n.v. Eric Rodez, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Brut Champagne, Ambonnay, France.
There isn’t many people more passionate about terroir and quality than Eric Rodez and it shows in his fantastic Champagne, and better for us is the fact that these wonderful cubes are delightfully affordable and without pretense or brand envy, these wines are in the same league as Krug and Vilmart. Eric practices mostly bidynamic principals in the vineyard and in some cases he goes further, even to the point of treating vines with essential oils, or as Charles Neal his importer puts it, he treats his vines with aromatherapy if needed! In the cellar, his two years working at Champagne Krug gave him his core beliefs, though he is influenced also by his time in both Alsace and Burgundy, he uses a combination of tank and wood, uses barrel aging and uses lots of very old reserve wines in the blended non vintage cuvees. Rodez has only 15 acres in Grand Cru Ambonnay, mostly Chardonnay and a touch of Pinot Noir, and this gorgeous 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs comes from between 15 and 20 separate lots, from different plots in his vineyard, this enhances the complexity, with the base vintages being 32% from 1999, 19% from 2008, 24% from 2007, 16% from 2006 and 3% from 2004, all aged 53 months Sur Lie, with 18% aged in cement/enamel lined tanks and 82% aged in small Barrel. Most of his wine goes through malo, though you still find energy and finesse in these luxurious Champagnes, I adore these offerings from Eric Rodez, especially this one. The nose is amazingly deep with layers of brioche, hazelnut, lemon pie and fig leading to a full bodied palate that shines and sparkles with apple, white berry, citrus, exotic tropical fruits, textural creme brûlée, baking spices, wet stones and mineral tones along with a glorious beading from the fine mousse. This is seductive, richly flavored and vibrant bubbly, absolutely world class and eye-poppingly sexy! Drink this stunning non vintage Blanc de Blancs Rodez over the next decade, best from 2016 to 2021, I know I will. (Disgorged Oct. 2014- 4 gram dosage)
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Louis Antoine Luyt “Cruchon” Pinot Noir, Coteaux de Trumao, Valle del Bueno, Chile.
The Cruchon Pinot Noir by Frenchman Louis Antoine Luyt is from old vines of Massale Selection, these are a mix of original old Burgundy clones thought to have been brought to Chile in the mid 1800’s, and this all natural wine is a light and flavorful treat. Luyt is working with a collection of growers throughout Chile, and he is most interested in the ancient Mission Grape plantings that can be around 300 years old and counting, the Mission Grape, called Pais in Chile and known as Listan Prieto, which seems certain to have come from Spain, though may in fact be either related to a Greek grape or maybe a grape that was at home in north Africa. It seems that Listan Prieto is different even from the Listan Negro found on the Canary Islands, also thought to be a Mission Grape, that it in fact is a separate vine all together. Luyt himself, worked at famous Beaujolais producer Lapierre and is a passionate Natural Wine advocate, his wines are organic, raw and terroir driven with low alcohol and fresh transparent flavors, though they can show a mix of earth and funk, especially when young, though they tend to clear up and get deeper with a few years in bottle. The Cruchon Pinot Noir is one of his newest wines in Chile, where he has found a welcoming home, it shows delicacy and bright red fruits with mineral tones and savory spices, the 2014 version is the best yet, as it has more character and pretty layers of cherry, strawberry and peachy fruit with hints of plum, briar, truffle, wild herbs, rhubarb and earthy cranberry. The Cruchon comes in at 11.5% and has a soft ruby hue, it feels more like a Fleurie Beaujolais than a Bourgogne and while youthful and tangy, it should gain a bit of weight and complexity in the bottle and the finish is quite impressive for such a light wine. The tannins are faint and silky, while the acidity is driving and vibrant, which makes this subtle and delightful wine seem almost Rose like at this stage, though it does deepen in feel with air and cuisine, give it a short time in the cellar, best from 2016 to 2019, this is a wine with unique charms and will elicit both raves and a few boos, be your own judge, I found a hint of intrigue and was left delighted. Luyt’s must try offerings include his Carignan “Legno Duro” and Pais de Quenehuao, as well as his fun Pipeno line made also from 200 to 300 year old Pais vines!
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Damilano, Barolo “Cannubi” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2010 Cannubi by Damilano is a massive and youthful Barolo that needs plenty of time resting in the cellar, but those that have this beauty will be rewarded with an amazing wine, I would guess the best window for enjoying this Barolo will open around 2020. There is so much packed into this tannic beast that it is hard to keep up with it on the palate, the nose too is far from formed yet, but there is gorgeous violets, smoke, earth, spice and deep fruit essences that need constant swirling to see, smell and feel, and the mouth is richly flavored with brandied cherries, raspberry, wild plum, mocha, melted licorice, tar and truffle. This is a meaty wine with classic Nebbiolo character, there is lots of vigor and extreme tension that make it difficult to fully enjoy at this stage, though the structure is impressive and there is a lot to get excited about, this is going to be a thrilling Barolo, all need is money and patience! After lengthy air and chopping you catch a glimpse at the inner beauty here and can just make out the glorious detail, dried roses, sweet strawberry and mineral notes tease you like a haunting ghost. This is serious stuff, and I know I’ll be jealous of those that have this bottle of Cannubi, drink from 2020 to 2032, great vintage and wonderfully crafted, bravo.
($95 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Aia Vecchia, Lagone, Toscana Rosso IGT, Italy.
With great vineyards in both Bolgheri and Maremma, Aia Vecchia makes some fantastic wines, at the top end from Bolgheri is there Sor Ugo that comes from vines close to Ornellaia and Sassicaia, and is a wonderful Cabernet blend, as well as making some awesome value wines from both areas with a superb Vermentino and this stunning Lagone rosso. This 2012 Lagone red blend has Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese mostly and comes from both estates, this is a wine that delivers way beyond it’s price class and a great wine for the savvy buyers that want wonderful quality and compellingly friendly wines. I must say, this Lagone is very impressive and I would recommend it for wine lists and or parties, it has alluring dark flavors, rich texture and nice depth and length, this red offers a lot of bang for the buck. The nose has warm earth, dark flowers, black fruits with hints of spice and toasty wood leading to a lush, round palate of blackberry, baked cherry, tangy currants, plum and creme de cassis with cedar, mint, mocha, anise and sweet tobacco. This leans toward medium/full body and feels creamy in the mouth, but has a nice burst of acidity and refined tannins holding it together, it makes for excitement and joyous drinking, perfect with a vast array of cuisine, and is pretty darn tasty stand alone for a drinking all on it’s own. Again this Aia Vecchio is a bargain red that gives great Tuscany charm for a great price, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2020.
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine A et P de Villaine, Mercurey “Les Montots” Red Burgundy, France.
Aubert de Villaine’s family estate in Bouzeron is still one of the best deals in fine and early drinking Burgundy wines, these wines are a far cry from his day job wines at Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, where he is the managing director, but they make for exciting and well crafted offerings for savvy wine buyers and enthusiasts. Imported by Kermit Lynch, the de Villaine wines have a very sexy appeal and can be outstanding, and they usually are fruit forward, but with poise and vibrancy that give them the ability to age well, even though I would bet most people enjoy them young and fresh. The estate is farmed with biodynamic practices and the wines show a beautiful inner energy and charm, especially good in this 2013 vintage are the Rully white and in particular this wonderful Mercurey red, which is full of flavor and intensity, and if I’m honest I like it better than the more acclaimed 2010 and 2012 vintages, this is really stylish and excellent stuff. The 2013 de Villaine Mercurey Les Montots starts with an almost Gamay expression with dark floral scents, spice and juicy berry fruits leading the way, but starts to tighten up and get focus on the palate with pure Pinot character coming through with tangy red cherry, plum, red peach flesh and black raspberry layers along with mineral, pepper, cinnamon, cedar and sweet tea notes, the mouth feel is robust, but medium bodied making for a focused and vivid Burgundy. The wine changes a bit in the glass, it keeps your attention with much allure and detail, and the finish is crisply zesty, though with lovely lingering currant and strawberry fruit as well as hints of anise, saline and truffle, drink from 2016 to 2022.
($48 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 La Stoppa, Trebbiolo Rosso, IGT Emilia, Italy.
Elena Pantaleoni’s famous natural wine estate of La Stoppa continues to intrigue the wine world with a unique set of wines from Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy, from her savory Ageno orange wine to a set of Frizante sparklers, a sweet passito Malvasia, then there are the reds, a Barbera and this Trebbiolo red blend of 60% Barbera and 40% Bonarda. The wines farmed here by Elena and her vignaiolo Giulio Armani are all organic, fermented with their native yeast in a combination of stainless tank, concrete vats and cask, with an all natural approach, without any chemicals or additives other than a tiny dose of sulphur at bottling, these are pure expressions of La Stoppa and Emilia. The 2013 Trebbiolo Emilia IGT Rosso is surprisingly forward and different from the last two vintages and really shows the deep and dark fruit of the Barbera with much less reduction (funk) in the nose, though hints of animal/game remain and the mouth feel is fuller and has a certain density and persistence that impresses, this wine has an inner force and vitality. There is an array of layers and a cascade of flavors to enjoy here with floral/dried violets and rose oil, hints of horse, saddle leather, lavender, minty herbs and cinnamon wrapped around a core of tangy plum, black cherry and raspberry fruits along with a touch of earth, truffle, cedar and mineral on the vibrant palate. There is some licorice and tart currant that comes through with air along with faint blueberry and briar notes making for a very pleasing Trebbiolo that feels a bit more ripe and polished than prior efforts, but that is a very good thing and I love this 2013 and it should appeal to a wider audience, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Daniel Bouland, Morgon Vieilles Vignes “Delys” Cru Beaujolais, France.
Wow! This is gorgeous old vine Gamay at it’s finest, beautifully detailed, fresh, vivid and with extraordinary layers of pureness, Daniel Bouland’s Morgon is right up there with Foillard and Lapierre! Tasting this glorious example of top Cru Beaujolais from vines planted in 1926 was an honor, I have not had the Bouland Morgon “Delys” before and it left me spellbound, this is the real deal and has a wonderful sense of subtlety and elegance, the intensity is like an inner zen experience, this is not a flamboyant or slutty wine, this Gamay builds slowly on the palate and is the ultimate seduction, it has that X factor you find in great Burgundy, needless to say I was very impressed and intrigued. The 2013 Daniel Bouland Morgon Delys old vine Gamay starts with delicate violets, walnut oil and blue fruit that leads to a silky palate of black cherry, plum, blackberry and strawberry fruits along with a touch of mineral, chalky stones, a mix of Asian spice, herbs, cinnamon and savory earth notes with hints of cedar and dried currants. The mouth feel is excellent, with light to medium body, transparency of flavors, lifting acidity and sublime length, this wine is just magical, words fail to capture it’s essence, but this is very sexy stuff. The big take away here is the terroir and unique sense of place, this most likely could not be achieved anywhere else, this wine highlights that eternal truth, this is like drinking the land’s soul, it’s something you feel and respect. Drink this well crafted Cru Beaujolais over the next 3 to 5 years, though I suspect it will drink with style for a full decade easy, be sure to chase this entertaining and stunning offering down!
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Claus Schneider, Weiler Schlipf, Spatburgunder Trocken “CS” Baden, Germany.
This Claus Schneider CS Trocken Pinot Noir is really lovely wine, it is hard to imagine a more elegant example of Spatburgunder with so much flavor and silky texture at this price point, in fact this tasty stuff will impress Burgundy and Oregon Pinot lovers and those looking for class and detail should really search this Baden beauty out! Imported directly by Wine Wise in Oakland, California this Pretty Pinot Noir from Weingut Schneider should be filtering into the market place soon. Baden in Germany’s restive spa region in the south is home to many interesting and unique wines, the soils are mixed and are less serve than on the rivers with more limestone, sandstone, loam and clay, the weather can be warmer and you can find lush easy to love wines, especially fine Sylvaner, usually in those funny shaped bottles, but there’s quite a lot of good Pinot Noir too, and this Weingut Claus Schneider is one of the nicest I’ve seen. The 2012 Weiler Schlipf CS is the signature wine of the winery and is their best bottling, or reserve if you will, and it is wonderfully complex and composed with black cherry, plum, vibrant red berry and tangy currant fruits along with hints of mineral, rose oil, spice and earth, showing good vivid character, creamy tannin and superb length, this is very stylish stuff. A touch of cedar, floral tones, mint tea, perfectly mated oak notes and fresh acidity add to the array of layers, but there is seamless harmony and grace here, everything is folded together with poise and this Spatburgunder drinks stupid good right now and will for many years to come, best from 2016 to 2021, even the basic Spatburgunder from Schneider is rocking good too, this is a winery to keep an eye out for!
($31 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
n.v. Mousse Fils, Brut Rose Champagne “Tradition” France.
Cedric Mousse’s Rose Tradition is a great new addition to Terry Theise’s portfolio and Cedric is the only producer at this time to make a 100% Pinot Meunier Special Club bottling, and is a vigneron totally new to me, but one I will be paying much more attention to! The Rose is about 90% Pinot Meunier & 10% Pinot Noir, the still wine is barrel aged 100% Pinot Meunier and is used for the vivid color, the estate grapes are grown using organic methods and the wine is bright and expressive, the bubbles bead beautifully and there is a sense of balance and detail throughout, this is impressive pink sparkling wine. The nose has the earthy tones and fruit you’d expect from Meunier, but there is a nice yeasty note, clear mineral elements and the palate is sensual and seductive with great mouth feel, fruit and vibrant mousse, plus there is a well judged frame and focus to be found here, everything speaks well of a really long cellar life, though I find it profound and joyous as is. There’s rose water, spices, a mix of citrus, strawberry, tart cherry and a mulberry sense along with leesy sex appeal, a brioche note and steely clarity that keeps the fruit in check. This is steal in the unique grower producer world of stylish Pinot Meunier Champagne and it is a fine and elegant Rose Brut, that is expressive and also refined, in other words you will really love this wonderful bubbly, Mousse is a fantastic new discovery and you should really look high and low for it, and his other amazing Champagnes.
($56 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive
2014 Waxwing, Rose of Pinot Noir, Blair Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Scott Sisemore’s Rose of Pinot Noir from the Blair Vineyard is a bright and savory pink wine that has lots of zing and is almost severely austere, but still delivers fresh fun. The 2014 Waxwing Rose is a lovely orange/salmon pink in the glass with loads of spice, mineral and wet stones, it is very muted fruit wise with vivid citrus, light watermelon, rose water and a shock of dusty black pepper. As it opens you get a bit of sour cherry and strawberry plus a lot of tangy herbs in this tart mouth watering Rose, it has a much more European feel than you’d expect from a California pink and it goes much better with food than on it’s own, I must say it took a few sips, even glasses to build a fondness for this one, though in the end I admire the effort and it certainly has a niche to fill. Sisemore is turning out some lovely and well crafted wines under the Waxwing label and I do love his Pinot Noir and Syrah offering very much, and recommend searching them out, this rose comes of the Blair Vineyard, which is in the Arroyo Seco area just south east of the Santa Lucia Highlands with cool fog and wind influence set on chalky soils, gravel, silt and sand, it was picked especially for making Rose at low Brix, though real alcohol does get to 13%, and it ends up a complex and zesty Pink. Only 86 Cases were made, this one is mostly sold direct from Waxwing, and it should drink vigorously for a year or so, best right now and with cuisine and very cold.
($20 Est.) 88-91 Points, grapelive