Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 15, 2018

2016 Domaine des Lises, Crozes-Hermitage, Northern Rhone, France.
Alain Graillot’s son Maxime Graillot, who’s taking the reins at the family Domaine also has his own project Domaine des Lises doing an estate wine, this one, and some neogociant bottings under his Equis and Equinoxe labels, making some wonderful Syrah value wines, these are wines not to be missed. Especially true, when you try the Domaine des Lises, this is a classic Crozes with fine detail and old world, cool climate and terroir character and charm, he manages to guide his Syrah into a beautiful layered and textured wine with pretty elements lifted in a precise focus on the purity of form. Maxime has risen to the next level in recent vintages, in particular with his 2015 and even more so with this new 2016 release, which is wonderfully complex and with all the lovely savory tones you’d expect from a crores, but also with gorgeous refinement, elegance and perfume, it has a bit more vitality than the ripe 2015, though still has a rich and powerful structure. While still refining his style and not married to 100% whole cluster, as his father’s wines, he farms all organic, with this wine coming from the lieu dit ‘Les Picheres’ in the famed Beaumont Monteux commune of Crozes-Hermitage set on deep gravelly soils over clay, which sometimes presents a more fruit think wine, in this case Graillot achieves an ultra fine balance, he ages the Crozes in used Burgundy barrels, which adds to the finesse. The 2016 starts with exotic spices, violet floral tones and liquid rock opening up on the lush and youthful high-toned palate with loads of vivid black and blue fruits including blackberry, sharp currant, damson plum, boysenberry and blueberry which are bright to life with contrasting graphite, anise, black olive, truffle/game and cracked peppercorns. The body is mouth filling and full, but not heavy and everything flows seamlessly, this is an impressive wine all the way around and even more surprising is that it is drinking so amazing right now, wow, this is going to be a classic and vintage to stock up on, to enjoy anytime with much guilt, though I can easily say it will be even more rewarding in 5 to 10 years too, so you might want to hide a few bottles away. I a week of exploring Syrah this one stands out, not because it is a blockbuster, but because it is everything you’d expect and more from this winemaker and from this place, it delivers a studied performance that is highly rewarding, it’s a gift of nature!
($35 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 14, 2018

2014 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Syrah “Cuvée Splendide” California.
Wild and almost feral, the 2014 Cuvee Splendide is a savory and gamey Syrah that opens to reveal a serious stemmy side and lingers with exotic spices, floral tones and snappy herbs, all the while leaning on poached cherry, plum and vine picked berries. Randall Grahm has an amazing set of Syrah offerings right now, they should not be overlooked, especially his Bien Nacido X-Block and this blended site Cuvee Splendide, which was sold exclusively through his wine club and the Area 51, I mean his tasting room in Davenport, just north of Santa Cruz. One of California’s original Rhone Rangers, even gracing the cover of Wine Spectator in a full Lone Ranger costume, including Trigger the horse, Randall is an icon and is making the wines of his career, a visit to the tasting room is a must, besides tasting his gorgeous Le Cigare Volant lineup, do not miss the Cigare whites, which is mandatory, there are a number of tiny production bottlings that are beauties, these include Randall’s crispy cool Picpoul, his stunning, mentioned above, X-Block Syrah, The Clos de Gilroy Grenache, one of the best values in California, and wines like this Cuvee Splendide. The 2014 Cuvee Splendide Syrah sits somewhere between Bonny Doon’s Le Pousseur and the dark and violet laced X-Block and shows an earthy/spicy character with rustic charms and more of a deep red fruit profile with a full body and a lingering garrigue/lavender note as well as a bit of leather that feels similar to Southern Rhone Syrah meets Crozes-Hermitage, such is this wonderful wine’s nod to the old world, while still open knit and textured in pure California fashion. Air brings out the stems, peppery and herbal notes as well as dried roses, kirsch and anise which adds complexity and style here in this truly splendid (sorry) and impressively packed Syrah!
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 13, 2018

2016 Greg Brewer Wines “Ex Post Facto” Syrah, Santa Barbara County.
The Ex Post Facto by Greg Brewer, is a pure Syrah from one of state’s best artist/philosopher winemakers, his wines, especially this new project, are thinking man’s wines, but with a bit of whimsy and magic! Ex Post Facto (which means in Latin: with retroactive effect or force.” is Greg Brewer’s most recent wine (Syrah), he is more famous for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with his Brewer-Clifton wines being post modern icons, but he has made some fantastic Syrah in his past, from his time at Melville, including his versions of Donna’s there, they were awesome wines often rivaling the best from Alban, Ojai and Sine Qua Non, which were some of the greats of the region at the time! And his search of zen purity and sense of place is legendary in the Santa Barbara region. These are not wines to miss out on! It’s funny to say or think, but I love Greg’s Syrah(s), always have, I feel they show a freedom that sometimes is lacking in his other wines, the come across more wild and natural, maybe it is just my personal interpretation or projection, it’s just the way they hit me and I love the racy and nervous intensity that have, the stemmy vigor and force that drives them intrigues me from head to toe! This 2016 Ex Post Facto, sold through Brewer-Clifton, where you can also get his Diatom Wines too, is beautifully detailed with exceptional layers of gripping flavors, it’s richly full on the palate, but full of vitality, class and cool climate character with a cascade of violets, briar spice, boysenberry, damson plum and opulent kirsch adding peppercorns, blueberry, cassis, minty/anise, mineral tones, tapenade, cedar and shaved vanilla. Everything vibrant and of course youthful at this stage, gaining density with air, at 14.5% it’s not a shy wine, but complex, balanced and with gorgeous dimension, it will appeal to fans of Cornas and Cote-Rotie as well as those that like Pax, Drew, Piedrasassi, Halcon and Stolpman, and even better yet, it is a great value, highlighting the fact that some of California’s best red wines can be under $50 and made from Syrah! I have been dying to get my hands on this new wine from Greg for months, ever since he told me he was doing this Ex Post Facto Syrah project, and it has met and surpassed my sky high expectations! Look for this is be a must have wine, it should reward mid term cellaring too, I plan to hide a few bottles from my greedy self to re-discover in 5 to 10 years time, it has some serious potential. As, I suspected, Greg used 100% whole cluster from an ultra cold site with 3 months in the fermenter, an unheard of length of time, which certainly shows in the depth here and he employed the eldest barrels he could find in the cellar in classic Northern Rhone traditional winemaking, and yes, I’m a stems freak and this is my holy grail.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 12, 2018

2016 Kobza, Old Vine Field Blend Red, Mourvedre/Zinfandel, Wirz Vineyard, San Benito County.
Ryan Kobza’s 110 year old vine field blend from Pat Wirz’s historic vines in the Cienega Valley is wonderfully fresh and easy in the glass, completely different than what I had been expecting from this blend of mostly Mourvedre (close to 60%) and Zinfandel (about 40%) along with small percentages of Rose of Peru, Mourtaou (Cabernet Pfeffer), and the occasional cluster of Palomino, it’s a light to medium bodied wine that reminds me of an old world country wine. Kobza, who works production for I. Brand & Family Winery and does custom crush work for a wide variety of clients, has a tiny personal label focusing on this heritage vineyard site in San Benito County that was originally planted back in 1903 and bought by the Wirz family in the 1940’s, with Pat Wirz still working this old vine gem. Ryan is enthralled with this place, he adds that, the entire vineyard is dry-farmed, head trained, and own rooted, just as it was done 120 years ago. The Riesling, a 50 year block that he also uses to make a dry example, is planted in a single contiguous block along a small creek, while the reds here are an inter-planted, bush vine field blend of Zinfandel, Mourtaou (known also as Cabernet Pfeffer), Mourvedre, and Carignan with the super rare Rose of Peru and Palomino (the Sherry white grape) occasionally interspersed within. Inspired by underlined varietals in Italy as well as the new generation of winemakers that are exploring old style wines in Sicily, like Gulfi, Occhipinti and others. Ryan mentions he wants to make wines that have rustic charm and compliment simple meals, he cites his love of bright Barbera from Piedmonte as a guiding light wine with it’s juicy nature and vibrant acidity that allows easy drinking and with enough structure to age, and with this reference in mind it really helps to understand his wines in the bottle, especially this one. Kobza adds “I also just have a penchant for the odd, under-appreciated and forgotten grapes, (like) Schiopettino, Nero d’Avola, Frappato, etc. There an endless number of grapes from which to make wine and so many have unique and intriguing characteristics worthy of exploration.” I really enjoy this fun wine with it’s joyous energy and delicacy, it almost reminds me of a Beaujolais meets Frappato! Kobza’s old vine red starts with a burst of concord grape, earth, spice and briar notes with subtle floral and game leading to a palate that includes black raspberry, strawberry, macerated cherry and wild plum fruits along with crushed stones, leather, minty herb/anise, cinnamon and peppery notes. Tangy and natural in style, Kobza used about 15% whole cluster, it was all co-fermented and aged in well seasoned French barriques, this wine joins a growing list of intriguing lighter style California reds that are gaining a following from adventurous young wine drinkers, like Martha Stoumen’s latest offerings, and it will appeal to those that like Trousseau, Gamay and Negrette. Ryan Kobza is a great addition to the Monterey wine scene, he, Miguel Lepe (Lepe Cellars, ex-Figge and Bold Wines) and Ryan Stirm (Stirm Wines) are the new faces to watch, and his micro winery is one to follow, I also have to mention his fabulous Rosé of Mourtaou, made from 100 year old vines and with partial malo, it is ultra cool and will thrill those that like Clos Cibonne Tibouren Rosé, it’s exciting times in this region and Kobza Wines is label to discover. Drink this Old Vine Field Blend over the next 3 to 5 years, it, by the way gains depth and personality with extended air, I liked it as it changed in the glass over an hour and it was even more interesting and gripping the next day, impressive stuff, give it a chance/time to show it’s best and have it with robust cuisine.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 11, 2018

2013 Domaine de L’Ecu, Melon de Bourgogne “Carpe Diem” Vin de France, Sans Soufre, Loire Valley, France.
Fred Niger’s most exclusive white from his world renown Domaine de L’Ecu is his Carpe Diem, it’s basically a special version of his estate grown Muscadet, being 100% Melon de Bourgogne, but raised for 15 months in amphora, plus with an extra year of aging in bottle before release with no sulfur added. It’s a leesy and rich wine with incredible textural presence in the glass and while opulent in mouth feel it remains true to terroir and varietal with loads of saline and oyster shell notes and crisp apple fruit on the multi layered palate. Everything starts with a mix of aromas that includes white flowers, grilled citrus, chalk dust and a hint of natural funkiness before opening up to quince, that mentioned apple, kumquat and melon fruits as well as a touch roof tiles, dried herbs and almond oil in a glycerin pack expression of Melon. This is a wine for the geeky wine enthusiast, it will thrill the natural wine crowd and those that typically love Jura stuff, as it reminds me a bit of an aged Savagnin. Fred’s basic or classique Muscadet is one of the world’s great value whites and his soil separated versions are like Premier Cru wines, this is a must try estate in the Loire Valley, he’s also killing it with these unique clay pot raised wines, especially his Cabernet Franc(s) and the gorgeous whole cluster Ange Pinot Noir, which is one of my favorite wines! While maybe not to everyone’s taste this Carpe Diem by Domaine de L’Ecu, imported by Floraison Selections, is a rare and intellectual wine that is wonderfully weird that leaves me in utter fascination.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 10, 2018

2014 Thibaud Boudignon, Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France.
With a cult like following, the wines of Thibaud Boudignon are almost impossible to find on wine shop shelves, so it was a thrill to get a chance to try this release of his Anjou Blanc, a wonderfully dry expression of Chenin Blanc from the Loire’s Anjou region. In the past I have admire Boudignon’s crisply brisk Rosé of Cabernet Franc and his severe/svelte Savennieres, which is a completely different animal to this lovely, almost generous and sexy Anjou Blanc, which is wonderfully textured and with amazing detail and length. The charismatic and talent Thibaud Boudignon is all biodynamic and uses only native (indigenous) yeasts for his whites and no malo, but with this one he does use about 30% new oak with 350L and 700L barrels, all crafted from 100% Chenin Blanc from 35 year old vines set on shallow soils comprised of grey schist and rhyolite (volcanic) that give these wines they unique character and profile which is very different from areas like Vouvray and Montlouis. The 2014 Anjou Blanc is at first lush, textural and direct, rather forward, surprisingly frankly, but with air this wine’s true core and depth is revealed with complex layers emerging and with a more spicy and mineral toned element taking a bigger role, while pretty peach, pear and white fig plays lead on the palate along with unsweetened honey, citrus blossoms and earthy gooseberry take a lesser part. The glycerin level is significant and hedonistic, especially given the vintage, this is a joyously full expression of Chenin that makes a serious impact, in many ways like a Premier Cru white Burgundy, such is the feel and class found here, you can certainly understand why it is so hard to get!
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 9, 2018-Throwback Thursday Re-Visit

2012 Rochioli, Pinot Noir, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.
One of California’s most famous classic Pinot Noir producers, Rochioli is a Russian River legend and still one of America’s finest estates with their Pinots being some of the world’s most sought after wines. Joe Rochioli Sr, with his small family, from a small village just outside of Lucca, migrated to America in 1911, seeking a better life. The Rochioli’s were one of many Italian families that arrived in New York, that made their way across the country, and settled in Northern California, and with hard work and some luck ended up on a 125-acre ranch in the Russian River Valley nearby Healdsburg, it was called Fenton Acres. Fenton Acres, is the same location where Rochioli Vineyards is today, though back in 1934 it had just a tiny vineyard, now grapes make up most of the estate and the winery is on site, next to the family home now run by Tom Rochioli, who’s dad in 1959 planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc mostly. It was early in the 1970’s that the Rochioli’s put in Pinot Noir and sold it to some great winemakers, like Davis Bynum and Bert Williams of Williams Selyem, it wasn’t until 1983 that changed the name from Fenton Acres to Rochioli Vineyards and started to make their own wines with 1987 being their first estate release. The rest is history as they say, now there is a long waiting list to get their prized Pinots, sometimes customers must wait a decade to get an offer letter. The 2012 Russian River Pinot is a bold and luxurious wine with graceful textures and classic details with black cherry, raspberry and plum fruits, baking spices, cola bean and wilted rose petals, it’s a wine entering it’s prime and with subtle maturity.
It was great to go back and check in on these older vintage Rochioli bottles, I have been holding on to, this 2012 Estate Grown Pinot Noir is drinking glorious right now, the color is fresh and the depth of complexity truly remarkable, it has fully resolved it’s oak and has gained in all dimensions, it’s a pretty and satiny Pinot that certainly thrills in the glass, drink now.
($68 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 8, 2018

n.v. Christophe Mignon, Brut Nature Champagne, France.
One of Champagne’s many new generation of natural/biodynamic winegrowers, Christophe Mignon is one of my favorite grower producers and his latest Brut Nature is a gorgeous sparkler, it comes from a blend of 2013 and 2014 vintages with no dosage. Christophe Mignon is an absolute Pinot Meunier specialist, he comes from a long line of family farmers in the Le-Mesnil-le-Huttier area, just 13 miles west of Epernay, he owns and farms 6.3 hectares of vines that were planted by his great-grandparents and are spread among thirty tiny organic parcels set on deep clay and chalky Tuffeaux soils, between the villages of Le Breuil and Festigny (where his cellar is) in the Vallee de la Marne. These terroir suits the Meunier and allows for complex ripe flavors, which makes it easier for him to use almost non dosage on all of his dry offerings, and these are beautiful and detailed Champagnes with finesse, elegance and yeasty brioche notes that are not severe in style, they are wonderfully pleasing examples and shows Pinot Meunier at it’s finest. Mignon is guided by holistic farming and follows the lunar cycle in working the vines and in the cellar, he ferments in temperature controlled epoxy lined vats, each terroir parcel is vilified separately at each’s sites perfect ripeness in a fermentation that lasts up to 30 days with this Brut Nature being aged 24 months in bottle, raised with lees, and as mentioned with no dosage. This bottling was disgorged on April 18, 2017, 100% Pinot Meunier and is drinking great right now with lovely white flowers, subtle red berry aromas and toasty notes along with layers of lemon, golden figs, hazelnut and white cherry elements all lifted by vital acidity and a luxurious, but vigorous mousse that delivers a divine textural or vinous mouth feel and lingering finish. This is brilliant grower fizz with a perfectly balanced sense of density/body and vibrancy, it finishes with a grip of dry extract making this an enthusiast all Meunier bubbly that is sublime with cuisine, but also opulent and easy to love on it’s own, very impressive again from Christophe Mignon.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 7, 2018

2017 Bold Wines, Rosé of Grenache, Paso Robles/San Luis Obispo, Central Coast.
The Bold wines label is part of a new Monterey project founded in 2014 under the Touchstone winery , established by Christopher Miller MS, the ex Spago somm, who originally had the late Peter Figge overseeing the wines before turning to Miguel Lepe to handle the cellar. They are getting ready to release a new set of wines and get their tasting room going, that will be in the Carmel Valley Village in the old Figge location across from Roux, and I had a chance to chat with Miguel and taste their upcoming Rosé, which was sourced mainly from Paso Robles as they work on securing long term local vineyard options. They are doing three tiers of wines with Touchstone being wines that will focus on Bordeaux varietals, Seabold being single vineyard Burgundy style wines and with Bold being regional or village style wines with a set that includes a dry Riesling, a Pinot Noir, a Chardonnay and this richly flavored and crowd pleasing Grenache Rosé. Interestingly, the Rosé is made with 82% Grenache Noir, 12% Roussanne and about 6% of other grapes to add complexity and vibrancy, again it’s enough from Paso Robles to be labeled as such, but a tiny amount also came from San Luis Obispo, it was picked to be Rosé and was direct pressed with 4 hours of skin contact to release it’s beautiful vivid pink hue, fermented in stainless and raised in a combo of stainless steel tank and with a portion in neutral French barrels. The mouth feel and fullness is surprising, it’s a lush style, but at 13.4% it’s not overtly sweet or heavy, it shows a forward jolly ranger that makes a first impact on the palate, though it then settles into a much more subtle wine with hints of sour cherry, watermelon, racy peach and adds a a touch of wet stones, snappy spices and distilled floral tones. This is a beach wine and one that will refresh any robust meal, it was noted by a fellow taster it would be great with fried chicken, certainly it will appeal to most dry Rosé fans that like upfront fruit, it is more Tavel than Provence in style, in fact it is more like a Rosado from Rioja, it’s similar to Muga’s version, drink up! The Bold wines should be available very soon, keep your eyes out for them, plus check out Miguel’s own Lepe Cellars wines, these are exciting new additions to the Monterey wine scene and fun stuff.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 6, 2018

2012 Big Basin Vineyards, Grizzly, Syrah/Grenache, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Bradley Brown’s Big Basin Vineyards is one of the Santa Cruz Mountains best producers of Rhone style wines and his latest set of wines show why, there make up an awesome lineup of wines, which now also include a top notch selection of Pinot Noirs nd Chardonnays from sourced fruit. Brown’s Rattlesnake Rock Syrah is his top bottling and his signature wine, it is as great as ever, but I was happily surprised by two other bottlings that might otherwise go missed, the Coast View Vineyard Chardonnay, with it’s glorious Puligny-Montrachet like character and class, truly a great Chard and the estate grown Grizzy red, in this case the 2012, made from primarily Grenache, though in this vineyard it had a big dose of Syrah, it’s a stylish effort that I couldn’t help, but be mesmerized by! I have tasted this wine on what I believe now are three occasions, this last time in a blind Rhone tasting, where it really stood out and showed really well, earning high praise from almost all of us industry tasters on a night when some heroic stuff was unleashed. The deeply colored, from the Syrah, Grizzy 2012 is a California wine first and foremost, but still with enough earthy/savory elements as to give the impression of the old world in the glass, especially in a lineup of ripe Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras, it’s a wonderful and impressive wine that is reaching a good drinking window, and while not a cheap wine, it offers some solid bang for the buck. Brown’s home estate is all certified organic and he uses mostly traditional minimalist winemaking methods in the cellar, employing native yeasts and using partial whole cluster with the wines seeing longer macerations and longer elevage in French oak casks with some barrique and a few large barrels, all done the highlight the site and showcase the purity of these wines. The 2012 Grizzy, made from 65% Alban clone field selection and 35% Syrah Alban clone field selection, grown on a mix of clay loams, ancient mudstone and with a core of sandstone underpinning is at about 1,300 feet of elevation and faces almost directly south, mostly from Big Basin’s Homestead Block a parcel that sits just below the Rattlesnake Rock Vineyard and was planted in 2007. The Grenache focused Grizzly is lifted and more aromatic with the Syrah added and lovely violets and dark floral tones enhance the bouquet while the juicy fruit driven Grenache fills the palate with loads of rich and flavorful fruit giving a sense of density while staying remarkably detailed and focused, it shows a depth of form that is joyous to behold. There is a ray of earth and spice and a hint of nervy stems that adds vigor and intensity to the layers of dark fruit that unfold with blackberry, boysenberry, plum, strawberry and cassis that fill the mouth in a textured attack. Hints of framboise, cedar, minty anise and fresh cracked pepper come through in the background along with a subtle oak note and a faint whiff of truffle/game that keeps things intriguing from start to finish, this s a class act to be admired, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years.
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive