2014 Salvo Foti-I Vigneri 1435, Vini Rosso IGT, Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy.
The wines made by Foti and the rites of I Vigneri are all natural and the grapes are farmed near Mount Etna in northeast Sicily and are produced in a holistic fashion, a term for the local version of biodynamics with great respect for nature and native history. The I Vigneri Rosso by Salvo Foti is made mostly of Nerello Mascalese, though some of the vineyards are old vine field blends with maybe a dozen different varietals which include some mystery vines that no one where or what is really is as of yet, hence the generic label instead of the Etna Rosso DOC. The 2014 has the usual funk, spice and wild fruits character you’d expect of Foti and still possesses a majestic presence in the glass with medium weight, lively vitality and a raw beauty that always intrigues and seduces with mulberry, strawberry, tart cherry and plum fruits along with flinty red pepper, hints of smoke, cayenne and cedar all come through on the palate as well as blueberry, anise, minty herb, beet root and warm stones. This earthy mix of sweet and savory layers feels radiant and is terroir driven, fermented with natural yeast in old oak vats without temperature control, this wine captures the age old passion of place and ancient traditions perfectly and it succeeds with it’s un-photoshopped or adorned sense of realism, worn proudly, faults and all. The Foti 2014 Rosso is appealing and truly almost erotic, gloriously unique, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, this is special stuff from high slopes of the volcano from the “Godfather” of Etna’s vines.
($30 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
2011 Oddero, Barbaresco DOCG “Gallina” Piedmonte, Italy.
It was great meeting the youngest of the Oddero’s Pietro and taste the latest releases from this great Piedmonte winery, in a few short years Odder has moved into my top 5 Piedmonte wines, joining Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta, Chiara Boschis, G.D. Vajra and Brovio as my favorites, I especially love their Barbera and Barolo wines, but just I discovered and fell in love with the Oddero 2011 Barbaresco Gallina! If you were going to compare Piedmonte to Burgundy, just by using Nebbiolo as your grape, then Barbaresco maybe would be Morey-St.-Denis or Chambolle-Musigny, and the Gallina Cru to me would be likened to either Clos Saint-Denis or Clos de la Roche, such is the lovely perfumed nature and Grand Cru class this vineyard elicits on your senses! All of the Oddero Nebbiolo wines are silken and wonderfully elegant, in fact they are amazingly so and each shows distinct pure terroir character, less about the winemaking, which is exceptional, and more about the place and time, these wines are transparent and deliver a clarity of purpose with grace and stylistic charm, in particular this gorgeous Gallina. The 2011 Gallina Cru Barbaresco from Oddero, a warm and near perfect Barbaresco vintage with joyous textures, aromas and wondrous inner complexity is delightfully easy to dive into with reckless abandon, it pleases completely with glorious fruit, mineral tones and well defined structures. The Gallina is full of flavor with a a light ruby/brickish hue in the glass and a lifting nose of dried roses, fennel, cinnamon stick and mixed berries leading to a round and full palate of black cherry, spiced plum, raspberry, tangy dried currants with basil and balsamic covered strawberries along with chalky stones, tar, melted black licorice plus sweet and savory spices, garden herbs and crushed violets, finishes with a hint of cedar, blueberry tart and kirsch. This is a total beauty, lengthy, vibrant and expressively seductive, this is tasty stuff and a knockout in this price class, drink over the next decade, best from 2017 to 2022.
($66 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Richard Betts “Sucette” Grenache, Vine Vale-Barossa Valley, Australia.
Richard Betts, the well known American Master Sommelier and author, has been a long time champion of Australian old vine Grenache and his continued passion for this terroir and varietal shows in the soul and delicacy his latest Sucette offering from Australia’s Barossa Valley, this is fine and beautiful effort that highlights the grace and detail this grape can deliver. The vines are ancient own-rooted grown on sand, just like some of the most sought after and famous Chateauneuf du Pape wines, and Betts achieves that kind of impact, but with a slightly more restrained approach and subtlety in his 2014 Sucette Old Vine, it reminds me also of some of the latest wines from Westside Paso Robles made from Grenache, like Booker, Epoch and others. This is pure Grenache in it’s ready to please best clothes with ripe red fruits, spice and a balanced mix of sweet and savory elements, this is thrilling stuff and the finish is lengthy echoing the palate. The start is exciting as the Sucette enter the glass with a gleaming ruby/garnet hue with a lifting perfume of mixed fruits, pepper and lavender leading the way to a rich mouth filled with raspberry, black cherry, strawberry and plum fruit as well as chalky peppercorn, sweet herbs, anise and soft creme de cassis. This is very defined, vigorous and opulent Grenache with well judged tannin and round textures, full bodied and joyous from start to finish, but poised and charming, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, impressive without having to shout from the rooftops, this is one to look for.
($57 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Christiane Chambeyron-Manin, Cote-Rotie, Cote Brune, Rhone Red, France.
This is a stunningly beautiful example of Cote-Rotie with life and vigor showing wonderful detail and full stem inclusion aromatics and spiciness in a lighter medium bodied style. I’d never had Christiane’s wines before, so this was a thrill to taste and discover, this Cote Brune, a lovely and very pretty wine gives the grace and harmony of the region and terroir in great focus with floral notes, flinty/pepper and subtle earthiness along with black and blue fruits. This Syrah is fermented old school, whole cluster with the stems and unlike many of her fancy neighbors comes in at a native yeast lower alcohol, at 12.5% which adds to the delicacy and vitality of Champbeyron-Manin’s Cote-Rotie. This vibrant and elegant wine has nice acidity and enjoys a long finish, it gives everything you’d expect and a bit more, starting with violets, smoky shale mineral notes, mixed olives, anise and peppercorns leading to a palate of boysenberry, plum, black cherry and wild currant fruits, all spice, cedar and a hint of meat and iron. It’s the total of these expressions and pure terroir clarity that gives the feeling of joy and complexity, this is a thoughtful and alluring effort to cherish over the next 3 to 5 years and maybe longer, this was impressive stuff that should fill out still and gain with another year or two in bottle, best from 2017 to 2020.
($68 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Tatomer, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County.
In a few short years Graham Tatomer has given us amazing Gruner Veltliner and Riesling offerings to ponder and be thrilled by, helping elevate the two varietals in California, he trained with Weingut Knoll in the Wachau, one of the world’s great producers and brought back a gifted touch and talent for Riesling and Gruner, plus now he is making a fine collection of Pinot Noir. The latest set of Gruner and Riesling are some of the best efforts to date and his sweet Beerenauslese like Riesling is outstanding too, certainly it ranks as one of the top stickies in the State, though I must say I was moved by Graham’s latest Pinots most of all, especially his single vineyard Duvarita, which I’ve mentioned prior, and the wonderful Spatburgunder styled Santa Barbara County Pinot 2014, this was my new wine of his road show in the City this week, it is a light to medium offering with brilliant color and complexity with dreamy textures and exotic spices. The 2014 Tatomer Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County comes off three sites, and is made with a gentle touch and much less extracted making for an old school, old world charmer, and I really enjoyed the soft cascade of layers, that really reminded me of some of my favorite German Spatburgunders, it has lots of freshness, vibrancy and delicacy. The nose is spicy with lovely wilted roses, smoky fruits and flinty minerals, the light and shiny ruby hue shimmers in the glass and the palate is silken with raspberry, tangy plum and black cherry fruits, savory lavender, dusty stones, truffle and mixed baking spices finishing with dried currants, red peach, tart blueberry and chalky notes, this is a gorgeous expression of Pinot Noir, be sure to look for it, it comes in a tall almost Riesling shaped bottle and drink it over the next 3 to 5 years, this wine over delivers for the price!
($35 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Magna Mater, Sauvignon Blanc, Vogelzang Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley.
The beautiful and beguiling Sauvignon Blanc, from the very talented Jordan Fiorentini, the winemaker at one of California’s brightest Rhone style producers, Epoch Estate in Paso Robles and who used to work with Justin Smith, of Saxum fame, is a wine you should look for, it is a complete and joyful white that is pure quality in the glass. Fiorentini, who cut her teeth as head of winemaking at Sonoma’s Chalk Hill, has made many impressive and critically acclaimed wines, so it was no surprise to find her personal label Magna Mater a fine and expressive effort, but because I’m quite jaded when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc it was a little bit of a shock to find myself adoring this one as much as I do. Honestly I don’t get all that excited about Sauvignon Blanc from California, but this is an exception and a really fun wine, I found myself going back in time to the early years of Brander, the Santa Ynez Sauvignon Blanc pioneer, when my mind was blown that Santa Barbara County was a place that could produce sublime Sauvignon Blanc with either Loire like raciness or Graves like richness, and Fiorentini’s Magna Mater Vogelzang again proves the point, with the idea combination of both mineral driven energy and textual pleasure on the palate, this vibrant Sauvignon really stands out in a crowd and deserves real kudos. The 2014 Magna Mater Vogelzang starts with bright lemon/lime, white flowers, kiwi and a steely rail that runs the length of this intriguing white along with wild peach, tangy quince, liquid stone, verbena, saline and basil/herb notes. This is vivid and mouth-watering stuff that gains weight or gravitas with air, but stays vigorous, dusty dry and crisply focused throughout, this is a very polished and poised offering and I can’t wait to see what other interesting wines take shape under this new label, drink this over the next 2 or 3 years.
($29 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Maxime Magnon, La Demarrante, Vin de Pays de la Vallee du Paradis, France.
Whatever your feelings on “natural” wine or biodynamics, this wine and Maxime Magnon might move the needle, his wines show a pure clarity that defines the place and cepage into a single life force, you can not help but be impressed and admire the pleasure in these wines, especially the La Demarrante 2014 made from old vine Carignan and Cinsault. The La Demarrante is labeled as a Vin de Pay, because Corbieres doesn’t allow for this particular combination of varietals to be classified, but for understanding proposes it must be said that is what this beautiful red wine is in it’s soul and character, made with native yeasts and almost no sulphur, with whole cluster/semi carbonic fermentation(s) and the La Demarrante is aged in neutral cask and cuve/vat. The soils here are Schist and iron rich with some limestone, there is almost no top soil and it is dramatic rocky terroir and in Magnon’s case a place of small yields and expressive fruit, he trained with Jean Follard in Morgon and you can see that style coming through, in recent vintages there’s no question that Maxime is on a roll, these wines are remarkable and wonderfully focused with energy and verve. The young La Demarrante is gorgeous right out of the bottle with flamboyant fruit, floral and savory spices jumping from the glass with charm and fresh intensity showing blackberry, huckleberry, red pepper flakes, chalky minerals, crushed violets and bright cinnamon with a certain plummy feel and lingering anise and briar tangy sensations along with a hint of leather, cherry and blueberry compote finishing with dusty currant and sticky lavender. Drink this one greedily and as often as you can, one of the most interesting Carignan offerings I’ve tried this year and lovely stuff, best from 2016 to 2020.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 G.D. Vajra, Dolcetto D’ Alba DOC, Coste & Fossati, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Vajra Dolcetto Coste & Fossati is like the Grand Cru of Dolcetto, it is very unlike any Dolcetto I’ve had in recent years, the best way to relate it or explain it is say it has varietal correctness, but drinks more like a Barolo, maybe it’s the terroir and vintage, which was severe, I can’t really say, though I can say it is magnificent! The deeply flavored Coste & Fossati Dolcetto by Giuseppe Vajra starts with wild blackberry, sweet herbs, hints of dried violets and bright cherry and plum, it is nicely hued with garnet and blueish with ruby edges and the palate is rich, but energy filled. There is hints of anise, mineral, truffle and earthy notes as well as new leather and cedar spiced wood shadings in this medium weighted wine that feels impressive in the mouth and lingers on the finish, this is easily the best Dolcetto of the vintage I’m tried, this is very tasty and very special stuff from Vajra, this and his 2011 Barolo lineup are must have knockouts. Drink the Coste & Fossati Dolcetto D’ Alba 2012 over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2020.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
nv Hure Freres, Extra Brut, Reserve Champagne, a Ludes, France.
This Extra Brut Reserve from Hure Freres displays rich yeasty elegance with dense power and vitality of mineral tones and acidity, giving a lush out feel, but with good energy, it is golden in the glass with vigorous beading and creamy mousse. The Reserve is a cuvee of 45% Pinot Muenier, 40% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay, all coming from family owned plots, farmed organic and mostly biodynamic, the base wine spends an extended time on the lees and it gets a minimum dosage, adding up to a stylish Extra Brut with layers flavors and lifting vibrancy, this is really hedonistic bubbly. The nose has a classic bready/dough and toast note with light citrus, fig and dried fruits along with hazelnut, apple butter and lemon on the palate, it shows a decedent vinous expression and a bit of nervy tension, finishing lavishly long and poised, this is a very fine and thrilling offering from Hure Freres. Drink this lovely Champagne over the next 3 to 5 years, it is perfect for #ChampagneDay2015 or the coming holidays, or even better with any meal or any damn time you feel like it, best from 2015 to 2020.
($56 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Cobb, Pinot Noir, Rice-Spivak Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
The 2013 Cobb’s are sublime Pinot offerings, especially great is the Rice-Spivak, one of my all time favorite single vineyard wines, this vintage brings these Cobb wines plush textures, pure fruit and divine balance and poise. The last few vintages seemed edgy, serve and in some cases lack a certain charm, but 2013 brought back the X factor, or sexiness, it still is heavenly low in alcohol at 12.8% which will appeal to the faithful, and there is verve and vigor a plenty to go along with beautiful silky fruit and a gorgeous inner perfume of wilted roses and crushed violets. The 2013 Rice-Spivak opens to immediate pleasure with floral grace, mineral tones, bright cherry, tart blueberry and raspberry fruit and a light dusting of spices, cedar, earth and a hint of candied citrus and cola bean, it feels dense and deep with round layers with rich detail and wonderful length, finishing with plum, strawberry, cinnamon and a touch of smoke, coming back to the beam of black cherry on the aftertaste, and with time in the glass. Ross Cobb has again, in my opinion raised his game and the latest set of Cobb wines are a must have vintage, he also has a great lineup of wines he consults for that deserve attention at Hirsch Vineyards and even his talents help guide the Banshee single vineyard cuvees, be sure to check them all out, and drink this thrilling Cobb Rice-Spivak between 2016 and 2025.
($68 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive