2015 Bodegas y Vinedos Raul Perez, Mencia, Ultreia Saint Jacques, Bierzo Tinto, Spain.
It was a great honor to meet and taste with Raul Perez, one of Spain’s most heroic and influential winemakers, also known as the godfather of Mencia, at the Skurnik Wines West Portfolio tasting in San Francisco, it was an amazing event and collection with a fantastic array of producers and wines. Raul Perez’s lineup was mind-blowing and lived up to my huge expectations in every way, and I was wildly thrilled with each and every one of these offerings, especially this new Ultra Saint Jacques Bierzo Tinto that delivers wonderful depth and complexity at a price that makes it a bargain by any standards. Perez has mentored many rising stars, including Pedro Rodriguez, one of my all time favorites, at Guimaro and still has Veronica Ortega, who’s wines I recently discovered, working with him. Made from mainly from Mencia, but with some inter planted Bastardo (thought to be Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) coming off vines that average about 75 years old, this dark and ripe vintage shows an almost northern Rhone like character and has a earthy/savory/spicy edge like an lighter Cornas. This Bierzo Ultreia Saint Jacques Tinto was fermented with native yeasts, about 80% whole cluster in large oak cask with long macerations lasting between 2 and 5 months and then aged in mixed vessels including some cement, as well as 225L and 500L oak, unfined and unfiltered. It’s pretty in detail with violet/floral tones, peppercorn and a medium body that flows with sweet tannins, vibrant, but smooth acidity and flinty mineral elements as well as a core of loganberry, plum, candied cherry and tart currant fruits as well as salted black licorice, lavender, pipe tobacco, shale stones, earthy charms and a hint of cinnamon. This 2015 is lovely stuff that drinks very well right now and should prove pleasing for 3 to 5 years, for this price you’ll want a case!
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 The Princess & The Peasant, Pinot Noir, Signal Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
Another impressive wine by the hugely talented Stephanie Rivin, the wonderfully complex and vivid 2015 Pinot Noir is filling with vintage influenced density of fruit and cool climate energy and vitality, making for a highly seductive and thrilling wine. The Princess & The Peasant Signal Ridge Vineyard is a beautiful dark ruby hue in the glass and is followed up by an exciting nose of wild flowers, flinty mineral and a melange of far east spices and blue fruit before opening up to a medium bodied palate of black cherry, plum and cranberry/red apple skin fruits as well as shaved cinnamon stick, minty herb, tangy currant, mission fig and dried roses. It is framed by subtle oak sweetness, good acidity and silken textures that feel lavish in the mouth, but not heavy or taking away from the enticing life force in this alluring Pinot Noir. Stephanie Rivin’s The Princess & The Peasant Pinot Noir plus her Carignane, and all those wines at Signal Ridge Vineyard are rewarding finds, especially this one, it is on a similar level to Anthill Farms Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and the glorious Drew Family Gatekeeper Pinot Noir, as well as reminding me a bit of St. Innocent’s Oregon Pinots, drink this lovely wine over the next 3 to 5 years if not longer!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 David Duband, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Pruliers, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
The absolutely spectacular David Duband NSG Les Pruliers is every bit as good as a Grand Cru twice, three or almost four times the price and proves once again that some of these Nuits-Saint-Georges Crus are stupidly underrated and in most cases under valued, asking the question, will they ever get Grand Cru status? Duband who recently took over some fantastic plots has crafted a gorgeous lineup of 2014 reds, with this Les Pruliers leading the way, even over the fine Echezeaux Grand Cru, plus bargain hunters will not want to miss David’s basic cubes either, these are exceptional and striking Burgundies with phenomenal layers, detail and dreamy length, they have a beautiful lightness, even though they show the vintages strengths of richness and texture. The Pruliers shows it’s terroir class and has earthy depths with stunning mineral, purity of fruit and subtle perfume, think Gouges meets Rousseau! Layers of briar, spices, rose petals, chalky/dusty stones, cured meat, anise and kirsch back up a core of Pinot fruit with black cherry, forest berry, plum and cranberry as well as firm tea notes, iron, saline, liquid violets and lingering strawberry/blueberry. This is young vibrant and powerful Burgundy, though refined and elegant, it has huge potential and will be a treasure in the cellar, while rewarding even now, best to be patient and let this stuff develop over the next decade. David Duband, imported by The Source, is a producer to discover, in particular don’t miss these 2014’s, on reflection, I am surprised these are still available!
($99 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2013 Windy Oaks Estate, Pinot Noir, Proprietor’s Reserve, Schultze Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Opening up nicely, the Windy Oaks 2013 Proprietor’s Reserve, is becoming an elegant and beautiful Pinot Noir full of flavor and class with graceful detail and enchanting layers, this is one of my favorites in the lineup from this tiny Corralitos based winery that specializes in Burgundy style Pinot Noir. I’ve been a fan of Jim Schultze’s wines since the 1999 vintage, a wine that captured my heart with it’s remarkable Chambolle-Musigny like character, and this 2013 version reminds why I so admire these wines, while denser in fruit and richer on the palate, it has those Cote de Nuits qualities, but also now the vines have age on them shows it’s own sense of place and terroir. From the original 1.5 acre Bay Block, the 2013 Proprietor’s Reserve captures the cool climate and Monterey Bay influence with vibrant energy, with the clonal material not giving deep pigment, but instead allowing wonderful class and texture as well as a balanced mixture of floral perfume and savory/earthy tones with a touch of pure saline. This 2013 starts with wilted rose petal, crushed distilled violets, blueberry and kirschwasser along with a hint of smoky sweet oak and a faint trace of bacon before setting course on a medium bodied palate of bing cherry, raspberry, wild plum and red peach fruits. There’s a touch of underbrush, cinnamon, briar and cola bean in the background and the lingering finish adds a framboise and strawberry element to the core fruits as well as a bit of tea and orange zest, all seamlessly forming a gorgeous complete wine that both thrills and calms you at the same time. While the 2014 feel more generous and drink extremely well, this 2013 looks to slowly eclipse them, this brilliant wine could even get better still, be patient, best from 2018 to 2024.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Hiyu Wine Farm, Arco Iris Red, Columbia Gorge, Oregon.
This wildly adventurous natural wine project from Oregon’s Columbia Gorge, Hiyu Wine Farm offers a glimpse of the future of permaculture and holistic winemaking without historic dogma and modern traditions with a set of well crafted, but totally unique wines, including this all organic/natural 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Gris (with long skin contact) red Arco Iris. Using biodynamic practices and building a sustainable farm, with full cycle plants throughout the Hiyu Wine Farm wants to reduce all forms of waste while getting the most intensity of flavors from the grapes (especially) and the first public releases show wonderful promise, even though they don’t resemble any mainstream wines at all. One of the whites is a Jura meets Alsace solera with a amber/gold hue and slight sherry like notes, but with an orange wine like profile, it will never please the Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc crowd, but is clearly made with hyper attention to detail and skill, as it is not a stinky funky mess and can be enjoyed for it’s style, balance and texture, but it’s their red Arco Iris that thrills with it’s dense red berry and savory tones, it’s dry and mineral laced, but with generous richness, fruit intensity and length. The 2015 Arco Iris Columbia Gorge Red by Hiyu Wine Farm is freakishly expensive and won’t be a wine to experiment on just for kicks, though maybe it takes natural wine in America to a new place, it’s more than a hippy exercise in counter culture, it’s first and foremost a beautiful and intriguing wine of graceful detail and harmonious texture, it leads with crushed rose petal, a light dusting of mixed spices before a medium bodied palate of black cherry, plum and marionberry as well as a touch of leather, minty lavender, fennel, blood orange and dried guava. This is a ripe and fleshy wine that catches your attention for it’s disregard for the norms without being overtly militant or stupidly blind to expectations. The Hiyu Wine Farm wines are impressive and entertaining, hopefully the time is right for their success and that they find their niche, it will be a better world with such wines, even though they price will scare many away, including myself sadly, that said, I will revisit them and follow their progress, in particular this Pinot Noir/Pinot Gris co-ferment cuvee that sort of reminds me of Foradori, La Stoppa or Gravner in ways.
($106 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2008 Domaine Trimbach, Riesling “Clos Ste Hune” Alsace, France.
Lithe and sexy, the 2008 Clos Ste Hune feels younger and more textured than the 2007, and shows wonderful mineral definition, inner energy and length, truly one of the world’s great wines, especially this vintage with it’s life and classic terror details. With less petrol/diesel the 2008 shines with white fruit intensity, charm and subtle rosewater/perfume, it drives with vigorous acidity, but fills out remarkably on the palate with Grand Cru expansion, showing unripe apricot, peach, lemon/lime, green apple, quince and tangerine layers as well as saline, wet river stones, intriguing earthy/loam and verbena. The mouth feel is gorgeous, you get the same pleasure here as you get from a great Meursault or Grand Cru Chablis, it’s a wine that shows fantastic flexibility and class, it’s presence is undeniable, joyous and has the impact you’d expect from a red wine! The Clos Ste Hune, one of the most unique monopoles in Alsace if not the planet, lovingly crafted by Trimbach, imported by Esprit du Vin and the Taub Family, is one of those wine experiences you search out and are sure not to miss when the chance comes your way, I was so blessed to get this opportunity, big thank you to Terri Penquite of EDV for showing the full lineup of Trimach including this very special wine, but also their impressive Reserve Pinot Gris, Riesling and the alluringly exotic Ribeaupierre Gewürztraminer. Trimbach’s drier style and long cellar life is clearly on display in the current set of wines, in particular this amazing 2008 Clos Ste Hune is like history in the glass. With air it gathers richness, almost leesy creaminess that you find in a white Burgundy, absolutely graceful and regal, wow, super impressive, this is a 20 plus year wine easy, best to age another 12 years if you are lucky enough to have it.
($269 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2015 Clemens Busch, Riesling Kabinett, Punderich, Mosel Germany.
This lightly sweet (fruity) Riesling Kabinett is a brilliant and lovely generous wine from Clemens and Rita Busch at Weingut Clemens Busch in the middle Mosel, a newer generation producer that focuses on estate grown, biodynamic and natural wines from steep plots in the Marienburg lieu-dit. Right on the river and serve, this vineyard area is historic and classic Mosel with mixed slate soils and wonderful exposure allowing for stunning mineralite and rich density, texture and pleasure in feel and taste, most of Busch’s wines are dry, he uses native yeasts whenever possible, no additions, ferments are in huge old German 1,000L oak cask and he only utilizes a tiny dose of sulfur. This is a producer to watch along with Carl Loewen and Knebel in the Mosel, these wineries have raised their game in recent years and are making some fantastic Rieslings. The 2015 vintage Punderich Kabinett from Clemens Busch starts with mild honey, ginger and sea salt followed by a blast of flinty mineral, mango, green apple, white peach and lime sorbet. The mouth feel is medium lush, almost creamy, but with vital acidity and intensity, a hint of an exotic fruit, spice, white cherry and subtle white flowers come through in the background. This is an excellent terroir driven Riesling and a smooth enter into the house style, I also tasted the fabulous GG Falkenlay 2013, a Grand Cru dry Riesling that is full of power and presence in the glass, also a Feinherb “Vom Roten Schiefer” (Red Slate) 2013 which at about $35 is an outstanding dry feeling and expressive Riesling. These are detailed and focused wines that merit praise and attention, you should search them out if you are a Riesling fiend, like me, but also they are wonderful crowd pleasers as well, elegant and open, superb with summer fare and Asian cuisines, especially this pretty Kabinett!
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2016 Brianne Day, Pinot Noir, Vin de Days Rouge, Oregon.
The new Vin de Days Pinot Noir by Brianne Day is entertaining and slightly feral in character with an essence of Nouveau meets natural wine, but drinks with a beautiful fruit clarity that was missing in last years version, I confess to liking this Vin de Days very much and her (Brianne’s) new Alsace inspired Edelswicker white blend as well. While her single vineyard Pinots remain her top offerings, she does an impressive array of non-conformist wines as well, and she has certainly got the attention of the Oregon wine enthusiasts, especially those that want something a bit different, like Brianne’s southern Oregon red blends like her Cabernet Franc, Tennat and Kot (Malbec) cuvee as well as her Cote-Rotie style Syrah and Viognier. The 2016 Vin de Days Rouge starts with semi-carbonic notes of juicy berry fruit, tropical notes and liquid roses along with a vein of earthy spices and candied orange before setting course to traditional Pinot Noir notes of black cherry, plum and raspberry. There’s a bit of Christmas cake, cinnamon and forest floor in the background, but it really is all about the vibrancy and brightness off youth that appeals, nothing too serious to contemplate, just fun and a touch wild, it reminds me of Moulin A Vent meets Arianna Occhipinti’s Tami Frappato. Sourced from selected sites in the Chehalem Mountains and made for immediate consumption this edition of Vin de Days Rouge hints at the potential of the vintage, which I hear is going to be a highly respected year for Oregon, especially Willamette Valley wines, Day has found a niche and is making some unique, playful, serious and thrilling wines, this one is the gateway to her style, enjoy over the coming year or so.
($27 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Anthill Farms, Syrah, Sonoma Coast.
The Anthill Farms team Webster Marquez, Anthony Filiberti and David Low make some California’s most authentic Pinot Noir, focusing on terroir and vintage to showcase each wine, they met while working at Williams Selyem, and have grown from 200 cases in 2009 to just under 2,000 cases in recent years, with most all their wines being sold out to their mailing list. They also make one of California’s best deals in varietal Syrah and the 2014 version from Sonoma Coast cool climate sites is a beauty, while known mostly for their Pinot Noir and super rare Chardonnay, Anthill Farms Syrah is always one of my favorite wines by this talented trio. Anthony Filiberti, who now is head winemaker at Hirsch Vineyards, and former front man at Knez, another Pinot focused winery that was exclusively Anderson Valley, has found some amazing fruit sources for this Syrah and most sites they work with for grapes practice organic and or biodynamic farming, also there is an old school/traditional mindset, to craft minimalistic and pure wines. This is especially true in the Syrah, used wood, native yeasts and some whole cluster allow the Syrah to show it’s northern Rhone heritage with dark berry fruit, brambly and peppery spices as well as earthy notes, game, anise and crushed violets all playing a part in this well judged and executed wine. Lean and Cornas like the Anthill Farms Sonoma Coast leads with the floral, pepper and graphite elements, but quickly fills in on the palate with boysenberry, black cherry, blueberry and subtle cassis, herbs, gravel and tapenade. While fruit driven and medium full, it stays fresh, vibrant and lifting with enough acidity, silken tannin and savoriness to be complex and balanced throughout, I love this vintage. I suggest searching this wine out, it usually is one of the easiest to find of the lineup and the best priced, while I would also look for any of the Pinots, in particular the Peters Vineyard and the Anderson Valley cuvee, drink the Syrah over the next 5 to 10 years and without much guilt often, even now!
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Franc, Bagly Ranch, Paicines.
Ian Brand’s latest release is a killer Chinon like Cabernet Franc, showing the vintage’s concentration, but with lovely varietal character and absolutely gorgeous length and detail, this is a stunning California wine! Tasted with Ian at his tasting room in Carmel Valley, while he was spinning some soulful vinyl and regaling a few music and wine lovers just made the whole experience that more intriguing and fun. The 2015 Cabernet Franc Bagly Ranch Vineyard starts with lush red berry, framboise notes, spice and floral tones, this dark garnet hued young red really fills the palate with layers of dense fruit, with a core of raspberry, plum, black cherry and mulberry as well as a hint of classic bell pepper, crushed violets, fennel and mineral. A small yield adds to the lavish mouth feel and full bodied texture and the subtle wood really brings out the Loire styling in this fabulous wine. If you’ve not discovered Monterey’s Ian Brand yet, you need to try his wines, from his P’Tit Paysan Rhone Blend Style wines to his La Marea varietal wines, like his outstanding Albarino and Old Vine Grenache, but for that bit more exclusive enthusiast, you need to taste the I. Brand & Family line, with this Cabernet Franc and the Mourvedre leading the way, these are truly great offerings! Drink this Bagly Cab Franc over the next 3 to 10 years, though I love it’s youthful expression right now, it should gain with bottle age, it’s kick ass stuff.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive