Monthly Archives: September 2014

Wine of the Day September 12, 2014

2012VVRebusRuche2012 Vinchio-Vaglio Serra, Rebus, Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Here’s another wildly cool wine to search for, imported by Bon Vivant Imports, the Vinchio-Vaglio Serra Ruche from Piedmonte is bright, intensely floral and playfully charming. Ruche is a rare varietal, native to Piedmonte and almost exclusively found in Castagnole Monferrato, it was almost extinct at one point, and still there is only a handful or maybe a dozen producers available, I’ve tried most all the wineries that export to the States, and while I have a few favorites, this Vinchio-Vaglio Serra version might be the best for the money in the 2012 vintage. Last year Twitter lit up with a Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato trend, even Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon was singing the Ruche praise, it was amazing an obscure little grape could explode like that, but it shows the love of Italian reds is still very high and the thirst for new things, but it made Ruche harder to find on the shelf! The 2012 Vinchio-Vaglio Serra Rebus starts with the varietal pureness that Ruche is famous for, a burst of rose oil, rose petals, sweet herbs, wild strawberries, white anise and a lovely ruby hue, the Vinchio-Vaglio Serra is not all perfume though, it deepens on the palate with hints of earth, game and the core flavors expand into cherry, raspberry and are lifted by mild acidity and a refined almost creamy texture along with a cut of minty/basil spice, mineral notes and touch of liqueur. This is a medium bodied red that is well put together with a velvet like finish and lingers with a mix of flowers, spice and fruit, it should be interesting to follow over the next few years, drink from 2014 to 2018, this is a very nice version of this unique grape, it should pair well with lamb kabob, roast poultry, think Thanksgiving meal and I like it with some Indian fare too.
($27 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day September 11, 2014

2012RadioCoteauSY2012 Radio-Coteau, Syrah, Las Colinas, Sonoma Coast.
The new 2012 Las Colinas Syrah from Radio-Coteau is a gorgeous, seductive and well made wine that makes you wonder why anyone would buy a mediocre $100 Cabernet when you could drink this at almost half the price, well, in a way I’m fine with that, it means there are beautiful Syrah wines out there that are reasonably priced and not too hard to find. Syrah is always considered the next big thing in the wine world, but it never really is, even though the wines are stunning and easy on the wallet, Syrah is grown around the world and made into great wine, from France, of course, to Italy, Spain in Europe to Argentina, Chile and Brazil in South America, there’s super Syrah made in New Zealand and a huge selection from Australia, along with a host of fantastic wines crafted here in California, and Eric Sussman of Radio-Coteau makes one of the finest examples, from the cool Sonoma Coast. Sussman is a natural wine, low alcohol and an artisan producer, he uses native yeast fermentations and some stem/whole cluster with mostly neutral oak, much like the traditionalists of Cornas in the northern Rhone of Syrah’s historical home. The 2012 is an energy filled, dark and wonderfully textured wine, this is one of the best yet from Sussman, it comes off about 5 single cur sites with a mix of soils and clones, including Alban and Durell, it is an unfiltered beauty that should just get better over the next 2 to 5 years in bottle. The Radio-Coteau Las Colinas Syrah starts with violets, camphor, mineral and dusty/salted stones with a deep blueish black hue and a burst of mixed berries, leading to a sweet and savory palate of blackberry, boysenberry, plum, cherry and cassis/currant fruits with cracked pepper, mint, sage, bacon, iron and chalk with hints of cedar and licorice along with unsweetened coco and olive. This is really good juice, a very savvy wine and I highly you recommend you find some, and also check out Sussman’s Pinot, especially his glorious 2012’s.
($54 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day September 10, 2014

2013SaintCosmeCDR2013 Saint Cosme, Cotes-du-Rhone, Red, France.
Every year, almost without fail I try Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone, and every time I’m just as excited and impressed by this wine. Louis Barruol and his team at Chateau de Saint Cosme deserve all the acclaim and credit they get, for vintage after vintage they turn out some of the best wine for the money any where, especially this one. The basic Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge is 100% Syrah in most every vintage I remember and it is always a lovely wine, and the latest release from 2013 is no exception with great vitality, charm and style showing dark fruit, spice and savory notes. The Saint Cosme 2013 Cotes-du-Rhone starts with violets, tar, meat and damson plum, black olive, along with a medium/full palate of boysenberry, black cherry, blueberry and currant fruits plus peppercorns, chalky/dusty stones, licorice, lavender, bacon and kirsch/liqueur. The alcohol is about 13.5% and while the texture is rich, there is a juicy freshness and brightness that is pleasing and adds to the balanced feel, this wine is dark hued goodness and I highly recommend securing a bunch this fall. This is a top value in my book and it should drink well for the next 3 to 5 years, but no need to wait, I can tell you, I’m a huge fan and I’ll be scoring more than a few bottles myself.
($16 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day September 9, 2014

2011VolvoretaNoSulphur2011 Vino Volvoreta, Probus, No Sulphur, Vin Natural, Toro DO, Spain.
Maria Alfonso Hernandez, one of Spain’s youngest female winemakers, is another rising star in the organic/natural wine scene and her wines from Toro are beautiful and intriguing, made from old vine Tinta de Toro, which is Tempranillo. She makes three wines for export, all elegant and beautifully crafted, but it is the Amphora (terracotta/clay vats) raised, no sulphur Vin Natural that stands out for it’s sheer transparency, stunning intensity and seductive qualities, it is delicate and one of the prettiest Tempranillo wines I’ve ever had, with Burgundy like finesse and has lots of unique personality. Maria, like Marcel Lapierre before her thinks there is more purity in the non sulphur version and I will agree it is different and exotic, and this cuvee which reminds me of Elisabetta Fordori’s Amphora raised Trentino Dolomiti reds is really a wonderfully textured wine with silky tannins, chalky mineral essence and bright/fresh red fruits with a gorgeous floral bouquet. Maria joins a growing group of stylish natural/organic winemakers the world over to be a new generation of influential vignerons, she joins Alfredo Maestro, Arianna Occhipinti, Fabian Jouves, Foradori, Lapierre, Philippe Pacalet, Julien Labet and even Tierry Allemand who is now doing a non sulphur version of his famous Cornas Syrah. While the term Natural Wine or Vin Natural, makes a few eyes roll and has caused quite a fight between traditional/conservative and new age wine lovers, between Somms and Wine Critics, causing more than a few customers to get confused on the subject of organic wine, there is no doubt there are some marvelous examples available, and these are not hippie/dippy wines that turn brown and taste like horrid/funky dirty socks. In California, Ojai Vineyards in releasing two versions of certain wines with and without sulphur with good results as well. Careful cellaring is required on low and no sulphur wines and they need to be safe guarded against heat, but these new generation of ancient style wines are very interesting and charming, especially this one from Maria Alfonso’s Vino Volvoreta. Alfonso explained at a recent Bon Vivant Imports trade tasing in San Francisco that her label Volvoreta means butterfly in local dialect and she started her wines in 2004, and that she has done no sulphur versions since the beginning and that her wines have remained true and flavorful, retaining integrity and color while having no percentage of sulphur detectable. The 2011 Vino Volvoreta Propus No Sulphur cuvee is as mentioned exotic with intense floral tones, a deep nose of mixed flowers, lilac, violets and rose petals included with loads of plum, cherry and black raspberry fruit along with dusty stones, mineral, red spices, anise, lavender oil, red peach and tangy currant. This is a clean wine, grown on her bio-diverse, 100% organic, high elevation estate with rocky soils in the hills of the Toro region in upper middle Spain, shows only a faint and attractive loamy/truffle note in the background, it’s main core is pure fruit with a lift of savory elements in a medium weight, with a deft lightness and low alcohol, Alfonso’s talent and passion are on full display here, this is glorious and thought provoking wine of sublime charm, drink from 2014 to 2018. Be sure to check out her normal cuvees too, low oak with only a touch of sulphur they are almost equally delicious and are exceptional values in hand crafted wines.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day September 8, 2014

2012BDVClaret2012 Bonny Doon, A Proper Claret, Proprietary Red, California.
Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyard is one of California’s most innovative and eccentric wineries, making wines that are both gloriously serious and somewhat masterfully humorous, and his foray into a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine is just that. Randall makes the Iconic Cigare Volant, his irrelevant take on Chateauneuf du Pape and is known for his mainly Rhone style wines and focus, even though he loves many wines and is intrigued by numerous grapes. The idea of blending Syrah, Petite Sirah and even Tannat with the classic Bordeaux varietals will make the Downton Abbey watching puritans, well, frown of course, but the dirty little secret is that years gone by, when a Bordeaux vintage wasn’t up to standard, there would be a mid night truck from Hermitage filled with Syrah, a truck loaded with Tannat from Madiran or the like to help make the Chateaux wines much more drinkable, then they’d be shipped off to England for the nobles to enjoy. In that witty context, the new A Proper Claret from Bonny Doon is lots of fun, playful, but it is also a terrific wine with style, personality and a certain rogue handsomeness. The 2012 Bonny Doon, A Proper Claret (Claret is the very English name for a red Bordeaux) is a cue made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with a huge dark dose of Petit Vedot both classic Bordeaux grapes, Syrah, that Rhone beauty, along with Tannat a very tannic, black grape found in some west France, but now grown with success in Paso Robles and Monterey County, and Petite Sirah who’s real name is Durif and is famously added to many of your favorite wines secretly or not so secretly. This combination of varietals works fantastically well together and makes for a rich and gorgeous extremely dark wine with juicy forward fruit and nice graceful complexity, this is a compelling deep purple/black wine, it is very generous, perfect for a cold night reading Milton by the fire in the library, and for under $20 it really offers tremendous value, poking many a Bordeaux and Napa wines in the eye with causing riots or chaos, well not too much anyway, this is really a well crafted red that deserves your attention, even if your a hardened wine snob, it is good to laugh at yourself once in a while, life’s short, have some fun. The Proper Claret shows wild blackberry, creme de cassis, plum and blueberry compote, hints of cedar, pepper, graphite, sweet and minty herbs, Hershey bar and liqueur notes with a touch of oak and cinnamon stick. There is some vigor and energy, plus ripe, but firm tannins that give structure and poise, no telling how long lived this might be, but for kicks it might wise or unwise to age a few bottles and see what comes, drink from 2014 to 2019, or? Bravo Randall Grahm, Mr Flying Saucer for keeping it real and keeping us guessing.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day September 7, 2012

2012BCSRH2012 Brewer-Clifton, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills.
Steve Clifton and Greg Brewer are two of the good guys in the wine biz, likable, charming and two of California’s great talents, their Brewer-Clifton wines have been wowing us since the late nineties, and now they’ve even raised the bar with their 2012 releases, especially the multi-vineyard cuvee, the Sta. Rita Hills bottling of Pinot Noir. This new edition is simply gorgeous, and amazingly pure, there are no flashy adornments, nor is there any weakness to be found, this wine just sings beautifully with lovely fruit, floral tones and seamless texture, this energy filled and remarkably balanced young Pinot shows the meticulous precision of Greg Brewer’s talents in the cellar, he ferments everything in stainless steel and uses no new oak, and highlights the total commitment to farming the guys are doing, every grape they use now are from vines they farm themselves, this took a big investment and was a risk, as the grapes they were sourcing were from some of the best vineyards in the region and well known, but everything is paying off, and the rewards are really evident in this wine. The vivid and fresh 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot begins with it’s garnet/ruby hue, stunning and bright in the glass, a deep bouquet leading with soft violets, mixed roses and brambly red fruits, sweet herbs with hints of mineral opening to a medium bodied full flavored palate of refined and poised raspberry, plum, currant and dark cherry fruits, super clear, transparent and being lifted by focused acidity, creamy/silky textures and array of subtle complexities including cedar, anise, wild strawberry, pomegranate, stony elements, briar spice and rose oil. This wine is strengthened by the whole, the sum of it’s parts all coming together to be a complete and pleasing wine, Greg and Steve can be proud of their latest wines, and this one in particular is a fantastic Pinot, a real statement of intent, drink now through 2019.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day September 6, 2014

2011RidgeMonteBello2011 Ridge, Monte Bello, Proprietary Red, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Ridge Monte Bello is one of the great wines of the world, often besting the First Growths in my book, and often the wine to look for in an off year, proving that point especially well is the 2011 vintage, as Ridge has turned out an amazing wine. I taste lots of wine, I’ve had hundreds of 2011 Cabernet blends, and while there have been many outstanding wines and some great surprises, there has been some real troubled wines and it has to be said it was not a great year, some like to spin it and say it was a year for refined palates and such, I will be honest, it wasn’t all that pleasing to be kind. Then along came the 2011 Ridge Monte Bello, if you wanted to get a fabulous and complex world beating wine from this vintage, then this might be your top option in Cabernet Sauvignon, again in my opinion, and I have some experience with Monte Bello, this is amazing wine. The latest Monte Bello shows a beautiful dark garnet/purple hue with an almost blue/black core with floral tones lifting from the glass along with mineral/graphite, hints of camphor, blueberry and baking spices leading to a glorious palate arrayed with blackberry, mulberry, plum, deep black currant/cassis plus tobacco, cinnamon, pencil lead, cedar, black licorice, smoke, sage/briar and vanilla. This 12.8% medium to full weighted wine is utterly spellbinding, sublime and graceful, bravo to the whole Ridge team, this is a majestic Monte Bello that shines brightly, can’t wait to revisit this fantastic wine again in 5 to 10 years. Drink this beauty anytime you wish, but those that have patience will certainly be rewarded, it should drink well if not perfectly brilliant from 2016 to 2025. This 2011 Ridge Monte Bello, about 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with small parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc, will be a savvy choice and rivals the best from Bordeaux, it tastes like a blend of La Mission Haut-Brion and Chateau Margaux with a California heart and soul, both thumbs up, I might even re-rate higher as I only was able to taste from a 375ml-Half Bottle, absolutely super!
($145-169 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day September 5, 2014

2011PuzeletBohommeCot2011 Puzelet-Bonhomme, Cot “KO” In Cot We Trust, Malbec, Loire Valley, Vin de France.
Jean-Marie and Thierry Puzelet, along with Pierre Bohomme are Loire Valley Natural Wine legends, their unique and creative wines are stunning examples of how far this movement has come and show that these wines are not a passing fad, but are serious and beautiful wines, especially wines like this gorgeous 100% Malbec, known as Cot in the Loire Valley. This intriguing and interesting wine feels more like Burgundy than Cahors, and nothing like Bordeaux, it is a totally terroir distinct expression of this grape from vines that have been in the Loire region for three generations of Puzelet’s with Pierre having influence over this project. The KO Cot, In Cot We Trust is a delicate and medium weight red with floral notes and succulent blueberry, plum, mulberry and strawberry fruits along with mineral tones, light earthy/loamy notes, hints of pepper, lavender and crushed rose petal, it gains in texture in the glass and a lift of acidity brings the flavors to life with trust a hint of cedar and whiff of cured meat. This is wonderful stuff from Puzelet-Bohomme, and if you enjoy Vin Naturel, you should search high and low for this wine and others from either Puzelet Clos du Boeuf or Pierre Bohomme, both based in Les Montils in Cheverny, they also have Pinot Noir, Gamay and other fun reds to marvel at. This wine comes in about 12%, no filtering, no new wood and very low sulphur, but is stable, clear and lingering, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day September 4, 2014

2010AlfredoMaestroTerrunos2010 Alfredo Maestro Tejero, Terrunos de Castilla, Seleccion, Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon, Tempranillo, Spain.
Alfredo Maestro’s Terrunos is a barrel selection of very old vine Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero and it is a lovely deep wine of purity and terroir, he employs natural winemaking and shuns new French or American oak, preferring neutral cask and letting the wine express itself, and this wine does beautifully. Maestro is an artisan and his wines show his passion and each of his many creations are wonderful examples of place and expressions of his commitment to each vineyard. These wines are unique and full of character and soul, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously, being a playful person by nature, he lets the wines speak for themselves, if you haven’t yet tried these wines, they must now be a priority, especially this Terrunos old vine Tempranillo. The 2010 vintage Terrunos de Castilla Seleccion is darkly hued with a deep garnet and ruby core with earthy red and black fruits, spice and toffee notes rising from the glass leading to an expansive palate of plum, raspberry, red currant, fig paste and creamy black cherry layers, along with cedar, minty herb/anise, warm rock/chalk, truffle and English toffee notes. This wine is pleasure filled and silky with refined tannins and low acidity, it feels at a good stage with everything in place, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day September 3, 2014

Barolo 2010 Report Vajra & Baudana Tasting
By Kerry Winslow


Giuseppe Vajra is one of Piedmonte’s newest stars and while he is a long line of Vajra’s and the family has a long history of winegrowing in the region it really has been since 2008 that things have brought him and the wines to international attention and world fame. Vajra makes an amazing selection of beautiful wines, but is most famous for their glorious Nebbioli, and their Barolo stands out, especially the Cru Bricco delel Viole, this is a wine that collectors and purists covet and showcases the talents of the Vajra family. Giuseppe fresh of the flight from Italy, on a quick sales trip to California showed off his lineup of 2010 vintage Barolo, his own label G.D. Vajra and the winery they took over in 2008, Luigi Baudana in Serralunga d’ Alba, all of which were stunning, each showing youth, terroir and subtle unique distinction along with the deep fruit of this acclaimed vintage. These wines certainly will need years of time to reveal everything they possess, but these are potentially the best yet from Giuseppe Vajra. The Bricco delle Viole is the most impressive as expected, but the two Cru Luigi Baudana wines, Baudana and Cerretta are both masterpieces as well, but they’ll need to develop a while in bottle and these three wines could rate near perfection in 5 to 7 years and drink from 2020-2032. The basic Baroli are fantastic values and will have a window of enjoyment that will start sooner, with the G.D. Vajra Albe having already ready been in bottle almost a year now, showing much more open and generous, but I found myself drawn to the recently bottled 2010 Luigi Baudana Barolo Serralunga, see below, and while these Barolo wine need to age, Giuseppe Vajra’s other wines should be more than enough to keep you entertained in the meantime, especially the Vajra Dolcetto, Barbera, Langhe Nebbiolo and his exotic Freisa, maybe the best version of the varietal in all of Piedmonte, plus Vajra makes one of the best Rieslings you’ll ever try, a dry complex offering that rivals many Austrian, German and French wines, so be sure to checkout Vajra’s wines and if you are a real Barolo enthusiast, you’ll need to hurry to reserve your 2010 G.D. Vajra and Luigi Baudana collection, they will sell out fast, Vajra and Baudana are in imported by Rinascimento Wine Company of Los Angeles and are available through Beaune Imports in Northern California.

2010BaudanaBarolo2010 Luigi Baudana, Barolo DOCG, del Comune di Serralunga d’ Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
Giuseppe Vajra’s lovely and precise normal Barolo from his Luigi Baudana label is maybe the steal of the vintage so far, it is wonderfully classic and full of flavor with an array of layers and superb structure, it shows fine tannins and nice acidity, neither of which intrudes on the generous fruit. The 2010 vintage is one of the most hailed years for Barolo I can remember, and after tasting the Vajra and Baudana I can certainly see why, and agree, this is a fantastic vintage and these wines have massive potential, even though you’ll need to wait some years to get all that is promised, these wines will be very rewarding and they deserve a place in your cellars. The regular Baudana crafted lovingly by Giuseppe Vajra is really a seductive and pretty wine with hints of roses and wild flowers, minty tar, bacon and lifted red fruits including plum, cherry and brambleberry along with anise, spice, loam and truffle notes plus a lingering finish of tangy currants and cedar. This wine shows a delicacy and poise already with a glorious full mouth feel, subtle density and there is much more to come, be sure to keep an eye out for the Luigi Baudana 2010 Barolo, it should arrive in the States late fall of this year (2014) and should drink wonderfully for the next decade easy, best from 2016 to 2021.
($55 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive