2014 Manincor, Schiava, Kalterersee Keil, Alto Adige, Italy.
The gorgeous Manincor Schiava 2014 is one of the best examples of this varietal I’ve had to date with amazing clarity, mouth feel and fine detailing with good acidity and ripe flavors. The Kalterersee Keil is a wine made in the vineyard, a terroir driven red from old vines and high elevation, set on a south facing slope, one of the warmest in the region with chalky sandy-clay soils giving the Schiava richness, mineral tones and pigment. Count Michael Goess-Enzenberg farms the Manincor all bio-dynamic and is a protector of the nature, the family has owned the estate for 400 years, and prior to the Manincor label the grapes were often in the best bottlings of Terlano. Over the last few vintages these Manincor wines have really found a sweet spot and are some of the best values in the region, especially this Kalterersee Keil Schiava, and whilee the reds are superb, you should also search out the whites made from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and in particular their stunning Pinot Blanc. The 2014 vintage Schiava starts with it’s bright ruby hue in the glass with a subtle perfume of spring flowers and light rose petal along with a steely note and a mix of spice, herb and saline leading to a delicate medium weight palate of vibrant strawberry, red currant, plum and raspberry with accents of chalk dust, snappy fennel, a touch of savory/bitters. This satiny red needs to be served cool, almost in the same fashion as Beaujolais, and is amazingly flexible with cuisine, I certainly tested it out with a various Chinese dishes from seafood to crispy skin duck all with mixed sauces and spices and this playful, yet serious Schiava handled them all. Native yeast fermentation and extended time on the fine lees in neutral large cask help add complexity and depth, this wine will drink beautifully for up to ten years, best from 2016 to 2022.
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Maume-Marchand-Tawse, Gevrey-Chambertin, En Pallud, Red Burgundy, France.
Pascal Marchand’s right hand man and winemaker Mark Fincham has crafted a magical Pinot Noir in a vintage that seems to be getting overlooked, but has some wonderful surprises, just like this new Maume beauty. Finch was trusted with getting the best out of the En Pallud and he delivered with an expressive and detailed Burgundy of character and classic style with clear/transparent layers of pure Pinot fruit, mineral and silken textures. While the Marchand 2012’s still have closed firm tannins holding them back, these 2013 are shinning and offer gorgeous satiny fruit and floral tones, and though they seem lighter at first give great length and impressive extract while preserving freshness, these are heavenly wines, especially the Domaine Maume-Marchand-Tawse En Pallud and the 2013 Maison Marchand-Tawse Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru La Perriere. The Marchand influenced or Fincham Maume wines are much cleaner examples than old Maume, some will not recognize the linage, though you’ll admire the attention to vines and terroir, and you’ll not have to wait decades to enjoy these new wines. The 2013 Maume En Pallud starts with earthy roses, red currants, dried violets and flinty mineral leading to a palate of medium weight showing tangy bing cherry, plum and raspberry fruit. Complexity? Well, it feels dreamy and forward, hiding the complexity in pleasure, but the background holds loamy/chalky stones, saline, pipe tobacco and stylishly subtle wood shading with just a hint of vanilla and smoke. This wine firms up in the glass and the bright acidity never lets this Gevrey dull and reminds you of Pinot Noir’s majestic presence and emotional response. Light anise, tea spice and strawberry linger on the finish of this ruby hued nectar and I can only see it getting better over the next 5 to 10 years, look for a bit more dark fruit and savory elements to emerge in the next few years, drink from 2017-2025, be sure to give these sensual and finessed Marchand-Tawse 2013’s a try!
($75 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Robert James, Pinot Noir, Pinnacle, Russian River Valley.
Rob Klbecka, the winemaker and owner of the new Robert James Wines, has just released his debut lineup of wines, which include two beautiful Chardonnays, one lees stirred without oak and another aged in barrel, both of which has rich character and full of flavor, and two Pinots, one a wild ferment 2011, that was his very first wine, with a delightful Central Otago like guava/pomegranate note, and this Pinnacle 2014 Pinot Noir that maybe impressed me the most. The expressive and focused 2014 Robert James Pinnacle Pinot Noir comes from cooler Russian River Valley fruit sources and delivers fine detail, poise and energy, it starts with a lovely garnet/ruby color in the glass, clear and brilliant to view and a sweet floral nose with fresh and dried rose petal, black raspberry, loamy earth, sappy herbs and red tea spices. The palate is medium full with racy acidity lifting the fruit and keeping this Pinot from feeling too weighty, though the texture is lush and welcoming with a certain silken mouth feel, while a cascade of red plum, cherry, strawberry and currant fruits shine through, with hints of vanilla smoke, saline and cola bean also playing parts. It was very cool to meet the hardworking Klbecka and tasting through his quality set of wines, this is a new label that looks set to make an impact, it’s great to see so many passionate new small producers getting their chance, and Rob’s wines are solid and noteworthy. While, like I mentioned, the Robert James Chardonnays, especially Klbecka’s un-oaked leesy “Ocel” stainless steel aged offering, were well worth exploring and highly enjoyable, it was this Pinnacle 2014 Pinot that stood out, with only a few barrels made, this hand crafted wine will not be an easy score, but rewarding to those that find it, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years.
($48 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Louis Barruol-Barruol-Lynch, Cote-Rotie, Neve, Rhone Red, France.
The 2013 Barruol-Lynch Cote-Rotie and Hermitage offerings are brilliant and delicate, these are surprisingly light on their feet, but gorgeous Syrah wines, especially delicious is the Neve Cote-Rotie, which I put above the other for stylish flourish and complexity. The 2013 vintage Barruol-Lynch, a partnership between famed Berkeley importer Kermit Lynch and Chateau de Saint-Cosme owner/winemaker Louis Barruol, shows vibrant pure Syrah character with Cote-Rotie’s signature violets, flinty stones and cracked peppercorns along with boysenberry, plum and kirsch notes plus a hint of game, granite and black olives. This is pretty stuff, the floral perfume lingers both in scent and aftertaste and the modest alcohol makes for fresh and almost Pinot like experience for the palate. Unlike the denser and glycerin heavy Guigal Cote-Rotie examples this Barruol made version is more old school, restrained and can be enjoyed right now. The northern Rhone lineup from Barruol-Lynch is an exciting set of wines, be sure to search out the 2010’s if you can still find them, but the 2013 is certainly a pleasing option that looks to gain a bit with age and drink well now.
($70 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine de la Saraziniere, Macon-Bussieres, Le Pavillon, White Burgundy, France.
Here’s another beautiful 2014 Maconnais Chardonnay that you should really stock up on, it is really pure and flavorful with classic limestone influence from Domaine de la Saraziniere, a producer new to me, but one I plan on keeping track of. Imported by Joli Vin Imports, the natural and mineral driven Le Pavillon Macon-Bussieres drinks wonderfully well and more like a Premier Cru white Burgundy that you’d imagine from wine of this price class, it’s vivid, vibrant and texturally pleasing, showing it’s terroir and gentile handing from vine to bottle. The 2014 Saraziniere Macon Bussieres starts with mineral tones, salty chalk and white flowers with clear lime and kiwi leading to a lemony palate with apple and white peach fruits with hints of clove spice, leesy smoke, hazelnut and steely wet stones. Lingering tart pear, orange blossom and fresh acidity make this wine stand out, and while filled with zest and energy this crisp Chardonnay fills out in the mouth and has balanced density. The Domaine de la Saraziniere Macon-Bussieres Le Pavillon is impressive and graceful, without question a steal at this price, this stuff will be a huge hit with the wine bar and bistro set, great to sip and better with cuisine, drink up!
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Chateau Thivin, Clos de Rochebonne, Beaujolais Blanc, France.
Claude Geoffray’s stylish and unique Chardonnay, a Beaujolais Blanc from 50 year old vines that have their roots in limestone, gravel and mineral intense soils, delivers class and character that see it perform at a level that demands attention and praise. The Thivin Blanc from near Brouilly is a beautiful offering that is similar to White Burgundies from the Maconnais, I’d say it is close in personality to a better Saint-Veran with bright fruit, steely mineral and stony throughout along with subtle creaminess. Geoffrey uses neutral cask for a short period prior to bottling, but mostly this Chardonnay sees clear tank aging with a hint of lees. The nose is lightly floral, white flowers and citrus lead along with pear, lemon/lime, melon and tart apple fruits on the very charming palate which is vibrant and barely medium-bodied with hints of saline infused rock, hazelnut, raw butter and spiced honey. The vivid acidity keeps things pure and fresh all the way in this wonderfully judged white, this is very balanced, focused and poised Chardonnay that drinks above it’s origins and price point, one of the finest Beaujolais Blancs I’ve tasted to date, it is definitely worth searching out, imported by Kermit Lynch, who knows a fair bit about desirable Chardonnay… Drink the 2014 Thivin Clos de Rochebonne over the next couple of years, best from 2016 to 2020.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Vigneti Massa, Derthona Timorasso, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmonte, Italy.
Walter Massa almost single handedly saved this varietal from extinction and makes what might be the best example of Timorasso you can find. This white is a wonderful expression of complexity and terroir with intense almost meat character with fine details and alluring textures along with steely mineral and vibrant fruit. The 2012 Massa Timorasso is exotic and savory, it was fermented using native yeasts and kept on it’s lees for a year, from all organic vines with no new wood, allowing the grape’s true nature to shine through. I was thrilled by this wine, in the glass it has a light golden pale hue, clear and bright with an earthy nose that has a hint of floral elements along with bacon oil and cheesy/lessy notes, like a young white Hermitage, but not as dense, leading to a vigorous palate with tangy citrus, lemon/lime, jasmine, white anise, kumquat, wet river rocks with chalk and flint spice along with peach and bruised apple. The vitality and light/medium body of this wine makes it extremely flexible with cuisine, though this wine will not be for everyone, it is an intriguing study and absolutely pure in quality and style. Drink this impressive white from Piedmonte’s southeast corner over the next 3 to 5 years, and bravo to Massa for bringing back this native grape, the world is a better place for having Timorasso and Erbaluce, another Piedmonte white grape that has made a stunning come back, awesome.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Saint-Veran, White Burgundy, France.
The 2014 vintage from Lafon’s Maconnais based Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon is beautiful, especially the newest addition to the series, the Saint-Veran, which is a lovely and vital Chardonnay that has depth of flavor and bright energy. The whole of Burgundy seems to be getting a complete reset, in particular the Maconnais and Saint-Aubin have risen up to be the new (old?) Chassagne, now that Puligny, Meursault and Chassagne offerings have all been priced out of affordable realm for most people that enjoy white Burgundy are not high-end collectors. For superb quality at fair prices, Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon Macon wines really deliver, hats off to Dominique Lafon, and while his Domaine des Comtes Lafon continues to be one of the greatest estates in Burgundy, the Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon gets better and more desirable with each year. The Saint-Veran 2014 starts with white flowers, chalk dust, brine and lemony yellow fruits with light rose petal, mineral/steely notes, hazelnut and wet river stones all showing on the vigorous and textured palate along with green apple, white peach, matchstick, golden fig and clove spice with the faintest traces of tropical fruit, honey and quince. This white drinks brilliantly in it’s youth with elegant layers, it shows a Premier Cru Chablis like character though not as flinty with a certain creaminess without loosing it’s dry crisp vibrant/racy qualities, this is exciting and poised Chardonnay. If you are looking for gorgeous white Burgundy that would break the bank, 2014 will be a good vintage to stock up on, with Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Marc Colin and Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon all making very entertaining and savvy wines.
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 M. Lapierre, Morgon, Marcel Lapierre Cuvee MMXIV, Cru Beaujolais, France.
The Cuvee Marcel 2014 from Lapierre is a glorious serious Gamay that shows the future of how we think on this place and varietal, the new generation has arrived in the world and are making great wines, their own way. This is a wine that honors the past, especially the talents of the late Marcel Lapierre, but also delivers a message that without question Mathieu Lapierre is a gifted winemaker and communicator of tradition and terroir. Lapierre is one of the leading lights of the natural wine world, which against all odds has firmly established itself into the modern world of wine and culture. Tasting both of Lapierre’s Morgon bottlings, this Cuvee Marcel and his non sulfur, exclusive to Kermit Lynch in the States, is revealing, both are gorgeous wines, with the “N” non sulfur at first being more expressive and pleasing really gets exciting the instant it hits the glass, while the more reserved Cuvee Marcel takes it’s time to unwind, but once it gets air look out, this is mind-blowing Gamay! I have always admired Lapierre wines, though if I’m honest have usually opted for Jean Foillard’s Morgon when I’ve had the chance, but I must say Mathieu’s latest wines are rocking good and may be the best yet, I would not pass up to chance to score either of his 2014 wines, in particular this Cuvee Marcel, which is drop dead gorgeous, pure, soulful and stunningly lengthy, it’s a must have! The 2014 Lapierre Marcel starts with blueberry, violets, wild plum with tangy herbs and salty mineral essence leading to a medium full palate of blackberry, cherry, strawberry, dark currant and walnut oil. Minty anise, saline, shale and incense provide background music in this lovely and textured Gamay, this is special and decedent juice that should age beautifully and rewarding for at least a decade. The ultra low dose of sulfur doesn’t take away the all natural appeal, it just gives this beauty a little security for cellaring. These 2014 Lapierre Morgon(s) bring the same kind of joy and energy that you’d expect from top Burgundy, these are truly emotional and provocative efforts, bravo!
($48 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Le Vignoble d’ Elian, Cotes du Marmandais, France.
Here is an interesting wine from the upper Gironde River in France’s wild southwest, but not too far from Bordeaux as to miss an influence. The 2012 Le Vignoble d’ Elian Rouge Cotes du Marmandais is made up of mostly Cabernet Franc and Merlot but also has some percentage of a rare native grape, Abouriou, it is a very intriguing example of terroir and style with early tones that remind you of the Loire, but with almost right bank density and mouth feel, though very clearly is unique. The ancient rocky loam and clay soils allow the Franc and Merlot to really shine with opulent fruit and there is a wild side of exotic spice, game, leather and raw intensity which adds character and complexity to this darkly fruited wine. The nose has crushed flowers, minty herbs, red berries and briar notes leading to a reasonably full bodied palate of plum, black cherry, raspberry and currant fruits with cinnamon, nutmeg, roof tiles, green pepper, sugar beet and a subtle mineral/iron meatiness. This finely balanced red, with 13.5% alcohol and mild tannins, turns on the charm with air and elegance emerges from the glass with a few swirls, this is a wonderful off beat red that is going to confuse your wine friends, but will really please at the table, especially with simple and hearty cuisine. This is well made, fun and full of flavor, with just enough rustic edges to keep the faith with it’s sense of place, off the beaten path for sure, but certainly worth exploring!
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive