2014 Chesebro, Rose of Grenache, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Mark Chesebro’s wines are all well made and vigorous offerings and his latest set includes some excellent choices with his Vermentino and this Grenache Rose showing really good right now. The 2014 Chesebro Rose of Grenache delivers brisk and steely coolness in the glass with bright intensity and charm with tart cherry, strawberry, watermelon and zesty citrus along with mixed spices, chalk and mineral. This is a light and refreshing wine with focus and vibrant character, it lacks a bit of complexity and depth, but is very pleasant and does everything well. The Rose is available through the tasting room at Chesebro in the Carmel Valley Village, and is worth picking up if you get a chance to visit the region. Chesebro offers a solid lineup of well priced wines and they work well with food, they may not be as polished or flamboyant as some, but still should be noted these wines age well, in particular the reds and the whites always show a lot of vitality and brisk focus. Enjoy the rose of the next 6 months to a year, best from 2015 to 2017.
($18 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
2014 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Albarino, Ryan Spencer Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The newest wine from Richard Alfaro is his Ryan Spencer Vineyard Albarino, a crispy divine white that is a great summer refresher, made from estate young vines that show a lot of potential for this Spanish varietal. A recent visit to Alfaro Family Vineyards revealed a great deal of excitement for some new Malbec plantings and another few hillside acres that will get mostly Pinot Noir, but the current lineup is showing fantastic with glorious Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gruner Veltliner along with this tasty Albarino, of which only 70 cases were made. The 2014 Albarino, aged in neutral oak and steel for 7 months is delicately detailed, at 13% and still has some depth, complexity and swagger with bright citrus, white flowers, unripe green apple, peach and chalky/stones with hints of hay, a touch of leesy brioche and steely vigor. This wine comes through on the palate as energy filled, brisk and a tad austere, this will appeal to old world fans, but still charms with it’s vibrancy and subtle wood notes. The light straw and gold color is lovely in the glass and it gains with cuisine, I had it with Padron peppers and salt, and a squash frittata, it was a perfect foil and the cool chill of this Albarino made it easy to quaff on a warm summer night, lovely. It will very interesting to follow Alfaro’s Albarino as the vines get some age on them, it certainly is a much more intriguing option than Sauvignon Blanc would be in this region of the Santa Cruz Mountains, which sits pretty close to the Monterey Bay and it nicely cool, not too different from northwestern Spain. Drink this white over the next year or two, best from 2015 to 2018.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2009 Caraccioli Cellars, Vintage Brut Rose, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This classy and lees Brut Rose from Caraccioli is an impressive American sparkler that is a blend of Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, done in true Methode Champenoise giving a true grower producer taste. This is a wonderful pink bubbly that delivers a stylish array of flavors and a pretty delicate color with a light salmon and orange tint in the glass with a fine bead, creamy mousse and nice vitality throughout. Not thrilled about the price, but that said, it certainly pleases the palate with bright tart cherry, citrus and strawberry notes to go with rich yeasty toast, brioche, hazelnut and a bit of earthy briar and rosewater. The mouth is vigorous and lively and the Caraccioli never dulls the senses, this has energy, depth and finish, feeling clear, transparent and light with some sexy character and it is a very alluring effort. This is rather pricy, that is true, especially when you consider the range of choices in that price class, though definitely a worthy offering, without question one of the best California sparkling wines available, drink this one over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2020. I tasted this in their fun tasting lounge in Carmel by the Sea, where they offer it by the glass at a special and fair rate, I must say and the experience was very positive and youthful, I’d go back for more without hesitation.
($57 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Gruner Veltliner, Weinvietel Reserve, In Der Schablau, Austria.
The Groiss Reserve in a much denser, richer and sweeter version of Gruner Veltliner, but with fabulous energy and balance, this is remarkable stuff that feels almost about spatlese in weight and feel. This deeper and more hedonistic wine is fairly unique, as we almost always see bone dry selections of this varietal, so it kind of throws you off a bit, being off-dry sweet, and want to compare it to Riesling, and Groiss does a fantastic job here, making a stylish and complex Gruner that while honeyed and lush also holds it’s fruit and weight in check with vigorous acidity, mineral tones and a nice play of salty/savory elements that adds dimension. The nose is lightly floral with spice, citrus, marzipan and baked peach leading to a full and decedent palate with gorgeous mouth feel with a mix of stone fruits, almond paste and wet stones. A hint of dried pineapple, saline, oyster shells, steely notes, white currant and honeycomb add complexity and there is a lingering finish of lemon/lime, minty herbs and summer melon. This was quite a treat and was amazing with spicy Chinese cuisine and curry with enough fruity character to refresh the palate and give heightened pleasure, this was a winner from start to finish. 2013 was a spectacular vintage, especially for Groiss, I wish I had got another few bottles to cellar, this one in particular would be interesting to follow, though I do admire her 2014’s as well, her drier wines are some of my favorites of the year. Drink this opulent Reserve In Der Schablau Gruner Veltliner over the next 3 to 5 years, I imagine it should be best from 2016 to 2020.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Madeleine “Maddie” Vin de Table Red, California.
Damien Georis’s Madeleine label makes some wonderful and flavorful wines including Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Pinot Blanc, plus this red blend Maddie a cuvee of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon done with a nod to the Loire Valley. The French, and Bordeaux trained, Georis also makes the namesake wines of Georis Winery in Carmel Valley, owned by Belgian Walter Georis, the famous Carmel restauranteur. Madeleine is made at Georis Winery, but is very much Damien’s own baby and are unique wines that are part of a new generation of Carmel Valley and Monterey wines. I have long been a fan of Madeleine, but this was my first chance to try the Maddie red and I was excited by what I found, this is a great little wine and a real value, it is full flavored and lush with mostly Cabernet Franc character and nice verve and focus. The Maddie 2013 starts with a dark garnet hue, a pretty nose of red fruits, spice and floral tones that leads to a medium full bodied palate of black cherry, dried currant, plum and raspberry fruits with subtle pepper, black olive and cedar notes along with a bit of chalky/stones, dusty tannins and a lift of acidity. The soft texture coats the mouth and light herbal notes, tobacco and cinnamon come up in the background, but the finish is lush and lingers with loads of fruit sweetness, making for a very pleasing experience. This wine should develop a more subtle nuance over the next year or so, maybe even gathering a austere side with time, but most people will adore it’s youthful forwardness and charm, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Rose of Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Richard Alfaro’s vivid pink Rose of Pinot Noir is full of Pinot fruit and boldly lush to start with loads of tart cherry, a hint of blue fruit, a kiss of wood and sweet herbs and spice before quickly turning more vibrant and austere with a burst of acidity, mineral and red citrus coming to the fore. The dark pink wine has ruby edges and feels textural in the mouth, but manages to stay vinous and lively with tangy plum, peach and watermelon shinning through with some anise and earthy charm, this is a great food wine and perfect for summer, it is a full flavored Rose and is refreshing at the same time. Like I mentioned it almost tastes like a chilled red at first, but instead of feeling hard or tannic, this wine turns crisp with nice bright fruit, staying more balanced, poised and dry than I would have imagined, this is delightful and savvy stuff. On the Rose scale the Alfaro Rose of Pinot Noir is most certainly Californian, but with an almost Italian Rosato character to it, and it gives an insight into the beautiful detail and complexity of the vintage, it makes my mouth water for the upcoming releases of the Alfaro Family Vineyards Pinot Noir! The Alfaro Family Estate in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Corralitos is a must visit, just south of Santa Cruz city and close to Aptos, it is a cool climate site that makes for amazing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and even Gruner Veltliner, Albarino and Syrah. The Alfaro Rose is a tasting room wine, but can be bought on line at www.alfarowine.com as well, it is perfect right now, but should stay interesting over the next year or so, though I bet my bottles won’t last long!
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Broc Cellars, Love Red, California.
Chris Brockway’s new Love Red is a juicy blend of Carignan, Valdiguie and Syrah that gives lots of personality, charm and unique character with dark fruit and vibrant layers. The nose shows crushed berries, light floral tones and spice leading to a palate of plum, blackberry, bing cherry, red peach, spiced currants and wild raspberry as well as hints of cinnamon, bramble, fennel notes. This wine is very much in keeping with Brockway’s style and is vivid, fresh and easy to quaff, the tannins are light and the acidity very tangy adding to the lift and energy, this Love Red delivers loads of fun and enjoyment. This wine joins a great new set of wines made from different varietals and done in a lighter style, wineries like Hobo Wine Company’s Folk Machine label, Arnot-Roberts, Stolpman’s Carbonc line, Donkey & Goat, Cruise Wines and classic wines like the iconic Sean Thackrey Plaeides. We really have some wonderful choices in California for interesting wines, and Broc Cellars based in Berkeley is a great label to follow, the lineup includes Sparkling Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Carignane and more small lot offerings that are worth checking out. The Broc wines are done with mostly native yeasts and neutral oak, allowing the wines to be clear and vibrant, these are lovely wines, especially this new 2014 Love Red, drink with a slight chill for refreshing summer drinking. The latest from Broc is a solid winner, drink over the next few years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Farmlands by Johan Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The gorgeous and forward Farmlands Pinot by Dag Johan Sundby of Johan Vineyards, a Norwegian winemaker in the Willamette Valley is a great all biodynamic estate wine that is full of life, vigor and class. This beauty gives you an idea of how wonderful 2014 looks set to be in Oregon and highlights the nature of Johan’s vines and the intensity of fruit, this is a sexy little Pinot Noir and a top value, so make sure you look for it and don’t miss Sundby’s other super offerings, especially his Gruner Veltliner, Rose of Pinot Noir and his main estate Pinot Noir. The 2014 Farmlands bursts from the glass with energy and lovely perfume, there is a classic spice, rose petal and mineral note to go along with a vivid light ruby hue and a richly textured palate of medium weight that jumps out at you with blue and red fruits. The core is black cherry, plum and blueberry with hints of flint and chalk dust, minty anise, cedar and dried tangy currants. The youth shows, but fine tannin and acidity are welcome in this fruit packed wine, I love it as is and certain it will entertain in style for many years to come, I really am impressed with this one and I can’t wait to see what the main Johan Estate 2014 is like next year, there is no question Dag Johan Sundby is on a roll, drink the 2014 Farmlands over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2016 to 2020.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Giacomo Fenocchio, Barolo DOCG “Villero” Piedmonte, Italy.
The latest Villero from Giacomo Fenocchio is a lush and full bodied expression of pure Nebbiolo, it may not be a 2010 and be a cellar queen, but it is a wonderful drinking wine that has all the right stuff, and I should think it will reward short to mid term aging with no problem, this is a Barolo with pedigree and substance. The 2011 Giacomo Fenocchio starts with beautiful details, nice floral perfume, spice, earth and mineral notes leading to a lavish palate of ripe cherry, juicy plum, raspberry and candied orange rind turning a bit more meaty on the mid palate along with soy sauce, black licorice, wild mushrooms and cedar. The thick tannins are polished and not too intrusive or drying, but add a firm control to the structure while a nice energy is maintained throughout, even though the acidity is more subtle in this warm vintage, overall this is a focused effort that manages it’s weight and forward character well. There is lots to enjoy here even young, and there is a lovely long finish that keeps pumping fruit for a very lengthy amount of seconds in the aftertaste with lingering cherry, strawberry, lavender, chalk/stone and dried roses. Mostly about red fruit and body at this stage, though no one will complain, and look for more complexity to form in the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2018 to 2022, that said, you can be totally thrilled in the nearer future as well, just decant and enjoy with rustic cuisine! This is a super impressive Barolo Villero from the Bussia in Monforte d’Alba, this is a label to follow along with G.D. Vajra, Brovia and Giovanni Rosso, especially in this vintage!
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2006 Domaine Francois Bertheau, Chambolle-Musigny, Red Burgundy, France.
This was a pleasant surprise, I have been tasting quite a few new vintage wines and didn’t expect to be so pleased with this lovely and stylish 2006, but the Francois Bertheau Chambolle was fresh and delightful gaining depth and complexity with every minute of air and turning into quite a fine expression of grape and place. The 2006 Domaine Francois Bertheau starts a bit reduced with some earth, funk, graphite and some hard edges, but with only a few swirls in the glass things change for the better with dried roses, pretty herbs and red currant fruit emerging in nice detail and in the mouth a lush array of cherry, raspberry, tangy plum and red peach start flowing along with a hint of green olive, camphor, forest floor, chalky stones and tobacco leaf. Every is bright and vigorous, juicy acidity keeping things from getting muddled, for a few more moments, then this Pinot Noir unveils an inner softness and a tender side when the tannin seems to turn to silk and the fruit turns delicate and flowing with strawberry and cedar lingering with traces of rosewater on the succulent finish. This should drink well for another 3 to 5 years easy, it is not overly dark in color and feels old school and light hearted, but it delivers more than enough to keep a huge smile on your face and looks like a good value when comparing Chambolle prices, this is a solid wine that would be a great find on a wine list, drink from 2016 to 2021.
($79 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive