Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 30, 2017

2015 Foradori, Pinot Grigio, Fuoripista, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy.
One of Italy’s most exciting winemakers, Elisabetta Foradori is one of the queens of the natural wine world mixing modern thought with ancient methods, along with biodynamics makes clear and beautiful wines mostly from her estate near Trentino of the Alto Adige in the Dolomites, or Italian Alps, though she has added a winery in the Tuscan Coast region, Ampeleia in recent years. Most famous for her Teraldego reds, Foradori’s whites have gained a cult like status with wine enthusiasts with her Manazoni and Nosiola from her Fontanasanta vineyard easily becoming some of Italy’s best wines with their skin contact and amphorae aging adding to the excitement and thrill in these complex wines, In 2014 Foradori added a skin contact Pinot Grigio, making her first single varietal from this grape, sourced from a near by biodynamic vineyard it is also her first colorful Orange Wine, you’ll note she even puts an orange wax capsule on it so you know what you are getting. The 2015, from a warm vintage is sweet fruited, but with savory/earthy tones and bright energy with a lovely pink/orange hue that some might confused with a Rose, until they taste it of course! Wonderfully deep and exotic with vibrant citrus, apple, cherry and baked peach fruits, along with saline, wet river stones, a hint of meatiness, leesy notes, dried white flowers, spices and flinty mineral. Grown in Campo Rotaliano by Marco Devigili on gravel, sand and alluvial soils, the Fuoripista, which means “another way or different path” with a view of nature was hand picked, native fermented on the skins as well as aged in clay pots (Spanish Amphorae) for 8 months, in similar fashion to ancient Georgian wines and more recently Giusto Occhipinti at COS. This brilliant and delicately nuanced wine has a dreamy texture and dry extract giving an almost tannic spine, this is a thinking persons wine and needs plenty of time to reveal itself and full personality, and while some orange wines can be funky and hard to love completely, this wine really pleases the palate and has impressive mouth feel and weight, but retaining a lightness and lift that intrigues and keeps your attention.
($40+ Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 29, 2017

2014 Love & Squalor, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley.
This beautiful and lushly textured Oregon Pinot has pretty detail and satiny mouth feel highlighting the vintage and terroir very well, and all this in a wine that costs under $25, I am thrilled with this Love & Squalor Pinot made by Portland Wine Company and certainly will be following this winery in the future. Winemaker Matt Berson’s tiny micro winery in Portland is making artful and fruit forward wines with great charm and personality, they are lively and vibrant too with balanced grace, the Willamette Valley Pinot especially. Berson has made wines around the world in places like New Zealand, Napa Valley, Germany and Argentina and he shows his travelled view well in his wines, he is gentile in cellar and this 2014 Willamette Valley Love & Squalor Pinot was aged 18 months in seasoned French barrique(s) allowing for lovely softness without losing it’s inner energy and without a shock of sweet toast, but with subtle oak shadings making this a pleasing medium bodied wine a joyous experience. Starting with floral notes and mineral tones the 2014 has a beautiful ruby/garnet color and a deep fruit core showing black cherry, plum and framboise as well as fig paste, nutmeg, dried violets, red spices, flinty gravel, faint saline, herbal tea and a touch of cola/sassafras. This Pinot is full of fruit and texture offering exciting layers, while still being easy to understand and enjoy, best to drink this fun and stylish wine over the next 2 to 5 years.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 28, 2017

2016 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Kabinett, Munsterer Rheinberg, Nahe Garmany.
Georg Rumpf’s beautiful set of 2016 Rieslings has many stars, but this lovely Munsterer Rheinberg Kabinett really shines with it’s delicate fruitiness and wonderful mineralite that makes it taste and feel drier than the label would suggest, this is fantastically balanced and joyous in total, a brilliant effort. Less dense than the 2015’s these 2016’s are more classic and lifted in profile, each are excellent vintages to savor, it’s really tough to pick between them, maybe it’s best to stock up on both, but the inner brightness in these new 2016 releases is really thrill the palate and can be appreciated for their brisk vitality, this is especially true here in this Kabinett. Grown on steep slopes the face a perfect south-east on weathered quartzite and sandy loam, this Rheinberg is a picturesque site that overlooks, from the top of vineyard, the Nahe, and onto the Rheingau’s Ruedesheimer Berg and to the Rheinhessen across the rivers, this area not far from Bingen is stunning place to visit, and I feel blessed to have been there during the 2016 harvest season, which will always have a special place in my heart. Rumpf crafted this Riesling with “sponti” native ferments and with some lees aging that gives texture, while the sugar adds a light sweetness and creamy mouth feel, though acidity and extract holds everything together in harmony and elegance, this is a very fine Riesling that has layers of white flowers, salty stones, green apple, lime, white peach and spice. A hint of tropical notes adds to the whole, but vigorous citrus, including tangerine, plus a touch fleshy apricot, bitter herbs and earthy melon come through with air. Kabinett Riesling should be on your radar in for this vintage, these and Feinherbs are some of the best wines of the vintage and great values, especially wines like this one, which is a Riesling that will provide rewarding drinking for 5 to 10 years!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 27, 2017

2016 Bonny Doon, Pinot Noir, Enz Vineyard, Cienega Valley.
The wine coming from this dry farmed old vine vineyard in Lime Kiln Valley on the eastern side of the Gabilan Mountains Range are bursting with natural energy and depth, this site is a special site set on decomposed granite and limestone soils makes for unique and richly flavored bottlings like this beauty of a Pinot Noir from Bonny Doon. Nicknamed “All’s Well that Enz Well” this young and fresh Pinot is gorgeous in detail and wonderfully textured with racy maraschino cherry, pretty floral tones, distilled raspberry and earthy wild plum and home garden mini strawberry fruits along with mineral essences, cinnamon, forest chanterelles, sticky lavender, sweet Thai basil and salty stones. Amazingly well put together already, the French barrels are ghosting into the background and the mouth feel is hedonistically pleasing with an almost creaminess, but it’s the vibrancy and intensity of fruit that charms and seduces here in this lovely wine. Lively acidity lifts this Pinot and holds the lush fruit in check, look for a more classic profile to slowly to emerge with time in the bottle, in fact you can already see elements that can be compared to Nuits Saint-Georges and while tannins are refined and silky there is a lot of potential here. Tasted with a full set of Randall Grahm’s current releases all of which shined, I needed a day of two to reflect on just how good this Enz Vineyard Pinot is, and while it is mainly a Bonny Doon Club wine you can get it at their Davenport tasting room, which I highly recommend you do, it’s great now, but should get even more complex and thrilling in the course of the next 5 to 10 years in bottle. Honestly, this might be one of the best reds by this winery, especially Pinot that they’ve done in recent years, and this vineyard is certainly one of the un-sung heroic sites in the central coast, mostly known for their 92 year old Mourvedre vines, of which I’ve fallen in love with in Ian Brand’s awesome version. Bonny Doon is making some of the best wines ever, there is no resting on his laurels with Randall Grahm and he is continuing his exploration of the un-traditional and weird with fantastic results, it’s a great time to rediscover this winery!
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 26, 2017

2016 Theopolis Vineyards, Rose of Petite Sirah, Estate Grown, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
More serious than refreshing this Rose of Petite Sirah is bursting with flavors and why brisk and dry it is filled with fruit and has a rich palate, it’s a decedent pink that is perfect for fall cuisine and warm afternoons. Theodora Lee’s Theopolis Vineyards makes and grows some of the state’s most exciting Petite Sirah, her vines have graced the bottle of Carlisle in the past and now are killing it in Paul Gordon’s Halcon Vineyards single vineyard bottling, grown on the steep hills high above the Anderson Valley in the Yorkville Highlands, it makes for a great site for this unique grape, and Lee’s Rose is bright and detailed with loads of character. Intense gemstone ruby/garnet in the glass, you know this is a not a shy style Rose, it delivers distilled raspberry, wild strawberry, dried rose petals, watermelon, tangy cherry and cranberry as well as mixed snappy herbs and spices lingering on with a dense fruity mouth feel. While not delicate or light, this wine will gain a whole new wave of pink fans that want a bit more substance without cloying sweetness and is brilliant with more robust dinners themes and foods, it was direct pressed and comes in at 13.2% alcohol, so it’s not flabby, and it aged in well seasoned French barriques for a short period, only 95 cases were made. It’s firm acidity adds to the lift and vibrancy, helping to cut the fruity and forward nature here, it reminds me of Tavel Rose from the Rhone Valley and many Italian Rosatos that have a bigger profile, it was a pleasure to sip this one poolside after a long and vigorous hike, and it grew on me with every sip, and reminded me that this is a winery to keep an eye on, Lee’s wines are quality efforts, especially her Petite Sirah.
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 25, 2017

2015 Domaine Clotaire Michel, Beaujolais-Villages, La Napoleon, France.
Wow, this is great stuff, one of my favorite under $20 bottles of the year so far, what a value, those that like Foillard or Lapierre will want to get moving quickly to score this fabulous Beaujolais-Village from rising star Cloture Michel, who has worked at some famous addresses and who makes all natural style wines from a unique terroir. After working at the top notch Languedoc estate Clos Marie, Cloture Michel then headed to Cornas to work five years with the legend Thierry Allemand, and now crafts Cru quality Gamays from plots, that like Fleurie, are set on pink granite, sand and quartz with some vines that are over a hundred years old. His parcels are in the south of Brouilly, near the small town of St. Etienne la Varenne, his vines face south and have lots of age to give maximum flavor. Michel’s 2015 La Napoleon is utterly fantastic with amazing and deep perfume, earthy spiciness and gorgeous dark fruits as well as vibrant inner energy and natural acidity, it’s a medium bodied effort with satiny class, but with subtle rustic charms, it highlights it’s terroir perfectly and shows off the vintage’s ripe and joyous force. How a 12% alcohol wine can show this much complexity and depth tells you something about the winemaker and the quality of the grapes in this beautiful wine, it has the same level of pleasure and grace found in Dutraive’s Domaine de la Grand Cour, which is saying a lot, trust me this is awesome stuff! The Domaine Clotaire Michel Beaujolais-Villages La Napoleon Cuvee 2015 starts with intense crushed violets, lilacs, incense and leathery/earthy tones along with racy black currants which leads to a vivid palate of plum, black cherry, strawberry and marionberry along with walnut oil, saline, black licorice as well as hints of mineral, zesty gauva, red peach and flinty stones. This all organic Gamay rocks, and at this price is stupid good, it was whole cluster fermented, native yeasts were used, everything done with gentile care, but in an old school way with an ancient vertical press using neutral cask and tank for elevage and the wine is unfined and unfiltered with extremely low sulfur. This was an impressive discovery, and another intriguing producer imported by Balanced Wine Selections, be sure to get this one while you can, it’s the real deal!
($19 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 24, 2017

2013 Dos Lagos Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley.
Tom and Marcie Dinkel’s Dos Lagos Vineyards high on Atlas Peak is a tiny estate vineyard, farmed by famed vineyard manager Hector Lopez (ex-Caymus, Switchback Ridge and Padis) and handcrafted wines made by ex-Pride man Robert Foley, is always a pleasure to taste, and this 2013 is a huge and opulent Cabernet that perfectly translates vintage and place, this is pure mountain Napa in the glass with textural richness and incredibly deep and dark flavors. Grown on volcanic tuff, compressed ancient ash, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is filled with dense fruit, especially blackberry, plum, cherry and sweet currant in the form of creme de cassis as well as sweet scents of acacia, vanilla and toasty barrel, mocha and cola bean as well as ripe gripping tannin, spicy cigar wrapper, flinty mineral. A light dusting of coco, liquid violets, cedar and sage adds to the hedonism found in this massive wine, this full bodied effort is loaded and should give years of pleasure filled drinking, maybe decades, though with a vintage like 2013 you’ll want to enjoy them younger than the more cooly/firm structured 2014’s that should prove legendary as well, it would be tough to chose between them, and even though I find the vibrancy of 2014 hard to resist, these 2013 have fantastic luxurious presence and almost pornographic impact! I’ve been a fan of Dos Lagos Vineyards for almost a decade and this small winery never fails to impress and even at 15.5% this wine delivers a balanced feel, it’s extremely sexy and shows a remarkable intensity, while lavish and lush it has lots of life inside, showcasing it’s mountain terroir. Aged 23 months in 50% French oak, this wines natural tannin has been tamed and polished, but I was excited by the inner energy and vitality, something that is missing in some high-end Napa 2013 Cabernets, it also resists that dry port element that sometimes makes a warm vintage too much of a good thing, Dos Lagos Vineyards got this one nearly perfect. Dos Lagos recently added a couple of interesting white wines sourced from other sites, this includes a Chardonnay with an amazing story to tell and a Kent Jarman (Joie de Vivre, Kenefick Ranch, Joseph Kent and Coup de Foudre) made Calistoga Sauvignon Blanc. Dos Lagos Vineyards sells mostly direct, be sure to check them out and their estate Cabernet Sauvignon that compares well with the modern offerings from Cade, Plumpjack Reserve, Hourglass Estate and Caymus Special Selection.
($125 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 23, 2017

2014 Albatross Ridge, Pinot Noir, Cuvee Vivienne, Estate Grown, Carmel Valley, Monterey County.
Another wonderful effort from Garrett Bowlus and his Albatross Ridge Vineyards Estate in Carmel Valley grown on the slopes just west of the Los Laureles Grade on chalky rocky soils, this Cuvee Vivianne is a bit softer and spicy than the majestic Reserve, but still beautiful in detail and such a great value, this is not a wine to miss. This vintage has really raised the game for the tiny Carmel Valley region in Monterey County and has firmly put Pinot Noir in pole position of red grapes in this area, with Albatross Ridge drawing even greater attention and scoring well in the national wine press, eclipsing the best scores ever from this place for these 2014 wines, with both of the Pinots and the Chardonnay making an impact. The Cuvee Vivianne is bursting with energy and immediately pushes out perfume, resiny notes, shaved cinnamon and kirsch before opening up to a very Burgundy like palate with black cherry, tangy plum, distilled strawberry and cranberry fruits along with dusty stones, saline, peppery notes and a kiss of smoky sweet French oak, lingering on with a touch of ripe raspberry, vanilla and herb as well as dried rose petal and a hint of snappy lavender. This medium bodied Pinot has a firm mouth feel and lift, but there’s still a pleasing creamy lushness that comes through with air in the glass and it’s hard to look away from the pretty ruby/garnet hue, this is just a few notches below the Reserve, which is not a bad thing or unfair, it’s just a touch more rustic, or raw, though very compelling and soulful, it took me a bit more time to reflect on this one, but in the end I was charmed and want more, drink this Albatross Ridge Cuvee Vivianne 2014 Pinot Noir over the next 3 to 5 years, it’s just now really hitting it’s stride and even more impressive than when I fist sampled it, tasted twice, it has gained form and depth in the six months since the last time I had it.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 22, 2017

2014 Bonny Doon, Le Cigare Blanc Reserve, Beeswax Vineyard, Arroyo Seco.
Like chasing windmills, Randall Grahm has for years tried to bring white Rhone varietals to greater attention, and while the mainstream hasn’t brought Roussanne, Marsanne or Grenache Blanc to it’s bosom, his Le Cigare Blanc, about 60% Grenache Blanc & 40% Roussanne, is one of California’s great white wines, and especially this latest Reserve version from the 2014 vintage which absolutely rocks and is mind blowingly sexy! The 2014 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc Reserve, made from organic Grenache Blanc and Roussanne is a unique and deep wine with fascinating layers that takes time to unwind and seduces in slow delicacy with beautiful and earthy charm showing white flowers, leesy richness, tree picked white stone fruits, a touch of tropical essence, earthy cheesy notes, snappy spices and almond butter. This gorgeous and lively wine has wondrous and magical detail with heavenly mouth feel, this wine has serious palate expression, just be sure it isn’t too cool (in the glass) and that you give it time to open, 20 minutes after being open it takes on an amazing inner perfume and depth revealing white violet, wet stones, lemon/lime and apricot along with a hint of peppery herbs and liquid mineral. The texture gains too with air, but stays lithe with a touch of Roussanne oily density which makes your eyes roll back in your head without being flabby, it’s lifted with a tangerine brightness, this is otherworldly good. Grahm employs extended lees elevage in carboys, glass vessels, that gets a bit of stirring during the extra aging of this wine, adding a fullness and complexity that put this wine in a class of it’s own, more than a decade ago I took notice of Tablas Creek’s Esprit Blanc and said this was the future of great California whites, well that may have falling on def ears, but certainly whether or not anyone is listening this 2014 Le Cigare Blanc Reserve is without question one of the best wines of the year! A recent visit to Area 51, I mean Davenport, just north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1, proved an eye opening experience, not just for UFO’s and piloting flying saucers, I tasted many unique wines at Bonny Doon’s fun and unpretentious tasting room, these included one of my personal favs, Grahm’s Picpoul, as well as a brilliant vintage 2009 X-Block Syrah, a earthy old world style Carignane & Mourvedre blend called Cunning and the thrilling Enz Vineyard dry farmed Pinot Noir, plus a fantastic late harvest Grenache Blanc known as Vinferno, you need to make this pilgrimage too, and do not miss Randall’s Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc like Le Cigare Blanc Reserve, it’s a stunning effort that will age gracefully for a decade.
($54 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 21, 2017

2016 Weingut von Winning, Riesling Trocken, Diedesheimer Paradiesgarten, Erste Lage, Pfalz Germany.
Von Winning’s gloriously brisk Paradiesgarten Premier Cru dry Riesling is a killer wine, one of the top values of the year with intense layers of vibrant fruit, mineral tones, lifting acidity and powerful natural extract, making this a serious offering that is very close to Grosses Gewachs in style, substance and quality. Von Winning’s 2016 dry Riesling lineup is a stellar set of wines, following their mind blowing and exotic 2015’s, these 2016 are more elegant, structured and classic Pfalz, both vintages will certainly be legends and should not be missed, especially in the 2016 set I recommend this Diedesheimer Paradiesgarten 1er Cru, as well as the Grand Crus Kalkofen, Pechstein and the world’s most expensive Riesling vineyard Kirchenstuck in particular for collectors. Von Winning is really a unique treasure in the Pfalz, they are inspired by the best wines of Burgundy and with their dry and rich feel they do have that character, Stephan Attman and his team even farm their Riesling from historic plots in Forst, Deidesheim and Ruppertsberg like they do in the Cote d’Or, they practice organic farming and in the cellar they use plenty of oak and native ferments in 500ml French barrels, everything is gravity flow and the handling is extremely gentile and careful, the wine spends and extended period on it’s lees, which delivers amazing texture and mouth feel without losing the vitality you’d expect from Riesling. The Pfalz is a mostly limestone terroir, but this Paradiesgarten has loess, loam and red sandstone at it’s core which adds to the complexity and gives plenty of fresh yellow fruit on the palate, this 2016 version has a Premier Cru Chablis like soul with a steely essence and a dusting of saline, chalk dust and flinty spices, it’s tightly wound, but opens nicely with subtle brioche, expansion exceeds expectations in this vigorous wine revealing lemon/lime, kiwi, tangerine, salty brine, wet stones, tart apricot, verbena, green apple skin, liquid mineral, white flowers, thai basil, white cherry along with lingering peach, mango, rosewater and faint among oil. This is a crisp Riesling with dynamic energy and tangy fresh detail, it will go ages and has an inner grace and charm that thrills and seduces with every sip, it give perfect insight into the house style and is a gateway to von Winning’s top Cru Grosses Gewachs. Von Winning makes some of the world’s great white wines, of course Riesling as you’d assume, but don’t over look their Sauvignon Blanc, it’s a game changer for this varietal, over the last decade this estate has rocketed to the very top echelons of producers, if you haven’t had von Winning you are missing out! Imported by Riesling guru Terry Theise and Skurnik Wines, von Winning continues to amaze with every new vintage, I’m very grateful to von Winning’s Andreas Hutwohl for his patience and kindness for showing me his wines, the added insights and clarity of thought comes from his knowledge and passion, thanks my friend. The 2016 Paradiesgarten should be available now in most markets, be sure to get it while you can, it’s a do not miss wine, drink this beauty over the next decade, it’s an impressive terroir driven Riesling that kicks ass for the price!
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive