Monthly Archives: November 2014

Grapelive Flashback: 2000 Bordeaux

2000Pichon2000 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac, Grand Cru Classe, Red Bordeaux, France.
Checking in on 2000 Bordeaux is always revealing, but ultimately disappointing, especially the wines you want to be fantastic, when are these hard core wines ever going to be ready, or pleasing? It mystifies me, over the years and with all the hype surrounding the vintage, I’ve found very few that turn my head, the exceptions so far have been Angelus, Pontet-Canet (still hard and tight) and Haut-Bailly, the rest have been less than stellar let’s say, if fact I completely hate the 2000 Mouton, I’ve had it many times, from regular 750ml to Magnums (twice) and it is in my opinion no where as good as it should be and I feel it will never be, I found it animal/murky and very unpleasant without fail, but the Pichon Comtesse is starting to show some promise and it was certainly better than Mouton! The example of 2000 Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande came from a perfect cellar and was still amazingly youthful and tight, even after decanting and with almost 18 hours of air! I should think another 10 to 15 years are needed for these top 2000 Bordeaux to begin to come together, in the meantime find and drink the 2001 vintage, vastly underrated and a true bargain, the 2001 wines are much more pleasing, beautiful and rewarding at this point. All that ranting aside, there is potential here, and while not joyously hitting the right notes, the 2000 Pichon has lots to admire hiding behind it’s tough frame, there is soft floral notes, smoke, blackberry, black cherry, dark currants, plum and graphite up front, while slowly evolving, it has fine mineral, licorice, blackberry, cedar and lifting acidity making the fruit at least shine through the tannins. The structure is firm, but not bitterly harsh, it is just holding back the body and texture from giving much still. Fine and elegant detail pop in and out of view, with tobacco leaf, herbs and spice in the background of this Cabernet Sauvignon led wine, sadly drinking this wine now is like watching paint dry, it is frustrating and gives a sense of hopelessness, be very, very patient if you have this one in the cellar, I almost would tell us mature folks to sell the 2000’s and invest the proceeds in a more opulent and friendly vintage! Drink from 2020-2035.
($200-300 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 30, 2014

2013Groiss2013 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Gruner Veltliner, Weinviertel DAC, Austria.
Wow, what a fabulous wine, this was my first experience tasting the Groiss wines from Weinviertel, a region north of Krems, in an area not readily discovered or known in the States, and made by the talented winemaker Ingrid Groiss. If you were ever wondering why Gruner is so popular with wine geeks and sommeliers, then find this wine, and don’t miss out on this particular vintage either, this is stunning stuff. The 2013 Gruner from Groiss is vibrant and striking with a cascade of gorgeous tangy/zesty fruits, sizzling/piercing acidity and charming complexity, showing intense force (drive), mineral essence and impeccable poise, this is very expressive and impressive, it has an almost Riesling like energy and vigor, but remains true to varietal profile, this region has Loess soils and it has less Danube influence than the Wachau or Kremstal, but is non the worse for it. I hope to explore more from Ingrid Groiss and after sampling this wine, will be a devoted fan I’m sure. This Weinviertel 2013 Gruner starts with a peachy note, lots of citrus and steely elements with lemon/lime, grapefruit, tangerine and unripe green apple, hints of pineapple, wet stones, chalky brine, almond oil and minty herbs. This wine, like many from this vintage show a heightened, electric like, vivid nature, this is a great year for Gruner Veltliner, and Ingrid Groiss has captured the best the year had on offer and took it to a great place, this is definitely a wine to get excited about and is a remarkable value, a big thank you to Stevie and Josiah at Bay Grape in Oakland for turning me on to this wonderful wine and artisan producer. This 12.5% light to medium weight wine with brisk and crispy focus would be an ultra fantastic picnic wine, perfect with oysters and is super refreshing, sadly summer is gone, but it should drink superbly for another 3 to 5 years easy. This is a winery to watch, I enjoyed this as much as Knoll, Nigl and Brundlmayer, which are some of my very favorite wines, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 29, 2014

1996Schonborn1996 Schloss Schonborn, Riesling, Domdechaney, Rheingau, Germany.
Graf von Schonborn Schloss Schonborn is one of the Rheingau region’s classic estates and has been making wine under the Schonborn family since 1349, it is located near Hattenheim, there are single estate wines and they have holdings in the top vineyards in the area, these are classic wines and wines that age beautifully. The 1996 Domdechaney is an off dry example of Rheingau Riesling with wonderful fruit intensity and layered charm, opened on Thanksgiving with friends in 2014, this glorious golden/yellow hued Riesling at 18 years old is showing fantastic with rich flavors, mature stylish grace and density. This is why Riesling is a such a great value for cellaring, you can get a reasonable Riesling under $30 or $20 even and it will age superbly and give great rewards, like this one from Schloss Schonborn. The 1996 Schloss Schonborn Domdechaney opens with that brilliant color, and the bouquet is deep with rose oil, hints of mineral, petrol and honeycomb as well as clove spice, leading to a complex palate of baked apple, tangerine, lychee, dried apricot, honeyed pear and a mix of citrus and tropical fruits with touches of mushroom, brine, salted caramel, flinty stones, peach tart, apple butter and nectarine flesh. This classy Riesling is mildly sweet, but feels remarkably balanced and it has plenty of life, utterly delicious and compelling, drink now, and for another 3 to 5 years easy, this is sublime stuff with nice weight, depth and vigor, it flows with seamless grace on the palate with luxurious mouth-feel and a lingering aftertaste of pure pleasure.
($35-46 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 28, 2014

2013Volvoreta2013 Vino Volvoreta, Flores de Cerezo, Toro DO, Spain.
Maria Alfonso Hernandez, of Toro in Spain, joins the list of aspiring young female natural winemakers, she, like Arianna Occhipinti in Sicily, Indrid Groiss in Austria, Eva Fricke in Germany and many others around the world, is a dedicated artisan making deliciously pure wines that reflect their unique terrors, using organic farming where possible and applying minimalist cellar techniques with out chemicals or additives, with low or no sulphur and never much oak, she prefers cement, terra-cotta, used casks and tank. These wines are all about purity and freshness, they have caused some concern among critics as many a prior example of “Natural Wine” proved a flawed/dirty wine, but this issue has largely been put to rest. Maria Alfonso Hernandez’s Volvoreta wines are clear, vivid and well detailed showing bright flavors, focus and are easy to love. She makes usually three cuvees, with her top cuvee being the Probus, one with and one with out any sulphur, and this joven of tank raised Tempranillo from her Toro estate. The Flores de Cerezo comes from a selection of plots, all biodynamic, and is light to medium bodied with vibrant layers of red fruits, a floral nose and seductive and delightful finish, it shows creamy cherry, raspberry, strawberry and dusty plum notes along with mineral, chalky stones, saline, red cirrus and peach brightness along with hints of earth, anise, blueberry and tangy currant. This playful and unpretentious red is not the usually international styled reds you find from this region of old Tempranillo (Tinta de Toro) vines, where is is common to see lots of flashy new French and American barrique influencing the wine. This wine feels alive and vivacious, more like a Loire wine and it is clean and almost crisply finished, but with a nice lengthy aftertaste, very impressive, especially good for drinking now, drink from 2014 to 2018, it won’t blow you away with depth or complexity, but is has many charms!
($19 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Happy Thanksgiving Wine of the Day November 27, 2014

2011DehuMeunier2011 Benoit Dehu, Coteaux Champenois Rouge “La Rue des Noyers” Pinot Meunier, Champagne Still Red Wine, France.
This old Champagne house has been around since before the French Revolution, it started in 1787, and is now a leader in Pinot Meunier cult bubbly and still wine. Benoit, who is now the winemaker here, crafts about 300 cases of Champagne each vintage from his tiny single vineyard of 100% Pinot Meunier and does two still wines, a white and a red Pinot Meunier, the white is striking and totally unique, I’ve never had in my memory a blanc (white) Pinot Meunier, and it is lovely, as is Benoit’s fine organic Champagne, it is gorgeous, world class and vivid stuff, but I was totally geeked out by his 50 cases production, 2 barrel lot of Rouge. There are many Pinot Meunier reds out there, from California to Germany, some very good ones too, but I think this old vine Massale selection Pinot Meunier by Benoit Dehu is the most interesting version I’ve ever tasted, it is a fascinating wine of purity and terroir, an almost naked/transparent varietal wine of distinct character, this wine speaks of passion and place, graceful, lively and radiant. Dehu is in Fossoy, near the Valle de la Marne area and set on chalky soils, everything here is about openness and site expression, and the 2011 Dehu La Rue des Noyers Rouge shows it off to perfection, the nose is delicately perfumed with floral notes, loamy earth, spiced plum and red summer fruits leading to a medium weight palate of raspberry, cherry and cranberry fruits, candied and savory layers playing an aria in the mouth, there is added hints of mineral, game, truffle, mint, sweet and sour, anise and sappy red currant as well. This is a super rare, niche wine, with opulence and grace, not easily found or understood, but very intriguing and worth of that noble search, though you will be able to find the Champagne Benoit Dehu more readily and it is truly awesome bubbly and worth every penny, be sure to keep an eye out for these cool and fantastic wines, all single vintage, vineyard and varietal Pinot Meunier.
($53 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 26, 2014

2013CluselGamay2013 Domaine Clusel-Roch, Traboules, Coteaux du Lyonnais, France.
Guillaume Clusel’s Traboules is 100% Gamay from just outside of Lyon, but made at Ampuis, Northern Rhone, not too far away, made from 20 plus year old organic vines. This almost Rhone Gamay shows the influence of place and tradition, it is a little rough around the edges, but is a nicely detailed wine with it’s own charms and beauty. While most people know Domaine Clusel-Roch for their Cote-Rotie and Condrieu the winery also does a few Gamay wines, including a rose even, and this Traboules is a delicious, almost Rhone like, example of this Beaujolais varietal. While a bit weird, this intriguing wine is wickedly cool and has lots of interesting character, especially alluring to many a wine geek, at a quite easily affordable price. This Gamay, which the Clusel’s say is mostly destemmed, feels a bit Cornas like with spice, skin tannin and dusty/stony with grip and a slightly rustic nature, but with a good fruit core, admirable grace and impressive length. This Coteaux du Lyonnaise opens up to reveal, hints of wild flowers, blueberry, poached plum, dark cherry and strawberry fruits along with herb/tea notes, celery root, minty basil, walnut and melted black licorice. Fermented with native yeasts and aged in vats of stainless (no wood) the Traboules cuvee is a fresh and dynamic wine, it has surprising complexity, it certainly gives some appealing layers and is distinct wine, without question more Rhone than Beaujolais. Imported by Charles Neal a hero of the “country wine” and made in tiny amounts, the Clusel-Roch Coteaux du Lyonnaise are not going to be easy to find, but are worth the quest. This wine grew on me over the course of the evening, and it is wonderful with food, it is fruity, spicy, savory and earthy with good vigor, depth and playfulness, I really dig it, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 25, 2014

2012BlackKiteRest2012 Black Kite, Pinot Noir, Kite’s Rest, Anderson Valley.
Black Kite is one of the most prized Pinots in the state and the 2012’s are some of the best wines to date from this winery, if you’ve not had a chance to try them, this is the time. Well respected winemaker Jeff Gaffner of Saxon Brown, crafts all the Black Kite wines, which are mostly from single vineyard Anderson Valley sites, though Black Kite has expanded and now includes wines made from the Santa lucia Highlands, will fruit coming from Garys’ Vineyard and Pisoni’s newest star, Soberanes Vineyard. The Anderson Valley bottling remain the stars here, and I was thrilled to taste though a set of 2012’s, which were of top quality and certainly well crafted, the Stony Terrace made from Rochioli clone was an eye opener and was my favorite of the set, but the best value and not far off was the Kite’s Rest, a most true Anderson Valley terroir wine in style with slightly lower alcohol and a bit more tension, live and vibrancy. The 2012 Kite’s Rest is by far the best version of this wine that I’ve tried, it shows more finesse, transparency and still has depth and hedonistic pleasure, when people imagine balance, this is what they are hoping for and there is subtle oak influence along with (ripe) nice fruit intensity. The nose begins the journey with dried roses, tea spice, hints of violets and red currants coming from the glass of this brilliantly ruby hued Pinot leading to a succulent palate of black cherry, juicy plum, raspberry, strawberry and cranberry fruits mixed with hints of stones, saline, chalk, smoke, vanilla and cinnamon plus anise, earthy tones and red peach. The mouth is filling, playing with vivid flavors, round texture and lifting acidity, gaining some weight, but never heavy or dulling, this is beautiful and rewarding Pinot Noir, drink from 2015 to 2019.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 24, 2014

2010CastellodiAmaCC2010 Castello di Ama, Chianti Classico “Ama” DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
The Castello di Ama 2010 Ama Chianti Classico is beautiful, old school and earthy with a cool vintage vibrancy and feel, this is a very stylish example of terroir. Mostly Sangiovese as per normal, the baby in Ama’s lineup doesn’t disappoint and the little bit of Merlot doesn’t take away a thing here, and of course Castello di Ama does do a single vineyard Merlot that is off the charts good, and a wallop to the wallet, in the same league as many exclusive Pomerol offerings, but back to the little Classico, it represents a fine value in today’s world and I highly recommend it. Castello di Ama is one of Tuscany’s most respected and celebrated producers, and certainly gives a quality product, Ama is between Gaiole and the famous Radda in the heart of the Classico zone, it sits on unique and historic terroir with olive groves and vines facing the sun from beautifully farmed hills, the Castello was originally built in the 12th century and the winemaking start not to long after that, though the modern Ama got going in the mid to late sixties (1960’s) becoming one of the finest Chianti Classico producers and home to some of the world’s great wine. The 2010 Ama Classico starts with wet earth, forest notes, dried roses and minty herbs along with a mix of red and black fruits plus a touch of mineral and game leading to a refined palate of black cherry, plum, blackberry and currant fruits with added complex layers of dusty stones, licorice, cedary spice, loamy notes, iron/mineral and tobacco/cigar wrapper. The cool vintage is highlighted by lifting acidity, Bordeaux like feel, a bit of tannic rustic charm and the medium weight, but it makes it seem far more elegant and with out question it is fabulous with food, the vibrancy and lively character are very pleasing and the wine should drink well for 5 to 10 years, drink from 2014 to 2018+, this is a wonderful Ama and a well crafted effort.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Extra: Tasting California History in the Glass

2012BucklinAncient2012 Bucklin, Ancient, Old Hill Ranch, Proprietary Red, Sonoma Valley.
Will Bucklin’s latest Zinfandel blend from the historic Old Hill Ranch is a stunner, this is an awesome wine and one of the best reds of the vintage in California! First planted in 1852 and becoming California’s first vineyard to be planted with Zinfandel, Old Hill Ranch in Sonoma Valley, not far from Glen Ellen has the state’s oldest Zinfandel vines and this bottling features fruit from vines that were planted in the 1880’s! The Old Hill Ranch is more than that, it is also a Heritage Vineyard with dozens of varietals inter planted making an intriguing palate of complexity and diversity, much like Bedrock, the vines at Old Hill Ranch are living history and a tribute to California terroir over mono varietal labeling, this was the old school way of doing things in the state and it is nice that we can still cherish and taste the past and the future in one one. Zinfandel plays a big role, this long lost Croatian varietal also known as Tribidrag (not Plavic Mali as once thought) or known by Italians as Primitivo, but it is not the only story of these heritage sites with many black grapes playing a part too, like Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Grenache, the Mission Grape along with many others, and even a few white grapes thrown in too, all this adds to the great tapestry that forms these wines, especially Bucklin’s Old Hill Ranch Ancient. I have tasted the 2012 Ancient on three occasions now, it is very impressive stuff, in fact in a recent panel it went up against the fine and highly rated Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape and in my opinion came away the clear winner! The 2012 Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Ancient starts with a burst of raspberry, floral tones, bramble/briar and earthy spice leading to an array of gorgeous layers on the palate with loganberry, currant, plum and frambois leading the attack along with minty herbs, pepper, cinnamon stick, game and anise making a presence as well as cedar, sweet tobacco leaf and dried flowers. Like Ridge, this is a wine that should gain over time and it will be interesting to see how it develops in the bottle, I can easily imagine great things to happen over the next 10 to 15 years, this wine, at this price is a rewarding option for medium cellaring, it is fantastic now, but with patience there should be lovely results. This is full bodied wine, no question, extremely hedonistic, but everything is poised, sharp and structured with supple tannins, a fair bit of natural acidity and remarkable depth and length. The alcohol is about 15.4%, but you’d be hard pressed to feel it, if you are honest, and there is good ripeness and pleasure, though not cloying or syrupy, this is not a candied Zin or porty wine by any means, and it should age well for another decade at least, this is spectacular California wine with a glorious history and future full of joy ahead of it, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive


avail at

Wine of the Day November 23, 2014

2014VissouxBN2014 Domaine Vissoux-Pierre Chermette, Beaujolais Primeur (Nouveau) Gamay, France.
This is really good good! Not your typical Beaujolais Nouveau, maybe that is why Pierre Chermette doesn’t label it Nouveau at all, there is a tiny “Primeur”sticker on the neck, otherwise it says Beaujolais only, and to tell you the truth it tastes way better than it should for such a new wine, and I think I’ll be quaffing a few bottles over the next month or so. The Domaine Vissoux/Pierre Chermette wines are wonderful examples of top notch Gamay and are surly some of the best offerings for the money in the region, and while I love Foillard’s wines if you are going to pick just one Nouveau or Primeur to drink this holiday/celebration season I’d go with the Vissoux/Chermette, it is more complex, deep and rewarding. The 2014 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais Primeur is dark with violet/purple and garnet color, fresh flavors and surprising length showing a juicy plum, sweet strawberry, tangy cherry and dried currant along with hints of walnut, red peach and a mix of candied jells, plus a hint of earth, spice and mineral. There is a vibrant youthful zest and this is pure fun in the glass, but it has nice palace, elegance and a medium textural feel, making this fun little Gamay worth searching out, certainly a nice option for Thanksgiving table, and taking Nouveau to stylish heights! Drink now! In a world that takes itself way too seriously, this is a fun way to enjoy a few silly moments, and it is delicious.
($14 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive


avail at ($12.99)