2010 Domaine Robert-Denogent, Pouilly-Fuisse “La Croix” Vieilles Vignes, France.
This wine sizzles with intensity and vibrancy, and for me it is like a Grand Cru Chablis in character with laser like focus, mineral laced and surprisingly dense and lengthy. For those that like great white Burgundy, Robert-Denogent is a must have and these 2010 wines are sublime and mind-blowing, especially this 2010 La Croix Pouilly-Fuisse Old Vines which is just stunning start to finish and should age a decade or more with grace and detail. The nose bursts to life with citrus notes and lime blossoms, wet stones and matchstick leading to a zesty driving palate of lemon, grapefruit peel and apple apple, but at this stage it is all about acidity and mineral tones, though with air a underlying density and richness emerge with hints of clarified cream, pear and hazelnuts all coming out. This wine is griping and a stunning example of old vine Chardonnay at it’s best. Over the last decade Domaine Robert-Denogent has produced Pouilly-Fuisse that rivals the best from Puligny or Chassagne, or in some cases besting them by a wide margin, these are serious wines and seriously tasty as well.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Failla, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.
Ehren Jordan’s Failla label has steadily gathered momentum over the last few years and after leaving Turley Cellars his focus and passion in his own label seems sharper and the wines have reached another level, putting him up their with the top echelon of Pinot Noir artisans. Though he produces fantastic Syrah and Chardonnay, it really is all about Pinot Noir and his 2011 vintage looks to cement his place, after crafting a set of beauties from what was a very difficult year, especially his entry level Sonoma Coast bottling which after a bit of bottle age is really showing well and offers amazing detail and quality for the money. The 2011 Failla Sonoma Coast shines from the first whiff to the lingering finish with fine balance and verve, the nose has hints of cranberry, smoke, rose petals and tea spices which leads to a tasty palate of tangy cherry, raspberry, plum and red fleshy peach while hints of loamy earth, cedary spice and salty minerals add to the whole. The subtle wood and vibrant acidity never intrude, but add elegance and drive in this well crafted Pinot Noir. Lingering strawberry and dried currants add the the charm and while drinking super now, it should gain with another year in bottle and go another 5-8 years, giving plenty of pleasure along the way.
($44 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2009 Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Monthelie Red Burgundy, France.
This sexy Pinot Noir shows the vintage and place very well with textural pleasure, ripe fruit and a long finish with a hedonistic charm. There is a lot to love about this wine and it can be enjoyed right now and should drink nicely for another 3 to years with it’s density and richness. Etienne de Montille oversees the Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet wines and his talent and signature is written all over this fine Monthelie, an area that seems to be on the rise for quality and value. The nose is full of floral perfume, smoke, mineral spice and dried currants which leads to a round and silky palate of cherry, plum and bramble berry fruits, tea spice, truffle and chalky mineral essence. This is very direct and delightful Burgundy to be enjoyed now with silky tannins and good expansion in the mouth while retaining plenty of verve and brightness keeping things fresh. The finish has a hint of savory saline, earth and a long lingering wild strawberry note.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine Roulot, Monthelie AC, Red Burgundy.
Here is a lovely and complex Burgundy that shows refined winemaking and classic charms with a deep ruby color, earthy edginess and silky texture. The nose starts with muted red fruits, truffle, game and forest floor mulch notes which blow off in minutes to reveal floral and mineral essences plus a gathering of the fruit. Roulot’s 2010 Monthelie opens up to savory currants, plum and raspberry while a core of tangy cherry flows throughout with tea spice, dusty stones and a blast of juicy acidy. The wine really changes in the glass and feels the mouth and leaves a long creamy aftertaste with a touch of saline and strawberry. Roulot, as most know is one of the top White Burgundy winemakers crafting uber collectable Meursault with amazing verve and class, but I really enjoy his artisan touch with his Monthelie Bourgogne Rouge and highly recommend taking a bit of time searching this gem out.
($55 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2006 Costa di Bussia, Barolo “Luigi Arnulfo” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
While all of the Costa di Bussia wines deliver charm and value from Dolcetto to Barolo, it is without question the 2006 Barolo Luigi Arnulfo that stands out and delivers a world class performance. Jason Chietti of Siena Imports, the importer presented this wine and says the 2007 and 2008 follow up vintages of the Luigi are showing as well too, though I suspect this 2006 will be the one to hold on to with it’s structure and depth, I think it should drink well for another decade or two even, such is the balance and intensity. The 2006 Luigi Arnulfo Barolo from Costa di Bussia has classic terroir, style and Nebbiolo character, it is everything you’d ever want of this grape, wine and region with dusty red fruits, herbs, spices, tea like tannins, tar, licorice and mineral notes. The bouquet flashes violets, pressed rose petals and loamy earth at you before giving way to dried currants, baked plum and cherry fruits on the nervy palate that shows fine, but firm tannin, a kick of acidity and liquid stones, truffle and strawberry jam essence. There is a subtle savory note and a hint of iodine and sea salt which sets you up for a long, long finish that has a sweet herbs and framboise with a reminder of the violets lingering on the aftertaste. This is a very impressive Barolo and one that really shows near perfect focus and lots of verve, and it should evolve nicely over the years and years ahead.
($55 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2008 Boete, Cabernet Franc Reserve, Saunders Vineyard Estate, Carmel Valley.
A beautiful and silky Franc from my hometown in Carmel Valley, the 2008 Boete Reserve is showing extremely well right now with loads of pretty fruit, nice French oak notes and good verve and length. A long time fan of the Saunders and their hillside vineyards that sit high above the Carmel River a mile or so past the Carmel Valley Village, this vintage is maybe the most elegant and focused to date and is drinking well with black cherry, red currants and mixed berry fruits, cedar spice, mineral notes, cassis, mocha and sweet herbs with a hint of pepper and salted caramels. There is some strawberry liqueur and anise on the finish that adds to the pleasure and lingers on. This round and smooth Cabernet Franc is not as full bore as has been the case in the past, but the refined tannins and elegance are much more welcome and the beginnings of terroir and over all balance make this wine a real winner, especially at the price. This small family run vineyard is one to watch and I admire the direction and winemaking touch more than ever, bravo and kudos all round.
($26 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2004 Paul Chapelle & Filles, Puligny-Montrachet “Champgain” Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
Importer Beaune Imports, brought in a few cases of this wonderful mature White Burgundy from Paul Chapelle and it was a treat to try it again, as I had sampled this gem back in 2007, and it is at it’s very best now. Chapelle is one of the best secrets in fine White Burgundy and the prices are amazingly reasonable, especially for the quality on offer, like this lovely Premier Cru Champgain Puligny that sells for about half the price of others in it’s class. This winery is a restaurant favorite with those in the know as they are fantastic food wines and again provide great value for the money even at restaurant mark ups, but I highly suggest that you search these wines out and give them a try. The 2004 Chapelle Puligny-Montrachet Champgain Premier Cru starts with a developed bouquet of toast, creme brulee and baked apple with hazelnuts which leads to that mature palate that features pear, lemon tart and poached peach while nutty essences, lemon, mineral tones and brioche add to the mix with round texture showing the age of this wine slightly and the soft fading acidity makes it clear this Chardonnay is best consumed with the year or two. This is a joyful and very pleasing wine that sing a pretty song in the glass and does everything it should with grace, I was grateful to have been able to get a second chance on this wine and look forward to the upcoming releases as well.
($50 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2009 Pandol, Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Jenny Pandol’s latest release from the Santa Cruz Mountains is an exciting and detailed Pinot Noir with her signature silky texture and lush mouth feel. Pandol crafts small lots of Pinot from sourced fruit and usually under 100 cases are produced, these wines are superb efforts that show focus, subtlety and the artisan touch. The 2009 Pandol Pinot is a vibrant wine with acidity that gives lift and tart firmness to this richly flavored wine that shows delicate details throughout, there is a cinnamon spice and creamy mocha note as well to go with cherry, raspberry and strawberry fruit layers with baked plum, fig paste, anise and sweet herbs adding interest. This medium weight Pinot is best with food and should be enjoyed over the next 2-3 years for the most rewarding experience, though I’m sure it will be charming still in 5 years. The soft hues, hints of mineral and transparent flavors make this a very feminine example of California Pinot Noir that delivers a great value considering the tiny production and pleasure on offer, very nicely done.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Poe, Chardonnay “Ferrington Vineyard” Anderson Valley.
Samantha Sheehan’s Poe label hasn’t been around long, but if she keeps putting wines like this out, she’ll be around a long time! With winemaker Jon Keyes, formerly of Sine Qua Non, Outpost and Two Hands, Sheehan has created a great set of 2011 wines from Anderson Valley’s cool climate, a lovely and stylish Pinot and this fantastic Ferrington Chardonnay which shows purity of fruit, terroir and verve that I haven’t seen in this vintage as of yet. Sheehan’s mission statement to make elegant, refined and micro-climate wines has very much come to fruition in these 2011 wines come with pretty aromatics, terroir characteristics and focused detail, and as the cliche goes, very Burgundy like. The 2011 Poe Ferrington Chardonnay bursts to life in the glass with a bouquet of white flowers, apple skin, cool mineral with hints of hazelnut, spice and brioche leading to a round palate of lemon, green apple and ripe pear with lots of drive and clean acidity that heightens the flavors. The wine expands in the mouth leaving a creamy textured feel without heaviness or flab, and the wood never intrudes other than leaving only the faintest of smoke and vanilla impression. This wine is wonderfully balance and has good vigor and length, making for a very sexy Chardonnay that drinks great now and may gain with a little short term aging. This is very tasty stuff, very much like some very much more expensive old Wente clone Chards from some rather famous estates, so if you love fine Chards, you should check Poe out soon.
($42 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Leitz, Riesling “Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz” Spatlese, Rheingau.
One of the best deals in Riesling, the Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Spatlese is a lovely wine that shows purity of fruit, lushness and balanced acidity and mouth watering charms. The nose is fruity and has mineral and floral essences that leads to a refreshing palate of candied lemon, yellow peach, apricot and sweet lime that turns tangy as the wine gathers itself and shows the flinty spices to count weight the sweetness making for a nicely balanced Riesling that gives lots of pleasure and keeps you coming back for more. Hints of wet stone and saline go well with the dried pineapple and honeyed citrus notes that highlight this well crafted wines focus and drive. This is classic Rheingau in the bottle and will gain with a few years in the cellar, but certainly there is reason to hold back drinking this beauty and it goes great with a wide range of foods from smoked meats to exotic Asian dishes that play well with the slightly sweet character and where the Riesling comes handy. This is great stuff that is a steal at the price and while it may prove hard to find, it is a wine that offers a pleasant reward for those that happen across it.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive