Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive; Wine of the Day June 23, 2019

2017 Masseria Li Veli, Susumaniello, IGT Rosso, Salento, Italy -photo grapelive

2017 Masseria Li Veli, Susumaniello, IGT Rosso, Salento, Italy.
The 2017 Susmaniello from Li Veli is extraordinarily rich and decedent on the palate with an opulent array of dense red fruits that at first sniff make you think it will be lighter and more tangy than it is in the mouth and the cedary wood notes add sense of power to this red from the Salento region. Lightly floral and minty this intriguing wine feels full in mouth with candied red cherry, plum, dried cranberry, red peach flesh and spicy raspberry fruits along with a touch of crushed rock, baking spices and mineral tones. This year is more weighty than my prior experiences with this wine, but with air it really comes alive and gives a solid all around performance in the glass, gaining sharper detail and taking on a dark fruit tone, more boysenberry and loses the first impression of baby fat and juiciness. This is always a fun wine to show off, as almost no one has ever heard of Susmaniello, and it’s far from just a curiosity, as it gives a lot of interesting character and is great with most Italian regional cuisines, including pasta dishes of course.

Askos is the name that Falvo family, the owners of Masseria Li Veli gave their project of rediscovery and selection of ancient Apulian grape varieties, like Susumaniello, that had almost gone extinct. Wines are produced by using exclusively these indigenous varietals, cultivated in their most suitable terroirs according the traditional methods. We have chosen a Greek “Askos” an ancient Decanter as a symbol of the wine making, a practice that in Puglia was started by the ancient Greeks. The Li Veli Susumaniello was aged for 9 months in a combination of 500 liter and 225 liter barrels, and while oak raised and toasty sweet, it remains fresh and vibrant with some savory elements, a streak of mineral, sweet and sour notes and a light earthiness. Believed to have been brought to Apulia in ancient times little is really known of this grape’s origins and if there is anyway else where it is still grown, so Li Vela’s Askos project certainly looks to have saved Susumaniello for the world, and tasting this wine is an experience into the region’s past, and its future.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 22, 2019

2016 Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder, Silvaner Trocken, Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl VDP Erste Lage, Franken Germany -photo grapelive

2016 Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder, Silvaner Trocken, Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl VDP Erste Lage, Franken Germany.
The 2016 dry Silvaner from Schmitt’s Kinder (like Schmitt’s Children or Kids) is lovely and complex white with bright acid intensity, but also with great extract and textural quality highlighting the Premier Cru terroir of Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl Vineyard site above the Main. While long considered a regal grape in Germany, Silvaner (Sylvaner) or Gruner Silvaner as it is officially known, but its history is still kind of a mystery as is its up and down place in the heart of Germany’s producers and wine drinkers and it is thought to have migrated from eastern Europe, maybe Transylvania, hence the name and is first recorded in Germany as far back as 1659. I have been a fan of this grape for decades and have followed it mainly in the form of Alsace’s Domaine Weinbach, but in recent years I have enjoyed the Franken and Rheingau versions greatly, like those of Rudolph May and Weingut Leitz’s Alte Reben from vines near Rudesheim. Famed Master of Wine and wine critic Jancis Robinson believes Silvaner is one of Germany’s few white wine grapes that seems obviously most at home producing dry rather than fruitier styles of wine, and so could be said to be particularly in tune with current tastes among wine drinkers in Germany, to which I tend to agree, lucky too as these Franken bottles are terrible for export shippers!

Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder is a nine generation family estate in the state of Franconia, on the Main River, in Germany that was originally established back in 1712 and grows a selection of traditional varietals including Pinot Noir, Mueller-Thurgau, Riesling, Scheurebe and Rieslaner, plus rarities Bacchus and Kerner, which are very popular in Franconia, as well as its signature grape Silvaner, which is native to western Germany, though grown in Alsace, where since 2006 it can be a Grand Cru, Alto Adige in the Dolomites as well as in the new world including California, in fact Silvaner has been in California longer than Zinfandel, first planted in the state in 1850 at the Scribe Farm in Sonoma by the Dresel family. Way too often Silvaner gets overlooked and is misunderstood, it is a noble varietal and while exceptional in some cases in Alsace, notably at Domaine Weinbach, it may actually grow best and make for much greater wine in Franken. This region, in Southern Germany, is a much under valued region, that turns out some amazing dry premier cru and grand cru, Erste Lage and Grosses Gewachs wines mostly made from Silvaner, though there is both Riesling and Pinot Noir as well, and Schmitt’s Kinder is one of most interesting producers. Franken wines usually are bottled and sold in a uniquely shaped bottle, called a Bocksbeutel, a vessel that is not without controversy as it is terrible for wine stores to rack, but is ultra traditional in the region and has somehow survived in the modern world with it’s round, flat body and a short neck for over 250 years.

This version, the Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl “Sun Chair” Trocken VDP Erste Lage comes from steep hillside vineyard that are farmed to organic practices and everything is done by hand to ensure quality and perfect ripening of the grapes with Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder employing Inox (stainless steel, temperature controlled tanks) and classic large cask for fermentation and aging, though in recent years they have added a few French barriques to the mix. Franken is heavily influenced by its combination of soils with mostly weathered sandstone and fossilized limestone which adds to the density and depth found in the wines, along with fresh acidity and mineral tones and this adds to Sonnenstuhl’s southern exposure, ripening the grapes to richness, but with complexity and focus, as delivered in this 2016 dry Silvaner. Imported to the US by Rudi Wiest, Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder are not easy to find, but very much worth the effort to find and drink, this Silvaner goes great with smoked trout and easily pairs with artichoke and asparagus, which is not always easy.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 21, 2019

2015 Bruno Giacosa, Nebbiolo d’Alba, Piedmonte, Italy -photo grapelive

2015 Bruno Giacosa, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Bruno Giacosa’s polished village wine, the Nebbiolo d’Alba is one of the most stylish and well made red from Piedmonte in its price class, it really is as close as you can get to the cliche “baby Barolo” without sounding like an idiot, with it’s depth and structure proving the point. Made from classic terroirs with southwest exposures, in the villages of Monteu Roero, Santo Stefano Roero and Vezza d’Alba, coming from 25 to 30 year old vines on the marl/limestone, sand and hardened clay soils, all of which provides the rich concentration and the pretty layers, especially in this warm vintage 2015, making it more ripe in detail and with great fruit expression, even in its youth. There’s a lot to love here with its subtle bouquet of roses, dark red fruits, spice and cedar that leads to a medium to full bodied palate of black cherry, damson plum, tangy currant and reduced strawberry fruits along with a mix of sweet French oak, minty herb, black salted licorice, new leather, mineral/iron, dried lavender and a hint of sandalwood. This vintage, as per normal, saw about 14 months in French oak after a stainless steel fermentation including a cool two week maceration, to highlight clarity and done in a more modern style, delivering an elegant Nebbiolo with a regal mouth feel and it’s luxurious in glass.

The late Bruno Giacosa, one of Italy’s greatest ever producers, died just last year (in January of 2018) was an Italian wine hero who was from the village Neive in the Langhe region most famous for his Nebbiolo and more so for Barolo. Today his daughter Bruna, who has taken over produces a number of Barbaresco and Barolo wines, as well as bottlings of Arneis, Barbera, Dolcetto and a sparkling wine, all up to the legendary Rocche del Falletto Barolo and the equally famous Santo Stefano(s) Barbaresco. Bruna, working with his longtime enologist and protegé, Dante Scaglione, has continued her father’s important work. Her commitment, according to Rare Wine Co. a direct importer of classic wines, is a guarantee, that the Giacosa name on a bottle of Barolo or Barbaresco denotes both the highest quality and true vineyard expression, I myself think of Giacosa as the Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, with their Barolo and Barbaresco comparing well with Vogüé’s Musigny and Bonnes Mares Grand Cru. I consider myself lucky to have tasted with Bruna at a tasting in San Francisco, and enjoyed her Tre Bicchieri (winning) 2004 Riserva Santo Stefano, it was an experience I won’t forget. While the regular Nebbiolo doesn’t rise to the greatness of Giacosa’s elite bottlings, it certainly offers a glimpse and it is a very rewarding Piedmonte that is well worth the price and a savvy choice for Nebbiolo lovers to drink over the next 5 to 10 years.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 20, 2019

2018 Sheldon Wines, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County -photo grapelive

2018 Sheldon Wines, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County.
The Sheldon Sangiovese, their first wine to be made from this Tuscan grape, is an unbelievably gorgeous version with a seductive perfume and sensual fruit that is almost never found in California examples, this is impressive stuff that should not be missed. The 2018 vintage is proving to be an amazing year for purity, vivid fruit and heightened aromatic qualities with good acidity adding clarity and pop in the wines and Sheldon very much exploited this to great effect in their latest set of wines, especially this beautiful Sangiovese that shines with racy and transparent red fruits, spices, mineral charm, wild herbs along with its heady bouquet. Without question this wine is a special wine, considering its youth, it shows an exceptional poise and detail with an almost Grenache like set of layering of red raspberry, plum, cherry and strawberry fruits all supported by velvety almost creamy tannin structure, these sweet tannins are ripe allowing this Sangio to have a wonderful mouth feel, while still holding on to its energy and vibrancy. There are savory elements and the mentioned spicy tones, it adds pepper, pomegranate, iron/mineral, mint, framboise, anise, cigar wrapper and sanguine notes, dried lavender and rose oil that all play supporting roles to near perfection in this medium bodied red. I love this wine, it excites the senses and was a brilliant surprise in the glass with a lovely garnet/ruby hue with magenta edges and it is fantastic with food, it is very flexible and focused, going with classic pizza and pasta, plus BBQ pork, grilled meats, mushroom dishes and is great with a slight chill for out door dinning.

At first, I believed there was some Grenache, Syrah or Cabernet added, but winemaker Dylan tells me it is 100% Sangiovese from an mature, old clone, organically farmed site on volcanic soils, and I thought it might be partial whole bunches, but he adds that he de-stemmed all the grapes and did a traditional ferment. Sheldon employed a conservative approach to his first try with Sangiovese and even so it is wildly exotic and thrilling, the primary fermentation was done in stainless and only aged in a well seasoned neutral French barrique for just 5 months before an early bottling, which was done to capture the purity of this wine and hold on to that sexy nose. Sheldon racked with ultra gentle gravity and with very minimal SO2, which allows the wine’s personality to really take center stage, like you would find in Lapierre’s Morgon. This Sangiovese might be a game charger, it joins the best versions of this varietal in California, like Stolpman’s and Reeve’s examples, it fits nicely in between them and it transcends the grape itself, sadly Sheldon only did one barrel, as more people need to try this stuff. The 2018 Sheldon Sangiovese (like their Graciano) is an awesome wine, uniquely Californian, it is in league with Arnot-Roberts Trousseau, Pax’s Valdiguie or Carignan, Russell Joyce’s Gamay Noir, Jaimee Motely’s Mondeuse, Ryme’s Aglianico, Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avila, Paul Gordon’s Halcon Petite Sirah and others of this new generation that are re-definning our understanding and perceptions of what California can do. This is a fabulous textured expression of Sangiovese, do not miss it, enjoy it over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 19, 2019

2017 Domaine Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine, White Burgundy, France photo grapelive

2017 Domaine Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine, White Burgundy, France.
Tasted from magnum, the 2017 Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine is a beauty, so pure and mineral focused, I was thrilled with this vintage and as a longtime fan of Lafon’s Mâconnais project it was great to try the latest release as see that the quality seems to have even risen since I last had them. Attention to detail, using only the best grapes possible, indigenous yeasts and gentle winemaking Lafon and team, as his US importer Skurnik puts it, strive to preserve the fruit and minerality of the region by using only larger, neutral wood for the aging of the wines. This current lime blossom scented Mâcon Milly-Lamartine shows precision and finesse usually reserved for wines are twice or three times the price with bright, but layered Chardonnay fruit, wet stones and a touch of leesy texture featuring lemon, peach, apple and bosc pear fruits along with a touch of clove spice and saline rich wet stone. While crisp and steely with loads of energy this year has a subtle creaminess of mouth feel hinting at its extract and underlying density, most likely from the rigorous selections, small yields and the old vine concentration. The 2017 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine shows a remarkable form and style, this might be my favorite “Cru” in the lineup, grown on clay and limestone that isn’t all that different from Puligny, Saint-Aubin and Lafon’s loved Meursault home.

Founded by Meursault legend, Dominique Lafon, in 1999 the Mâconnais based Héritiers du Comte Lafon is an all organic and biodynamic estate that crafts exceptional Chardonnay from this lesser appreciated region where he found treasured old vine parcels and excellent terroirs. The wines are now, since 2006, made by the hugely talented Caroline Gon, who was Lafon’s apprentice for many years, so there is a amazing chemistry and clearly a linage of quality. Lafon, one of best known Cote de Beaune winemakers, was one of the first to see the potential of the Mâconnais for its hidden magic and his success has brought on a wave of Cote d’Or producers to the region, looking for a less expensive place to source premium Chardonnay grapes, and now Saint-Veran, Vire-Clesse and all the various sub zones of Mâcon are all the rage. Historically, the Mâconnais was known for industrially farmed, volume driven wines usually just labeled Mâcon-Villages, sort of generic and sadly un-inspiring, but now thrilling wines are being handcrafted here, like those of Robert-Denogent, Domaine de la Sarazinière and Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon are as highly regarded as the more famous Beaune addresses! As mentioned repeatedly in my many prior reviews, if you want a truly fabulous White Burgundy at a fair price, this is a label to invest in and or search out.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 18, 2019

2017 Flaneur Wines, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon -photo grapelive

2017 Flaneur Wines, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The expressive and dynamic Flaneur Willamette Valley Pinot has that crunchy, semi carbonic like fruit intensity and exotic spices with layers of racy red cherry, briar laced raspberry, pomegranate, plum and strawberry fruits along with cinnamon, cola bean, tea and peppery herbs, plus a juicy Moro orange note, along with a faint wood shading. Flaneur hasn’t been on the scene very long, but if they continue with wines like this they are heading in the right direction and should pick up a serious following within a short time. I find this one to have a more Cru Beaujolais character at first and it reminds me of some great Fleurie and Morgon, but given air its Pinot fruit comes through and it gets very stylish. The color is bright ruby and garnet and the nose is ever changing with rose petal, earth, mineral and red berries all playing a role in the glass. This vintage, which typically is a bit more muted that the riper 2015 and 2016 is no wallflower and is bursting with flavor, with partial bunches and stems adding exuberant vitality and grip on the medium bodied palate, again air allows the true sense of this beautiful wine to come through with silken mouth feel and length on the finish. It also gets even better with food, especially slightly more complex stuff and it can stand up to some fun Asian dishes as well, plus it can be enjoyed, with a thrill, slightly chilled and with picnics or warm evening dinning. This 2017 Willamette Valley cuvee by Flaneur is youthfully flamboyant and vibrant, but there’s a lot to come here, and for the price I highly recommend getting a few to enjoy now and some to age.

One of the under the radar, but great values in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Flaneur Wines, made by Grant Coulter, who recently moved on from being winemaker at the famous Beaux Freres Vineyard, and maker of his own label Hundred Suns, his overseeing the vineyards and hand crafting these wines for Flaneur gives them instant street cred. Grant, a Monterey native, is one of many new generation winemakers from this region to be getting their due, along with Scott Shapely of Roar, Eric Hamacher of Hamacher, also in Oregon, Grant’s friends Cory (who told be to check this wine out) and Mike Waller of Eden Rift and Calera respectively as well as Jeff Pisoni of Fort Ross and his family’s wines, as well as Russell Joyce, to name just a few, all of which are making some world class Pinots. As a Monterey native myself I am proud of these guys and thrilled with their wines, especially Coulter’s stuff and I love this 2017 Flaneur. I first met Grant in 2008 at Beaux Freres, while visiting the vineyard and tasting through the wines and have been following his wines ever since, his time with Mike Etzel was time well spent and his has taken a lot with him, he looks to work organic and biodynamic where he can as well as using natural methods with native yeast fermentations and less new oak, with this Flaneur seeing only about 11% new French oak, all to preserve clarity, purity and freshness. This year saw 68% of the grapes sourced from La Belle Promenade and 32% from the Flanerie vineyard and ended up being about 36% whole cluster, the finished alcohol came it at 13.7%, though it feels less and it is a wonderfully balanced wine. I love it as is, but it will be a wine to follow for the next 3 to 5 years when it hits its sweet spot.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 17, 2019

1972 Freemark Abbey, Petite Sirah, Napa Valley -photo grapelive

1972 Freemark Abbey, Petite Sirah, Napa Valley.
A wine that seems forgotten in time, I’d bet the winery doesn’t know much about it either, the garnet and dark brick hued 1972 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah proved a delight at a recent dinner event, in fact it was an incredible bottle with Bordeaux like class and character with a sweet fruited medium bodied palate and only the slightest hint of true age, even after many hours it was still holding on with pretty flavors and wonderful length. This was a surprisingly impressive display, I have to believe this wine, which Freemark Abbey don’t even seem to make anymore, was made from old vines that either they don’t source from or re-planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, since that is there main focus and has been for many decades now. Not that I was shocked really, because I’ve had remarkable bottles of California wines that should have been long dead that weren’t, like old Zinfandel, Barbera and Petite Sirah, AKA Durif. Petite Sirah (or Durif) is a black-skinned grape variety that was developed by Dr. Durif, a French nurseryman living in the southwest of France in the late 1800’s. He created this new variety by crossing the Syrah grape with the little known Peloursin grape, with Petite Sirah being its North and South American name, and according to Patrick Comiskey, author of American Rhone, Durif took the name for a completely different variety (thought to be a clone of Syrah) in the early 1900s, and that’s why it can also be spelled Petite Syrah as well. In the rest of the world, like in Australia where it has become quite popular, it is generally known as Durif, as mentioned, named after its discoverer, Dr. Francois Durif himself. Tasting this Petite, is quite literally tasting history, and it is still astonishingly fresh wine with layers of only slightly faded blackberry, dusty cherry, dried violets, minty herbs, tobacco leaf as well as the mentioned below, mulberry and currant fruits along with a hint of earthy mushroom, gravelly loam, autumn leaves, a faint whiff of soy/balsamic and cedar.

Though the grape was never highly regarded in France, and is a rarity there, it makes for a inky dark wine of great tannic intensity with blue fruits and chocolatey element when in its youth, developing a more refined character with age, often losing the sense of jammy fruit and taking on, as this 1972 Freemark Abbey has a secondary, almost like a Cabernet Sauvignon personality taking on currants and earthy mulberries. Freemark Abbey, in St. Helena, which was first founded in 1886, as noted by the winery, by Josephine Tychson, a Victorian widow, built and operated the original redwood cellar on our estate, cultivated the land, and became the first female winemaker on record in Napa Valley. This was short lived, as in 1898, Antonio Forni, a good friend of Josephine’s, purchased the winery and renamed it as Lombarda Cellars, after his birthplace in Italy, he also build the winery structure which still survives today. Just before the US entered WWII, in 1939 three southern California businessmen purchased Lombarda Cellars, combining their names, Charles Freeman, Marquand Foster and Albert “Abbey” Ahern into the name, we know today, Freemark Abbey. Interestingly, Freemark Abbey was one of the first wineries in Napa to open a tasting room and visitors center back in 1949, and in 1967 a new partnership took over and into the 1970s they focused almost exclusively on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, plus a few Bordeaux blends, including their Bosché Vineyard Cabernet, their signature wine, and one of the first single vineyard labeled bottlings in California. Freemark Abbey, one of the original twelve wineries to be included in the Judgement of Paris tastings, along with the likes of Chateau Montelena, Ridge Vineyards and others, and while I can’t find out much on this Petite Sirah, the winery does have an intriguing history that is worth remembering. What an experience, honestly, if tasted blind I might have said Napa Cab, but it does have a left bank charm, I wish I had a few more bottles!
($ N/A) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 16, 2019

2017 I. Brand & Family, Cabernet Franc, Bayly Ranch, Paicines, San Benito County -photo grapelive

2017 I. Brand & Family, Cabernet Franc, Bayly Ranch, Paicines, San Benito County.
The beautiful Bourgueil like dark garnet and ruby Bayly Ranch Cab Franc from Ian Brand is maybe the best Loire style version for the money in California and the 2017 vintage is the best yet with warm ripe details and some classic pyrazines (bell pepper) in the background as well as gorgeous floral notes and earthy intensity. Ian Brand, maker of the fun Le P’Tit Paysan line and the La Marea Albarino, does an amazing set of small lot signature single vineyard wines under his I. Brand & Family label, and these limited bottlings are fabulous terroir wines that highlight some underrated areas and vineyard sites, I call him a Vineyard Whisperer, and his latest set of wines are wonderfully compelling, especially this Paicines, Bayly Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Franc. Bayly Ranch is in the San Benito AVA and within the Paicines zone, which is near the Tres Pinos Creek and the San Andreas Fault. The soils here consist of a stony mix including ancient alluvial deposits with an array of geologic structures in this warm climate that refreshed by cool nights, making it a sublime place for Cabernet Franc. This Franc, the Loire inspired one joins the denser and more Bordeaux like Bates Ranch in Brand’s collection, he really has a great feeling and touch with this varietal, both are exciting examples and make a great pair of bookends!

Crafted using traditional methods, the Bayly Ranch was vinified using whole berry grapes that were picked at moderate sugars, usually with selected yeasts, with a cool two week maceration, then raised for just under a year neutral (well seasoned) French oak, all to highlight vitality and keep natural acidity, while the vintage speaks clearly of expressive fruit richness. Old world Franc lovers will absolutely love this wine, as mentioned it has the nature of a fine Bourgueil, like Catherine and Pierre Breton’s in France’s Loire Valley, though there is plenty of California fruit to keep the natives happy. The 2017 I. Brand & Family Cabernet Franc Bayly Ranch starts with an intriguing nose of racy violets, rose petals, cinnamon and earhy tones that leads to a medium/full palate that feels seamless and round, but with a lively pop of red fruits including plum, cherry, raspberry and currant along with a hint of leather, pepper, weathered cedar, anise, loamy stones and wild chanterelles. It truly is hard to imagine a better Franc for the price, and it is outstanding with gamey and or robust country cuisine, it’s sweet tannins melt away with food and the seductive long finish, echoing each element is stunning. Of Brand’s latest set, look for his interesting amber colored “Orange” skin contact Pinot Gris from Eden Rift vines, also in San Benito County, the fine and textured Escolle Chardonnay, the vineyard yeast ferment Alt Cut Albarino and this Bayly Cab Franc, all very unique and delicious stuff.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 15, 2019

2012 Cantine I Favati, Aglianico “Cretarossa” Irpinia Campi Taurasini DOC, Campania, Italy -photo grapelive

2012 Cantine I Favati, Aglianico “Cretarossa” Irpinia Campi Taurasini DOC, Campania, Italy.
The beautifully integrated and textured I Favati Cretarossa, made from 100% Aglianico, is very Nebbiolo like in character and this vintage is really coming together nicely with layered fruit, spice, earth and soft woody notes. This is medium/full bodied stuff and while tannic by nature, this has a stylish and poised form with lovely mouth feel without losing the slightly raw and rustic charm that comes with this grape, sometime referred to as the Barolo of the south. I love the wines from Cantine I Favati, especially their gorgeous Fiano di Avellino, which along with Marisa Cuomo’s whites are some of my favorites, as well as this value priced Aglianico, these are polished examples, clean and focused, but with a sense of place and without pretense. This pretty and subtly robust Aglianico is from the Irpinia Campi Taurasini zone of Campania set on Hilly terrain with mostly hardened clay and mineral rich soils. The I Favati team is small and is a tightly run ship with Giancarlo Favati, Managing Director, Piersabino Favati, who is Vineyard Manager, Rosanna Petrozziello, wife of Giancarlo, who is a professional sommelier and knows her stuff, I enjoyed learning from her very much on one of her visits to San Francisco, she is also the marketing manager for the I Favati brand worldwide. Carmine Valentino is the winemaker is the winemaker and cellar master for Cantine I Favati and when you taste these wines, you can taste the talent here and the finesse he coaxes out of these grapes.

The I Favati winery is located today in Cesinale, a town and surrounding hilly area in the heart of Irpinia, east of Naples, in the, as mentioned, region of Campania. The wines currently produced at I Favati are, as noted, a fabulous set of Fiano di Avellino D.O.C.G.(s), a very savvy Greco di Tufo D.O.C.G. and this Aglianico d’Irpinia DOC, plus a lighter I.G.T. Aglianico. The Cretarossa, which is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless vat/tank, sees one year of aging in small oak barrels, and after the 12 months in wood it is racked back to tank for another 3 months of aging/settling before bottling. The finished wine comes in at around 14% and punches way above its weight with a studied form and complexity that usually come from wines twice the price. The grapes come Favati’s Cretarossa Vineyard in Venticano, San Mango in the province of Avelllino at between 1,480-1640 feet above sea level, which helps retain fresh detail and acidity. The mouth is layered, in this crimson/garnet and dark brick hued wine, with dried violets, sticky lavender, iron ore, brandied cherry, plum, minty/menthol, anise and tar all wrapped around a core of dusty raspberry and plum fruit that dominates the palate along with a nice mineral streak, saline, cassis and a hint of cedar. The earthy nature and sanguine (blood) events have faded into the background allowing the fruit to shine and while evident, the tannin is ripe and easy to deal with, as with most Italian reds, food is most welcome and this one really turns on the style with robust cuisine, drink over the next 3 to 7 years, it is very impressive, in particular for the price.
($27 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 14, 2019

2013 Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur, Volnay, Les Mitans, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France -photo grapelive

2013 Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur, Volnay Mitans, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
The delightfully nuanced, graceful and pure in Pinot fruit Bitouzet-Prieur Volnay Mitans 2013 was a standout out in a recent Burgundy panel tasting, its pale ruby hue in the glass belying the depth and treasures it possesses. Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur, one of my favorite Cote de Beaune producers, is a historical Domaine that was the union of two old vigneron families from Volnay and Meursault. Their wines are all hand crafted efforts from some of the best “Crus” in the region, coming from their fabulous 1er Crus vineyards in Volnay and Meursault, with serious and seductive qualities that tend to be better with some age like this 2013 Volnay Les Mitans, which is showing lovely form right now. As noted by Bitouzet-Prieur’s importer Rosenthal Wine Merchant, the Bitouzet family’s ancestral roots in Burgundy has covered the better part of two centuries. Francois Bitouzet, who is now running the Domaine, having taken over from his father Vincent, who’s great-great grandfather, M. Gillotte, arrived in Auxey Duresses back in around 1800 and even was mayor of the village, before they soon settled in Volnay, where the cellars are today. According to Rosenthal, the Bitouzets were one of the first small family wineries in Volnay to bottle their wines. Vincent’s grandfather had already garnered medals for his winemaking talents back in 1860, putting their efforts on the world stage. Vincent’s wife, Annie Prieur, and Francois’ mom has equally distinguished ancestors, with her family (both Prieurs and Perronnets) were well regarded in Meursault and Ladoix. The resulting “merger” of the Bitouzet and Prieur family holdings has created a domaine of distinction and breadth, added Rosenthal, and my personal experience with their wines since the 2005 vintage has been very fruitful with some stunning wines, both red and white, impressing me greatly.

Known for being a classicist or traditional minded house, the Bitouzet offerings always show a delicate touch in the cellar and deliver age worthy structures, in particular the Volnay(s) Taillepieds Premier Cru and this Mitans Premier Cru, Red Burgundies as well as the usually tightly reduced Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres White Burgundy. Interestingly enough, 2005 was the first vintage of Bitouzet-Prieur Les Mitans, from vines that date back to 1991, but it has proven to be a great source of fine Pinot and the 2013 is incredibly charming and elegant. While if given the choice, I might opt for their Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds, Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chenes and or the Volnay 1er Cru Caillerets for longer term cellaring, but for drinking now, this Les Mitans is an awesome Burgundy value, pedigreed and with a backbone, and amazingly enough only about three barrels are made. The bouquet is inviting with equal parts rose petal and feral earthiness with a palate that has finesse, pretty fruit, but with energy, tension and a savory dimension all within a medium weight palate that shows wild strawberry, red plum, beat root and cranberry wrapped around a core of black cherry fruit as well as mineral, leather, tangy herbal notes, chalky stones and a touch of baking spice. Like a baby Pommard, the 2013 Bitouzet-Prieur Les Mtans hits all the right cords and puts in a solid performance in an uneven vintage, drink over the next 5 to 10 years. Sometimes you crave the old world, and for me this scratched the inch to near perfection at a reasonable price, it’s a well made under the radar Burg, one that I will go back to a few times I’m sure.
($52 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive