Monthly Archives: December 2014

Grapelive Wine of the Year: Donnhoff Eiswein 2012 Nahe, Germany

2012Donnhoffeiswein2012 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling, Oberhauser Brucke, Eiswein, Nahe Germany. 375ml-Half Bottle.
Cornelius Donnhoff’s Oberhauser Brucke icewine 2012 is absolutely perfect and one of the most pristine examples of sweet wine I’ve had the privilege to try, this monumental and profound Riesling transcends classification, it is so heavenly and beautifully detailed it is pure art in a glass. The 2012 Brucke Eiswein was crafted from ideal non-botrytis hand-picked berries, which adds to the elegant and precise character in this focused wine, I can honestly say without any hesitation I would rather drink this glorious nectar than Chateau d’ Yquem Sauternes any day, this Donnhoff sweet wine is utterly sublime, it feels dreamy and lighter on the palate with out any cloying toothache quality, there is live, vividness and purity of terroir that shines through, a transparency that defines this stunning Donnhoff. The nose is bright, floral and intoxicating with fresh white roses, citrus flowers and crystalline mineral notes along with hints of tropical and exotic fruits leading to a richly textured palate of delicate sweetness, with apricot, lemon curd, apple butter, mandarin orange, golden peach fruits along with pineapple, vanilla, clove, lychee, kiwi and tangy lime with a steely/flinty note in the background. There is well judged acidity adding structure and highlighting every complexity, this stunning wine almost never finishes, this might be a 100 year wine, I have no doubt this is a wine with amazing potential, point scores do not even matter here, words fail as well, I am feebly trying to say this is stuff of legends, and if you ever want to spurge for something luxurious and rewarding to put in your cellar, you couldn’t do much better than this. This is unbelievably good now, I can only imagine what glories are to come, for the wine drinker this is like seeing a Michelangelo, this is a masterpiece, drink from 2018-2050, though it would be incredibly hard not to open the minute I got my hands on it! Donnhoff’s Oberhauser Brucke Eiswein 2012 seriously is one of the greatest wines I’ve ever tried period.
($250 Est.) 100 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Wine of the Year 2014

Wine of the Day December 31, 2014

FranckPascalRoseN.V. Franck Pascal, Tolerance, Brut Rose Champagne, Valle de la Marne, France.
The Champagne Franck Pascal bubbly is a unique terroir expression wine from heavier clay soils of his estate vineyards, with more Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in the blend then Chardonnay and this Rose being the most distinct of his wines for both the color and flavors on offer. The Rose is listed as a Brut on the label, but I was understood to believe it is in fact closer to Extra Brut, it is dry and dusty with a wild nature, earthy character, almost robust in it’s rustic charm at first, though it opens beautifully and has gorgeous detail and length. Made without wood, fermented in tank, it does go through malo and shows nice density, power and tension, this is very intriguing and sexy stuff, very very different from the decadence and polish of let’s say Vilmart or Krug, but no less compelling and interesting. I also tried the Franck Pascal Brut Nature and loved that too, this is a Champagne house to watch and I highly recommend trying these amazing sparkling wines. The Rose starts with truffle oil, dried roses, bitter almond and light brioche on the nose with a bright vibrant pink hue leading to an earthy palate that shows peach, lemony citrus, sour cherry and strawberry essence along with mineral, loam and a delicate leesy note, this is vigorous and has an almost tannic grip, this no question this is a dinner Champagne, best with food and thought, in other words this is a stay at home wine, not a frivolous party favor, though no less a celebration. The refined and persistent mouse reminds you it’s a Champagne, but the layers of complexity ask you questions from start to finish, this is a next level sparkler that takes time to fully understand, mysterious and alluring, I love it, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($74 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day December 30, 2014

2012BenevelliBarbera2012 Piero Benevelli, Barbera d’ Alba DOC, Bricco Ravera, Piedmonte, Italy.
Massimo Benevelli only makes about 4,000 total each vintage from family plots in Barolo’s Monforte d’ Alba in the Southern most part of the zone near Serralunga, in fact most of his fruit comes off one of the regions top Cru sites, the Ravera Cru with great soils and exposure. This is great terroir and Benevelli makes some fantastic wines that are still reasonable and are super finds for the traditionalists, especially Massimo’s 2010 Barolo Ravera, but I particularly love the 2012 Barbera from hillside fruit, it is a stunning example of this varietal and old school winegrowing, you should not miss it. The newest release from Benevelli, imported by Kermit Lynch, is a pure and earthy effort with a rich dark color, lively palate and is a superb food food with complexity and pleasing balance, this wine over performs in it’s price range. The 2012 Bricco Ravera Barbera d’ Alba starts with an intense and earthy entry with violets, plum, game and wild mushroom notes leading to layers of blackberry, red cherry, light mineral elements and savory spices with licorice, saline and tangy currant. This wine seems vigorous, robust and has a nice interchange of sweet, sour and savory, there is density and good almost full figured body, firm fine grain tannins, but with drive and focus with juicy acidity making for a very savvy wine, best with simple cuisine, this Barbera has a hint of rustic charm and lots of character, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day December 29, 2014

2012LuciaSyrahGarys2012 Lucia by Pisoni, Syrah, Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The Lucia wines have touched a next level (of quality) with the 2012 vintage, and I think they are lead by the glorious and top notch Syrah offerings, crafted by Jeff Pisoni. As a longtime admirer of the Lucia wines, it was nice to sample the latest Syrah for my own historical perspective, as I’ve had every vintage of these wines, being a local to the region. It is also my own personal belief, as great as the Pinot Noir wines are from the Santa Lucia Highlands, and nice as the Chardonnay can be, it is Syrah that may just perform the best year after year here, especially since 2004 when the vines got past a certain age, those 2004 wines from Garys’, Rosella’s and Pisoni Vineyards were revolutionary and since then they have been marvelous and on par with the Pinots. Now Lucia, the Pisoni family has Soberanes Vineyard as well with the Alban Clone, and that is taking Syrah here to the next level, though to be fair this 2012 Garys’ Syrah by Jeff Pisoni is right up there, it is interesting that finally people are starting to see the amazing potential here for Syrah, it is not just a novelty, these are some of the best wines made in California, period. There are many people to thank for this, first and foremost Gary Pisoni, and his partner Gary Franscioni, and then you have longtime wineries that have championed Syrah from their grapes, Miura, Roar (Franscioni), Novy by Siduri’s Adam Lee, plus there are many new generation winemakers getting Syrah from here and that will be on the market soon, be sure to look for Sandlands. Lucia’s trio of Syrah wines, Soberanes, Pisoni Estate-Susan’s Hill and this Garys’ Vineyard are all masterpieces and it certainly would be hard to pick a favorite, and while I might give the edge to Soberanes for purely personal preferences, all are worthy of searching out, and showcase the growing talent of Jeff Pisoni the winemaker. Recently I matched the Lucia Garys’ Syrah against the Jean-Louis Chave Estate Saint-Joseph (100% Syrah from the Northern Rhone) and while the Chave might have edged it out slightly in elegance, overall the wines were most similar than they were dis-similar and I would have pegged the same overall rating score, this without question shows that California can and does compare with the world’s best. These Lucia Syrah wines from 2012 are on my short list for red wines of the year, and I highly recommend them for their class, intensity and pleasure. The 2012 Lucia Garys’ Syrah feels cool climate with crushed violets, burnt embers, cracked pepper, briar, dusty chalky/stones and layers of black and blue fruits, leading with blueberry, boysenberry, mulberry and plum along with creme de cassis, anise, wild herbs and bacon fat. There is some smooth toasty oak notes that add texture, without being invasive or overly overt, as well as a hint of minerality, earthy/truffle notes, vanilla and cinnamon stick. There is a density and fullness that marks it as Californian, but that is not a negative nor at about 14% is it hot or heady, and it does have lively acidity and lift to balance the wine as a whole, this is wonderful Syrah and absolutely world class, with a decedent lengthy finish, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($49.95 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive


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Wine of the Day December 28, 2014

2010MeoVR2010 Domaine Meo-Camuzet, Vosne-Romanee, Red Burgundy, France.
This is a good time of year, lots of gifts around the Holiday Season, and some wonderful wine being shared, I felt blessed a few clients and friends pulled some interesting bottles out of their cellars to open, especially this 2010 Meo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanee, I love Meo, one of my favorites, this is a wine I’d usually buy for myself, but could not locate any for myself from this great vintage, as it was way too in demand. So it was nice to see what I’m going to be missing, and I will be missing this one, it is a beauty no question, though way too young yet to drink. But since it was open, I couldn’t resist, and there is lots to enjoy even now, though it will certainly be much better in 10 years time. Meo’s AC Vosne-Romaine is a domaine wine from estate vines and it shows in the class, finesse and balance found here, amazingly the oak is well muted, surprising for young Meo wines, and there is tangy acidity, a nice play of sweet and sour notes along with terroir character. The nose is shy, lacking the normal smoky sweet oak and violets, instead giving delicate rose petal, red peach and mineral notes leading to a fresh sour cherry, blackberry, blueberry and plum fruit filled palate with light truffle, chalk, earthy spice and cured meats. With some coaxing and air the wine gathers some body and depth hinting at things to come, impressive restraint and lively flavors throughout, and black tea, cedar, anise, a whiff of cinnamon and vanilla come out on the finish. This is a vibrant and clear effort with vivid intensity, a modest and charming Vosne-Romanee that at this stage lacks pretense and flamboyance, look forward to much more to come and be encouraged by the balance and poise this offering is showing now, it should fill out and gain an inner sweet core, drink from 2020 to 2025.
($100 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day December 27, 2014

2007BeaPipparello2007 Paolo Bea, Pipparello, Rosso Riserva, Montefalco DOC, Umbria, Italy.
The wines at Paolo Be a are natural, unique and wonderfully different, they employee natural winemaking methods, no chemicals or additives ever, and are influenced by biodynamics and a sting believe in a healthy ecosystem, with all these connected, and moon cycles are very important here. Native yeasts, field blending and long maceration, up to 42 days are used in there upper end wines, they use stainless steel vats and large oak vessels, this combination and the fact that they allow a long settling time in bottle before release allows the wines to stabilize, develop and be expressive on release. The blended cuvees from 2007, the Rosso de Veo and this Pipparello are fantastic, brave and charming wines, it would be hard to pick a favorite, both show intense personal character, depth and style, much credit is deserved of Paolo Bea and his sons Giuseppe and Giampiero for staying true to their beliefs, even after so much acclaim and fame have come their way. I opted to focus here on the Montefalco Rosso Riserva Pipparello, a blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano and of course Sangrantino, a dynamic red that comes in at 14% alcohol, from the 2007 vintage and which is the current release, after 12 months in stainless tank, 24 months in large cask and another year or so in bottle, and then being held a bit longer after being imported to the states. The nose opens slowly with dried flowers, earth, mint and brandy poached red fruits on the nose, a dark garnet hue greets the light in the glass and the palate explodes with layers of raspberry, plum, black cherry, balsamic dipped strawberry, wild herbs, truffle, game and black licorice along with dusty stones, tobacco leaf, a hint of shaved vanilla, Turkish figs and saline. The tannins are ever present, but never feel rough or interrupt the pleasure that flows from start to finish on this exciting wine, it is hard to compare the Bea wines to anything else, that is their soul and magic, but the Pipparello has a Barolo sort of feel to it and while the Sangiovese is the main leader here it doesn’t taste like anything you’d find in Tuscany. The Pipparello is a joyous red that shines especially bright with hearty food and thoughtful company, it has some intellectual sides to it, some funk and a playfulness that will bring lots of smiles, drink from 2014 to 2021.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


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Happy Boxing Day-Wine of the Day December 26, 2014

2013AlfaroPNMK2013 Alfaro Family, Pinot Noir, Mary Katherine Vineyard, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The organically certified vines are used to create the Mary Katherine wines at Alfaro Family Vineyards, both the Chard and Pinot, and these wines are showing absolutely beautifully, especially these 2013 versions, they are wonderfully expressive and well crafted. The 2013 Mary Katherine Pinot Noir is gorgeous with exotic spice and earthy components, pretty violets and roses, wild mushrooms (like porcini) and pepper/allspice leading to a transparent palate of tangy currant, black cherry, plum and mountain raspberry with hints of smoke, briar, cedar and sweet oak notes. The wine is a bright ruby in hue, comes in at 13.5% and has nice cool climate acidity that adds life, vigor and lifts the flavors while not hiding the silky texture and pleasing mouth feel, this is certainly a classy effort with refined poise, Richard Alfaro only made 4 barrels of this superb Pinot Noir, one of which was new. These is a lot to be excited about at Alfaro these days, with the addition of Trout Gulch Vineyard, the Gruner Veltliner, and there is Grenache Blanc and Albarino in the pipeline, plus these Mary Katherine organic offerings. Alfaro’s estate in Corralitos is a must visit if you tour the South Santa Cruz Mountains, not far from Aptos and the cold Pacific of the North Monterey Bay. The 2013 Mary Katherine Pinot was brilliant on my Christmas night, this is very impressive stuff and the elegance lingered on well into the quiet night with cinnamon, saline, kirsch, earl grey and vanilla. Best to let this one have another year or so in bottle, even though it is great now, best from 2016 to 2020.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Merry Christmas-Wine of the Day December 25, 2014

2009VilmartRose2009 Vilmart et Cie, Grand Cellier “Rubis” Vintage Brut Rose Champagne, Rilly la Montagne, France.
Vilmart’s stellar 2009 Rubis Vintage Rubis Rose is one of my wines of the year, a top 5 contender no question, it is magnificent and beautiful. Laurent Champs is one of the best winemakers in Champagne and his glorious bubbly rivals Krug for star power and luxury, and are less than half the price, these are artisan grown and crafted barrel fermented and wood raised leesy rich sparkling wines that show gorgeous layers, texture and elegance, especially his Rose Rubis. The 2004 Rubis Rose ranks among my 100 Point picks and the dreamy nose still haunts my dreams today, and this 2009 is not far off that magical level with vivid flavors, perfume and divine mousse the 2009 Rubis is stunning and jaw dropping sexy. The nose begins with violets, rose petal and strawberry with yeasty/toast, bread dough/brioche leading to a palate of exotic texture, lively focus and tension with creamy bubbles and lengthy finish, this is heavenly stuff. There is lemon, cherry essence, mineral and vanilla along with apple skin, peach flesh and a hint clove and hazelnut. Laurent Champs has created a masterpiece with his latest set of Champagne offerings with the 2009 Rubis leading the way, but his non-vintage bubbly all under $100, are fantastic as well and while it would be best to cellar his vintage wines, they are glorious now, there is his 2005 Coeur de Cuvee as well, which I sadly was not able to taste time through, but of which I’m sure is awesome and at the very top of Champs magical selections. Words often fail to relate the sheer beauty of these Champagnes, so I highly recommend you try Vilmart Champagne imported by Terry Theise, it is truly an experience of the gods! Drink the 2009 Rubis Rose over the next 10 to 15 years, best from 2018 to 2028.
($170 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive


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Wine of the Day December 24, 2014

PierrePetersChampagneNVN.V. Pierre Peters, Cuvee de Reserve, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Brut Champagne, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, France.
Rodolphe Peters makes some wonderful artisan Champagne from estate vines in one of the world’s great Chardonnay terrors, Le Mesnil an area that is only surpassed by Montrachet in Burgundy for having a bigger name when it comes to legendary Chardonnay. Le Mesnil is home to Krug and Salon, and while Krug is dense and exotic, Salon is powerful and serve, this leaves a lot of great middle ground, this is filled nicely by Rodolphe at Pierre Peters, his bubbles are luxurious and elegant, extremely well crafted and remarkable values in handmade Champagne. Pierre Peters, a small family Champagne house, a Terry Theise Selection, makes grower producer terroir driven Champagnes that show class, complexity and are easily understood, these are not in the same vein as Selosse, Cedric Bouchard, Jerome Prevost or Francois Boulard, which are unique single vineyard Champagnes, or the next generation (as I call them) style Champers, but Pierre Peters makes high end bubbles that are distinct and lavish. The Peters vintage Champagnes are excellent and very age worthy, it is better to cellar them, but the Reserve non-vintage is stunning and is fantastic young, it is on my list for a New Year’s Eve pick, especially this glorious new batch, which is now on the shelves. the Grand Cru “Cuvee de Reserve” is 100% Chardonnay and is lavishly rich and decedent with refined mousse, toasty birch, hazelnut, apple and pear fruits, mineral, saline, white flowers, white fig, melon, wet stones and a dreamy texture which is vivid, creamy, but lively and dry on the palate with nice lemony tension, lush mouth feel and lengthy finish. While I usually opt for extreme Extra Brut these days, this beauty is the exception, and I find it rewarding, pleasing and hedonistic, a superb Champagne that does not disappoint, and will make for a lovely celebration as the clock ticks down to the New Year, drink now and over the next 5 to 10 years.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


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Wine of the Day December 23, 2014

2011JobardGenervieres2011 Domaine Antoine Jobard, Meursault-Genevrieres, Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
Jobard is one of the very top Meursault producers, a small family run Domaine using organic farming and traditional methods, it was one of the first properties to be discovered by Kermit Lynch in the 70’s when Francois still made the wines, and now it has reached even greater heights with the young Antoine at the helm here. My first exposure to the glories of Meursault came through tasting late 90’s Francois Jobard and Bouchard wines, and they left a mark, these are some of the finest Chardonnay wines you can experience, and I have always loved Genevrieres the best. The 2011 Antoine Jobard Meusault-Genevrieres Premier Cru is from 35 year old vines an sloping hills with a base of clay and limestone, these are classic Cote de Beaune soils and this spot makes for Grand Cru class wines, and without question Antoine’s glorious version is one of the best wines of the vintage, it is a stunning example and expression with driving acidity and a mineral core, it shows beautiful and intense tension and power framed perfectly by soft toast, dense extract and a wonderful generous palate. The life here is amazing with steely notes, poised fruit and background complexities that includes lemon, pear, apple and white peach, river/chalky wet stones, clove spice, quince, smoke, hazelnut, earth, savory salty/brine elements, cool melon and faint vanilla wood notes. This wine is a baby still, and will evolve gracefully, there is a lot more to come here, if patient, with hints of butter creme and butterscotch that seem only remote on the palate now, best from 2018 to 2024. This is a sublime Chardonnay, it made me do a little happy dance, it is very special even now, but the rewards are there for those that have this beauty in their cellar, those lucky few are in for some fantastic bottles in the future.
($120 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive


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