2007 Ridge Vineyards, Syrah/Grenache, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley.
This winery only red from Ridge is worth the trip to either Monte Bello or Lytton Springs, and it is a succulent full bodied wine that gives tons of pleasure. Interesting it was made by the Monte Bello winemaking team, and while it is rich and intense it does have that slightly more subtle touch that you find in the Monte Bello wines and it delivers beautiful fruit and depth with earthy complexities. The nose is full of red and black fruits, flowers, spice and touches of game and a nice mineral tone leading to much the same on the thick palate with blackberry, blueberry and boysenberry leading the way along with crushed stones, grenadine and wild herbs. The oak is very shy, perfectly softening the tannins and framing the wine without showcasing itself. There is touches of licorice, meat and liqueur and pepper that add to the mix in this American Rhone style wine that waves the California flag proudly, but pays homage to the old world all the same. This wine is super enjoyable and of top quality, I recommend grabbing a few bottles if you get to Ridge, or join their great wine club program to this and other intriguing wines that are not openly available outside the tasting room.
($ N/A) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Arianna Occhipinti, SP68 IGT Rosso, Sicily.
Arianna Occhipinti, the superstar Natural Wine artisan winemaker, has crafted another super wine in the 2011 vintage with this version of her SP68 Rosso. A blend of Nero d’ Avola and Frappato, the 2011 Occhipinti, SP68 red is delightfully fresh and shows juicy red fruits, bright flavors and has a refined medium weight, making for an easy wine to love and a nice lighter style that goes with almost any foods. The nose is tangy with wild flowers, sweet herbs leading to a palate of lingonberry, raspberry, mulberry and strawberry fruits with hints of lavender, blueberry skin and subtle mineral tones, finishing zesty and dry. Arianna’s latest set of wines are focused, clear and transparent with vivid fruit and nice modest alcohol, all are under 13% and they all are remarkably tasty, I recommend getting some quickly as her fame makes these wines disappear fast, and drink them young and fresh.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($24.95)
2011 Arianna Occhipinti, SP68 IGT Sicilia Bianco, Italian White.
Arianna’s SP68 Bianco is a blend of Zibibbo plus Albanello, a rare native varietal, and it is a pure and fresh wine that shows heady perfume of jasmine, sweet dried herbs and zesty citrus. Zibibbo is the local name for a type of the Muscat grape. The palate is minerally dry and vivid with the palate giving light apple and peach notes masking this bright and brisk white a joy for summer and for many subtle or delicate dishes. At about 12% alcohol this wine is easy and very refreshing that makes it a wonderful picnic or afternoon sipper, and those looking for natural wines and or low sulphates this wine from Occhipinti is a great choice. As with all of the Occhipinti wines they get rare quick so don’t wait long to find this one, it will sell out fast.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Bibi Graetz, Casamatta Bianco IGT Toscano, Italy.
An artist, Bibi Graetz of Italian/Norwegian heritage, is also a fine and renown winemaker in Tuscany where he makes some amazing native reds on his estate, but he also makes this Casamatta Bianco which is a lovely and fun white. Made from Vermentino, Trebbiano and Muscat this cuvee comes from vines grown in the Maremma region of Tuscany, near the coast where Vermentino does best. The subtle Trebbiano and floral Muscat add to the mix here, though the body and flavors owe more to the glorious Vermentino core in this energy packed wine that while mostly simple is very delicious and has plenty of mineral tones and vibrant acidity to keep this fresh with peach, jasmine, lime and nectarine all playing parts along with chalk, lemon/line and fresh herbs. This crisp and bright white rounds out on the palate, but makes for a lighter summer wine to enjoy with picnics or seafood.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine Pinson, Chablis “Montmain” Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
This classic Domaine makes wonderful old school Chablis that are loaded with rustic charm and character, and this beautiful Montmain is a winner from a fantastic vintage. The 2010 Pinson Montmain shows vibrant acidity and is filled with mineral essences leading with a nose of white flowers and chalk like rocky tones that turn steely on the palate with bright lime, green apple and hints of hazelnut, smoke and white peach. The 2010 Montmain saw about 9 months in oak, but you would not know that, such is the subtle expression that is in evidence, and over all the tension and thrust of this serious wine shines throughout. The finish is long with vivid lemon and wet stones with that steely crispness, giving me reason to believe this Chablis has some good aging potential and should gain with a bit of cellar time. Domaine Pinson has a rabid following in the UK and get huge praise in their wine press, including Decanter, but are a sleeper here in the States, offering a great value when you can find them. Imported by Charles Neal in San Francisco.
($36 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2009 Flux, Proprietary Red (by Mark Herold) California.
Mark Herold’s personal label of wines, after leaving his famed Merus and making the wines at Kamen and Kobalt, is a great set of Rhone based wines, especially nice is this Grenache blend the 2009 Flux Red. Made mostly with Grenache with doses of Syrah and other black grapes the Flux is a rich and flowing wine with dark berry, grenadine, currant and plum layers while pepper, lavender and anise add life and complexity to this fruit driven wine. The 2009 Flux has about 14.5%, but feels vibrant and fresh with everything in balance and it finishes with some nice mineral tones and stays focused throughout never straying to pruney or overripe. This effort is a welcome style and we give pleasure to his fans and to the drinkers of European wines. The Flux is a most try for Grenache and or Chateauneuf fans and it offers a great value for the artisan quality found here.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2007 Socre, Barbaresco DOCG, Cuneo, Piedmonte, Italy.
This remarkably pure Barbaresco is refined and full of vibrant layers that include candied cherries, tangy plum, truffles, tarry briar notes, herbs and anise with a nice streak of minerallity. I have not had Socre prior, and I was very impressed with the quality of what I tasted and it is a clear and vivid Nebbiolo that is impeccably balanced and firmly structured with acidity and tannins, in a classic way. The intention of making an honest wine that shows the grape and terroir was achieved and without question it should drink nicely for another decade giving loads of pleasure and developing Burgundy like character and gain in bouquet and secondary elements like tea spices and dried flower notes that are only just hinted at now. This subtle Barbaresco may get overlooked, but for those that have it will be rewarded with a lovely wine that speaks of place and the elegance of quiet charms.
($45-50) 93 Points, grapelive
2008 Silver Oak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley. (August 4th Release)
The most fruit driven and forward this wine has been since the nineties with pretty ripe blackberry, cherry and red currants up front with creamy smooth tannins, cedar notes and toasty oak add to the pleasure while tangy dil, vanilla and tobacco leaf add complexity. This is a very solid vintage from Silver Oak’s Alexander Valley Cabernet and it should drink well for a decade. After the last few vintages, which were lean and rather, frankly, unpleasant Silver Oak needed to really raise there game, both here in Alexander Valley, and in Napa, and it looks like they have, which I think is a good thing for the wine business in general, and it is nice to see a great label make a worthy wine again. There are lots of wines in this price class, or lower that are better, but this is a very good Cabernet that will make a lot of people very happy.
($70 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
Avail August 4th, 2012
www.sfwtc.com (Pre Sale $59.95)
2007 Di Bruno, Sangiovese “Stolpman Vineyard’ Santa Ynez.
Don’t miss this lush and vibrant red from Bruno D’ Alfonso, former Sanford winemaker, from grapes that come from the famed Stolpman Vineyard, one of the best vineyards in California. D’ Alfonso has been doing small lots of artisan wines since 1995, and he now makes wine with his wife Kris Curran, the ex Sea Smoke winemaker, so you know he has a handle on some great fruit and this Sangiovese is a very pleasurable red that is also a super value. The 2007 Di Bruno, Sangiovese “Stolpman Vineyard” is full and plush with blackberry, cherry and strawberry fruit with a good juicy and plumy texture, while classic Sangiovese acidity keeps things fresh and lively. There are notes of sweet tobacco leaf, lavender and cedar shavings along with smooth oak notes, while ripe tannins add a nice dry finish. This wine is very interesting on it’s own, but will really come alive with food, try with BBQ, Pasta dishes and or lamb. While you’ll not think you are drinking Brunello, it is a great California expression of this classic Tuscan grape.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 Bohemian Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Estate Freestone, Russian River Valley.
This is the best yet from the Cleary’s (Tom & Sue) Bohemian Vineyard near the tiny hamlet of Freestone in the western most part of the Russian River Valley, and it certainly is one of the prettiest 2010 vintage Pinots from the region that I have sampled to date. This wine shows rich and vivid fruit layers, silky textures and balancing acidity, making for an interesting and elegant wine that is sweet spot for all Pinot lovers. I tasted this wine in a lineup that included Williams Selyem, a Rochioli Vineyard wine and a Walter Hansel, and it bested them all, a huge surprise conceding the quality of the wines sampled, I can fully recommend this 2010 Bohemian Pinot to drink now and for the next few years, it is truly a lovely and complete wine that deserves attention. The nose is full of red berries, truffle and rose petals with hints of toast oak and mineral spice leading to a round giving palate of plum, red berry and a beautiful cherry fruit core with a hint of loamy earth, tea spices, mocha and cola bean. Everything is smooth and focused with no rough edges and a nice lift from the acidity and a long lingering finish, this wine really shows purity and class, kudos to the those involved in the vineyard and the cellar, in what was not an easy year. Just released, July 2012.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($39.95)