2011 Domaine Amido, Lirac AC, Rhone Red, France.
This fresh young Rhone red is super easy to love and very tasty with smooth rich fruit and is nicely balanced. Domaine Amido is new to me, imported by Charles Neal, who is on roll lately with some amazing small producers that are offering real interesting wines at great prices, and this Lirac, a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is a steal. For sheer pleasure and easy drinking this wine is a big winner with lush red fruits, stoney notes and peppery spices leading the charge on the palate with layers of raspberry, plum, dried currants, pomegranate, strawberry and zesty red citrus notes. A whiff of lavender, wild flowers and savory spices add interest, and I’m sure a subtle earthiness will emerge, but I enjoy the fresh clean flavors it shows now, and at this price I am sure I’ll be getting more than a few bottles myself. This is a very nice and fun wine, not overly serious or thick, but a bistro style wine to just open and relax with, no pretense here, just a joyful wine.
($15 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive
2009 Zepaltas, Chardonnay “Hanzell Vineyard” Sonoma Valley.
Ryan Zepaltas, winemaker at Siduri for many years, has been selected by the family that owns Hanzell to receive grapes from their historic vineyard in Sonoma Valley and he has done a fantastic wine from a block of old Wente clone that was planted in 1977. This tiny production hand crafted Chardonnay is as good as any Chard I’ve tried from this fabled site and honestly it is one of my top Chards of the year, and I think it is a stunning effort by Zepaltas. The Zepaltas wines are getting a lot of attention these days, especially the Pinot Noirs, and deservingly so, but his Chardonnay’s are lovely wines that sell out almost as fast. The 2009 Hanzell Chardonnay starts with lemon, kiwi and yellow peach fruit with citrus flowers, hazelnuts and subtle smoke and brioche leading to a balanced and nervy palate of apple, lemon curd and nectarine with great depth and fullness, though firmly held together with acidity and mineral tones. Flashes of honey, orange marmalade and wet stones add interest and the finish is bright with a touch of cream and vanilla spice, plus green apple and tropical fruit.
($42 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling “Graacher Domprobst” Spatlese, Mosel, Germany.
Johannes Selbach’s Graacher Domprobst Spatlese is a profound and stunning wine, and without question one of the great wines of the vintage. The level of extract, acidity and subtle sweetness are sublimely balanced and the mineral tones are as perfect as you could ever imagine in this magical Riesling. The 2011 Selbach-Oster Riesling Graacher Domprobst Spatlese offers up vitality, impressive structure, seamless layers and dramatic length with white roses, lime and orange flowers with crushed slate, trufflely brine and fresh peach leading the way. The palate flows with intensity showing apricot, lime, tropical essences and fruits with hints of apple and nectarine while zesty citrus and honeyed pear add interest in the background. This complex and complete Riesling is youthful and charming now, but it will gain with time in the cellar, but only if you can resist the compelling urges that this brilliant wine will surly give you, utterly fantastic from start to finish.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Laurent Combier, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge AC, Rhone Valley, France.
While 2011 is not as desirable as 2009 and 2010, it can throw a few surprises, and values your way, like this pretty and lively Syrah from Combier. The Domaine wines are richer and more intense, but these Laurent Combier offerings are very tasty and real bargains, they include a stylish and suave Marsanne and this 2011 Crozes Rouge. There is lots to like here with perfume, mineral tones and bright youthful fruit with plenty of acidity, all giving this ready to drink Syrah everything you’d want from a easy styled wine. The nose has violets, roses and crushed stones leading to a zesty palate of black cherry, raspberry and plum fruits along with hints of anise, fennel herbs and a touch of loamy earth while a streak of cracked pepper runs throughout. This wine finishes savory and crisp, but look for it to fill out and gain in texture over the next year and drink now through 2015.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2010 Dragonette Cellars, Grenache-Mourvedre-Syrah, Santa Barbara County.
This is a label to watch and Brandon Sparks-Gillis is making some fantastic wines, especially exciting is this Rhone style red from the 2010 vintage. Brandon, with experiences gained by working at Sine Qua Non, Torbreck and Fiddlehead, brings lots of talent to the table and it is reflected in this wonderful wine, and his others as well, which includes a great rose and lovely a Pinot Noir. The 2010 Grenache-Mourvedre-Syrah shows stunning purity and length with rich vibrant fruits, spice and mineral essences starting with a nose of grenadine, strawberry pie filling and lavender leading to a palate of boysenberry, plum and dark cherry fruit, peppery spices, mocha and dusty stones with hints of licorice and truffle. It is easy to tell this is from California, but it gives lots of Rhone character and the freshness is rewarding. One of the best Rhone style wines I’ve tasted this year, no question this is a stunning example and a super impressive wine.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2010 Fronton de Oro, Malpais, Gran Canaria DO, Canary Islands, Spain.
The Fronton de Oro Malpais is 70% Preto, with the remaining 30% divided evenly between Tintilla (Graciano) and Listán Negro. It is raised 4 months in French and American oak giving a bit more texture. Not much is written about Preto, but it seems to be more common in Dao region of Portugal and also found in the Asturias region of Spain where it is known as Albarin Nergo. Regardless of origins this grape makes for a racy and seductive red wine with medium weight and Pinot Noir like transparency and has exotic spice and floral notes along with volcanically charged minerallity. Every time I try the wines of Fronton de Oro I get geekier and geekier for these unique and rare treats, and this 2010 vintage seems to be the best yet, especially this 2010 Fronton de Oro Malpais from Gand Canary Island, the biggest of the Spanish Canaries which sit some 50 miles from the North African coast. The Malpais shows dried roses, hints of violets, red currants, cayenne pepper, chalky minerals and plum and strawberry fruits. Nice acidity, tannin and seriously saline elements help with lift and structure and push the fruit nicely and make this wine especially good with food, I’ve enjoyed it with sardines, pasta dishes and many different cheeses.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($26)
2010 De Forville, Nebbiolo d’ Alba “San Rocco” Piedmonte, Italy.
This beautiful Nebbiolo is classic in style and structure, in essence a pure wine full of true Barbaresco charm and grace. I am really becoming a fan of this winery, as I get a chance to try them, and this 2010 Nebbiolo especially excites with textured layers and firm acidity and tannins holding the clear fruit together nicely. The nose starts with dried roses and tea spices along with fresh cherries, mint and truffle before a palate of tangy plum, cherry and strawberry fruits while mineral, tar, licorice and earthy elements play in the background. This wonderfully focused wine will age nicely for many years, but I really dig it’s force and vigor now and would happily spend a few evenings exploring it further. Not many Nebbiolo’s deliver as much complexity, style and quality for this price, so definitely search out De Forville!
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2009 Copain, Syrah “Les Voisins” Yorkville Highlands.
This is one of the best yet from Wells Guthrie and is a world class Syrah from high elevation and cool climate sites which remind of the northern Rhone, but showing it’s own character. The 2009 Les Voisins Syrah is darkly fruited with blueberry, plum, boysenberry and cassis all playing roles in this layered wine with hints of bacon, meat and wild flowers going well with cracked pepper, licorice and mineral notes. This is a beautifully detailed wine that retains vibrant flavors with balancing acidity to go with the fleshy fruit and rich texture. This Syrah is an easy choice, and is over delivering at the modest price.
($34 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Valle Dell’ Acate “il Frappato” Vittoria Frappato DOC, Sicily, Italy.
Valle Dell’ Acate is located in Bidini, run by Gaetana Jacono who is another amazing woman, like Arianna Occhipinti down the road, that has elevated Sicily and this region of Vittoria to unbelievable heights. Valle Dell’ Acate is known for their elegance and quality the world over and their Cerasuolo di Vittoria is one of the great values of the Island, but it is the il Frappato that I found irresistible in a recent tasting of their wines. The 2011 il Frappato is fresh, vibrant and wrapped in a silky texture with clean detailed flavors that burst to life on the palate with wild strawberry, plum, lingonberry and zesty brambleberry fruits and peppery spices. There is a nice hint of mineral, anise and dried flowers that add to the whole on this balanced wine that delivers lots of entertainment and pleasure.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2008 Fattoria dei Barbi, Morellino di Scansano DOCG, Tuscan Red, Italy.
This beautiful and textured Sangiovese (Morellino) based red from the Maremma area on the Tuscan Coast is one of the most interesting and layered wines I’ve tried from the Scansano zone, which received it’s DOCG status from the 2007 vintage, proving again the quality of the region. This vintage of Barbi Morellino is pretty with wild flowers, lavender, mint and strawberry with a darker note on the full palate of blackberry and plum while tobacco leaf, cedar and mountain herbs all play roles in the background. Fattoria dei Barbi is a first class Brunello producer and makes a great array of reds, everything I tasted of their currant line up stood out for terroir and quality, but this wine is a marvel especially at the price.
($22 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($18.95)