Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 30, 2015

2013VajraRiesling2013 G.D. Vajra, Riesling, Langhe DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Giuseppe Vajra’s Barolo grown Riesling is fast becoming a cult wine, it certainly is one of Italy’s great white wines to emerge in the last few years and is by far the best white from Piedmonte, yes in my humble opinion, but this is amazing wine of that there is no question. The special German clone vines grown high up on a cool hillside on a mix of rocky soils make for a dry and vigorous Riesling that has an experience that transcends time and place, there are taste elements found here that remind me of not only of German trockens of the Pfalz, but of Austria and even Eden Valley of Australia, though there is an Italian sense that shines through at it’s core. The latest release, the 2013 is vivid and bright with crisp intensity and elegant charm, it shows amazing grace for a wine with so much built up energy, there is is wonderful winemaking and talented hands crafting this Riesling and this edition shows balance and vitality not usually seen outside of Germany, this rare beauty has the wow factor. The Vajra Riesling starts with citrus and ocean brine on the nose with a delicate pale color with just a hint of pigment that has a touch of greenish/gold and a whiff of rose petal and kiwi before a vibrant palate of tangy lime, minty herb, peach flesh, a touch of tropical fruit maybe mango, green apple, tangerine and whisper of tart white cherry along with lip smacking acidity, chalk dust, river stones and steely mineral tones. The acidity keeps things dynamic and electric in the mouth, but with air the wine fills out and highlights it’s refinement and gives some density and texture. There is a sense of power, but at 13% alcohol it never feels heavy or hot, though it is exceptionally dry, saline rich, lemony and mouthwatering, this Vajra Riesling is a special wine, it seems utterly out of place and expensive on one hand, but when judged against what you get in the glass it is worth every penny and this wine is a treasure for Riesling lovers and compares well against it’s German Grosses Gewachs rivals, I’d put it close to von Buhl and some of von Winning’s, not too far off some of the Donnhoff drys, this is as geeky as it gets and a fantastic effort, drink from 2015 to 2022! Oh, and I almost forgot, don’t miss Giuseppe’s fine Barbera and Nebbiolo wines, especially his up coming 2011 Barolo offerings, they are stellar!
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 29, 2015

2011WellanschitzHussi2011 Wellanschitz, Blaufränkisch “Hussi” Burgenland, Austria.
Wellanschitz is located in Neckenmarkt in the Mittelburgenland DAC and Burgenland region of eastern Austria near the Hungarian border in what is called Blaufrankisch-land, they are a small family run winery, with husband and wife, Stefan and Christine Wellanschitz running and making the wine here, in a state of the art cellar and focusing on mostly red wine growing. I recently did a panel on Austrian red wines and tasted through some of best and highly regarded producers from the top regions in Austria, so I was fresh and palate trained when I tasted a few samples of Wellanschitz, and they were very impressive, and in fact the Hussi single vineyard Cru was one of the best and most beautiful Blaufrankisch wines I’ve ever tasted, right up there with my favorites from Prieler and Muhr-van der Niepoort! Wellanschitz is now being imported by Bliss Wine Imports, a small natural wine importer focusing on tiny production hand crafted wines based in Marin County and San Francisco, and they have brought in two Blaufrankisch cuvees from Wellanschitz to start, this gorgeous Hussi and a less expensive easy drinking cuvee called Hochberg ($27 Est.), which is also a top class wine, but this 2011 Hussi Blaufrankisch is something rather special and shows exceptional inner beauty, terroir and class, it is a wine that reminds me of Philippe Pacalet (Burgundy), Jean Foillard (Cru Beaujolais) and Domaine Breton (Loire Chinon-Cabernet Franc) all wrapped up together! The Hussi is done “Sponti” with natural/native yeast and aged in wood, it shows good depth and density, though feels light and silky on the palate, there is an intense floral and mineral bouquet with black cherry and spicy plum fruit leading the way on the nose and palate along with complex, but smoothly flowing layers of currant, black olive, flinty/peppery spice, wild herbs both sweet and savory along with a light kiss of cedary oak and pipe tobacco, this is well judged wine with not detail out of place, it is focused, alive and extremely pleasing both in taste and feel, it has 14% alcohol and vibrant soft acidity and a lingering blue fruit finish. Drink from 2015 to 2021, it was a treat to try this wine and further explore hand crafted Blaufrankisch, bravo to Bliss Wine Imports for discovering this new winery, it will be one I look for in the future no question!
($46 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 28, 2015

2010AntoniottiBramaterra2010 Antoniotti, Bramaterra DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Finding a new wine that excites you is one of the great joys in life, especially for those of us that live and breathe, and work in the wine business, so it brought much joy and wonder to discover the wines of Odilio and Mattia Antoniotti and especially this fantastic Nebbiolo blend from northern Piedmonte in Italy’s far north west corner. The Antoniotti’s father and son run a small old estate, the cellar sits below their house, it was built in the 1700’s and they make their wines from mostly organic and natural grapes grown on steep south facing slopes set on a mix of soils that are chock full of minerals, you could think of it as a northern Barbaresco with granite intensity and delicate details, though Bramaterra is tiny, only about 28 Hectares in total area for this DOC. The Antoniotti Bramaterra is a field blend that is mostly Nebbiolo with small amounts of Croatina (sometimes referred to as Bonarda) plus Vespolina and Uva Rara (which is thought to be another grape called Bonarda, not related to Croatina or the Bonarda found in Argentina, which is thought to be Charbono!) with this 2010 being about 70% Nebbiolo and it really shines through and has complete control on the palate. The Bramaterra was fermented in cement, the Antoniotti’s have two vats under their house, the grapes are dumped down into this old cellar through a window shaft after being destemmed, after that the wine goes into stainless to finish malos, then it goes into huge oak old cask to age, some of the oak was from local trees, and the Bramaterra is raised in cask 30 months before bottling, with a 6 month rest period before being released, these are old school hand crafted wines of great texture and terroir character, the winemaking is traditional and they use very low amounts of sulphur. The 2010 starts with classic Nebbiolo markers, minty herb, subtle rose petal, Asian spice, tar, earth and mixed red fruits all playing parts, the palate is full, vigorous and shows vivid layers, there is noticeable tannin, mouth watering acidity and plenty of tension, but the fruit really allows grace and beauty to be your first impression and in my case the last too, this is wonderful stuff. The main focus in the mouth is cherry, damson plum and balsamic dipped strawberry, but the is porcini, black licorice, cedar and liquid mineral notes as well, this is one of the best examples of northern Piedmonte I’ve ever had and the price is fantastic, the Antoniotti should be on your radar, imported by Louis Dressner, this is worth the search, especially Nebbiolo lovers will over joyed to experience this stunning and groovy Bramaterra, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($26 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 27, 2015

2012Schneider2012 Jakob Schneider Niederhauser Klamm Riesling Kabinett, Nahe, Germany.
From a site close to the famed Hermannshohle Cru in the Nahe, very near to Donnhoff and highly respected by Herr Donnhoff himself, Jakob Schneider the younger is making a name for himself and I must say I’ve become a fan in recent vintages, especially these 2012 Rieslings, imported by Terry Theise who else, this a superb stuff! This Jakob Schneider Klamm comes from the Nahe’s most dramatic and steepest slopes and is a mix of soils, a hint of volcanic and slate, but mostly porphyry, which I had to look up, which means it contains a matrix of igneous rock and crystals, better known as in this case quartzite. Schneider usually does differing lots with some on native yeast and some are aged in oak cask, as well as pure stainless steel fermented and aged, he is adding to the character of the wine without taking away the natural terroir markers, and this Kabinett is a complex and beautiful wine, while the 2013 shows sizzle and earth at this point, the 2012 is just hitting it’s stride with density, transparency and lush fruity intensity, and white having some RS (sugar) it is really a balanced and flexible wine, a Riesling to admire and savor over any meal, from smoked meats or roasted fowl, to semi spicy Asian fare this is a vibrant and charming Riesling, and I love it as a summer time sipper too. The bouquet has a soft array of white flower, flinty dust, minty herb, citrus and earthy/ocean notes leading to a mineral laced palate of crystalline purity, with white peach, tangy apple, tangerine, tropical fruit and essences, honey butter, brine, river stones and a hint of white toffee. This wine shows a great vintage, sublime terroir and a deft winemaking flair, considering the neighborhood here, this is a remarkable effort and a wine to stock up on, it should and will drink superb for years to come, best from 2015 to 2022, it is a steal!
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 26, 2015

2012ClapeCornasRenaissance2012 Auguste Clape, Cornas “Renaissance” Rhone Red, France.
A vigorous and vibrant Syrah of great natural intensity, character and charm the Clape Renaissance young vine cuvee is an exceptional wine with a nice play between nervy edginess and elegant purity. It is hard not to get lost in the vivid layers in this fine example of northern Rhone Syrah with it’s complex elements all firing on all cylinders and with air a magical inner beauty comes shinning through, this is a Cornas for old school Burgundy lovers and will of course appeal to Clape’s loyal fans that covet this amazing small production wine. This is a focused and lively Syrah with a heady mix of spice and flowers on the bouquet, a massive dose of mineral/iron and wild game add to the excitement before a palate filled with classic black, blue and red fruits, anise, celery root, camphor and white pepper. After decanting, flowing violets, boysenberry, blueberry and kirsch notes come into play along with chalky stones, dusty damson plum, tangy currant and salted black licorice as well as cedar, minty herb, bacon and lavender oil. While not as glorious as the old vine Cornas, the Renaissance is a great wine and really stands out in a crowd, I highly recommend grabbing this 2012 vintage, it has potential to age well and still can be enjoyed in it’s youth, the vintage is rather juicy and dynamic with solid tannins that gain smoothness with air, best to decant, and forward acidity that lifts the fruit, this is savvy and alluring wine, best from 2017 to 2023, this again is a super fine Syrah of almost reckless hedonistic pleasure and verve, don’t miss!
($79 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 25, 2015

2013FotiAurora2013 I Vigneri di Salvo Foti, Aurora, Carricante Vino Bianco, Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy.
Salvo Foti, the King of the Volcano, crafts natural and organic native wines from Sicily’s Mount Etna region and is regarded as one of Italy’s top winegrowers, and his new 2013 Carricante Aurora is living proof, this is a gorgeous white with elegance, style and amazing quality. The 2013 Foti Aurora is stunning with delicate details that remind of top Premier Cru white Burgundy and still shows the pure terroir of Etna with exotic spice, flinty mineral and a lovely pale yellow/gold color, with sexy white peach, tropical notes and kumquat as well as soft butterscotch, salty chalk and lemon marmalade. The main force is a refreshing citrus core, but the acidity is smooth and this refined white, only 11.5% alcohol, feels seductive on the palate with almost satiny texture. This is a light and lifting wine, but with vigor and complexity, the finish is lengthy and leaves lingering dried roses, mixed herb and a trace of honeycomb. This wine comes from steep slopes on lava/iron rich soils, it is surprisingly cool and the grapes develop plenty of character and acidity, and these Foti wines, both his fantastic Nerello Mascalese offerings and this wonderful Carricante are must have, bucket list wines! Drink the 2013 I Vigneri Salvo Foti Aurora over the next few years, best from 2015 to 2020, it is a sublime hand crafted wine that will transport you away to the beautiful and wild island of Sicily, true genius stuff!
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 24, 2015

2012CuilleronStJoe2012 Yves Cuilleron, Saint-Joseph, L’Amarybelle, Rhone Red, France.
When you are craving Syrah and especially Old world stuff, this Cuilleron St. Joe really hits the spot with beautiful details, density and terroir charms, it is hard not to love this wine, it’s deep hue, a black/purple core and lush dark fruits, mineral and mix of spice and earth are just sexy and compelling. Cuilleron sometimes get overlooked, but his his are alluring, well crafted and really solid efforts that deserve a lot of attention, especially his Cornas and Saint-Joseph Syrah wines, but be sure to check out his pure varietal bottling too, they are great little wines and remarkable values, in particular you should search out his Syrah, Viognier and Roussanne, and no question this L’Amarybelle really stands out, this 2012 is juicy, focused and wonderful stuff, and while not quite as good as 2010 and 2011, it sure is good and feels like it might get a bit better in the bottle. I adore this Syrah, it is what the grape is all about with vigor, intensity, soul and stylish character, this a classy wine that starts with a heady perfume of dusty violets, lavender. white pepper and a middle eastern market full of exotic smells leading to a full bodied palate of red and black fruits including a mix of boysenberry, blueberry, kirsch/cherry liqueur, damson plum and mountain berry along with camphor/graphite, slate, wild herbs, chalky/salty licorice, black fig paste as well as cedar, loam, leather and dried flowers with lingering currant notes. This beauty enjoys a cut of acidity and a nice round mouth feel with a hint of tannic bite and at only 12.5% alcohol is very easy to quaff and celebrate an evening with, drink between 2015 and 2021, I will want more of this, and I might not have given it the highest points score, but I certainly recommend it very passionately!
($45 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 23, 2015

2013BeauxFreresWV2013 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
After the blockbuster 2012’s it was going to be difficult to make a follow up, then bring rain close to harvest and you make it even more challenging, but somehow Mike Etzel and his team have done it, and in fact this new 2013 Willamette Valley is a beauty, and delivers the goods with remarkable class and character making the drop off from vintage to vintage almost unseen! The Willamette Valley cuvee, an unfined/unfiltered Pinot from top site in the region, including a bunch of estate fruit along with Zena Crown, Hyland, Gran Moraine and others, makes for an incredible basic entry level wine, but it does come at a price, which has gone up in recent years, luckily so has the quality, pretty much equalizing the cost out and makes it worth the extra cash, remembering too this is one of America’s finest wineries, though it does makes the likes of St. Innocent stand out for value, though on the other hand there are many newer wineries charging much more in Oregon for for lesser wines, no shaming here, but they know who they are. So yes you should be sure to book the sexy new 2013 Beaux Freres, while the top BFV and Upper Terrace need cellar time to lose the reductive nose and show their depth this Willamette Valley is drinking great almost instantly and will prove a reliable pleasure over the next 3 to 5 years and maybe a few more, while the 2012’s can be put away, the 2013 should be enjoyed and drunk sooner. The 2013 Beaux Freres Willamette starts with a mix of aromas and a solid deep hue in the glass with rose petals, wild herbs, flinty red spice, red currants and mineral along with vanilla and cinnamon sticks leading to a medium weighted and silky palate of blackberry, bramble, briar, cherry and tart plum as well as smoke, gravelly stones, anise, tea spices and loamy earth along with forrest chanterelles. The finish brings hints of strawberry, cedar and mocha and while on the lighter side of Pinot there is always an impressive presence in the mouth, an underlying grip, energy and vitality, this is lovely wine and there is no reason not to indulge on this brilliant and well crafted offering, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 22, 2015

2013COSpithos2013 COS, Pithos Rosso, IGT Sicily, Italy.
I sat in recently to hear Guisto Occhipinti speak and show his wines, it was a wonderful experience and a huge education on the region of Vittoria with the bonus of tasting a dozen of his wines together, making it easy to understand and sample them in context. The Island of Sicily, as explained by Guisto Occhipinti is like it’s own continent with many single and unique terroirs, there are five mountain ranges and a huge active volcano, plus warm and cool areas to consider, as well as many differing soils, so he maintains both the land and culture has many influences from the geological history as well as the many invasions and populations have affected the society in this mysterious island. The COS wines are all now farmed biodynamic, they see almost no oak, most raised in glass lined cement and a few done in ancient style Amphora, like this wondrous Pithos Rosso, and all the wines are natural within reason with just a tiny amount of sulphur added before bottling, and native yeast fermentation only. COS and Guisto’s niece Arianna Occhipinti are Sicily’s leaders in natural wines, and they have brought world attention to the region of Vittoria and have highlighted the beauty of the Frappato grape to the wine world, as well as shown Nero d’ Avola in it’s purest expression. The blend of Nero and Frappato, like as in Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, with it’s old seabed/limestone soils, can be a fantastic wine, and both COS and Arianna excel in these cuvees, but I wanted to showcase the COS Pithos and in particular the new release the 2013 vintage, it is a majestic example of clay pot wine, the Pithos is fermented and aged on it’s skins in terra-cotta cuves, Amphora, that are inspired by the the Georgian traditional Kvervi aged reds, an ancient method that goes back at least 3, 000 years, with Guisto using specially made Spanish Amphora and resting the wines under ground for about 12 months. The result is a savory spiced wine of sound color and stability with almost no added sulphur, this is really old school, and they also do a white blend in the exact style, an orange wine, that is also lovely, but it is this 2013 COS Pithos (60% Nero 40% Frappato) that really stood out, it is delicate, focused and gorgeous with silky tannins, vividly pure fruit and a lovely long finish. The nose has hints of chalk dust, wild herbs, dried roses and wild flowers, soft raspberry and Asian spice leading to a refined palate of light to medium weight body, similar to Pinot Noir in mouth feel, with tangy strawberry, plum and red currant fruit, a touch of pomegranate, fennel and roasted herbs along with dance of minerals, and a stylish play of elements that make for a glorious and seductive wine. Drink this COS Pithos over the coming decade, it should be an every changing joy for many years too come, it is drinking exceptionally well and charming even now, though it might be best between 2016 and 2021.
($43 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 21, 2015

2013GroundworkCounoise2013 Groundwork, Counoise, Central Coast.
San Liege’s Curt Schachlin makes a great number of handcrafted wines under his main label Sans Liege and his Groundwork label, the Groundwork always being single varietal Rhone offerings, while the Sans Liege includes mostly Rhone blends, except in the case of his glorious Sancha 100% Marsanne and Curt’s two top Grenache cuvees En Gedi and Pickpocket. The latest Groundwork red, and new to me, is Schachlin’s Counoise, one of the rare Chateauneuf du Pape Rhone red grapes that almost never finds it’s way into mono varietal bottlings, but it’s use is on the rise in Paso Robles in exciting blends since it came to the region along with Cinsault and Tannat as part mainly of Tablas Creek’s cutting they brought from France and their vines at Beaucastel. Counoise is similar to Grenache with red berry fruit, peppery spice and light tannins, and this Groundwork Counoise is a superb expression of the grape and a very tasty wine, Curt was telling me, recently at a tasting in San Francisco, that he found some of this varietal in a small vineyard near his home close to Arroyo Grande and that it gets less than a ton per acre from almost wild shrub/head pruned vines and that he uses partial carbonic fermentation in a self taught technique that really works great on this new Groundwork Counoise wine. The 2013 Groundwork Counoise is medium weight, nicely dark with a garnet/ruby hue in the glass and very expressive with bright boysenberry, raspberry, strawberry and tart cherry fruits, zesty pepper spice, a touch of chalky stones and mineral, minty herb, salted licorice and dried wild flowers. This is a playful and vibrant red that creams to be drunk now and often, it is very pleasing without heaviness or having cloying fruit, this is a perfect Spring and Summer red, almost Beaujolais like in flexibility and style, and in fact I would serve with a slight chill in the heat of an afternoon BBQ party. Drink this little gem over the next few years, I love it, between this and Rochioli’s Valdiguie, I’ve found my Summer quaffers, best from 2015 to 2018. Also be sure to look for Curt’s Groundwork Grenache, Grenache Blanc and Mourvedre, these all really rock for the price!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive