santa Barbara County and he employed all neutral French oak for the 18 months in barrel it saw. The Valenti, a special vineyard site farmed with organic methods, has a selection of Chardonnay clones that include old Wente, Mt Eden, Dijon 176 and 75 that helps contribute to the complexity in this wine that reveals a touch of chalk or crushed oyster shell, kumquat and delicate leesyness. Even in a warm year like this 2017 vintage, Drew’s style is restrained with just 13.4% natural alcohol and there is refreshing dynamic force to this studied effort. There is a lot to admire in the latest set of Drew wines, and as mentioned the Pinots and Syrah bottlings are fantastic, as my recent reviews have highlighted in recent years, but I absolutely thrilled with this limited release Chardonnay!
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 18, 2020

2016 Drench Wine, Rosé, Spindrift, Napa Valley -photo grapelive

2016 Drench Wine, Rosé, Spindrift, Napa Valley.
The Drench Wine Spindrift Rosé, handmade by winemaker Emily Hunt from a small vineyard off the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley using about 80% Sangiovese and 20% Petite Sirah is a vinous and wonderfully round example of a Rosé that can age and still have dry bright freshness, making it uniquely Californian in style and flavors, though reminds me at of Italian Rosato meets old school Provence. Emily is making a tight lineup of interesting wines, and as mentioned here, her Sauvignon Blanc from Zabala Vineyard, her most recent offering is a very lovely and exciting wine, from her hometown vines in Monterey, where she is a consulting winemaker and an assistant winemaker who has helped make Galante Vineyard wines and Holman Ranch wines in Carmel Valley. The Rosé scene in the state has blown up and there is lots of thrilling dry pinks to chose from, but Hunt’s Drench Spindrift Rosé stands out for the cool packaging, in the personal use size of 500ml and for the complexity of layers including racy cherry, distilled plum, strawberry, ruby grapefruit and a touch of watermelon fruits plus a subtle mineral tone, saline, delicate spices, rosewater and smooth underlying acidity.

The Drench Napa wines all are made from her two tons of fruit sourced from the Fazekas Vineyard, off of Silverado trail in Napa, making her offerings quite rare, this vineyard site was originally planted back in 1994 for the Mondavi’s Mi Familia Winery with the true Italian clones of Sangiovese, brought in by Robert Mondavi mostly likely came from Frescobaldi, as they were friends and partners with the Mondavis, with the Petite Sirah (which adds structure here) bud wood coming from old vines in Calistoga. Drench also does a deep full bodied version too from this site, which is a compelling wine as well with a lush richness and loads of ripe black fruits and some nice dried flowers and cigar wrapper notes, though I do enjoy the Rosé’s flair and vibrance, it is especially good with food, in particular with mussels in spicy broth and or grilled salmon. The mostly Sangiovese, which has a nice burst of natural acidity, Drench Spindrift Rosé is a 100% saignée, ripe fruited bleed of 100% de-stemmed grapes and was pressed off the skins after a 4 hour soak and fermented at a cool 55 degrees over 3 weeks and sees no oak, which explains the complexity and generous mouth feel, drink this one over the next year or two.
($25 Est. 500ml) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 17, 2020

2018 Turley Wine Cellars, Cinsault, Bechtold Vineyard, Lodi California -photo grapelive

2018 Turley Wine Cellars, Cinsault, Bechtold Vineyard, Lodi California.
The Turley wines, mainly celebrated for their exceptional Zinfandel portfolio, are ripe and luxurious with outspoken personalities, less known is that all of Turley’s vineyard sources are farmed using organic methods and sustainable with the wines being crafted using indigenous yeasts and natural fermentation(s). Larry Turley’s the Turley Wine Cellars, as he notes, makes forty-seven wines from over fifty vineyards, the vast majority of which are single vineyard designate Zinfandels and Petite Syrahs which are made with mostly classic old vines are also produced with a respect for California’s rich tradition in winemaking and with the hope to preserving this exciting wine culture. Now with Tegan Passalacqua, who took over as the director of winemaking in 2013, as well as being their vineyard and grape guru, Turley Wine Cellars has really raised the game, the wines have gained a true authentic and terroir driven quality, making the wines even more thrilling and elevating Passalacqua to one of the state’s best vignerons. He has brought a gentle touch and love of dirt to the scene, I’ve always enjoyed my conversations with Tegan, especially when he gives me a schooling on a varietal’s (grape) history in California and his history making wines with Alain Graillot, the iconic northern Rhone producer, known for his gorgeous Crozes-Hermitage and with the equality famous Eben Sadie of Sadie Family Wines in South Africa, who is a master of natural wines and blending. Turley also puts out some lesser known wines, one of them is their Bechtold Cinsault, a fresh carbonic quaffable red made from this obscure Rhone and Languedoc grape, which is also a minor player in Provence Rosé.

The Turley Bechtold Cinsault comes from the Lodi region, where some of California’s earliest vineyards were planted in the 1800s with Bechtold being planted in 1886, this Cinsault vineyard is the oldest of its kind in the country, as Tegan notes, perhaps even beyond. These historic vines, which are cherished far and wide and are even featured in Randall Grahm’s latest expression of his Cigare Volant, are gnarly, head-trained and planted on their own roots, dug deep in the well draining sandy loam soils, making for seriously delicious lighter style wines that are somewhat like a California version of Cru Beaujolais. Passalacqua has done a fabulous job with this 2018 version with its beautiful aromatics and juicy/vibrant profile delivering black cherry, raspberry, dark floral notes, dried herbs de Provence, fennel and tart currents. The Bechtold Cinsault is a Glou Glou style carbonic wine that is lovely with a slight chill and enjoyed without pretense, this fruit forward offering is perfect for picnics and BBQs as well as country or rustic cuisine. There is no hint of overt wood or is it a flashy wine, but just a fun and racy wine, its dark magenta/ruby hue and vitality in the glass is wonderfully inviting, you can see why this one is one of the most sought after under the radar bottlings in Turley’s incredible collection of wines, along with the cellar worthy Hayne Petite Sirah. I have coveted my bottles of this Cinsault and I also love the Turley Grenache, another rarity in the lineup and usually found at their Paso Robles tasting room, always a must visit spot when I am down there.
($28 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 16, 2020

2017 Nanclares y Prieto Viticultores, Albariño, Reas Baixas, Galicia, Spain -photo grapelive

2017 Nanclares y Prieto Viticultores, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain.
One of my favorite white wines, the Nanclares Albariño is a minerally, bright, slightly leesy and sea breeze infused beauty with crisp intensity and delicately aromatic, this 2017 is an absolute classic expression of terroir and varietal purity. This bottling, the signature version of Alberto Nanclares, is a striking wine that starts with citrus blossom and zesty steeliness, with green apple, wild peach and lime fruits leading the way along with a touch of reduction and salty wet stones all of which is perfectly set against its light to medium bodied frame and exciting natural acidity. This beautiful and tangy fresh Albariño gains a structure and textural grace with air adding an impressive presence in the glass, which is lovely in its golden pale hue and authentic sense of place and flavor profile. The Alberto Nanclares Albariño comes from 30 plus year old vines from tiny parcels around the town of Cambados and the Meaño areas set on almost pure sand with granite underneath, with the vines trained in the traditional overhead style called pergola to maximize airflow and exposure to sunshine at nearly absolute sea level, only a stones throw from the remote beaches of this cool climate region on Spain’s quiet Atlantic coast. The Val do Salnés area is historically considered the ancestral or spiritual home of the Albariño grape and almost no where is it so perfectly transmitted into a wine as it does in this Nanclares and it is a wine made from the sea, easily one of the best with seafood, in particular oysters, mussels, clams and ultra fresh sushi, it is a wine that can be a great alternative to Sancerre, Muscadet (Melon), dry Riesling, Gruner Veltliner and or Chablis.

Nanclares, who is based in the Cambados, started in the mid nineties just tending a vineyard in his semi retirement home as a hobby is now one of the greatest producers of fine Albariño in Galicia’s famous Rias Baixas region crafting an awesome set of single vineyard versions as well as his regional Dandelion cuvee and this outstanding example, known as the “Alberto Nanclares” or sometimes referred to as the “Estate” with the grapes all coming from the Val do Salnés sub zone. Nanclares brought the talented Silvia Prieto on board a few years ago now and has gone from strength to strength with her energy and commitment helping lift this label to new heights and expanding the range of wines with the additions of a few red wines, including an elegant and complex Mencia from grapes coming from the Ribeira Sacra. The Nanclares y Prieto winery is now all organic and has added some biodynamiques to their practices, even employing compost from collect seaweed from the near by Atlantic Ocean, all which proves their dedication, in this humid region that is terribly difficult to farm without convention methods. But, the wines have really benefited from this extraordinary effort and they are unbelievably compelling wines, especially this one which saw natural winemaking in the cellar with only a tiny dose of sulfur and native yeast fermentation with no malos and 90% stainless steel and 10% used French oak cask being used here, the aging was done for nine months on the lees then bottled unfined and unfiltered to preserve dynamic quality, give the wine age worthiness and showcase the wine’s true character. This is rewarding Albariño that sets the standard for this grape and region, this is one to look for and covet, it will drink nicely for another 3 to 5 years.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 15, 2020

2018 Weingut Alzinger, Gruner Veltliner Smaragd, Ried Steinertal, Wachau, Austria -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Alzinger, Gruner Veltliner Smaragd, Ried Steinertal, Wachau, Austria.
One of the most complex and serious Gruners I’ve tried in ages, the Alzinger Smaragd Ried Steinertal is one of Austria’s Grand Cru wines on the level as the fabled Emmerich Knoll wines and winemaker Leo Alzinger is getting a lot of attention and acclaim, and this wine especially shows why with its depth and richness of body and its long dry finish. Grown near the Danube, west of Austria’s capital of Vienna, Alzinger’s vines cling to steep hillsides near the town of Unterloiben in the Wachau region this Gruner is a late pick with a selection of old vine set on lower slopes on mostly loess based soils with gneiss, mica schist, primary rock and loam that give this wine its density and fruit expression. A fanatic about pristine fruit quality and serve selections in the vineyards, Leo’s wines deliver this commitment to quality in the bottle and shine in the glass with sublime detail, energy and glorious elegance, while still having a powerful presence on the palate and charming concentration. This 2018 has a full body and generously viscous with layers of lemon/lime, white peach, quince and spiced Asian pear fruits along with saline infused rock, delicate mineral tones, rosewater and a play between leesy texture and a bit of bitter almond. This is serious stuff that will take a thought on the right pairings and a match that will compliment its opulence, as these Smaragd are thicker and more blooding than the delightful and lighter Federspiel versions.

The Ried Steinertal is in a hidden cool climate zone set between steep hills and holds on with the use of majestic terraces, it is a site that develops incredibly slowly and the hang time is extremely long allowing superior ripening without high sugars making for a good retention of natural acidity and gives this Smaragd a fine balance and extra level of class. Alzinger employs winemaking methods that promote extreme clarity and transparency, Leo is ever searching for purity and terroir transmission, sometimes this can prove difficult in the denser Smaragd, but this 2018 is an absolutely stunning Gruner that has a unique character, inner beauty and certainly looks like a classic example. Leo uses whole cluster pressing during crush and a short maceration, then allows the must to settle a full 24 hours to drop out any harsh greeness or phenolic tannin. This primary is in cold conditions and is spontaneously fermented in stainless steel with the aging done with the lees, its elevage is done mainly in stainless steel, though a with a small amount of Gruner seeing neutral Austrian oak, this formula works well and the tiny amount of wood helps smooth the mouth feel and this wine gains a bit of creaminess with air. Gruner is a worldwide phenomenon with Austria’s signature grape getting vineyard space throughout the new world, in particular there are many new plantings in California and in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with some exceptional results, but a wine like this Alzinger shows you why the Wachau reigns supreme and this vintage is a profound white wine.
($75 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 14, 2020

2016 Domaine Monthelie-Douhairet-Porcheret, Monthelie “Clos du Meix Garnier” Monopole, Red Burgundy, France -photo grapelive

2016 Domaine Monthelie-Douhairet-Porcheret, Monthelie “Clos du Meix Garnier” Monopole, Red Burgundy, France.
One of the under the radar regions of the Cote de Beaune, Monthelie is a quality area for Pinot Noir in Burgundy and Monthelie-Douhairet-Porcheret is one of the best wineries to explore here, making beautiful examples, like this gorgeous single Lieu-Dit expression. The Domaine Monthelie-Douhairet-Porcheret is located in the town of Monthelie, in the heart of the Côte de Beaune, and covers just 13 hectares of vineyards, not just in Monthelie, but also includes plus small parcels in the famed Pommard, Volnay and Meursault zones. The wines here are crafted by the respected André Porcheret and granddaughter, Cataldina Lippo, and it is well noted their traditional style and elegance. The Douhairet family originally ran this winery, but back In 1989, Madame Armande Douhairet asked André Porcheret to run the show and became an adopted son and his name was added to the Domaine’s name. Porcheret has a notable history in Burgundy, he was the cellar master for the Hospices de Beaune from 1976–1988, before he was hired by Lalou Bize Leroy to make wines at her newly created Domaine Leroy, one of the greatest estates in the Cote d’Or, from 1988–1993. André came back to the Hospices de Beaune from 1994–1999, and as mentioned he has since 1989, he has been crafting the excellent wines here at Monthelie-Douhairet-Porcheret. In the cellar, and employed here on this satiny Monthelie, it was made using 100% de-stemmed grapes with a gentle old school fermentation and maceration before being aged for 18 months in barrel of which 10% were new medium plus toast. All wines at MDP show impeccable purity and are bottled without fining or filtration.

The 2016 Clos du Meix Garnier, a special monopole site, is expressive and brightly fruited with a seductive rose petal and Pinot perfume and feels beautiful on the medium bodied palate that impresses for its rich detail, complexity and grace, this is wine that over performs for the price. This Monthelie has everything you’d expect of a Burgundy at twice the cost, in fact I easily could have believed this was a Premier Cru Volnay and its sensual layering and finish it is a fine bottle to search out. The Monthelie-Douhairet-Porcheret Clos du Meix Garnier is well balanced with red plum, strawberry and spiced raspberry fruits to go with a lovely core of black cherry adds classic chalkiness, mineral, delicate floral tones and subtle oak notes, all of which make this a beautiful Pinot Noir that carries its terroir with pride. Imported by Martine’s Wines, the same importer that Domaine Leroy has always used (in California) I think shows the admiration that this label carries within the industry, and this wine backs that up, it is one I certainly will be buying a few bottles of. Putting my money where my mouth is, I can’t wait to show this off to some friends, it really is quite intriguing and will be brilliant with duck breast and almost any cuisine. The vintage, a year that seems better in the bottle than expected and that can age some, has exceptional transparency, good density and lively acidity with a burst of saline and lingering with heavenly silkiness on the long finish with currants and almost a touch of violets that almost reminds me of Vosne Romanee!
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 13, 2020

2018 Sheldon Wines, Graciano, Luc’s Vineyard, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County -photo grapelive

2018 Sheldon Wines, Graciano, Luc’s Vineyard, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County.
Dylan and Tobe Sheldon’s Graciano comes of a tiny vineyard in the Fountaingrove AVA, which lies in a cool zone near Santa Rosa and was first approved by the TTB in 2015, it is bordered to the north by Chalk Hill and Knights Valley, to the south by the Sonoma Valley, to the west by the Russian River Valley, and to the east by Napa’s Diamond Mountain District and Spring Mountain District. Fountaingrove is pretty far inland, but the maritime breezes and fog entering through the gap in the Sonoma Mountains east of Santa Rosa regulates the climate here making a perfect place for grape growing and this rare varietal thrives here, as this new vintage from Sheldon shows. The terrain is mainly rolling hills with Sonoma Volcanic, which is reddish and has iron and Franciscan Formation or complex, including greywacke sandstones, shales and loamy bedrock soils, all of which adds to the spice and mineral drive in the wines. Sheldon’s 2018 Graciano is very deeply hued with an electric purple/magenta and garnet color and is densely fruit filled with a medium full body and layered with blackberry, plum, cherry and red currant fruits along with hints of briar spiciness, grilled fennel, mineral and lovely floral perfume, it later adds a touch of blueberry, violette and cinnamon. This Graciano has a forward personality and expressive dark character with a bright and zesty energy making it great with a wide array of cuisine choices from hard cheeses and Spanish ham to a rack of lamb or wild mushroom dishes.

Graciano a Spanish grape, also known as Tintilla, is mostly renown for being one of the Rioja grapes, though rarely done as a single varietal wine and it is even more unique when found in California, where the Sheldon’s were one of the first wineries to make one in modern times beginning in the mid 2000s. Dylan, who is first and foremost a Grenache specialist, especially after spending time in the Rhone on a harvest gig with the famous Chateau de Saint Cosme and winemaker Louis Barruol who’s Gigondas is one of the world’s greatest wines. Sheldon Wines, which was formed in 2003, has never been afraid to explore different paths and grapes, like this Graciano, also does a sparkling Tempranillo, carbonic Sangiovese, Carignan and Rhone blends, his signature Vinolocity, which is a wild Petite Sirah and Tempranillo blend, as well as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, plus a unique Petite Sirah and Cabernet field blend called the Red Hat. This wine was traditionally crafted using a small basket press and fermented to a natural 12.9% natural alcohol and aged in two neutral French oak barrels, as Dylan adds, no new oak was harmed in the making of this wine, and it was bottled unfined and unfiltered. This is one of the best versions of Graciano I’ve tried, brilliantly detailed, clean vitality and with a generous vinous mouth feel, it should drink fabulously for 5 to 10 years, though almost irresistible now, this is tasty stuff! Sheldon, who produces only ultra small lot wines is well worth searching out.
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 12, 2020

2018 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Trocken, Ritsch, Grosses Gewächs, Mosel Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Trocken, Ritsch, Grosses Gewächs, Mosel Germany.
Christopher Loewen’s 2018 Ritsch GG coming from extreme slopes, the second steepest in Europe, takes this vineyard to the next level, this is one of the wines of the vintage (lots of German ’18s on the list!) with outrageous depth and majestic form that feels like the wine was chiseled out its historic slate driven terroir. Christopher Loewen, who took over the estate’s winemaking in recent years, from his famous father, has brought this winery to pinnacle of German wine with a focus on organic farming, natural and minimalistic cellar work, specializing in a sophisticated drier style of pure Riesling. The Carl Loewen, as noted by me and of course Terry Theise, the Riesling guru that imports this wine, estate dates back to 1803, when a collection of prime vineyards and winery buildings were purchased at auction, these had once been part of the Church’s religious Maximin order, it included the famed Maximiner Herrenberg, which has the oldest set of Riesling vines in Germany, planted in 1896. Karl-Josef, Christopher’s dad, who was always looking for old vineyards, added significant parcels mainly by savvy buys of steep old vineyards (with low yielding vines) that no one wanted to work anymore, with the Thörnicher Ritsch vineyard coming into the fold in 1998. Ritsch, as mentioned in my writings, is the second steepest vineyard in Germany, second only to Bremer Calmot in the lower Mosel set on grey weathered slate and quartzite soils that give this incredible wine its personality and character. Christopher says it took awhile for the Loewen’s to get Ritsch to perform as they knew it could and they struggled as they moved from conventional farming to chemical free organic methods here, but their faith and commitment has really paid off as the vineyard’s true potential has finally been unlocked! There is a lot to love here in this 2018 version, highlighting Loewen’s touch and its glorious terroir influence, making this pale greenish/golden Riesling a special bottle to cherish.

