Monthly Archives: January 2017

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 21, 2017

2015SelbachPiesporter2015 Selbach, Riesling Kabinett, Piesporter Michelsberg, Mosel Germany.
This bistro style, light Kabinett from Johannes Selbach is a real solid value and a lovely drinking mineral/crisp Riesling of fine class and character. This label is the negociant label, instead of the estate label of Selbach-Oster, and while it is from contracted vineyard/wine it still has the clear focus and detail you’d expect from this great producer, and it shows plenty of vintage marking and terroir, this is very enjoyable, slightly off dry stuff, perfect for your mid-week low alcohol needs and great with cheeses, smoked meats and Asian foods, especially Chinese with a touch of spicy heat. This refreshing Riesling delivers crisp apple, white peach, subtle tropical notes along with lemon/lime, minty white tea, mango and steely liquid mineral. Golden pale in the glass the 2015 Selbach Piesporter Michelsberg is a light and vibrant wine, but has enough sweetness to feel creamy and decedent on the palate without being really sweet, it has enough stony elements, juicy acidity and tang to be well balanced, it’s a quilt free quaffer and with enough substance to impress. At 8.5% alcohol and with a delightful finish of tangerine, flinty spice and rosewater this is a perfect picnic wine and will be a great summer party wine, it drinks fun and lively now, so stock up, it doesn’t get much better for the price. The Selbach Piesporter Michelberg Kabinett Riesling is a perfect everyday wine and a great way to start your journey into Mosel Riesling if you’ve never had one and are curious, this is a classic style entry level Mosel, drink now through 2020.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 20, 2017

2015YLRouge2015 Domaine d’E Croce-Yves Leccia, YL, Ile de Beaute Rouge, Corsica.
Yves Leccia is one of the most celebrated vignerons on Corsica and his wines from the Patrimonio near the bay of Saint-Florent are some of the purist examples on the Island, especially this gorgeous YL Rouge, a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Niellucciu (Sangiovese) grown on the clay, limestone and schist soils of his Domaine d’E Croce estate. None of Leccia’s wines see wood at all, this blend from 20-40 year old vines, all organic and handmade in the truest sense was fermented and raised using only stainless steel cuves, all the grapes are carefully sorted and de-stemmed. You’d think this would result in a basic and simple wine, but the YL Rouge by Yves Leccia shows a remarkable terroir character and is gloriously complex with layers of ripe fruits, spice, savory tones and mineral notes with solid tannins and lively acidity, this is beautiful and earthy wine that pleases the senses with lovely texture, finesse and stylistic charm. The 2015 YL starts with a flinty/smoke note along with liquid wild flowers, pepper and blue fruit before leading to a full bodied palate of sweet currants, blueberry, boysenberry, black cherry and plum accented by bacon, lavender, chalk/crushed stones, porcini and anise. It starts earthy and vibrant, then opens wide and delivers a flow of rich/dense fruit and a long finish that combines the floral essences, framboise as well as a hint of fig and meaty bacon, this is wine that captures it’s sense of place perfectly, but also reminds me of old school Burgundy and Rhone reds at times, I’ll be grabbing a few bottles of this Leccia myself, I love this dark Corsican red, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 19, 2017

2015GermainRoches2015 Thierry Germain, Saumur Champigny “Les Roches” Loire Valley, France.
The beautiful and detailed all biodynamic/organic 2015 Les Roches by Thierry Germain takes a few moments to unveil itself, like an exotic fan dancer, but then wow, this gorgeous chalky and perfumed 100% Cabernet Franc really shows it’s class and energy, it’s absolutely stunning. The Thierry Germain Saumur Champigny Les Roches comes from mostly 30 to 40 year old vines set on clay, chalk, sand and limestone, it was 100% de-stemmed, native yeast fermented in stainless and raised in old foudres and stainless steel on the fine lees for just a few months without added sulfur. This pure and natural Saumur Champigny is medium bodied and delicate with layers of graceful flavors and intriguing class, the nose brings earth, violets, mineral notes and a hint of bell pepper and mixed spices leading to a refined palate of blackberry, creme de violet, tart currants, black cherry and earthy mulberry fruits with cinnamon, truffle, chalky dust, lavender oil and sweet basil. This charming Cabernet Franc speaks to the soul and heart, it gives remarkable terroir expression and is a great value, at 13% alcohol it is perfectly balanced and wonderfully open knit with ripe opulence and dreamy texture, imported now by Kermit Lynch, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, though I suspect it can easily go well longer. Cab Franc lovers will not want to miss this vintage of Thierry Germain, and especially this seductive and classic Les Roches Saumur Champigny which really over delivers, it’s brilliant starting point to explore his wines and the region.
($24 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 18, 2017

2008IFavatiTaurasi2008 I Favati, Taurasi “Terzotratto” Campania, Italy.
When they talk of Aglianico being the Barolo of the south, this is what they mean, a picture perfect example and a gorgeous, complex and authentic wine from Giancarlo Favati, of I Favati, who I got to meet briefly this week, and taste through his wines. It was a pleasure to meet Giancarlo and his wife and marketing director Rosanna, while they are on a visit to San Francisco, their winemaker Carmine Valentino, who wasn’t on this trip, must also be mentioned and praised here, as his efforts are truly glorious and capture the soul and essence of this volcanic influenced terroir. Most of their vines cling to the hillsides of Cesinale in the Irpinia zone of the Campania region, but they have a small plot in Taurasi, the DOCG Taurasi has only been in production since 2003, it is a work in progress, and it is aged 4 years before release, I found their 2008 Terzotratto Taurasi DOCG very much to my liking with it’s intense layers of fruit, earth, spice, mineral and game all coming together nicely, at this stage it’s a stunner. The other wines that impressed were their mineral driven whites, especially the vibrant Greco di Tufo and smoky/flinty Fiano di Avellino, as well as an extended skin contact Fiano di Avellino “Pietramara” white label 2011, very impressive stuff, along with their currant release Aglianico, the 2010 Irpinia Campi Taurasini “Cretarossa” which is a wonderful wine and a great value at $26. The 2008 I Favati Taurasi Terzotratto, aged in small French barrels is rich and dense with velvet coated tannic structure showing a deep garnet color and a lovely mix of dried flowers, iron/chalk, kirsch and anise to start before an unfolding firm palate of poached cherry, tangy plum and dusty red berry fruits along with sweet tobacco leaf, game/blood (meaty notes) and minty saline, crushed stone and a hint of cedar. This full bodied Aglianico is pure, focused and detailed wine, balancing ripe fruit with the more earthy/savory elements to perfection, while I enjoyed and admired all of the I Favati reds, this one, the 2008, really stole my heart and attention, the 2004 had a wild Rioja Gran Reserva character from the use of some new American oak, while the 2007 had a beautiful silky texture it leaned toward the stewed fruit side of things, so for my taste, the 2008 was the best example of terroir and vitality, this though is a winery to check out, they offer an intriguing lineup of wines, imported by Vinity Wine Company. This beautiful Terzotratto Taurasi 2008 is drinking fantastic, and it is looking at a long life ahead, drink now through 2026.
($52 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 17, 2017

2015Wetzer2015 Wetzer, Kekfrankos, Sopron Hungary.
Peter Wetzer’s beautifully delicate and flavorful Kekfrankos is a new Hungarian treasure, and for those not familiar with Kekfrankos, it’s the same grape as Blaufrankisch found just to the west in Austria. Lots of eastern Austria was part of Hungary until as recently as 1921, so there are many of the same grapes and terroirs, plus there were many German settlers in this area especially that brought their farming style with them. Peter’s Kekfrankos is a mostly natural style wine, he works hard to farm his vines as to keep them as organic as possible and his cellar work is minimalist allowing native ferments and raising his wine on the lees in used Hungarian cask. With it’s simple and stylish label and red wax capsule, the Wetzer Kekfrankos reminds me of Lapierre Morgon in many ways, it is ripe and pure with vibrancy, fresh detail and silky tannins. Kekfrankos or Blaufrankisch is less acid driven than Gamay or Pinot Noir, but close and it can have flavors that are like Loire Cabernet Franc at times, Wetzer’s is medium weight, fruit forward and loaded with blueberry, bright cherry, tree picked plum and earthy mulberry fruit along with mixed spices, loamy/mineral plus hints of cedar, anise and chalk. A subtle sweet and sour herb notes adds to the whole, and this impressive red highlights it’s sense of place, allowing the soils, which are iron rich in parts, along with limestone, loess and gravel, to shine through on the poised and vital palate. It takes a bit of coaxing and air, but a light perfume of wild flowers and dried rose petal emerges as does a underflow of tangy currant as well as peppery notes. This is lovely stuff, it is always amazing to discover the mysteries of Eastern European wines and regions, I had not had the Wetzer before, I guess he has a following in parts of Europe and in the UK, he doesn’t make a lot of wine, so you’ll need to search for it, imported by Blue Danube Wine Company.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 16, 2017

2013WorkmanAyer2013 Workman Ayer, De Facto Red, Central Coast.
Michel Ayer’s Workman Ayer “de Facto” Red Rhone style blend is a ripe and decedent wine with a deep color and shaded with smoky/sweet French oak that comes across serious, but flirty/sexy on the palate, it is enjoyable and full bodied like the wines of Guigal and Jean-Luc Colombo, very late 90’s early 2000’s. Ayer’s sourced this 80% Syrah, 10% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre from three main sites in the Santa Barbara area, and the breakdown goes like this, 30% Los Alamos Syrah, 25% Ballard Canyon Syrah, 25% Santa Ynez Valley Syrah,10% Los Alamos Grenache and10% Los Alamos Mourvedre, there were a couple of different pick days as well then the wine was blended after fermentations, it was aged in 40% new oak for just under 2 years. Only 100 cases were bottled of the 2013 Workman Ayer, so it’s quite limited and is available through their website and a few wine stores and restaurants, it is very fairly priced considering the small production and quality in the bottle, it’s a sleek and modern artisan wine, rather big at 14.5%, but not over the top with a lot to admire, it’s hedonistic, rich/thick/chewy, spicy and structured. The nose is a mix of cassis liqueur, smoky/sweet wood and liquid violets, but with air the oak tames itself and more earthy/spicy and savory elements appear, the palate is full with black raspberry, boysenberry and blueberry pie filling along with mocha/bitter coco, fig sauce, anise, chalk dust and a hint peppery hot cinnamon, plus dried vanilla. This is a ripe/opulent and forward Syrah led blend with mostly supple tannins, but it does have some impressive muscle and just enough acidity to keeps this lively, this is a fun and easy to enjoy young wine, great with mushroom dishes, grilled meat street tacos, BBQ and or Turkish lamb, drink now.
($38 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 15, 2017

2014TourDuBonEnSol2014 Domaine de la Tour du Bon, Mourvedre, En-Sol, IGP Méditeranée, France.
What an astonishing wine, a gloriously pure Mourvedre from Domaine de la Tour du Bon’s Agnès Henry, this is certainly the wine to lift it out of the shadows cast by the more famous Domaine(s) Tempier and Terrebrune also imported by Kermit Lynch, it’s an old vine Bandol, 100% Mourvedre that was raised in amphora. Agnès was inspired by the wines of Guisto Occhipinti at COS and especially Elisabetta Foradori, who’s amphora wines are legendary and nuanced in such a way that you never get the funky/odd flavors that one sometimes find in natural or ancient method wines, but wines that are clear and vibrant with delicate detail and transparency. Henry’s estate in the hills to the northwest is perched up above the beautiful Mediterranean in it’s own micro climate with glorious sun filled days, but with cooling influencing breezes and nights that allow for good acidity and balance in the grapes, she farms all organic and ferments with indigenous yeasts with this En-Sol fermenting in clay/terracotta before being racked off into stainless tank for a few months before bottling, no fining or filtering was done, though I will be interested in how much skin contact and whether the grapes were all de-stemmed, as I would suspect as the wine is wonderfully round and charming even this young. This brilliant effort gives Bandol a new look and it’s gorgeous to the core, hopefully Henry will keep pursuing this niche and path, there is amazing potential in her style and her terroir is excellent with red soils, clay, limestone and sandstone allowing a vivid array of flavors. The 2014 En-Sol by Domaine de la Tour du Bon starts very similar to the COS Pithos with loamy notes along with red berries and mixed floral tones, bright and pretty, but then it starts to reveal it’s terroir and varietal purity with it’s forceful and tannic backbone, though there is a remarkable grace and velvety/silken coating to the tannins allowing the inner fruit core to shine in all it’s glory with black cherry, wild raspberry and loganberry layers along with lavender, mineral spice and chalky stones as well as lightly bitter anise, dusty plum, pepper, sweet pipe tobacco and rosewater. This Medium/full bodied and dark garnet/ruby red wine opens wide with air, it is ever changing and complex, while showing a subtle elegance and tangy/linging length, time and food is what is needed here for maximum joy, though it is good and magical on it’s own, I can’t even guess on aging potential, but safely can say best from 2018 to 2024, this wine is super or as I would say hyper-limited, but well worth searching out, but even if you cannot find it or afford it, be sure to check out all the Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol offerings, in particular Ms Henry’s stunning Bandol Rose and single vineyard Saint Ferreol Bandol Rouge!
($75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 14, 2017

2015ClapeAmis2015 Domaine Auguste Clape, Vin de France Rouge “Le Vin des Amis” Rhone, France.
The beautiful and old school 100% Syrah Clape Le Vin des Amis comes from near Cornas and is from 40+ year old vines set on galets or river stones, so it doesn’t have quite the intensity of the pure granite sites, but that said, this is a pure and deeply colored joy of a wine that is one of the great secrets in the wine world! Auguste the patriarch , Pierre-Marie the main man and winemaker and now Olivier the grandson at the famed and historic Domaine A. Clape, which was founded back some 250 years ago, are three generations working together to make some of the world’s most sought after wines, in fact Auguste, the former mayor of Cornas, was the first to bottle his own estate made wine in Cornas, paving the way for the following generations and now Cornas is now thought of in the same way Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Cote-Rotie were and are. Clape does five wines, the top being their Cornas, as well as a second Cornas, the Renaissance, the all Marsanne Saint Peray Blanc, a 100% Syrah Cotes-du-Rhone and this Le Vin des Amis that comes from a tiny 1 hectare site, it is a spicy, earthy and fresh red that has terroir character of the region as is a great way to start exploring the Clape lineup. The 2015 Clape Le Vin des Amis is ripe and round on the palate with a deep garnet and purple hue that starts with a mix of crushed violets, lavender oil, black and green olives, peppercorns and tart currants. There is a hint of game/meat, iron, leather, but in the mouth you get blueberry, boysenberry and a touch of cassis. This little Syrah was fermented in cement and raised six months in the concrete vat or cuves then another six months in old foudres, 1,200L French oak casks, the grapes were native yeast fermented and mostly all whole cluster that gives that stemmy green spice, with a touch of celery to the background and a cinnamon/baking spice note. The Le Vin des Amis is a wonderful example of Syrah and place, I love this vintage, maybe my favorite since 2010, it lingers with hints of black salted licorice, blackberry and a mineral/stony/earthy essence that is both humble and darkly sexy, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 13, 2017

2012FeketeBelaJuhfark2012 Fekete Bela, Juhfark, Somlo, Hungary.
At 92 years old, and celebrating his 57th harvest, “Uncle Bela” Fekete Bela is the grand old man of the volcano, hand crafting white wines from this basalt and mineral rich soils in the Fehervari (Cru) zone of the Somlo region of Hungary. Bela only does whites, Furmint, Harslevelu, Olaszrizling and this rare, only found in Hungary, Juhfark which is a gorgeous mineral driven terroir influenced white with bright detail and a brisk dry fresh/fleshy character that is slightly unexpected from a wine that is aged two years in cask before bottling and resting another year in bottle before release, but such is the greatest of Fekete Bela wines, they are lovely/lively and with depth and balance, achieved by listening to his vines and applying his vast experience and passion into making them glorious wine. He dry farms his grapes and uses no chemicals, all of his wines are naturally fermented with absolutely no additions in the cellar, in fact local traditions and winemaking here in the mound of an ancient volcano date back to 1093, though less commercial winemaking most likely was taking place here long before that, and tradition, in fact law was very strict concerning production and quality, back in 1752 it was written into the local law that no addition of even water was allowed, punishable by public lashings! So “Uncle Bela” is very careful to keep yields up in the vineyards to allow for careful harvests that gives more acidity to his grapes and less sugars, this seems very different to modern thought, but his wines are brilliant and stylish with layers of crisp flavors that are enhanced, not burdened by the extended time in 1200L Hungarian oak casks, similar to the Rieslings of Germany that are raised in Stuckfass. The 2012 Juhfark, looks set to be the second to last harvest for the rumored to be retiring Bela, is a beauty, more vibrant than the 2011 I last tasted, and with wonderful precision as well as subtle density and extract, it was left on the lees without batonage and the finesse shows here, allowing a rich mouth feel, but vital and vigorous.The nose is Riesling like, but showing it’s volcanic spiciness along with fresh citrus, tropical notes and tangy stone fruits, this iron/steel white feels light to medium bodied and is amazingly dynamic for it’s age, very youthful, as well as having a hint of chalk/stones, bitter herbs, white cherry, kiwi/mango, a hint of almond, delicate florals and tart lemon/lime. This is a white wine of inner energy and class, unique and with a tense of history and place, imported by Blue Danube Wine Company, the wines of Fekete Bela should be cherished while we can, drink this Juhfark over the next 3 to 5 years.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 12, 2017

2013JMCPV2013 J. McClelland Cellars, Petit Verdot, Napa Valley.
The beautifully purple black and garnet/ruby Petit Verdot by the recently launched J. McClelland Cellars, a new Napa Winery project by the Scotto Family who have brought two of Napa Valley’s cherished sons together to make an interesting series of limited production hand crafted wines. Old timer and Napa guru John McClelland, with a career spanning 57 years has been the prssident or GM at wineries like Geyer Peak, Alderbrook and even Almaden has joined the Scotto’s along with Napa’s Mitch Cosentino, a long time Napa favorite and native son winemaker, these two along with the talents of Paul Scotto, director of winemaking for the Scotto family and producer himself of small lot wines from old vines in the Sierra Foothills are making some really cool stuff, including this Petit Verdot and even a Calistoga sourced Charbono, all the wines are under 600 cases. The Oak Knoll District J. McClelland Cellars Petit Verdot, 90% Petit Verdot with 10 % Malbec from the opulent 2013 vintage is a rich and forward Napa wine with ripe details and sweet/smoky oak giving a decadence and clean modern density on the palate with blackberry, cherry, blueberry and currant compote fruit along with natural peppery/briar spice, floral tones, vanilla and lingering violet liqueur. This is what I remember about Mitch Cosentino’s style, lots of sweet fruit and backed up with dry spiciness, this wine tastes like if you took St. Emilion, a Mendoza Malbec and a Napa Cabernet all mixed into one wine, it shows refined, but firm tannin in a full bodied pleasing red wine, I’d say it falls a bit flat on the mid palate as sometimes the case with both Malbec and Petit Verdot in California, though over all it gives a solid experience and performance, best with cheeses and or grilled meats or duck breast. Petit Verdot, one of the Bordeaux varietals, as is Malbec are not easy grapes to grow, and it almost never is used as a single grape wine, it usually is added in small amounts to add color, floral notes and spice, but here it works pretty well, drink over the next 2 to 3 years.
($40 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive