2012 Gerard Boulay, Sancerre Blanc, Chavignol, France.
The Gerard Boulay wines are exotic and marvelous, especially his beautiful and full Sancerre that always seems to excite and please regardless of vintage. His wines are made with mostly natural and with strict farming practices which highlight pureness and a sense of place and soils, and this Sancerre comes from plots that rest on Silex and Clay giving a very complex array of flavors and mineral essences. Gerard Boulay also ferments and ages in neutral wood, and sees time on the lees, which adds richness, depth and texture, without hiding the wines suburb steely quality or it’s fresh acidity, Gerard is an artisan that has his craft down, these are glorious wines, wonderfully balanced and focused. The 2012 is a Sauvignon Blanc full of energy, life and quality from start to finish with a round palate of lemon/lime, peach, gooseberry and hints of grapefruit along with wet stones, brioche and melon. The mouth feel is joyous and the brisk liveliness keeps your mouth watering for another sip, the finish is long, but the crisp mineral notes and citrus burst keeps things fresh and taught, this Sancerre is well judged and extremely delightful, drink now through 2017.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($26.95)
2012 Alfaro Family, Chardonnay, Lindsay Paige Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
As a longtime fan of Richard Alfaro’s wines, especially his Chardonnay, it is always with great expectations that I look forward to the newest releases, and this one was no exception, in fact I was already primed for it as Richard had told me repeatedly that 2012 was an awesome vintage, so I was jazzed and thrilled to open this new Lindsay Paige Vineyard Chardonnay from his Santa Cruz Mountains estate near Corralitos not too far from the cool Pacific Ocean. I can certainly tell you beyond any doubt, I was not in anyway disappointed, Alfaro has crafted another profound and moving wine that is pure class and very hedonistic, pleasing from start to finish with gorgeous fruit, body and vivid flavors. The nose starts off with white flowers, steely minerals, peach and citrus leading to a lush palate of creamy lemon, apple, pear and pineapple with hints of smoke, hazelnuts and river stones along with nice french oak notes and a hint of butter and vanilla. This luxurious Chardonnay still has plenty of tangy acidity underpinning everything and is totally glorious, a wonderful artisan wine.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2009 Hamacher, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Oregon.
Eric Hamacher’s 2009 is real headturner, this beautiful and richly textured Pinot Noir from Oregon is drinking sublimely right now and I’m sure will please for another 5 to 10 years as well. Hamacher crafts some fantastic wines, and it would be silly not to mention his delicate and lovely Chardonnay, which is a sleeper, but it is his Willamette Valley Pinot that gets most of my attention, I must admit this was a wine that leaves an impression will supple round fruit, hints of tannin and underlying acidity that lifts this wine up, plus a nice mineral and spice note. This beauty starts with roses and crushed violets, smoke, hints of kirsch and blackberry leading to a dense palate of black cherry, juicy plum, tangy currants and subtle strawberry along with flinty stones, licorice, beet root, cola bean and a touch of vanilla. Everything flows in silky harmony and elegant grace, this wine is both lush and refined, drink now through 2018.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($44.95)
2009 Castello di Ama, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
One of the top Classico estates, Castello di Ama is a great producer, widely acclaimed and praised, it is there for no surprise, that the latest Riserva is a total knock out, but I can still be mightily impressed and left even more a fan of this stunning wine. Castello di Ama’s 2009 Classico Riserva is a spellbinding effort with amazing precision, texture and unique charm and character with dark fruit, depth and length. The nose leads with wild flowers, herbs, smoke and currants before a refined and elegant palate of blackberry, plum and dark cherry fruit, cedar, blonde tobacco leaf, sweet herbs, anise along with black olive, pepper, strawberry and a faint whiff of vanilla. This Chianti is an estate grown blend of about 85% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc and is without question one of the finest wines of the region and of the vintage made with total passion and detailed craftsmanship, drink now through 2020, this is glorious stuff.
($49 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($42.95)
2007 Nusserhof, Lagrein Riserva, Sudtirol-Alto Adige (Heinrich Mayr) Italy.
This beautifully crafted Lagrein from the Dolomites reminds of a fine Cornas with earthy intensity and character showing glorious mature blue and black fruits, spice and loads of texture and charm. This is one of the best Nusserhof’s I have had, and it is a stunning example of this varietal with a opaque dark color, lovely aromatics and long seductive finish, this is a Grand Cru Lagrein if there ever was one. The nose has an array of fresh and dried flowers, mountain herbs, black olives, hints of game and pepper leading to a full and dense palate that presents layers of wild plums, blueberry, cherry and huckleberry fruits, mineral notes, truffle and salted black licorice. There is a sense of lifting acidity and chewy tannins keeping things lively on this interesting Italian red and it should age gracefully for another 5 to 7 years, but I would suggest drinking it sooner, it is too good to wait.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Alfredo Maestro, Vina Almate, Penefiel, Valladolid, Spain.
This wonderful 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) is smooth luxurious red that shows this varietal in it’s purest form with creamy rich fruit, spices and warm earthy stones, capturing it’s magical natural essence. Alfredo Maestro is a spirited artisan that is exploring his own way and carving out a special niche in the wine world, and lots of people are taking notice, and he is making a long list of exceptional wines, like this pretty and detailed red from his home town of Penefiel. Maestro has to deal with some of Spain’s hardest growing conditions and still manages to craft beautiful and graceful wines. The 2011 Vina Almate is dark with a garnet hue, it has a bouquet of poached plums, hosin sauce and raspberry with a hint of dried flowers. The palate is clear and medium weighted with cherry and red currant fruit, earthy truffle, chalk, lavender, anise and toffee all flow in a round elegant manner with a touch of mineral, pepper and candied orange rind that hints at the nice balancing acidity. This red was aged just 4 months in well used barrels to refine the tannins, but allow the wine to as transparent as possible and retain it’s sense of place.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Munsterer Pittersberg Auslese Nahe Germany.
Georg Rumpf’s fantastic 2012’s deserve a lot of attention and high praise, especially this amazing Auslese, maybe one of the best I can remember and utterly drop dead gorgeous with sublime balance and detail already. This is a wine for the ages, though very versatile in that it could be enjoyed young and in fact could partner up with certain cuisine choices right now with it’s youthful freshness, but without question there is more magic to come with time and the rewards for cellaring a few of these would pay huge dividends. The 2012 Pittersberg Auslese starts with a lovely almost delicate bouquet of lime blossom, ripe nectarine, candied pineapple and steely liquid minerals leading to a lush palate of peach flesh, apricot, papaya and sweet tangerine with subtle savory notes, sea breeze and verbena. The seductive tropical essences, mandarin oranges and honeyed pear elements only flitter in the background and the bright acidity makes everything feel dream like and surreal, though there is plenty of weight and extract to fill the mouth with luxury and hedonism, this is a profound Riesling of terrific class and character, not to be missed, don’t be afraid of the sweetness this wine is all about grace and pleasure.
($60 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Chignard, Julienas, Cru Beaujolais, France.
This absolutely gorgeous Gamay was a real surprise and by far the best Julienas I’ve ever had, and while Julienas is my least favorite of the Cru Beaujolais, this wine might just have changed my mind, this without question was a game changer for me. Chignard, a top Fleurie producer imported by Kermit Lynch usual makes wines that get close to the famed estates of Foillard, Lapierre, Thevenet and Breton, so it was wasn’t out of the blue that this wine turned out to be so tasty, but the fact it was a Julienas, well that was a shocker for me, but I will happily eat crow, as long as I can wash it down with this lovely wine. The 2012 Chignard Julienas is lively, fresh and full of character with pure Gamay goodness from start to finish, there’s a nose of dried flowers, currants, candied cherry and walnut oil leading to a medium weight palate of wild strawberry, plum and red peach fruits with hints of pepper, cinnamon and iodine. There is a sweet and savory play in the layers of fruit that keeps this Beaujolais balanced and always focused throughout, this is a well crafted wine of style and class, I’ll be drinking a few of these over the next year or so, no doubt, I highly recommend checking this Julienas out.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling, Estate Trocken, Nahe Germany.
This 2012 Dry Estate Riesling is clearly and most definitely a baby Grosses Gewachs (Grand Cru) and shows amazing drive and quality throughout, this is a steal, don’t even think about it, get yourself a case or two! Donnhoff is one of Germany’s great wineries and without question these 2012 vintage Rieslings are going to be highly sought after and prized, and this Estate Trocken is just plain gorgeous and very entertaining. The nose is slow to get open at this stage, but with coaxing it delivers white flowers, hints of rose petals, mint leaves and steely mineral tones along with orange and stone fruit leading to an electrically charged palate of sizzling intensity with bright lime, green apple, peach and tangerine along with subtle tropical notes, wet stones, flinty mineral spice and tangy nectarine. The acidity is fantastic, lighting this wine up while allowing dense extract and fleshiness to show through, and I bet this little Grand Cru will age well, it should develop and gain greatly over the next decade, bravo, this is an impressive gift to us Riesling fiends. The crisp and clear finish is mouth watering with a briny saline note and a round creamy element settles in on the aftertaste, simply stunning, this rivals Premier Cru Chablis for class easy.
($25 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com
2008 Giovanni Rosso, Barolo DOCG, Del Comune di Serralunga D’ Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
This Barolo is old school perfection, a wonderful example of Nebbiolo in every respect, with glorious purity, charm and a stunning experience. I had not had this producer’s Barolo before, so got an amazing surprise when I first sampled this fine and detailed wine from the clay and limestone soils of Serralunga in the Barolo zone, and I’ll be sure to explore this labels collection of wines as often as I can. The 2008 Giovanna Rosso Barolo is packed with energy and is wonderfully focused with a classic nose of dried wildflowers and wilted roses, minty tar, balsamic dipped figs and plums leading to a palate of dense fruit, black cherry, raspberry, strawberry and spiced plum along with anise, cedar and earthy truffle and a hint of game. This wine was fermented in cement and aged in big cask which has allowed totally transparency of fruit and terroir, this is a fantastic artisan Barolo, one of my favorite 2008 wines so far, be sure to look for this one if you love Nebbiolo.
($65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive