2013 Domaine Weinbach, Riesling “Cuvee Theo” Le Clos des Capucins, Alsace, France.
Weinbach’s brilliant Cuvee Theo Riesling is a thrilling dry estate wine that highlights this ancient terroir with layers of crisp detail and pretty flavors, it is vibrant and lengthy making for a lovely white of refined class and flair. The lightness and grace gives way to a medium bodied wine with some air with white flowers, lime, peach and tangerine leading the way on the palate along with unique hints of golden fig, mineral tones, wet stone and quince. This Domaine is based at the 9th century Abbey and the Clos is 5 Hectares, and the holdings also include top sites in the region with some impressive vines in the Grand Crus Schlossberg, Altenbourg and Furstentum, as well as other plots that make up the base for the basic Vins d’Alsace offerings making for a total of 30 Hectares. Domaine Weinbach, run by Catherine Faller, is an all organic estate and has been biodynamic since 1998 with Ghislain Berthiot making the wines, since the death of Cathrine’s sister Laurence Faller and Catherine’s son Theo Leiber-Faller taking care of the vineyards. The Estate wines are aged in old large cask and have a mostly dry essence, like this Cuvee Theo Riesling, though they also do off dry and ultra luxurious Grand Crus and Vendanges Tardive that take the sweetness to about Auslese levels. All these wines impress and this 2013 Cuvee Theo really delivers the goods, I adore this wine, thank you Lee Lightfoot for sharing this wine with our tasting group, and have long been a fan of this Domaine, it’s great to see they have overcome the tragic loss of Laurence, plus the loss of Catherine’s mother Colette, recently as well. This Alsace star will drink nicely for many years to come with it’s sultry substance and vivid acidity, even from a less than perfect vintage this is a class act, and it reminds me to cherish more of these regions wines!
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Silice Viticultores, Mencia, Ribeira Sacra, Spain.
This 2014 Silice Viticultores red from Fredi Torries, Carlos and Juan Rodriguez in the Ribeira Sacra, is an all organic/biodynamic low sulfur blend of Mencia mostly (80%), but with some Merenzao, Albarello and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) plus a few white grapes, making it new natural wine darling. I was thrilled to try it, as I’ve been trying to get my hands on it for months, a huge thank you to importer Sacred Thirst for getting me a bottle to sample for this review, after it was referred to me by winemakers in Galicia, and I was not disappointed, it’s a gorgeous wine of amazing energy and charms which I liken to a unique combo of Fleurie (Gamay) and St. Joseph (northern Rhone Syrah) with sublime sharp detail and very vintage correct. I really was reminded of Jean-Louis Dutraive’s Domaine de la Grand Cour Fleurie as I sipped my first sip with it’s eye-popping acidity and deep perfume, I also saw some Jean-Francois Ganevat and Lapierre too, plus a bit of Andre Perret Saint-Joseph too, but all this is just way to explain it’s quality and styling, not to take away from it’s own terroir character and the Ribeira-Sacra’s glorious long history as a region, which goes back to Roman times, if not longer and is one of the most exciting wine areas in the world. This 2014, a cool and difficult vintage, does have a bright Beaujolais like lean/lighter feel on the palate, but with a beautiful deep purple/blue hue in the glass, it comes in at about 12.5% alcohol, which is pretty normal for this place, it also shows a lovely crushed violets and lilacs nose as well as a striking mineral element with a sexy spicy background with blueberry, tangy currant, lingonberry and black cherry fruits in a tight frame and band of flavors with pepper, walnut oil, lavender/rosemary/anise and dusty flinty stones. This fresh Mencia blend was native yeast fermented using partial whole cluster from grapes that came from old recovered vines above the dramatic steep slopes of the Sil river on a mix of granite, shale, quartz and loose sandy soils, it’s a pure and vivacious wine that was aged in used French foudres, for 9 months in the smaller cask before racking off and raised another 5 months in bottle before release. This is a beautiful new generation Spanish wine with heavenly class and delicacy, for fans of natural wines this is a wine to search out, and it will appeal to the fans of the Jura, Beaujolais, northern Rhone and even those that follow the wines of Arianna Occhipinti, this really offers a stunning value as well, drink over the next two or three years, and be sure to check out the up-coming 2015, which should be even more exotic and generous considering the warmer year! As a side note, I’d love to see Mencia in coastal California regions or Oregon’s south, I bet it would be fantastic!
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Giacometti “Sempre Cuntentu” Vin de France Rouge, Corsica, France.
A very cheeky fun red from the wild and remote island of Corsica, the Patrimonio based Domaine Giacometti, a rising star of the region that makes finely crafted old school wines, showing their humorous side with this weirdly labeled (artist label) Sciaccarellu wine. Giacometti produces a tasty set of blended wines that feature Grenache and Niellucciu (Island Sangiovese) as well, but I loved the fresh natural character of this unique 100% Sciaccarellu Sempre Cuntentu Vin de France Rouge that comes from a sandy patch of granite based soils in this rugged isolated region on Corsica’s northside near Bastia. Imported by Kermit Lynch, who has almost single handedly secured the top estates and who has brought the Island more fame than Napoleon! The Domaine Giacometti wines are still solid values and not as widely known as producers like Abbatucci, Leccia, Arena and Clos Canarelli, but that is good news for fans of the island’s wines that are more budget friendly. The 2015 Domaine Giacometti Vin de France “Sempre Cuntentu” Sciaccarellu (an Etruscan import in the long ago past originally from Tuscany where it is known as Mammolo and once featured in Chianti and Vino Nobile though has fallen out of favor and almost never used there.) is native yeast fermented in stainless and aged on it’s lees for 9 months without the use of oak, it shows bright detail and should be served slightly chilled to highlight it’s delicacy and verve in the same way you would with a Beaujolais and other lighter framed reds that are good summer quaffers and perfect for less heavy dishes or seafood. This all organic Sciaccarellu has tangy strawberry, briar laced raspberry and juicy plum fruits with zesty red citrus, mixed floral notes, flinty mineral and spicy elements as well as crisp tart cherry/currant and anise/minty/herbs all wrapped up in a lean almost medium weight wine, that should be enjoyed young. This 2015 has a warm vintage quality about it, but stays brisk and vibrant, though I bet the 2016 will be even better, look for these soulful Giacometti wines, they offer lots of earthy charm.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 La Colombera, Timorasso “Derthona” Colli Tortonesi, Piedmonte, Italy.
Saved from becoming extinct the rare Timorasso grape, largely do to the efforts of Walter Massa, is thick skinned native varietal that was more used in grappa production that still wines has turned out to be a new darling of the wine world making long lived and highly sought after wines, especially like this La Colombera “Dorthona” from northern Piedmonte in the Colli Tortonesi. The 2013 La Colombera Timorasso Derthona is richly textured with only a hint of oxidation with a feel and likeness to white Hermitage or Roussanne with a medium palate that is almost oily in texture, but still vibrant and crisp with a bullet proof structure, it shows white flowers, lemon, burnt peach, melon and tangerine along with wet shale, hazelnut/almond, anise and orange zest. This intriguing, interesting and entertaining white wine, from a grape that was almost lost to the world back in the eighties, shows unique flavors and will be a thrill to wine enthusiasts in the same way the leesy aged Muscadet or Savagnin from the Jura can be. Pier Carlo Semino, now maybe one of 20 producers that make Timorasso, is in the same league league as Walter Massa, the grapes savior, and should be considered a must try rising star producer in the region, imported by Indigenous Selections. The Derthona was fermented on the skins in stainless at very cool temperature, gently racked off the skins, then aged on it’s lees for 9 months with batonage (light stirring) with no oak being used in this bright greenish/golden hued Timorasso, this is very cool stuff that should drink very nicely for another 5 to 10 years, drink with goat cheeses, pork dishes and or fleshy fish.
($25 Et.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Andrew Murray Vineyards, Surah, Roasted Slope, Santa Barbara County.
Andrew Murray’s Roasted Slope is a modern California classic, it was one of the first affordable cult Syrahs in the late1990’s, and the 2014 marks it return after an extended break, while Murray found the right vineyards to make it the way he wanted with the co-fermentation of Viognier, as it’s a homage to Cote-Rotie (translated means Roasted Slope) and it’s a gorgeous deep wine. The 2014 Roasted Slope is from 3 blocks of Syrah and a tiny amount of Viognier from a site on Alisos Canyon Road, it’s a 28 Barrel cuvee, that allows for good availability and value for such a top flight offering, and Andrew Murray is back at his Rhone Ranger best with this new set of wines, especially this classy effort that blends the rich decadence of Guigal with impressive mouth feel and a bit of Bernard Levet raw/spicy character with a solid cool climate/northern Rhone quality, but still firmly highlighting California ripe/density and Santa Barbara terroir. Lovely violets, creme de cassis, peppercorns leading the way on the nose and with a very dark purple/black and garnet hue in the glass give a beautiful prelude to a medium/full palate that expands in the mouth, gaining in texture, while retaining vibrancy and vitality showing blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and wild plum fruits along with dusty mix of cinnamon, lavender, minty/anise, black olives, burnt embers and light cedar notes. This a seductive wine with an opulent impact delivered with luxurious elegance and purity, it lingers with superb length and sex appeal, the aftertaste goes on for a long time with a touch of earth, kirsch and a kiss of vanilla. Andrew Murray also has a really exciting and tangy/juicy/dry Cinsault Rose and a new Cinsault Rouge that I look forward to trying, as well as a great collection of single vineyard Syrah bottlings, including a Stolpman, Thompson and Watch Hill that should get your attention too, plus don’t miss his Esperance Rhone White and Red Blends and the entry level Tous les Jours Syrah, one of the best priced reds in the state! I love these wines, if you are a fan of Bedrock or Arnot-Roberts, I think you’ll love these as well, this 2014 Andrew Murray Roasted Slope Syrah is the real deal, drink it over the next 5 to 10 years!
($39 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Guimaro, Godello “Cepas Viejas” Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain.
Pedro Rodriguez’s gorgeous old vine Godello grown in the Amandi district on steep slopes of sand, slate and granite in the heart of the Ribeira Sacra’s white zone, grown all organic from vines that average close to 60 years old above the Sil river. Pictures of this region are spectacular and remind me of what you’d see on the Rhein or Mosel, more than what most people would expect of Spain and the cool Atlantic climate gives wonderful acidity and vibrant flavors, in fact Guimaro’s Godello has Riesling like mineral infused intensity, but with Chablis like body and flinty detail, I love this stuff and I’m thrilled by what is coming out of Galicia these days, I think it is maybe one of the most exciting wine region these days with stunning Mencia reds and various beautiful whites, including Albarino from Rias Baixas, classy blended whites from the Ribeiro and the Godellos of the Ribeira Sarca and Valdeorras. Producers like Laura Lorenzo (Daterra), Nanclares, Luis Rodriguez. Raul Perez, Veronica Ortega, Carlos Rodrigeuz (Silice) and Guimaro are certainly world class producers that are crafting rocking wines! Guimaro’s 2015 Cepas Viejas is ripe, at 13.5%, with lush layers showing the warmer than usual vintage character, but still full of energy and vivid focus with steely tones and lift showing green apple, mixed citrus and tangy peach fruits with wet shale, leesy (brioche/hazelnut) notes, white flowers, dusty spices and golden fig. This Godello caresses the palate and flows seamlessly, it was made using native yeasts, maceration lasted for 2 days on the skins and it was aged in used burgundy barrels for about 4 months before a light fining and bottling to preserve freshness, while still having richness and structure to age for a decade at least. This impressive white really turns on the charm, it gives white Burgundy style class and pleasure with it’s own terroir uniqueness that makes it even more intriguing, be sure to look for it!
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Alfredo Maestro, Tempranillo, Vina Almate, Penafiel, Vdt Castilla y Léon, Spain.
Alfredo Maestro’s Vina Almate Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) is from organic vines near Madrid in Penafiel grown on river stones, clay and alluvial soils in this warm continental climate area not too far away from Ribera del Duero. Maestro is a leader in natural wine and loves the old vines found near his hometown, he uses all organic farming, no added sulphur in most of his wines and uses almost no new oak to present wines and his region in the purist form, and his wonderful entry level Vina Almate is fresh and juicy with lovely deep color and subtle earthy tones along with an almost Beaujolais like vibrancy, and it’s great with a slight chill too, showing dark berry, plum, cherry and strawberry compote along with spicy tobacco leaf, lavender/anise, peppered violet and saline/stony loam. This ripe and tangy unfiltered Vina Almate 2015 cuvee was fermented with native yeasts, with 80% whole cluster, which adds to the spice and structure while allowing for ripe and smooth tannins, and aged a short time in tank and neutral French cask. Alfredo Maestro wines are imported by Jose Pastor Selections and are widely available, though limited, so look for them, I’ve been a huge fan over the last 5 to 7 years and the wines are just getting better and better with each new vintage, in particular these 2015’s! The authentic and raw detail are welcome in this pleasing Tempranillo adding a earthy/savory element to this fruity warm vintage wine, if you want a true “natural” wine at a great price, you should check out all of Alfredo Maestro’s wines, especially this fun Vina Almate, drink now, it’s great everyday stuff and super with tapas and BBQ!
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Ryme Cellars, Vermentino “Hers” Las Brisas Vineyard, Carneros.
The Ryme Hers Vermentino is bright tangy and lightly saline infused, in other words it’s a fresh and mouth-watering white with racy leaness and subtle concentration. Megan and Ryan Glaab’s Ryme Cellars (a blending of both their first names) is a tiny micro production winery focusing on hand-crafted small lot wines that reflect terroir and varietals, but with a twist and unique style with a homage to the ancient ways and old world, while being at the same time proud young California winemakers that want to express themselves and the native fruit. Between this husband and wife winemaking team they have put time in at some of the best wineries in the state including Pax, Peay and Windgap (where they make their wines) as well as legendary places including Marcassin and Sine Qua Non!, plus a stint at Australia’s Torbreck Their wines include Cabernet Franc, Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ribolla Gialla and a pair of “His” and “Hers” Vermentinos, with “His” being a long skin macerated “Orange” style wine and this “Hers” being a whole cluster pressed and clear style white, age in stainless and neutral cask with partial malo, with a delicate pale green/gold hue and vibrant acidity. I love this gripping 2015 Ryme Cellars Hers Vermentino, Las Brisas Vineyard, a cool climate site with deep clay soils on San Pablo Bay, it has an almost Riesling like intensity and a forcefully dry and brisk palate that is slightly dusty and even a touch savory with white peach, lemon/lime, gooseberry and hint of mango fruits, traces of herb, dried citrus rind and spring jasmine along with a vigorous energy/intensity, salty wet stones and loamy/mineral. This wine gains some depth with air and can go with a array of cuisine, but can also be enjoyed as a crisp summer quaffer, it’s a very interesting wine that highlights vintage and place well and should drink nicely for another 2 or 3 years easy.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Joseph Roty, Gevrey-Chambertin, Red Burgundy, France.
The Roty 2014 Gevrey is a highly attractive and earthy seductive Pinot Noir with vitality an vigor in a medium bodied wine that has deep fruit layers along with particularly interesting detail and natural finesse. This dark ruby hued Burgundy has plenty to like and admire with loads of character and flavors, starting with a nose that mixes dried flowers, iron/mineral notes and spicy red fruits that leads to a rich palate of black cherry, plum/currant and marionberry fruits with loamy/earth/leather, allspice, meaty elements and mure. This wine is finely balanced and lengthy with a youthful rawness that should gain in class and elegance with time in the bottle, this Roty has a solid structure with firm/dusty grained tannins and fresh acidity that are matched with impressive depth of fruit, though it can be enjoyed even now, patience will be rewarded in my opinion. Those looking for a great example of old school, old world Burgundy charm at a modest price, considering the rise of costs of well crafted wine from this region that has been hard hit by hail and tiny crops in recent years, this is a producer, imported by Atherton Wine Imports (on west coast) is one to search out, along with Drouhin-Laroze and Frederic Esmonin. This Cote de Nuits red gives Burgundy fans their terroir fix with vivid clarity and in a certain style, I imagine this would be cherished by those that prefer less polished wines or authentic wines and the Francophile! This Domaine Joseph Roty 2014 Gevrey-Chambertin AC Bourgogne Rouge will be best from 2020 to 2030, and be sure to check out the less expensive Roty Marsannay Rouge and the more powerful single Cru bottlings!
($68 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2016 Joyce Vineyards, Rose “Turbidity Current” Monterey County.
Russell Joyce’s latest set of wines are highly entertaining and charming with good fruit, balance and energy, especially good are his Pinot Noirs, his vivid Riesling and this wildly fresh Rose. The 2016 Rose is made from Gamay Noir and Grenache and with light maceration giving a bright and vibrant pink/ruby hue in the glass with lifted detail and succulent zesty juiciness. The core is citrus driven with zingy grapefruit, sour cherry, strawberry, fleshy peach and watermelon along with hints of mineral, snappy herb and rosewater. Light and crisp, but with open flavors that are brisk and lingering, this Joyce vineyards Turbidity Current Rose is wonderfully fun and will be a summer day treat.
($25. Est.) 90 Points, grapelive