2013 Sheldon, Graciano Rose, Ripkin Vineyard, Lodi.
Almost certainly, the Sheldon Rose of Graciano must be unique in the wine world, it may just be the only single varietal labeled Graciano Rose in existence, if not the only then one of a very few, and it is very tasty indeed. Graciano is one of the reds grapes of Rioja, it is tricky to grow and is rarely used as a mono-varietal wine, though it does well in the Canary Islands where it is known as Tintilla, the Sheldon’s get theirs from a small plot found in Lodi, grown on limestone soils, they also make a limited edition red from here too. Tobe Sheldon along with Dylan Sheldon her husband are a new generation of winemakers in California looking to explore away from the mainstream and take some risks, they are making wonderful pure expressions and more elegant styles of wine, including this rose of Graciano, but also delicate Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Pinot Noir, a claret like Cabernet Sauvignon and an old vine field blend from a wild backyard vineyard in Calistoga. All of the latest set are lovely and poised wines, with low natural alcohol and good acidity, they are bright, fresh and flavorful. The new 2013 Rose is dry, juicy and exotic, it sings like song birds on a warm summer morning and shows red berry, watermelon, tart cherry and strawberry fruits along with pink citrus, mineral and a mix of spices and a hint of tropical essence. This might be the best version yet for this vibrant wine and it’s vivid hue and personality are sure to charm even the most jaded of wine drinkers, not much of this fine pink is made, get it quick and enjoy over the next 6 to 8 months.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2011 Rolf Binder, Riesling “Highness” Eden Valley, Australia.
The Eden Valley in South Australia not far from Adelaide is an old region with a long history of great Riesling, with vineyards dating back to 1847. Eden is near Barossa Valley and is similar in size, it is a cool climate area with Syrah (Shiraz) and Riesling being it’s main grapes, plus there is High Eden which has close to 1200 feet of elevation giving cooler air and complex soils, making it ideal for bright and intense Riesling. Rolf Binder, a small family winery in Barossa, is one of the area’s top producers and this Highness Riesling is a dynamite example of what the region can do with this noble varietal, along with other great Aussie Riesling producers, Grosset, Tim Smith, Pewsey Vale, Pikes and Henschke. The 2011 Rolf Binder Riesling is sizzling with power, crisp dryness and is elegantly styled being floral and lengthy, done in a classic Aussie fashion with loads of character. This fresh white shows citrus blossoms, mint leaves, lemon peel and a flavorful palate of lime, gooseberry, kiwi and tangerine along with petrol fumes, crunchy stones, paraffin and briny notes. Binder’s Riesling keeps it’s cut and drive throughout, this is a tangy and brisk wine that begs for a summer day and lots of oysters on the half shell, drink now and often, though it should age well for another 5 to 7 years, this is fun and impressive Riesling from Oz!
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Weingut Wittmann, Riesling, Morstein, Grosses Gewachs, Rheinhessen, Germany.
For a few years now I’ve been hearing lots of buzz about Wittmann and have been trying to get my hands on some of their wines, as they are known as one of the best estates in the Rheinhessen, and finally I got myself a bottle. While they the wine didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had built up, it was and is a fine and distinct Riesling and one I’ll buy again. The Weingut Wittmann Grand Cru dry Riesling from the Morstein starts out with very deep and mature notes, it has a golden hue and the wine is full of texture showing dried rose petals, baked apple, pear tart and apricot along with vigorous acidity. The mineral tone is low key here and the wine turns creamy giving a mouth coating feel, this is a white wine for red wine drinkers! There is exotic sour cherry, kumquat, sweet basil and persimmon notes that linger on and on, while savory elements, earth, chalk and ocean come into play as well, this wine is lavishly and thoughtfully enjoyable it just doesn’t merit it’s price when compared to some of it’s peers, though I admit 2010 wasn’t the best vintage, so I’m going to keep an open mind and try a few more years. This Grosses Gewachs is certainly serious and well made dry cru Riesling, again I’ll be drinking Wittmann wines in the future, but I’m not sure I am overly thrilled with the price and I think there are a lot of better wines in the that price range, even if this is classy stuff, drink now.
($100 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2011 Tatomer, Riesling, Vandenberg, Santa Barbara County.
Graham Tatomer’s wines are some of of the most thoughtful and well crafted examples of Riesling and Gruner Veltliner to be found in California, these are wines that YOU should look for and try, no question. Tatomer is well immersed into the Santa Barbara wine scene and has become a sensation across the state with these dry whites, his talents were born out of his time in Austria working with Weingut Knoll and the famed Emmerich Knoll in the Wachau region on the Danube west of Vienna, the home of Austria’s best whites, especially Gruner and of course Riesling. Graham has found some good and interesting vineyards, some with old vines going back as far as 1972, and his Vandenberg, named after the Air Force Base, is from sites near by with multiple pickings to get a range of flavors and driving acidity, he uses some Botrytis affected grapes in the blend that gives extra dimension, but this is stony dry Riesling through and through. The 2010 was lovely stuff, but I really love this 2011, it certainly captures vartietal purity and essence perfectly and has intense character, this was a super vintage for dynamic whites and this wine is spot on. The 2011 Vandenberg starts with white flowers, grapefruit, honeyed pear and petrol fumes leading to a crispy palate of chalk, mineral spice, river stones and wax with a vivid sense of green apple, melon, tangerine, lime and white peaches filling out the mouth and lingering on and on with a hint of mint tea and marmalade. This Riesling flows and expands with intriguing texture, but still excites and has a backbone of zest and tang making it perfect for seafood, and it is very lifting and refreshing. This wine is showing maturity and complexity already, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years, be sure you check out Tatomer, this label should be on your radar.
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Chateau Coupe Roses, La Bastide, Minervois, France.
This beautiful and delicate Minervois has heightened aromatics a fresh palate and an exotic lingering finish, it feels richly flavored, but it is light/medium bodied wine, perfect for many cuisines and summertime. Chateau Coupe Roses is an organic estate close to Montagne Noire (Black Mountain) in the village area of La Caunette in the higher Minervois and the vines are on sloping limestone hillsides, along with olive trees, roses and garrigue. The 2012 La Bastide is made up of mostly Grenache and Syrah with some mourvedre and Cinsault, it is tank and vat raised with the Grenache and Syrah getting most of the focus, then aged in neutral cask for about 6 months. The wine is juicy, delightfully alive and shows heady perfume with a bouquet of wild flowers, garrigue and lavender leading to a array of red fruits, mineral and red spices with raspberry, plum and blueberry along with grenadine, strawberry and dried flower tea. There is touches of cracked pepper, chalky stones and anise that add to the whole, this is a fine effort and a bargain for the price, drink now and for the next few years.
($16 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($12.95)
2012 Stolpman, La Cuadrilla, Red Wine, Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez.
The Stolpman wines are ever improving and becoming more interesting with each new vintage, the Syrah wines reign supreme and there is an entertaining set of whites too from which to choose, personally it is a tough choice between the Sauvignon Blanc and the seductively rich Roussanne. That all said, it is the new La Cuadrilla that really impressed, it is a proprietary red blend of Syrah, Sangiovese, Grenache and Petite Sirah, this richly flavored hybrid is lovely, spicy and loaded with energy, and as with all the fine Stolpman offerings it was crafted by the gifted hands of Sashi Moorman of Evening Land, Domaine de la Cote and Sandhi to name a few. The 2012 La Cuadrilla is expressive, starting with violets, rose petals, grilled fennel and cracked pepper, I think the whole cluster Syrah adds the intensity and much of the primary character, but the Sangiovese does come through with time in the glass, while the Grenache and Petite Sirah add a bit of color, body and give the wine a heady touch, this is beautifully balanced, detailed and flows with lavish texture. The palate is round and full with blueberry, boysenberry and creme de cassis along with sweet tobacco, strawberry, kirsch and porcini notes. The mouth feel is lush, but there is vibrancy and the wine never dulls plus it has a nice lengthy finish with a mix of red pepper/chocolate, licorice and espresso leaving a long plummy aftertaste. Drink now and over the course of the next 3 to 5 years, the La Cuadrilla is a seriously fun wine and a nice value too.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2008 Luigi Baudana, Cerretta Barolo DOCG, Serralunga D’ Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2008 Baudana Barolo Cerretta is a stunning and strikingly beautiful wine with power, presence and length all wrapped in silky elegance and refinement, this is glorious stuff made by the talented hands of Giuseppe Vajra, known for his exceptional G.D. Vajra wines as well. The Cerretta is from the Serralunga d’ Alba Barolo zone, this area provides density and gravity from the fossiled Marl, limestone and sandstone, this plot is not far from the historic Falletto and Lazzarito crus and produces wines of distinction, grace and longevity. The 2008 Cerretta shows red fruits, spice, herbs and a firm wall of tannin along with bright acidity and fullness of body starting with dried rose petals, hints of violets and tea spice before a mouth coating of raspberry, damson plum, cherry and strawberry fruits. There is plenty of classic earth, truffle, tar, mineral tones, chalky stones and black melted licorice to remind you of the terroir and Nebbiolo character, this is deep and complex Barolo and it should only get better with another 3 to 5 years in bottle, even though it is surprisingly supple with air and artfully done, drinking lovely now, it deserves a touch more time to reveal everything it has. This gorgeous Barolo has loads of potential and is sublimely crafted by one of the latest generations rising talents and artisans, be sure to keep your eyes on this and the G.D. Vajra labels, these are the real deal.
($90 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Brancaia, Tre, IGT Rosso Toscana, Italy.
Casa Brancaia has three main estates, Brancaia in Castellina in Chianti Classico, Poppi in Radda in Chianti Classico and the Brancaia in Maremma, Grosseto, on the Tuscan Coast, they produce some of the region’s most desirable wines. Brancaia’s baby rosso comes from all three estates and is called Tre, it contains three varietals, mostly Sangiovese and parts of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2010 Brancaia Tre IGT Rosso is 80% Sangiovese with 20% being a select mix of Merlot and the Cabernet, it was aged 12 months in French oak, with about 50% new barrels and while you’d think it would defined by it’s use the oak melts away into this red without seeming overt, in fact the wine tastes and feels fresh and juicy with bright pure Sangiovese character and is deliciously clear and smooth. The Brancaia Tre is lovely, focused and succulent on the palate with dark berry, plum, strawberry, black currant and cherry fruits, minty herbs, anise, cranberry, dried roses and subtle vanilla hints. With air there comes a touch of smoke, cigar box and mineral adding a bit more complexity, but honestly you don’t find depth or density here, this is more an easy go to for simple pleases and laid back cuisine, it is perfect for pasta, hamburgers, picnics and or cold cuts. Best not to over think this one, Brancaia has made fun and well made red that offers much for a fair price, drink now and for the coming 3 to 5 years.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Alfredo Maestro Tejero, Lovamor, Albillo Vino de la Tierra Blanco, Castilla Y Leon, White, Spain.
This rare old vine white from near Ribera del Duero is made from the scarce and native Albillo grape, this wine comes from 100-120 year old vines grown on clay-limestone at about 800m to 1100m in elevation in a wild and arid stretch of hills. Alfredo Maestro Tejero crafts this natural wine with great care and delicacy using 6 days of skin contact and is fermented and aged in small steel vats, nothing is ever added or are then any adjustments to this intriguing wine. With only around 400 bottles produced, this is exceptional rare juice and will be a hunt to find, a needle in the haystack, but certainly a rewarding endeavor. All of the Bodegas Maestro Tejero wines are worth checking out, these are some of the most innovative and seriously delicious offerings coming out of region. The 2012 Albillo, known as the Lovamor, starts with lime blossom, chalk and savory elements and is a golden yellow with an orange tint from the extended skin maceration and has a raw vigor that is very entertaining and unique. There is lemon/lime, tangerine and peach fruits, melon rind, a hint of tannin, herbs and spice along with a grainy stone essence. I’d really love this wine with savory tapas, smoked fish, cured meats and middle eastern lemon chicken. The 2011 was slightly more nutty and already mature, while the 2012 seems fresher and more lively finishing with lots of zest and tangy elements, both very cool, drink 2014 to 2018.
($34 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Paradigm, Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville Estate, Napa Valley.
Don’t miss this truly exceptional 2010 Cabernet, made by Heidi Barrett since day one, Paradigm is one of the great small estates in the Napa Valley within the Oakville AVA, with her experience, including of course Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Grace Family, Hartwell and Vineyard 29 to name just a few, Barrett knows a thing or two about putting a Cabernet together. The 2010 is a fabulous deeply flavored Cabernet with a purple hue and cascade of dark layers and rich full bodied mouth feel. Sexy smoke, thick creme de cassis, blackberry, currant jelly and minty anise seed, sage and sandlewood lead the way in this opulent wine. This wine is balanced, generous and has ripe sweet tannins holding it all together, and the finish is lengthy with wild flowers, plum and cedar notes adding to the mix of complexities, it should drink well into the decade ahead. This is sensational Cabernet and certainly out shines many $200 plus wines, so while not a cheap wine, this is a savvy choice in Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, drink 2015-2025.
($75 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($69.95)