Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 31, 2017

2009 Cascina Val del Prete, Barbera d’Alba Superiore “Carolina” Piedmonte, Italy.
A warm and round Barbera of hedonistic pleasures and texture, poured from magnum, it is drinking gorgeously and with lots of character and verve, this Cascina Val del Prete Carolina Barbera d’Alba is everything you could ask for and more! The clay and chalky soils of Roero, very close to Barolo, is where most of the focus is for Cascina Val del Prete and this wonderful Babera is a top expression of terroir and varietal, these wines also age fantastically well, my friend Peter Steiner, wine director at Sens Restaurant in San Francisco, has on many occasions pulled old bottles of this wine from his cellar with surprisingly glorious results. The 2009 shows rich layers of red fruits, spicy notes and opulent ripe tannins, highlighting the warm vintage, but still shows plenty of vigor and juicy acidity, there’s a lot to admire here with it’s full bodied expressive fruit, mineral notes and vibrant array of flavors. The palate feel dense with red plum, cherry and raspberry upfront leading the way along with tangy currant, fennel, dusty stones, cedar and baking spices. The color is deep with ruby red edges and soft dried flowers rise from the glass with coaxing, but joyous silken fruit is what this wine is all about and it keeps pumping out and lingers on the long finish. Barbera has truly come of age and Cascina Val del Prete is one of the best, also look for Vajra, Giovanni Rosso, La Spinetta and Oddero for some of your must try Barbera Superiore choices. The current vintage, 2012 Cascina Val del Prete is also a great bottle, be sure to re-discover Barbera soon!
($39 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 30, 2017

2014 Auguste Clape, Cornas “Renaissance” Rhone Red, France.
From younger vines the Renaissance cute is a slightly below the flagship Cornas at Clape, but this 2014 I think is almost as good, in fact because it was a more difficult year than let’s say 2013 and with the extra attention and the delicacy of the vintage the 2014 Renaissance Cornas might be drinking it’s best ever versus the top cuvee. This 2014 is classic northern Rhone Syrah, pure and earthy with layers of spice, game, blue fruits, floral notes and sappy herbs. The Clape parcels are some of the finest in the region, mature vines on slopes of granite, three generations of Clape’s, Auguste, who was the first to bottle his own wine in Cornas, along with his son Pierre-Marie and grandson Olivier, run this tiny cellar and estate, the vinification is old school, all whole cluster with stems, native ferments in cement cuves and extended elevage in old large foudres. Everything is by hand and long hours of hard work in the vines to allow extra hang time so the stem inclusion is ripe and not green(y) tannic, the 2014’s were (are) a bit less chewy than the 2013 and 2010’s were (are) and show wonderful finesse and poise, while still having the rustic character and charm of classic Clape(s) Cornas, I personally adore 2014 Northern Rhones, the lightness and perfumes are heavenly and more feline in style and this Domaine A. Clape Cornas Renaissance is gloriously alive and intense with a palate of blueberry, boysenberry, damson plum and kirsch along with background complexities that include violets, cinnamon, celery seed, saline, black licorice, flinty/embers, olive paste, leather/meat, iron and lingering cassis. There’s plenty of body and richness to fill out in the mouth, as well as a cut of acidity and firm tannin holding this beautiful and purple/garnet Syrah in place, this is serious stuff and wildly pleasing for us Syrah enthusiasts, there’s no doubt that Clape is one of the best producers and deserve great credit, though I’d have most likely rated it a few points higher if not for the slightly pricy nature of this bottling, especially with the exchange rate in our favor at the moment, but it’s really good. Best from 2018 to 2026.
($90 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 29, 2017

2012 Damijan Podversic, Ribolla Gialla, Friuli, Italy.
One of the most seductive whites in Italy is Damijan’s Ribolla Gialla, and this 2012 is showing wonderful beauty, life and detail, it was one of my top picks at the recent Slow wine show in San Francisco, it’s an orange wine yes, but not hipster funky at, it is gorgeous in feel, stylish, elegant, seamlessly layers and vibrant throughout. The skin contact with Ribolla leaves a radiant golden hue and the tangy/savory element act like soft tannins helping to balance and structure the wine, and this Damijan is one of the best I’ve tasted with a palate of tangerine, crisp golden apple, hints of apricot, lemon/lime and yellow peach fruits along with bright mineral tones, bitter herb, jasmine tea and wet stones. The texture is lovely and while there is a endless play of extremely subtle sweet and sour, it’s depth of satiny layers seduces completely. This wine, like the wines from Gravner, Foradori and COS, are what makes giddy about ancient method skin contact whites, they are not severe or funky, they are easy and joyous to drink on their own and are wonderful with cuisine. Damijan’s other two blended wines show a bit more density and edginess, making them very interesting, but maybe slightly less pretty and delicate when compared to this vibrant Ribolla Gialla. This mysterious corner of northeast Italy is ripe for a major breakthrough and begs for discovery, Damijan, an all organic estate in Friuli, is one of must try wines from the region, this 2012 Ribolla Gialla is drinking proof of the potential, it’s full of terroir and quality, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 28, 2017

2013BonaccorsiMelville2013 Bonaccorsi, Pinot Noir, Melville Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
It was really fun to taste through the current offerings from Bonaccorsi and seeing Jenne Bonaccorsi, her story and that of her late husband Michael Bonaccorsi is one of triumph and tragic heartbreak to honor, hope and inspiration, with some wonderful wine along the way. If you don’t know the history of Bonaccorsi, I’ll give you a brief recap, Mike Bonaccorsi was one of the first Master Sommeliers to seriously make wine in the United States, he was the wine director at LA’s famed Spago at the time the Sta. Rita Hills region was getting it’s breakthrough and he fell in love with the Pinot Noirs from there, so in the late nineties he and Jenne Lee Bonaccorsi, who was also at Spago and a food and wine lover, started Bonaccorsi Wine Company with their first vintage in 1999, and their wine was an instant hit. Sadly, Mike died in 2004 during harvest time, but many growers and winemakers joined together to help Jenne make that vintage and support her, and she has continued ever since. I’ve been lucky enough to have tried almost every vintage of the Bonaccorsi, and the style has remained faithful and terroir driven, and these latest wines are all lovely examples, especially the 2012 Fiddlestix and this beautiful and deep 2013 Melville Pinot Noir. Jenne, one of the few Korean-American winemakers, has a gift for wines that slowly evolve and show graceful texture and mouth feel, the Melville 2013 is just starting to show it’s full potential, made from a special block at Melville grown on the sandy coastal soil it is mostly clone 115 and with a bit of Mount Eden clone, Jenne prefers these instead of the modern Dijon, as the 115 and Eden give plenty of color and character here with the long and cool growing season, she ages the wine about 20 months in French oak, as she and Mike were inspired by Burgundy, with longer elevage, less new wood and concentrated fruit. The 2013 vintage shows pure Melville character with blackberry, mulberry, black cherry and plum, it carries it’s dark flavor profile extremely well with hints of fig, spice, crushed roses and stony notes. As it unfolds in the glass it comes to life with good energy, density and wonderful length, it feels big and broadly flavored, at 13.8% it is not heavy though, lingering with kirsch, earth/loam, anise and mocha, this is really silky, but still firmly structured, it should age another 3 to 5 years before reaching it’s true peak, a serious Pinot Noir no question, impressive artisan stuff again from Bonaccorsi, bravo.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 27, 2017

2015HirschLamm2015 Weingut Hirsch, Gruner Veltliner “Lamm” Kamptal, Austria.
Johannes Hirsch’s Lamm Gruner is truly majestic, it’s a dense, dry and powerful Gruner Veltliner that is comparable to a Grosses Gewachs, it’s a gorgeous single Grand Cru trocken white with tremendous class and pedigree, Lamm has to be considered one of the greatest vineyards in Austria, and this wine shows why! Hirsch, a winery imported by Terry Theise, has converted to all biodynamic and is Respekt certified, has been flying under the radar for many years making high quality wines, but not getting huge love or attention, this is about to change, as Johannes’ 2015 are set to blow up! This was a shocking revelation, these Hirsch Grunners and Rieslings were stunningly gorgeous, in fact they were some of the best examples I’ve ever tasted from Austria ever! Right up there with Knoll, Brundlmayer, Pichler and Hirtzberger, this is a winery to watch for, especially the single vineyard Gruner and Riesling, in particular the delicate and overwhelming pretty Hirsch Gaisberg Riesling and this mind blowing Hirsch Lamm Gruner Veltliner! This 2015 Lamm is richly and heavenly textured with silky finesse and vital energy, hiding it’s powerful engine under a velvet cushion with stunning concentration and the purest minerality with layers of lemon/lime, minty almond oil, white anise, white plum and crushed stones. The vineyard Lamm is set on a core of loess and mica with a sandy/brown rocky top soil which in years like 2015 give weight and depth, without sweetness or high alcohols, meaning you can have a masterpiece like this one is, this white is sexy thrilling as can be, it is certainly living up to it’s potential so far. This wine when open, transmits joyous harmony, pleasure throughout and subtly sprinkles in earth, spice and even a sweet/meatiness, it’s beautiful detailed and nervy or cat like in a smooth leopard kind of way, this is greatness in the glass, it was a seriously awesome experience to meet up with Johannes and taste his latest set of wines, and it took a few weeks to find the right words about just how good they really are, I still am not sure how to express it fully, drink this Gruner Cru over the next 5 to 10 years, and be sure to check out all of the Hirsch 2015’s!
($55 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 26, 2017

2012ViettiLazzarito2012 Vietti, Barolo, Lazzarito, Piedmonte, Italy.
Luca Currado’s Barolo Cru Lazzarito 2012 is an absolutely gorgeous showstopper, a classic Nebbiolo with deep complexity, power and unbelievable graceful length. It was great to see Luca and get a few minutes to hear about this vintage, which is turning out to be a fantastic Barolo year, and both of his wines at Slow Wine San Francisco were magnificent showing opulent fruit layers and wonderful balance with vibrant acidity, polished tannins and satiny textures. The Lazzarito though really has it all and it’s verve and dimension put this at the highest level, it comes from a single vineyard with high density planting of Nebbiolo, about 40 years old, set on Serralunga d’Alba’s calcareous-clay soil, this Grand Cru site produces ripe and flamboyant fruit, especially in the hands Currado and team at Vietti, making for their most sleek example, aged in both French barriques for 7 months, and then into big Slovenian oak cask for another 25 months. The Lazzarito is unfiltered and pure with layers of fruit, spice and mineral starting with a ruby/garnet/brick red hue in the glass and a mixed perfume of wild flowers, rose petals, sweet herbs, exotic spice and light tar notes with poached red berries before and fine and energy filled palate of damson plum, black raspberry, tangy cherry and fig fruits along with truffle, salted licorice, minty/cedar and loamy stones. Hints of liqueur, tea spice, iron, red citrus and vanilla add to the whole picture that in unfolding in this young and vigorous beauty, this wine has serious structure to back up it’s succulent forward style, at 14.6% this is a big full bodied wine, best to cellar this Barolo for another 5 to 10 years, even though it is not shy in showing off it’s greatness even now, these 2012’s from Vietti are very seductive, poised and impressive, stunning world class stuff!
($150+ Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 25, 2017

2015VajraRiesling2015 G.D. Vajra, Riesling Langhe “Petracine” Piedmonte, Italy.
The Giuseppe Vajra Riesling is one of my all time favorite wines, as any of you would know if you have followed me, either here on the grapelive.com website or my Twitter account, and I was one of the first in line to get into the Slow Wine 2017 San Francisco show just to sure I got to taste this rare beauty! Vajra has unique Riesling clones, Alsace, German and the local Petracine, this might explain the fantastic character and amazing vitality in this wine. While there were many gorgeous reds to be tried, especially Vietti’s set of Barolo, Chiara Boschis Mosconi Barolo and Vajra’s own Bricco delle Viole Barolo, the talk this year at Slow Wine was of the rise of Italian white wines, from Verdicchio to Ribolla Gialla, there was a sea of fine regional examples, but for me the top was this seductive and vibrant Vajra Petracine Langhe Riesling, no question. The 2015 is scheduled to arrive in a month or so, and it was a thrill to be one of the first in California to taste it, as well as so soon after reviewing the prior release, with it’s profile still clear in my mind, the 2014 is from a cooler and more difficult year, but has a more delicate and elegant side, while the warmer vintage 2015 is full of power, extract and raw intensity, though still with eye popping acidity and mineral charm! Giuseppe Vajra is one of Italy’s top young talents and his wines are pure and pleasing, clear and well defined with lovely textures and length, there is much to admire in his lineup. The 2015 Vajra Riesling starts with white flowers, brine, mineral tones and a burst of vivid citrus with white and yellow fruits leading the way along with a lean/dry crispness, though you can feel the spine and substance in the background much the same way as a German Grosses Gewachs Trocken. The palate details lime, tart apple, white peach and zesty/freshy tropical fruits as well as minty notes, saline, stones and verbena, this is mouth watering stuff, racy and compelling, this will age beautifully, time should allow for more complexity and depth to develop along with more opulence and body, though I love it now too, drink this wonderful Riesling from 2017 to 2028.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 24, 2017

2013SerafinaBarb2013 Serafina Cellars, Barbera, Amador County.
The Serafina Barbera from the Sierra Foothills is a juicy richly textured and fruit driven wine with layers of black and red fruits along with some soft spice and cedary wood. Paul Scotto, head of winemaking for the family business, Scotto Cellars overseeing winemaking for about 40 labels, as well as the Cider Brothers small batch craft fruit ciders and a new dry Mead (honey wine) project, but he makes the Serafina as his own project from top sites in the foothills, this is his own personal artisan line of small production wines. Paul, a UC Davis grad, does mostly Zinfandel, but also has a crisp Pinot Grigio and this Barbera, he focuses on Italian based varietals, as well as a few Rhones, and while Zin is from Croatia, the heritage in California has Italian roots as does he, being a 5th generation winemaker, plus there is the Primitivo clone. The Barbera is bright with a garnet/ruby hue, the long hang time allows for a more low acid plush mouth feel with plum, raspberry and black cherry fruits filling out the palate with ultra fine tannins, subtle spice, mineral/earth notes and a touch of oak, finishing with dried flowers, vanilla, anise, currant and briar. Barbera from the hills of California’s gold country does not taste like the classic Piedmonte versions, but this one is a really fun, open knit and stylish wine, Scotto sourced the Barbera from the famed Fiddletown, where some of the vines date back to the late 1800’s, along with a dash of Primitivo (Zin) which always shows through and works nicely here. There is a sweetness of fruit that makes this wine sing, and the neutral French barrels don’t over do what the vines gave, this velvety all California red is ready to enjoy now and is especially good with rustic/simple cuisine, it is crowd pleaser to drink over the next 2 to 3 years.
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 23, 2017

2015Equinoxe2015 Equis by Maxime Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage “Equinoxe” Rhone Red, France.
A pure and beautifully purple Syrah that is an almost quilt free everyday red that delivers outstanding varietal character and terroir in an easy to enjoy form. Maxine Graillot, son of the famed Alain Graillot, has branched out on his own with a wonderful set of wines under his Equis label, making slightly lighter and fresher wines than his dad, but with very similar quality and style, these are non pretentious Crozes-Hermitage 100% Syrah bottlings that kill it for the price! With prices of Saint-Joseph and Cornas soaring these days, if you are looking for values in the northern Rhone, Crozes is your place, especially any of the Graillot family offerings, but also Domaine Combier by Laurent Combier is a winery to check out. The 2015 vintage Maxime Graillot Equis Equinoxe is richly hued and deep with full bodied mouth feel, it flows smoothly with ripe tannins and subtle earthy charm, delivering layers of boysenberry, damson plum, blueberry and black cherry fruit along with hints of camphor/embers, minty herb, liquid violets, white pepper and dusty stones. This is a gracious and dense Syrah, but not heavy, it comes in at 13% alcohol, which just about perfect for the style, allowing for joyous quaffing. Delicately perfumed and vibrant, the balance is exactly what you’d want, it finishes with savory notes, lavender spice and juicy sweet and spicy fruit, not overly serious, but lovely and poised. Drink this one now and often while you can, best from 2017 to 2022, I really dig this Equinoxe 2015, I see lots more in my near future, impressive from Graillot the younger!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 22, 2017

2014MolitorPN2014 Weingut Karl-Johann Molitor, Pinot Noir Trocken, Assmannshauser Hollenberg, Rheingau Germany.
Based in the upper Rheingau in the town of Hattenheim, the family estate of Karl-Johann Molitor is an old school winery, small, hard working with no pretensions and their wines are simple hand crafted examples of the region, these are the wines you see in the wine fairs and local bistros, offering solid value and ease of use, that said, the Assmannshauser Hollenberg Spatburgunder is a really lovely and pretty wine from one of the greatest Pinot Noir vineyards you’ll ever find. You would have to search your entire life to find a red Burgundy of this class at this price, I doubt it exists to be honest, above the town of Assmannshausen on the northern bank of the Rhine the steeply sloped south facing slate hillside of Hollenberg sits, it is a glorious vineyard to see in person, on my two visits there I was left in awe of it’s beauty and majestic terroir, this is a special place. Interestingly, it is not as hailed as it should be, this is because not all the growers and producers work in harmony and there seems to be none of that German structure in place ensuring it’s promotion and quality throughout, but there are some amazing wines that come from here, one of the best Pinot Noirs I’ve ever had was August Kesseler’s Hollenberg and Johannes Leitz’s new Hollenberg is very exciting as well. So it was fun to find this Assmannshauser Hollenberg dry Pinot Noir from Karl-Johann Molitor, and happily surprised that their 2014 vintage is showing so well, it is bright and spicy with plenty of fruit detail, structure and graceful textures featuring a nose of floral tones, flinty spice, mineral and blue fruits. The palate reveals itself with black cherry, blueberry, wild plum and sweet strawberry fruits, a touch of briar, liquid violets, salty stones, plus a hint of smoke and marmalade. Lingers with rosewater, juicy raspberry and tart currant, and while light and easy overall, you can’t beat the price, delicacy and pedigree, it’s a fine gateway into the world of German Pinots.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive