Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 3, 2020

2018 Ridge Vineyards, Carignane, Buchignani Ranch, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.
This beautifully inviting Ridge Carignane is inky purple and starts out almost giving the impression of young Rioja with the kiss of toasty American oak, but quickly evolves in the glass to a flavor profile that is more in line with Ridge’s Zins and delivers loads of dark berry fruit, racy herbs, light floral notes and a kick of spices. One of my secret favorites in Ridge’s awesome lineup of wines is their dark fruited and medium full bodied Buchignani Ranch Carignane, which unlike most of their bottlings is a single varietal wine instead of a field style mix of grapes, so I was thrilled to find it available on the website, as usually this one is a tasting room or wine club only offering, which in past I would have to almost literally beg for! 2018’s long and cooler growing season, as well as Buchignani Ranch’s location, made this wine exceptionally well balanced and full of life, but with a stunning depth of flavor, showcasing this grape in its best form. Carignan or Carignane is a grape mostly found in the south of France with serious plantings in the Languedoc’s Corbieres as well as being one of Rhone grapes found in Chateauneuf du Pape as well as being a minor player in Gigondas too, along with have a home in Spain from the Priorat to Rioja, plus the Italian island of Sardinia. It has been in new world a long time, probably longer than most other noble French varietals and Zinfandel, Carignane grows well here in Sonoma County, especially in Dry Creek and Alexander Valley, as well as Mendocino where most solo efforts seem to come from, as well as seeing a newer set of planting in Paso Robles, thanks to selected clones being brought over by Tablas Creek and the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel.This 100% old vine and hillside grown Carignane gets better and better with air and time and is an outstanding vintage with density, graciously smooth tannins and lively acidity, a highlight of this grape’s character that allows the wine to feel balanced and spotlights the wine’s distinct detailing.

This 2018 version clearly excels in the glass, as dark as Petite Syrah and with the vintage’s freshness it really is delicious adding blackberry, plum, tangy currant as well as anise, lilacs, a hint of mission fig, cedar and a touch of earthiness that really appeals as this Carignane opens up, gaining a welcome textural richness and supple quality, I wish I bought more bottles! Ridge notes that Stan Buchignani’s ranch is located on Dutcher Creek Road, in the hills on the far western edge of the Alexander Valley appellation, very close to the border with Dry Creek. Stan’s grandfather, Dominico Cerruti, first planted a five acre block way back in 1927, then his father, Dino, added another seven acres in the 1940s, with last of the property planted, early 1950s, making for some seriously old vines all in their prime. The vineyard’s climate bears a strong resemblance to that of upper Dry Creek Valley three miles to the south, where days are quite warm. Fog, which tends to hang low in the valley, burns off sooner in the hills. Carignane from the Buchignani Ranch is complex, its fine structure much like that of a field-blend zinfandel. In keeping with Ridge’s Zins and Rhone varietals the Buchignani Ranch Carignane was de-stemmed and fermented with native yeasts and aged in used American oak that saw a long air dried seasoning that prevents the wood from being overt and limits the accenting flavors allowing texture and purity of fruit to shine while still having a kiss of toast and a rich profile. In this wine most of the barrels used were at least three times filled with just 10% being one time used and the Carignane was aged ten months before a gentile filtering before bottling. Ridge uses a minimal dose of sulfur during the winemaking process so the wine feels fresh and expressive, but without the worries of funk or off flavors developing. This Buchignani Ranch Carignane is absolutely the joyous comfort wine I was looking for and it is awesome with an array of cuisines, it is really worth every effort to get it!
($34 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 2, 2020

2019 Cruse Wine Company, Sparkling Valdiguie, Deming Vineyard, Napa Valley.
The latest Sparkling Valdiguié Pétillant Naturel by Michael Cruse is a delicious and quaffable bubbly, similar to last years in style with fresh red peach, strawberry, seeped violets, candied watermelon and a tangy blueberry/cranberry note along with a creamy vibrant mousse, adding a touch of leesy brioche and a touch of mineral all flowing on the palate. Cruse, who is making some of California’s best sparkling wines is certainly gifted with Pet-Nats, and I am in particular fond of this one, it really is a pure California treat, it is a lovely Summer bubbly. Michael Cruse’s sparkling wines are joyous stuff rom his super rare and luxurious Methode Champenoise Ultramarine to these Pet-Nats that offer fun drinking pleasures at a tasty price. The Rosé like pinkish/orange hued Sparkling Valdiguie makes for a nice celebration in these weird times, I opened it to celebrate my Arsenal winning the FA Cup and just to smile on a Saturday night.

Cruse sourced the grapes for his Sparkling Valdiguié Pet-Nat comes from the Deming Vineyard in Napa Valley’s northern warmer end in the town of Calistoga on loamy, deep soils, that Cruse says, allows this 60+ year old bush trained vineyard to be both organic and dry-farmed, which adds to the intensity of concentration and shows this varietal in its best light. Cruse continues noting that his Valdiguié was whole cluster pressed using the same slow steady cycle as for his traditional method sparkling wines. The wine was then fermented a small stainless steel tank with a touch of skin contact to achieve that light pink tint, finishing at about 11.5% natural alcohol, which is a touch riper and drier than the 2018 version. Towards the end of the fermentation the wine was bottled, stored, and then riddled, and disgorged for clarity, with Michael adding that there was zero additions made here, no yeast, no sugar, or sulfur added, it is pure, fermented, grape juice, and that is exactly what you taste in this delightful bubbly.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 1, 2020

2018 Waxwing Wine Cellars, Pinot Noir, Lester Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This new 2018 Waxwing Lester Pinot is really filling out nicely and drinking fabulously well with very crisp details forming here showing beautiful layers of black cherry, raspberry, dried cranberry and plum fruits along with a touch of sweet toasty oak, spices, mineral and orange tea. This wine has lots of personality and gains complexity in the glass as it unfolds with each sip adding some mocha and sassafras, delicate floral tones, an element of wild herb and a faint touch of tangy garden strawberries, this might be one of my favorite of Scott Sisemore’s wines to date. Sisemore, the UC Davis grad, has almost 25 years in the business and has blossomed as a winemaker after starting his own Waxwing Wine Cellars back in 2006 or so and his 2017 vintage and especially these 2018s have taken his wines to the next level, these are an exciting set of releases that show the best of the year and show off the terroir of each place exceptionally well, especially in this Corralitos Pinot Noir. The Waxwing Pinots are made with hand crafted care and with gentle techniques to express the grapes more nuanced flavors and Sisemore typically uses about 25% to 40% new oak depending on the year’s concentration. This electric ruby colored Pinot is impressive and highlights this regions quality and it goes great with fresh cuisine, I though enjoyed it with lightly smoked salmon and speck, that Alto Adige specialty cured ham that his smoked with applewood.

The Lester Family Vineyard, farmed by the hugely talented Purdy Foxx, just over the hill from Richard Alfaro’s estate about mile or so from the tiny tiny hamlet of Corralitos, it is a classic cold-climate location, very close to the Monterey Bay’s cold ocean water, with sandy, loamy soils that are well drained and bring out a deep sense of fruit. The sandy soils, as Sisemore notes, are a result of the region’s origin as an ancient sea bottom and formed by the geological activity associated with the San Andreas Fault pushing up that seabed, with that movement forming successive marine terraces, in fact that is how the Santa Cruz Mountains were originally formed. The vineyard’s cold climate, as mentioned, is due to that heavy marine influence, plus it lies at about 600ft elevation with good exposure, Lester is only 2-3 miles from the Pacific so it gets plenty of fog during the summer which are pretty warm here, so this refreshes the vines nicely. Scott says the fog can bring challenges in reaching full ripeness in colder years, but in great vintages like 2018 the marine influences makes for slow and even grape development that makes cool-climate Pinots so compelling as this one certainly is. The new Waxwings are worth your attention with Scott’s Deerheart Vineyard Pinot, this Lester Pinot and his selection of Syrahs all delivering great performances, I suggest checking out this micro winery based in Belmont, just south of San Francisco, the mailing list here has a real fun set of offerings all of which are limited bottlings.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 31, 2020

2017 Desparada, Picpoul Blanc “Electra” Luna Matta Vineyard, Paso Robles.
Vailia From’s Desparada wines in Paso Robles’ Tin City is a must visit for those searching out interesting wines that are hand crafted with an artists touch and come from the heart and her Electra Picpoul is a wild and imaginative interpretation of this grape. Maybe a one off the 2017 is far an away different than the classic Picpoul de Pinet of France’s Languedoc and even the California versions made by Tablas Creek and Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon in that the Desparada Picpoul is richly textured and almost full bodied with luxurious mouth feel and at this stage showing off mature baked peach, apricot and melon fruits, rather than the zippy lime and mineral tones. Picpoul Blanc, also a Chateauneuf du Pape varietal, is a grape that seems well suited to California and easily capable of making for a great wine and with climate change looks set to play a role in the state’s white wines of the future, so it’s exciting to see how many different ways it can be done with Vailia’s experimental version being of an interest. This supple and lush 2017, maybe I should have opened it a year ago, feels beautifully round and while the acidity has faded it still has loads of life and goes nicely with soft cheeses and grilled shrimps, it opens with hints of marmalade, dried pineapple, gingery spices, reminding me a little of an aged white Bordeaux.

Just one barrel made, of this Desparada Picpoul Blanc Electra and Vailia From aged it in a neutral French oak Bel Air cask on the lees to achieve the mouth feel and depth you find in this unique wine. This exploration, I have to say is pretty successful overall and I hope we see lots more Picpoul and by many more producers that are willing to be creative. In more recent vintages, Vailia has turned to Sauvignon Blanc for her alternative white wine program and she’s turning out some thrilling stuff, her use of amphora has added another level to her wines as well. Desparada’s main lineup features Bordeaux and Italian influenced reds with her Sackcloth & Ashes Bordeaux Blend being Vailia’s star wine, it is crafted using (in the current release) 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petit Verdot, 23% Cabernet Franc and 8% Malbec sourced from sites ranging from Paso to Santa Ynez. The packaging and label at Desparada are exquisite and gorgeous, something of which I rarely mention, but it has to be noted when they are this beautiful and the wines just as good. The Electra Picpoul Blanc from Luna Matta Vineyard, a limestone based site in west Paso Robles that supplies From with her Italian varietals, but I hope she gets more of this grape in the coming years. I had forgot I had this bottle tucked away, it turned out to be a pleasant find in the stash, I am now motivated to check out some of Vailia’s new stuff, especially her Chenin Blanc(s), which she didn’t have when I visited last time.
($38 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 30, 2020

2016 Clos Saint Jean, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
The 2016 vintage in Chateauneuf du Pape is going to be remembered as a legendary year and the wines are stunning, especially the cuvee normal bottling from Domaine Clos Saint Jean, which is not only a fantastic wine, but a stellar value with deep flavors and density giving intense drinking pleasure. The wines at Clos Saint Jean always present themselves on the palate with impressive mouth feel and concentration with this one very much continuing this style and delivering a profound Chateauneuf experience. This fantastic Clos Saint Jean is full bodied and distinctly layered with black raspberry, boysenberry, juicy red plum, cherry and pomegranate fruits along with an array of accenting elements including delicate earthy tones, snappy black licorice, creme de cassis, mocha, pepper and a lingering chalky/stony note. With air things get even better and robust food adds further enjoyment allowing more details to shine through with beautiful florals and the tannin tames into the background with opulent grace. The estate vines at Clos Saint Jean are located primarily in the Le Crau zone, a plateau that widely believed to be the most iconic terroir of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with its iron-rich red clays topped with those magnificent river stones. I am a big fan of these Clos Saint Jean wines and while I love the more subtle vintages, this is impossible to resist and makes me want more, every sip brings a new smile.

Clos Saint Jean is a family estate founded in 1900 by Edmund Tacussel, whio In 1910 started bottling the estate’s wines with the name Clos Saint Jean, with the property now run by the Maurel brothers, Pascal and Vincent along with famed oenologist Philippe Gambie that has been a consultant here since 2003. Vincent Maurel’s Clos Saint Jean Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge is made with mostly Grenache, but with small amounts of Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault, plus in some vintages there can be a tiny bit of Vaccarèse and Muscardin too, all grown in this classic terroir. The vines are set on clay and limestone with the famous galets (the round stones that litter the vines, sourced from plots in and around the famous (as mentioned) Le Crau cru, which famously provides the fruit for Vieux Telegraphe. All grapes are de-stemmed before fermentation and the maceration usually goes for about month to extract allow the regions character and ferment to total dryness. The Grenache for this Chateauneuf is aged in only concrete vats for 12 months, while the remainder is aged in used demi-muids of French oak. The Grenache at Clos Saint Jean is treated with kid gloves and with holy respect, sustainable in the vines and ultra gently handling in the cellar to capture every nuance and this 2016 shows it in its best possible light making for a giving, hedonistic and transparent wine.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 29, 2020

2016 Bodegas Mas Alta, Artigas Tinto, Priorat D.O.Q, Catalonia, Spain.
The luxurious and dense Mas Alta Artigas is a pure Priorat wine with dark ripe fruit from tiny yielding all organic vines set on a mix of schist, clay and limestone soils on steep rocky slopes, this wine is lush and modern with clean and well defined details. This wine is a well crafted effort from vines that range from 15 to 90 years old, these plots are also at between 250 to 450 meters above sea level which aids in retaining acidity and helping the overall balance here. The Bodegas Mas Alta is located in the village of La Vilella Alta, in the Priorat zone, is owned by Michel & Christine Vanhoutte, a couple from Belgium that fell in love with this region, and with a cellar led by three elite enologists Michel Tardieu, Philippe Cambie, one of France’s top consultants famous for his efforts in Chateauneuf du Pape and Bixente Oçafraim. The Artigas Tinto cuvée at Mas Alta has the highest percentage of Garnatxa at about 70% in their lineup, but also has small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and old-vine Carinyena (Carignan) that was aged in French oak for 16 months with about one third of the barrels being new that smooths out this powerful wine and adds a sexy sweet toastiness.

This vintage of Mas Alta Artigas was all hand harvested, with the grapes being partially de-stemmed, employing a natural yeast fermentation in concrete, with a 30 day maceration to extract all of the character of the wines. The 2016 shows rich blackberry, plum, boysenberry coulis and sweet cherry fruits along with hints of smoke, minty herbs, licorice, vanilla and creme de cassis. As mentioned this terroir is mostly very stony with a majority of the vines planted on dark schist, known locally as llicorella, with a few parcels also on clay-limestone soils all of which adds to the depth of complexity in the Mas Alta wines. I have had the Mas Alta Black Slate many many times, but this was my first time trying the Artigas and it turns out to be a real crowd pleaser with its inky purple color in the glass its very inviting and the smooth tannins, but the powerful full bodied feel grabs your attention. This is a textured and structured Priorat that certainly thrills those that enjoy the bolder style and lavish fruit, it is especially good with hard cheeses and brisket, its intense dark flavors go great with smoky and savory meat dishes. Of all the intriguing Spanish offers I’ve tried this week, this one got the best response from the majority of tasters, in fact this bottle lasted just a few minutes, it is easy to understand its appeal.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 28, 2020

2006 Bodega R. Lopez de Heredia, Rioja, Vina Tondonia Reserva, Haro, Spain.
One of the world’s great wines and a traditional classic producer, Lopez de Heredia’s Vina Tondonia Reserva is always a special treat and this 2006 is absolutely delicious and drinking wonderfully right now with supple texture and incredible length, its mature layers reward the palate with its graceful fruit and seamless complexity. Made from about 75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho (Grenache/Garnacha), along with small amounts of Graciano and Mazuelo all from Lopez de Heredia’s own prime vineyards. These Vina Tondonia’s see almost 6 years of barrel aging with two rankings per year and gentle egg whites fining for clarification with a special selection of American oak being used in the under ground and cool cellars. One of the Rioja regions visionaries, Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta planted the Viña Tondonia between 1913 and 1914, believing Rioja Alta was the best area for quality grapes at the time and very clearly this was proven out and Vina Tondonia has become one of Spain’s most famous vineyards. Vina Tondonia, set near the Ebro River, has a continental warm climate, but with cooling influences from the higher elevation which allows sublime grape ripening and fantastic aging potential, as these Lopez de Heredia wines show. The soil here is alluvial clay with a high proportion of limestone, again proving perfect elements for great wines and terroir character.

In a week of focusing on Spain, this wine was certainly a treasured highlight with its gorgeous mouth feel and First Growth Bordeaux like depth, this is a brilliant effort to be enjoyed over the next 5 to 10 years, if you could wait. The 2006 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva starts with fabulous mature flavors of a perfectly aged wine with the unfolding of dried berries, floral tones, sweet toasty oak and delicate spices before the a sharper picture emerges with black raspberry, cherry, currant and plum fruits along with touches of vanilla, candied orange peel, coconut, tobacco leaf, cedar and subtle anise. This classic and poised Rioja is a hugely satisfying wine that just gets better and better with every sip adding hints of mocha, chalky stone and earthy elements, this was a majestic experience in the glass and one I hope to repeat. There is a lot to love coming from Lopez de Heredia, along with this gorgeous Vina Tondonia Reserva, there is a stellar lineup of Riojas to chose from and one should never miss the chance to try these wines, the reds are of course the most sought after, but the whites are also outstanding and some of the most unique offerings in the old world and their aged Rosé or Rosado is also a not to miss bottling. I have been a long time fan of these Lopez de Heredia wines and I still marvel at the quality and value here, like this Vina Tondonia 2006, which could easily sell for twice the price and be a bargain, I highly recommend exploring the latest releases.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 27, 2020

2019 Ameztoi, Rubentis Rosé, Getariako Txakolina, Spain.
My Summer has definitely taken a Spanish turn and I’m perfectly okay with that, especially when sipping on the fresh and zippy Ameztoi Rubentis Rosé from the Basque region not far from San Sebastian, which is one of the world’s most unique and exciting pink wines and one of my favorites along with Clos Cibonne and of course Domaine Tempier, these are wines that really capture the season in the glass. This vintage is ultra zesty and refreshing with a pop of spritz and tart layers of red citrus, strawberry, distilled raspberry essence, wet stone, saline and delicate floral tones all in an incredible light and steely form that begs to be quaffed. The iconic Rubentis Getariako Txakolina Rosé, as noted in my prior reviews, was the region’s first pink wine, made from native grapes, both red and white, it is naturally fermented in refrigerated stainless steel tanks utilizing indigenous yeasts from the vineyard. The tanks are closed to preserve natural carbonation from fermentation, which is the preferred style of Getaria. The fermentation tanks, according to importer De Maison Selections, are kept chilled to near 32 degrees Fahrenheit before bottling, which preserves the wine’s delicate, effervescent character and signature electric (spritzy) mousse. Ameztoi does a fantastic lineup of Txakolina wines, White, Red, this thrilling Rosé and a true and seriously rare Champagne style cork finished Rosé as well, all are must try wines from this remote Atlantic influenced region. This Ameztoi Rubentis Rosé is a hyper addictive wine that I will glad push on anyone that is in search of the dry pink high.

The beautifully lacy and mineral fresh Ameztoi Rosé is crafted from local those Basque grapes, as noted above, and is a blend of 50% Hondarribi Beltza (red) and 50% Hondarribi Zuri (white) grown on limestone and sand with mostly old vine fruit with some of these vines dating back to 1918. This famed estate still uses some grapes from their special plot that was planted in 1840, this amazing old vine parcel has been lovingly preserved by the Ameztoi family, this pre-Phylloxera block is one of the oldest set of vines in all of Europe! The Getariako Txakolina region is on the Bay of Biscay and is a cool zone in the basque area of Northwest Spain within sight of San Sebastian, the food mecca just South of the French border. Ignacio Ameztoi, of Ameztoi, is the fifth generation of his family to carry on the tradition of making Txakolina in the province of Getaria, on a unique stretch of land that extends out into the bay, and he has played a key role in the advancement of the region in the last decade, cleaning up the wines and promoting a lighter and fresher style wine to great effect. This 2019 is one of the best to date from Ameztoi and it is awesome for beach drinking, fabulous with almost any food choices, I enjoyed its cool and low alcohol presence with lightly smoked mussels, in a nice break from the stresses of the world, I highly recommend you try it. This is a wine, as I’ve said before, that proves a wine doesn’t have to be heavy or dense to have a serious impact on the palate, and it delivers a wonderful performance that leaves you always wanting more.
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of Day July 26, 2020

2018 Alberto Nanclares, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Galicia Spain.
The Nanclares y Prieto Alberto Nanclares Albariño, their flagship bottling, is not only a great Albariño, but one of the best white wines in Europe, certainly one of my favorite wines with its bright fruit intensity, sea saltiness and beautiful mineral details it is every bit as delicious as premier cru Chablis and or top Sancerre! This 2018 shows racy acidity and a touch of leesy textural elegance with layers of tangy peach, green apple and brisk lime fruits, wet stones, citrus blossoms, spearmint and the mentioned sea shore note. This is one of the world’s classic terroir wines and its steely form and tart dryness makes it refreshing and wonderful with briny dishes, especially sardines, mackerel and oysters, it is a wine of the and for the Ocean. Alberto Nanclares, an ex economist, began a second career and life back in 992, when he and his wife moved near the ocean, leaving their native Basque Country and settling just a few miles rom the most historic village for Albariño wines, Cambados in the Val do Salnés zone of Rias Baixas. Nanclares’ site had an old vineyard and while he was not interested in making wine at first, he quickly caught the bug and has become one of Spain’s most prized producers, recently joined by the youthful talents of Silvia Prieto, who has helped lift this winery to even higher quality and has added an enthusiastic and creative focus to the mix, she has added a series of Mencia wines to the lineup as well. The Galicia region has been on an exciting roll, re-claiming its ancient glories and this winery absolutely confirms its place as one of the stars of the wine world, these are wines to discover and cherish.

This brilliant vintage of Albariño from Nanclares y Prieto has a vivid life force and clarity that makes it outstanding, it shines with a sense of place that is as transparent as the finest of old world wines can be, its Atlantic influence showing along with the sand, granite and clay soils. Alberto, after many years of learning the land and winemaking took over making his own wines in 2007 and turned to 100% organic and biodynamic methods, all of which mad a huge difference and elevated his wines to world class stuff. Farmed in the ancient pergola training, the vines are tended with endless care to avoid mildew and Nanclares even harvests seaweed to use as natural composting adding to the local cycle of life. In the cellar, very little is done other than to gently guide the wines safely to bottle with the wines seeing native yeast, parcel by parcel, for primary fermentations and almost no malo-lactic ever being done on the Albariños. The 2018 vintage was pressed whole cluster into two 2000L steel vats and five used 450-500L French oak barrels and naturally fermented and saw an extended period of lees aging, about 9 months, again with zero malos and low sulphur with no fining or filtering. This white wine is ultra tasty and profound on the zesty just about medium bodied palate making it a treat with cuisine, I enjoyed it with grilled local caught salmon and mixed greens, but I can imagine it with a wide range of things, as noted above, plus mussels and picnic foods too. The attention to detail and serious focus on quality here add to the enjoyment in this authentic and hand crafted, iconic Rias Baixas Albariño!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 25, 2020

2017 G.D. Vajra, Barbera d’Alba Superiore, DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The jet black and purple hued Vajra Barbera d’Alba Superiore is a full bodied and luxurious wine with ultra supple tannin and creamy length that highlight the warmth of the vintage in 2017 and making for an exotic version of this wine with crushed blackberries, sweet plum, fig and black cherry pie filling fruits coming through on the smooth and gracious palate. At first big and fruit forward, this 2017 adds some depth and savory tones once the air kicks in and after 20 minutes in gains wonderful complexity and completes the transition into a much more serious and balanced wine with hints of mineral, anise, crushed violets and a mix of spice and herbs all putting in appearances and the acidity emerges to brighten things up, this change in the glass make this beautiful wine even more compelling. Vajra taking what nature gave, masterfully guided this Barbera to bottle and spotlighted the best features of the year, the terroir and the grape, again proving they are one of the best wineries in the region. The sites Vajra uses for their Barbera Superiore, 100% Barbera, are at higher elevation, set on marl and sand and late ripening with as the winery note have very thick skins which require extra time on the vine to fully develop their character.

The Vajra’s Barbera d’Alba Superiore, an outstanding example, comes from old vines, some dating back to 1949, with low yielding estate vineyards from Bricco delle Viole, a great Barolo Cru and Bricco Bertone providing the grapes. Made from carefully sorted and 100% de-stemmed grapes that was fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel vats with a rather long 30 to 40 days maceration, then this Barbera d’Alba DOC Superiore saw up to two years in large Slavonian oak casks. prior to release, plus, Vajra rests it a few more months in bottle to make sure the wine is fully integrated at release. This is an opulent edition of this wine and it deserves center piece attention at the table with extra care to get the best out of it, which should include some hearty country style cuisine, it is well suited for lamb, grilled meats and or sausages. This 2017 took awhile to get going, but once fully awake it delivered a fine performance with a range of dark flavors and delicate earthy notes with just a touch of cedary wood influence. There is so much to admire in Vajra’s collection, especially with their gorgeous Barolo offerings, it sometimes is easy to overlook their Barbera and Dolcetto bottlings, but they should not be missed, neither should you ever pass up the chance to have their Riesling, one of the best in Italy and their Freisa, a rare red Piedmonte grape that is absolutely delicious.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive