Grapelive Latest: Special Report

 The World is Waiting for…. Cru Beaujolais? Yes it is!
By Kerry Winslow

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kwcrubeaujolais1.jpgThe 2009 vintage in Beaujolais has been hailed as the greatest ever and that it would forever change the world sees Beaujolais. All of us wine geeks have been eagerly waiting to see the Cru wines, after falling in love with the vintage through the lowly Nouveau and village Beaujolais, which were charming and seriously good. Now, the Cru’s are finally showing up and look to be snapped up quickly. Kermit Lynch, a visionary importer and wine lover, discovered a flock of passionate and fanatical producers in the region and has for years touted the quality and wonders of the region. I have enjoyed many of these wines over the last five or six vintages and was very impressed, so my interest in 2009 is even more intense after seeing what these guys can do even in so-so years. Many of the grower/winemakers decided to crop for fruit intensity and quality from their Cru sites that have old Gamay vines and this has paid off in spades with very important wine critics now clamoring to get their hands and palates on these wines.

Gamay is a very fruity and flavorful grape and is the main red grape of the Beaujolais region, though there has been some serious Pinot Noir plantings in recent years as some Burgundy producers look for new sites and less expensive areas to grow vines. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean the ripping out of Gamay or that the prices soar for old vine Cru wines. Gamay tastes of strawberries, plum and tangy currants with a cherry candy like essense, and I am reminded of strawberries dipped in brown sugar and the nose is floral, but with a hit of summer hay bales. Those are generic describtions for basic Gamay wines, and just give an idea of flavors one finds in the grape. The Cru wines drink much more like a fine Pinot Noir or Premier Cru Burgundy if you like with extra depth, earthy compontents less strawberry fruitiness and more tannin strength. There can also be a more woody feel and firmer structure for sure to hold things together and allow for extended cellaring.

In the 2005 and 2006 vintages I found some amazing Cotes-de-Brouilly wines, especially the earthy and complex Chateau Thivin Crus, and in 2007 I was completely astonished by the Morgon’s of Marcel Lapierre and Jean Foillard. The Foillard was a revelation; here was a Cote-de-Py Morgon Cru Beaujolais that was as good if not better than a Vosne-Romanee or Nuits-St.-Georges Burgundy, a wine of depth, character, elegance and vigor to spare. Why was no one talking about these wines? I was blown away, and I fell in love with Brouilly and Morgon, and I still am. Even the difficult 2008 vintage did nothing to stop me from finding a great wine from these areas, in fact I’m still enjoying the 2007 and 2008 Lapierre when I find them.

But, it is 2009 that has got the buzz and has captured the world’s attention, and finally I got a chance to taste a full blooded Cru Morgon and I can say that without a doubt this is a game changer vintage for the much maligned Beaujolais and the rush is on to get these wines. I got my greedy little hands on a sample of another Kermit Lynch producer, Thevenet and his fantastic 2009 Morgon Vieilles Vignes. Robert Parker’s man in France got his hands on this wine well below I did, of course, and raved about it giving it a pre-release 93+ Points, so I am not going to break any news here, but I can tell you I agree with David Schildknecht (of Parker’s Wine Advocate) this is a wonderful wine, and I would go a bit farther and give it a point more even. He didn’t review the final blend even and it has now had some time to settle and come together, so it now shows more fullness and complexity.

Jean-Paul Thevenet looks set to be getting the jump on the California market by being first out the gate, but even with high expectations and a huge amount of critical interest, the vintage is living up to the hype. I still wonder if this will turn into big sales success outside of us wine geeks, the jury is out and will be for a while yet as the main bulk of these wines is not going to hit the market for a few more months. We will be drinking 2010 Beaujolais Nouveau well before the best old vine Gamay hit our shores, but at least there is hope that we will have them to go with our Christmas dinners! (And to have in our cellar!)

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thevenet09.jpg2009 Thevenet Morgon Vieilles Vignes Cru Beaujolais, France.
Never has there been so much interest and expectation in Beaujolais, and this is one of the first estate Cru Beaujolais that I’ve tried, making it all that much more pressured to perform. And, it does perform, and it delivers on that huge promise that the vintage is one of the best ever for the region. I have not seen in my time in the wine business this kind of quality and depth in a vintage of Beaujolais, and this Morgon shows it all with glorious fruit, complexity and structure. Jean-Paul Thevenet one of the stars in Kermit Lynch’s great portfolio of Cru Beaujolais winegrowers and his old vine Gamay is a marvel to behold. This exotic Beaujolais shows a nose full of wildflowers, roses and earthy mint with an intense palate of rich fruit and firm structure, but opens to give round cherry, plum and currant layers with a background of strawberries. The layered flavors are alive and focused with depth and complexities that seem more Premier Cru Nuits-St.-Georges than Cru Beajolais such is the beauty of Thevenet’s terroir and the perfection of the vintage.  Hard to not drink now, but should get even better with another year or so of age and hold for 5 to 7 years easy. ($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: Special Review

Grapelive Special Review

By Kerry Winslow

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donum07.jpg2007 Donum Estate Pinot Noir Carneros.
I keep falling for this wine more with every vintage, and this 2007 Donum Carneros just might be the best yet, and it has really improved in the last 6 months! I’ve tasted this vintage many times now and it just gets more impressive with each go. Last year I quite liked their Russian River offering, and it was hard to choose between them, but this year is no contest with the Carneros easily taking the crown. The nose is full of wildflowers, sweet smoke, and red berries before a lush and silky palate of raspberry, plum and candied cherries. The round and smooth texture gives the wine a real fullness and warmth, but everything is alive and vibrant too. Hints of truffle, mocha and tea spices all dance in the background with a touch of mineral and ending with vanilla. This wine is modern and ripe, though it has something elegant and intriguingly Burgundy like about it, and there isn’t much made. ($67 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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uriondo.jpg2009 Uriondo Bizkaiko Txakolina Spanish Basque White.
This pure and vibrant Txakolina was made from 70% Mune Mahatsa and 30% Txori Mahatsa and fermented in stainless tanks that intensified the bright crispness and citrus flavors. The palate is tangy with lots of green apple and lime with vigorous acidity and zest, plus hints of mineral, chalk and a sense of the ocean. With 11.5% alcohol and light body this white is perfect for oysters and hot days, is is one of the most vivid and refreshing whites out there! I’ve always had a soft spot for Txakolina whites and this one brought that bias back in a big way.

($19 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: September 26

Grapelive Weekend Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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stoplmanoriginals08.jpg2008 Stolpman Syrah “The Originals” Estate, Santa Ynez Valley.
The Stolpman Syrah(s) from the 2008 vintage all are lovely wines and the vintage looks to be one of the best yet for this winery. This wine “The Originals” is from the first blocks of Syrah vines and selected for quality making for a unique cuvee. The clones are a mix of Davis, Tablas and Alban and add to the complexity in this perfumed and meaty Syrah. As with the Estate Syrah, Stolpman co-ferments with the must of Roussanne to help extract color in this dark and teeth staining red. The nose is earthy with violets, truffle and crushed coffee beans before a rich palate of boysenberry, blueberry and black cherry with cassis, savory currant, game and French herbs. The oak is giving with subtle vanilla and smoke while adding to the roundness to the wine. There is a touch of pepper and the balance is very good with just enough acidity to keep things vivid and fresh, look forward to many good years ahead!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: Special Review

Grapelive International Grenache Day Review

By Kerry Winslow

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pallieresracines.jpg2007 Domaine Les Pallieres Gigondas “Les Racines” Rhone Red, France.
Kermit Lynch and Brunier family own and run Les Pallieres and it is one of the finest estates in the Southern Rhone, making world class reds from Gigondas from old Grenache vines, plus some other interesting grapes that find their way into the wines. But, it is all about Grenache and the richly lush fruit and peppery spice flavors. 2007 was one of the greatest vintages on record for the south and nearly perfect for Grenache, which showed massive fruit and high alcohol levels, but still retained vibrant flavors and freshness through firm acidity. The nose is like wildflowers, sweet crushed red berries with a hint of earth and game, but it is more about sweet ripeness in this amazing vintage. The palate is full and flowing with strawberry jam, cracked pepper, boysenberry, grenadine and chalky minerals. This is a mega wine that will age well and be better still in a few years, but I loved it right away and doubt I could keep my hands off it for long. ($36-42 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive
Available at San Francisco Wine Trading Company. SFWTC.com $34.95 each

www.sfwtc.com

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Grapelive: International Grenache Day

Grapelive Special Report: Grenache Day Reviews

By Kerry Winslow

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sheldonvino.jpg2005 Sheldon “Vinolocity” Grenache, Vogelzang Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley.
Dylan and Tobe Sheldon were inspired to make this wine by the Grenache based wines of Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and the Vinolocity only done in great vintages and special barrel selections is their flagship wine. Sheldon Wines, a micro-winery, hand-crafts small production cuvees from special vineyard sites throughout the state and for Vinolocity the fruit comes from the much hailed Vogelzang Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. This vineyard has a tiny amount of top Grenache available and the Sheldon’s secured a few tons, enough to make 350 cases. There is a small amount of Syrah added, much like what is done in Gigondas, to give a bit more color and tannin. This vintage is now reaching the peak and I think it is a perfect time to pop the cork and enjoy all it has to offer. The nose is floral and fruity with dried flowers, raspberry and strawberry notes before a medium weight palate of cherry, grenadine, jolly rancher candy, lavender oil, boysenberry and peppery spices. This wine has very subtle French oak, but is has softened and rounded the wine nicely. ($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

*Last Tasting 09-24-10

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Grapelive Latest

Grapelive International Grenache Day Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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bucklin08g.jpg2008 Bucklin Grenache “Old Hill “ Sonoma Valley.
One of the rarest and historic wines produced, this Grenache is a field blend from the Old Hill Vineyard, most likely the oldest vines in the state, (California) and without much doubt the oldest Grenache vines. This old vine and exotic Grenache is rich in flavor with complex layers of red fruits and spicy pepper. There is black cherry, plum, grenadine, raspberry and brambleberry fruit with touches of game, gravel, lavender and briar. Everything unfolds in vibrant fashion and is fleshy and intense, this is serious wine for those seeking the holly grail of California Grenache, and right up there in must have with Alban or maybe even Sine Qua Non. Only a few barrels made, and hard to find! ($40-45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: September 23

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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ferraragreco.jpg2009 Benito Ferrara Greco di Tufo  Vigna Cicogna, DOCG, Itaian White.
This is one of the best Greco’s I’ve ever tried, though it is very unique as it shows intense smoky and liquid mineral character, with chalky citrus fruit. Without question this is serious wine with nice depth and complexity. The nose is steely, smoky with hints of white peach before a tangy palate of citrus, stone fruit and a rocky essence. The volcanic soils and tiny yields help in this wonderful white giving terroir and soul to the wine. You can taste the passion and handcrafted art in the wine making it all that much more joyful to drink.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: September 18

Grapelive Wine Value of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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redshed.jpg2009 Red Shed Syrah-Grenache, Sonoma County.
This is a great American Cotes-du-Rhone, which compares well in price and character, a wine that could not be found here in the past! Even in the last few years it has been hard to find a good California Rhone style wine under $20, let alone around $15, but now this little red comes along and shows it can and has been done and done well. The Red Shed is made by some top Rhone style wine producers and comes from the new Rhone region in California, the Bennett Valley in Sonoma, home to some of the most interesting Syrah and Grenache plantings in the state. The 2009 Red Shed has ripe and savory fruit, with blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, plum and currant fruits on the palate with touches of grenadine, pepper and lavender. While not a full-blown Chateauneuf style red, it is juicy and fun, giving lots of pleasure, especially for the price.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: September 15

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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mica07.jpg2007 Mica Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (by Buccella)
This very serious and seductive Cabernet is from the team at Buccella, and is crafted by Celia Welch, who also does Scarecrow and many other top wines. The 2007 Mica is lush, thickly textured and smoothly tannined with layers of dark fruits and smoky sweet oak shadings. The plush palate has blackberry, currant, plum, cherry, cassis, graphite, tobacco leaf, cedar and vanilla all in waves of flavors. Celia is really putting out some amazing Cabernets and this is one to look for as the price is right for the quality and it is still under the radar!
($65 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive

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