Monthly Archives: June 2008

Grapelive Lastest

kwjune2008b.jpgSummertime Wines
This summer has started out with long lazy days leading into long easy nights with warmth and beautiful wines playing a key role in the laughter and pleasure that I’m reflecting on. I feel lucky and am filled with gratitude for these times and for the wines that helped them be so special. Lately I’ve dropped my jaded edge and become addicted to Tempier’s amazing Bandol Rose, for me is still the best pink wine in the world, especially the 2007 vintage! This amazing and vibrant Rose is just plain a great wine, refreshing enough to have with breakfast and rich and complex enough to do the whole menu at dinner. With melon, red citrus, cherry and a teasing array of spices Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose is almost darn near perfect anytime, anywhere and goes sublimely well on day dreamy summer days. Another great summer passion is fresh and minerally Riesling that not only quenches the thirst with low alcohol and a hint of good sweetness, it also matches up wonderfully with summer menus of greens, fish and cheeses. Last weekend I dove into a glorious petrol fumed and slate infused 2004 August Kesseler Spatlese from the Rheingau, this weekend was a delicate and tropical dry 2006 Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru Schlossberg, which was very shy and easy, not the normally intense and full-bodied wine of recent vintages, but lovely all the same. To get into late evenings I’ve mostly opted for slightly chilled Pinot Noirs, but there have been some other gems too, like the 2004 La Spinetta Sezzana Sangiovese from their estate in Tuscany. With it’s perfume of sweet herbs and licorice and full smooth body this is a wine to be savored, and this vintage has to be one of the finest produced by this estate. Big rich red berry and cherry fruit, hints of strawberry and nice violet like flower notes reminds of a great Brunello and makes me remember how good Sangiovese can be. As for the Pinots, I am still moved by the power, richness and elegance of the 2006 Oregon wines, with Cristom, Bergstrom, Beaux Freres and Penner-Ash all vying for best of class honors. Then there are my favorites from the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Santa Cruz Mountains all played a part so far this summer, but you can never overlook the magic of Burgundy for moving and remarkable wines. This months’ winner is reviewed below, it is the stunning 2003 Domaine de Montille Pommard, trust me this is an awesome wine.

Grapelive Wine of the Month

s5002625.jpg2003 Domaine de Montille, Pommard Premier Cru “Les Pezerolles”, Red Burgundy, France
This sexy and complex Pinot will make anyone a Burgundy believer and or lover with rich, lush and robust flavors and textures. This layered and seamless Pommard shows depth and style way beyond what you’d normally find in this unrated village, this is way up there with the top Grand Cru’s, and again proves the talents of this producer. This wine opens with smoke, wild flowers, red currants and a hint of game, before taking you on a pleasure trip with dark and red fruits that unfold in vivid detail. There is a beautiful cherry and plum core with raspberry, rose petals and woodsy notes in the background along with touches of liqueur and truffle. The finish is immense and lingering with sweet spices and subtle fine oak notes framing the fruit perfectly. This is an outstanding wine that is fantastic now and will give much joy for years to come. (Est. $99-150) 96 Points, grapelive

*Imported by Beaune Imports

Italy Scores, Not Just At The Euro 2008!

s5002576_2.jpgItaly are world champions in soccer and just knocked the French out of the Euro 2008 tourney!

But, it is their wine that is stealing the stage and La Spinetta is one of the very best and beautiful. Giorgio Rivetti leads La Spinetta and has made this little Moscato D’Asti producer into a friend and rival of the likes of Gaja and Giacosa, in the Piedmonte region of Italy in the great areas of Barolo and Barbaresco. La Spinetta is one of my favorite wineries, in fact I don’t miss a vintage of their little Barbera and now they have added a Tuscan estate to their holdings and produce three wonderful Sangiovese wines from it. I recently had their Tuscan “Sezzana” IGT and loved it like a top Brunello! It was beautiful with intense dark fruit, hints of sweet herbs and licorice, all layered and balanced surberbly. There is little doubt that they will succeed in Tuscany as they have done in Piedmonte. For the greatest of the modern Italian winemakers, look no further than La Spinetta and the Rivetti’s as their wines are clean and done in small French barrels, buteven so this wines capture their terroir perfectly and are elegant complext wines. Their trio of Barbarescos all sublime examples of modern thinking and traditional love of farming in the vineyards. They go for tiny yields and use only the very best grapes, giving results that remind one of Grand Cru Burgundy, comparing Rivetti’s Crus to Romanee-Conti’s in not that far off. These are fantastic wines that say and offer a lot, they are wines of class and intensity that show the very best of their region, and of the greatness of Italy. Then there is the Barolo, La Spinetta started recently with Barolo, in 2000, and I was lucky enough to be at its unveiling in the US, and have been a believer since that first taste in San Francisco! Every vintage has met with critical aclaim from the worlds wine press, and the current releases are fantastic and powerful. Know as Campe della Spinetta, the Barolo is as the legend goes; (Barolo) Is The King of Wines!

So if you want to taste magic in a glass and feel the joy of Nebbiolo as it can be and should be, just find these rare wines and you’ll become a fan like me of La Spinetta, really it is like falling under a spell! So now that Italy is through to the finals of the Euro 2008, it is time to enjoy the beautiful game with some of the finest wines in the world, and for me that will most certainly be Giorgio’s little beauties, the hard part will be chosing which one!



2001 Campe Della Spinetta Barolo (La Spinetta) Piedmonte, Italy

This is a stunning wine of incredible depth and style with rich flavors and layers of complexity. This is a wine, a Barolo that makes you understand why Nebbiolo is a world class grape, and a wine that goes a long way to prove the historic adage “Barolo the King of Wines.” I had this wine at a wonderful wine dinner where Giorgio Rivetti, the leader of La Spinetta, presented his wines himself, and I can tell you even he was impressed with this wines showing! Fantastic in fruit and power, but giving and lush with red berry, plum, cherry fruits leading the way on the palate. There was also smoky tar, orange peel, licorice and vanilla all in perfect focus and adding complexity. Very clean and modern in style, but with intensity and vigor of a classic Barolo, this is the real deal. This is the baby of the La Spinetta line up, this wine being from only the second release proves these guys have got it right, I don’t know of many wineries that could have produced such a wonder in only their second try. Great wine, from a great region, made well by a super producer. (Est. $150) 96 Points, grapelive

*Current release 2003 Vintage.


1999 La Spinetta Barbaresco Valeirano Piedmonte, Italy

This beautiful red is just simply amazing now, it is near perfect and more like a Grand Cru Burgundy than not, it reminds me of a Richebourg or Grands Echezeaux for sure. Lovely floral notes come in waves, with dried roses and violets giving sweet perfume before the taste on the engaging palate. The fruit is plum, cherry and currants with added depth coming in the form of lavender, black licorice, mountain herbs, sweet smoky oak notes and truffle. This wine is just whole and balanced in a way that is special for its elegance and long finish without being too smooth or too delicate, there is a subtle vibrancy and grip that tells you that this is a great wine now and will be for many years to come. This wine is pure pleasure and was fantastic with food, and it held its own against the younger and showier 2004 version which was no mean feat I can tell you, as the 2004 is a great wine as well! If you can find this wonderful Nebbiolo, I say get it and love it now or hold it for 4-6 years. (Est. $150-175) 96 Points, grapelive

*Current Release 2004 (94-95 Points, grapelive)

Grapelive Euro 2008

euro08.jpgEvery four years the top European soccer (Football) teams play the mini World Cup and these sixteen countries due battle for the trophy as the best national side. This is war, be in no doubt about it, but it s also a big party and a great time to show your pride. Being half English, I have to pick another team to follow, as England didn’t make it into the last groups. That was not a dose of national pride, but I’m getting into it just the same. Even though my friends in Sweden and Russian might get a little mad at me, I picked Italy to win it all, and until yesterday I was feeling really good about their chances. This came to a blunt halt with a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of the Dutch. So I think I’ll play out my own Euro with wine now! Lots of wine. France didn’t do so well in their first match either only managing a tie with Romania. But, I played out an Italy vs. France wine match, with La Spinetta’s Tuscan Red Sezzana against F. Magnien’s Nuits-Saint-Georges Red Burgundy. Remarkably the wines played just like their national soccer sides in many ways, though much better! The La Spinetta Sezzana has power, flair and a strong defense and the F. Magnien Burgundy has overlapping layers and puts on a real beautiful show with energy and focus. In the end my nod goes to Italy even though it was like winning on penalty kicks, it was that close.

Then there is Spain and Portugal… I can’t wait!

*A correction mention. I put the 2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard as my Wine of the Month for May, and I gave all the credit to Richard Alfaro, and that was a big mistake. Joe Martin, Richard’s partner was the winemaker and I would like to put that right. Joe, I’m sorry for my slight, you have made an awesome wine and deserve the kudos! Please check out all the great wines made by Joe Martin and Richard Alfaro at their website MARTIN ALFARO WINERY, besides their amazing Garys’ Pinot they have just released one of my other favorites, the 2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir “Schultze Family Vineyards” Santa Cruz Mountains, which is one of the best deals in Pinot Noir out there!

Grapelive Latest

kwjune08.jpgPinot Noir shows no signs of losing its mystic appeal

I love all wine and am in love with many other grapes, but Pinot Noir just does not get boring. I have had some wonderful other wines lately, including wines made with; Grenache, Syrah, Corvina, Mourvedre, Roussanne, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Nebbiolo to name a few, but that Pinot magic still holds me. Recently, I did a little mini tasting with a Burgundy, a Oregon Pinot and an Anderson Valley Pinot, all cooler climate styles that I thought would be similar, but they were wildly different and it left me craving even more Pinot! Luck would have it though, and I soon got more Pinot Noir to try. Pinot is also flying on the shelves and the market is showing now signs of letting up, Pinot producers mailing lists are full and there are huge waiting lists to get just a few bottles. Just ask Sea Smoke, even after losing their star winemaker Kris Curran to Foley, or Kosta Browne, Rochioli, Brewer-Clifton or even the old guards like Hanzell or Williams-Selyem, all of which are selling out almost instantly. Here are my picks for Pinot Noir producers you may have not heard of and can still get in on now, Cobb, Freeman and F. Magnien (Burgundy) all of which are outstanding producers that make wonderful and compelling wines. Cobb is from the Sonoma Coast and they are the owners of the Coastlands Vineyard, made famous by Williams-Selyem, and made by Russ Cobb, who has been picked by Flowers to make their wines too. Freeman is made by Ed Kurtzman, he makes Roar and August-West as well. Then there is F. Magnien of Burgundy, this house makes some of the best values in the region, I really love their Morey-St. Denis, Chambolle-Musigny and Nuits-St.-Georges. Pinot Noir has a grip on the passionate wine drinker, it is not about to let go anytime soon, but that is a good thing for sure. I have my own personal favorites of which I have mentioned recently in my articles, scroll down and you’ll see my praises for Richard Alfaro, Alfaro Family Vineyards and Martin Alfaro, and Jim Schultze of Windy Oaks Estate, both of which just avoided the unthinkable, they both produce wines from their estates in the Santa Cruz Mountains which was in the path of a raging forest fire, known here as the “Summit Fire”. Thank goodness they were spared and I will happily celebrate that with more of their great wines soon and often. In my mini tasting, the Burgundy (F.Magnien Nuits-St.-Georges) won out, the Oregon Pinot (Cristom) came second, and the Anderson Valley Pinot (Lazy Creek) came third, this was a surprise, but then that is all just the amazing allure of Pinot, it is not predictable.

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Wine Syzygy Comes to Me!

Alaya Wyndham-Price

Syzygy: when the moon, sun and earth align. That (other than being the name of a great wine producer in Walla Walla) is what must have happened last week in my world, for all of the once-in-a-lifetime wines I was privy to try! Now, as you know, I normally focus my reviews on wines that are from the people, for the people, more modest, esoteric, hidden-treasure types of wines. But, being a wine lover and in the business, I do get excited to try more rare and talked-about wines, for education and also simply for the allure they possess. Considering my past week, and the adventure of it all, I thought it necessary to share with everyone the experience of sipping what seemed like an abnormal amount of old vintage, name-renowned, highly scored beauties!

I’ll first list them:

Château d’Issan Margaux 1986

Château Margaux Margaux 1990

Château Montrose St.-Estèphe 1990

Château Pichon-Longueville-Baron Pauillac 1990

Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Vertical 2003, 2004, 2005

Produttori Barbaresco Rabaja 1990

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1988

Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes 2003

Château d’Yquem Sauternes 1959

Plus, I tasted a couple of non-Solera Madeiras from the early sixties.

Stepping back: What a week, no? I will share in review, three Bordeaux. (Stay tuned next time for my review of favorite Loire Valley whites for summer, including the above-mentioned Quarts de Chaume.)

The Château d’Issan Margaux 1986 came to a private party I hosted, looking hairy. It was one of those times as a wine steward I had to take a deep breath, and calm myself down enough to be convincingly confident in opening something that old and weathered. It’s not the caliber of wine that scared me, but the tufts of mold growing atop the foil. This is a bad sign, I thought; don’t want to disappoint the person who brought it, or the person receiving, but I didn’t have a lot of faith in it’s possibility to be alive still. Cork out, and almost completely wine-soaked; another sign the wine would be dead, corked, or oxidized severely.

At first attempt, the wine did not show well. It was weak, fruit-stripped, and noticeably oxidized, though considering, not bad. Wait an hour, and watch it remain untouched, and I decided to give it a second try. To my surprise, the wine had opened up and become somewhat pretty.

Delicate, and ultra-feminine in style, the nose did bloom a bit with dried lavender and cherry notes. The fruit also made an appearance, more red than the black one might expect, rounding out the wine with much more body than originally expressed. This wine stayed restrained, but actually turned out quite enticing, if not just because of its turnaround, after decanting, and proved sip-worthy for about another hour. I called in the fellow who had brought it to try it again, and recommended he pair it with some pate’ – and it brought a smile to his face. Proud that his wine didn’t turn out a dud, and very pleased indeed with my pairing.

Château Margaux is one of the biggest names in Bordeaux. Therefore, the Château Margaux Margaux 1990 on the counter at this particular party was the most recognizably alluring wine opened. So what is so special about a “perfect wine?” What makes it rate so well, and how different does it taste? To many it may not be easily recognizable, other than the fact that the wine is easily pleasing, seems to carry no flaws, and remains full of interest, all at once. What I will tell you is that for what the wine should be; varietal-correct (or combination of varietals, in this case, blending to express as they should) regionally specific, stylistically appropriate, sensually seamless, structurally sound, age-appropriate and alive; the Margaux performed.

Noticeably more feminine in style than I expected, gracefully aged, with a nose that suggested a huge handpicked bouquet of wild flowers, cedar cigar box, tobacco and blackberry bramble. On the palate, this wine found its way across the tongue with elegance and grace, delivering layer after silky layer of blackberry, cocoa powder, tobacco, silty loam, and a hint of game. Beautiful in every sense of the word: If this wine were a woman, you’d want not just to look but also to talk to her, for all the apparent depth beneath the beauty. Finish lingers on and on, and one just can’t help but smile and note how lucky they are to be experiencing something this special.

Finally, the Château Montrose St.-Estèphe 1990 proved the hot-shot of the night; the Johnny Depp of wines; attractive and charismatic, buzzed about by guests for its darkness and mystery, if not for its open sex appeal. Okay, maybe I’m guilty of enjoying a slutty wine from time to time, but this was more like a high-paid escort than a cheap whore. What I’m saying here is that the wine was obviously available, if not giving, bold, and not afraid to show itself off, yet classy and refined. I loved it! More masculine than the Margaux, but not over the top in stature, this wine was seriously exotic while keeping its finesse.

A nose full of spices and flowers; cinnamon oil, clove, nutmeg, mint, pipe tobacco, thyme, wild iris, wild orchid and violet, the Montrose was unabashed and of the earth. So alive! Lush layers of dark fruits; berries, plum, and fig, along with earthy, minty clay and spices matched appropriately to the nose. The spices, like those coming in raw form from Farmer’s Market on Saturday, or off one’s porch garden, played such a huge roll in what made this wine tick, the sensual memory of their combination in my glass will not leave my mind, nor my watering mouth.

It was hard to pair my reviewing down to include just three from that amazing wine-list, which built itself for my humble tasting over a series of a few days. Bordeaux are a hot topic of late, with the currently released 2005s garnering reviews and garnishing paychecks! I thought revisiting old, well-kept vintages from Bordeaux heavy-hitters would be fun and interesting, whether in anticipation for what you may have collected, or simply to consider what is possible from a single wine – a single place. I hope you enjoyed living vicariously through my senses, and I hope everyone finds their week of wine-syzygy at some point!



See more from Alaya Wyndham-Price at her Wine Reviews For Pleasure on myspace and her page here on grapelive