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pisoni-1.jpgThe floodgates have opened and the new wines are flowing like raging waters to your restaurants, wine merchants or to your doorstep, and I can say it is all good. The wines I’ve had this month or even this week, most new releases and pre-sale samples, have been outstanding. Even my favorites have stepped up and there are some brand new faces that have scored big. 2005 for Cabernets and Syrah with 2006 for Pinot and Chards are the norm and with very few exceptions I’ve been blown away with the smoothness and richness of these wines, really you are in for a treat these days. My local area, Monterey had two utterly fantastic vintages in 2005 and 2006, for the small producers, and are now all on the market and ready to drink. Local icon Gary Pisoni (pictured with me) released the new 2006 Lucia line-up of Chard and Pinot Noirs, and they are amazing and a steal. Gary might have single-handedly turned the region to a world class region with his magical Pisoni Vineyard Pinot fruit that continues to awe Pinot lovers everywhere, whether it is under his on Pisoni label or made by one of less than a dozen winemakers that Gary sells his prized grapes to. Under his loving guidance his sons run and make the family’s wines and the Lucia Vineyards label is the main production, with a group or Pinot Noir and Syrah mainly, but they do an amazing Chardonnay, a bright Rose and a rare Cabernet Sauvignon in some vintages. Gary and his friend and partner Gary Francione who makes the Roar wines, have the Garys’ Vineyard that is also now one of the best Pinot Noir vineyards in the state. I have reviews of the Lucia posted, click on the link below. Then also locally for me Morgan Winery, headed by Dan Lee has just released their beautiful Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Dan has taken a major step up with his own estate vineyard wines from the “Double L Ranch” with both the Chard and Pinot rated outstanding. Then from over the hill in Carmel Valley, my hometown and my home team, Parsonage Village Vineyard turned out a selection of Syrah, Cabernet and a unbelievably fantastic Petit Verdot based red. These 2005’s are some of the finest wines I’ve every tasted from this area, in fact they rival anything from Napa! Also from Carmel Valley, Galante Vineyards continues to raise their quality and now have new wines in the pipeline too. I was very impressed with their lush and full-bodied Merlot and enjoyed the Almond Flat Pinot Noir, maybe the highest elevation Pinot Noir Vineyard in Central California? My kudos go out to Bill Parsons & Jack Galante for making me profoundly grateful and proud of where I’m from. Across the bay in the Santa Cruz Mountains there are some fine offerings coming out too, I love the new Windy Oaks Estate, Martin Alfaro 2006 Pinots and the Alfaro Family 2006 Lindsay-Page Vineyard Chardonnay especially. I have to wait a little longer to get my hands on the new release for Pandol Vineyards, but after Jennifer Pandol’s last effort I look forward to seeing the 2006 Schultze Vineyard Pinot Noir this summer. Her 2005 was one of my breakthrough wines of 2007, and I was very happy after tasting the barrel sample of both 2006 and 2007. Speaking of new faces, I got to taste a new Syrah from a new hot producer from the Sonoma County area and I’m sure he is going to be a star, his name is Jeff Ames and his label is Rudius, so write it down. His 2005 Rudius Syrah Russian River Valley is a seriously delectable treat with loads of style and rich fruit.
NEW REVIEWS

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Alaya’s Latest, March 28, 2008

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m_1ec3ee57ddf07e7cf3d55430264d29ba.jpgOregon Spring

By Alaya Wyndham-Price, Grapelive Guest Columnist

Springtime in Portland brings many things; crazy weather (it’s snowing in March) beautiful blooms (the Magnolias are stunning) and newly released Pinot Noir in the market–hooray! We’ve seen several 2006s thus far, but they are really starting to show up in good form now. 2006 was a big vintage for Oregon Pinot, the fruit was generally lush in style, and the production was larger than normal, by 15-20% in many cases. Because weather conditions allowed fruit to set and develop under warm conditions, then ripen gradually during a cooler trend, the Pinots of 2006 are fruity, fleshy, and approachable, but not overblown; they are balanced.

2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir “The Beaux Freres Vineyard”, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon
Deep garnet in color, and slightly cloudy, you can see the handcrafted character right away. Nose is huge with luscious fruits, bloody mineral, forest floor and spicy wild flowers. Plum, heirloom tomato, raspberry, fig, raisin, and black cherry are an influential on the nose. Notes of rare lamb, and copper follow this brawny fruit. Roasted cashew, morel, truffle, cedar, wet soil beneath a fir tree forest, wild orchid and fresh licorice root really make this wine smell like Oregon.

The palate offers the big rush of fruit that you would expect from the nose; it is bold, focused yet velvety, and lasts in layers. Cherry, plum, blueberry, and fig. I even taste roasted beets and squash, but make no mistake; this is a great influence and matches the earthiness of this pinot well. Rounded out with influential tastes of pesto, hazelnuts, maple syrup, molasses, pipe tobacco, soprasatta, dried truffle, and cocoa. This is one sexy wine!

With 100% Estate fruit from Ribbon Ridge, this bottling comes from the Beaux Freres Vineyard. Located on a special plot of 30 acres at 400 feet elevation, are the densely planted vines, ranging in age from 9-19 years. Thus, the production of this wine (especially in relation to its cult-like following) is small. Get some if you can, this wine will age and please for a decade, easily.

www.beauxfreres.com

Here are some of my recent favorites. READ ON

Read Alaya’s Blog at: www.myspace.com/winereviewsforpleasure

Grapelive Latest

mikeandme.jpgBeaux Freres Releases Their Stunning 2006 Pinots

I should let my Oregon colleague Alaya handle the Pacific Northwest, as she does her local community very well indeed, but I could not control myself after trying the new Beaux Freres Pinots. Mike Etzel (pictured left with me) has a special place in the Ribbon Ridge region and makes a fantastic selection of Pinots. These wines are a great pleasure to try back to back and together, especially after tasting their 1993, 1994 & 1995 Beaux Freres Vineyard recently. I just posted the reviews on the 08 Reviews Page, see menu bar. The new Beaux Freres are richly colored and supple in tannin and deliver pure joy. The color is dark garnet and has a bright ruby edge, they seem darker than the California 2006 Pinots, but with fresher acidity and maybe have deeper flavors. That said, I’ve been really impressed with the Central Coast, Sonoma and Anderson Valley Pinots from the 2006 Vintage, which are less oaky and or Syrah-like than the recent vintages. Many of the 2006’s have a pale strawberry color to them and a brighter palate, though them seem deeply layered and have superb length and balance. So don’t read to much into the color, just let the wine show itself and I think you’ll be impressed. Also unfiltered wines tend to look lighter, because of the cloudy body that reflects light. I am thinking 2006 is going to be another banner year for Pinot Noir, with beautiful pure wines across the board! Oh, not that I mention Cabernet Sauvignon that often, but keep your eyes out for the 2005’s, these are amazing wines that offer full-bodied fruit, but with super ripe sweet tannins that are smooth giving early enjoyment and complexity even at this young stage. I will mention a couple to watch for now just hitting the market, these are: 2005 Miner Cabernet Sauvignon “Stagecoach Vineyard” Napa Valley, 2005 Keever Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville, Napa Valley and 2005 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon “One Point Five” Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. All of these are deals too, as they are in the $60-90 range, so check them out.

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s5002237.jpg2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This entry level Pinot from bought fruit is an outstanding wine and a killer deal! This is a big round Pinot with lush and textured layers of fruit and pretty perfume. There is everything to love and nothing to complain about here, I really savored every sip and didn’t want to put the glass down. This is what Pinot does best, it strikes an emotional cord and sings to the soul. Rich plum and bing cherries are all over the palate with flashes of red mountain berries, briar and smoky sweet spices. There is plenty going on and the wine is supported with nice mineral and oak notes. (Est. $50-60) 93 Points, grapelive

Beaux Freres Direct

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s5002236.jpg2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir “Beaux Freres Vineyard, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon

Bang, wow, swoon and then clap in praise, as this is a Grand Cru Burgundy rival, maybe better than most even. This wine is deep, complex and riveting right out of the bottle and only just begins to hint at its great potential that will certainly come. As with most great wines, it is stunning now, but promises to be near perfect for many years. The flavors come out in vivid detail and with sublime clarity and focus leading to a wonderful long and pure finish. Nothing is out of place, but it has its own uniqueness and terroir, which remind me of Musigny, but not quite. The blackberry, cherry and fresh berry fruits dance on the palate and the truffle, mineral, spice and exotic notes all play a part in the band. A rich currant and French oak streak unfold about mid way through to the savory and firm finish. Super now, but should hit its peak in 5 years. (Est. $79-99) 95 Points, grapelive

Beaux Freres Direct

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s5002238.jpg2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir “Upper Terrace”, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon

Just when I thought I had reached the height of heights, then comes this wonderful masterpiece. This is everything the “Beaux Freres Vineyard is and a little more intense and wound up. There is a little more class and finesse here too, but it has its own presence too, with a hard to define violets and blueberry berry impression and a more meaty side as well. The round cherry fruit is mouth filling and there is a bramble-berry note that is distinct as well. The layers are linear and tightly focused with lots of mind blowing depth and expansiveness. Put this baby in the cellar and reap your reward in 5-8 years! 97 Points, grapelive

Beaux Freres Direct

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Grapelive Latest

march08kw1.jpgIt is Almost Spring!

This is a great time of year, a time of rebirth in the vineyard and a time when new releases start showing up in restaurants and shops! I just love it, and some wonderful wines are flowing in now and I’ve been hard pressed to keep up, though that can hardly be called a problem. I want to give my regards to Santa Cruz Mountains winemaker Richard Alfaro, who warm-heartedly opened his personal cellar and brought out some magical wines at a wonderful wine dinner at Soif Wine Bar in Santa Cruz. Thank you Richard! He unselfishly opened to following world-class wines: 1998, 1999 & 2000 Romanee-Conti Grands Echezeaux, 1993, 1994 & 1995 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir, 1995, 1996 & 1997 Williams Seylems Rochioli River Block Pinot Noir, 2003 Kistler Pinots (Kistler Vineyard, Cuvee Elizabeth & Cuvee Catherine), 2002 & 2003 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir, 2003 Peter Michael Moulin Rouge (Pisoni Vineyard), 1999 Bouchard Chambertin Clos de Beze, 1996 Calera Pinot Noir Reed Vineyard and finally but not least by any means the pretty 1994 Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir! An amazing blast of Pinot greatness beyond belief and a night I won’t ever forget for the wine for sure, but also the kindness of Richard and the tasty food and service at Soif, a warm hearted thanks to all! Richard Alfaro I might add is now releasing some of his 2006 Pinot Noirs, like the 2006 Martin Alfaro “Schultze Vineyard”, a Santa Cruz Mountain gem that should not be missed and speaking of Schultze, Jim and Judy Schultze were also at that wine dinner and had some news of their own, their Windy Oaks Estate, of which I am a huge fan of is getting ready to ship a couple of new Pinots and I can hardly wait. Watch this space for notes on those soon, and I recommend getting on both the Martin Alfaro & Windy Oaks mailing lists as they sell out fast! 2006 vintage Pinots are all showing great form all ready and are good bets to stock up on early, check out the Cobb Vineyards reviews below.

Alaya Wyndham-Price is back from Walla Walla, Washington and reports in, see below!

Martin Alfaro Wines & Windy Oaks Estate

Cobb Coastlands Pinot

2006 Cobb Vineyards Pinot Noir “Coastlands Vineyard”, Sonoma Coast

This their flagship Pinot from their home estate vineyard and the Cobb’s can be proud again with this wonderful wine. This is a complex, deep and pure Pinot Noir that is everything it should be and more. I continue to be amazed by Russ’ gifted touch and style which highlight the true nature of the grape and capture their terroir perfectly. This wine will lift your spirits and float you away and in my case with a happy stupid grin! There is plenty of raspberry and mineral laced cherry to entice you and subtle spice and wood notes. This is remarkable wine every year, but this just might be the best all around Pinot from this vineyard yet. Russ Cobb is the talented winemaker here and his dad David handles getting the wine out, and takes care of the vineyard, both are to be commended for their efforts. (Est. $69) 94 Points, grapelive

Cobb Vineyards Direct

Also at Bouchee Wines

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2006 Cobb Vineyards Pinot Noir “Rice-Spivek Vineyard”, Sonoma Coast

The second offering from Cobb, the “Rice-Spivek” is super perfumed and lovely in texture and life that comes out on the palate. This is completely different from the “Coastlands” and is a great contrast in terroir, even if it is difficult to chose a clear favorite between the two! So, I’d opt for both, no question, these are great Pinots. The “Rice-Spivek” has a more open nature and might not be the one for the cellar, that said , it is so pretty and easy to love that this Pinot really grabbed me. The red cherry fruit and floral nose just stay with you and the finish has just the hint of sweet creamy oak that adds to the joy that is this wine. This wine should develop all the classic Burgundy-style flavors over the next year or so in bottle, but there is no crime in drinking it now! (Est $69) 93 Points, grapelive

Cobb Vineyards Direct

Also at Bouchee Wines


Alaya Wyndham-Price Reports From Walla Walla!

Lifting cases off the bottling line for 10 hours last spring at Isenhower Cellars in Walla Walla was to my arms and back what hiking in and out of the Grand Canyon in a day was to my legs and feet. I woke up the next morning feeling muscles I didn’t know existed. This sort of work builds character, and a lasting appreciation for the wines produced in that winery you worked for. Naturally, I am excited about Isenhower Cellars wines! But for good reasons…

Isenhower is a great little boutique winery, known for both Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. A husband and wife team, Brett (winemaker) and Denise, are modern-day Rhone Rangers, with a healthy respect for the area’s propensity toward Bordeaux varietals – they produce great examples of both styles. What’s better, is they buy fruit only from producers that are concerned with letting the expression of the land come out in the grapes, in the most natural and environmentally careful way. They recognize the value of the terroir they are working from, and are dedicated to letting the land express its character in their wines. One estate the Isenhower’s buy from is the prestigious Ciel du Cheval site in the Red Mountain AVA. Vineyard owner Jim Holmes explains his philosophy on what makes the wines coming from Ciel du Cheval so special: “Dirt and climate, climate and dirt.”

roussanne_f.jpg2006 Isenhower Ciel du Cheval Roussanne, Walla Walla, Washington State
A true Rhone varietal, Roussanne expresses beautifully the land it comes from. The 2006 Ciel du Cheval Roussanne showcases its light residual sugars as you pour it. Crystalline in form, they make the geologist in me delight as I watch delicate flakes float around in the golden liquid. With a nose of round and lush notes of baked papaya, flambéed banana, and honeysuckle, this wine is balanced by the addition of lemon zest, spiced almond, and wet river rock. The viscosity of this wine is exciting, as its layers slip around on your tongue, coating it with silky mineral. Flavors of honeyed, grilled pear with lavender make me smile and sip again only to find further enchantment, from notes of chalk and fossil – thanks to the vineyard’s lively geologic past – and an exciting citrus-zesty finish. Really, this is a beautiful wine, with exotic intrigue and restrained elegance.

As a member of the bottling team, I not only spent the day talking wine, running, music and travel with a great group of people – “regular bottlers” – I had the pleasure of taking home two cases of wine for my efforts. Because I showed a special interest in the very limited older-vines Ciel du Cheval Roussanne, I was lucky to find 4 bottles of it in my box. Thanks, Brett! I’m so glad I had the chance to know this wine. After a year in bottle, it has really come into its own, and is so worth sharing. The wine is balanced, and will age for many years to come, into something as beautiful and rare as fossilized amber. I’m so looking forward to watching the life of this single-vineyard Roussanne progress in those remaining bottles. Very limited production; sold out at the winery. *Check out their website and get on the list for the new vintage, www.isenhowercellars.com
-Alaya

Read Alaya’s Blog at

www.myspace.com/winereviewsforpleasure