2012 Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, White Burgundy, France.
A full bodied and beautifully detailed white Burgundy with loads of charm and classic character the Bader-Mimeur family’s Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet Chassagne-Montrachet is a gorgeous wine. The nose takes you back to experiences with Ramonet, Niellon and Colin-Deleger with white flowers, steely flint, clove and citrus leading to a fine palate of mineral driven apple, pear and white peach along with hazelnut, saline and chalky stones. This Chassagne has vibrant acidity and firm edginess and verve, but fills the mouth with expressive richness and density, this is certainly impressive stuff from an estate that has a long history, but with the baggage of family dramas and a split of the vineyards and Chateau, before the Bader-Mimeur take over and the rise in quality. And while there is more pleasure than outright intensity in this elegant and stylish Burgundy, this is not a modern Meursault or Puligny, but it does everything well and has sublime balance, especially for a white in this vintage and it is pure Chassagne-Montrachet through and through kissing you with grace and terroir. Lingering lemon, fig, leesy brioche and cream add to the performance, the Chateau de Chassagne is a wine I’ll be enjoying over the next 3 to 5 years, imported by Charles Neal, this is a name to look for and track in coming vintages.
($49 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2015 Denis Jamain Domaine de Reuilly, Pinot Gris, Reuilly, Loire Valley, France.
While not technically a Rose really, the skin contact Jamain Pinot Gris has a pale orange/salmon pinkish hue and is as refreshing and compelling as any serious pinks. I always look forward to this attractive organic wine and it has a cult like following making somewhat difficult to secure, imported by Kermit Lynch, this Reuilly is from the eastern Loire Valley which gained an AOC for Sauvignon Blanc back in 1937, then for Pinot Gris, Rose and Red, mostly Gamay and Pinot Noir in 1961, grown on sandy gravel with an underpinning of Kimmeridgian Marl (limestone) and clay, which adds intensity and life to the vibrant wines of the region. Vigneron Denis Jamain has resurrected the historic Domaine de Reuilly in recent years and it is now renown for it’s quality and mineral driven wines, in particular this crisp blush Pinot Gris, which gets it’s color from the natural pinkish/grey skins of this varietal, it’s a unique version, almost a yellow wine, but thought of as a Rose, though in reality neither! The mind and senses fool you into seduction here with hints of rosewater, almost summer melon, wild herb and white cherry while tangy apple and appleskin great you on the palate with steely liquid mineral, wet river stones, dry chalk and a flows of peach, zesty citrus and sea mist unfold. This is as brisk and as acid filled as you can get without being harsh or feeling like you stuck a finger in a light socket, in fact this is brilliant delicious wine, well balanced, crafted and highly entertaining and enjoyable, especially with cuisine, oysters and or sipping in the sunshine with chèvre!
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Woodinville Wine Cellars, G.S.M. Columbia Valley, Washington State.
The 2013 Woodinville Wine Cellars Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre Rhone style red blend is gloriously hedonistic and is a purple/black beauty with lovely expressive fruit and dense/lush textures. This Chateauneuf inspired Washington State GSM has Leonetti star power and or the X factor, it reminds me of Charles Melton’s famous Nine Popes from Australia (One of my favorite wines from down under), Stan Barrett and winemaker Sean Boyd have Woodinville Wine Cellars banging on full throttle with this one! Richly packed and with a gorgeous full body the GSM explodes on the palate with blackberry, boysenberry, plum and cherry pie filling along with blueberry, mocha, black licorice, liquid violets, sweet tannin and smoky vanilla and camphor/graphite notes. At first everything is tight, thick and flows with creamy silkiness, but with air the wine gains poise, spice and exotic elements, changing and becoming much more veiled and alive with seductive charms, revealing pepper, lavender, mineral tones and a hint of earthy loam. This baby is really sensual and entertaining given room and time to open up and show off a bit, I can imagine a few more years in bottle bringing out even more class, delicacy of detail and Columbia Valley terroir character, though it is pretty fun now even and great with BBQ, lamb sliders and crispy duck, the finish is ripe with creme de cassis and minty herb, dark chocolate and lingering pomegranate. After tasting Woodinville Wine Cellars 2007 Syrah, I can easily say this wine has a long and rewarding life ahead of it, best from 2016 to 2028.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Niepoort, Rotulo, Dao Red, Portugal.
The latest Niepoort Dao red has to be one of the best best values in stylish European reds out there, this 2013 Rotulo Dao by Dirk Niepoort is ripe, complex and beautifully textured with superb balance and pleasing layers. The mix of Touriga Nacional, Jaen (Mencia) and Alfrocheiro is from vines grown on granite soils, similar to Saint-Joseph and Cote-Rotie, allowing for mineral rich fruit and finesse, this cuvee is aged without any wood for 22 months in cement vats, again in the style of a fine Rhone wine. This Portuguese red starts with dried flowers, flinty spice, dusty plum and basil-like herb notes leading to a medium full palate of raspberry, cherry and blueberry fruits along with pepper, black olive, lavender oil and chalky stones. This is a wine of fine density and charm with a balanced fruit character that is compelling, but not overly sweet or heavy as well as having nice energy and graceful with many food choices, this is a very good wine that deserves attention, in the same league as many Gigondas, but with a slightly more cool climate vibrancy, very impressive, especially for the price. Fine tannins, mild earthy notes and acidity allows for nice evolution in the glass and this bottling should be a good drinker for the next 3 to 5 years, be sure to check out this and the whole line of wonderful still wines and ports from Niepoort!
($16 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Grand, Trousseau, Cotes du Jura Rouge, France.
A small estate in Chateau Chalon, Domaine Grand makes artisan lots of white, sparkling, red and Vin Jaune with Emmanuel and Nathalie Grand running the winery and the managing the vines. The young winemakers have studied and traveled extensively in their field, making wines in Chile, Italy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Alsace and Burgundy, but are back running the family estate, that has been producing wine since 1692 in the Jura. Non certified, Domaine Grand is mostly organic and low sulfur with the wines showing great detail and energy, the Cremant du Jura is especially appealing as is their non oxidative Chardonnay, but in particular I was seduced by the Trousseau, both this 2014 and the gorgeous cask sample of 2015 were lovely wines. The Vin Jaune was one of the finest examples of this unique style of almost sherry like wine as well, plus Domaine Grand do a very compelling Poulsard and Pinot Noir as well, but I regress, it is the Trousseau that really got my attention. The 2014 starts with earthy rose petals, strawberry, minty herb and dusty plum with tart cherry, red peach and mixed spices along with moist gravel, mineral tones and cedar. This light medium bodied red has a ruby red color and delicate layers with a satiny texture and pleasing length. A classic example of terroir and varietal the Domaine Grand Trousseau drinks wonderfully fresh and vibrant with enough structure to age, though best from 2016 to 2022, and while this wine imported by Charles Neal is superb, the 2015, which is due late summer is richer, more exotic and sexy with a riper character and should not be missed either. Domaine Grand is a winery to watch, and the wines are expressive and full of quality, fairly priced, in fact they are really great values.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Copain, Chardonnay, DuPratt Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Wells Guthrie’s DuPratt 2013 Chardonnay is a stunning mineral driven wine that will almost leave you speechless with it’s beautiful detail and poise, this wine is in the same class as some of Burgundy’s rising stars, names like Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey and Robert-Denogent come to mind. Guthrie is part of the In Pursuit of Balance group and was one of the first wave of young winemakers to dial back alcohol levels in search of beauty, ageworthiness and fresh vitality, that brave change is now paying off in great fashion. This is gorgeous and steely DuPratt Chardonnay that has low natural alcohol, leesy complexity and textural grace and vibrant focused flavors, and while Copain Anderson Valley Pinots are wonderful, it would be foolish to overlook this fantastic Chardonnay, at a recent tasting in fact all of the selections of Copain from Rose to Syrah were world class examples of varietal and terroir, I must say this was impressive and it was one of the best showings of a California lineup I can remember! The 2013 DuPratt starts with liquid mineral, white flowers, citrus and stone fruits with a pale greenish/gold tint in the glass, this vivid and distinctive Chardonnay slows unfolds in layers of green apple, pear and white peach along with classic lemon curd, dried honey, hazelnut and wet rocks with saline, clove and toasty brioche and light vanilla. This vibrant white has everything you’d want in a fine Puligny or St. Aubin, but is all Anderson Valley, flying the California flag proudly with sublime quality, this wine is right up there with Peter Michael, Kongsgaard and Aubert on the pleasure and artisan level, it may not be as dense as some, but it sure as hell is as good, drink from 2016 to 2024. Be sure not to pass up a chance to try the Copain Chardonnay, and Guthrie’s Volnay like Kiser Vineyard En Haut Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, this are very special wines that don’t come around too often.
($47 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2011 Rudi Schultz, Syrah, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
South Africa is going crazy with great wines, it’s an explosion of small farm production old vine wines, with Sadie Family, Badenhorst and Silwervis all making headlines around the world with amazing Syrah, Cinsault, Chenin Blanc offerings as well as Sparkling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir bottlings impressing. At the moment the Rhone style stuff is catching my attention and for price and quality I’ve been really enjoying Rudi Schultz’s Stellenbosch Syrah, it is definitely a wine that speaks of place, slightly wild but with a rich expression of fruit, body and length and at 14% it gives ripe pleasures, sweet tannin and fullness without being cumbersome or jammy. The Rudi Schultz 2011 is a joyous evolved Syrah with layers of blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and plum fruit along with fig paste, wild game, minty black licorice, dusty gravel/stoniness, light cedar, cinnamon, pepper and olive/earthy tones. The mouth feel is decedent and age has softened the structure, but it has plenty time left, I like where this wine is at right now, and it should hold firm for another 3 to 5 years easy, this is a good bottle of wine with old world charm, it’s very exciting times for South African wines, time to explore is now!
($26 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Scotto Cellars, 50 Harvests, Red Meritage, Napa Valley.
The richly flavored and medium full 50 Harvests is a really eager to please Cabernet Sauvignon based Napa Valley red wine that shows detail and elegance much in the same vein as Opus One’s Overture does, but at much nicer price. The Scotto’s brought in Napa legend Mitch Cosentino, formerly of his own Cosentino Winery and now pureCru Napa Valley to help with this flagship wine and the other Steele Canyon wines, and he and Paul Scotto have made a big difference in the textural feel and complexity of the wines, especially this 50 Harvests which is forward and chocolatey, but with graceful mouthfeel, deep layers and extremely pretty use of Cabernet Franc in the blend, which appears to have added spice and delicacy making for a superb combination, Cosentino is very well known as a master blender, he pretty much started the whole “Meritage” thing in 1986, so it is no surprise to see how stylish this wine is turning out. 2013 is looking stellar, and this 50 Harvests reflects that with a dense mouth feel, dark purple/garnet color and a parade of black and red fruits flowing across the palate with well judged oak shading, it starts with creme de cassis, loads of blackberry, plum and dark floral tones with clove, sweet tobacco leaf, minty/pepper, anise and vanilla. The tannins are very refined and natural acidity that comes through with subtle vibrancy make for a creamy smooth Meritage, it’s a wine you’ll want to enjoy young, best over the next 3 to 5 years, the wine is impressive, my only regret here would be that the label is not up to the quality in the bottle, I’d suggest an upgrade or an artist label that might change from year to year for the future bottlings for this wine.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Markus Prackwieser Gumphof, Pinot Bianco, Praesulis, Alto Adige Italy.
The Gump Praesulis Weissburgunder is a stunning Sudtirol/Dolomiti white that shows the best qualities of this varietal and region with classic mountain acidity and mineral notes along with decedent texture and age-ability. The rich detail of Gumphof’s Pinot Blanc highlights the grapes success in the Alto Adige region where the terroir markers make it so much more serious and delectable than what you find elsewhere, and while there are some lovely Pinot Blanc’s made in Alsace they rarely match the likes of Terlan, Manincor and Gumphof. In my memory, there are few Pinot Blanc of this kind of depth and class, I really enjoy Selbach-Oster’s Mosel slatey version and Chalone’s old vine Pinot Blanc(s) are almost legendary, but if you want thrilling Pinot Blanc year after year it is certainly Alto Adige that delivers the goods. The Gumphof 2014 starts with hints of white flowers, steely liquid mineral, wet stones and honeyed peach along with green apple, lemon/lime and leesy notes. The 2014 feels lush and succulent with nice density, but remains poised and balanced, this is a laser sharp example and will rival many a fine Burgundy for class and elegance, and at 13.5% it is ripe/forward enough to enjoy in it’s youth, though evolution should prove rewarding, pushing the drinking window out to a decade easily. I am really impressed by this Gump Praesulis Pinot Bianco, this is pretty stuff, great with cuisine, especially cheeses and seafood, best from 2016 to 2021.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Waxwing, Rose of Counoise, Love Ranch Vineyard, Madera.
Scott Sisemore’s Waxwing Wines is a San Francisco based artisan winery making a boutique collection of small production offerings, mostly cool climate Syrah and Pinot Noir, but he does a few exotic bottling each vintage and this Spring 2016 release includes a couple of dry Rieslings and this beautiful Rose of Counoise. Sourced from foothill vines in Madera County not too far from Yosemite, at Love Ranch Vineyard, the Rose of Counoise is a crisp and intriguing pink with bright mineral rich detail and good low alcohol character, at just over 11% there is great lift, acidity and still exceptionally flavorful. Counoise is a lesser known and rare red Rhone grape, one of the Chateauneuf du Pape varietals and is almost never bottled as a single varietal wine, but along with Cinsault is gaining favor among young, and a few old timers like Randall Grahm, winemakers and it does well in Paso Robles, especially some of the Tablas Creek clone plantings. The 2015 Waxwing Counoise Rose starts with a vibrant pink/orange and salmon hue, a light perfume and a delicate array of steely elements and spices with watermelon, rosewater, tart sour cherry, unique guava and strawberry layers along with tangy citrus, dusty pepper, wild herbs and a lingering succulent plum/blueberry note. This is groovy brisk stuff with good focus and vibrant flavors, very refreshing and rewarding, be sure to check out Waxwing Wines, Scott is really turning out a fine selection of hand crafted wines, in particular this Rose of Counoise, but also his Santa Cruz Mountains and Sonoma Coast Pinots and Syrah are tasty and fairly priced, he sells mostly direct at www.waxwingwines.com, and through selected shops and restaurants.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive