2014 Josep-Maria Vendrell, Seré, Montsant Spain.
The 80% Garnacha, 20% Cariñena young vine Seré is an all organic red from Josep-Maria Vendrell, a small artisan producer in Marca, he does almost everything himself on this tiny estate, and the hand-crafted excellence shows through. This 2014 is a superb effort, tasting like Gigondas, though with a Spanish flare, it is very pure and offers much more teruño or terroir complexity than you’d normally expect from a wine of this price or from this region, Josep-Maria is going down his own path, instead of making the ultra ripe oaky wines that have been so internationally popular in the recent decade, his wines offer more nuance and feel more natural, more like the changes we’ve admired at Joan d’Anguera, also from Montsant. The 2014 Seré starts with juicy red berry, spice and floral notes leading to a medium full, dark garnet with purple edges wine that expresses raspberry, plum and pomegranate on the palate along with pepper, lavender oil, dusty stones, minty anise, kirsch, black currant jam and soft cedar. This wine has subtle richness and wonderful balance with pleasing opulence and contrasting savory tones, drink now and often!
($13 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Peay Vineyards, Syrah, Les Titans, Sonoma Coast.
One of California’s best and an ultra cool climate Syrah, the Peay Les Titans has that Cote-Rotie class and Cornas old world character that purists love, and this 2013 is a stunner effort from Vanessa Wong-Peay. The Les Titans is intense and blooding with black fruit and an amazing bluish purple/garnet hue in the glass along with sexy floral and spicy notes, this is a do not miss miss wine! Along side a gorgeous set of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay offerings the Les Titans really stood out in a lineup poured by Andy Peay, but be sure to also keep an eye out for the 2014 Peay Estate Chardonnay and all of the 2014 Peay Pinots, these are some of the most sublime and detailed examples of varietal I’ve tasted from Peay. The 2013 Peay Les Titans Sonoma Coast Estate Syrah starts with dried violets, cracked pepper, tangy lavender, creme de cassis and hints of graphite embers leading to a full palate of low alcohol intensity with blackberry, boysenberry, wild plum and tart blueberry fruits along with black olives, minty licorice, kirsch, cedar, shaved cinnamon stick, bacon and subtle smoke and earthy fig. Sea breezes, salty/briny foggy nights and long a hang time add to the complexity and allure of this stellar Sonoma Coast Syrah, refined tannin, energy and balance give me reason to believe it has a bright future ahead, it should develop even more interesting elements over time, this is a massively rewarding wine with even greater potential, drink a few now and hold a few for as long as possible, best from 2018 to 2026.
($52 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Moric, Blaufränkisch, Burgenland, Austria.
The latest Moric highlights the seriousness of the grape and the intensity of the vintage in Austria, this wonderfully layered and complex version of Blaufrankisch is a beautiful example of varietal and place. With lots of dark blue fruit, mineral and earth the Moric shines with vitality and charm showing violets, minty herb, black olives and earthy spices from start to finish along with a core of black cherry, huckleberry and currant fruit. With a medium to full body and plenty of vigor this Austrian red is singing with a great voice in it’s primal youth, but it should evolve nicely too as it has solid extract and fine acidity with velvety tannins, it comes in at 12.5% alcohol and feels a bit like an old school Bordeaux with elegance, rustic nature and smooth balance of ripe fruit and savory elements. With air the more subtle character begins to show with tangy plum, cedar and truffle coming through, 2013 was a brilliant vintage in Austria, and not just for the whites, here in Burgenland too, drink this poised Blaufrankisch over the next 5 to 7 years.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine de la Condamine L’Eveque, Mourvedre, Cotes de Thongue, France.
The Cotes de Thongue is a small IGP, established in 1982, in the Languedoc-Roussillon near Herault with a huge mix of grape varieties from Cabernet and Merlot to classic Rhone Syrah, Cinnsault, Carignan and Grenache as well as Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Gros Mensang, plus Petit Verdot and this Mourvedre. The area is allowed to use Cotes de Thongue IGT for Reds, Whites and Rose, though still commonly thought of as a simple Vin de Pays, many stellar producers and estates dot the landscape here from Mas de Daumas Gassac to Domaine de la Serre, and Domaine de la Condamine makes wonderful varietal wines that capture the spirit of the place in this region between Montpellier and Narbonne, not too far from the blue Mediterranean. Why these flavorful Domaine de la Condamine L’Eveque wines don’t cost more and are not taken more seriously is beyond me, but that said these are great value wines that deliver handsome quality and are rewarding to drink, especially this 2014 Mourvedre and the Syrah, these are wines to stock up on. The 2014 Condamine Mourvedre, a dark and seductive offering, starts with violets, blueberry and tangy lavender leading to a medium full palate of blackberry, dark cherries and plum jam along with pepper spice, dusty earth notes, anise and black tea. A purity of fruit highlights these wines, there is ripe layers, but they are not heavy or sweet, the tannins are well managed and there remains a touch of gentile acidity, overall these are super pleasing balanced efforts that offer some rustic charm and are easy to quaff, in particular this Mourvedre is a top bargain to enjoy over the next year or so.
($11 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Muller-Catoir, Rieslaner Auslese, Herzog, Pfalz Germany.
First Rieslaner is not a cute pet or local name for Riesling, it is it’s own varietal, Rieslaner is a hybrid grape that was created in 1921 in Franconia Germany by crossing Silvaner and Riesling. It is thought that is was a way to make a grape that was better coping with botrytis, frost and was able to have a bit more acidity, which it seems to have done to near perfection, hat’s off to grape breeder August Ziegler, the man that created it in Veitshocheim all those years ago, and while it remains a very minor player in Germany it can make for an awesome wine, especially in the hands of Martin Franzen, who follows in the footsteps of the legendary Hans-Gunter Schwarz at Muller-Catoir. Grown at Herzog on sandstone, the Muller-Catoir Rieslaner is expressive and vigorous with honeyed melon, lime blossom and white currant/berry layers along with bright mineral, vinous thickness without heavy or cloying feel, this is gorgeous sweet wine with fine detail and elegance. The 2014 Muller-Catoir Rieslaner Herzog Auslese shows this grape in it’s best light and has wonderful depth, structure, vibrancy and haunting length, and while Muller-Catoir makes sublime Riesling, you should search them out for their Muskateller Trocken, Scheurebe and this Rieslaner too, these are some of the most intriguing wines in Germany. The 2014 Rieslaner Auslese stands out in this vintage and lingers on the palate with ginger, clove, tangerine sorbet and chalky salted honey, absolutely brilliant, drink over the next 20 years!
($45 Est. 375ml) 94+ Points, grapelive
2001 Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes, Sweet Bordeaux White Wine, France.
The outrageously hyped 2001 vintage Sauternes, led by this Chateau d’ Yquem made all the headlines, in fact this bottle was a 100 Point wine, so it was with great expectations I sipped my first sip of this nectar of legends. Not that I was completely drained of life with disappointment, nor would I pass up the opportunity to sample this d’Yquem again, I must say it did not live up to what I had been told and certainly not as magical as 1983 was, a wine that still haunts me. Am I becoming jaded? Maybe, but I have also been less than thrilled by other 2001 Sauternes, not just d’Yquem, and other well informed Sauternes critics and enthusiasts have been a bit worried at the fast aging of this vintage and the early darkening of their color, though thankfully the d’Yquem seems perfectly fine with a gorgeous golden yellow hue. I admire the class and length in the 2001 d’Yquem and it is true to character with lemon, peach, creme brulee and tart nectarine all delivered with a subtle cascade of layers along with an interesting brine note and tangy verbena which add contract to the honeyed sweetness and lush mouth feel. While no where near orgasmic heavenly or mystical perfection, this is seriously good Botrytis (noble rot) influenced Semillon from one of the grandest labels in the world. If you are lucky enough to have this, you’ll enjoy it, but there is nothing to be intimidated by here, do not be afraid to open it, even now.
($ N/A 375ml) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Sandhi, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills.
The latest from Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman’s Sandhi Wines are absolute gems, I loved tasting the Chardonnay and especially this 2013 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot, it is wonderfully expressive, lush and detailed with balance and drinkability. Sasha, who also makes Stolpman and wines under his own label, poured at a great event at Bay Grape in Oakland, last night March 24, where Stevie and Josiah the owners had a full house at their shop and wine bar on Grand Ave, I can’t say enough about how awesome these guys have done in bringing in honest wines and fun to this neighborhood. The wines of Sandhi are made to be pure California examples of terroir and highlight the flavors and wonderful nature of the SRH region, but also to remain true to a core believe that wines should have restraint in alcohol and keep vitality to their personality, they were leaders in the In Pursuit of Balance movement, along with Hirsch Vineyards on the Sonoma Coast and others that have formed that collective of like minded wineries. The Sandhi 2013 Pinot starts with flamboyant whole cluster aromas with juicy red fruits, mixed floral tones, spice and savory elements both on the nose and on the surprisingly decedent and rich palate, even with the 13%, rather low for Sta. Rita Hills, this wine feels perfectly lush and ripe with succulent cherry, raspberry and plum fruits forming the main layers. There is silken tannins, bright acidity holding things together and the background holds interest with dried celery, minty herbs, lavender, rosewater, cedar and cinnamon as well as very soft and subtle sweet French oak/wood framing. Light mineral and earthy notes come through as contrast to the open fruit in this highly entertaining Pinot, this wine has a good drinking window ahead of it, but as serious as it is, it shows it doesn’t need too much extra waiting to be a thrill, drink from 2016 to 2028. It was great to catch up with Sashi, and I highly recommend trying any or all of the wines he has a hand in crafting from Stolpman to Evening Land in Oregon, his own Syrah, the Salem Wine Company Gamay, one of my new favorites, and of course the Sandhi offerings, he is one of California’s outstanding talents.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Momtazi Vineyard, McMinnville AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Mark Vlossek’s 2013 St. Innocent Momtazi is an elegant expression of vintage and terroir with supple layers, beautiful detail and complexity of character, I was entranced by this one. Sandwiched between blockbuster vintages the 2013, which gets a bit overlooked, has turned out with a mixed bag of wines, but some really shine and this St. Innocent is one of those happy surprises to cherish. Momtazi is certainly turning out to be a gorgeous site for top Pinot fruit, this biodynamic vineyard sits on the slopes of the McMinnville AVA and has a deserved reputation for quality and Vlossek has done a masterful job with these grapes to make, and I know it is cliche, a fine Burgundy like wine with divine lightness and savory contrast that reminds me of a lovely Chambolle-Musigny. The 2013 Momtazi starts with delicate scents of wilted roses and violets, smoke, flinty mineral and tart fennel with strawberry, raspberry, soft plum, red peach and fresh picked cherry fruits on the palate in a decedent medium weighted Pinot Noir frame as well as some wet earth, herbal tea, shaved cinnamon and cedary spices. There is just a tiny bit of shyness mid way through that keeps this very impressive wine from reaching a higher rating, but I think it will fill out and evolve with the potential to reward patience in 3 to 5 years if not 10, I’ve had remarkable success from St. Innocent in the cellar, and this one is just so seductive I forgive minor flaws at this stage, this light ruby hued, floral toned Pinot is full of grace, vibrancy and finishes with length, a touch of saltiness and tangy currant, very hard to resist indeed.
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Manincor, Bianco, Reserve della Contessa, Alto Adige Italy.
Made from roughly equal parts Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc the 2014 Reserve della Contessa from Manincor is a heavenly white from the Dolomites in the north of Italy, it’s a pale golden nectar that showcases the best qualities and terroir of each varietal to near perfection. This vintage starts with fresh peach, white flowers, hints of baled hay, chalk dust, steely mineral and vibrant citrus, this is wonderfully crafted wine with great detail and vitality as well as silken textures. There is lemon/lime and gooseberry, juicy stone fruits and Burgundy, almost Chablis like wet stones and green apple/pear on the fine palate with touches of earth, quince and honey. Quite impressive for it’s focus and energy, the latest Manincor Contessa can be enjoyed now and certainly with age with it’s mountain acidity and extract, it’s a bit less creamy than the past two vintages, showing a racy side in it’s youth, this is top notch stuff from Manincor, it seems the 2014 wines have reached another level for delicacy and elegance, be sure to look out for this pretty little thing as well as their Schiava especially, and I’m excited to see new the Lagrein offerings along with the single varietal whites, drink the Reserve della Contessa from 2016 to 2026.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Green & Red, Zinfandel, Chiles Canyon Vineyards Estate, Napa Valley.
Still one of the great deals in Zinfandel, the 2013 Green & Red Vineyards Chiles Canyon Estate is one of the best vintages I’ve had to date, with a deep garnet and purple hue this Zin has loads of fruit, ripe tannins as well as a nice play between opulence and spicy verve. The nose starts with a mix of floral tones, creme de cassis, peppercorns and black licorice leading to a palate of black raspberry, sweet cherry, juicy plum and tangy currant fruits along with cedar, sage, a hint of red pepper Mexican chocolate/mole and a touch of dusty loam. This is richly flavored, excitingly thick with red and black fruit giving a full bodied and lush mouth feel, but it is also well judged and balanced with a lift of acidity and savory elements. Look for this Green & Red to develop nicely for many years, it’s a thrilling Zin, and in an age of huge egos and exceptionally high prices in Napa, it’s gratifying to know you can get such a pleasing and honest wine under $30, bravo to Green & Red for such impressive stuff year after year.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive