Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 10, 2019

2014 Poe Wines, Blanc de Blanc, Manchester Ridge, Mendocino County -photo grapelive

2014 Poe Wines, Blanc de Blanc, Manchester Ridge, Mendocino County.
Mostly known for her alluring Pinot Noir(s) and Chardonnay wines, Samantha Sheehan should not overlooked for her brilliant Sparklers, which are single vineyard expression that are similar to some fantastic grower fizz and she is one of handful of high quality producers doing top notch bubbly, with Carachioli Cellars and Michael Cruse, who does the cult Ultramarine, coming to mind. Sheehan founded Poe Wines in 2009 after being inspired by the wines she tasted in Burgundy and Champagne and has been a rising talent ever since with her 100% single vineyard set of bubbly being exceptional offerings, especially this 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc from Manchester Ridge. Manchester Ridge, set on soil that is highly eroded chalky sandstone, sits at a 2,000 foot elevation above Anderson Valley, in the remote Mendocino area, and as Sheehan notes, Tthe vineyard is 400 feet above the fog line, so it gets great exposures, but is extremely cool and allows for a long hang time, which gives added concentration, complexity and flavor development as well as keeping dynamic acidity to make an outstanding series of wines, and clearly makes, as Samantha adds, for high class juice, which sure is the case in this beautiful Blanc de Blanc.

This 2014 Poe Wines Blanc de Blanc is vibrant and elegant, but fills the palate with leesy richness and impressive depth, this 100% Chardonnay really delivers the luxurious impact that you’d expect of a great grower fizz reminding me of the fine examples by Pierre Peters and Laherte Freres! There is pleasing layers of lemon, peach, golden fig, clove, nutmeg, brioche, hazelnut and delicate floral and mineral tones. The body builds in the glass, while the Poe Blanc de Blanc stays vividly transparent and the mousse is fine and lifting with gorgeous small bubbles, creamy mouth feel and energetic beading in the glass. Sheehan picked the Chardonnay at Manchester Ridge on September 2nd, 2014 with loads of racy acidity, and It was fermented in neutral oak barrels without sulfur and with native or indigenous yeasts only. The Chardonnay was then aged in the same barrels for 16 months, before being bottled for sparkling fermentation where it spent a full 3 and a half years on the lees, and was disgorged in April of 2019, all of has given this gorgeous stuff incredible depth and layering. Poe’s sparklers, her Rosé, which I reviewed here recently and this Blanc de Blanc are class acts, I highly recommend getting them for the holidays!
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 9, 2019

2017 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Franc, Bates Ranch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains -photo grapelive

2017 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Franc, Bates Ranch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The new release of Bates Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Franc by Ian Brand under his I. Brand & Family Winery highlights this sites quality and unique profile of flavors in gorgeous detail, this beautifully textured and deep Cab Franc is one of the best single varietal Bordeaux style versions of this grape in California. The Bates Ranch Cabernet Franc parcel was planted back in 1978 and set is on red Franciscan series, iron rich and gravelly volcanic soils that delivers a striking mineral elegance and warm ripeness. The 2017 vintage gave Brand a near perfect set of grapes from which to work, making for a full bodied wine that feels wonderfully engaging and joyously pleasing with a refined palate with silken tannins, polished acidity and layers of dark fruits that are framed by subtle use of French oak. Brand’s deft touch and style are on full display here in his Bates Ranch Cabernet Franc, from this old vine site in the southeastern zone of the Santa Cruz Mountains, in which he employed a traditional fermentation, with careful sorting and de-stemming of the Franc and elevage in mostly used barrels, with Ian using just enough new wood to do the job, if need be.

While the 2016 revealed a more powerful and earthy side of the Bates Ranch Cab Franc, this stunning 2017 edition is a pure vintage expression with more supple mouth feel, delicacy of elements and finesse, without losing any depth of flavors and complexity, it is a wine that looks set to age well and set to be a classic, it will certainly get richer and gain more serious components with another 3 to 5 years in bottle. The 2017 performs nicely now, and has a seductive look and personality with a dark garnet and ruby hue in the glass and a pretty floral bouquet with a hint of violets along with red berries and that (mention) exciting minerallity, all of which leads to an array of blackberry, plum, red currant and cherry fruits, plus a touch of sandalwood, loam, sweet pipe tobacco, baking spices, anise and a lingering echo of the nose. There’s a lot to love in Brand’s latest set of releases, in fact, considering the pressures of intense expectations from the media after Brand won winemaker of the year last year, these new wines are some of his best yet, especially this Bates Cabernet Franc, along with his outstanding set of Grenache bottlings, his Monte Bello Road Cabernet Sauvignon and his iconic Enz Vineyard Old Vine Mourvedre.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 8, 2019

2018 Weingut Dreissigacker, Organic Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Dreissigacker, Organic Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany.
Jochen Dreissigacker is one of of the rising stars of the Rheinhessen and his latest set of wines are thrilling offerings and I found his Organic Trocken absolutely delicious and full of vibrant energy and pure fruit with mineral fresh intensity. Jochen Dreissigacker entered the wine business in 2001, taking over his family estate which originally was found as far back as 1728 when it was known as the Jacob Sauer estate, and Dreissigacker has overseen changes that to him crucially needed to be made, most importantly he organic viticulture. The large, seemingly vast Rheinhessen is a unique region of Germany, highlighted by a great diversity of terroirs and varietals coving an area between the Pfalz and the Rheingau as well as bordering the Nahe, interesting it produces maybe the most wine in Germany, but has few superstars, except notably Philipp Wittmann of the fabled Wittmann Estate, one of the greatest wineries in the country and iconic Klaus-Peter Keller of Keller, who has been an inspiration to Jochen. Now Dreissigacker is poised to join Wittmann and Keller in this elite set of great winemakers and this 2018 Organic Trocken Riesling is one of the reasons why, the grapes come from the Bechtheim area, which are the oldest known sites for growing wine in the whole of the Rheinhessen set on rolling hills around this village that has shallow deposits of loess and loam, overlying a bedrock of active limestone, which is similar to some famous parts of Burgundy.

The estate is now certified Organic and there is amazing attention to detail both in the vines and in the cellar, Jochen notes, he wanted to take something good and make it truly excellent, to transform good flavor into an exciting experience, and elevate pleasant wines to an inspiring experience. Which I can clearly see in his wines, especially this excellent and value priced dry Riesling, Dreissigacker adds that he has worked with the unique mineral composition of his vineyards, the local climate and microclimate(s) and harnessed his own deep passion for winemaking and his region, putting those elements into every bottle. According to the estate, this 2018 is partly estate fruit from the Heilig Kreuz site in Bechtheim and part purchased (organic) fruit from friends and neighbors, all within the Wonnegau zone on mainly Loess and loam soils. Dreissigacker fermented this Organic Trocken Riesling in 100% stainless steel, with extended lees aging, again all in stainless, to give pure form and allow it to be as transparent as possible. Vividly peachy and bursting with racy acidity this 2018 is everything you’d want in a wine at this price with layers of tangerine, apricot, lime and a hint of green apple along with wet (chalky) stones, verbena, caraway seeds (something unique, somewhat suggested by the winery after tasting it) as well as delicate floral tones, steely mineral and a touch of tropical essences. Keep your eyes open for this one and all of the Dreissigacker wines, including their Cru Bechtheimer Riesling and their Sekt Brut Riesling!
($20-24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 7, 2019

2009 Paul Bara, Special Club, Brut Rosé Champagne, Grand Cru, Bouzy, France -photo grapelive

2009 Paul Bara, Special Club, Brut Rosé Champagne, Grand Cru, Bouzy, France.
The famous grower producer, Champagne Paul Bara, is located in the Bouzy region and makes Pinot Noir driven bubbly that is structured and sophisticated that reflects the terroir with its classic clay and limestone soils that allows the Pinot grapes to really develop full ripeness and power. I have always loved the vitality and firmness of these Champagnes from Bara that always show taught form and zesty acidity, they are enthusiast sparklers that take your full attention to appreciate their vigor and detail, and this is especially true with their rare Special Club bottlings like this glorious 2009 Special Club Brut Rosé, which even in a ripe year is nothing but class. Interesting, these Special Club wines have the highest percentage of Chardonnay in their range and gives them an added richness of texture it seems and a roundness that caresses the full palate with this Rosé showing heightened aromatics and layered flavors with pink citrus, strawberry, a hint of cherry and nutty brioche leesy depth along with wet stone, rosewater, mineral notes and lingering Pinot fruit. The fine mousse is luxurious and beads with the soft pop of small bubbles, it is creamy, but energetic and gives an opulence to what is a powerful Champagne that deserves a meal based around it, rather than it being an aperitif or special occasion sipper, this is center of the table stuff! Bara also does a still red wine, Bouzy Rouge Coteaux Champenois Grand Cru, though it is extremely limited and almost impossible to get your hands on, it is one of the geeky unicorn wines that usually never sees time on the shelf. Bara’s regular bottlings are regal efforts and wonderful values that over deliver in the quality to price arena.

This 2009, a vintage many overlooking as the 2008 continues to be the star of the last decade in the region, but one that will surprise in some cases, as this gorgeous Paul Bara vintage Brut Rosé Special Club proves with its decadence and style. Bara, uses almost zero malos in their fermentations, helping showcase vitality in their Champagne(s) with all their vineyards being Grand Cru and grown to exacting standards which give these Champagnes their clarity, depth and intensity. After hand harvesting and careful sorting the grapes are direct pressed off their skins and cool fermented through primary and aged on the lees, with this Special Club getting 9 years on the lees in bottle. The Special Club Brut Rosé was a final blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, the base wine saw no skin contact, the color coming from the use of 12% Bouzy Rouge, from riper Pinot Noir still wine that was crafted separately from a later pick and with traditional winemaking with daily punchdowns and allowed to go through secondary fermentation. I was thrilled by this 2009 Brut Rosé by Paul Bara and while not easy to find, nor inexpensive if you can find it, it is pure seduction in the glass and worth every penny as it out performs many tete cuvees and is seriously a match for Dom Rosé! Imported by Kermit Lynch, who’s savvy selection of grower fizz is exceptional with Lassale and Bara being great Champagne(s) to look for, and if you can’t find this beauty, be sure to not miss Bara’s 100% Pinot Noir “Comtesse Marie de France” Brut, it is one of the best bottles of bubbly I’ve had. There’s a lot to enjoy at Paul Bara and this Special Club is one of many highlights, they are Champagne(s) that drink as wine, great with food and are of real substance, impressive stuff to savor with someone special.
($90 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 6, 2019

2018 Domaine des Terres Dorées par Jean-Paul Brun, Beaujolais “L’Ancien” Vieilles Vignes, France -photo grapelive

2018 Domaine des Terres Dorées par Jean-Paul Brun, Beaujolais “L’Ancien” Vieilles Vignes, France.
One of Beaujolais’ treasures and more delicate producers, Jean-Paul Brun, who started his small winery back in 1979, and who’s Domaine des Terres Dorées is located in Charnay, a village in the Southern Beaujolais just north of Lyons, is known for silky Gamay wines like this new 2018 L’Ancien and fresh Chardonnay as well. The lighter and fresher 2018 Domaine des Terres Dorees L’Ancien is delightful in the glass with strawberry, tangy cherry and wild plum fruits with a charming mineral and floral character and a soft pleasing texture and a lingering fruity finish, adding hints of violets, earthy walnut, chalky stones and herbs. The L’Ancien Vieilles Vignes is comfortable in its own skin, it drinks beautifully without pretense, it is freely a naked Gamay that strides with a quiet confidence and shows absolute purity of the grape and place.

Grown on Burgundy like clay and limestone soils, rather than the more iconic granite that resides in the more famous plots in the Cru Beaujolais site, the old vine L’Ancien Beaujolais was fermented with 100% de-stemmed hand picked Gamay grapes and the fermentation and aging is in cement vats. This savvy Gamay coming from 80 plus year old vines was made to Jean-Paul’s guiding principles of using indigenous yeasts, low natural alcohol and minimal sulfur, making it what he calls an old-style Beaujolais and a more natural wine without dogma. This bright ruby colored L’Ancien Old Vine Beaujolais, which is best served with a chill and with complimentary cuisine, is lacy, vibrant and easy to love. Brun’s wines never disappoint and while not readily available and geeky cool, they are very good values and deliver an honest performance, they are always a treat when they can be found, especially with holidays meals.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 5, 2019

2012 Lucien Crochet, Sancerre Rouge “La Croix du Roy” Loire Valley, France -photo grapelive

2012 Lucien Crochet, Sancerre Rouge “La Croix du Roy” Loire Valley, France.
This lovely Pinot Noir from famed Sancerre producer Lucien Crochet is drinking in its prime right now, this special La Croix du Roy bottling is a wonderful version of Loire Valley Pinot Noir that really stands out for its class, grace and delicacy in the glass which time in the bottle has given. This finely detailed 2012 La Croix du Roy Sancerre Rouge comes from seven micro parcels with set on soils that are made up of clay and limestone from the Oxfordian and Kimmeridgian eras. Crochet’s stony influenced vineyards are all hillsides on slopes that run from south-east to south to southwest with glorious exposures to the sun and has since 1989 only been worked organically. The 2012 shows satiny layers of red plum, strawberry and a core of black cherry fruits along with mineral notes, light baking spices, wilted roses and wild mushrooms, making for a medium bodied pure Pinot with incredible length and elegance. Lucien Crochet, known for their awesome Sauvignon Blanc, true terroir driven Sancerre(s), also is gifted with Pinot Noir and this La Croix du Roy is one to look for.

This stunning Sancerre Rouge has everything you’d want in a Pinot with exceptional clarity of form and with a classic flavor profile, there is almost nothing to fault here and it certainly has the substance to age further and its a great food wine that thoroughly impresses from start to finish. Crochet hand harvested and crafted this wine with a maceration and primary fermentation that lasts about 30 days with traditional remontage and pigeage (gentle daily punchdowns) before an elevage of 12 months in a combination of stainless steel (40%) and barrel (60%) with mostly used French oak being employed. Then after the cuvee is blended it is aged a further 8 months before bottling, where this Pinot is rested another 4 months before leaving the cellars, allowing it to all come together, which shows in this well developed Sancerre Rouge. This 2012 is still out there and is priced fantastically well, it is a wine that easily competes with Burgundy offerings that are twice or three times the price, this Pinot is especially delicious and its textural class makes it a standout.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 4, 2019

2015 Chateau Moulin de Tricot, Haut Medoc, Red Bordeaux, France -photo grapelive

2015 Chateau Moulin de Tricot, Haut Medoc, Red Bordeaux, France.
The Château Moulin de Tricot, mostly sitting within the famous Margaux region, is a tiny property established in the 19th Century by the ancestors of the current proprietor, Bruno Rey, who farms his vines in organic fashion and makes a line of estate bottlings, including this beautiful and value priced Moulin de Tricot Haut-Medoc. This terroir authentic profile comes from the soils and climate, which at Moulin de Tricot are a mix of sand and gravel sitting on a subsoil of clay and marl, that are well drained and allow for deep concentration of flavors, this shows up clearly here in the riper vintage of this 2015 version. The vines here are hand tended with a strict triage (sorting) of the grapes carried out both in the vineyard and in the cellar to guarantee quality, these vines average over 30 years old and the vineyards are made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, that accounts for 75%, with Merlot making up the remaining 25% here. This is an honest wine and highlights Bordeaux’s continued relevance in the wine world and this Cabernet based bottling is one to search out and drink over the next 5 to 10 years, it is a really good buy and this year is warmly open and performs with all the charms you’d expect from a claret.

Classic layers of left bank fruit shine in this 2015 Moulin de Tricot with earthy blackberry, plum and currant leading the way along with a touch of leather, loam, cedar and anise all playing vigorous roles in this fine example of place and traditional style, adding lingering kirsch and held together with solid tannins that never get aggressive, but lends to the wines impressive character. Chateau Moulin de Tricot and its proprietor Rey ferments this Bordeaux in stainless steel tanks and then ages this wine in small French oak barrels for one year, with no new oak being employed on this bottling, which enhances the purity and vivid nature of the fruit, making for a less flashy wine and a wine that rejoices in its restraint and delivers transparency of form. The body gains density with air and fills out wonderfully on the palate and the after taste goes on and on, making, again, a serious impact. This second wine from Moulin de Tricot is a savvy Bordeaux choice, especially in vintages like 2015 and 2016, with this 2015 hitting its stride already, though I would enjoy this dark garnet red with food for the best results.
($37 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 3, 2019

2014 Epoch Estate, Ingenuity Red, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles -photo grapelive

2014 Epoch Estate, Ingenuity Red, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles.
This vintage is really getting better and better in the bottle and this Epoch Estate cuvee Ingenuity is coming into its own with gorgeous layers of fruit that are perfectly integrating into a world class wine, bravo to Jordan Fiorentini, winemaker, on this incredible Rhone style red. The ripe richness and full body, with surprisingly high alcohol, somehow all comes together and the impression on the palate is one of complete harmony and balance, much in the same way some Chateauneuf-du-Pape in recent times do, and the Ingenuity, which is Syrah heavy gives a darker profile, along with its backbone of sweet tannin, gives a more structured vigor and feel, rather than heat or weight. This vintage of Epoch’s Ingenuity was made from 50% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre and 7% Petite Sirah all coming from estate vines at their Catapult and Paderewski vineyard sites in the west side of Paso Robles in the hillsides of the Willow Creek District which are set on the limestone and shale rich soils. The terroir here gives intensely deep flavors and density, but with dynamic acidity that helps give this wine its class and energy, the 2014 version delivers this with blackberry, currant, boysenberry, plum and blueberry fruit along with dark floral notes, mineral tones, fresh pepper, minty herb/anise, baked earth, black olive and delicate wood toast with a hint of vanilla, cedar and lingering framboise. This wine is losing some of its youthful jammy elements as well as camphor or tar, which are moving into the background as it becomes more and more refined and the texture is quite heavenly.

The whole lineup at Epoch is impressive, with vintages ’14, ’15 and ’16 all showing fantastic strength across the selection, especially the reds, but I highly recommend checking out the Estate White and their fabulous dry pink wine too, plus I am excited about the Epoch Tempranillo, which shows lots of promise, in fact I had to get a magnum of it to lay down, these are intriguing wines that are some of Paso’s best along with L’Aventure, Saxum and Booker to name a few. Fiorentini, who’s talent is well reported, has a modern winery and cave to employ her magic, along with excellent grapes to work with, thanks to the investment and commitment of the winery’s owners. The handcrafted 2014 Ingenuity was fermented in separate varietal lots in a combination of stainless steel tank and beautiful custom concrete tanks, plus some in open top small bin fermentors, all of which was done with mostly gravity flow and gentle handling, but with long macerations before being aged for 18 months in both small barrique and larger puncheons, of which about a third was new oak. Air and time in the glass reveals even more thrilling details, aromatics and the after taste just goes on and on, it makes for stellar performance and again, while 15.7% alcohol, this really drinks with poise and is seriously good with food, in particular grilled meats, fatty dishes, hard cheeses and wild boar sausage, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($69 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 2, 2019

2018 Weingut Alzinger, Riesling Smaragd, Loibenberg, Wachau, Austria -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Alzinger, Riesling Smaragd, Loibenberg, Wachau, Austria.
Leo Alzinger has quietly made quite a name for himself in recent vintages and his wines are getting a lot of buzz, and I have been tracking these Gruner and Rieslings from the Wachau region of Austria for a number of years and these 2018 are on par with the best, including his neighbor’s Emmerich Knoll! The latest Smaragd, a later pick and richer style, is a gorgeous Riesling from the Loiber Cru and sourced from steep plots on the prestigious and towering terraced higher elevation site that is set on mostly primary rock, loam and sandy soils with some loess, at the lower sites. This is a place with great intensity and depth of flavors, captured to perfection by Alzinger in his 2018 Loibenberg with a dense array of classic terroir influence and highlighted by racy green apple, key lime, ripe apricot and honeyed grapefruit fruits along with crushed stones, delicate mineral tones, white flowers, sweet herbs, clove, almond oil, verbena and a hint of leesy elements. This beauty shows extract and has a palate impact that will impress red wine lovers as well as Riesling fans, this dry wine has the mouth feel of an Auslese or a richer white Burg, but still has plenty of zing and vigor, it never goes dull or feel cloying.

According to Alzinger’s famous importer Terry Theise, the harvest at Alzinger comes later than some of Leo’s neighbors in Unterloiben, which Leo attributes to his old vines and the unique settings and exposures of his particular plots. This extra hang time on the vines doesn’t increase sweetness or lift brix, but as Alzinger notes, it gives physiological ripeness and leads to greater balance and complexity, that in this case shows clearly to be true. Theise adds that Alzinger whole cluster presses his grapes and does short maceration on the skins and then settles the juice for 24 hours, which limits green tannin in the ferments. The house style leans toward the elegant with transparency being the main goal and while this parcel delivers a richness it is impressive for its restraint, this Loibenberg Smaragd is the real deal and a thrilling Riesling that should perform well for a good decade or more. With time in the glass this wine gains opulence as a Smaragd should do and the textural pleasure intensifies and the length is seriously divine, it is a Riesling to search out! The 2018 vintage is varied for Austria, but these Alzinger’s are exceptional from his lighter and zesty Federspiel Gruner Veltliner to this Smaragd with it’s fuller body, keep an eye out for them.
($65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 1, 2019

2013 Domaine Henri Gouges, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Chenes Carteaux, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France -photo grapelive

2013 Domaine Henri Gouges, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Chenes Carteaux, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
The famous Domaine Henri Gouges was founded in 1920 and started bottling their own wines exclusively in 1933 at their property in Nuits-Saint-Georges and the rest they say is history, making some of the finest wines of the region. From the Gouges winery, now all new and gravity flow, the 2013 Les Chenes Carteaux 1er Cru rouge is remarkably fresh and still very youthful with racy red fruits, vibrant acidity and dusty spices showing on the satiny palate. Les Chenes Carteaux is a tiny cru between the famous Les Vaucrains and Les Saint-Georges set on some absolutely brilliant terroir and this pedigree shows here, in fact I tasted this one blind and I first thought I was tasting a top Pommard! I happily surprised by this lovely Gouges Burgundy as it opened up with air gaining in depth and getting deeper in flavors with dark fruit and floral tones coming through adding beauty to the complex layers. There is a lot to enjoy here and the 2013 is delivering more than most could hope for with a lush quality and highlights graceful and gentle focus and talent in the cellar.

Maybe not as hard in its youth as its more fabled neighbors the Les Chenes Carteaux, which is set on really sandy soils with some clay and limestone underneath allows a more forward personality, but still with a solid form and structure that gives this wine an age worthy feel in the mouth. Gouges, now run by Gregory Gouges and his cousin, Antoine, have tamed these brawny wines in recent vintages and refined the estate’s style, without taking anything away from their character, these are absolutely delicious Burgs, especially this little gem, which is a stylish effort and a great value. The domaine has converted to all organic viticulture as well which has improved energy and finesse in the wines, which is showing clearly here with majestic transparency, it gives vivid layers of black cherry, red raspberry and wild plum fruits, dark rose petal florals, loamy earth, tea spices and a light presence of toast oak. This is really an expressive ruby/garnet hued Pinot Noir that should improve a little with another 3 to 5 years in bottle, where it will fill out texture wise and drink smartly for another decade or more, this is classic stuff in the glass.
($70 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive