Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 21, 2017

2016 Weingut A. J. Adam, Riesling Feinherb, Im Pfarrgarten, Mosel Germany.
Andreas Adam (having worked at Heymann-Löwenstein, after studying at Geisenheim) is a rising star in the middle Mosel not far from Piesport and with cru plots in Dhron, he and his sisters Barbara and Elisabeth form a youthful team crafting beautiful natural style wines using native fermentations and without additions of any kind, their latest set of 2016 continue their hot streak with delicate and finessed dry style Rieslings, though their Kabinett and Spatlese are pure joys too. Beyond the majesty Dhron and Goldtropfchen Trockens which are GG class wines, I love the value packed slightly off dry Feinherb Im Pfarrgarten, which is a absolute beauty with wonderful racy acidity and subtle generous mouth feel and classic terroir driven layers highlighting the slate soils character with flinty spice, mixed citrus and stone fruit. Perfectly balanced, the A.J. Adam Riesling Feinherb Im Pfarrgarten (the garden of the rectory) is grown on a flat parcel within the Grand Cru Dhron Hofberg of 50 years old vines that dig into blue slate (Devonian) with some clay and quartzite, it was fermented and raised in stainless showcasing it’s fresh zesty quality, it’s wonderfully easy to drink with about 10% alcohol making it a superb summer quaffer. Brilliantly light and ultra pale golden/green hued with a bouquet of lime flowers, mineral and citron/verbena lead to a brisk palate of lime, peach, passionfruit, green apple and tangy grapefruit along with wet shale, loam and minty herbs while the hint of sweetness gives texture and tropical essences rather than anything approaching cloying. This lovely Riesling finishes more crisp and snappy than you’d imagine, mouth watering and almost dusty, it lingers with a trace of rose petal, apricot and lemongrass. These 2016’s dance on the palate, they are expressive and riveting, this is a winery to follow!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 20, 2017

n.v. Weingut Brundlmayer, Sekt Brut Rose, Langenlois, Austria.
Vincent Brundlmayer’s Brut Rose, a methode champenoise grower fizz, is one of the great dry sparkling wines of the world with wonderful depth and class, and this latest disgorgment is one of the best yet and gorgeous in detail and a thrill in the glass/flute! The Weingut Brundlmayer Sekt Brut Rose is a Blanc de Noirs with a bit of color crafted of mostly Pinot Noir, but with Zweigelt and St. Laurent, local varietals included in the base wine from mainly the 2013 and 2012 vintages with extended lees/yeast in the bottles. This Rose bubbly has a delicate salmon hue and a racy, but fine luxurious mousse that gives a heavenly mouth feel and vibrancy on the palate with wonderful structure and length showcasing a bright, brisk array of citrus, rosewater, tart cherry, strawberry, saline and apple skin. This lacy and intriguing Brut Rose also fills out with brioche, mineral notes, wet/chalky stones and lingers with creamy kirsch, yeasty tones and light berry essences all in harmony, grace and complexity. This is a real Champagne rival and while not cheap, it delivers plenty of quality and well worth it’s price, great for special occasions and fantastic with cuisine, bubbly fans will not want to miss this one, as well as the racy Extra Brut by Brundlmayer, both stellar bottles. I also tasted Vincent’s new 2016 Gruner Veltliners and dry Rieslings at Skurnik’s Portfolio SF Tasting and found them wonderfully exciting young wines with lots to love and admire, in fact everything I’ve tasted from Brundlmayer has impressed and been absolutely excellent!
($48 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 19, 2017

2016 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling Feinherb “Ur” Alte Reben, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Mosel Germany.
One of the best in Selbach’s gorgeous set of fresh 2016 wines is the lovely and deeply blue Devonian slate influenced old vine Riesling Feinherb “Ur” Alte Reben that is bursting with intensity and open/transparent Mosel charm. Picked at Spatlese must weight and fermented nearly dry this white has real presence and lushness in the glass and on the palate, but with serious mineralite from the iron rich slate soil to balance the off dry sweetness which feels less sugary and more creamy. This wine is youthfully vibrant and forceful coming from a steep slope above the Mosel and from ungrafted vines that average over 80 years old with some well over 100 years hence the name “Ur” Alte Reben (extremely old) which deliver the depth and complexity found in this wonderful Riesling. Johannes Selbach employed native or “sponti” yeast fermentation and raised this beauty in cask, and allowed some sweetness to remain to soften the vital acidity and give wonderful mouth feel, and even in a barrel sample this wine demands your full attention, this is going to be spectacular stuff on release and for dozens of years to come. Brisk and cooly crisp to start this Feinherb extremely old vine Riesling, it is an opulent wine, but with Chablis like verve, starts with saline infused white flowers, green apple, tangerine, melon/lime sorbet, mango and fleshy peach along with hints of brine, liquid mineral, flinty spice and wet river stones. There’s a seductive brilliant tangy edginess that rages against the lavish pleasing sweet textures with ripe just tree picked apricot and stone/pit vying with tart citrus rind, I can’t wait to see what happens in a decade, this looks to be the stuff of legends! Without question Selbach-Oster made world class Spatlese and Auslese in 2016 with focused hedonism and class, but if you want a drier style this one will more than satisfy that itch with the added benefit of really being fun to drink anytime, this is one of the sleepers of the vintage, don’t miss this one.
($33 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 18, 2017

2014 Weingut von Winning, Sauvignon Blanc “500” Pfalz Germany.
This wine asks serious questions, it grabs your attention and blows your mind, it just might be the greatest Sauvignon Blanc on earth… Yes, the impressive von Winning Pfalz Sauvignon Blanc “500” is that good. I did some soul searching, because I was asking myself while tasting this wine, is this a 100 Point wine? It’s damn close, and I thought further about what is a perfect Sauvignon Blanc, it was a difficult inner conversation to answer, but in the end I am convinced this wine has that potential and it should be on your radar! It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned or talked about the intense and expressive von Winning’s Sauvignon Blanc, even though I’m not a huge fan of this grape, except for small list of awesome versions like Terlano’s Quarz, Shared Notes by Bibiana Gonzalez Rave and Jeff Pisoni, Gerard Boulay and of course vintage Dagueneau, which all are glorious. Also von Winning’s 500 (named 500 after the size of oak cask used to aged this wine) asks about the role of wood, as it certainly carries it’s influence in the wine’s profile, in the end I found it adds to the character and depth here without taking anything away, regardless of your feelings about oak, in this wine it proves a necessary evil and makes the whole wine better, no question. The 2014 von Winning 500 Sauvignon Blanc is wondrous and majestic in the glass, I come to von Winning for their fantastic dry Riesling, especially their Crus, especially their Grosses Gewachs, but I’m continuously fascinated by this wine, it has incredible presence on the palate with gorgeous leesy richness, it shows a complex array of citrus, stone fruit and gooseberry as well as chalky wet stones, sweet brioche, fine spice and mineral tones, it’s highlighted with tropical notes and subtle orange blossoms with a core of lemon/lime, kumquat, white peach and a touch of creme brûlée in a dry, vinous and vigorous wine. This Sauvignon Blanc is a masterpiece of detail, graceful power and stunning layering, while in the end I could bring myself to put 100 Points down at this time, but that might be terribly unjust, I am very open to re-reviewing that decision in the future! This wine was farmed organic on the sandstone soils of the Pfalz, from vines around Deidesheim and fermented and raised in hogsheads (500L barrels) with hand crafted care on it’s lees, it’s aged an addition year, which explains the texture and depth of mouth feel, while staying full of energy and focused, this is a remarkable and charming wine, and as mentioned, look for it to age well, 10 to 20 years I think, it might be the world’s most desirable and sexy Sauvignon Blanc being made, put it on your bucket list!
($78 Est.) 98 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 17, 2017

2015 Viticultores Emilio Ramirez y Envinate, Listan Prieto, Benje Tinto, Vinos Atlanticos, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
Envinate’s Benje Tinto from the Santiago del Teide region of Tenerife on the volcanic soils of the Canary Islands is a lovely medium weight red, made with 98% Listan Prieto, one of the old mission grapes, and 2% Tintilla with a vine age of 70 to 120 years. These old vines are farmed all organic at almost 2,800 feet up on these volcanic slopes giving an almost cool or temperate climate feel and low alcohol 12.5% in this vintage with the Envinate crew, Laura Ramos, Jose Martínez, Roberto Santana and Alfonso Torrente using natural and traditional wine practices, with no added SO2. Each parcel is vinified in separate lots, some in concrete vats and some in open top bins with a 10-30 day maceration and aged in neutral barriques for 8 months. This 2015 is very expressive with a tiny amount of natty funk and pretty delicate red fruits, vibrant spices and dried flowers all wrapped in a slatey/iron rich mineralness plus salted licorice. This is a wonderful earthy/savory wine with lots to be excited about and it has a terroir purity and silken tannins that starts with a light ruby hue, rosewater, wild plum, raspberry, flinty notes, briny elements, red peppercorns and sage/fennel that makes for a serious food wine that has a racy streak, but feels wonderfully graceful and focused. Imported by Jose Pastor Selections, the Envinate wines are some of the most interesting wines from Spain, highlighting unique areas of Spain and native varietals including the Canary Islands, a Spanish islands group off the coast of western Africa, as well as Galicia, Alicante and Extremadura. I love these wines, and this one offers verve and insight for a more than reasonable price, don’t miss these authentic and well crafted old world wines!
($23 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 16, 2017

2013 Bodegas y Vinedos Akilia, Mencia, Villa de San Lorenzo, Ponferrada León (Bierzo) Spain.
This wonderfully textured and earthy Akilia Villa de San Lorenzo is a delicate and pretty Mencia based red from plots in the Bierzo zone is from vines that are between 75-112 years old grown on mixed soils that include slate, quartzite, sandy and clay loams, fermented in a combination of cement and neutral French cask with native yeasts. With hints of spice, meat and iron this ripe, but savory Akilia is a pure expression of grape and place, in a fun and stylish terroir driven, medium weight, low alcohol (12.5%) and fresh wine. The 2013 Villa de San Lorenzo starts with subtle fruit and floral, which is not as striking as Mencia can be, especially from the Ribeira Sacra, but still beautifully elegant and impressive with a mix of blue and red berry fruits and peppery spices on the smooth palate with wild plum, blueberry, cranberry and black cherry as well as leather, sous bois, anise, bell pepper and stony/flinty elements. Mencia is a grape that makes for a complex wine that has markers that remind you of Northern Rhone and Loire in many ways, it also falls somewhere between Pinot Noir and Syrah in weight and acidity, it’s a sexy cool climate varietal that is really fast becoming a star on the world stage! Marisol and Mario Rovira Roldan’s Akilia is a winery to follow and look for, these hand crafted wines are certainly a great value and offer distinct quality, with this 2013 drinking very lovely right now!
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 15, 2017

2015 Halcon Vineyards, Petite Sirah, Tierra, Yorkville Highlands.
Wow, wow, wow, what a fantastic Petite Sirah, this is a wine that can totally re-define a grape, Halcon Vineyards 2015 Tierra Petite Sirah from the Theopolis Vineyard in the Yorkville Highlands is a spectacular and expressive red with intense flavors and spiciness. Paul Gordon’s Halcon Vineyards, along with winemaker Scott Shapley (Roar) are making some of California’s most exciting cool climate wines, with daily average temps that come in around the same as or slightly cooler than France’s Cote-Rotie, focusing mostly on Rhone style wines, but also a set of Pinot Noir(s) and this Petite Sirah. Petite Sirah (Durif) has long been a mystery varietal, it was a happy accident in the southwest of France, it somehow came to California and was once thought to be a clone Syrah and took on the name Petite Sirah, and even that might have been a mistake too, but as a California grape it has found a new lease of life as both a blending grape and as a single varietal wine, it was created by pollen germinating of Peloursin Noir (Petite Sirah’s parent plant) by some near by Syrah vines at Francois Durif’s nursery, hence the name. For the best and most complete research into Petite Sirah/Durif in California please read Patrick Comisky’s “American Rhone” book, a great read and reference. In recent years Petite Sirah has seen some unique forms emerge with an array of stylistic wines showing up, look for Jaffurs Thompson Vineyard, Ridge’s York Creek and Lytton versions, Relic, Biale, Turley, Ian Brand’s stoney P’Tit Paysan and especially this Halcon Tierra. Halcon’s 2015 Tierra comes from 100% Petite Sirah grown on steep terraces, it was done in natural and pure Rhone style with 50% whole cluster and aged in neural French puncheons, unfined and unfiltered with only about 150 cases made, making it a deep colored and complex wine with fine acidity and gripping tannins with a medium full body very much in the style of an old school Cornas! It starts with a vibrant black/purple and garnet edged hue in the glass and a bouquet of marionberry, red pepper, shaved cinnamon, crushed violets and lavender oil which leads to a vigorous spicy palate of black plum, blueberry, racy currant along with the mentioned marionberry, peppery notes, red chili flakes, bitter coco, cedar, sage/garrigue/fennel and liquid mineral. While similar to Northern Rhone offerings, this Petite Sirah has it’s own character, lingering with black and blue fruits, floral tones and chalky stoniness. This is special stuff, nervy and detailed, but with ripe/sweet tannins and wonderful mouth feel, it’s concentrated per the vintage, though balanced without heaviness, at 14.5% this Halcon Tierra is in totally harmony and extremely well focused. I want more, and if you love Petite Sirah and or Rhone wines you’ll freak for this one and I highly recommend getting on Halcon’s list asap! Be sure to get a few bottles of this wine, it is stunning now, but I am excited to see how it will age, I think it will be a thrill with another 3 to 5 years of cellar time and it might last 15 to 20 years!
($30 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 14, 2017

2016 Chesebro, Grenache Rose, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
The mineral laced and leesy Grenache Rose from Mark Chesebro is a refreshing pink with bright citrus, watermelon, sour cherry, lavender and salty stones making for a stylish and food friendly wine. The delicate salmon/pink hue hints at the crisp and cool vitality, this new vintage has a dry French feel, it’s very much like fine Cotes de Provence with more austere class, subtle tones and wet rock rather than overt fruitiness. Chesebro makes mostly Rhone influenced wines with Grenache being one of his main varietals, both Noir and Blanc, as well as doing some Vermentino, Roussanne, plus a few red Cotes du Rhone style blends. With air this Grenache Rose fills out to be a medium bodied with a touch of roundness and depth, but with vibrant acidity that gives brisk energy. Chesebro’s latest set of Arroyo Seco offerings are wonderfully textured and detailed wines, especially thrilling is their Grenache Blanc and this late release Rose made from 100% Grenache. The value factor is something also to consider for the quality in the bottle, these are hand crafted estate wines that all come at very fair prices, so if you’ve not tasted Chesebro this would be a great time to check them out. The Chesebro Grenache Rose is one of the summer wines I always look forward to, and this 2016 vintage is one of the best to date, it’s now available at their Carmel Valley tasting room and should be out wholesale and online very soon.
($17 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 13, 2017

2015 Georg Breuer, Spatburgunder “GB Rouge” Rheingau, Germany.
Theresa Breuer’s delightful and easy to drink Pinot Noir is a fresh and lighter style Spatburgunder which rises above the average, but is still uncomplicated and straight forward with pure cherry, strawberry and spicy red berry fruited wine with earthy tones and delicate mineralite. This light to medium weighted GB Rouge is a joy in the glass, especially this riper 2015 version, and while not as complex and structured as Becker or Meyer-Nakel, there is a lot to admire here, in particular the price, as the quality and style do impress here. Breuer has converted to almost all organic and biodynamic and the wines, especially the Rieslings, show a natural character, energy and earthy charm and while they’ve crafted brilliant wines for generations, this latest set from Theresa and her cellar master Markus Lunden look set to raise the bar for this small Rudesheim estate. Having visited Georg Breuer and walking the Rudesheimer Berg Crus twice since 2009, it was great to finally meet up with Therese Breuer in person this Spring in San Francisco at the Skurnik portfolio tasting and hear her thoughts on her wines and vintages, I love her down to earth and easy personality and her 2015 Crus are stunning wines, dry and powerful Rieslings that will certainly be legendary classics. The 2015 GB Rouge Pinot Noir starts with rose petal, a hint of leather and kirsch along with brambly raspberry, wild plum and touches of loam, flinty/stones, peppery notes and sweet herbs, it’s vibrant and a wonderful food wine that gains a silky texture in the mouth and with air and lingers with slate/shale, cranberry and lavender. Not a VDP member, Breuer’s (Grand) Crus don’t say Grosses Gewachs, but certainly they are in everything but name, be sure to look for her amazing and concentrated 2015 Rauenthal Nonnenberg (Monopole) Trocken, the Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg and the Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck Rieslings. For tasty values also search out Breuer’s Estate and GB offerings which include a nice Rose, some really good dry style Rieslings and this fun Pinot Noir to drink now.
($27 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 12, 2017

2014 Suertes del Marques, 7 Fuentes Tinto, Vino de Villa, Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
One of my favorite wines, this volcanic terroir red delivers a vibrant delicacy with a hint of reductive funk, salty stones and intense black licorice to go along with pretty red berry, dried flowers and light mineral tones. Jonatan Garcia Lima’s Sureties del Marques, imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars (Southern Wine and Spirits side) these days, has brought the Canary Islands clearly into view of the wine world’s critics with most all of his wines scoring over 90 Points! The 7 Fuentes is their “village” wine, named after the seven main parcels of the Valle de la Orotava (wine region) on Tenerife, it’s a blend of mostly old vine Listan Negro along with tiny amounts of Tintilla (also known as Graciano, Bastardo or Trousseau) with some whole cluster, native yeast fermentation, in small stainless and with about 60% raised in cement and 40% in neutral French demi-muids of 500L. Jonatan Garcia has Luis Seabra making the wines these days at Sureties del Marques taking over from the talented Roberto Santana of Envinate (who made this wine), who also single handedly brought Listan Negro (one of the original Mission grapes) to fame, making wines that compare well with the great Nerello Mascalese wines of Mount Etna in the elite group of volcanic terroir beauties. The Listan Negro is grown on the clay and basalt in low climbing vines, with Suretes del Marques using organic practices, on the slopes of Mont Teide, Tenerife’s active volcano and Spain’s highest peak at 12,000 feet! The Atlantic and volcanic influences play a huge part in the flavors here with a flinty/briny racy character with this wonderfully graceful 2014 7 Fuentes, it shows a hint of Nuits-St-Georges like class, with cherry and rose petal tones, as well as bramble, leather, candied orange rind tanginess and a touch of red pepper, lingering with strawberry, lavender, shale and cranberry. It’s light ruby hue with a touch of amber shows the care of Santana and his gentle touch with this Listan Negro based cuvee, this is so cool and such a great value it’s hard to resist, it offers style and elegance along with a huge thrill of it’s pure terroir expression! If you are desperate to understand this wine, think Crozes-Hermitage meets Mount Etna, but in a lighter more saline (dry) crisp wine, drink up!
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive