Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2006 Casale del Giglio “Mater Matuta” Lazio Rosso IGT, Italy. (Syrah/Petit Verdot)
This Syrah based red is a rival to the best from Hermitage and Cote-Rotie, with amazing layers and complexity. It is not surprising that this beauty is a Tre Briccheri winner and is gaining fame around the world. The nose is both perfumed and earthy with violets, truffle and smoke with a touch of game before a palate filled with ripe blueberry, boysenberry and creme de cassis with hints of red and black pepper, cherry liqueur, fennel and graphite. Everything about this wine screams world class and I would rate it right up there with Guigal’s Cote-Rotie and Penfold’s Grange! This wonderful wine is a steal at its price and very unique in that is is 85% Syrah and 15% Petit Verdot, as very few wines have these two grapes together, and the result is near perfection. Tasted three times, and all bottles were dead on target.
($56 Est.) 96-97 Points, grapelive

Available at www.sfwtc.com ($54.95)

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Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Winery Profile: Montepeloso
By Kerry Winslow

I just tasted Fabio Chiarellotto’s newest releases from his fantastic Tuscan coast vineyards, and without knowing a thing about his wines I knew right away I was tasting something remarkable, then of course I heard the news that Parker’s Wine Advocate had rated his wines somewhere close to perfect! Well, never one to be jealous about that, I would wholeheartedly agree, as these are some of the finest Tuscan wines I’ve ever had and rate in the same league as Ornellaia and Sassicaia, though these 2008’s of Montepeloso just might out class either, especially the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon “Gabbro” which has all the best character of Sassicaia with lots of Lafite or Latour thrown it!
Fabio Chiarellotto makes a stellar line up of wines from his estate south of Bolgheri, and while he does focus of native grapes for most of his wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon Cru Gabbro is the flagship wine. His vines cling to rocky hillsides that produce tiny yields, giving intense flavors and unique terroir components. He has a rare selection of grapes as well, he has Tuscan Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Alicante and a hybrid grape that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache known as Marselan that was developed for special Mediterranean climates and has been planted on his estate for about 10 years with noteworthy success.

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2009 Montepeloso “A Quo” Tuscan Red.
This young vine cuvee is a blend of all the different grapes grown on the estate including Marselan, Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fabio Chiarellotto makes a point of saying this wine is not about the varietal it is about the terroir, and tasting the wine confirms this statement as the wine shows perfume and mineral tones that are not usually found in these grapes and can be tasted in each of the estate wines as well. This entry-level rosso is a dynamic and lavish wine that has depth and pleasures of wines twice the price making it a super value. The nose is red flowers, sweet herbs, wild berries and cassis leading to a balanced palate of black cherry, mountain berry, plum and dried roses with mineral and subtle oak notes.

($28 Est.) 90-91 Points, grapelive

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2008 Montepeloso “Eneo” Tuscan Red.
The Eneo with mature vines and extended oak aging is a much deeper and richer wine that the A Quo and it shows off a glorious inky color and has intense flavors that highlight the best of each varietal in the blend, 40% Montepulciano, 25% Sangiovese, 25% Marslan and 10% Alicante Bouschet in normal vintages. The vibrant and grippy palate shows spiced plum, blackberry, strawberry and cherry with cedar, smoke, crème de cassis and minty fennel. This wine has power and focus with sweet refined tannins that hold the fruit in check, plus the Eneo has good acidity to keep everything fresh, so it should get better with a touch more age as well. A wonderful wine from a newer superstar estate that should be worth watching.

($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

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2008 Montepeloso “Nardo” Tuscan Red.
This wonderful Tuscan red is the old vine cuvee of Italian varietals, mostly Montepulciano and Sangiovese done in high quality French oak. The concentration is amazing and the ripe vivid fruit is pure heaven with loads of savory and sweet black fruits on the round full palate. This wine is very dark and thickly textured, but still bursting with life and while powerful and tannic it seems juicy and not bitterly drying on the lengthy finish. The nose is smoky sweet with flowers, oak and mineral spices with layers of blackberry, currant, strawberry and tangy cherry with dried rose petals, mountain herbs and subtle vanilla. This is a fantastic effort and nothing short of brilliant, a wine that will compete well with top Brunello Riservas and surpass most anything the region can offer!
($150 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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2008 Montepeloso “Gabbro” Cabernet Sauvignon, Tuscany.
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Grabbo Cru on Fabio Chiarellotto’s estate south of Bolgheri, the Montepeloso “Gabbro” is a special wine of terroir, but it also has very classic Pauillac like character and can easily stand next to Lafite or Latour! Without question there is also some Italian charm too, though more like a top vintage of Ornellaia or Sassicaia, but even that comparison does not really capture it’s essence or does it justice. I reviewed the Wine Advocate notes from the two prior vintages, 96 and 97 Points, and see that this wine falls in line with those notes, though I believe this wine could be better still. The 2008 has inky, almost opaque black color and has lots of crème de cassis, smoke and pencil lead with black olive notes before a lush palate of blackberry, blueberry, plum and currant fruit. The complex mineral, tobacco, licorice and cedar mixes well with the Bordeaux style subtle French oak shadings in the background and the finish is amazingly long and overall this is almost a perfect Cabernet. I would place this sublime wine among Italy’s finest or call it an Italian First Growth!

($180 Est.) 96-98 Points, grapelive

Available through www.sfwtc.com

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Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2009 Andre & Michel Quenard, Chignin Mondeuse, Vieilles Vignes, Vin de Savoie, French Red.
This beautiful and sexy red is imported by Kermit Lynch and will certainly do for the Savoie what Jean Foillard did for Beaujolais and become a underground favorite I’m sure. Like the great Cru Beaujolais, 2009 is promising to be the break through vintage for the mountainous region of Savoie. This Glorious Mondeuse is rich and fruit driven with deep richness and spicy character, the flavors take you from silky Pinot Noir like class, then to violets and blueberry reminding you of Syrah, before ending with Gamay like fruity infused wild strawberry.  So you all mix that and some pepper and Cayanne spices plus mountain herbs and fennel and you there you have the unique essence of this interesting and suave red.

($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest

Sans Liege and Groundwork Wines

By Kerry Winslow

Curt Schalchlin, winemaker and owner of the Sans Liege and Groundwork label, is making some of the most interesting hand crafted wines in the state and are often compared to Sine Qua Non and Alban, though they are much, much more affordable! Sans Liege and Groundwork are a tiny one man operation in Santa Barbara County and he does it all, which certainly makes him exceptionally busy, but also seems to guaranty that his personal vision and artisan touch always shines through in his intriguing wines that showcase true Rhone style and vineyard terroir characteristics. Curt’s passion flows in his current line up which showcases his talents and highlights the great vintages that 2009 and 2010 were in the South Central Coast regions. This Spring brings three new Groundwork wines and the Sans Liege Cote du Coast Blanc, and as with all of Schalchlin’s wines, they will sell out fast, so don’t miss out on these wonderful gems! It was very nice to meet the man behind these wines and to see his passion, he is really making his dream come true all by himself and making tasty wines we all can afford!

Groundwork by Sans Liege

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2010 Groundwork Grenache Blanc Santa Barbara County.
This young and intense white is beautifully layered and rich with stone fruit and spiciness, in fact it is pure Grenache Blanc, though it has the weight and feel of a top quality Roussanne, very much like a nice Chateauneuf-du-Pape blank in style. This vibrant and lively wine has loads of peach, apple and nectarine with apricot pit and smoky mineral essence. With lush texture and a rich palate this white is a steal at this price, but it should even get better over the course of a year and it has plenty of zesty acidity and citrus to keep it all together.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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2010 Groundwork Rose Santa Barbara County.
This full and fruity Rose is mostly Grenache, but has a dose of Mourvedre as well, Curt Schalchlin let slip he added a whole barrel of red to the blend! This added a fullness and a vivid racy color as well, making for a serious and sexy Rose that is wildly fruit filled and fun! The nose is watermelon, crushed berries and citrus leading to a sweet and savory palate of red citrus, melon, cherry cola, strawberry and pepper spices. This fresh and fruity Rose is a summer treat and a must have for any picnics or BBQ’s!
($14 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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2009 Groundwork Grenache Santa Barbara County.
Sans Liege’s Curt Schalchlin has nailed it again with this Cotes du Rhone style Grenache under his Groundwork label making a truly Southern Rhone style gem that offers great value and has plenty of fruit and earthy complexities on offer! It starts with dusty red fruit, grenadine, violets and chalky mineral notes with a fine balance of fruit intensity and spice with a tangy peppery edge. The red raspberry, strawberry and cheery fruit coats the palate with hints of crush rocks, fennel, white pepper, truffle and sweet liqueur. Viva Grenache and Bravo Curt for making a value rich Grenache that kicks butt!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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Sans Liege

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2009 Sans Liege Cotes du Coast White Blend, Santa Barbara County.
This very rich Hermitage Blanc style white is a very serious contender for best California white for your buck this spring with lovely full flavors, perfume and lavish texture. The nose has honeysuckle, jasmine and peach jam before a mouth filling palate of apricot, citrus, apple butter, peach and liquid minerals. This wine has good vigor and acidity, but gains a lush creaminess with air with a hint of butterscotch. A tropical note and lingering stone fruit hang on the long finish on this Rhone style white that is a tasty blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. This top notch wine always sells out fast for good reason, so don’t wait get it while you can.
($24 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive

Available at www.sfwtc.com

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Grapelive Wine of the Day: Value Selection

Wine Value of the Day

By Kerry Winslow

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2008 Chateau La Roque Pic St.-Loup Vieilles Vignes Mourvedre, Coteaux-du-Languedoc Red, France.
This is a wine to search out if you are interested Mourvedre or love the wines of either Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Bandol as it offers that kind of pleasure and delight for an unreal bargain price, in fact in some vintages it can proof to be better than it’s most famous rivals with this grape. Even in what proved to be a tough and frought year for the Rhone, this 2008 offers glorious flavors and is a total joy to drink. Cyriaque Rozier send he pushed it to the limit waiting for these grapes to ripen, but the results speak for themselves with rich layers and sweet tannins this is a serious wine that has all the right stuff, deep color, good structure, a light spicy note, interesting mineral tones and elegant length. The nose has dried flowers, cassis and earthy meatiness with a vivid palate of blue, black and red fruits, pepper, baked stones and lavender essence. Not as heavy or grippy as the 2007, but darn near as tasty if not more so, enjoy over the next 3 years.
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Available at SFWTC www.sfwtc.com

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Grapelive Latest

Winery Profile: La Spinetta

By Kerry Winslow

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It has been my lucky pleasure to enjoy the company of and taste the wines of Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta, one of Italy’s great producers, in fact this is my third time lucky and every time I learn more and gain an even greater respect for the man and his wines. In the Nineties I had read about him and his personal pursuit of perfection in both the noble Nebbiolo grape and the common Barbera, a grape I became addicted to and one that still holds a special place in my heart and on my palate. After sampling his amazing Barbera’s, of which “Gallina” blew my mind and the Ca’ di Pian which takes money from my wallet every vintage without fail, I was able to meet the man himself. On my first meeting with Rivetti we tasted all his Bararesco’s and it was a revelation, it was like tasting a “La Tache” or a “Richebourg” if I had to compare and I found that I had a passion for his “Vigneto Starderi” Cru Barbaresco, one like that of his Barbera still is alive and well in me today, the red labelled Starderi for me has the sirens song, it calls to me.
As well as the sublime Barbaresco La Spinetta makes, they also have Barolo, and I can proudly say I got to taste the very first public release of that wine from a barrel when I first tasted Giorgio’s wines with him, that was the 2000 La Spinetta Della Campe Barolo. La Spinetta’s flagship Barolo, the Campe, has reached the top echelon of Barolo in the years between then and now and Rivetti has added a new Barolo, the Garetti, to his line up from a vineyard bought a few years ago and the first vintage for release is 2006. When I caught up with Giorgio this year he told me that his first Campe the 2000 won a vintage tasting in Barolo in 2010, the tenth year after harvest, against the likes of Gaja, Giacosa, Vietti and others, which is amazing considering it was the wineries first go at Barolo! I felt as if I had tasted part of their history in the making and happy for Giorgio in his pride and success.
The 2005 La Spinetta Campe is one of the most elegant and textured young Barolo’s I’ve had, and while it may not be a blockbuster vintage like 2001 or the yet to be released 2006, it is a wonderful wine that has class and Grand Cru Burgundy like charms, made all that much better by being able to enjoy it with its creator! While the Vigneto Starderi is my all time La Spinetta favorite, and his Barbera Ca’di Pian the one I buy the most of, the Campe Barolo is a very special wine to me.

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2007 La Spinetta Barbaresco Vigneto Starderi Vursu, Neive, Piedmonte.
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The Neive Cru “Vigneto Starderi” is for me pehaps the finest site in Barbaresco and for me rivals the Cru’s of Gaja, Sori Tilden, San Lorenzo and Costa Russi for beauty and complexity of fruit, though Starderi is 100% Nebbiolo, while Gaja’s famous threesome are usually blended with Barbera and are classified as Langhe Rosso. Both Gallina and Valeirano are wonderful wines as well, but it is always Starderi that moves me just that bit extra. The elegance and subtle complexities seduce very much the same way a fine Chambertin or Richebourg do, making Starderi one of the great wines of the world, no question. The 2007 Vigneto Starderi is a masterpiece and will only get better and more refined with 5 or 10 years in bottle, but as with most La Spinetta wines it is almost perfect now with style and elegance showing already with lush fruit and earthy depth, I should say otherworldly layers that unfold in seamless grace. The nose is heavenly with rose petals and lavender oil with hints of warm sweet toasty oak and fennel laced cherries. The palate is firm with framing ripe tannins and lifting acidity, a true Nebbiolo is structure, but with a Grand Cru Burgundy like silkiness and length. Tarry cherries, plum, currant and licorice dazzle in the mouth and truffle and mineral notes add to the whole, while the oak is subtle playing a very mild background role with just a hint of vanilla. The lingering finish is crisp and long with sweet herbs and raspberry aftertaste. This wine is sublime and brilliant, Giorgio Rivetti is on the top of his game, this Starderi is his crown jewel.
($165-180 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive

*Due out this Summer, 2011

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Grapelive Latest

Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2007 Tenimenti Luigi D’ Alessandro Syrah “Migliara” Cortona, Tuscany.
Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri World Tour Tasting in San Francisco is a must see event for Italian wine lovers, and this year’s event was my first time and I hope never to miss it again! All the award winning wines were poured without fuss or pretense and many of the winemakers or winery directors were on hand to explain their wines and terroirs. I was able to meet many great producers and chat with the vineyard managers and winemakers, a few of which are my personal favorites. I was delighted to meet and talk to Massimo D’ Alessandro of Tenimenti Luigi D’ Alessandro in Cortona, as his Syrah’s have long been very special to me, as well as discuss his thoughts on why Syrah is so good in this old Etruscan hillside near the famed walled city of Cortona in eastern Tuscany. Tenimenti Luigi D’ Alessandro’s Syrah is now the stuff of legends, and I feel lucky to have enjoyed many vintages of their “Il Bosco” Syrah, but this was my first time tasting the “Migliara” and was blown away, this is one of the world’s best Syrah wines! Massimo has a great winemaking team for his wines with Luca Currado, Vietti’s fifth generation head winemaker, Christine Vernay famed winemaker of the Rhone Valley and Angela Fonti, plus a very special terroir that has just the right conditions to produce amazing Syrah.
The 2007 Migliara is beautiful and deep, almost beyond explanation, for those that have had Guigal’s La La’s or Chave’s Hermitage will instantly just know they are drinking in magic, this wine is something like those heroic classics plus with a touch of Penfold’s Grange added for good measure, but still something utterly unique. The perfume, mineral streak, fullness of palate and length of finish are close to perfect with touches of game, earth and white pepper that add complexity. The main core of fruit is smoothly layered with plum, cassis, blackberry, blueberry and boysenberry plus hints of fennel, kirsch and bitter chocolate.
($90 Est.) 95-96 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest

Blaufrankisch a Grape to Watch

By Kerry Winslow

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2007 Carnuntum Blaufrankisch, Carnuntum Austria (by Niepoort)
In many circles, Blaufrankisch is being talked about as the next big thing in cool reds, though that can be the kiss of death, as we all know from Syrah’s hype a few years ago, but that said, it is a grape on the rise and this beautiful and spicy version is one to look for. This wine is made in partnership with the famed Port house Niepoort and is a personal love of Dirk Niepoort himself. Blaufrankisch has the elegance and soulful presence of Burgundy, but with a touch more grippy spice and briery notes. This wine from the tiny region of Carnuntum, though to be one of the best terroirs for the grape in Austria is a layered and pure fruited wine with touches of cayenne pepper and baked plum to go with a core of cherry and cranberry. This wine which is made without oak influence is tangy and brisk, but opens nicely and has silky texture with mineral and earthy tones, so make sure you explore it with food to get the best out of it, a prime rib or roast beef seem good choices. There are many styles of Blaufrankisch and many come with quality oak aging, and they can be as costly as a fine Burgundy or Bordeaux, and they are coming, but I featured this one because it is a great way to get an idea of the grape and it is of great quality for the price.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest

Radog Wines

By Kerry Winslow

Dan Todor’s Radog label is a great way to explore the Monterey wine region, as it offers wonderful wines at a great price, everything from his famous Pinot Noir to Syrah all the way to Dry Riesling and Gewurztraminer, all of which give lots of pleasure and reflect a fine sense of Terroir!
Since 2000 Tudor has been receiving critical acclaim for his fantastic hand crafted Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, many vintages way over 90 points and more recently he has been sourcing further afield to find quality grapes for his second label Radog Wines. These Central Coast wines have been big hits with bistros and restaurants on coast and savvy wine buyers looking for a good price to quality ratio.

2007 Radog Dry Riesling Monterey County.

This wine is fruity but still dry and tangy making it great with all kinds of foods from chicken and pork to Asian fare. Bright apples, hints of dusty citrus and apricot lead the way in this fun and crisp lighter style wine.
($20 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

2007 Radog Dry Gewurztraminer Monterey County.
This Gewurztraminer is fuller than the Radog Riesling and has a burst of spicy sweet fruit, but again is mostly dry in style. This is great for Indian and hotter foods, plus it is great with cheeses and honey ham. A nice stone fruit and lychee palate goes down smooth, but has good zest and tangy acidity.
($20 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

2007 Radog Syrah Monterey County.
The Radog Syrah is dry and dusty with blueberry, raspberry and mocha notes along with hints of game, earth and leather. It opens up nicely and the tannins soften quickly leaving a savory spicy kick to the sweet red cherry and bitter chocolate on the finish. This middle weight Syrah would go great with BBQ or grilled meats.
86 Points, grapelive

2007 Radog Pinot Noir Monterey County.
The polished and lush Radog Pinot is more like the more limited Tudor selections with rich cherry  and plum fruits that go great with the creamy silk like texture. While more ready and fruity than his other wines this a good everyday wine and one Dan Tudor can be proud of as it is clean and easy to enjoy with pure Pinot character.
90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Latest

Ridge Vineyards New Releases Spring 2011

By Kerry Winslow

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Ridge Vineyards
Ridge is really making some of the most noteworthy wine for every palate, the Chardonnay is pure Grand Cru Burgundy class and is one of the best in the state, the Cabernet is like a first rate Bordeaux, but is all California, and this 2008 is even better than the 2007, crazy how Ridge can make better wines in vintages where some others might struggle, then again they have a remarkable site and terroir that is much different than any other! Then their classic California Zin blends, which always make for interesting and flavor packed wines, like the new Geyserville that has powerful fruit, but still has balance and vibrant flavors! Funny the Chardonnay has become the brightest star and has the potential to shine with other top Chards like Peter Michael, Aubert and Brewer-Clifton, and is a strong value.

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2009 Ridge Vineyards Chardonnay Estate, Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Just when you thought they could not get better Ridge surpasses expectations again with their Estate Chardonnay that has all the Monte Bello fruit this year. The 2009 Ridge Chard shows rich and focused flavors and layers with lemon curd, pear and peach while fig, butterscotch and hazelnut play in the background. Hints of brioche, toast and vanilla linger on the finish. Good acidity and a mineral streak give this beauty a real Burgundy feel and without question this wine will develop nicely over the next few years! I was told this was going to be the only Chard from the 2009 vintage, being that no “Monte Bello” Reserve bottling was made, so best to jump on this one while it is available.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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2008 Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This vintage has a much higher dose of pure Cabernet, 75% with less Merlot than the last few vintages at 20% plus tiny amounts of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, and it feels most gripping and intense than the last couple of years have, though it still has the refined finesse that Ridge is famous for. Still at about 13.5% Alcohol, this wine fills the mouth and gives lush black fruit notes with blackberry, plum and currants, while impressive Bordeaux like pencil lead, smoke and cedar come through in the background. This wine gets better and richer with air and has a touch of tobacco leaf, licorice and smoky sweet oak shadings that add complexity and depth. This wine is a steal at this price, don’t miss out!
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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2009 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville (Zinfandel blend) Sonoma County.
This is a bigger and more vigorous red than recent vintages with sweet black raspberry, savory currant, plum and spiced cherry fruits with sweet and tangy mountain berries coating the palate. Good acidity and spiciness keeps everything in check here, all is vivid and full of energy and this wine should age well for a decade or more no problem. This vintage Geyserville is more of everything than has been the case in recent years, though it never steps over the edge to port or jammy it does have sweet fruit and leaves a creamy compote aftertaste. This Geyserville has over 70% Zinfandel, but the other black grapes add to the color and complexity making this an exciting and sexy wine. This is another classic from Ridge and it should drink great for the next decade and maybe beyond.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Available through www.sfwtc.com

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