2011 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Scheurebe Spatlese, Nahe, Germany.
Georg Rumpf’s 2011 lineup is utterly gorgeous and it was tough to pick a clear favorite, but this amazing Scheurebe certainly won me over. Scheurebe is a touch less acidic and rounder than Riesling with candied citrus and honey notes, and it makes for a great wine for Asian/Spicy foods, maybe even better than Riesling in most cases. Kruger-Rumpf’s lovely 2011 Scheurebe Spatlese starts with zest tropical fruit with kiwi, mango and apple all playing parts along with sweet lime essense and a hint of honeycomb. This “Scheu” is playful and vibrant with mineral smoke and peach pit adding complexity along with sultry long finish. This is one of my favorite Scheu’s ever and compares well with the great Muller-Catoir Scheurebe wines of the last decade.
($26 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2009 Domaine de la Colline St. Jean, Gigondas Rhone Red, France. (Alazard Pere et Fils)
This fantastic Gigondas is vivid and textured with great balance and focused flavors, more like what you’d find in 2010 Southern Rhones, so it was a pleasant surprise to find such a gem from 2009. This Domaine was brand new to me, and I can tell you I’ll be keeping a close eye on them from now on, and I’ll personally be drinking this wonderful Gigondas up over the next few years. I was told it was 70-75% Grenache and about 25% Mourvedre and I can believe it, this is a darkly fruited wine with lush layers, spice and solid tannin structure. The Colline St. Jean 2009 Gigondas starts with dried flowers, cassis and blueberry before a full palate of plum, dark berries, grenadine and wild strawberry with garrique, pepper and savory gamey notes. Everything is fresh and remarkable acidity and refined sweet tannins keeps everything under control and heightens all the pleasure in this complex and Chateauneuf like wine. I highly recommend this beauty and while it might be hard to find in certain areas, it is worth searching out.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Ken Wright Cellars, Pinot Noir “Shea Vineyard” Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This beautiful and textured Pinot from the legendary Ken Wright is a fantastic gift to Pinot lovers from what was a very difficult year in the Willamette Valley. Without a question this must be one of the wines of the vintage and proves again that great vineyards and winemakers shine in off years, I would also suggest running out and finding some while it still is available! Ken is no stranger to making sublime wines, and this 2010 Shea is a masterpiece of terroir and elegance with succulent red fruits, subtle perfume, muted oak and graceful length. The nose starts grapey and with dried currants and rose petals emerging slowly leading to a round and lively palate of tangy plums, cherry and red nectarine with mineral tones, tea spices, licorice and ceps. The finish has a touch of candied citrus and raspberry cream plus a smoky/flinty note adding to the depth and magic, while refined tannins and acidity hold a firm grip on things in a youthful show of structure.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Muller-Catoir, Riesling “Haardt” Kabinett Trocken, Pfalz, Germany.
One of the best dry Rieslings around, and a very exciting wine with plenty of stuffing and vigor, this 2011 Muller-Catoir is a keeper! As a long time fan of Muller-Catoir it is great to see the latest wines have not lost any of their elegance or energy, in fact this 2011 set is stunningly attractive and have made me fall in love with this wonderful winery all over again. The 2011 Haardt Kabinett Trocken just begs to to be enjoyed and while strictly dry and zippy it feels round and lengthy with lovely white flowers, peach and tangerine while hints of lime, passionfruit and chalky minerals add complexity. There is a salty and citrus burst mid palate with orange and white tea notes along with a slate/flinty briny touch, and the finish is firm, crisp and zesty, but again the tropical notes linger on. This pleasure filled Riesling grips you like a great Burgundy and keeps you entranced in it’s spell.
($34 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling “Trocken” QbA, Nahe, Germany.
Donnhoff’s dry QbA is a little gem with bright fruit and vivid layers making for a very versatile wine. This fresh Riesling starts with citrus flowers, hints of yellow stone fruits and apple skin leading to a zingy tense palate of lime, grapefruit, green apple and a core of peach fruit while tropical elements, mineral tones and orange zest play in the background. Donnhoff is without question one of the stars of the vintage in 2011 and at every level their Rieslings are excellent and well crafted, so there is no going wrong in picking a wine rom this estate in the Nahe region, especially this lively and crisp white that delivers pure Riesling goodness and in the modern dry fashion. 2010 was very hard on the estate QbA and Kabinett wines with harsh acidity, but 2011 is great and makes these same wines fantastic and super values, so matter what style you prefer 2011 is a vintage to buy up.
($26 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($22.95)
2010 Hocus Pocus, Syrah Santa Barbara County.
Peter Hunken leads the way here, making the Hocus Pocus Syrah from select lots of quality grapes. He is pals with Sashi Moorman of Evening Land Vineyards and Stolpman, Jim Knight, and Chad Melville of Samsara and Melville, so he has super connections that make sure he gets great fruit for this tasty Syrah, much like he has done at Holus Bolus. The 2010 Hocus Pocus, Syrah is from the Star Lane Vineyard in the Santa Maria area, and this vintage shows a real classic Syrah profile with with black and blue fruits, black olives, garrique, pepper and melted licorice notes. This is a pure and intriguing wine that has vivid flavors and wonderful vigorous energy with blueberry compote, cassis and tangy plum leading the way and lingering on the long finish. With bright acidity and refined tannins this groovy Syrah should drink well for 3 or 4 years easy.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2010 Brewer-Clifton, Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills.
The latest Brewer-Clifton Pinot is a classic beauty, and shows the terroir and talent of the winemaking to near perfection, it is a joyful experience no question. Steve Clifton and Greg Brewer are only getting better as they refine their style and have more control of the vineyards and the Santa Rita Hills line of Chard and Pinot continues to be the benchmark for the region and are fantastic quality and value wines. Both Steve and Greg have confided that these wines get the best barrels of selected vineyard sites, and in fact are their flagship wines, with excellent fruit coming in from vines including Mount Carmel and 3D Vineyards, both monopole sites farmed by Greg Brewer and his team. Brewer-Clifton has moved away from any new oak on their whole line, focusing on fruit and balance to give the wines the inner harmony and purity they certainly show, especially these 2010’s which are rich and graceful in every way. The whole cluster fermentation on the pinot gives exotic flavors and the stems add spice and aromatics, while the neutral French oak smooths out the tannins leaving a round and silky wine. The nose is perfumed with rose petals, grenadine and red currants leading to a lush palate of red fruits that include dark cherry, pomegranate, raspberry and plum while hints of Asian tea and spices float in the background with mineral and licorice notes. A lengthy finish completes this pleasure packed Pinot Noir from the kings of the Santa Rita Hills.
($35 List.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Elio Altare, Barbera d’Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
Altare’s wines are legendary and while everyone lusts after his famed Barolo, this beautiful and refined Barbera d’ Alba offers maximum pleasure and is a super value for such a wonderful wine. This 2010 vintage is full of flavor and has near perfect balance and a terrific lingering finish with deep layers and bright focus. I’ve always been a sucker for Barbera and long believed it was one of the best buys in the wine business, and this wine just proves the point all over again, plus in recent times I have found Barbera to have some cellar aging potential, even though I recommend enjoying young and often. Altare’s Barbera comes from Barolo country and has serious structure and is a vibrant example of this under-rated grape, and the vintage 2010 looks to be a classic year for Barbera in the region. The nose is still youthful with grapey crushed berries, spicy spring flowers leading to a fresh palate of blackberry, currants and dark plum while zesty acidity and spicy notes add interest, and then licorice and lavender layers unfold before a crisp finish and lingering fruit stays a long time in a haunting fashion. This is pure and lovely Barbera from a top producer that gets the very best from his vines, making it a not to be missed treat.
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Leitz, Riesling “Dragonstone” QbA, Drackenstein Rudesheimer, Rheingau.
This yellow fruited Riesling from the Drackenstein, or Dragonstone is a wonderful expression of the unique quartzite, clay and slate soils that these grapes are grown on above the Rhein between Rudesheim and Assmannhausen. Leitz has his own block to farm and source from this terroir that are on steep well drained slopes facing southeast which allows plenty of sunlight giving good ripeness to the wine. I have been luck enough to have walked these breathtaking vineyards that overlook the Rhein and Rhein Islands and back up to a hilltop forrest that is popular with hikers and wildlife. The 2011 Dragonstone is fruity and fresh with loads of acidity and bright flavors that include mango, yellow peaches, tangerine and spiced apple while hints of lime flowers, honeydew and mineral essence linger. With a touch of sweetness and a nice round body this wine is drinking great now, but should develop more complexity and character over the next few years. I enjoyed this beauty with a spicy Korean BBQ meal and it was near perfect and it is an enjoyable summer sipping wine with low alcohol which makes for a good lunch or picnic quaffer too.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($18.95)
2010 Sheldon, Graciano, Lodi, California.
Graciano, one of the lesser known Rioja red grapes is a rare find in California, though there are a few plots that provide wonderful grapes to a few winemakers, including the Ripkin Vineyard in Lodi that Sheldon sources for this wonderful and exotic red. Graciano is also know as Tintilla, as found in the remote Canary Islands, where it is a stand alone wine more so than in Rioja where it more often than not is a small part of the blended wine, it also is found in the Sherry region of Spain. The Sheldon’s are convinced that it is best to use it as a single varietal and the results achieved so far are very compelling, as the wine is almost an instant sell out with their mailing list. The 2010 vintage was tiny, only about 50 cases or 2 Barrels were made, and at this time very very few cases remain at the winery, worse is that 2011 doesn’t look like a wine will be made, so I suggest a rush to their tasting room or website to get yours now. The 2010 is full bodied with lovely perfume, silky texture and grapey red fruits while subtle red spices and lavender notes float in the background. This red is graceful and pleasing with old world charm and delicate balance and a long fruity finish.
($42 Est) 92 Points, grapelive