2010 Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
A simply delicious Pinot Noir of majestic purity and grace, this wine has ages to go to be fully complete, but the potential is all there and it should give a decade of sublime pleasure. Harmand-Geoffroy is an under the radar producer, and seriously hard to find, but one to search out for quality and style, these wines are traditional and elegantly crafted, though need a bit of time to unfold and blossom. The 2007’s were nothing short of brilliant and came from a dull vintage, well imagine what can happen in a grand year, and yes that is exactly what transpired in 2010, Harmand-Geoffroy completely and utterly hit a grand slam, especially glorious is their old vine Gevrey-Chambertin, this is stunning Burgundy from an artisan Producer, it shows vigor, poise, delicacy and passion in equal measures. The 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes is still primary and tight, but there enough going on to give an excellent impression, it shows forest floor, wilted roses, mint and baking spices as it gets air it expands with plum, currants and a core of cherry fruits, plum wild strawberry, briar and hints of game. Everything is balanced and well judged, but things are firm and tannic, along with plenty of acidity that gives life, though the real depth and soul remain hidden. There is a silky texture waiting to emerge and much more intrigue and complexity ready to come into detail with time, even though the finish is lengthy and heavenly, best to put this beauty away for 5 to 7 years, the rewards with surely be worth it, this is a winner.
($78 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
N.V. Hure Freres, Extra Brut Reserve Champagne, a Ludes, France.
This hand-crafted Champagne is a serve and lean Extra Brut with stunning definition and lift, with wonderful sense of style and character driven by the high percentage of Pinot Meunier, about 45% along with Pinot Noir and some Chardonnay to fill the wine out and give density. The Here Freres Extra Brut Reserve starts with bright citrus, energy filled mousse that feels alive, but refined and opens up with hints of brioche, hazelnuts, lemon and unripe apples along with hints of mineral, melon, fig and yeasty essence. This clear and vivid bubbly is a beautifully judged sparkler, but being so austere and dry with make it more for the enthusiast, the wine geek and the ultra dedicated Champagne drink rather than the more mainstream crowd, though it did win some fans at a recent tasting that might not have otherwise even bothered to even buy Champagne even on special occasions. This wine would be great with oysters and meals, it is a food wine and less a celebration bottle, though that said I would like it anytime and I’m the serious Champagne nuts would too. This lively champers has unique qualities, plenty of complexity and with air fills out and becomes most pleasing and compelling, I will certainly be adding a few bottles to my personal stash.
($56 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($54.95)
N.V. Billecart-Salmon, Brut Rose, Champagne, France.
This latest edition of Billy Rose is delicate, lean and oh so delightful, this is one of the finest lots of this classic bubbly in my memory, it shows deft blending, remarkable clarity and detail with a refined mousse. There are better wines out there, some that might be cheaper, but it is hard not to fall head over heels for this joyous and elegant Champagne, this edition of their fabled Rose really hits the spot with a dreamy pale hue, tight bubbles, lifting acidity, mineral tones, slight yeasty brioche and heavenly hints of strawberry, red berry and tangerine essences along with lemon, apple skin and bread dough. This crisp and focus sparkler really keeps your interest from first sip to the painful moment when you have to toss the bottle into the recycling bin, Billecart-Salmon has raised their game here and the whole lineup of Champagne from this historic house reflect a renewed commitment and puts talent on display at each level, if you see any of their 2002 vintage cuvee(s) buy them, forget the price, they are masterpieces, but in the meantime the Brut Rose non-vintage will not disappoint, and it seems in good supply both at the restaurant and retail level, even though it is a rare item, so if you are looking for that perfect romantic wine this new years, this wouldn’t be a bad choice at all, it is a subtle and graceful Champers, no question.
($85-94 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($79.95)
2012 Whetstone, Pinot Noir, Jon Boat, Sonoma Coast.
Jamey Whetstone is making some great wines, and the 2012 looks to be a breakthrough vintage for his own label, with a glorious lineup of fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, I really liked every wine and it was tough to pick the top, but I finally decided to highlight his Jon Boat Pinot from the Sonoma Coast, it was complete, focused and delicious. From start to finish this 2012 excites and entertains with silky flowing fruit and good defining acidity and drive with good density and subtle wood. The nose has raspberry, roses, mineral and toasty notes leading to a palate of sweet bing cherry, plum and mixed berry fruits along with a touch of wet stones, mineral and tea spices. The body is lush and round, though it is not flabby, but certainly there is more stuffing than was found in most 2011 wines and there is more textural feel and pleasure, this is a super vintage. Don’t overlook Whetstone’s Chardonnay either they were right on as well, if you’ve not had the ex-Turley man’s wines yet, this 2012 is a place to start. The 2012 Jon Boat Pinot Noir is a pure wine that is starting to unfold nicely, it could be enjoyed young and it can age another 5 to 7 years easy, this is one of the best to date from Whetstone and it should develop and gain complexity over the next 2 years in bottle.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Scarbolo, Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy.
This unique and light Pinot Grigio is beautifully golden in color, thanks to an extra bit of skin contact, making for a cool and crisp white that has a sunny hue and vibrant character with good acidity and a hint of savory spice. This wine was totally new to me, and while not an “orange” wine, it is a fun example of this varietal and shows the Italian’s are not afraid to explore and go their own way, in fact Italy is a hot bed of intriguing new avenues in winemaking, some from the ancient past and some ultra modern. This wine though is pretty easy and simple with fresh green apple, lemon/lime and pear fruits, a hint of mineral with juicy flavors that are crisp zesty, there is nothing remarkable or mind-blowing here, but this is fun and charming bistro/picnic style wine that does everything it should, this is a fine and sold effort with a bit of playfulness and sunshine. This Scarbolo 2012 should be drunk over the next year or so, it is a great alternative to the mass produced generic Pint Grigios and the color is pretty cool.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com
2012 La Bastide Saint Dominique, Cotes du Rhone Villages, France.
For the last three vintages this Cotes du Rhone Village red has been a steal, it is a quality Rhone that offers Chateauneuf like flavors at a great price, and this 2012 is drinking great with plenty of fruit and character, making for a compelling wine. The latest La Bastide Cotes du Rhone Villages starts with tangy fruit, wild truffles and peppery spices, showing lavender, garrigue, game and kirsch in the background while the core palate offers up plum, boysenberry and strawberry essences. This 2012 is fresh, vibrant and medium weight, this is certainly a vintage to drink young, as it gives lots of immediate pleasure, best to enjoy this one in the near future. This cuvee is made up of mostly Grenache with good doses of Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignane making for a red that delivers savory elements along with a hint of baked stones to go with the sweet fruits, this is delightful stuff, drink now through 2016.
($20 Est.) 91-92 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($17.95)
2008 La Spinetta, Barolo, Vigneto Garretti, DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The baby Campe from Giorgio Rivetti, the Vigneto Garretti is a real steal in the quality Barolo league, and the 2008 is really starting to come around, this is a great example of La Spinetta style and Nebbiolo. The 2008 is showing dark garnet color, rich details and robust density with beautifully refined tannins, good acidity and a long lavish finish. The nose opens with wilted roses, dark chocolate, tar and minty black licorice with a core of plum, raspberry, black cherry fruits. The background shows some nice vanilla scents, lavender and porcini notes as well as cedar and sweet tobacco all adding to the complexity and pleasures found it the Garretti. As a big fan of Rivetti’s wines, I really enjoyed this wine and highly recommend this rich and forward wine, it comes from Campe, a great vineyard and terroir which is proving a super foil to La Spinetta’s famed Barbaresco Crus, this is a Grand Cru site. This is going to be my Christmas 2013 wine! Drink 2014-2022, while still young and tight it really delivers hedonistic flavors even now.
($70 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2010 Terre Rouge, Syrah “Les Cotes de L’ Ouest” California.
Easton’s Terre Rouge label, a long time Rhone Ranger, still is a value priced quality wine that shows refined character and good distinction, especially the 2010 Les Cotes de L’ Ouest which is delightful and charming at under $20 bucks. Mostly from hillside plots in the Sierra Foothills the latest Terre Rouge shows blueberry, spice, mint and wild herbs leading to a medium weight palate of black cherry, boysenberry and plum fruits along with mineral, meat and pepper, with ripe tannins and a bit of fresh acidity. This wine turns soft and supple in the mouth and is an easy drinking in style Syrah, a good bistro wine, though 14.5% alcohol it feels much lighter on it’s feet and more like a Pinot Noir, it is not a flabby wine or is it very serious, it may not be all that memorable, but it is a nice and solid performer that would be a safe bet to be a crowd pleaser and it certainly would be great with lots of different cuisine from middle eastern to BBQ. Drink now, and over the next year or so, it should develop a bit more given time, but it is not going anywhere beyond where it is now overall, just pop the corks and enjoy.
($18 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com
2011 Domaine Ragot, Givry 1er “Clos Jus” Red Burgundy, France.
This pretty and well crafted Pinot Noir from Domaine Ragot shows good ripe flavors, balancing acidity, earth, spice and mineral tones, making for a poised Burgundy that will excite the purists and interest the novice. A small artisan estate, Domaine Ragot is a new discovery from Charles Neal Imports and is worth giving a look for if you want a well crafted wine at a fair price. The 2011 Givry Premier Cru Clos Jus starts with chalky mineral, dried currants, plum and cranberry, but opens to reveal a solid cherry cherry core of fruit, a hint of smoke, wild strawberry, wet earth, black tea and a herbal/floral tanginess. This bright and austere Burgundy is still firm and focused, and should be given a bit more time to fully fill out, drink 2014 to 2018. I’ve had this wine on four occasions and even poured it for huge crowd of people, it was much more a hit than I would have imagined, proving I can be a bit too critical at times, this is a fine and enjoyable effort that shows that subtle poise can be rewarding, this wine also perks up with food, salmon and or duck would be great pairing choices, this wine would be a savvy choice on the wine list no question.
($36 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com