Monthly Archives: November 2008

Grapelive: Wine of the Week

2480.gif2005 Hollywood & Vine 2480 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (By Celia Masyczek)
From special lots of fruit, including Scarecrow, are crafted by Celia Masyczek to make this awesome Cabernet. She also makes Scarecrow, Keever, Lindstrom and her new label Corra after being with Dr. Stephens, Staglin and others, and is one of the best Cabernet Sauvignon winemakers in Napa! This is a classic modern Cabernet with full body and layers of thick fruit, Blackberry, cassis, mocha, plum, currants and creamy vanilla all unfold in lush style with ripe smooth tannins that hold everything together. The nose takes awhile to develop in its youth, but after some air there is pretty floral notes to go with the bitter chocolate and smoky sweet oak shadings. This thick and rich wine is a cult hit and offers great depth and still regarded as one of the best kept secrets in Top Class Cabernet. ($85 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive


*Can be ordered, though very limited



Happy Thanksgiving

glkw11081.jpgHappy Thanksgiving From Grapelive

I hope you are all doing well and have a wonderful holiday season with lots of food and beautiful wines with your loved ones and friends. I enjoy drinking food friendly wines that don’t take away from all the hard work that is done in the kitchen during this holiday, which I must confess will not be done by me! That is why I pick wines that are good in their own right, but that compliments the food and don’t steal the show. So what to drink? Well, it is not a time for big wines or wines that take lots of thought, it is more about simple wines that add to the whole that don’t steal the show. That means no blockbuster Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet or bold Shiraz during dinner, save those for after or a special occasion, instead I ‘d go with a fresh and medium weight wine, there are some old standards like Cru Beaujolais and Gewurztraminer from Alsace, though nice and fun I rather have something a bit more interesting. I like Champagne with any meal anytime and everyday, so make sure that it is always an option, one of my picks is a small Champagne house Pierre Peters, I really like their lovely Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, but a good sparkling wine with do, like Roederer Estate from Mendocino. Beyond that I have put together a small list of my favorites below. Thanks for all your support and have a great holiday!

nispero.gif2005 Adanti “Nispero” Rosso dell’ Umbria (Sangiovese) Italy.
This Umbrian red is round and lush with classic Sangiovese character with fresh cherry, strawberry and plum fruit with hints of cedar, dried flowers and mountain herbs. Clean flavors and soft textures cut the natural acidity, plus there is some Merlot in the blend that adds complexity and depth as well as body. This is a super value and an off the beaten path wine that delivers good rich layers and remains true to its heritage and terroir. ($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive


joguet.gif2006 Joguet Chinon Les Petite Roche, Loire Valley, France (Cabernet Franc)
Charles Joguet winery is a master of making lovely and textured Cabernet Franc in Chinon in the Loire Valley of France and this vintage is just beautiful. Kermit Lynch imports this little gem and Joguet’s other wines as well, so it can be found pretty easily, though it is a small production. This Chinon is everything it should be and just that little bit more that sets it apart from others from this area, with lush body and spicy, sweet perfume and dark color. This richness and depth are fantastic and it drinks great now, so drink up! There are lots of layers of flavors and clean focus with cherry, blackberry, plum and currant fruit all delivered brightly and fresh, which almost makes you, think of Pinot Noir. The tangy fruits are livelier than you’d find in a Bordeaux style Franc and much more fun! ($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

rossignol.gif2006 Nicholas Rossignol Bourgogne Rouge (Pinot Noir) Red Burgundy
Here is a classy and rich Burgundy that is a super value and reminds you why it is the holy grail of Pinot Noir, Burgundy that is. This winery is tapped to be a superstar in Burgundy and I would have to agree, as I have tried his upper level wines as well and found them amazing, though I am very fond of this little Bourgogne for its class and depth. I believe this wine is all or mostly from Premier Cru vineyards, and I must say it tastes like it with full classic flavors. Rossignol is based in Volnay, and I think they specialize in Beaune vineyard sites which character this wine shows. There is a hint of game and truffle behind the nose of wild flowers and red berries, before moving to soft cherry and cranberry fruits on the palate with touches of smoke, baking spices and a full plum note. This is a rich and savory Pinot Noir that is a killer deal, though it maybe hard to find, so ask your local merchant to dig around as it is worth your time. ($29 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

lagrola.jpg2004 Allegrini “La Grola” Veronese Red, Veneto, Italy
Allegrini is one of the great wineries of the world, let alone Italy, with many great wines coming from their cellar especially their Amarone. They seem to have the magic touch with the native Veronese grape Corvina of which they use to great effect in this wine. The “La Grola” is an IGT and a vineyard terroir wine from the hills above Verona and is truly a wine of the place with intensity and unique characteristics that make it a one of a kind red and one you really should try. This wine is always one that I get a few of each vintage and I am a huge fan of the winery, of that I will make not secret of! This vintage was a blockbuster and near perfect conditions gave both beautiful ripeness and good acidity. The 2003 had too much heat, so I was really happy with the classic style of the 2004 and it is really coming together nicely with bright intense red berry, earthy plum and spiced cherry fruits that explode on the palate. This wine has mineral, acidity and cedar notes that add complexity and it really finishes long and savory. ($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive


cadpian.jpg2005 La Spinetta Barbera “Ca’ di Pian” Barbera d’ Asti, Piedmonte, Italy
Whenever you read about Piedmonte and hear about the great reds of the region you hear of La Spinetta and its leader Giorgio Rivetti, who renowned for his famed Barbarescos and Barolo, just pick up Wine Spectator (Dec. 15, 2008 issue) to see his face and get his scores, this is top quality wine in the same league as Angelo Gaja or Bruno Giacosa! But, I love his Barbera and always get at least a case every year, especially the Ca d’ Pian Barbera d’ Asti. This is another favorite of mine, and a wine I can drink anytime without quilt, as it is a great wine and a super value. This vintage is big and lush, but has nice bright flavors and balance with pure Barbera flavors and ease of use! There are lots of fresh grapey layers with blackberry and plumy fruit, mineral and hints of cranberry with a full body and smooth tannins. ($29 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Chris Ringland Tasting

ringland1.jpgWhile not a household name here in the States, Chris Ringland is a star in the winemaking world, and a rock star in wine geek circles. Ringland is highly regarded for his own label Chris Ringland Shiraz (Formally known as Three Rivers Shiraz) and he now makes the Marquis-Philips wines. Australian winemakers are very successful and have made a name for themselves worldwide, in places like Italy, France and especially here in California, but as name brand winemakers maybe no one has quite the star power, both at home in Oz and on the world stage, as Chris Ringland. He was little known when he was discovered by, who else, Robert Parker, after Parker tried his Three Rivers Shiraz (Barossa Valley) in 1993, which he gave 99 Points!  Then the ’94 scored 95 Points, so he was no fluke and on his way, he was at this point fully and completely exposed and when his ’95 got another 99 Points, he had a rabid fan base that would pay almost anything to get his wine and did! His Shiraz sold for a mind-blowing $300 a bottle in 1999, but now sells for anywhere upward of $800 a bottle. He was now in the big league with top Bordeaux and Burgundy, though I would say he was more like Guigal who’s single vineyard Cote-Rotie’s got the same scores and money. Since then Chris Ringland has scored 4 vintages rated at 100 Points from Robert Parker! (With a 96 and 98 being the lowest scores) Ringland is a hard worker and prolific in creating wines now, after expanding into a multi-label portfolio with his “R Wines” company.chatchat.jpgWith all that, it was a great pleasure to meet Mr. Ringland and get to spend some time tasting through a huge line up of his wines. I was thrilled to be invited by his importer The Grateful Palate and The Henry Wine Group who wholesale his wines in Northern California to be a part of this event in San Francisco, part of a 12 city tour of the US. Along with Chris Ringland was William Downie, a rising star himself, from Victoria, and that makes stylish Pinot Noir from Yarra and Mornington, and David Hickinbotham of Paringa Winery of Riverland in South Australia who produces some of the world’s best $10 red wines, including his Shiraz that has almost always features highly in any value contest. Both Downie, who is also now going to make Oregon Pinot, and Hickinbotham, who got fame for selling top grapes from his namesake vineyard to Clarendon Hills which scored big scores from Parker and Wine Spectator Magazine, were not just taking up space at this tour of Oz, both being charming and showing super wines.

rwines.jpgRingland easily led our group through a line up of Grenache, mostly from his new label Chateau Chateau, which were mostly single vineyard wines from Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. These wines are not shy wines with some topping 17% alcohol, though very interesting and for the most part balanced on the palate. This style reminds me of Turley Zinfandels that are sweetly fruited and rich, but stop short of being to heavy or too port like. After tasting through the line of Chateau Chateau wines and made my mental notes about them, I read the Parker reviews of the 2006 vintage and found that they all rated 93 or better! I tasted the new vintage (2007) and came up with similar notes and scores in general, though I am slightly less of a fan of this style of wine, but there were a few exceptions. The 2007 Chateau Chateau “Pergola” Grenache Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale was my favorite wine of the show and showed richness and ripe fruit, but also some earth, spice and mineral like a top Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Of course, it being from old bush vine vineyards didn’t hurt and that it was not done on new all new oak gave it more depth and complexity of fruit. He also poured some dazzling Shiraz’s that were blockbusters and powerfully dark with his 2004 F.U. Ebenezer Shiraz, Barossa Valley being the Shiraz star, showing massive power and thickness with inky black color and sweet plum and blueberry compote fruit. This wine is huge and textured with a super long sweet finish, being very much like a dry port. This wine was aged mostly in new French oak hogsheads for 30 months, some being the wonderful the Taransaud barrels, which maybe the best Syrah barrels in the world! The grapes come from vines that range from 40-80 years of age and only give about a ton of fruit per acre, so you get the idea that this is something really special and it lived up to its promise and I can tell you it was awesome.  This wine is priced high, and while it would never be considered a value at $265 a bottle, it is a stunning wine that showcases Chris Ringland’s talent and makes for a very special a unique wine.

3rings.jpgWhat is also unique about Chris Ringland and his “R Wines” is that they are all playful and you can tell that while being very focused and a supreme talent Ringland does not take himself too seriously, or well maybe he does, but his labels would not have you believe that. With labels like “Bitch” Grenache, Evil Cabernet Sauvignon, Bon Bon Rose of Shiraz, and Suxx Shiraz you can tell he is having lots of fun. Ringland was and is everything he is advertised to be and I was very impressed with his easy style that hides his passion, though it is very clear he is driven and has no slowdown in him at all. I must give kudos to the Grateful Palate and their owner Dan Philips for putting on this great tasting and bringing in such interesting wines, Thanks guys! Ringland makes the Marquis-Philips wines in partnership with Dan Philips, and together they continue to offer great wines at very fair prices, so check them out if you haven’t done so all ready as well.

3ringsreserve.jpg2005 R Wines 3 Rings Reserve “It’s Magic” Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia (By Chris Ringland)
This is a massive and complex wine that has amazing depth of fruit and thick textures and a finish that never wants to leave, I mean it goes on and on! The fruit is so huge in this Shiraz that it takes 36 months in French oak to tame it and give it roundness and loving framework. This wine has pure purple goodness, a wonderful full body and looks very sexy in the glass! Black fruits, blueberry, prunes, chocolate, coffee bean, kirsch, white pepper, licorice, truffle and sweet vanilla all unfold in seamless layers on the palate and coats your whole mouth with an explosion of flavors, plus staining your poor teeth! This bold Shiraz comes from select vineyard sites that average 85 years in age, yeah this are old vines! Wait, it gets better, they only get about ½ on ton of fruit per acre, so now you know why it is worth every penny. ($60-65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive



Grapelive: Wine of the Week

chatchat1.jpg2007 Chateau Chateau “Skulls” Grenache & Mataro (Mourvedre) Barossa Valley, Australia

(By Chris Ringland)

This sweet and smooth fruit filled wine is easy to love and has a rich palate with lots of raspberry, plum and grenadine fruit. This wine is a blend of vineyard sites and is made from a hand picked selection of barrels to create this cuvee. The Mourvedre adds a gamy essence to the ripe sweetness of the Grenache making for a balanced and interesting wine. Chris Ringland has hit a homerun with his Chateau Chateau line, and this wine is a winner for sure. This wine opens up with a clean candy like bouquet, kind of like cotton candy, Jolly Rancher and with hints of cherry liqueur leading to a palate filled with fresh berries, spice, grilled sweet meat and subtle lavender oil. The wine finishes with a mouth-filling creaminess and lingering fruit pie. This wine has not been released yet and I was not able to get pricing, but you can check with The Grateful Palate for more details and see there other wines in the Chris Ringland Chateau Chateau line up. ($TBA Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

The Grateful Palate

Grapelive Lastest

glkw1108.jpgIf you like touring the wine country, this is a great time to go, when things are slow and the weather is great for tasting. With the economic crisis and terrible job situation even the high end wineries are feeling the impact and are opening up their cellars and it is a good time to take advantage of this to see and taste these wines that are hard to get. Plus you can get into most of the super restaurants that are very hard to get into during the summer months, especially in Napa Valley. I am thinking that Santa Barbara may just be the spot to visit myself, with great wineries close by and warmer weather, plus an exciting nightlife Santa Barbara is a fun place to visit. Downtown Santa Barbara has the Wine Cask Restaurant and Jaffurs Winery so you can even do it on a day trip or a quick weekend get away, and if you have an extra day you can check out Melville Winery about 45 minutes North of S.B.

Hey, I just got news that one of my favorite winemakers has just released a couple of new wines and I am planning to get on to them real soon. Richard Alfaro, Alfaro Family Vineyards is releasing his estate 2007 Chardonnay’s and I am really looking forward to getting my palate on them, especially the new Lindsay-Page Vineyard as the last vintage was sublime and 2007 looks to be another fine wine. Richard just created a buzz here and in the Santa Cruz area by planting a plot of the Austrian grape, Grunner Veltliner! This wonderful grape produces a white wine of quality and goes great with food, I am all ready to drink it up, but sadly these vines will need about 3 years to get started, but I’ll be waiting!

My random thoughts, Oh, I just re-tasted the 2006 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir, and it is even better than I thought it would be and still think it might be the wine of the vintage. I was hanging out with Jacques Melac of Carmel’s Rancho Cellars and noticed a tiny amount of this Pisoni in stock still… Plus he turned me on to some great values on some new wines he is stocking, a couple of these were from Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant (Importer) you can see them on my reviews page So if you are looking for great small estate wines that offer great value you can check Jacques out at Rancho Cellars either online or if you get to Carmel you should stop by, he has just added a deli counter offering many gourmet sandwiches and tasty bites made by his Chef wife, Janet Melac. They are also doing take out, so now you know what I’m eating for dinner when I’m in town! Last but not least, I hear from my friends at The Wine Spies that sales are going great these days as they give huge discounts daily on some fun selections, good job guys, keep it up.

Grapelive: Wine of the Week

corison04.jpg2004 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon Kronos Vineyard (Reserve) Napa Valley
Celebrated winemaker Cathy Corison has been crafting stunning Cabernet for more than 30 years and her resume includes Chappellet, Staglin, Long Meadow Ranch and York Creek as well as her own limited production label. Her Napa winery has been using the same blocks of Cabernet vines for 20 years and provide her with fantastic fruit of great quality and uniqueness. This vintage of Kronos is one of the finest I’ve had of her wine and I think is better than her famed 1997. The fruit is pure and complex with blackberry, currant and plum, leading the way on the palate aided by touches of cocoa, cedar, licorice, tobacco, backing spices, sage and famed by sweet toasty vanilla from the subtle and pretty French oak. ($125 Est.)

94 Points, grapelive

*Available by special order at RANCHO CELLARS 

call 831-625-5646

Grapelive Latest: Searching Out Values & Tasting Some Greatnes

kenandme.jpgEven though I’ve had some amazing opportunities this month with two stunning tastings that had a vertical retrospective of the late great Didier Dagueneau and a horizontal of the famed Oregon Pinot master Ken Wright’s (seen with me left) line of a single vineyard Pinot Noirs, it is the value wines that now take center stage. The global financial crisis is having a serious impact on the economy and is very scary indeed. As it was famously said; “it is the economy stupid”, even in the wine world, which usually holds its own during slow financial times, though this downturn is massive and I have noticed a big turn to sub $20 a bottle wine. So I’ve made a point of featuring some super wines that don’t break the bank and still leave you with a big grin after a glass or two. Some of my favorite value wines come from the Rhone Valley and other Southern France areas, as they offer ripe and richly flavored wines that are solidly made and easy to love. Then there is South America with wonderful wines coming from both Argentina and Chile, with Malbec and Syrah wines impressing lately.  Then there is Spain and Italy for values, with even the Islands of Sardinia and Sicily giving wines of top quality at everyday prices, including one of my favorite wines, the Cannonau di Sardegna made from old Grenache vines. That said, top end wines are still doing well and the blue chip investment wines from the top domaines and chateaux are still looking to be solid bets and prices have even gone up on California Cabernets…

For some good value selections check out my latest REVIEWS

pursang.jpgIt was a very sad day a little over a month ago when the news came in that Didier Dagueneau had died in a single engine plane crash in his native France. Dagueneau was renown for perfecting bio-dynamically made Pouilly-Fume to the point of beyond perfection, making some of the great wines ever produced from his loved Sauvignon Blanc grapes. He looked and acted something between a caveman and a rock star, but was a driven and intense character that was never shy when it came to his self believe and or views on winemaking. His wines are a true reflection of his terroir and his personality! I never got to meet the man, but I have been luck enough to taste his artwork and I can tell you he was an artist and that his wines are totally unique in flavors and are almost impossible to fairly review or relate to you. They are such different animals each vintage and taste like no other Sauvignon Blancs I’ve ever tried, as they are pure and true to vintage and terroir completely. His top two wines from his Loire Valley vineyards, the “Silex” and “Pur Sang” though signed by the same artist seem very different wines and go a long way to showcase the slightly different soils and climate, even though the sites are not so far away as to make one think there would be such a difference. I found the “Pur Sang” to have a smoky citrus and liquid mineral note, while the “Silex” showed an earthy quince and stone fruit quality. All the wines I tasted all showed something special and it was a once in a lifetime event to try some 15 wines, from 1994 to 2006. In my notes I had extra special stars for the 1999 Pur Sang, 2001 Silex, 2003 Pur Sang, 2005 Silex and the near perfect 2006 Pur Sang.

wrights.jpgThe only slight blemish on my Oregon adventure in September was that I missed catching up with the godfather of Oregon Pinot Ken Wright, so I was glad to put that right last week when Ken Wright was pouring his full line up of Pinot Noir at a special tasting of new world Pinot Noir in San Francisco. I had met Ken before and have always held him and his wines in high esteem, in fact his energy and passion during a seminar a few years ago helped me understand his region and gave me an extra insight and affection for the Willamette Valley and its wines. At this tasting, Ken was engaging and patient with me, explaining each vineyard in detail and what he likes best about each site and what special characteristics they impart on the finished wine. I am grateful he took the time and gave me his full attention, it is a rare thing at these tastings and it is the extra special effort that sets him apart. All this focus and intensity goes into each of his wines and I can honestly say it makes a great difference. Wright showed his 10 different single vineyard Pinot Noirs, all of which highlighted their terroir and were each unique. His line up of 2007 wines are going to be released between now and December and do show the vintage’s more Burgundy like profiles with higher acid and delicate fruit. These are more a winemaker’s vintage than the blockbuster ripe 2006 wines were, but should be very enjoyable for true Pinot lovers. The wines are young and will fill out over the next few years, though there are a couple that are easy to enjoy now, especially the up front and fruit driven Shea Vineyard and the lovely and textured McCrone Vineyard, both of which impressed me a lot! Others to stand out were; the Nysa Vineyard from the Dundee Hills, the Savoya Vineyard from Yamhill, and the Carter Vineyard in the Eola Hills area, all of which are lovely wines that should gain with a little cellar time.