2011 Cashburn, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand.
The Cashburn label brings famous Sonoma Coast winemaker of Littorai, Ted Lemon, Megadeath and New Zealand’s Burgundy like region of Central Otago together, and this has produced a fabulous and racy Pinot Noir! What were you expecting, Hobbits, Wizards and Trolls? Lemon’s gifted touch and fine terroir influences make for a stylish and unique expression and one worth searching out no question, this is serious Pinot Noir made by a guy that knows something about the varietal from his long and storied career. The 2011 Cashburn Central Otago flows with decedent red fruits, spice and heightened intensity and is driven by vibrant acidity and lovely earthy notes that fold nicely into this medium bodied Pinot from Kiwi-land. The nose has an interesting array of sparks to your senses with dried flowers, flinty mineral spice, wild game and mushroom along with kirsch notes leading to a lively and firm palate of red currants, damson plum, mountain berry and a succulent core of morello cherry fruit along with truffle, bacon fat and guava. This briar and bramble laced Pinot Noir expands on the palate and the tannins melt into a silky rich wine that certainly with gain with another few years in bottle, though I like that is is not too polished yet and has many intriguing angles to explore now and changes all the time in the glass, this is sexy and exotic Pinot Noir, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The latest Beaux Freres Pinot is well endowed with lushness, elegance and balance, it is less serve and not as delicate as the 2011, making for a bit more flamboyance and head turning attraction. Mike Etzel and his team always turn out a great wine, their talents and skills are legendary, Beaux Freres is one of the finest estates in America, not just Oregon and the wines are truly world class. The 2012 vintage is going to be a special year for Oregon Pinot Noir, if there was ever a time to stock to the gills in Willamette Valley Pinot, this is the vintage, look for lots of magical wines and some very rewarding longterm investments, and without a doubt some of the most successful with come from Beaux Freres. I was lucky enough to taste 20 year old Beaux Freres Pinot at a tasting held by Santa Cruz Mountains vintner and Pinot enthusiast Richard Alfaro of Alfaro Family Vineyards, he is an avid collector of Beaux Freres and he showed a mini vertical of 1993, 1994 and 1995 Beaux Freres, and they were all sound and glorious, especially the famed 1994 and the 1995, so wines can age and do so gracefully. The 2012’s look set for a long pleasing life too, though it will be hard not to drink these beauties as fast as you can, they are drinking fantastic already. The 2012 Willamette Valley cuvee from Beaux Freres is beautifully detailed and striking with heady perfume, rich texture and heavenly layers of flavor. The Willamette features fruit souced from prime vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley and is made up of about 14% of Beaux Freres Estate and Upper Terrace fruit and from Cru sites that include Savoya, Zena Crown, Hyland and others. The wine sees less new oak than the all estate bottling, though it is seriously lavish and complex, this wine oozes hedonistic charm and is the sexiest young Beaux Freres to date, you don’t want to miss this alluring and heady wine. The nose is filled with violets and red rose petals, earth, spice and smoke leading to a round generous palate of blackberry, blueberry, plum and dark cherry fruits along with lifting acidity, silky tannins and mineral notes, plus touches of mocha, wild strawberry, flinty pepper, asian tea, vanilla and dried currants. This wine is just hitting the market and will sell out fast, so don’t wait it will be very sad to miss this vintage, I can’t wait to try the estate wines, drink from 2015 to 2026.
($60 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive
2012 Shared Notes, Sauvignon Blanc, Les Pierres Qui Decident, Russian River Valley.
The Les Pierres Qui Decident is a homage to the great wines of the Loire Valley, this is pure Sauvignon Blanc with a nod to the late great Didier Dagueneau. This is a vibrant and intense minerally Sauvignon Blanc that is wonderfully textured and elegant. Shared Notes is the husband and wife winemaking team of the emerging talents Bibiana Gonzalez Rave (Cattleya), a former Cote-Rotie winemaker at Domaine Ogier as well as having Haut-Brion, Peay Vineyards, and Lynmar on her CV, and Jeff Pisoni (Pisoni Estate) who also makes Fort Ross and was an assistant at Peter Michael. These two rising stars have always wanted to make wine and are now two very highly regarded winemakers and consultants. The Shared Notes label marks their beginning in making wine together with 2012 being their first vintage to collaborate, and wow, they have made two spectacular wines, this glorious Sauvignon Blanc and another Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend that is striking and stylish in a great white Bordeaux style, both are stunning examples of what can be done with the varietal(s) and showcase their passion and skills, these are not to miss wines. The Les Pierres Qui Decident is full of racy intensity and vibrant flavors with lemon/lime, green melon, gooseberry, quince and hint of grapefruit lead the way with a touch of kiwi and tropical essence, vivid mineral tones and bracing acidity which while a force in this wine never gets top billing, this wine has added depth and density with a lot of character, hints of white flowers, tangerine and wet river rocks. Everything folds together perfectly, this is seriously delicious wine, it has the class and quality that really takes this Sauvignon Blanc to a higher level and is one of the finest in California. This wine certainly is is the top 5 Sauvignon Blancs I’ve had from California along with the Rochioli Old Vine, Peter Michael, Morlet Family and Greystack, it reminds me how exciting this grape can be. I can’t wait to see what Jeff and Bibiana do next! Drink from 2014 to 2020, though it might be a good idea to leave a few bottles for 7 to 10 years to see what happens, I have a feeling it will be rewarding.
($74 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Maison Marchand-Tawse, Pommard, Red Burgundy, France.
Pascal Marchand, the former Comte Armand winemaker, knows Pommard and how to get the best of it and this 2011 shows his skill and touch, this is a wonderful expression of finesse and terroir, this wine is a gift to cherish. While the vintage is not going to get lots of praise or press, these wines from Marchand are almost as delectable as his 2009 and 2010 wines, I think they are solid choices for true Burgundy lovers and non investment buyers, these wines are highly enjoyable and should age well with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years easy, though they are generous and drink well even now. The 2011 Marchand wines are a savvy choice and will not disappoint, especially this lovely Pommard with it’s racy red fruits, spice and chalky mineral tones. The 2011 Pommard starts with a bouquet of dried roses, minty herbs, warm stones and a touch of earth and iodine leading to a palate of refined silky tannins, bright acidity and giving lush fruits that include a core of cherry, plum and raspberry while a long lingering wild strawberry stays throughout and haunts long after the glass is empty. There is dusty stones, anise, tea spice and truffle notes as well making for an entertaining and seductive wine. This is really well crafted, radiant and engaging Pinot Noir, and again a wine for wine lovers, drink from 2015 to 2022. Tasted a finished bottle sample durning La Paulee SF Burgundy Week, it will be arriving in May of 2014.
($80 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 J. Rochioli, Pinot Noir, River Block, Russian River Valley.
The 2010 River Block is a glorious Pinot Noir, it is shedding it’s baby fat and lavish French oak leaving a full flavored wine with beautiful detail and lush texture. While not easy to find, and rather pricy, the Rochioli Pinots are luxury items and some of the most delectable in the state. I was lucky, after a seven year wait I was able to get on their mailing list and I now get a small offer each year, of which I try to get a few Pinots from the estate, along with the Chardonnay. I open them them for friends or special occasions, so after a short cellar period I decided to open this bottle, as it happened it was my birthday wine, that put grand expectations on this vintage and I can happily report this River Block easily met all my expectations and exceeded my desires on the night, with a great performance, this is wonderful stuff, even though it will be even better with another 3 to 5 years. The 2010 Rochioli River Block starts with a rich bouquet of floral notes, mocha, smoke, red berries and spicy vanilla leading to a full mouth of plum, black cherry and raspberry fruits along with ripe silky tannins, subtle acidity, licorice and dried cranberry. This is a showy wine, but still has balance and depth, this is a total pleasure to drink and will only reward those that wait a bit longer, I’d say as good as it is now, it should merit a higher rating in 3 to 5 years, everything is there to be a classic legendary wine from this world class winery.
($120 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Brunier, Piedlong, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
The Piedlong Leux-Dits Piedlong et Pignan from Domaine du Telegraphe’s Daniel Brunier is a beautiful Chateauneuf du Pape expression, it replaces the Domaine la Roquete in the Vignobles Brunier lineup, and comes from the Piedlong plateau, high up and is formed from estate Grenache 90%, 70 year old vines, and 10% Mourvedre, 50 year old vines, these stony plots gives exceptional depth and richness. The 2011 shows gorgeous cassis, cassis and strawberry up front with silky tannins, cracked pepper, chalky mineral, lavender oil, grenadine and savory earthy notes. This looks set to serve as a perfect foil to the main Vieux Telegraphe, it is made well and reflects it’s terroir, and it is much more a pure Grenache in nature vs the more boding VT, the Piedlong is much more flamboyant, fruit driven and hedonistic, this is such a pleasure trip, I highly recommend this deeply flavored wine. The bouquet is heady and lively too with wild flowers, truffle, kirsch and raspberry adding to the enjoyment, for those that go nuts for Barroche or Pegau will really dig this sexy new Brunier wine, it has that kind of profile and it should drink well into the next decade, drink from 2015-2022.
($65-87 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley.
Ken Wright’s legendary Pinot Noirs are some of the Oregon standard bearers, and while his single vineyard wines are his top tier offerings, it is his Willamette Valley cuvee that can be the best value and early drinking wine, and this 2012 version is a great example. The vintage is looking like a classic year for Oregon Pinot, and I was certainly impressed by Ken Wright’s single vineyard samples I tried earlier, but the real steal and show stopping is this lovely entry level cuvee, while his single vineyard wines need a few years to show their best, this wine is tasting great now. I say, don’t miss this value priced Pinot from the maestro, it gives the pleasure of his upper level wines and is more user friendly with soft tannins, open fruit and a suburb lengthy finish, this is lovely and well crafted wine, especially for the price. The bouquet is more heady and pretty than the tight and closed single vineyard wines, it shows wilted roses, hints of dark flowers, red spices and mineral tones along with red currant, earth and sweet herbs leading to a medium weight palate with bright acidity lifting the red fruits including flavors of plum, raspberry and strawberry to go with a tangy cherry core element. The background shows cedar, pepper, lavender, forest floor, wet stones, smoke and porcini. Drink from 2014 to 2019.
($27-32 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Liquid Farm, Chardonnay, Golden Slope, Sta. Rita Hills.
This beautifully crafted Chardonnay is another success for the young and talented team at Liquid Farm, a rising star on the Sta. Rita Hills wine scene and beyond. The 2012 releases elevates Liquid Farm into the top echelon of fine artisan producers of Chardonnay in the greater Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Barbara area, these wines show the passion and energy of the very best from their region, moving them up along side Brewer-Clifton, Sandhi and Tyler, all of which are highly recommended. Of the latest set of 2012 the Golden Slope really stands out, this is interesting and vigorous Chardonnay that has a Burgundy like austerity, but unique charms and lots of personality with fresh dynamic acidity and underlying richness, this not a harsh lean wine, nor is it a flabby cream pie, this is well made and pure Chardonnay that will intrigue you and keep a smile on your face from first sip until to the faint memory is all that’s left in the bottle. Liquid Farm’s first release was a mere 4 barrels in 2009, their mission was to connect the wine with the place, soils and growers, they wanted to transmit terroir and make vibrant expressions of Chardonnay, with the help of Brandon Sparks-Gillis of Dragonette Cellars the husband and wife team of Jeff and Nikki Nelson have done so in spades. The new Golden slope starts with white flowers, vivid citrus and mineral tones leading to a zesty palate of vivacious fruits, spice and herb notes that feels almost Chablis like steely, but with a bit more California sun infused. The Golden Slope was all native yeast fermented with 85% neutral wood and 15% new French oak, which adds a bit of style, baking spices and a sumptuous volume to this fine Chardonnay. This mid palate expands with lemon, peach, clove and yellow apples along with hints of sea salt, vanilla and tropical notes. This wine should prove entertaining over the next 3 to 5 years and may just reward even longer cellaring, this is very savvy and alluring juice.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($46.95)
2011 Philippe Pacalet, Puligny-Montrachet, White Burgundy, France.
The gorgeous and rich 2011 Philippe Pacalet Puligny is a textured and fresh Chardonnay of wonderful class and detail. Pacalet sources small yielding organic grapes from select plots, employs gentle natural native yeast fermentation and ages on the lees in neutral cask making a stylish and generous wine that showcases terroir, vivid transparency and heightened flavors. Pacalet’s natural winemaking might work best in his glorious white wines, while he gets most attention for his reds, these whites are stunning wines, both his Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet shine brightly and standout for their lovely texture, vivacious character and class, these are strikingly beautiful wines. The latest Puligny-Montrachet, the 2011 is pure joy in the glass with vibrancy and charm, it shows white flowers, apple, white peach, lemon oil and spiced pear along with steely mineral, hazelnut and wet stones from a cold river. This is lovely Puligny, it feels decadent and noble without being heavy and while young it delivers lots of pleasure and finesse, drink over the next 5 to 8 years. While the 2010 was a tad more gripping and austere, the 2011 is more open and expressive, this is golden nectar through and through, both graceful and lively.
($100+ Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com
La Paulee San Francisco
March 2-15, 2014
For more of my favorite wines from this years event please click on to the link READ ON
2012 Domaine Weinbach, Riesling, Reserve Personnelle, Alsace, France.
Weinbach is one of my favorite producers, and Laurence Faller crafts beautiful and flavorful wines, especially her Riesling wines, like her entry level Reserve Personnelle that comes from Clos des Capucins. The Domaine’s Clos is farmed all biodynamic and is set on alluvium, sand and granite gravelly soils first planted by the Capucins monks, it was first mentioned as far back as 890, this is an ancient place with a long history. The wines show vivid flavors, rich layered fruit and wonderful finesse and grace, Faller has a gifted touch and the Reserve Personnelle 2012 is great introduction to the Weinbach wines and the Domaine’s style. The nose is lifted with citrus flowers, orange and spice clove and fig leading to a medium light feeling palate of lime, green apple, passion fruit, peach and tangerine as well as earthy loam, mineral notes and tropical essences. All this and that great balance, elegance and focus brought together with succulent acidity, plus a lengthy finish with a burst of zesty citrus and a touch of apricot and wilted roses. This is gorgeous dry Riesling that has much to offer and joy to bring, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, it will be great with an array of cuisine choices from Asian to cured meats, poultry and a spring picnic spread, delicious stuff this.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com