This new release, 2018 Ritsch Grosses Gewachs Riesling is exceptional and thrillingly intense with a sense of underlying power and dynamic energy all of which translates outwardly with its youthful generosity and crystal clear details with layers of vibrant fruits, flinty mineral and a saline burst that makes this wine burst from the glass with green apple, lime, grapefruit, tart apricot, fleshy melon, quince and faint tropical fruits along with smoky wet shale, chamomile, citrus blossom, delicate rosewater and a touch of leesy concentration. This is absolutely going to be the stuff of legends, those looking for a sleeper for the cellar should really not miss this one, it will easily eclipse the classics and still offers tremendous value, this wine is on the level of greatness that compares with Raveneau Les Clos Grand Cru Chablis, Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet and or Coche-Dury Meursault! The Loewen Ritsch, a wine I’ve been singing the praises of since the 2014, is a brisk and dry wine that develops slowly with air gaining graceful texture and deepens with time, I am mind-glowingly impressed with this vintage, not just for this offering, but with all of Loewen’s collection, to say they nailed it is an understatement for the ages. This brilliant wine joins Christopher’s fantastic 1896 Maximiner Herrenberg old vine bottlings, especially the stunning Feinherb, which I reviewed earlier, these are wines that German wine lovers should not miss and should rush out and find, in particular those that enjoy the wines by Wittmann, Keller, Donnhoff, Loosen and Maximin Grunhaus (Von Schubert) to name a few. Throughout Loewen’s lineup there are wines of sublime value and quality from the basic estate stuff to the gorgeous set of GGs, plus the Kabinett and Alte Reben Trockens are rocking good.
($65 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 10, 2020

NV Ultraviolet by Poe Wines, Sparkling Rosé, California -photo grapelive

NV Ultraviolet by Poe Wines, Sparkling Rosé, California.
The Ultraviolet Sparkling Rosé is a fun, lively and fruity bubbly that is generous and Cremant de Loire like in style with a slight California twist, it’s made mostly from Cabernet Franc, but with a touch of Colombard, instead of either Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc as found in the French versions, making for an interesting offering from the talented Samantha Sheehan of Poe Wines. Delightfully easy and quaffable this Ultraviolet, Sheehan’s second value priced label, Sparkling Rosé has flashes of strawberry, sour cherry, distilled raspberry and ruby citrus fruits with touches of mineral, floral tones along with a faint herbal note and a hint of leesy/yeasty roundness. Much less serious than her Poe grower producer style sparklers, which are some of the finest versions in California, like Caraccioli and Michael Cruse’s Ultramarine, this Ultraviolet Sparkling Rosé is great for beach drinking and or as a flavorful aperitif with it’s more forward and fruity nature. Sheehan’s Poe lineup is full of outstanding wines, I highly recommend checking out her Van der Kamp Pinot and Manchester Ridge Chardonnay, plus her fantastic Poe sparklers, in particular the single vineyard Blanc de Blancs, it truly is spectacular and compares well with top grower fizz Champagnes, plus I adore her Pinot Meunier, also from the Van der Kamp Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain.

Samantha Sheehan, who founded her Poe Wines winery in 2009 after traveling to Europe and being inspired by the wines she tasted in Burgundy and Champagne, and has now established himself as a top notch producer of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as turning out to be a studied and well respected Champagne style producer. Sheehan says her goal is not to replicate Burgundy (or Champagne), but rather create alluring, vineyard specific, age-worthy wines that express the beautiful terroir of California. At Poe, there is a focus on minimal intervention in the cellar, judicious use of sulfur, and never any additives to craft transparent wines that show purity and a sense of place. This Sparkling Rosé has a base of 85% Coombsville Cabernet Franc rosé, made from the grapes that go into Sheehan’s other Ultraviolet bottling, her juicy, everyday priced Cabernet Sauvignon, and with 15% French Colombard from Mendocino. This wine was made utilizing the Charmant method as opposed to fermenting it in bottle, as done with the Champagne method wines at Poe. The sparkling base, which is about extra dry in feel, went through a second fermentation in stainless steel tank utilizing yeast and sugar and fermentation was kept cold, lasting close to seven weeks. This is a very enjoyable Sparkling Rosé to pop with casual purpose, especially along with lots of food and laughter!
($26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 9, 2020

2017 G.D. Vajra, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Piedmonte, Italy -photo grapelive

2017 G.D. Vajra, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Vajra 2017 Langhe Nebbiolo is an absolutely beautiful wine with incredible depth of style for the price, in fact it is on par with some serious Barolo offerings and better than many 2014 Barolo bottlings that are on the market now at triple the cost! Delightfully generous, but vigorous, dry and full of intensity this is a wine of varietal purity with crushed roses, balsamic dipped strawberry and anise notes to go along with layers of briar laced raspberry, damson plum, orange and kirsch fruit as well as light notes of mineral/iron, incense and fresh saline infused chalk/stones. I’m a huge fan of the G. D. Vajra lineup and winery, especially the craftsmanship of Giuseppe Vajra, winemaker, has brought to the wines since I’ve been following them, which started with the 2008, now tens years on these are some of Italty’s best wines. The GD Vajra estate, fourth generation artisan Barolo producer is an example of elegant, pure, and expressive terroir wines, is found in Vergne, the highest village of Barolo in north- west Italy, where the vineyards sit at an altitude of up to 400 metres. The winery’s simple message is, they make wines that do not need to talk out loud or flex their muscles, they just ask them to touch the hearts of all, which I think is mostly has very well accomplished, especially in their Barolo Bricco delle Viole, Barolo Ravera, their amazing dry Riesling, the Dolcetto, the Kye Freisa and this awesome Langhe Nebbiolo. Produced from Cru sites in the Barolo area, this Langhe Nebbiolo is from young vines, including Bricco Bertoni, all hand-picked, with a long vinification and, as Vajra explains, extremely gentle, as so to retain lift and tension to this wine, which was achieved, this is a wine of class and vitality.

Vajra, who has farmed using organic practices since 1971, calls the 2017 a vintage of rich wines with plenty of energy and aromatics, and I agree, this version has plenty of density and ripeness coming in at a Barolo like 14.5% and has a balancing grip and freshness. This Langhe Nebbiolo was fermented and aged in a combination of stainless tank and neutral oak casks, it saw between 8 and 14 months of aging to develop its vinous and graceful mouth feel as well as to preserve the classic Nebbiolo character. That 100% Nebbiolo primary fermentation lasted for almost 3 weeks days in vertical vats, and then was followed by a natural spontaneous malolactic fermentation, with mainly that elevage being in the stainless, while a tiny amount of the blend saw some wood. Vajra, like most great winemakers, is humble and believes his wines are all made in the vineyard and those vines have been nurtured and the soil preserved by grassing and gets a cover crop, which they have for almost 50 years now. Vajra notes, it takes an incredible ratio of manual work per acre to produce the best grapes, adding that the farming at Vajra is a labor of love and a lot goes into monitoring and improving the biodiversity of both flora and fauna not just in the vineyards, but also in the winery fields and the near by forest, knowing all of this plays a part in the stunning quality of Vajra’s collection. Be sure to find and enjoy the current Vajra wines, in particular Giuseppe’s set of Nebbiolo wines, with this “Baby Barolo” one being one to certainly stock up on!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive