Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 2, 2020

2017 Domaine Paul Jaboulet Anie, Crozes-Hermintage Rouge “Domaine de Thalabert” Northern Rhone, France.
Drinking more like a great Cote-Rotie than a Crores-Hermitage, the 2017 Domaine de Thalabert Crores Rouge by Caroline Frey and Jaboulet is a profound effect considering the searing heat of the vintage with an intense inky color and beautifully elegant detailing, this is a stunning pure Syrah wine that thrills the palate. This black/purple hued Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine Croze-Hermitage “Domaine de Thalabert” starts with some flair and flamboyance highlighted by crushed violets, creme de cassis and espresso roast before classic flavors unfold on the full bodied palate with boysenberry, damson plum, kirsch, blueberry compote and loganberry coulis as well as black licorice, grilled herbs de Provence, a touch of earth, peppercorns, tapenade and sweet cedar notes along with a faint mocha element. While heady, this wine is wonderfully drinkable with a very stylish and balanced form, it comes in at about 13.5% natural alcohol, so it can be enjoyed without any oppressive heat showing, or aggressive tannins, making it easy to enjoy in its youth and sublime with food, especially roast meats, savory mushroom dishes and rustic cuisine, it has enough sweet fruit to go with Turkish lamb or Korean BBQ Pork, meals I would love to try with this gorgeous Syrah. Air brings out a fuller expression of the succulent dark fruits as well as allowing hints of camphor/graphite and delicate mineral tones and this wine lingers on and on heavenly in the glass, this is a Syrah to spend some time with to enjoy it in its complete performance, it is truly excellent until the last drop leaves the bottle.

The Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine, now owned by the Frey family, led by the talented winemaking tigress Caroline Frey, has been an iconic estate in the Northern Rhone and one of the big three in the region along with Guigal and Chapoutier, most known for their fabled La Chapelle vineyard in Hermitage, Syrah’s most holy site! There’s been wines made here since pre-Roman times, but it was Antoine Jaboulet’s plantings in 1834 and focus on quality which really started to establish the area as one of the major wine producing appellations of the world, after he past the land was passed on to his two sons Henri and Paul, who’s name became company label. The Frey family, who bought the fade glory Jaboulet in 2006, have become big time players in premium French wine production having serious quality properties in Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux, which includes Chateau La Lagune in Haut-Medoc and Château de Corton André in the Cote de Beaune. Caroline, who studied in Bordeaux is one of France’s rising stars and has her hand in many projects, with even a biodynamic high elevation vineyard in Switzerland under her care and I hear these wines are stunning as well as her efforts here at Jaboulet, which have certainly brought this estate back to the elite status it enjoyed in the 1950s and 1960s. The Thalabert parcel, a special terroir, is located in Croze’s pebble-strewn granite soiled lieu-dit of Les Chassis, which has owned by Jaboulet since its founding back in 1834 and is regarded as maybe the greatest set of vines in the Crores-Hermitage AOC, all organic and biodynamic. Frey uses partial whole bunches and well judged use of new wood, really putting the focus on the vintage and trying for transparency and luxurious texture in her recent releases especially and this 2017 is proving to be a very tasty version, maybe not as serious as 2015 and 2016 for the cellar, this is one to drink up and offers a stunning value.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 1, 2020

2018 Arnot-Roberts, Gamay Noir, El Dorado County, Sierra Foothills.
The 2018 true Gamay Noir from Arnot-Roberts is bright and juicy with its granite soils providing a nice mineral character and the natural acidity makes for a nice balance in this medium bodied and smooth wine that caresses the palate, but still has a tart tanginess and snappy personality with loads of dark berry fruits, a touch of spice and a bite of dried herbs. This is a very interesting version and an expressive Gamay, though I must admit to loving their lighter and more delicately nuanced Trousseau, a wine that quite honestly made this stellar winery famous, that said I am of a fan of everything they do, including this Sierra Foothills grown Gamay and its easy drinking pleasures. Arnot-Roberts was founded in back in 2001 by childhood friends Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, both Napa natives committed to crafting small lots of transparent wines with a focus on special terroir driven vineyards, especially old and dry-farmed sites and they broke through by not being afraid of exploring the lighter style and unique varietals, like the Trousseau mentioned above, but also with a Gruner Veltliner and even a fantastic Rosé of Touriga Nacional, as well as doing old world inspired versions of Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and in particular Chardonnay, with their version of Trout Gulch Vineyard from the south Santa Cruz Mountains being absolutely spectacular. The grapes, sourced from two vineyard sites, Barsotti and Witters vineyards, both near Placerville are brought into the winery and made in separate lots, with the whole bunches put into steel fermentation tanks and sealed up for several days to start carbonic maceration, traditional in many Cru Beaujolais, allowing the berries to start the fermentation process from the inside out, then aged in a combination of tank and used French oak, with a large Foudre being employed, similar to Foillard’s famous Corcelette bottling.

Duncan and Nathan, first got into Gamay with their collaboration with star sommelier Raj Parr, but have really now have made this wine their own and folding it into their studied and prized collection of wines. The Gamay certainly was influenced by Steve Edmonds, of Edmonds St. John, who was the first to really express this Beaujolais varietal in any meaningful way in California, and who found it here in the Sierra Foothills and was one of the first successful micro urban wineries in the state. Arnot-Roberts’ mission is to seek out vineyards (throughout) Northern California that offer historic quality or unique flavors and now their set includes incredible sites in Napa Valley, the Sonoma Coast, the Santa Cruz Mountains, as well as the Santa Rita Hills, a vineyard in Clearlake and the Sierra Foothills as expressed here in their deep garnet and ruby hued Gamay. All of their single-vineyard series wines sell out pretty fast on their direct to the consumer mailing list, but the regional set of wines can be found at some restaurants and specialized wine merchants, where I luckily found their latest releases of Gamay, Trousseau and the noted Rosé, a dry and exciting pink wine that has always been a secret favorite of mine! This Gamay that unfolds with bramble berry, plum, cherry and cranberry fruits is fun, quaffable and expressive, best at cool temps, it gains from the chill and allows for a more refreshing experience and sharper in detail. This high elevation Gamay is a wine that is appealing and should be on the list for this grape’s ever increasing fans in California and in Oregon, it joins a star studded list of winemakers, like at Pax, Joyce, Jolie-Laide, also from this region and vines, Brick House, one of the first to make a true Gamay, Hundred Suns and others, that have found love and passion in this once maligned varietal, that was in fact once banned from the top vineyards in Burgundy!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 30, 2020

2018 Theopolis Vineyards, Rosé of Petite Sirah, Estate Grown, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
The pretty magenta hued Rosato style Rosé from Theopolis Vineyards is made from 100% Saignée of Petite Sirah that was fermented and aged in 100% neutral French oak barrels for 6 months. This robust dry pink has loads of flavor and structure with a profile characterized by crushed tangy raspberries and a spicy kick along with a touch of minty herbs, lavender, orange peel, strawberry, watermelon and sour cherry notes. This wine stays surprisingly crispy fresh and not at all clunky or sweet at 13.3% natural alcohol in a Saignée (bleed from the ripe red grapes) style is notable, making it much more quaffable than you’d expect, it does feel like an Italian version and is really at its best with food. The darker color will appeal to those that usually don’t drink Rosé or want something more bold, but still want refreshment from a warm days of Summer, as this Petite Sirah does well, it certainly has the stuffing to go with BBQ and or pulled pork as well as your favorite beach food basket of items from cheese to cold cut sandwiches. Theopois Vineyards latest set of offerings include the outstanding Estate Grown Petite Sirah, an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, a Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, a Yorkville Highlands Pinot, plus this juicy Estate Grown Rosé of Petite Sirah and a fruity off dry white wine made from a hybrid grape called Symphony, which is a crossing of Grenache Gris and Muscat that is also grown on the estate. I was glad I saved this bottle for a long sunny day, it deliver all that was expected and it put a comforting cool smile on my face, it was a good choice for the moment.

Theopolis Vineyards, known for their outstanding and unique terroir driven and terraced Petite Sirah grapes and vines is owned by the impressive Theodora R. Lee, also known lovingly by her fans as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards, is renown Texan (and San Francisco) trial lawyer and one of a handful of women of color that owner winegrowers in California. Theopolis Vineyards is a small family winery making hand-crafted wines located in California’s high elevation and schist soiled Yorkville Highlands above the Anderson Valley along Highway 128 in the southeastern corner Mendocino County, that Theodora founded in 2003 and has seen an amazing rise in attention in such a short time. Lee’s wines, especially her Petite Sirah which is world class stuff are all very tasty as this Rosé proves are certainly wines to search out and along with the help of consultant Ed Kurtzman, the ex Roar and Freeman winemaker has helped fill out the Theopolis lineup the expressive set of Pinots. Ms. Lee, who studied at UC Davis’ wine school, is a dynamic activist for good, she is the Co-Board Chairperson of the Dallas Post Tribune Newspaper, one of the oldest Black Newspapers in North Texas. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Board Development Committee for the Board of Directors of the YMCA of San Francisco and a Member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Legal Aid. There is a lot to admire here, in particular the quality of the vines, wines and the person. Theopolis has some of the earlier vintages still available direct from their cellar, many of which I have reviewed at grapelive, with the exceptional 2015, 2016 and the current 2017 Petite Sirah(s) online, all of which are delicious and outstanding values.
($25 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 29, 2020

2018 Poe Wines, Pinot Meunier, Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain.
I was very excited to try this vintage of Poe’s Meunier with the long cool growing conditions and the unique terroir of Sonoma Mountain offed all the material for tasty goodness and that hope was fulfilled with this delicious medium bodied red, made from this Champagne grape. I am a fan of Poe Wines and the latest set of releases are really good, especially the incredible sparkling wines, like her Brut Rosé and the Blanc de Noirs, both of which are stunning examples of California bubbly. Winemaker, Samantha Sheehan, who founded her own label Poe Wines in 2009 and known for her beautiful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, also produces the mentioned traditional Champagne method sparkling wines, a still Rosé, a Nouveau Pinot Noir, as well as this very cool Pinot Meunier, which comes from the historic Van der Kamp Vineyard. The 2018 Van der Kamp Pinot Meunier drinks with an elegance usually reserved for a Pinot Noir and it flows seamlessly across the palate with satiny grace with tangy red fruits, red spices and soft wood accents, lingering on with a touch of dark florals, zesty acidity and tart cherry fruit. This is a wine that goes beautifully with summer meals and like a Foillard Morgon it benefits from a slight chill, but still a serious wine with surprising depth and complexity with plum, cranberry, strawberry and forest bramble berry and the noted cherry fruits, a bit of herbal snap and light cedar notes, plus a pleasing creamy mouth feel. Poe’s version of Meunier was fermented in two vessels – one was 100% whole cluster, while the other was entirely de-stemmed, which gives this wine its personality and complexity. The grapes all hand picked in the cool of night, as Sheehan explains, were not sulfured, and thus (the) fermentation occurred naturally with native yeast. She and her team gently foot tread the tanks, during maceration and primary, two to three times per day for two weeks. Then the Meunier was then pressed into barrel and aged on the lees for 12 months, with this year seeing about 10% new French oak and 90% neutral well seasoned French oak.

Meunier accounts for a third of the vines planted in the Champagne region, though incredibly rare here in California still, and serves the purpose of providing early ripening fruitiness and mouthfeel to the wines of that famed sparkling wine region that sometimes suffers from poor weather, though in recent years Meunier has become geeky cool and some of the best grower producers are using it to craft awesome fizz. Sheehan is a fan of this grape and might its best champion in California, sourcing it from the Van der Kamp Vineyard that lies at the very top of the eastern side of Sonoma Mountain. Rising up to a 1,400 foot elevation and looking down on the town of Glen Ellen to the east and Bennett Valley to the northwest this is a special micro climate that can produce some fabulous Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with Sheehan using this site to great effect. Sonoma Mountain, Sheehan notes, was once part of the Pacific Ocean floor that gives a patchwork of diverse soils, from Speckles loam, Volcanic Tuff and a decomposed stream bed provides for rocky soils littered with many sized stones. Van der Kamp was first planted in 1953, making it one of the oldest Pinot Noir vines (still producing) in California, again according to Sheehan, who is great friends with the Van der Kamp family that farm this awesome property not far from the fabled Hanzell winery. The 2.7 acre block of Pinot Meunier was planted in the early 1990s, with Samantha getting most of it, if not every single cluster, which she divides between her still Rosé, sparkling Pinot Meunier Brut Rosé (which is made in a Champagne method) and this still red wine, that is made only in a miniscule amount. This lush Meunier by Poe Wines is one of my favorites and this 2018 is fun and lively, perfect for what you’d want in a medium bodied alternative red wine, even on day two this wine thrills the senses and adds more whole cluster crunch and some cinnamon and sage notes become more noticeable, though the fruit stays expressive, it should drink nicely for 3 to 5 years.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 28, 2020

2018 Weingut Keller, Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany.
The baby wine in Keller’s magical collection of dry Rieslings is the entry level Rheinhessen Trocken, but don’t let that fool you, this is outstanding stuff that is totally guilt free, when compared to ultra expressive single Cru offering here! Klaus-Peter Keller, who took charge of Weingut Keller about 20 years in 2001 is one of Germany’s Riesling gurus and best winemakers and his G-Max cuvée is the world’s most expensive dry Riesling on release. This 2018 Trocken is like drinking liquid rock showing the pure limestone terroir with chiseled stony detail and excellent dry fruit extract, showing lime, muskmelon, tangerine, tart nectarine (peachiness) with exciting citrus blossoms delicately hiding in the background It’s well reported and not new that Keller is one of gems of the Rheinhessen along with Weingut Wittmann and that Klaus-Peter, who trained abroad in South Africa and in Burgundy at Domaines Hubert Lignier and the famed Armand Rousseau prior to taking his degree in oenology and viticulture in Geisenheim brought this experience to his father’s little known estate that had been around since 1789 and turned into one of the most coveted in Europe. Much of the credit, Klaus-Peter claims comes from hard work in the vineyards and allowing the vines to make these great wines, but Keller has employed a special regime in the cellar with barrel fermentation, and uniquely Klaus-Peter has adopted a program allowing the grapes to macerate on their skins for thirty or forty hours prior to pressing the juice to fuder for fermentation.

While the basic bottling of the white wines are fermented at slightly lower temperatures than the Grosses Gewächs, and bottled earlier they are meant for youthful enjoyment rather than being aged as his top cuvees were designed to be. Keller’s top wines have been compared to Montrachet by famed English Master of Wine Jancis Robinson and I can see why and though I haven’t had many of the upper end stuff, this Trocken is absolutely fabulous. This part of the Rheinhessen is influenced by its limestone soils and warmer climate, where the wines have more generosity and richness than other areas, hence the greatest in the drier style Rieslings that are found here and of course, especially those of Keller, which show incredible depth, density and stony personality. Keller’s main holdings have always been in the famous Dalsheimer Hubacker, and if you get a chance to have a Hubacker Grosses Gewachs (Grand Cru) don’t pass it up, it will probably change your life! Look for Keller’s RR and Kirchspiel, as well as Klaus-Peter’s Riesling “Von der Fels” as they tend to still be reasonably priced for the ethereal quality they deliver, but to get started on Keller this is a great value priced option and I’m glad I got some. Again, this 2018 basic Trocken is steely delicious and really opens up nicely with air adding depth, texture and a seductive earthy character, giving even more to enjoy here, this is a Riesling that you can admire in isolation, but certainly it will be much more fun with matching cuisine, also I state, this is a Riesling for Chablis lovers.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 27, 2020

2018 Laura Lorenzo – Daterra Viticultores, Tabernario Tinto, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia Spain.
One of my favorites and a heroic winegrower, Laura Lorenzo of Daterra Viticultores, based in the remote Ribeira Sacra, which means “Sacred Banks” in Gallego, the local Galician dialect, is making some amazing wines and her 2018s look set to take her fame to the next level, like her latest Tabernario Tinto with its beautiful texture, bright flavors and mineral details that make it drink as fine as a Premier Cru Burgundy. Made from old vine parcels of 60% Mencía, 30% Alicante Bouschet and 10% Palomino, the white grape that is co-fermented into this wine, not all that different than traditional Cote-Rotie, all sourced from Lorenzo’s organic vines in Amandi and Val do Bibei, both sleep river valley locations set on primarily granite soils with a covering of sand and some loams. The Tabernario was only bottling I haven’t tried yet from Laura since she started her own label in 2014 and I was thrilled with the transparent dark fruited profile with layers of Mencia led characteristics showing black cherry, wild plum, cranberry and tart currant fruits, fresh garden herbs, star anise, crushed stones, a touch of leathery earth and light cedar as well as delicate floral tones. The Ribeira Sacra, a favorite of the Romans, who came to this green, northwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula more than 2,000 years ago and were the first to plant and terrace the slopes to grape vines, almost forgotten in modern times due to the harsh working conditions this place is now one of the wine world’s most exciting places.

This light medium bodied Tabernario red has the charm of Cru Beaujolais, like Fleurie especially with its pretty details and a bit of northern Rhone crunchiness and game, even though as mentioned above this vintage has a satiny feel that reminds me of a Pinot. Lorenzo is committed to holistic and natural methods in the vineyards and in her cellar looking to capture the purest form of terroir and of the vineyard, she works with indigenous or wild yeast exclusively and mostly whole cluster with elevage in only used well seasoned oak casks of various sizes and does no adjustments other that the absolute minimum dose of SO2, all unfined and unfiltered. The 2018 vintage was not kind to Lorenzo and she lost a huge amount of grapes to severe weather, but she persevered and crafted a beauty with this Tabernario which was harvested by hand in early September and was 50% whole bunches and 50% de-stemmed then skin-macerated for 10 days with spontaneous fermentation in large 500L & 1000L chestnut barrels with this wine being raised for 11 months in cask before its bottling. The Ribeira Sacra is a cool Atlantic zone with granitic, schist and slate soils predominating here in a region that looks more like Germany’s river wine growing areas than most of Spain, which helps to explain Laura’s wines that have lower alcohols, this one is just 12%, and that are highly aromatic, zesty, quaffable and elegant in style. The Daterra offerings are wildly addictive and unique, I highly recommend checking them out!
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 26, 2020

2018 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Kabinett, Lenchen, Rheingau Germany.
After focusing more on the old vine and dry wines at Spreitzer in my reviews, I noticed I hadn’t mentioned one of my favorite wines in their lineup, this Lenchen Kabinett, and that is an almost unforgivable oversight, as this 2018 vintage is a beauty and a fabulous Summer wine. One of the oldest family wineries in the Rheingau, Weingut Spreitzer, located in the tiny hamlet of Oestrich in the middle Rheingau is run now by Andreas and Bernd Spreitzer, who took over from their father Josef in 1997 and have really done an amazing job elevating this historic estate. One of their prize holdings, is the Lenchen Vineyard with its VDP Grosse Lage Rosengarten being the elite parcel here, it is set on mostly of loam and loess soils and not far from the Rhein and the winery itself. There are numerous underground streams here that ensure that even in dry years the vines have plenty of refreshment and a natural source of water for the roots to drink up. The Lenchen delivers a lovely concentration of flavors and the Kabinett with expressive fruity character drinks almost as impressively as a Spatlese with a serious palate impact and structure, while still feeling bright and brisk, not cloying or overtly sweet with apricot, apple, pineapple and racy citrus fruits along with touches of gingery spices, lemongrass, lime sorbet, wild mint tea and rosewater. This Kabinett has a sunny personality and makes you smile with comforting yellow fruits, but there is an underlying mineral focus and stoniness that reminds you that this terroir is very special.

I last visited the winery with Andreas in the 2016 harvest and tasted in the ancient cellars and in the modern tasting lounge, it certainly is a fantastic and beautiful place to visit when you tour the Rheingau region, it should be on your short list of paces to taste when in Germany and not far from some other famous spots like Kloster Eberbach and Schloss Vollrads, as well as being close the Geisenheim University and just up River from Rudesheim, one of the Rhein’s most picturesque villages. The Lenchen parcels overlook the widest part of the Rhein and this area gets an almost lake effect climate, warmer and moist, usually allowing for high sugars and early ripening grapes, making for flexibility in picking so the Spreitzer’s can make a wide array of styles from the Grand Cru dry Grosses Gewachs to a lush and intensely sweet Auslese, as well as this traditional Kabinett. The vines are littered here with pebbles as well as heavy tertiary, iron-containing clay marl and quartzite that adds complexity to the profile that leans toward exotic in nature. The Spreitzer team used a combination of old fuder (German oak cask) and stainless steel tanks to ferment and age the Lench Kabinett to retain fresh detail as well as give texture, which this vintage manages to convey to near perfection, making for an ideal Kabinett Riesling that is both fun and quaffable along with having complexity to thrill the senses and goes brilliantly with food, classic German dishes and especially spicy Asian cuisines like Thai.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 25, 2020

2018 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The beautiful and dark profiled Cameron Dundee Hills Pinot is one of the best values of the vintage with gorgeous detail and much less reductive notes than usually show in these young Cameron Pinots showing an array of expressive flavors and floral aromas. The 2018 Cameron Dundee Hills Pinot, by the legendary John Paul, one of Oregon’s hall of fame winemakers is very Vosne-Romannee like and at 13.4% is wonderfully balance and full of energy with layers of black cherry, mulberry, currant, strawberry and plum fruits, crushed rose petals, orange tea, delicate earth and loaminess and red spices. With air this exceptional wine adds mineral, sweet herb and smoky wood notes with touches of vanilla and cedar adding just the right amount of luxurious accents here. It’s very interesting, this Willamette Pinot takes on a personality that actually reminds me of Assmannshausen Spatbergunder with qualities similar to the fabled Hollenberg cru, like some of the reserve bottlings of August Kesseler, which are wines that in some vintages are as good as Pinot Noir can ever hope to get. Both Clos Electrique and Abbey Ridge use organic treatments and holistic farming methods and have a variety of clonal material with John Paul preferring old heritage clones which he painstakingly collected himself and the yields are limited to produce wines of depth and concentration.

John Paul’s Pinots are always made from non-irrigated vines and in this case was sourced from his own Abbey Ridge and Clos Electrique cru vineyards set of the classic Jory (red iron rich) volcanic soils which give this regions wines their unique personalities and distinction, which I find adds complex and exotic nuances nd makes Dundee special. This 2018 is fresh and has a deep garnet and ruby hue in the glass that beautifully captures the light and the texture is satiny and the length is very rewarding, making it an insanely good value and a wine that will excel with cuisine, especially with seared duck breast, pepper crusted ahi, blackened salmon and even smoked meats. This 2018, not an easy vintage for the Oregon winemakers, is very charming and the brave and skilled were rewarded with some incredible Pinot Noirs, like this one from Cameron, it is a wine to stock up on for mid term drinking, 3 to 5 years. Cameron usually allows their Pinot to age a minimum of 18 months and sometimes closer to 22 months. Cameron Winery, founded in 1984, is dedicated to producing high-quality, hand-crafted small lot and sustainably-farmed wines, producing 3,000 to 4,000 cases annually and is regarded as one of the best Pinot producers in the new world, but John Paul, who also loves Italian wines, make a small amount of Nebbiolo and Friuli inspired whites, including a blend of Friuliano, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Auxerrois, that should not be missed either!
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 24, 2020

2018 Weingut Mönchhof, Riesling Estate QbA, Mosel Germany.
I’m a long time and big fan of Robert Eymael’s wines, both at J. J. Christoffel and his historic Mönchhof estate in the Mosel and this 2018 Estate QbA Riesling is a prime example why, it is a pure and expressive wine that just pleases the senses and easy to love with slate driven character band fresh zesty flavors. The Mönchhof Estate, formerly owned by the Cistercian abbey of Himmerod, and founded back in 1177 is one of the oldest wineries on the Mosel with its modern cellars dating back to the 1500s and famous for its select plots in the fabled Ürziger Würzgarten and Erdener Prälat. The Eymael family in 1804 purchased the estate after secularization, when the Church was forced to give up much of its lands throughout northern Europe from Napoleon at an auction in Paris. The estates top vineyards are comprised of the very steep parcels mainly in the Erdener Treppchen area set on blue slate along with veins of volcanic and iron rich soils that add an exotic spicy quality to the wines. This fleshy little Riesling entertains in the glass with a delicate golden color and is perfect with lightly spicy foods, especially Asian stir fry chili shrimp, plus it can play nicely with basic cold cuts and Summer salads.

Mönchhof’s Estate Riesling is slightly off dry, but drinks light and crisp with nice fruit concentration leaning on peach and unripe apricot along with tropical elements, green apple and racy citrus all complimented by steely/flint mineral, salty wet stones, snappy spices and spearmint notes. All of Eymael’s vineyards are planted 100% to Riesling with original rootstocks, which are old clones and farmed sustainable and hand tended, as required by the serve slopes the vines hang on to. This basic Estate Riesling opens up to feel just about Kabinett level sweetness and gets smoothly creamy from its residual sugars, though the over all impression is one of fine balance, freshness and stony details, it is a no guilt purchase and a beautiful Summer refresher. In this vintage, most of the fruit comes from the famous VDP Grosse Lage Grand Cru vineyard site Ürziger Würzgarten (that translates to spice garden) which gives this Riesling its noted spicy profile and complex character. The 2018 is a true bargain and while quaffable, low alcohol style it still has structure and depth to be enjoyed for 3 to 5 years and its aromatics are worth the price only with rosewater, white blossoms and sea shore notes. Mönchhof’s lineup in recent vintages have proved highly rewarding and in particular these 2018s are a riveting collection at the top end with quality throughout starting with this one, keep an eye out for them.
($19 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 23, 2020

2018 Chateau de Rouanne, Vinsobres Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
Wow, what a gorgeous and explosive new wine by Louis Barruol, owner of the famed Chateau de Saint Cosme in Gigondas, this Chateau de Rouanne Vinsobres is a meaty and deep purple/garnet Rhone red co-fermentation of Barruol’s old vine Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Louis Barruol has long used fruit from this remote area and has recently added this estate to his lineup as a separate label within the Saint Cosme family, which makes sense as Vinsobres has been recognized as its own appellation, an upgrade from a generic Cotes du Rhone, which I would argue was long over due, since this cooler and high quality terroir is unique and deserves to be more widely known as this wine certainly proves. Louis Barruol has coveted this site for years, he notes that, like his famous Chateau de Saint Cosme, Chateau de Rouanne was first founded during Gallo-Roman times, probably dating back to the 1400s. Barruol adds that, most of Rouanne’s vineyards date from the 1960s and are massale selections (special old clones) that offer substantial genetic diversity and low yields that shows in the wine, giving it concentration and depth, while the elevation and soils allow for natural acidity and heightened aromatics. These qualities and characteristics shine in this 2018, like Saint Cosme’s Gigondas it is brilliantly dark and inviting with polished texture and a full body delivering black raspberry, damson plum, boysenberry compote, creme de cassis and cherry fruit along with whole bunches influences highlighted with peppercorns, violets, earthiness and herbs de provence.

The Chateau de Rouanne Vinsobres Rouge was crafted in this vintage from 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre grown on sandy, iron rich soils set on a limestone marl base with some clay and was, as noted above, all co-fermented primally with whole cluster and all indigenous yeasts in concrete tanks, where it was also aged. The wine rested in the cement vat for 18 months, which allows the wine to show absolute purity in its final form and gave it time to fill out before bottling. The vines in Louis Barruol’s Vinsobres are all organic and head trained with a very high percentage of Syrah interplanted here, much more than you’d find in other southern Rhone Crus, which adds to this wine’s distinct profile that seems more northern Rhone in first impression, though the lush Grenache takes the stage mid palate and creates a luxurious harmony here and there is a velvety almost chocolatey element with the touch of Mourvedre adding a contrasting gamey note. This 2018 GSM got way better as the bottle went down and fans of Saint Cosme with want to stock up on this one, it actually reminds me of Barruol’s Chateauneuf du Pape and is almost half the price! Barruol says Château de Rouanne is an extraordinary (and historic) place in many respects, primarily for its terroir – very few locations in the southern Rhone can boast vineyard sites of this pedigree and that he very excited for the potential here, which he compares with Cotes de Nuits Burgundies, as are Rhone lovers, believing that this site will only get better and better as he focuses more attention to it. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, but this stuff is delicious now!
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive