2006 Vega Sicilia Valbuena Ribera del Duero, Spanish Red.
This wonderfully direct and youthful Tempranillo is utterly delicious and beautiful, but still a baby, though regardless of it’s future I was very pleased to get a chance to try this legendary wine and I was left wanting nothing more, this is pure joy. I’ve only been lucky enough to try Vega Sicilia a very few times in the past, but my admiration and respect has never wavered, as without question the winery is completely dedicated to quality and the focus is 100% on making the greatest wine on earth, and of course be the Spanish flag waver to the world, for which it certainly can be proud. I must first say, this is purely a wine that only wants to be Tempranillo, it doesn’t try to be anything else, and it succeeds completely and is near perfect in every way in that regard, and it is nearly perfect in all regards! Still tight and firm, it takes a few minutes to get going both on the nose and and on the palate, but once it gets air it explodes with flavor and depth. The nose reveals sweet cherries, dark flowers, graphite, subtle wood and sandalwood before a palate of blackberry, plum and rich cherry fruits with hints of earth, leather, vanilla and coca powder. The body is lush and builds with each sip, but the structure is sublime and has reassuring tannins and acidity. The finish is remarkably long and sweet, while also having a dusty dryness that shows the serious nature of this young wine. I am grateful and very lucky to have had a chance to try this Vega Sicilia and I only hope I get another chance!
($200 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2009 Roar Pinot Noir “Rosella’s Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
I just knew the 2009 Rosella’s was going to be good, and without question it is the best of Roar’s wines, even better than the Pisoni! Gary Franscioni’s estate vineyard named for his wife Rosella, is really on par with both Garys’ and Pisoni these days and Ed Kurtzman the winemaker at Roar has crafted some amazing wines of late, with this 2009 Rosella’s Pinot hitting the top. While Roar’s Chardonnay should not be overlooked, it is this wine that makes the label one of the great wines of the central coast and of California. The 2009 is rich, lush and vibrant with deep complexity and seamless texture, all in all a near perfect wine. The nose has ripe fruit, perfume, briar, smoke and leads to a full palate of black raspberry, cherry and plum fruits, while subtle spices, violets, mineral and truffle play in the background. The newer French oak is well integrated and while giving warm sweet creaminess doesn’t take away from the pure essence of this remarkable wine. Drink now through 2015, though I would think it could go a bit further, but then it is too good to sit on that long, and sadly there is only a tiny amount available.
($50-55 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2008 Calera Pinot Noir “Jensen” Mount Harlan, Central Coast.
Josh Jensen’s career is so stellar and long, it is hard to begin, so I won’t even try here, but for only mentioning that his wines are some of the greatest ever made in California and certainly he is a hall of fame Pinot winemaker, and in my humble opinion only getting better (like his wines) with age. At a recent tasting he showed his 1990 Reed Pinot, and while past it’s best and stewy it was still amazingly lovely and tasted remarkably like a fine aged Chateauneuf-du-Pape with loads of spice and plum fruit. He had used lots of stems at one point, making the wines quite bitter and green when young, much like Romanee-Conti Burgundies, but he has opted for a more refined approach recently and the wines can be accessed in their youth now and savored old and new. The 2008 Jensen is a marvelous Pinot Noir with class and character and should only get better and more interesting over the next 5 years, and while not the blockbuster the 2007 was, I will say I think it is a more sexy and seductive wine. Calera’s terroir is unique and his wines always have a racy earthy quality with sweet and savory layers, and this wine has all that and more with mountain berries, tangy cherry, red currant, plum and cranberry fruits leading the way. There is bramble, pepper, tea spices, lavender oil, mushroom and cedar notes intwined with the fruit that adds complexity and intrigue. The finish is crispy intense with fine tannins and acidity, while subtle smoky sweet oak shadings frame everything nicely. I hope to have a chance to see this beauty again over time, kudos to Josh and his team for this and all his wines.
($75 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive
(Tasted at California Family Winemakers, Aug. 21, 2011)
2009 Pisoni Pinot Noir Estate, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This powerful and young Pinot Noir is going to be a classic, an age worthy red that has firm structure and focus, not the typical ultra fruity style. The new Pisoni has all the depth and dark fruit you’d expect, but it is wrapped in gripping tannins and zesty acidity, this should be great in a few years, though now it is showing a more Grand Cru youthfulness, making it a Pinot for the cellar. Jeff Pisoni, winemaker for the family estate, and son of Gary Pisoni has crafted a profound wine that could in my opinion become the best yet from this fantastic vineyard. While tight and firm, the Pisoni shows blackberry, blueberry, savory cherry and wild plum fruits with hints of truffle, stones, briar and lavender spiciness, finishing long with mouth coating tannins and subtle toasty oak leaving hints of smoke, vanilla and kirsch. This brisk Pinot will fill out and pretty up over the next few years and should drink sublime for a decade. (Tasted at Family Winemakers Tasting 8/21/11- Release in Sept. 2011)
($80 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2009 Piedrasassi Syrah “PS” Santa Ynez Valley.
Sashi Moorman’s own project, when he is not making Stolpman, Sandhi with Raj Parr, or Evening Land wines, dedicated to small lots of Syrah, Piedrasassi has been making world class Syrah since 2003. Sashi is a great talent and one of California’s finest winemakers, he has quietly reached this level without lots of fanfare or Hollywood glamour, since his days as an assistant winemaker at Ojai Vineyards, and I’m not sure why, as he has scored big with Robert Parker and others over the years! That said, Sashi Moorman has a huge cult like following, especially within the industry, which is high praise indeed. This “PS” Syrah is trademark Sashi, and if you love Syrah you need to get some, this striking red has charm, depth and class way beyond it’s meager price, I can say it may just be the best wine for the price I’ve had this year! This 2009 PS is darkly fruited with blueberry, boysenberry and dusty olallieberry leading the way with cassis, mineral, pepper, truffle, game and licorice notes all flowing in the background. The palate is round and full, but everything is alive and balanced with fresh acidity and there is only a tiny trance of wood and a hint of smoky char. This wine is pure class and a steal, sadly it is likely to be hard to find as not much of it was made, but it is worth chasing!
($18 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2009 Brovia Barbera “Sori del Drago” La Morra, Piedmonte, Italy.
Brovia’s wonderful Barbera “Sori del Drago” is one of the greats, and is a refined and balanced red that gives heightened elegance and depth to this very underrated grape. The 2009 Brovia is full and loaded with blackberry, cherry and tangy plum fruit, chalky mineral essence, violets and lavender spices. The nose is earthy floral and the palate fresh and bright with the black and blue fruits and is a alive with focused acidity. This wine really expands on the palate giving round smoothness with just a hint of tannin to frame it, making it glorious with food. There is a hint of neutral wood that helps keep it all together and there is a touch of truffle and fennel to go with the pure dark fruits. I tasted this wine twice and both times found it stunning and a Barbera of quality and charm with energy and complexity, making it a new pet favorite to go with my love of this grape and I put it up there with the best of the region, including La Spinetta and others.
($29 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2008 St. Michael-Eppan Blauburgunder-Pinot Nero, Sudtirol-Alto Adige (Pinot Noir) Italy.
This lovely and delicate Pinot Noir from the Alto Adige tastes remarkably like German Spatburgunder with a hint of Dundee Hills added for good measure. Best known for Pinot Grigio, St. Michael-Eppan does a fine Pinot Nero and this is the best I’ve tried from them to date, and with beautiful details and silky texture this wine will appeal to Burgundy lovers as well as Oregon fans. Italy has a few good Pinots, and this is one of them with pretty cherry fruit, flinty mineral, tea spice and subtle oak. The nose is dusty with roses, truffle and a whiff of smoke leading to the cherry core on the palate, with raspberry, plum and slate like earthiness adding complexity. This is a very nice wine and a decent bargain to boot, I should think those that like a lighter, livelier and brighter style of Pinot will love this flavorful and balanced red.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2009 Mastrojanni Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscan Red, Italy.
This estate near Castelnuovo dell’ Abate was started in 1975 when the Roman lawyer, Gabriele Mastrojanni bought the two old estates of Loreto and San Pio near the river mouth of the Orcia River in a rocky wooded area of this famous region. Planted on river rock and south facing slopes the vines at Mastrojanni are as perfectly sited as can be and it shows in the beauty and depth in the wines made here. Loreto is mostly planted to Brunello clone, while San Pia has a block of Cabernet Sauvignon which is blended with a touch of their Sangiovese Grosso in a San Pia bottling to go with their Brunello and Rosso. Interestingly enough, while the Mastrojanni Brunello gets all the attention, I have twice now in great vintages of Brunello, have been more impressed by the Rosso di Montalcino and the 2009 certainly is a lovely surprise out performing the highly touted 2006 Brunello in a recent tasting! While the Brunello is no slouch by any means, the 2009 just is more elegant and vibrant, and even better, it is half the price at least! The nose is deep with spring flowers, black currants and lavender like sweet herbs leading the way while the palate has plum, strawberry jam, black cherry and raspberry fruits. The 2009 Rosso feels silky smooth, but has good fresh acidity and tangy flavors with a background of licorice, cedar, mineral spice and violets. Mastrojanni uses big, mostly neutral French casks for this wine (aged 6 months) and the Alliers wood is subtle and refined framing this Sangiovese perfectly.
($30 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive
2008 Le Berne Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscan Red, Italy.
Made with Prugnolo (same Sangiovese clone as Sangiovese Grosso, as is found in Brunello), plus local varieties Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo Vino Nobile is one of Italy’s great wines, and a great value when compared to it’s Tuscan rival Brunello di Montalcino. I have found Le Berne in the last few vintages to be a real glorious red that offers class, richness and length so it was great to try this 2008 and find that it is as good as the 2006 and 2007 vintages were. If you want a great Tuscan wine and be savvy, this beauty is your ticket, no question. The 2008 Le Berne Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is full and lively with blackberry, cherry and wild strawberry fruits with touches of smoke, mineral spice, cedar and sweet mountain herbs. The nose has floral tones and a touch of truffle that also translates to the palate with notes of violets and dried roses, earthy leather and blond tobacco. The subtle framing wood adds a touch of baking spices on the finish. If you crave Brunello or Chianti Classico you should find this fantastic wine and compare for yourself, this is a stunning wine that deserves more attention.
($29 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2009 Domaine du Moulin Neuf Bourgogne Rouge (Danjean-Berthoux) France.
This little Bourgogne is a lovely Pinot Noir with impressive fruit and silky texture, especially at this price. With a good vintage and tough economy, 2009 sure is delivering great drinking Burgundies at every price point, and even these entry level wines show interesting depth and character, and while not of collector caliber they provide great fun and are easy on the wallet. This Domaine du Moulin Neuf has good ripe fruit and soft acidity, almost tasting like a good Oregon Pinot with spicy sweet red berries, cherry and strawberry leading the way on the palate. The nose is slightly floral and a touch earthy in classic style and the finish has just a hint of oak. Overall, this is a nice Burgundy to enjoy now and is a great gateway for those that are just getting started in their experience with this famous region.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive