Monthly Archives: July 2013

Wine of the Day July 31, 2013

2011RochioliValdigue2011 Rochioli, Valdigue, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.
Valdigue, the rare French vatical, formerly thought to be Gamay in California, is a fun and Beaujolais like red wine with pretty color, spice and fruity charms, while not overly serious as wines go, this is a seriously must have for me, I just adore this wine and coming from Rochioli and at this nice price, it is a winner in my book, and voting with my wallet, I took more than a few bottles home in a selfish frenzy. I bought myself quite a few of the previous vintage and managed to stash a couple away to check out later, but this new 2011 vintage is just so delightful, I doubt I’ll save any. This, like the Rose, is a Rochioli tasting room only wine, and the production is tiny, so best get there quick, this is not a wine you want to miss out on. The 2011 Valdigue starts out with dark flowers, peppery spices and hints of walnut oil and crushed berries leading to a vibrant palate of strawberry, loganberry and fresh picked plum with notes of garden herbs, lavender and cinnamon stick. Light to medium bodied, vibrant, soft tannins and a hint of citrus acidity add to the energy and charm.
($20 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day July 30, 2013

2012VonWinningPara2012 Von Winning, Riesling, Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten, Trocken, Pfalz Germany.
Von Winning’s dry Rieslings are a revelation and are easily some of Germany’s most interesting wines, especially the three Grosses Gewachs (Grand Crus) each of which is dynamic and totally unique, but their med range Trocken (Dry) wines are not to be overlooked, like this Cru Paradiesgarten which is extraordinary in 2012. The upper Crus see more new French oak and rival Grand Cru white Burgundy, while the middle and lower wines are more about pure fruit essences and are subtler expressions, though non the less impressive, these wines are all sublime and offer amazing quality and character. The 2012 Von Winning Paradiesgarten is a forceful and firmly structured wine, but also is classy, elegant and charming with orange zest, white roses, verbena and mango to lead, before revealing intense lime, chalky minerals and grapefruit on the palate with touches of mint, briny saline and peach pit. This vigorous Riesling sizzles with energy and excitement throughout and the mid palate really kicks you with a burst of citrus, though the finish picks up a creamy note and the length is impressive for such a baby wine, for sure patience will be greatly rewarded here, and while not as hedonistic as Von Winning’s upper Crus, this certainly is an entertaining Riesling of fine details, excellent winemaking and a extremely well priced wine that should be a serious cellar contender for anyone looking for value, I know I’ll be picking a few of these up this fall when released.
($34 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day July 29, 2013

2012RochioliRose2012 Rochioli, Rose of Pinot Noir, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.
Summer in the Russian River is not complete without securing a few bottles of Rochioli’s lovely fresh Rose, so I took a bit of a journey and found myself sipping this tasty wine on a beautiful sunny afternoon, and yes I managed to secure a few bottles of this tasting room only selection, though you can call and order some I believe, but best to act fast this and their Valdigue sell out fast. While grabbing a few bottles, I did try the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and 2011 Estate Chard again, and both are drinking great, if not better than this winter/spring. The 2012 Rose of Pinot is brightly colored, vivid in flavor and brisk with juicy acidity with watermelon, tart cherry, strawberry and red citrus, plus hints of spice, mineral and rose water. Crisp and zesty on the finish, this is a great example of Rose and one of my fags of summer.
($24 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day July 28, 2013

2011StCosmeAlbion2011 Chateau de Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone “Les Deux Albion” Red, Rhone Valley, France.
Sadly, by the time I got around opening this wine, it has mostly sold out across the country and that is a shame as it is a fantastic and very unique wine. This 2011 Les Deux Albion” is from the northern area of the southern Rhone, near Vinsobres and made from mostly if not all Syrah, so it is not your juicy fruit forward Grenache, in fact it is severely dry and austere, though I’m sure it will open up to more fruit over time. This racy Cotes du Rhone from Saint Cosme is darkly colored, and sexy in the glass with wilted flowers, tangy herbs and dried currants along with a hint of pepper hit the nose before a a powerful fist of sea salted black licorice hits you full force bringing with it some fig cake, blueberry, poached plum and lavender oil notes. This savory and chalky wine reveals subtle fruits and game as well as hints of kirsch on the dry medium tannined finish, now I just adore this intriguing wine, but it is not what most people expect when they reach for a Cotes du Rhone, so be warned, this is a very serious and intense expression and a remarkable wine from Saint Cosme.
($28 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day July 27, 2013

2012LuliPNSLH2012 Luli, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Luli is made by Sarah Floyd MS and Jeff Pisoni, and is a great value brand for fresh style Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and even a Rose, but for sure it is this Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir that steals the show with it’s pedigree and performance. Plus, the 2012 vintage which is looking more and more great as these type of wines come on in bottle, this is going to be a wine lovers year to grab plenty of cases, as the quality to price ratio is in the bargain hunters favor, unlike the last three or four years. The 2012 Luli is bright and and loaded with pure dark Pinot fruit which is highlighted by raspberry, plum and black cherry on the rich and giving palate along with a nose full of violets and hints of spice and tea notes. There is lots to love here and the class of the winemaking shows through, this is a beautiful and lively Pinot Noir to be enjoyed young and often. This tasty stuff doesn’t last on the shelves long, so now that it is out, best to secure some as soon as you can. The Luli lineup always impresses, but certainly 2012 takes them to the next level.
($23 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive


Avail at ($19.95)

Wine of The Day July 26, 2013

2008Cappellano2008 Cappellano, Barolo DOCG, Otin Fiorin, Pie Rupestris-Nebioli, Piedmonte, Italy.
I have read about Cappellano, I had heard whispers, I had begged to taste, and now after finally sampling I’m even more impressed and stunned by the quality and class found here, this Cappellano Barolo 2008 is a masterpiece, a totally gorgeous Nebbiolo with elegance and depth, this is a Grand Cru class red that deserves it’s cult status! Doing homework and chasing down info on Cappellano was always difficult, and while in the digital age, still not much is available, in English especially, but from all my searching I found that only a tiny amount is produced, less than 800 cases of Barolo, and America is only given a handful of those cases, so I know how very lucky I am to have had a chance to try this majestic wine from the Serralunga district of Barolo, and from it’s most magical site and hill, honestly I could easily have just put 100 Points, it is that good and that rare. Augusto Cappellano carries on his families traditional and natural winemaking style, native yeasts and long cellar times in old-neutral casks, adds to the heritage and mystique found in this profound Barolo, it is truly an art of love and tradition in every sense. The bouquet is haunting with dried roses, sweet herbs and poached red fruits leading to a firm palate of cherry, strawberry and reduced plum sauce with wild game, lavender, minty licorice and earthy truffle notes. The finish goes on and on, it feels like forever, and everything is so pure and perfectly terroir essences, this could be nothing else, one of the best expressions of Barolo, I cannot begin to tell you how fantastic, but it is without doubt one of my top wines period. Cappellano’s Rupestris 2008 is utterly mind blowing.
($95 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive


Avail at ($94.95)

Wine of the Day July 25, 2013

2010BroviaBabera2010 Brovia, Babera D’ Alba DOC, Sori Del Drago, Piedmonte, Italy.
For many years running the Sori del Drago Barbera from Brovia has been one of my favorite wines, and while I still love and adore La Spinetta’s Gallina, this vintage might just go to the Brovia, yes it is that good. Coming off a single plot in Falletto’s main Barolo zone the 2010 Brovia is suave and intense with otherworldly verve and charms, showing almost Nebbiolo grip and strikingly complex flavors, but with Barbera’s dark color and plummy personality. The nose hints at flowers, herbs and mineral spices with a dose of blackberry leading to a remarkable fine and textured palate of plum, dark berries, cherry notes and profound licorice, menthol and loganberry with traces of mineral, lavender, strawberry and truffle. Very exotic and unique, but then you’d expect nothing less from Brovia, and this Sori del Drago is a dragon in a velvet glove, bravo, a super effort and tasty wine.
($30 Est.) 93+ points, grapelive


Avail at

Wine of the Day July 24, 2012

2012OcchipintiWhite2012 Arianna Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco Terre Siciliane IGT, Sicily Italy.
Arianna’s Bianco SP68 is a dry and savory white, made from Zibibbo and Grillo which gives this wine a stylish perfume of jasmine and sweet herbs and a chalky tangy palate. This wine has a light to medium body and zesty mouth feel with lemon/lime, white peach and tangerine fruits, rosemary and garden herbs, hints of wet stones and sea salt. This crisp and delightful wine is very fun and easy to enjoy, and would seem a great food wine for middle eastern cuisine, lemon chicken comes to mind or squid salad. The Occhipinti wines are all unique and intriguing, and if you haven’t tried them, you really should, these wines are make using natural methods and with the greatest care in the artisan spirit of their maker.
($26 Est.) 91-92 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day July 23, 2013

2010GamercyThirdMan2010 Gramercy Cellars, The Third Man, Columbia Valley, Washington State.
Master Sommelier and winemaker Greg Harrington’s Gramercy Cellars is making some of the Pacific Northwest’s most exciting wines, along with likes of Charles Smith and Christophe Baron, making great Syrah, Cabernet and Grenache from the Columbia Valley. The Third Man is a Grenache based red, with a touch of Mourvedre and Syrah, very influenced by Chateauneuf du Pape, with heady ripe fruit and liqueur flavors with a full body, hints of sweet herbs and spices. The alcohol is about 14.7%, so nothing crazy just big, and only 10% new oak, so there is mostly the purity of terroir and fruit showing through, there is a soft mineral essence and a good dose of coco powder, with a trace of meat and lavender as well, adding to the complexity in this hedonistic wine. The main force is boysenberry, creme de cassis, baked cherry and black plum on the round palate with fennel/anise, kirsch, pepper and dusty chalk notes. This a a long dark tunnel of wine, stylish, lush and intriguing throughout, most definitely recommended.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Special Report on the State of Chardonnay

Great American Chardonnay Not an Oxymoron
By Kerry Winslow,


Chardonnay, she’s the queen, America’s number one wine, but most of the wine insiders scoff and gag at thought of it, there is a whole ABC, Anything But Chardonnay crowd out there screaming to high heaven, railing against this grape and this wine, yes there is a real disconnect going on, but the truth is and will always be Chardonnay is a great grape and is a great wine. The days of denial look to be short, I think see a major come back for this grape and let’s face it the young and talented generation of winemakers in America are now making wines that rival the fabled wines of Burgundy, it is not just the Marcassins, Auberts, Peter Michaels, Kistlers or Kongsgaards that are doing it, no and you don’t need to spend the 100, 200 or 500 Hundred dollars that those wines sometimes fetch retail, there are lots of sublime and majestic Chardonnays available at reasonable prices, I mean wines that still deliver Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet quality made here in California, wines that are not sweet or butter bombs, but wines that give the purest of flavor, with good graces and vibrant acidity to boot.

There are some that will argue, they will point out the sweet, like Kendall Jackson, the buttery like Rombauer or the over blown or over hyped, better not mention those, but you know who they are, and yes the over oaken styles that were so popular only 10 years ago. These are what they are and there is a steady stream of buyers for them regardless, so moving on let’s now look at the opposite those gimmicky unwooded, unoaked or naked Chards that were all the craze, I must say I almost hated these worse that the over the top 100% new wood jobs! While I can enjoy Chardonnay without any oak what so ever, I just detested the marketing job, and thank heavens it seems to have died down a bit.

Anyone who says California can’t make a grand Chardonnay that matches the fabled white Burgundies is a fool, there are plenty, I mean a lot, no question, though I do admit there are a few Burgundy wines that are on a different plane, but then again not many people get a chance to drink the Grand Crus like Le Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet or Les Clos in Chablis. That said, trust me, there are wonderful and elegant Chardonnay wines in California, here is a must try list of wines that will certainly impress the most educated of wine snobs, and the rest of you as well!

Ten Chards you should try as soon as you can, listed below with some of my notes, but first, here are some honorable mentions that also will be worth checking out. Value priced wines like Navarro from Anderson Valley, Bernardus from Monterey and Copain from Anderson Valley, all please the palate vintage to vintage, small artisan wines from Freeman, Roar, Hyde de Villaine and Donum Estate make super Chardonnay that get overlooked as most think about their Pinot Noir wines, then there’s new hot producers like Sandhi, a Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman creation, and old school classics like El Molino and Hanzell that still make some of the best Napa and Sonoma Chard as well, all of these are worthy and stunning, especially the latest from El Molino… By the way, the following ten wines are in no particular order, all are number ones in my book.

1. Brewer-Clifton, Chardonnay, Mount Carmel, Monopole, Sta. Rita Hills.

Forget vintage, it just doesn’t matter this is a great wine, I’ve never been disappointed, ever, Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton make some of the world’s best Chardonnay, and while I personal love their Sweeney Canyon Chard too, it is their Mount Carmel Vineyard that always blows me away, this is as good as it gets, I’d be more than happy to drink this wine any time, even if it meant forgoing Batard-Montrachet, as much as that pains me to say, this wine is that good, no question, the 2000 vintage Brwer-Clifton Mount Carmel Chard changed my thinking forever, I only hope I get to try that wine, perfectly cellared again, mind freaking blowing!

2. 2011 Tyler, Chardonnay Zotovich Family Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.

Justin Willett is crafting some beautiful wines, and his Tyler label is one to watch, his latest releases from the unheralded 2011 vintage are staggeringly grand efforts and showcase his talents and the fantastic vineyards and terrors his finds for his wines. The stunning and haunting 2011 Chardonnay from Zotovich Vineyard is amazing and Permier Cru Chablis like in detail and style, certainly a wonderfully balanced wine with lovely layers and pure mineral goodness flowing throughout. Willett has worked with Joe Davis, Arcadian and the Burgundy devotee ideas have formed some of his style, but he really has taken his own path and this last two vintages have proven his talents and his star quality. I am utterly impressed and blown away with his Pinots and Chards, especially this Zotovich 2011 with it’s subtle grace and poise from Willet’s artisan touch, it is vibrant, focused and delicious from start to finish. The nose here is citrusy and bright with white flowers and wet stones leading to a vivid and crisply fresh palate of lemon, apple and pear fruits with hints of lime and white peach along with clove, golden fig and loads of chalk, acidity and sublime length. This 13.3% Alcohol Chardonnay is all class and harmony in the glass, drink now through 2018.

3. Alfaro Family Vineyards, Chardonnay, Lindsay Paige Vineyard Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.

Richard Alfaro’s Chard, named for his daughter, Lindsay Paige is one of my all time favorite wines, let only Chard, it is fantastic year in and year out with lovely white flowers, lemon curd, white peach and tropical notes leading the way with touches of fig, butter, spiced pear, stoney minerals and smoky hazelnuts. The French oak is toasty and present, but not intrusive or unwelcome and there is a tangy tangerine note that adds interest as well. This wine is a stunning and rich effort that gives a lot of pleasure.

4. 2011 Arnot-Roberts, Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains.

The Pacific Ocean influenced Arnot-Roberts Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay is a totally unique terroir driven wine that highlights a huge sense of place and of course the talents of Nathan Roberts and Duncan Arnot, who are very much rising stars these days, if not established all ready. This delicious white was whole cluster pressed, fermented in stainless and allowed to ferment with natural native yeast strains then transferred to neutral French casks, making for a vibrant and pure express of the grape and allowing the vineyard site to shine through. This 2011 Chardonnay is intensely fresh in style with a streak of mineral and sea salt along with zesty acidity heightening the verve and flavors that include lemon, white peach, green apple and pear fruits along with hints of clove, hazelnut and dried fig. The vivid layers are sharp and focused, but with air the wine starts to fill out and gain density, hinting that there is more to come here and while now the finish is crisp, bright and mouthwatering there is a certain roundness and texture too.

5. Ridge Vineyards, Chardonnay Monte Bello Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.

One of the great wineries in America, a legend, but still people overlook their gorgeous Chardonnay, this wine is as classy as it gets, not a wine to be missed! Sadly, I too seem to not review this wine enough, this is classic Chard with loads of character and finesse, white flowers, hazelnuts, lemon and apple fruit with subtle wood notes and mineral spice, this wine is detailed and richly flavored.

6. 2009 Lucia, by Pisoni, Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands.

Jeff Pisoni has nailed it again with some of his dad’s oldest vines to create a world class Chardonnay that can rival the best from anywhere! The 2009 Lucia Chard is rich, full and wonderfully balanced with vigor and fruit intensity showing pure pear, apple, white peach and lemon curd, while there is spice cake, clove, fig and hazelnut in the background. This Chard should gain lots in character with some bottle age and while it is rich and full bodied it has nice bounce and clean acidity. I hope it picks up a bit more mineral and brioche notes, as that is all that would be need to merit an even higher rating! This wine is hard not to love and competes well with $75 to $100 Chards, be they from Burgundy or the Sonoma Coast, bravo guys this is awesome.. I know this is from the 2009 vintage, but the same holds true for the current version, though this was Awesome!

7. 2011 Diatom, Chardonnay “Hanna Shinobu” Sta. Rita Hills.

At 13.8% Alcohol the new “Hanna Shinobu” from Greg Brewer’s Diatom label is notably less heady as past versions of his Diatom wines, which have reached almost 16% at times and seemed rather severe, but this one really finds a nice balance. Brewer’s brave experiment in Chardonnay is impressive to taste and one can only admire his focus and commitment even if these wines are not to everyone’s taste, these pure no wood, no batonage Chardonnay’s are the ultimate extreme experience of terroir essence and a stark view of the naked grape itself. The new 2011 Diatom “Hanna Shinobu” is clear and vivid with tart green apple, lime and grapefruit zest with plenty of brisk acidity and steely minerality. The Hanna Shinobu opens with air to reveal lemon and fig notes, but stays edgy and feels razor sharp and vibrant. Best to enjoy this wine with soft cheeses and lighter seafoods plus raw Sushi grade yellow tail. Greg Brewer (Brewer-Clifton & Melville) has chosen a new path and created a new vision of Chardonnay that certainly challenges convention and is neither Burgundy/Chablis like or anything like California norms, making for an interesting choice and unique style wine that try to capture the true heart of the vineyard, a worth a try if you want something on the wild side.

8. Rochioli, Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.

While some will say Rochioli makes a big oaky wine, that just is not true, and especially the current releases, this 2011 vintage is stunningly elegant wine! This vintage of the Rochioli Estate Chard is refined and refreshingly subtle with medium weight, vibrancy and graceful round flavors with touches of mineral, saline and a delightful texture. The nose is steely with wet stones, hazelnut and a hint of fig with a burst of citrus and pear, leading to a layered palate of lemon, apple, pear and a touch of white peach. The restrained nature of this elegant wine almost brings a fine Chassagne-Montrachet to mind and highlights the cool vintage and shows the deft winemaking, even on the this scale, this is a well crafted Chadonnay that delivers nice detail, has good balance and gives lots of pleasure.

9. 2010 Kesner, Chardonnay, Rockbreak Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.

Jason Kesner, assistant Winemaker at Kistler, is making quite a name for himself making wonderful Pinot and Chardonnay under his own Kesner label, especially striking is this 2010 Kesner Rockbreak Chardonnay, this lovely and full expression really shines with dynamic flavors, texture and charm. I’ve tried just a few of his wines, but I am a big fan and think he’ll be a label to watch going forward, these are well crafted artisan wines made in very small amounts. I tasted this wine again recently in a ultra Chardonnay challenge against some top producers including Kistler, Hyde de Villaine and one of my new favs Arnot Roberts, all were sublime all in the 94-95 Point range, but I will say the Kesner might have been the winner on the day, with flowing rich density, juicy acidity and gorgeous length and hints of the exotic it was magical. The nose is full of white flowers, touches of smoke, hazelnut and tropical essences leading to a layered palate of apple, peach, pear and lemon curd with faint traces of honeysuckle, pineapple, green melon and clarified cream and vanilla, finishing rich in the mouth but with a burst of energy and tangy citrus.

10. Peay, Chardonnay, Estate, Sonoma Coast.

This is another wine, I absolutely adore, made by Vanessa Wong, of former Peter Michael and Chateau Lafite fame, this elegant Chardonnay from the rugged/extreme Sonoma Coast is as lovely as Chardonnay gets and without question one of the top wines in the state. This cool climate Chard is never short of vitality and class, be sure to find this Chardonnay, again it does not matter what vintage, though I rate the 2006, 2007 and 2010 wines off the charts in my own notebooks!

In summary, I urge you to open your minds and try the mentioned wines, I can attest the quality and passion of these wines, these will change more than a few minds, they did me and I have seen more than a few people in the ABC crowd come back to Chardonnay from California after tasting these wines, enjoy the experience! Don’t forget the way back Judgement of Paris Tasting when a little known California Chardonnay changed the world…