2015 Bow & Arrow, Gamay, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Bow & Arrow focus on Loire Valley style wines and grapes, including this Gamay Noir, but they also do Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Melon, the grape of Muscadet, all of which they take serious and craft into vibrant and tangy fresh wines. The 2015 Gamay from Oregon’s Willamette Valley is not your typical carbonic fruity style offering, it is vivid and savory with tart cherry, plum and tangy currant fruits along with crunchy stones, zesty acidity and earthy tannin. Hints of mineral spice, blood orange, red peach and raspberry also make an appearance along with a trace of walnut and loam, making for a ripe, but austere example of Gamay, it certainly pleases, though it really gets better and better with food. This is a very dark, intensely purple/black, deep and blooding red at the moment, more Touraine than Fleurie, and will be quite a shock for those that are used to light Beaujolais, but given time and cuisine, I enjoyed it with cheese burgers, everything unfolds here into a medium full brightly flavored Gamay that has plenty of pop and structure. This is one of best vintages to date of this wine and I think it should age fantastically well, it should develop nicely for another couple of years and cellar beautifully for a decade, best from 2018 to 2025. This is impressive stuff from Bow & Arrow, it really has their own style imprinted on it, it joins Brick House and Salem Wine Co. in my top top three Oregon Gamays!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Laura Lorenzo-Daterra Viticultores, Portela do Vento Red, Ribeira Sacra, Spain.
This Mencia based red from Laura Lorenzo is strikingly beautiful and seductive, absolutely one of the best new discoveries of the year! Lorenzo, after making highly acclaimed wines at Dominio do Bibei for almost ten years, has started her own projects and she might be compared to Arianna Occhipinti and or Elisabetta Foradori in some ways, focusing on organic farming and natural wines, creating pure expressions of terroir and letting her personality shine through in her wines, from everything I can tell this Spanish woman with dreadlocks is a badass winegrower. She herself is a great story, but certainly her wine is amazing too and this 2015 Daterra Viticultores Portela do Vento is gorgeously stunning with fresh detail, layers of fruit, mineral and spice with amazing purity and length. This is 90% Mencia and 10% Garnacha Tintorera that has been fermented with native/wild yeasts in concrete vats and raised unfined and unfiltered in used/neutral Franch oak hogsheads, it sees extremely low sulfur or SO2, the grapes, mostly de-stemmed, all organic come from steep terraces of south facing granite and sandy soils in the Ribeira Sacra, a narrow valley in Galicia originally discovered by the Romans to be ideal for wine production about 2,000 years ago. Galicia is now one of the world’s great spots for intriguing wines, both red and white with these Mencia reds and Godello based whites really standing out, they are filled with unique character and elegance, they rival Burgundy for complexity and beauty, with the Mencia based stuff having medium full bodies and vibrant acidity, reminding us of both the Cote de Nuits and the northern Rhone (think Saint-Joseph or even Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage) and what you get in quality terms is a remarkable value. This Laura Lorenzo Daterra Viticultores Portela do Vento 2015 starts with liquid violets, black rose petal, wild green, red and black peppercorns, cinnamon stick with blueberry, plum, black cherry and racy currant fruits forming a core as well as flinty stones and mineral, plus black salted licorice, lavender oil and loamy earth. This wine is decadently elegant, opulent and vivid, but has just 12.5% alcohol, and it has silken textures with ripe tannins and a lingering finish. A tiny 225 case production makes this a rare wine, imported by Jose Pastor Selections, this Laura Lorenzo Mencia is a worthy pursuit, drink from 2016 to 2024, this is awesomely sexy stuff!
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Georg Breuer, Riesling, Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck, Rheingau Germany.
Another wine tasted while in Germany was the Breuer 2012 Roseneck, a earthy and stylish old school wine from Theresa Breuer, who has turned this estate around and who has gone all organic in her plots in Roseneck and in fact all of her vineyards. I missed Theresa while I was in Ruedesheim, she was busy with the grapes and harvest, it was a particularly difficult year to do all organic work in the Rheingau with so much rain in July as well as hot and cold weather pattens in the Fall, but the grapes were looking pretty good, I did get to see and taste with her mother and see grapes come into the winery in small lots, with everything going well, and I enjoyed a private tour of the old cellar as well. Breuer plans to expand at the old town site in Rudesheim, to be able to house all the operation there will make it easier and while they get lots of visitors, it will make for an even more impressive center and attraction when completed. The 2012 Breuer Roseneck, is a trocken style non VDP, so it can’t say Grosses Gewachs or “Grand Cru” though no one who’s had Breuer will care about the labeling, this is a full and delightful wine of terroir and raw transparency with a core of earthy/mineral and loamy stoniness with rustic edges and purity showing apple, apricot, white cherry, baked peach, orange tea and passionfruit with subtle tart/tangy acidity and bite along with a elegant mouth feel and emerging maturity. The 2012 vintage was rich and opulent in character and it shows in the ripe flavor and length, it is drinking really well now, but it has enough extract and stuffing in reserve to last a long time, in fact it might get a little better in 5 to 10 years. All of the wines here are promising, I tasted a few of the 2015’s and while the 2012, 2013 and even the 2014’s all are pleasing, these 15’s stand out and will impress when ready, the 2015 Rudesheim Estate Trocken was my favorite, along with this 2012 Roseneck. While Riesling is the heart and soul here, Georg Breuer also does a fine Pinot Now and uniquely a Pinot Noir Port style wine, not my thing, but it has a huge following and a hit in their tasting room, which filled up the afternoon I was there like a subway train in rush hour! Good things are happening at Breuer, I’ve tasted and had Breuer since the nineties and I look forward to seeing where Theresa takes this winery in the next decade, watch this space.
($42 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
2015 Favaro, Erbaluce di Caluso, La Chiusure, Piedmonte Italy.
The father and son team of Benito and Camillo Favaro make some fantastic wines, especially their heart and soul wine made from the rare, indigenous grape Erbaluce, a varietal that almost went extinct and that has been brought back to life in part by the Favaros, along with Ferrando. Erbaluce has a long history in these parts, dated back to the 1600’s, and it was recently given full DOCG status in the area and known as Erbaluce di Caluso in northern Piedmonte. It just maybe Piedmonte’s most interesting white native grape and wine, far more complex and complete than Cortese, found in Gavi, and better than most Arneis, though there are a few like Brovia that reach greatness, but Erbaluce is special and more unique in character and rarity, in particular Favaro Erbaluce di Caluso from their estate hillside vines in the tiny town of Piverone. The 2015 is the best vintage I’ve had of Favaro Erbaluce di Caluso, it is brilliant, crisp and deep in flavor and vitality with white flowers, wet stones, straw and melon notes leading the way along with quince, lemon/lime, white peach and brisk acidity, white tea and saline chalkiness. Medium weighted, vibrant and steely the latest Favaro is lovely and full of their artisan spirit, it lingers with ripe apple and sappy herbs and is gorgeous with most food choices and cuisine options, though best with light pastas and sea food, especially claims and mussels in mildly spicy broths and rustic bread. This dry white is class and balance in the glass, drink this all estate Favaro Erbaluce di Caluso La Chiusure over the next 2 or 3 years, I love Erbaluce as fresh as possible, though it seems to fill out and develop nicely with dried honey, baked pear and earthy tones coming through over time which can be intriguing as well if you wanted to cellar a few bottles, me I’m drinking it pretty much right now!
($23 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines, Red Blend, Coastal Region, South Africa.
The 2013 Badenhorst Family Red is a unique South African wine from near Swaartland in the Coastal Region and it is crafted from most old vine Shiraz, Grenache, Cinsault and a little Tinta Barocca. This vintage shows terroir, cooling southern ocean influence and rocky bush vine landscapes mark this wonderful wine, giving vitality and life force with a cascade of red, black and blue fruits, sage/peppercorn spiciness and earthy/loamy stony notes, it is bright and well defined, but has plenty of density and mouth feel to please and intrigue the palate leading with spiced plum, black raspberry, kirsch and boysenberry fruits along with lavender salt, peppery rosemary, mineral infused rock and a touch of game and anise seed. Well balanced and deep, it is a charming Chateauneuf du Pape or Gigondas like red that delivers wonderful layers of flavor in a hedonistic way and rewards further with food, especially more rustic and robust cuisine choices, from lamb to moussaka. The fruit is opulent and it has sweet tannin, but the spice is tangy/fiery and the savory elements give poise and contrast, this so far is favorite Badenhorst wine, even though I like the Chenin based offerings too, imported to the US by Broadbent Selections, I highly recommend checking it out, as well as the whites and lower end wines too, they are great values and interesting wines also. Drink this beautiful Family Red by Badenhorst over the next 3 to 5 years, there are a lot of new and thrilling wines coming out of South Africa these days, and this one is a great place to start!
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
nv Weingut Brundlmayer, Extra Brut Sekt, Sparkling White, Kamptal Austria.
It’s not a secret, but truthfully the Brundlmayer Sekt(s) are some of the world’s great bubbly with amazing depth of flavor, complexity and class, with the latest releases reaching even new heights for style and character, especially their Rose and this gorgeous Extra Brut. The Brundlmayer Extra Brut is mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but it is rumored to have some Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc as well, it is usually on it’s lees between 18 and 36 months and the grapes are picked exclusively for sparkling wine and are on more chalky soils to give purity and vibrant fresh mineral detail. It’s fermented super dry in stainless and does go through malo to give richness and raised in big Austrian oak casks. The Brundlmayer Extra Brut Sekt is brisk and bone dry, but loaded with decadence and layers of elegance and complex fruit, mineral tones and is wonderfully long. This vital bubbly really is heavenly with a silken mousse and sublime mouth feel showing concentration and restraint with apple, almond, quince, golden fig, yeasty brioche, white cherry and wet stones along with citrus and white flowers. If you are a grower Champagne lover you’ll admire the excellent terroir influence in found in this Austrian fizz and the remarkable artisan soul and fine balance, this is an awesome expression of place and house style. For the same price as most generic Champagne, this is much more intriguing and glorious choice for the brave and those in the know! Drink as much as you can get, and with it’s Extra Brut dry side and lavish opulence it is perfect as a celebration aperitif, but even better as the main meal wine as it is compelling and deep enough to go with almost any and all cuisine, this is brilliant stuff from Vincent Brundlmayer!
($46 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Arianna Occhipinti, Il Frappato, Terre Siciliane, Italy.
The new Il Frappato from Arianna Occhipinti is a pure and elegant example of her style and passion of place, her fans will adore it and it will certainly appeal to a whole new set of wine enthusiasts with it’s beautiful layers of silky fruit, natural earthy character and charmingly unique in detail. Arianna is one of Sicily’s leading lights, her organic and natural approach has been widely followed and her wines have a rabid following, she has become a world class talent, her wines really reflect her personality, hard work and love of place, in particular this Il Frappato, her signature wine, captures her essence perfectly. The latest set of wines, including this one and Arianna’s SP68 Rosso a blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola, are complete, complex and exciting wines with graceful mouth feel and compelling length, especially this Il Frappato with it’s richer profile and intriguing strawberry and tangy red berry fruit, exotic spiciness and lovely transparency. The 2014 starts with hints of reduction, so decant if possible, though this will be of no issue as the wine ages a bit longer in bottle, before revealing floral notes, mineral and loam with a pretty ruby/garnet hue in the glass and a silky smooth texture on the palate with subtle pepper, Asian spices, mulberry/lingon berry and an amaro note. The wine is fruity with sweet tannin, but is well balanced with savory/earthy and stony elements, it is controlled with bright acidity and was raised in neutral oak that has refined this poised medium/full Frappato. The wine really gets into a rhythm with air, drinking with purpose and flair, lingering with cinnamon, traces of guava jelly, red peach, saline, truffle and back to wild strawberry. This is one of my favorite Occhipinti wines to date, exceptional stuff, joyous with cuisine and with the potential to develop further with time, I’d say it should need another year or two to fully find itself, best from 2017 to 2022.
($39 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
nv Contadi Castaldi, Brut, Franciacorta, Lombardy, Italy.
The lovely and vital Contadi Castaldi Brut shows the finesse and elegance of the Franciacorta region and the style that has made it a world famous spot for Champagne class bubbly. This remote and beautiful spot in Italy Lombardy region has a terroir that excels in producing acid rich and mineral laced grapes perfect for great sparkling wines, and uniquely French in character with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir being the main varietals, they also allow Pinot Blanc as well, very different from the native grape you find in Prosecco, and while there are some fantastic Prosecco wines, nothing in Italy compares to the top Franciacorta wines, especially the long aged vintage wines, like the gorgeous offerings from Berlucchi, Ca’ del Bosco and Bellavista craft, but certainly for the price the Contadi Castaldi delivers a great bubbly. I love the fresh vibrant detail in the Contadi Castaldi Brut and subtle richness of the lees, it shows refinement and decadence with brioche, vivid citrus notes, touches of steely mineral, golden fig, apple and hazelnut add complexity in a brisk dry frame. The climate and sandy/chalky soils of the famed Lake district of Italy comes through in each beautiful sip, this is a fine and excellent sparkler to enjoy anytime and the price for what you get is remarkable as well, great with seafood cuisines, especially lobster, perfect for celebrating and or just because you want a glass of bubbles.
($27 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Eduardo Torres Acosta, Nerello Mascalese, Versante Nord, Terre Siciliane, Italy.
Eduardo Torres Acosta is a young winemaker that has been in Sicily since 2012, coming from the Canary Islands and working with Arianna Occhipinti, one of Sicily’s most dynamic talents, and now has released his first solo effort from Mount Etna, and it’s an outstanding Etna Rosso with natural/earthy sex appeal and old world charm. Because Eduardo is making his wines at Arianna Occhipinti’s estate, he can’t call the wine an Etna Rosso DOC, but is all volcanic Nerello Mascalese that comes from choice leased plots. The young Spaniard got the attention of famed Etna producer Passopisciaro and is now working there as an enologist, after his apprenticeship with Ms. Occhipinti, and even though an outsider in a new place he has flourished and become part of this tight island community quickly and his wines will certainly gain him much wider attention as well. The deeply hued 2014 Versante Nord is slightly funky and reduced as many natural wines are at first, it reminds me a little of an old Domaine Maume or a young Henri Gouge Burgundy in that way, but once decanted and aired out gorgeous pure Nerello Mascalese details coming out with trufflely notes mixed with floral character, cinnamon stick, dried roses, flinty spices with dusty plum, strawberry and black cherry fruits as well as shale stone, dried currants, minty lavender and blueberry skins. This is really good and exciting wine, from a region that is getting a lot of buzz right now, it has everything you’d want, and even with the funkiness the beautiful mouth feel and vitality will win you over, this is a classic Etna, a rustic/raw terroir driven beauty! It needs plenty of air and should be paired with food to show it’s true potential and textures, but it is an impressive first effort and is very stylish and rewarding, this is a label to search out and keep an eye on, well made and well priced too, imported by Farm Wines and Louis Dressner, same as Occhipinti.
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Cascina Val del Prete, Roero Nebbiolo, Vigna di Lino, Piedmonte, Italy.
Classic and timeless in style the latest release from Cascina Val del Prete is a wonderful and concentrated Nebbiolo with layers upon layers of terroir and varietal purity with exquisite detail, power and length. The 2012 Roero Vigna di Lino starts with tar, dried rose petal, spicy lavender, poached plum, loamy earth, game and tangy red currants building on the palate with mulberry, cedar, black salted licorice and kirsch soaked violets. This is a rich, intense and full bodied Nebbiolo that is stunningly almost Barolo like in impact and attention grabbing form, but with fine balance, firm tannins, highlighting the vintage with vibrant, almost juicy, acidity and mineral laced charms. Over the years I’ve enjoyed many wines for this traditional producer, especially their awesome Barbera wines that can age with gorgeous effect for 10 to 15 years, but I think they’ve reached a new level with this 2012 Roero Vigna di Lino, this is a beauty and certainly a must have wine for Nebbiolo fans! This impressive an earthy Nebbiolo has amazing potential for mid to long term development, and even though it is taught and tight with youthful vigor it can be enjoyed even now, though it will need decanting and robust cuisine to bring out it’s glorious best, drink from 2020 to 2032, this is an impressive wine!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive