2016 A Tribute to Grace, Rose of Grenache, Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, Santa Barbara County.
Kiwi Angela Osborne’s A Tribute to Grace, named for the New Zealander’s Granny, is a winery to watch, she focuses exclusively on Grenache and shows the grape in a lighter more transparent style, similar to Sheldon Wines who’s wines also follow a less extracted style. Angela’s gorgeous Rose 2016 comes from biodynamic blocks of Clone 2 Grenache at the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard and this outstanding new pink is just lovely as lovely can be with lots of vitality, energy and bright crisp flavors of ultra pure Grenache, it is Tavel inspired in my mind with refreshing mineral tones, light floral notes and layers of whispering fruit, it starts with bitter melon, tangy cherry and rosewater with a core of delectable strawberry and brisk citrus. There’s a touch of pepper, sappy herb and pomegranate water that adds to the beautiful nature of this fine Rose, if you want a special pink this season, you’d better rush to get your 2016 A Tribute to Grace, as it will go fast, Angela has a fanatic almost cult like following and her wines are hard to get, be sure to look for this Rose and also her silky/sexy 2015 Santa Barbara County Grenache, which is a dreamy red, Osborne has done very impressive work in the last few vintages, but these have certainly raised her game!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Salem Wine Co. Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
A beautiful medium weight Pinot Noir with a bright spicy character and lush texture from Evening Land’s Sashi Moorman & Raj Parr, the 2014 Salem Wine Co. Pinot is a total winner, especially for the price! Focused and vibrant showing black berry, bramble spice, iron/mineral and a core of cherry fruit burst from the glass with subtle floral and sweet herb notes adding a light tangy perfume to this well made Oregon wine. The body and mouth feel are excellent and highlight the nature of the vintage and substance of place, while the wine does have Sashi’s signature flair, it shows a sense of terroir and delivers everything with intense verve, but finishes with length and grace. Layers of black and red fruit, earth and satiny tannins keep you entertained and the lift of juicy acidity and peppery snap of spiciness keeps the experience dynamic and fresh. This ruby/garnet hued Pinot Noir should prove a fine companion to a wide range of food choices and should drink well for 5 to 7 years, it’s quite impressive and offers a great value for the money, I loved the Gamay Noir and Rose too, this is definitely a label to follow!
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2016 Stoller Family Estate, Rose of Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The new Stoller Rose is crisp and lively with fresh detail and vigorous depth of flavors with bright sour cherry, strawberry and summer melon leading the way in a fine example of dry pink Pinot Noir. Stoller is all certified green and organic minded and my last visit there was spectacular, this is a beautiful winery to visit with stunning vistas and well educated staff and stylish surroundings. The Stoller Estate Pinots are really impressive wines here and I’m sure the 2014 and 2015 will prove to be very special bottlings, but be sure to grab some of the Rose of Pinot Noir, it’s always a treat and rather limited. This 2016 is vivid and refreshing with it’s core of chalky/flinty red fruits, mineral spice, hint of rose petal and whisper of wild lavender adding to the juicy Pinotness of this great summer wine. This Stoller Rose seems to offer a touch more character or depth than most of what I’ve already tasted from Oregon so far of this 2016 vintage, it’s a flexible little wine that should easily seduce you with it’s charm and it’s ease of use, it can be enjoyed as a warm day quaffer or with a range of cuisine. The finish is tangy vibrant and lingers nicely, this is a very poised pink to thrill now, drink over the coming year, well done Stoller, I want more already!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2010 Fonterenza, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany Italy.
One of the purest, clear and elegant Brunello out there, the 2010 Fonterenza is really showing fantastic with wonderful depth of character, vintage power and natural balance, it reminds me of Soldera or a young Biondi Santi! Sisters Margarita and Francesca Padovani hand craft Campi di Fonterenza, and while they are a very young winery, having only started production of Brunello in 2004, after having taking over the family estate in 1997, they have a great reputation for quality and style. Margarita planted the first plots in 1999 and they are totally biodynamic, something rather unique in Montalcino, but becoming more and more common as the quality becomes more apparent. The Brunello di Montalcino 2010 is basically a Riserva since it was only just released after 5 full years of aging, 100% Sangiovese Grosso and made in minimalist fashion with no flashy new oak or turbo charging, this is low intervention traditional wine at it’s finest. Francesca and Margarita’s latest Brunello starts with black currant, lilac floral tones, spicy notes and mineral with earthy elements adding Burgundy like charm to the graceful fruit. There is plenty of grip and underlying verve here with fine grain tannin forming a straight and firm spinal backbone as well as a lifting acidity which is life giving and will help this amazing Brunello live for a couple of decades, but it is the fruit that seduces here and the gorgeous detail and layers of terroir influenced flavors that fill the palate and linger on the exceptional finish. The mouth feel is full and has great impact with wild plum, red berries, minty herb, anise, cigar wrapper, bitter coco, loamy stones, mulberry and hints of iron, cedar and balsamic dipped sweet strawberries. This is seriously glorious Brunello with just enough rustic authentic edges to keep it grounded and exciting, this is impressive and alluring wine that you’d want for a special occasion, this spectacular Brunello from Fonterenza is a must have, and don’t miss their poised and deep Rosso di Montalcino either, it over delivers in it’s price class. Drink this Campi di Fonterenza Brunello di Montalcino 2010 from 2018 to 2032.
($99 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2015 Bow & Arrow, Pinot Noir/Gamay “Rhinestones” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Scott Frank’s Rhinestones 2015 maybe the best under $25 wine I’ve ever tasted from Oregon, in fact the 2015 is so good, I almost prefer it to some over $50 Pinot Noir offerings, this is serious stuff that really delivers the quality and depth you’d not maybe expect from this fun blend. Sourced from organic/biodynamic vineyards, mostly Johan Vineyards, and picked a bit early Bow & Arrow gets detailed ripeness, but with zesty freshness of acidity and the fruit is very gently handed with partial whole cluster and a traditional Loire Valley style low oak winemaking employed. Like Passetoutgrains in Burgundy or Cheverny in the Loire this blend has long been an interesting marriage of varietals with the Pinot Noir giving beauty, depth and earthy charms while the Gamay gives color, vibrancy and fruitiness. This wine goes even further with this vintage taking to a new level, this Rhinestones will change all perception on what can be achieved with this blend of grapes and it should be honored as one of the great terroir wines of it’s generation, and it redefines Oregon’s paradigm! The 2015 Rhinestones by Bow & Arrow starts with a nose of dark roses, spice, truffle and blue fruits leading to a vivid palate of black cherry, blueberry, plum and tart currant fruits along with walnut/cedar, peppery stones, sage/mint/anise, cinnamon and iron/mineral tones finishing long and lingering with strawberry, earthy beet root and lavender. The texture is amazing and the mouth feel is exceptional considering how alive and bright this brilliant medium weight wine is, it is a satiny stunner with glorious vitality and grace, don’t over think the grapes or label, this wine is the new Oregon and it deserves your open mind and attention, drink this over the next 5 to 10, what a truly fantastic effort! I’m a huge fan of Frank’s wines, but this is by far the best best vintage of Rhinestones, also look for their straight Gamay Noir, Melon (Think bone dry leesy Muscadet) and Sauvignon Blanc, these Loire inspired wines are lovely Oregon surprises that will thrill and seduce the senses.
($24 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Christian Moreau, Chablis 1er Cru Vaillon, White Burgundy, France.
Most of the 2015 Moreau Premier Cru and Grand Cru were preview samples, but finished bottle examples included the Chablis AC and this brilliant 2015 Vaillon Premier Cru, which I tasted at Wildman’s 2015 Burgundy Preview Tasting in San Francisco recently, The Moreau Vaillon 2015 is wonderfully dynamic and classic with steely crisp detail, vibrant acidity and sublime balance with zingy lime, green apple and lemony citrus layers along with flinty/stones, hints of golden fig and clove spices. White flowers, mineral tones and chalky notes add to the complexity in this vividly fresh Chardonnay and while it has an energy and lightness about it, it does fill out with some body with air, which I imagine is the tiny crop of the vintage and concentration showing through, even though it remains gloriously clear and vigorous. This was a great surprise in the lineup, this Vaillon punches way above it’s weight class and delivers a stunning performance, it’s an impressive effort, this beauty and their Grand Cru Valmur really stood out as stars of the vintage for Domaine Christian Moreau. 2015 Chablis are going to be rare offerings, because of hail and tragic conditions, plus with 2016’s almost complete wipe out due to frost, it’s going to be hard to get much great stuff at fair prices, but Moreau has these wines and they should be on your search list, especially this Vaillon 1er Cru! This pretty and vital Chablis will drink superb young and fresh, but there is plenty of reason to believe it will age gracefully too, best from 2017 to 2027+, don’t blink or it will be gone!
($45-50 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive
2015 Olivier Leflaive, Auxey-Duresses Blanc, Burgundy, France.
Olivier Leflaive’s beautiful Auxey-Duresses white is a stylish and rich white Burgundy with clear and persistent layers of fruit delivered with mineral charm and class. This was a surprise in the lineup of new wines from this Domaine, it was the equal of many a Chassagne and Puligny that were 3 or 4 times the price and should be on your lists as a bargain in this vintage as there won’t be that many considering the tiny crops and high quality on offer. At Wildman’s Burgundy preview in San Francisco, these Olivier Leflaive and Christian Moreau (Chablis) really stood out for exceptional quality throughout, and while Olivier Leflaive has always a solid performer, these 2015 certainly have raised the game here, these are the best wines I’ve ever tasted tasted from Olivier Leflaive by far, white Burgundy fans will be thrilled by them. The 2015 Auxey-Duresses is exciting from start to finish with pretty white flowers, lessy brioche and steely verve leading the way along with crisp apple, pear and white peach fruits to go with wet stones, spice, lemon curd and hazelnut. This wine is full of energy, but gathers depth, roundness and mouth feel with air making for an impressive terroir driven Chardonnay. About a year on the lees and about 20% new wood add to the texture and decadence found in this concentrated wine, this is graceful and vivid stuff to enjoy for at least 3 to 5 years.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Drew Family Cellars, Pinot Noir, The Fog-Eater, Anderson Valley.
Another magical Pinot, from Drew in the 2014 vintage, The Fog-Eater Anderson Valley shows a vivacious character and deep fruit intensity making it almost irresistible and highly entertaining from start to finish. This set of 2014 wines from Drew are nothing short of gorgeous and this 2014 Drew The Fog-Eater defines California terroir and beauty with seductive charms, it starts with lively brightness and subtle perfume with vivid cherry, plum and wild raspberry fruits to lead off along with chalky stones, light mineral tones, tangy blueberry and stylish rose petal and minty herb. The flow is seamless on the palate and silken in mouth feel finishing with hints of mixed baking spices, fig and lingering grapey extract, that highlights it’s youthfulness. This pure Anderson Valley Pinot delivers in every way it’s potential and promise, do not miss this vintage of Drew wines these are sublime examples and some of the best wines of the vintage! While I loved the Gatekeeper, I might just like The Fog-Eater more on the second tasting, they both rock, and don’t forget about the Morning Dew Ranch bottling either, bravo Jason and Molly Drew on crafting such an exciting set of wines, drink these Drew 2014 Pinots from 2017 to 2026.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Forman, Cabernet Sauvignon “Chateau la Grande Roche” Napa Valley.
Ric Forman’s second label wine, Chateau la Grande Roche, is a winner in 2014 and is all estate fruit from just below Howell Mountain in Napa Valley, with glorious richness, fresh detail and wonderful layers it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon styled in Bordeaux fashion and a great value for top quality juice. 2014 was a slightly cooler year and the wines are vivid and bright, but with lush ripe tannins and superb balance, there is a chance we’ll all be thinking 2014 is right up there with 2013 given time in bottle, I certainly have loved what I’ve tasted so far, in fact I think Caymus’ 2014 is far better than 2013, though I might be looking for something in my Cabernet that is different than most, but this Forman Chateau la Grande Roche is great stuff. Deeply hued with a core of garnet/purple this is serious in the glass and the nose is alive with crushed violets, sandalwood, graphite and creme de cassis leading to a vibrant and dense palate of classic Napa flavors with blackberry, blueberry, currant and black cherry fruits, lilac/acacia, sweet tobacco, smoke, mineral notes and a mix of licorice, liqueur and vanilla. This full-bodied effort has some life force and is gripping, but unfolds with star quality and length, this is really a fine effort from Ric Forman, you’ll want to have some of this Cabernet Sauvignon around, don’t miss this one, drink over the next 3 to 10 years.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Prieler, Blaufränkisch “Johanneshole” Burgenland, Austria.
Prieler’s 2013 Johanneshole is a stunning example of Blaufrankisch with deep fruit intensity and mineral character with the vintage’s powerful extract and vibrancy on full display. Prieler crafts some of the most stylish wines in Austria and certainly are one of Burgenland’s top producers with a selection of gorgeous Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and one of the best Rose offerings in Europe! They also are widely known for their rich and earthy Blaufrankisch that will remind you of Nuits-St.-George and Crozes-Hermitage, these dark and brooding wines are lovely expressions of terroir and of this unique varietal that has in recent times become Austria’s signature red grape. Prieler does two single site crus, Marienthal and Goldberg, plus a blend of both, as well as this single site Johanneshole, which is the most forward and open of the set of Blaufrankisch, which I in fact almost always like just as much of not even better than the top crus, this is an entry wine that way over delivers. Georg Prieler only makes 8, 000 cases per vintage, each wine is handcrafted and with a selection lovingly imported by Terry Theise to the United States, I’ve been a big fan of Georg’s wines and this 2013 is one of the best I can remember, it has everything you’d want, it’s lively, with energy and verve, and it challenges the senses. The soils here are varied with limestone, slate, schist and pepples and the Prieler Blaufrankisch always translates it’s terroir, will the Johanneshole you get a medium weighted very dark wine with a garnet and purple hue in the glass that has a subtle floral perfume and loads of spices and herbs leading to a poised and finessed palate of huckleberry, dried clay, lavender, mineral/iron tones, saddle leather, black olives, cracked peppercorns, forest berries and raw meaty/earth. Everything comes together with supple tannins and fresh acidity with pleasing silken texture and impressive length, this Blaufrankisch is really starting to hit it’s stride now, but should gain with another 3 to 5 years. Prieler’s beautiful 2013 Johanneshole is a great introduction to Austria’s Blaufrankisch and this mysterious region, be sure to look for this one and keep an eye out for Georg’s amazing Rose and Pinot Blanc!
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive