2017 Ian Brand “Le P’tit Paysan” Rosé, Pierre’s Pirouette, Central Coast.
The new release of Pierre’s Pirouette Rosé from Ian Brand’s P’tit Paysan is a very Corbières, it reminds me of the Kermit Lynch imported Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris a lot, it’s a bright dry pink that is vibrantly refreshing with a generous energetic palate of zesty fruits, spice and stoniness, this year saw a savvy Rhone varietal blend of 48% Grenache, 43% Mourvedre and 9% Cinsault making the cut here, and it’s wonderfully fresh, dry and very French in style. Brilliant in it’s delicacy and vitality with a pale kiss of pink the new P’tit Paysan Pierre’s Pirouette Rosé shines in the glass and thrills the palate with a classic brisk profile of pretty rose water, wet rocks and faint spices along with a core of sour cherry, racy citrus, strawberry and watermelon as well as a touch of seductive texture without any weight, it’s perfectly judged lingering with a touch of mouth watering acidity, chalk, dried Herbs de Provence and a Grenache (balanced fruitiness) heavy charm. There’s so much to like about this P’tit Paysan line from Ian Brand and team, these are exceptional values and serious wines, it’s hard to see another set of wines in this class for the price, they are enjoyable in every way and deliver total quality, complexity and playful fun, especially this wonderful pink wine that promises to be one of the bargains of the Summer.
($19 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Cameron Winery, Pinot Gris “Rouge de Gris” Orange Style Wine, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
In an ode to Radikon, John Paul has crafted an American orange wine that gives a new twist on an ancient style of skin contact wine from the Willamette Valley. Made for centuries in Georgia, this fashion of skin contact white has been revived in western Europe, especially in the remote northeast of of Italy, near the Slovenian border, in Friuli where you find the savory weirdly dry wines made by local legends like Gravner, Skerk and the mentioned Stanko Radikon, who Paul tributes this wine to, after his death in September of 2016. Stanko’s wine were the ultimate pursuit of naturalness, they are unique and often brilliantly complex, to achieve his goals and without the use of chemical additions he looked to the ancient Georgian techniques of long skin contact and amphora, though Radikon also uses neutral cask as well, as does this Cameron, extended time on the skins in white wines leads to intense dry palates with wildly savory notes and a yellow/orange/pinkish hues, (Pinot Gris is very dark skinned and gives a bit more intensity and pigment during maceration) it is believed the skins add extra protection against spoilage and added antioxidant benefit. In recent years many natural wine producers around the world have been experimenting with orange wines, some adding refinement and sophisticated class to the category, wines by Elisabetta Foradori, especially her classy and very pretty “Fuoripista” (also made of Pinot Grigio) and Frederic Niger (of Domaine de L’Ecu) come to mind. Otherwise it is a style that mainstream wine drinkers avoid like the plague, brave is the new world winemaker that tries to craft such weirdness, and with that we’ll explore John Paul’s version. First thing you’ll notice is the deep ruby reddish color, it’s like a light Pinot Noir in hue in the glass and the flavors are more pretty than raw with a slight savory element, it’s dry and crisp with a nice textural mouth feel leaning on tart cherry, strawberry and with the impression of red apple as well red peach, a touch of nectarine fruits, a light dusting of spices, earthy notes, grilled/dried citrus, mineral and saline infused wet stones. Some orange wines, while interesting are not easy to love or often joyous to drink, but the Dundee Hills based Cameron’s medium bodied and ripely flavored Rouge de Gris is intriguing and very enjoyable, it can be used to great effect as an alternative to a serious Rose and will go well with a range of cuisine, and for those that have had and like Foradori’s skin contact Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige, then this will be an exciting wine to try too.
($33 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2017 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Picpoul, Beeswax Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
The latest Bonny Doon Picpoul, the 2017 vintage, is a beautiful white wine, where the 2016 was refreshingly zippy, this version has the added benefit of textural charm and depth without losing it’s focus or verve, it takes California Picpoul to the next level with it’s vibrant citrus and white orchard fruits, mineral tones and beautiful mouth feel. Picpoul only has a few champions in the new world with Tablas Creek in Paso Robles (maybe the first) and Gramercy Cellars in Washington State being the best I’ve seen so far, but Randall Grahm’s version is absolutely great, maybe the best out there, it has the energy and zip of it’s old world cousins of Picpoul de Pinet in the Languedoc, though taking on it’s California personality in it’s best possible way, taking on a denser sense without being heavy and a more defined fruity palate while still being wonderfully brisk and dry. Picpoul is a fabulous food wine, it goes fantastically well with our local sea food and produce, it’s grape that also plays a minor role in some Chateauneuf du Pape Blancs, adding acidity and life to those marvelous wines. Randall’s 2017 Bonny Doon Vineyard Picoul has a bit of that old world character in it, it starts with pretty white flowers, salty stones, before opening up on the light to medium bodied palate that delivers a seamless array of white peach, wet shale, lime, kiwi and smooth green melon as well as a hint of spring garden herbs. This is a brilliant wine, with a Mediterranean like charisma or sensibility, it joins a vital selection of thrilling dry Alt-White varietal wines from Monterey County, like Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Riesling, Malvasia, Gruner Veltliner and Albarino, all of which are amazing values and offer distinct flavors that a give joyous Spring and Summer drinking experience. Bonny Doon’s white wines don’t get the the credit they deserve, they are serious bottlings and they deserve your attention, especially their amazing Le Cigare Blanc, in particular the Reserve, one of California’s great treasures, the 2014 is simply and utterly gorgeous, and this Picpoul, it’s a ridiculously good white wine that has a nice play between tension and lushness at a bargain price.
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2017 Joyce Vineyards, Dry Riesling “Alluvial Fan” Monterey County.
One of Monterey’s most serious dry alternative whites, Russell Joyce’s Alluvial Fan Monterey County Dry Riesling is bursting with intensity, energy and vigor, I doubt many would guess where it’s from, it shows what careful farming and winemaking can do with this varietal in California, impressive for it’s exceptional mineral focus and savory tones, this 2017 is simply excellent and well made white wine that deserves your attention. Joyce recently showed off their 2017 Rose, 2017 Albarino and this vivid 2017 Dry Riesling, all of which I’ve tasted and rated outstanding, the vintage was looking good, but these certainly rise above the norm and look set to be stars this Spring and Summer, all are modern clean with vibrant brisk details without any hint of sweetness or opulence, these are austere wines that sizzle with acidity and stoniness, especially this Alluvial Fan Dry Riesling, which flows with precise and lean form, it’s crystalline and clear with loads of lime, sour peach, green melon and basil/herbal essences along with that bracing acid, mineral steely/racy grip and wet stones. This is pure and stingingly crisp Riesling, refreshing and full of lift, it’s got plenty of extract and picks up texture as it warms adding rosewater, a hint of bacon fat, saline/brine and white cherry notes, this is not your granny’s Riesling! Joyce’s whites including his Tondre Chardonnay give a nod to the classic old world versions, but are all California in personality and unique in style, the future of California whites is looking better and better, Joyce joins a new generation that are taking chances and making thrilling wines, this group includes Ian Brand (La Marea & Vocal), Tatomer, Arnot-Roberts, Scribe, Ryme, Stirm, Lepe, Wind Gap and others. Joyce’s Riesling is due out soon and so grab a dozen oysters and or spicy crab when you get it, it’s a mouth watering joy in the making.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Chateau La Vieille Cure, Red Bordeaux, Fronsac, Grand Vin de Bordeaux, France.
Wonderfully open, this Merlot based Bordeaux really over delivers for the price, it’s a true classic in styling from a great vintage, if you can find any of this stuff you’ll be well served to grab it up, I was wonderfully impressed with it’s depth and complexity as well as it’s round mouth feel and dark character. Grown on the chalk and clay, La Vieille Cure is mostly Merlot with a touch each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, all the grapes are de-stemmed and maceration lasts about a month before fermenting in stainless, then raised in barrel where it finishes malos. Fronsac in a vintage like 2010 is way under valued and while not as desirable as Pomerol, it’s a great place and terroir for structured Merlot wines, this La Vieille Cure is a beautiful example, it’s not a blockbuster or flashy wine, but a well crafted Claret that shows solid layers of ripe dark fruit, mineral and possesses opulent textural charm with deep color and flavors, leading with a cedary and floral bouquet with a palate of blackberry, mulberry/currant, blueberry, tobacco leaf, kirsch, sage/herb and faint graphite/loaminess. This wine has a nice tannic core, but graceful, giving pure detail and length, adding minty anise and dusty plum notes to the whole, framed by well judged oak shadings, things get even better with air as it gains a full bodied impact. What’s not to like? This is why we still love a good Bordeaux, especially a wine like this Chateau La Vieille Cure, and I’ll be interested in the 2014 and 2015 versions too, as the release price is only $24, this 2010 is a savvy cellar choice, it has plenty of life left in the tank, best from 2020 to 2025 easy, I really should have got more.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Mark Vlossak’s brilliant 2014 Freedom Hill Pinot is bursting with minty rose oil, bing cherry and mineral tones, this bright and gripping wine is absolutely everything you’d want from an Oregon Pinot, in fact it’s very Volnay like in the glass with racy fruits, earth, spice and intense detail, I already want more! Coming off the replanted northern block, exclusive to St. Innocent, this young vine Pinot shows the quality of it’s Coastal Range terroir with a mix of Wadenswil, Pommard and 777 clones on ancient sedimentary soils, it’s a very different site than let’s say the Jory soils of Dundee and the warm days add tannin to the skins while the cooler nights add to the vibrant acidity, all of which add up to a complex and firmly structured Pinot Noir and in this 2014 vintage it is the best of everything, making it a stunning example of Willamette Valley Pinot. To capture the pureness and vivid nature, Vlossak chose to used all de-stemmed grapes, fermented in cold lots in stainless steel then raised in 27% new French oak for 16 months, ending up with bright flavors and with vintage influenced heady 14.2% natural alcohol. Mark Vlossak founded St. Innocent in 1988, he is in the generation that brought Oregon to world attention along with Ken Wright, Mike Etzel (Beaux Freres) and John Paul of Cameron, his wines aged gracefully and are wonderful values when compared to the other wines at this level, especially in a vintage as good in Oregon as 2014 was! This 2014 Freedom Hill, with it’s ruby/garnet hue looks beautiful in the glass, delivers black cherry, plum and wild strawberry fruits on the medium bodied palate along with rose petals, mineral, subtle spearmint/tea spices, earthy loam and a touch of vanilla, everything is tightly wound, but well integrated with an exciting lightness of texture, this is a seriously good Pinot that has years of life and progression ahead of it, I see great potential in 5 to 7 years, though I just love it’s youthful thrill and intensity of form right now. Last year, I had the 2000 Freedom Hill and it was fantastically fresh and showed almost no decay or age at all, so while this vintage is from younger vines, the terroir quality is certainly there, I will be getting a few more bottles myself! Note: I got my sample from Vinopolis Wine Shop in Portland, they have a special $29/bt offer as of Feb 2018.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Julien Cecillon, Saint-Joseph “Babylone” Rhone Valley, France.
Wonderfully expressive and pretty from the get go, this 2015 Cecillon Saint-Joseph shows Syrah in it’s purest form with terroir shinning throughout, it’s a lovely expression of vintage and place with detailed blue fruits and seductive floral and spices bursting from the glass in a deeply colored wine that oozes sex appeal. This is where the magic of the Northern Rhone happens, this Saint-Joseph gives and earthy impression before revealing sweet violets, plum, black cherry, blueberry and subtle cassis notes as well as minty anise, peppercorns, light oily olive, crunchy flinty stones and a faint hint of blood/game. Well made and medium bodied there is a warm ripeness to the palate and freshness of youth to enjoy in this new vintage of Cecillon, it’s an old school wine that takes it’s clues from the year, this is an impressive effort and I highly recommend it, it has everything you’d want from this region and a bit extra. There is an attractive focus and vitality here and with air things get better and better with more richness, length and robust nature with a touch of fig, boysenberry and leather adding to the complete picture, this is a wine that invites you to sip again and again, I think I’ll need a few more bottles! Look for a solid window of fabulous drinking here, I love that you can really dig into it right now too, best guess would be a 3 to 5 year wait, but it should go a decade with ease, very nice stuff.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2017 Ian Brand “La Marea” Albariño, Kristy Vineyard, Monterey County.
The La Marera Albariño, coming off a unique bench land vineyard that is set on the broken sediment of ancient sea beds with some shales, it’s a site that brings out an inner brightness and mineral intensity, but with an extra bit of hang time that allows full flavor development with low natural alcohol, and Ian Brand’s 2017 is near perfection with an added dimension that reminds me more of Pouilly-Fume than Galicia! The 2017 La Marea Albariño is bursting with vitality and old world (read Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc) like charm to start with intense gooseberry, lemon/lime and dusty chalkiness, Brand gave a small amount of skin contact and used no malo, this I believe adds to it’s gripping personality, it also shows an earthy tone, as well as a righteous steely edginess, this is wonderfully complex for such a light and youthful wine, though with air in the glass things get back to the varietal character with white peach, green/bitter apple, sea breeze/briny and wet river rock and a mouth watering saline and citrus finish. This cooly crisp Albariño really goes it’s own way in this vintage, it makes for a nice counterweight to Joyce’s ultra brisk/clear version and Richard Alfaro’s leesy round style, with all three being exceptional examples of California Albariño, all would be admired by the best producers of the Rias Baixas, Albariño’s historic home. Monterey’s whites are getting their grove on in recent years, and there’s a lot to discover beyond Chardonnay, especially Albariño, along with the gorgeous white Rhone inspired offerings like Randall Grahm’s Le Cigare Blanc and his Bonny Doon Picpoul, both of which rock, as well as the dry Rieslings of the region, look for Joyce Vineyards and Stirm Wines. Brand is continuing to create a masterful lineup of wines and is one of the central coast’s top guns, his new P’tit Paysan Pierre’s Pirouette Rose is also a must have Summer wine and do not miss his amazing Cabernet Franc(s), Cabernet Sauvignon and old vine Mourvedre under his I. Brand & Family label, along with his sexy old vine La Marea Grenache, in particular the new 2015 Brosseau, all of which are great bottlings. This whole cluster pressed and cold fermented Albariño is an electrically charged white with verve and playfulness, it is seriously a thrill in the glass with it’s vitality and complexity, again with a start that will fool and seduce with that extra layer of Sancerre like character with a tiny hint of flinty, cat pee, wild herbs and pretty white flowers all making subtle appearances in this lovely and refreshing dry wine that begs for goat cheese(s) or fresh fish (both raw and delicately cooked), a great pairing for oysters and mussels as well, drink now and often.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Fattoria Rodano, Chianti Classico DOCG, Castellina in Chianti, Tuscan Red, Italy.
Set on Castellina’s limestones soils, the Rodano Chianti Classico is believed to be 100% Sangiovese from their certified all organic vineyards, it is a pure old world red, crafted using all native yeasts and long maceration(s), up to 22 days with hand punch-downs then aged 15 months in large neutral Slovenian oak cask or Botte. The 2012 vintage was warm, with a resulting ripe flavor profile and a natural alcohol coming in at a heady 14.5%, but good for the typically acidic Sangiovese allowing for rich textures and a fruit forward profile, not as big as the 2013, a warmer year, and more pleasing than 2011 and the bad 2014. The ripe personality is balanced by this Sangiovese’s natural acidity and savory charms with layers of black cherry, plum and raspberry fruits, minty herbs, pipe tobacco, cedary wood spices and dried flowers as well as a touch of mulberry, mineral and chalky earth. There is a Tuscan warmth that flows through this pure Chianti that is unmistakable and beautiful, it makes you crave more and transports you there, this is a wine that casts a terroir spell that is impossible to resist, it is in a great place right now and is joyous with rustic cuisine, it craves simplicity and rewards your attention with a stellar performance in the glass, more bottles needed, drink now, not a long termer, but splendid now without question.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Matarromera “Granza” Tinta de Toro, DO Toro, Spain.
A ripe and modern styled Toro made with all organic grapes, this Granza is 100% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) and marketing for those that want value and certified organic grapes, mainly for the US market it delivers on it’s promise if not overly inspiring, it’s a very quaffable dense red, not light mind you at 15%, it is inline with the region’s mainstream pretense. The Granza Toro delivers full flavors and richness without obvious oak, this is a near perfect organic choice for bistro drinking with a deep garnet/red hue and layers of blackberry, cherry and currant fruits with sweet tobacco, anise and a plummy mouth feel. The ripe and warm flavors are comforting and you don’t feel the heat of alcohol, it’s caressing texture helps and subtle earth and floral tones come through with air, though not great or intriguing, this wine is very nice, especially for the price, you don’t often find an organic wine in this price class that offers this much palate impact and opulent body, or one that shows such poise, refinement and clarity. Imported by Natural Merchants and sold through Mountain People’s Wine Distribution, this Matarromera Granza Toro is one of an array of solid organic value wines they bring in, it’s my favorite of the set I tried along with their Granza Verdejo ($12.99) a wine that will make you rethink buying that bland Pinot Grigio or Kiwi Sauv Blanc, while this Granza Toro is a much more interesting choice than most in it’s category, drink now.
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive