2009 Château de Puligny-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet AC, White Burgundy, France.
This historic Chateau and estate has recently been taken over by Etienne de Montille, though he has long been the consultant there, and looks to re-capture it’s glories, even though it has always turned out rewarding wines like this beauty of a Chardonnay. The Puligny-Montrachet 2009 is a polished and focused white with class and depth beyond it’s price with vigorous fruit, minerallity and acidity all well balanced and driving on the palate. The nose is developed already with honeyed pear, hazelnuts, matchstick and citrus flowers that lead to a palate of lemon, apple and wet stones, hazelnut, grapefruit, golden fig and clove notes adding depth. The medium body fills out in the mouth and there is good tension, saline and length in this fine Puligny. Enjoy this wine now and for the next 3-5 years, and be sure to watch for the 2008 and the 2010 vintages as well, as they might offer a bit more intensity and pleasure.
($60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2009 G.D. Vajra, Barbera D’ Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
This stunning Barbera is one to look for, and sadly it is not easy to find, but surly rewarding to those lucky few that do. G.D. Vajra is really the cat’s meow when it comes to quality wines from this iconic region with a fantastic lineup of wines that includes everything from Barolo to Riesling! The Vajra Freisa is mind-blowing if you are looking for rarities and the Dolcetto is another gem, but I think the sleeper is this wonderfully crafted Barbera that is a pure as it gets and showcases the grape in it’s best light making for a wine that delivers pleasure far above the normal expectations of the varietal which still seems to get a bit overlooked by the mainstream wine drinker, but is sublime when done right. The 2009 G.D. Vajra Barbera D’ Alba is deep in color and flavor with a purple/garnet hue and richly layered with blackberry, currant and cherry fruits leading the way with hints of spice, anise, mineral and savory herbs and loamy earthy notes. A fresh core of acidity keeps things vibrant and focused bringing all attention on it’s balance and pretty details. Drink this wine now and through 2018, as it is great now, though there is room for some interesting complexities to develop over the next 5 years.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Bedrock, Syrah, North Coast.
Morgan Twain-Peterson, son of Ravenswood founder/winemaker Joel Peterson is making a big name for himself with his micro winery Bedrock, he is specializing in small lots from historic and old vines in Sonoma County. While his dad pioneered single vineyard Zins, Morgan is more of a Rhone Ranger at heart (though he does make some tasty Zinfandel wines too) and has a huge love for Syrah and does a number of interesting bottlings making some terroir driven cuvees that usually include a number of old vine grapes. This 2011 North Coast Syrah is the result of his declassifying lots from Alder Springs and Hudson, along with tiny amours from selected vines, plus a touch of Viognier from Steiner Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain. With such heritage rich fruit and passionate winemaking, Morgan has crafted an entry level beauty with this lovely young Syrah that shows refined structure and is darkly colored and flavored with loads of blueberry, black cherry and tangy boysenberry, while plum sauce, fennel and pepper play in the background along with hints of game and golden raisins. There is racy vintage influenced acidity and the oak is soft allowing the fruit to shine on it’s own.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2010 Booker, White Paso Robles.
Eric and Lisa Jensen’s Booker Winery is one of the most sought after Paso producers these days, right up there with Saxum, L’Aventure and Linne Calodo, with a great set of reds made from mostly Syrah and Grenache on their 72 acre estate on the favored westside of Paso. Eric worked with both Justin Smith of Saxum and Stephan Asseo of L’Aventure and their influence is apparent in the Booker wines much to their benefit, as they reveal beautiful textural richness and intensity. The Jensen’s also make this rare white cuvee, subtly called “White” and is made up of primarily Roussanne, but in this vintage it has about 25% Viognier, it is an unfiltered Cal Rhone style wine that reminds me of Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, which is high praise, as that is one of my all time favorite wines. This dynamic white starts with a bouquet that changes constantly in the glass with honeysuckle, orange and lemon marmalade, kiwi and a hint of smoke, but with air and a few swirls a more telling nose develops with bacon fat and licorice coming through along with a clarified butter creaminess while the palate has intense Roussanne power and force with apricot, stony notes, pear and exotic tropical notes leading the way along with tangerine, anise and tangy peach pit. The fruit is forward and mouth-filling giving the impression of a massive body, but it has good acidic grip and the wine never gets flabby or dull. Touches of soft french wood and a long finish make complete the amazing experience found in this wine, and it should develop more over the next 3-5 years.
($50 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com
2009 Y. et C. Contat-Grange, Maranges AC, Red Burgundy, France.
Importer Return to Terroir has found another small family producers to bring in to the States and the wines I’ve tried by them, Contat-Grange, are lovely and interesting Pinots from near Beaune, both a Santenay and this pretty Maranges that deliver impressive quality for a fair price. The 2009 Maranges is richly flavored and highlights the ripe and generous vintage with black cherry, truffle, sweet herbs and spicy layers. The nose is earthy and full of forest floor scents, red berries and fennel that leads to a plummy palate of cherry, raspberry and cranberry fruits, hints of meat, saline and chalky minerals add interest while silky tannins and mild acidity hold things together. Drink over the next 2-4 years, this is youthful pleaser, not a wine to age as it has limited potential to develop much more, but it is nice now.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2009 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Chablis “Foret” Premier Cru, White Burgundy.
Bernard Raveneau’s wines are some of the most celebrated wines in the world, and it is a massive gift to try these highly sought after Chablis that are usually snapped up by rabid collectors and passionate wine lovers, making them rarely seen. This 2009 Foret is one of the most accessible young Raveneau I’ve tried and think it may just be a wine that might be best to drink up in it’s youth. Clearly 2009, being a riper year plays a part, making for a touch less acidity than is more common in these Chablis and there is a developed nutty character coming through already more like a Chassagne than a fine Chablis. That all said, this is a beautiful wine and very complete and giving with exotic flavors and classic minerallity, the nose has hazelnut, white flowers and wet stones which lead to a palate of lemon curd, lime blossom, chalk, pear and white peaches. The is a wild note of tropical fruit and the lemony note lingers forcefully on the long finish. While not even close to the best Raveneau, this is a refined and pure Chablis with plenty of charms to enjoy, and for sure it was a wonderful treat to try, and it reminded me to save my pennies to secure some Raveneau in the future.
($130 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling “Anrecht” Zeltinger Himmelreich, Mosel, Germany.
One of the great white wines of the world, the Selbach-Oster Anrecht compares with Hermitage & Batard-Montrachet, though it might get overlooked by mainstream consumers it certainly ranks up there with some of the best values in top echelon of wine. The 2011 Anrecht might be the best white wine I’ve tasted this year and looks set to become a legendary Riesling of majestic proportions and offers a dizzying array of layers and amazing balance of extract, acidity and sweetness making for a wine that transcends definitions and expectations. This Riesling is as cerebral as a Red Burgundy and as joyous as the best vintage Champagne with everything a great wine should be and more. The 2011 Anrecht is a masterpiece, and Johannes Selbach’s talents shine through with every sip as does the glory of this block of vines in Zeltinger Himmelreich on the steep slopes above the Mosel, there is pure terroir and elegance in this vintage with stony minerallity, flinty spice, briny saline adding complexity to the vast fruit core. The nose starts with citrus flowers, mint and kiwi leading to slate and smoky notes before diving into the palate of white peach, pineapple, lime and green apple with apricot and honeyed grapefruit as well. The zesty acidity is riveting and the chalky mineral notes stay in the background while tangerine and tropical essences linger on finish that goes on forever. Sadly, it is very hard to put words together to really give the true pleasure delivered by this fantastic wine, I just suggest you get a few bottles and see for yourself, plus I highly recommend that you hold a bottle for a decade, the rewards look very promising.
($40 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($39.95)
2011 Domaine Amido, Lirac AC, Rhone Valley, France.
Wow! This is a tasty Rhone red that really over delivers with wonderful Grenache intensity and Chateauneuf like charms all for about $15, that is impressive wine for the buck. I was thrilled by the last vintage, so it is no fluke that Domaine Amido crafted another value priced gem and I say grab a case while it lasts. Charles Neal imports this winery and a big thank you to him for bringing in such a good wine at a fair price, I bet he could have asked a lot more and got it. The 2011 Domaine Amido Lirac is lush and giving with raspberry, boysenberry, pomegranate and plum fruits leading the way with hints of cassis, pepper spices, lavender and anise. There is good round layers and medium/full body with nice acidity and earthy elements in the background. This cuvee is mostly Grenache with Syrah, Mourvedre and a few other grapes chucked in, all of which add complexity to the whole.
($15 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($14.95)
2010 Domaine Maurice Charleux & Fils, Maranges Premier Cru “Les Clos Roussots” Red Burgundy, France.
Charles Neal’s portfolio of family Burgundy producers is fairly short, but he has certainly found a few gem and Domaine Maurice Charleux is really a worthy find, especially this delightful and classic red Burgundy from Maranges. The 2010 Charleux Maranges 1er Cru “Les Clos Roussots” is a lot of wine for the money and delivers real terroir and old world charms with earthy red fruits, minerallity and silky texture. The nose begins with truffle, briar and hints of leather and spice along with mixed berries leading to a cherry rich palate of raspberry, plum, black cherry and crabapple notes with fennel, tea spices and loamy earth. The acidity is not aggressive, but holds things nicely in place giving vigor and life to this medium bodied Pinot Noir that keeps your interest a long while with a lengthy and very pleasing finish.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Gruner Veltliner “Rotes Tor” Federspiel Wachau, Austria.
While Gruner has become almost a cliche or passe even, don’t think for a minute there aren’t some fantastic wines that deserve attention, especially this wonderful Hirtzberger Fedelspiel that while not cheap, is a great example of this fine dry varietal wine from the Wachau region of Austria along the Danube. The Wachau sits on the river west of Vienna and is mostly rocky hillsides, farmed with terraces, making for stressed vines that give great fruit complexity and the climate is cool, giving loads of fresh acidity. The terroir is unique and the wines reflect it to perfection and producers like Hirtzberger get the very best out of it, Hirtzberger is known to be one of the latest pickers for his dry wines, and that seems to give his wines an extra level flavor and more intensity. The 2011 Rotes Tor Gruner is fresh, crisp and almost spritzy with green apple, lemon/lime, melon and white peach pit flavors along with wet stones, almonds and a kiss of spice. This zesty Gruner Veltliner has plenty of interest and tangy layers to intrigue on it’s own, but I’m sure it is with food that this wine pulls out all of it’s charms, I would certainly enjoy it with some creamy cheeses and would like to give it a go with oysters. Not an easy wine to find, but I suggest keeping it in mind in case you do end up seeing it on a shelf, and enjoy it over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive