2009 Domaine Courbis, Cornas “Champelrose” Rhone Red, France.
It is hard not to really enjoy this Courbis Cornas with the ripe and rich fruit and smooth oak notes, though it was less thrilling than some of the 2009 and 2010’s that I’ve tried. The 2009 Domaine Courbis, Cornas “Champelrose” is a very good wine, on the modern style with lots of reds fruits showing now and feels lush on the palate with dried currants, cherry and blueberry notes. I found this bottle at the System Bolaget in my friend’s town in Sweden and we shared it with dinner where it put lots of smiles all around the table, so it could not have been much more successful and it was very pleasing throughout dinner, and it went fast even with those that don’t enjoy wine that often. There wine gathers body and complexity with air showing a nice spice and mineral side with darker berry and licorice flashes as well. It was nice to discover Courbis again after not having one for almost a decade, and it was exciting to see it in Sweden while on vacation.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2009 Marziano Abbona, Barbera D’ Alba “Rinaldi” Piedmonte, Italy.
This could be one of the best Barberas that I’ve had to date, and with out any question a stunning wine that shows this grape at it’s very best. Marziano Abbona just plain and simply make fantastic wines from their Roero Arneis to their famed Barolo, not forgetting the striking set of Dolcetto wines, but this Rinaldi Barbera is flat out gorgeous with purity of fruit and depth of flavors. Richly textured and layered, the 2009 Marziano Abbona Barbera D’ Alba “Rinaldi” shows blackberry, plum and dark currant fruits with hints of anise, mineral and violets. There is touches of cranberry which shows the balancing acidity and the finish has spices, herbs and incense notes.
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2006 Ridge Vineyards, Grenache “Lytton Estate” Dry Creek Valley.
This is a very nice and ripe Grenache from Ridge that shows hearty fruit, spice and lush texture. The addition of 10% Petite Sirah and 10% Zinfandel helps with color and palate intensity, plus giving a bit of tannins and a lift to this lavish wine. The nose shows a grenadine and floral tone while the fruit is very mouth filling and sweetly flavored with boysenberry, pie filling, raspberry and plum layers with hints of strawberry jam, licorice, subtle spice and oak notes. Ridge has been offing limited production wines through their wine club and at their tasting rooms, and you should visit whenever you get the opportunity.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Peay Vineyards, Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast.
A re-visit of the lovely 2010 Peay Sonoma Coast Pinot brings even more pleasure than my first go round, as it has gained quite a bit in the last 4-6 months. This entry level bottling from Vanessa Wong, Nick and Andy Peay is so pretty and stylish that it just begs to be drunk now with a light delicate perfume and round texture. The seductive bouquet of roses and violets leads to crushed stones, loam, apple skin and bright raspberries. A tangy core of black cherry and plum fruit stays throughout and lingers on the finish while a zesty streak of acidity lifts the flavors and should soften nicely with another year in bottle, though the freshness is wonderful and adds detail to the wine, so don’t be afraid to enjoy this beauty now.
($40 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2010 Marzaiola, Lacrima di Morro D’ Alba DOC (Terre Monte Schiavo) Marche, Italy.
Still a lesser known grape and a quietly beautiful region, Lacrima di Morro D’ Alba in the Marche, is an interesting and delightful red wine that offers true terroir and are very under valued. Siena imports of San Francisco brings in the Marzaiola and I recommend you looking for this delicious gem as it is super good and very fairly priced. This vintage is darkly colored, brightly fruited and beautifully perfumed starting with acacia flowers, violets and rose oil which lead to a tangy and fresh palate of bing cherry, plum and blueberry with a nice saline umami quality and zippy acidity keeping things vibrant and alive. Not overly complex or thought provoking, but really fun and easy to love.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2009 Piedrasassi, Syrah Central Coast.
This is crazy good Syrah, and remarkably northern Rhone in style with intense verve and spicy stem infused flavors that really taste more like Cornas than Santa Ynez! Sashi Moorman, yes you have heard his name a lot lately, who makes Evening Land and Stolpman wines, has developed his Piedrasassi label into a cutting edge and almost a cult label for those that want interesting and textured Syrah. The 2009 Piedrasassi Central Coast Syrah is a mineral and chalky wine with beautiful medium weight body and lovely detail also has loads of complexity and vigor. The nose has violets, cassis, black olives and white pepper leading to a palate of blueberry, plum, cherry and dried currants with tangy mint, sweet herbs, cracked pepper, licorice and lavender oil. This wine saw a long time in neutral wood, but it is fresh, vibrant and classy with only the slightest of oak notes framing this wonderful wine. The acidity and tannins add structure and lift, so it can be enjoyed now, though I suspect it will fill out and gain depth over the next 2-3 years and drink great for a decade. The new bottle shape and retro look to the Piedrasassi are cool too, but honesty it is all about the wine and you should search this one out, it is super delish.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2006 Alana-Tokaj, Tokaji Aszueszencia, Dessert Wine, Hungary. (375ml)
This utterly amazing sweet wine is hand made from whole clusters of Zéta, Muscat, Hárslevelű and Furmint grapes from the best hillside vines available to Alana-Tokaj, a small artisan producer coming off some impressive awards, including Best Sweet Wine Gold Medal in Hong Kong 2011. Words have little meaning when you taste a wine this profound and stunning, I can say this might be the best ever sweet wine I’ve had, equalling the 1983 Chateau D’ Yquem, and well if I’m honest, it might truly be better. This is a wine that gives sensations and emotion in waves with a striking nose of fresh apricots, mineral and orange flowers and clove honey with layers of pineapple, passionfruit, apples, pears and the mentioned apricots and honey with fresh tangerine, lemon and fig as well. This pure and balanced Tojaji is as good as it gets and should drink for another 20-40 years with joyous magic, this golden nectar is the stuff of legends and dreams, totally fantastic. This naturally made Tokaji Aszueszencia was fermented using only local native yeasts was aged 40 months in new Kadar Hungarian oak barriques with a light toast and a cuvee blend from 11 unique lots, and has bottled by hand, then aged a further 17 months before release. No question this is one of the top wines I’ve tried this year, and a huge Thank You to Alana-Tokaj for the sample, I’m grateful indeed.
($150 Est.) 98+ Points, grapelive
2010 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir “Temperance Hill Vineyard” Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This striking and immensely pleasing Pinot Noir is one of the highlights from this difficult year in the Willamette Valley, so don’t shy away from the St. Innocent Temperance Hill as it really is a stunner. The 2010 Temperance shines with heady floral tones and minerality along with impressive depth and lovely layers of fruit with violets, dried roses and lavender/pepper herby spices leading to beautifully pure cherry, plum and mountain berry fruits. There is an earthy/truffle note and touches of subtle oak that add complexity and a silky texture that is hard not to fall in love with. St. Innocent has been off the radar, but I can’t imagine why as these wines are some of the best out there and continue to blow me away every vintage and I recommend sampling them as soon as possible as there are joyous Pinots and very elegant in every way.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Melville, Syrah “Verna’s Estate Vineyard” Santa Barbara County.
The Melville Verna’s Syrah is always a great choice, a wine that offers classy and quality no question, and a wine that speaks of place and vintage as well, especially this 2010 version that is lighter and much more delicate than the two prior years. The 2010 Melville Syrah Verna’s shows a Pinot Noir like body and subtlety, drinking very easy and elegant with a nose of flowers and soft peppery spices with a touch of loamy earth, game and truffle leading to a refined palate of blueberry, plum and cherry fruits. There is some white pepper, lavender and licorice that runs throughout this silky Syrah that begs to be drunk young and often.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2007 Heitz Cellar, Cabernet Sauvignon “Trailside Vineyard” Napa Valley.
The Heitz Cabernet lineup from 2007 all are wonderful wines, from the basic Napa to the intense Martha’s, but I do think the 2007 Trailside stands out in the group and is a wonderful and classic wine that is as pure as can be. Not as minty as the famed Martha’s, the new Trailside has plenty of licorice and creme de cassis both on the nose and on the palate with touches of sage spice, cedar notes to go with rich blackberry and cherry fruit while fine grained tannins hold things together. Being such a late release has really help the wine fill out and soften the texture allowing for much greater pleasure and making for a more rewarding experience. Heitz has seemingly got back to the top echelon of winegrowing and is re-establishing their creditability as a top Napa producer, especially with this set of 2007 Cabs. This 2007 Heitz Trailside is dark, lush and lengthy with subtle wood and refined structure, while still being a bold Napa style wine, with hints of tobacco leaf, black currants and minerality adding interest. While not a bargain wine, the Heitz Trailside is still about $30 less than the Silver Oak Napa Valley, and is much more interesting by comparison. Drink now and for the next 5 to 8 years.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive