2011 Samsara, Syrah, Melville Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Sometimes wines make you rethink your opinions and change your view, especially humbling when you’ve already made a judgement or two, and it the space of a week two Syrah wines from 2011 altered my held believes. I was ready to say, yes there were many nice wines made in 2011, but this tough year should just fade away and everybody should let it go, and we can move on the 2012, 2013 and 2014 which seem much more exciting all round in California. That was a mouthful, but I needed to set up what I wanted to point out, there will and will always be heroic surprises to discover in almost any vintage that will blow you away, for me, those two magical wines from 2011 are this glorious Samsara Melville Syrah, Sta Rita Hills, and the 2011 Lagier-Meredith Syrah from Mount Veeder in Napa Valley (94+) these are wines to search out and cherish, they are from very different terroirs and a quite a bit distinct individual stylistically, but both are fascinating examples of the varietal. Chad Melville’s Samsara Syrah from his family’s estate vineyard is refined, haunting and pure with violets, sea salt, mineral, mixed herbs and dark fruit compote leading the way with a medium full palate of blueberry, blackberry, dark cherry and tangy currant fruits with minty licorice, chalk dust, olive and peppery spices. The is a polished tannic backbone, lifting acidity, along with a beautiful textural mouth feel, the extra time in barrel really allowed this gorgeous wine to fully evolve and reveal itself, this an amazing effort, one of the best yet from Samsara, and it lingers on the finish with coffee bean, kirsch, cedar and back to that blueberry note, stunning throughout, drink from 2015 to 2020. Sometimes a tough year brings out the best in people, and highlights great terroir or vineyards, that is the case here, and it certainly gave me moments to re-think the vintage, be sure and check out the Lagier-Meredith 2011 Syrah and this sublime Samsara!
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Patton Valley, Pinot Noir, The Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This beautiful and open Pinot Noir is fantastically detailed and pleasing with gorgeous red fruits, silky texture and lengthy finish, you have to hand it to Patton Valley, they really took advantage of the vintage here and made outstanding wines, especially this estate bottling. While the 2009, 2010 and 2011 wines were pretty and solid efforts, the 2012 is a massive jump up in quality and depth, this is great way to start with Patton Valley and a superb introduction to the glories of the Willamette Valley, if you are new to Oregon wine. This impressive Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir also comes in half bottle, perfect for restaurant lists and in full bottle for home use, the pricing is fair for the wonderful quality in the bottle, their vines are tended in certified sustainable practices and the winemaking is based on the careful attention paid to the grapes from vine to cellar and there is lots to admire in these wines. The 2012 Estate is rich on the nose and on the palate, it starts with deep floral tones, plenty of red fruit and hints of spice and vanilla leading to an expansive palate of creamy cherry, black raspberry, strawberry, plum and blueberry fruits in the mouth with cola, cinnamon, black tea and wild herbs/anise. There is good underlying acidity, satin like tannins, with nice ripeness while not to excess coming in at 14% alcohol and lingering fruit and sweet oak notes being well judged, best from 2015 to 2020.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Gramenon, Cotes du Rhone, La Sagesse, Rhone Valley, France.
The Domaine Gramenon by Michèle Aubèry-Laurent and her talented son Maxime François is one of the finest organic Cotes du Rhone estates and their wines some of the greatest expressions of intense terroir wine in the region, these are as natural and pure as it gets, true authentic/soulful and passionate examples of what can be done with organic and biodynamic practices. The Laurent’s tiny handcrafted wines are full of energy, drive, verve and exceptional depth with wondrous layers of flavors and heady aromatics, and while they do an amazing Syrah and lovely white wine, it is Grenache that really stands out here and the latest La Sagesse is a fantastic effort that will give many a Chateauneuf a run for their money, if not totally blow them away! The 2013 Domaine Gramenon Cotes du Rhone La Sagesse, coming from 60 year old vines grown on a mix of soils including Clay, Limestone and Sand mostly with some Gravel and Galets Roules, it is made in an old fashioned way with almost no sulphur, no fining or filtration and aging is done in mostly big cask foudres and a few demi-muids, the results are a really sexy wine that flows across the palate with deep flavors, sublime texture and glorious complexity. This beautiful Grenache starts with a mixed floral bouquet with wild flavors and violets, a spicy array of herbs, pepper and mineral along with dark fruits leading to a full and plumy mouth of blackberry, boysenberry, pomegranate, bramble berry, strawberry and tangy currant fruits with briar, earth, sweet and savory gamey notes, chalky stones, saline, licorice, lavender oil and light cedar. There is a kirsch/liqueur element and lively youthful acidity, along with supple supporting tannins that with hold this pretty wine together and the finish is haunting, this is classy and persistent wine that deserves your attention, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir “Upper Terrace” Beaux Freres Vineyard Estate, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The unfined and unfiltered Upper Terrace from Mike Etzel of Beaux Freres is one of Oregon’s most exotic and rare Pinots, I would compare it to Burgundy’s Bonnes Mares Grand Cru, it is dark, richly flavored and full of intensity and vitality, and 2012 is a blockbuster vintage. The Upper Terrace, farmed by biodynamic practices and using a mix of clones is a gorgeous and majestic Pinot Noir, it reminds me of the AF Gros and Anne Gros wines and especially their 2012 Vosne Romanee and Clos Vougeot bottlings (which I have just tasted as well) with layer after layer of lavish fruit and mocha notes, but this is still an infant and will need a few years in the cellar to really show itself in all it’s glory, be patient with this one and the rewards should be amazing. The latest and best Beaux Freres starts with a deep ruby hue, a hint of violets, smoke and sweet spices leading to a full palate of blackberry, plum and dark cherry fruits along with a touch of graphite, crushed stones, earth and vanilla, plus cedar, pepper and a finish that lingers with blueberry, strawberry and tangy currants. The texture is lush, but with some firm tannins and underlying acidity in this chocolatey and hedonistic that still needs to shed it’s baby fat and integrate it’s wood, though with air reveals wonderful Pinot fruit purity and detail, this is a monumental wine in the making, it will be great to taste it in ten years time, drink from 2018 to 2026.
($100 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive
2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Santenay Rouge, Ceps Centenaires, Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
It was a great pleasure to meet and taste with Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey here in San Francisco just after buying and reviewing his early release of 2013 Saint-Aubin Le Banc, and while he is known for his whites, all which were outstanding in this and the last 4 or 5 vintages, not many get a chance to sample is reds, like this old vine Santenay. The 2013 Cep Centenaries comes from a tiny plot, from as the name suggests, 100 year old vines and is made in a way that is in honor of Madame Bize-Leroy, I learned, Colin-Morey de-stems by hand using scissors, leaving a bit of stem attached to each grape to promote freshness and add aromatics, complexity and tannin. This works very here, this wine a barrel sample, is ripe, focused and full of charm and character with rich detail and vigor, it shows subdued floral tones, bright red fruits and mineral notes, but fills out with air. There is layers of red cherry, tart cranberry, raspberry, plum and hints of strawberry fruits along with tea and Asian spices, cedar, baking spice and stony/chalky mineral highlights. This is a Santenay that feels like a Beaune Premier Cru, and while the price is yet to be decided, I would imagine in comes in around $50 US retail and will be considered a tasty value, though there won’t be much of it. This clear and well crafted and seductive red Burgundy will be a wonderful catch and I would guess at a good mid term future, drink from 2017 to 2022.
($TBD-Barrel Sample) 92-94 Points, grapelive
2013 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Carignan “Cuvee Mathilde” Truquilemu Tinto Chileno, Sin Riego-Rio Reloca, Legno Duro, Chile.
This natural wine from Chile is crafted from old vines by the talented Louis-Antoine Luyt, after a handful of vintages under his belt the Frenchman has changed the way we look at Chilean wine, and his latest releases are easily his best and most expressive efforts to date. Luyt’s use of very old vines, and use of non Bordeaux varietals, except for a Carmenere cuvee, set his wines apart, especially his Pais, the mission grape that comes from vines closer to 300 years old than a hundred years old, and his championing of Carignan, a Rhone and Languedoc grape most common in Corbieres. The new Carignan, the 2013 Cuvee Mathilde is really impressive with exotic fruit, bursting energy and complex layers of flavors, this red has massive appeal and is wonderfully pleasing. This all natural, non solute and no new wood Carignan is richly flavored with blackberry, boysenberry, plum, strawberry and tangy cherry and currant notes along with spicy cinnamon, minty herbs, pepper, lavender and salted black licorice. Luyt spent time with Marcel Lapierre, one of the first masters of low and no sulphur wines in Morgon Beaujolais, and you can feel that in his wines, in particular this gorgeous and stylish, I highly recommend exploring this and the new generation of Chilean wines that are starting to gain traction in the market place, there are some really exciting times ahead for Chile. Drink this intriguing old vine Carignan over the next few years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Cattleya, Chardonnay, Pratt Vineyard, Russian River Valley.
The talented Colombian winemaker Bibiana Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni is crafting some amazing wines under her Cattleya label, as well as guiding Pahlmeyer’s Sonoma Coast wines and vines, and her and her husband’s (Jeff Pisoni) Shared Notes offerings. I was impressed by her Donum Vineyard Pinot Noir and her fantastic Soberanes Alban Clone Syrah is one of the best Syrah wines from the 2012 vintage I have tasted, but new and particularly outstanding is her latest Chardonnay release, an old Wente clone selection from Pratt Vineyard in a cooler site of the Russian River, this is a luxurious wine that rivals the best from California in that top of line range, it is right up there with Peter Michael, Aubert, Kistler and the single vineyard Rochioli Chards. Her experience with vines, as a vineyard manager, and stints in Bordeaux and Cote-Rotie have given Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni a special touch which shows through in her wines, if you’ve not tried her wines, you should be sure to check them out at the earliest possible opportunity, these are bottlings that are decedent, pure and full of pleasure with great life and intensity, especially this Pratt Vineyard 2013 Chardonnay that shows layers of dense fruit, but with plenty of vitality and elegance. The 2013 Pratt from Cattleya starts with mineral tones, honeysuckle, white peach and tropical notes leading to a gorgeous palate of lemon chiffon, apple. pear and golden fig fruits, wet stones, a hint of saline, vanilla and exotic citrus and brioche along with creamy texture and a super long finish. The small berry, Wente clone gives the glorious combination of concentration and vigor, allowing for incredible richness and vigor, this is heady and hedonistic, but with wonderful finesse and focus, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($68 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Saint-Aubin “Le Banc” white Burgundy, France.
Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey is without question on a roll, in the last 5 vintages, almost every wine he has put out has been fantastic, and this Saint-Aubin Le Banc joins the list. The house style influences each impressive offering, and each, while distinct, are remarkably similar, precise, expressive and pleasing, these Chardonnays are stunning and wildly delicious. The 2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey starts with white flowers, matchstick, kiwi and lime before expanding on the palate to reveal stony mineral, lemon, peach and apple along with clove, clarified creme, golden fig and persimmon. the greenish/golden hue is pale in the glass, but really catches the light and the body and texture are just as gorgeous, all in all for such a young wine there is loads of character and charm, this wine has a magnetic personality and shows a supple and graceful allure, it is very hard to resist. There are only a few Chardonnays for which I must own, and this is one of them, especially for the price, I can’t afford Raveneau, Coche or many other great Burgundies these days, so when I can get my hands on these Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Chardonnays I do so, and this wine wasn’t just a sample tasted, this was me rushing home to drink a much coveted bottle! The 2013 vintage is not far off 2010 or 2012 in quality from what I can taste, this bottle was labeled 12.8% alcohol, and it feels plenty rich, succulent, lively acidity and has nice density, my best guess would be, drink from 2016 to 2022.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir “Momtazi Vineyard” McMinnville AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Mark Vlossak handcrafts beautiful and pure Pinot Noir from selected sites in the Willamette Valley, and his wines are always some of the top values in the region. St. Innocent has been around since 1988 and Vlossak knows his way around, he was inspired by Burgundy and his wines are made from that influence, and his sourced grapes are farmed that way too, especially the grapes he gets from Momtazi, which are all biodynamic, like Leflaive, DRC and Leroy, and in a great vintage like 2012 is, these wines are fantastic. Vlossak, does these traditionally and with focus on his terroir and style with about 25% to 30% new wood, de-stemmed grapes and native yeast, plus very low SO2, all combined make for some open, clear and compelling wines, but I have to also to mention these wines age gracefully and really come into their own after a decade of cellaring. I recently had a 2000 vintage of St. Innocent that was amazingly fresh, pure and it seemed remarkably youthful, so I recommend getting putting some of these down, as this vintage is going to be one you’ll not want to miss out on. The Momtazi 2012 from St. Innocent is dark, rich and exotic with a deep ruby hue, sweet bouquet with floral tones, liquid mineral and black fruits leading the way, the palate is vigorous and vibrant with a core of black cherry, blueberry, plum, blackberry, strawberry and wild mountain raspberry fruits, tea spice, incense, cedar, coffee bean and stony mineral flinty notes. This Pinot Noir is vivid, youthful and very expressive with 13.5% alcohol, well integrated tannins, vital acidity and wonderful balance, giving pure pleasure, this Momtazi and the classic coast range Freedom Hill are wines that truly show Oregon at it’s finest at a great price, drink from 2016 to 2024.
($38 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Breton, Bourgueil “Nuits d’ Ivresse” Loire Valley Red, France.
The Domaine Breton is Pierre and Catherine Breton, it is their personality and passion for wine that always shines through in their wines, each a unique terroir wine from biodynamic vineyards, mostly done in as natural methods as possible. Their Cabernet Franc wines are legendary and age beautifully, though as with most great wines, they can be enjoyed fantastically well in their youth, especially Catherine’s La Dilettante cuvees, but even their glorious Bourgueil and Chinon too. Funny, Cabernet Franc in the Loire is also know as “Breton” so it is very fitting they specialize in it and make such sublime wine from it, like this exceptional Bourgueil Nuits d’ Ivresse from 50 year old vines that is on a mix of clay and limestone soils, it is without a doubt, along with their Bourgueil Les Galichets and Les Perrieres, offer amazing value in cellarable reds. The 2012 Nuits d’ Ivresse, only 12% alcohol, is lush and open with a mix of floral and red fruits leading the way with classic earth, green pepper, mineral and cedary notes adding complexity. The nose leans to violets and exotic spice, while the palate feels richly textured with a cherry, currant, fresh plum and mulberry fruit influence, while lifting acidity and fine grained tannins lend control and structure to this beautifully crafted wine that clearly shows both the purity of these vineyards and Pierre’s talent in the cave, this wine is impressive now, though should be at it’s best in 3 to 5 years, drink from 2015 to 2025.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive