2008 Abiouness, Pinot Noir “Pommard Clone” Stanly Ranch, Carneros.
Nicole Abiouness is a name to write down and or tuck away in your memory, her wines are very intriguing and she looks set to be a star, especially with her Pinot Noir, like this totally seductive 2008 Stanly Ranch Pinot. This wine is delicately detailed and beautiful with vigor, texture and sublime balance showing the very best in Carneros terroir and highlights her talented touch. This Pommard Clone selection gives wonderful spicy red fruit character, rose petal perfume, pretty ruby color and a sexy sweet and savory quality with bing cherry, briery raspberry, poached plum and tangy herb/spice notes. The wood is subtle and frames this lighter medium weighted wine perfectly and there is plenty of soft acidity to keep things driving and alive. The finish is lengthy, but fresh with a hint of saline and truffle adding to the lingering fruit. This Pinot is a serious and impressive effort from a young winemaker on the rise, and with her experience working the cellar for John Kongsgaard behind her, she looks set to produce even better wines in the future, definitely a label to watch.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Ostertag, Pinot Blanc “Barriques” Alsace, France.
Andre Ostertag is making some fantastic wines, and this barrel aged Pinot Blanc is a stunner with subtle elegance, energy and sublime balance. This charming white is dry and lean, but has a smooth texture and plenty of rich details to seduce you. The nose has citrus and apple fruits, a hint of mineral, nuts and honey leading to a bright palate that is both fresh and pleasingly lush showing the deft winemaking touch to make a seamless wine full of character and class. The mouth delivers white peach, honeyed pear, nectarine and lemon/lime notes along with touches of apple butter and wet stones. This Pinot Blanc lacks for nothing and is a remarkable example of what this grape can do when treated right and it is very flexible going with many dishes, though it might be best with cured ham or roast chicken/turkey.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com
2009 Bodegas Hacienda Monasterio, Ribera del Duero, Spain.
This amazingly dense and full bodied red is thick with almost a dry port feel on the palate and super long finish that just almost never stops. The 2009 Hacienda Monasterio is made up of mostly Tempranillo, but like Pingus, has Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot, making it a very much a Bordeaux style wine and at about 15% it certainly has ripe and powerful fruit, but refined sweet tannins make it lush and smooth. The nose has classic mocha, graphite and fruit compote with floral notes as well, while the palate is loaded with blackberry, cherry and cassis with touches of sugar plums, new leather, bitter coco, licorice and cedar spice, plus hints of fine tobacco, vanilla and smoky oak shadings. This modern Ribera will entertain and give lots of drinking pleasure over the next few years, and be sure to enjoy with food, especial duck, lamb or prime rib. This is a big expressive wine that s not shy or overly elegant, but it is sinfully good and lots of fun.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2010 Copain, Chardonnay “Tous Ensemble” Anderson Valley.
It was a great surprise to find Copain’s lovely Chardonnay by the glass at my local favorite bistro, Central Market in Petaluma and I enjoyed a carafe of it over dinner. While I’ve always been impressed with Copain’s Pinot and Syrah wines, it has taken me a while to be seduced by their whites, but this 2010 Tous Ensemble from Anderson Valley is a wonderful Chardonnay that gives lots of pleasure and elegance. The nose is bright and mineral laced somewhat like Chablis, but with a bit more tropical fruit essence which leads to a medium weight palate of pear and apple with hints of lemon, citrus flowers and melon add to the clean purity of this Chardonnay. As it warms it keeps it’s mineral and wet stone streak, but it adds fig, clove and hazelnut. The acidity keeps things racy and fresh throughout and the neutral oak gives only a kiss of wood that leaves scarcely a flash of spice and vanilla.
($24-28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Coronica, Malvasia Istria, Croatian White.
Malvasia is way underrated in my humble opinion, and this lovely white from Croatia made from the less floral Malvasia Istria vatical is a stunning example of how wonderful this grape can be. Coronica is in Istria in the northwestern region of Croatia and this unique terroir helps make for an interesting and savvy wine. The 2011 Coronica Malvasia Istria is bursting with drive and energy and delivers an almost Chablis like vibrancy and mineral rich character. The nose has a hint of lime and orange blossom and white peach leading to a chalky palate of lime, tangerine and wet stones with good acidity and a touch of spice. This very well crafted wine gains some body and richness with air, but stays crisply dry throughout and flashes of briny and sea salt add to the whole to good effect. This white would make for a great companion for oysters and any delicate fish dish, as well as soft cheeses.
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Herencia Altes, Garnatxa Nerga, Spanish Red.
This wine is absolutely delicious and rewarding with fruit, texture, spice and length, and best of all it is a steal! Eric Solomon imports this wine and it should be readily available as it has just come out, and their white is just as good, so be sure to check them out. The 2011 Herencia Altes Garnatxa Nerga, made from Grenache is loaded with black and red fruits, pepper, kirsch and mineral notes starting with dried flowers, lavender and truffle it explodes on the palate with raspberry, boysenberry, pomegranate and plum fruits while dusty earth, spice and garrigue notes add complexity. It would be hard to not love this wine at twice the price, and fans of Gigondas should really delight in this wines similar characteristics, even though it is a pure Spanish gem.
($11 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
1986 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes, Premier Cru Classe, Sweet White Bordeaux, France.
A friend celebrating his birthday opened this to share his special day and what a treat, especially to taste a lovely aged Sauternes in it’s prime. The 1986 Lafaurie is still vibrant and fresh with bright and tangy fruit that has hints of honey, but not overly sugary and a wine of subtle charm and good depth. The nose is still a bit shy, but the palate is refined and shows candied tropical fruits, lemon, orange peel, tangerine and stone fruit fleshiness with warm creamy vanilla and sweet spices. There is good tension here and remarkable lift, and while really super now, it does have plenty of time to get even better. I was grateful to share in such a fine sweet wine and will keep an eye on sauternes like this in the future.
($125-180 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com
2011 Château Pesquie, Cotes du Ventoux “Terrasses” Rhone Valley Red, France.
This vibrant and deeply flavored red, made from Grenache and Syrah is a real winner, and gives amazing drinking pleasure for the price. Chateau Pesquie is totally reliable for solid wines and I’ve been a fan for ages, but this vintage is even more stunning for balance and interest with dark fruits, spice and length. The 2011 Terrasses shine from nose to finish with violets, warm earth, pepper and loads of black and red fruits that flow across the palate with refined tannins and lifting acidity. The plum, cassis and red berry fruit coat the mouth and the linger on the aftertaste. This wine delivers everything you’d want and will drink nicely for 2-3 years easy, I suggest you keep an eye open for this one.
($15 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2009 Chateau La Roque, Pic St Loup “Cuvee les Vieilles Vignes de Mourvedre” Languedoc, France.
Chateau La Roque is one of my favorite producers and I have long admired the quality and soul found in their wines, especially this 100% Mourvedre red from Pic Saint Loup. This richly textured and deeply colored wine is super lavish and ripely flavored with an explosion of black and red fruits on the palate along with chewy tannins, mineral and wild herbs. The extroverted special Mourvedre cuvee from Chateau La Roque is mouth filling and hedonistic from start to finish and has a real Bandol like feel and even hints at Chateauneuf-du-Pape, making for a most pleasing red that way over delivers for the price. The palate flowers deep with blackberry, cherry liqueur, blueberry and plum fruit, touches of pepper, cassis and a sweet and savory meaty element. The finish is amazingly long and fruit driven to the end, while touches of burnt earth, garrigue and dried flowers add complexity.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($16.95)
2010 Cru, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley by Vineyard 29.
Vineyard 29’s tasty second label Cabernet, Cru is a very pleasurable wine that possesses rich fruit, complex layers and delightful balance. The latest release, 2010 is really a full wine with dark intensity and good length, and while not cheap it is still a pretty good value when compared to other wines in it’s price class. The nose is Bordeaux like with black fruits, earth, graphite, smoky oak and hints of black olives leading to a vigorous palate of blackberry, currants, licorice, cedar, spice box and hints of mineral. There is a still backbone of tannins and while perfectly elegant, it should do it well to be aged a year in bottle at least and the most likely window of best drinking should be 2015-2018. This is a wine that also gives lots of clues to the vintage, so I’d say the top wines at Vineyard 29 look to be some of their best yet.
($59-70 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive