Monthly Archives: October 2017

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 31, 2017

2015 Château des Rontets, Pouilly-Fuissé, Clos Varambon, White Burgundy, Maconnais, France.
This gorgeous Chardonnay is one of the great examples of this once lesser thought off region, where as old vine Maconnais Chardonnay is now some of the most sought after white Burgundy, and Château des Rontets is one of the best offering amazing wines that show wonderful detail, depth and stylish elegance, with even their base Clos Varambon bottling giving a performance worthy of a Chassagne or Puligny! Beautifully fresh and vital the 2015 Château des Rontets Pouilly-Fuissé Clos Varambon shows delightful apple/pear, citrus and white peach fruits, white flowers, clear mineralite and wet stones along with a light golden hue in the glass as well as a fine textured mouth feel with a sexy leesy and chalky character. Look for this to gain with age too, but it certainly won’t need it, it offers lots of quality and grace right now, this is what a good Chardonnay tastes like, pure and simple, this beauty imported by Floraison Selections, is worth searching out. Château des Rontets uses tiny Clos(s) each vineyard is walled and set on limestone soils, they are all organic, with winemakers/owners Claire Gazeau and Fabio Montrasi (husband and wife) focused on making terroir driven and transparent with gentile touch and non-interventionist methods in the cellar. This is glorious Pouilly-Fuissé and even in a warmer year it shows freshness and vibrancy, if you want a slightly more intense version their 2014’s are stunning wines though they might be harder to find now. If you are looking for a great bottle of white Burgundy and at a fair price this Pouilly-Fuissé by Château des Rontets is hard to beat! I love this stuff.
($33 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 30, 2017

2015 Halcon Vineyards, Syrah, Alturas, Yorkville Highlands.
From tiny yields and intense berries the 40% whole cluster Alturas Syrah, co-fermented with a small batch of Viognier, is a vigorous and deeply flavored wine that at 13.5% alcohol feels denser and fuller than it is, with incredible layering and length. This a magical hand-crafted cool climate Cote-Rotie inspired Syrah that would make Bernard Levet (one of my favorite Northern Rhone producers) proud! And with this high elevation site, it is actually on par with Ampuis (the northern Rhone town closest to Cote-Rotie vineyards) temperature wise if not cooler. This is one of my new favorite must have wines, it’s a brilliant Syrah, hand-crafted by Scott Shapely, winemaker at Roar, it comes off schist and shale soils and gets a blast of cold Pacific breezes and low night time temps that helps with lively acids and flinty spiciness. This 2015 is concentrated and firm, it will reward the patient no question, Paul Gordon’s Halcon Vineyards Alturas is an amazing Syrah that delivers dark black fruits, salted licorice, grilled herbs, crushed stones and lovely liquid violets with a palate that is nervy/edgy and with exceptional length, lingering with gorgeous floral tones, blueberry compote, boysenberry, briar and cassis. If you still haven’t got on Halcon’s mailing list, try this wine and join up, you’ll not want to miss out, the price v. quality here is outrageously good and this wine rocks, as does their Tierra Petite Sirah (done Rhone style with lots of whole cluster) from an awesome single vineyard in Mendocino County, it might be the very best example of Durif I’ve ever had! Check them out, before they sell out of 2015’s.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 29, 2017

2012 Joyce Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Russell’s Vineyard, Estate, Carmel Valley.
An impressive Bordeaux like performance from Russell Joyce’s estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, recently tasted at Joyce Vineyards Carmel Valley tasting room, this library selection showing fine form and structure, gaining more fruit definition with air along with traditionally gripping/powerful tannins that seem to be integrating and allowing layers of detail to show through. Bright sweet dark fruits, light acacia flowers and earthy loam lead the way with mouth tingling intensity with blackberry, plum/mulberry, tangy currant and juicy cherry fruits flow across the medium full palate as well as spicy tobacco leaf and cedar notes add savory contrast. Faint green and graphite elements remind you of the Medoc, as does the firm mouth feel, this is a wine with a ripe core that keeps trying to take control, without quite getting there, the tense battle between the tannin and fruit looks to continue for a few more years without an ultimate winner, so best to enjoy this wine serious cuisine to bring out the best here, again similar to Chateau Pape Clement in Pessac Leognan and or maybe more like Chateau Montrose’s Saint-Estephe La Dame de Montrose the estate’s second label. Grown not far from the Carmel Valley Village this tiny hillside vineyard gets plenty of sun, but still feels cheerfully fresh with cool climate acidity, it certainly doesn’t get thickly opulent, it has a more austere presence in the glass to go with it’s opaque garnet/purple color, it’s an old school and slightly rustic Cabernet Sauvignon that delivers a well made value. The dusty, spicy and stoney character is a throwback to a different era, one that intrigues and beguiles as well does the lingering blueberry, minty herb, anise, smoky oak and violette, drink this one between 2018 and 2022. Joyce is making a stunning array of wines from dry Riesling, Syrah, Chardonnay and an awesome set of single vineyard Pinots to a powerful group of Cabernets, Mourvedre and Bordeaux blends from a variety of sites in Monterey County and San Benito County, this is a winery on the move and the passion and hark work show up clearly in these wines.
($44 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 28, 2017

2013 Domaine Simon Bize, Sauvigny-Les-Beaune, Les Bourgeots, Red Burgundy, France.
Domaine Simon Bize, now run by Chisa Bize after the recent passing of Patrick Bize, is still a very much in demand estate offering wines that over deliver for the price and the terroir, imported by The Source Imports, these wines are desirable and alluring with earthy charms and impressive stuffing, especially the basic village Lieu-Dits, like this Les Bourgeots from the Cote de Beaune region of Savigny-Les-Beaune. Brilliant in hue and with a beautiful nose of earthy floral notes and red fruits which leads to a medium palate that is wonderfully textured and full flavored with complex layers and slightly rustic/brambly in profile with surprising grip and structure for wine that is not a Premier Cru or Grand Cru, it gains mouth feel with air and turns on the sex appeal with pretty plum, black cherry and framboise as well as damp earth, loamy/stones, saline and wild herbs and rose petals along with hints of graphite, anise, dusty spices and a touch of smoky vanilla/oak. This is really well rounded, focused and lovely, especially for the vintage, and digging further into the details finds that the Les Bourgeots, which tastes more like Pommard than Savigny, is set on stony soils over clay, this helps explain why this village lieu-dit has so much depth and richness, this is a red Burgundy that has a real and impressive impact, this is a wine that is everything we love about Burgundy, but interestingly it also shows how great and elegant Pinot Noir is getting in the new world, I mean if you love Burgundy and taste this wine you’ll be thrilled, and you’ll be equally impressed by wines like Cobb, Littorai, Peay, Hirsh and Wayfarer in the Sonoma Coast, Drew Family Cellars, Balo, Paxton, Anthill Farms, Halcon and The Princess & the Peasant in Mendocino County, as well as what you finding in cooler sites in Monterey with Lucia/Pisoni, Joyce and Albatross Ridge being just a few that should be taken seriously as well as Sandhi, Brewer-Clifton, La Voix, Melville and many others in the Sta Rita Hills. Not forgetting Oregon, a place where the Burgundians are investing in a huge way, the Willamette Valley is almost a little French colony! That said, if it wasn’t for such wines like this beautiful Simon Bize Savigny-Les-Beaune we’d have no reference points, this is a wine to savor and cherish, while the 2014 and 2015 look to be better years to have in the cellar, this 2013 is a sleeper and drinking wonderfully, best from 2017 to 2022.
($56 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 27, 2017

2014 Chateau Tour Grise, Cuvée 253, Vin de France Rouge, Saumur, Loire Valley, France.
One of the first generation of biodynamic converts in the Loire along with the more well known Nicolas Joly and others, Philippe Gourdon founded his own domaine in 1990 and got biodynamic certified in 1998 after farming his own single plot in Saumur with hand cared for passion. It was with joyous expectation that I got to taste this last release of his Tour Grise Cuvée 253 Cabernet Franc a deep and authentic wine of glorious natural detail and complexity with earthy/rustic charm as well as purity of form and place, it is a glorious example of varietal and terroir in the same realm as the greats of the region. The Cuvée 253 is Gourdon’s single vineyard Cabernet Franc, he also does a Chenin Noir (Pineau d’Aunis) as well, it was native yeast fermented and has non sulfur added, unfined and unfiltered, even vegans will love this one as it was stated that it is made according to vegan principals, and aging is done just long enough to retain freshness, but to allowing rewarding long aging as well. Imported by Floraison Selections, the Cuvée 253 Tour Grise, all from Saumur AOC fruit, even though not labeled as such, from the La Tour Grise estate, which is only a total of 20 Hectares, starts with a deep garnet/red color in the glass with a bouquet of earthy violets, green spices, chalky stones and wild berry notes before a sturdy palate of blackberry, mulberry, cranberry and dusty cherry fruits with a hint of plum, sandalwood, cedar, bell pepper, flinty spice and saline infused black licorice. Lovely finesse and fine grained tannins show the ultra care and handcrafting that went into this beautiful Cabernet Franc, this is wonderfully dry and lightly grippy stuff with a medium weight body and vivid intensity, this is a thrilling wine that delivers an overkill for the price! Drink this one over the next 5 to 10 years, there isn’t any reason not to drink it young, but I think if cellared well it will go a long way, best to have with country inspired cuisine that is not fussy and that has robust flavors.
($26 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 26, 2017

2016 Theopolis Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.
A new wine from Theodora Lee and long time Roar winemaker and Santa Lucia Highlands specialist Ed Kurtzman, the 2016 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot is a small batch wine, only 110 cases from select sites in the Highlands, and it’s a gem of a Pinot Noir with lush and youthful flavors that showcases the vintage perfectly. This ripe unfiltered and unfined Theopolis SLH Pinot is vibrant and vivid hiding it’s 14.6% alcohol and density very well, in fact this pretty wine, fermented in small bins with gentile handling and aged in 40% 1 year old French oak that gives a hint smoky sweetness and 60% in well seasoned neutral barrels, and it drinks beautiful. The sultry and soulful Theopolis Vineyard Pinot shines brightly in the glass with a ruby/claret hue and seductive red fruits, snappy spicy notes, subtle earthy elements and ultra smooth/luxurious textures, starting with raspberry, black cherry, wild strawberry and plum fruits, light floral notes, briar/bramble, loam, baking spices, a touch of mocha and liquid rose petals. There’s a lot to like here and this is a winery to watch, I love their Petite Sirah from Theodora’s own estate vineyard best, but the whole lineup is an outstanding set of wines. This wine should gain mouth feel and silkiness over the next year in bottle, but certainly it will be a Pinot you’ll want to enjoy especially in it’s youth, I like it’s juicy lift and open nature, it will be best between 2018 and 2022 and will be a good food wine, in particular ahi tuna tartare, cajun style blackened salmon and earthy mushroom dishes.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 25, 2017

2016 Agathe Bursin, Riesling “Dirstelberg” Alsace, France.
Brilliantly dry and dusty crisp the pale golden/straw hued 2016 Agathe Bursin Dirstelberg Riesling sings a sirens song with a haunting and alluring beauty with lithe vibrancy, textured mouth feel and mineral charms. I have been trying to get my hands on Bursin’s wines for years, they have been difficult to find in the states, especially in California, I had heard good things and I was not disappointed, a big thank you to Vinopolis Wine Shop in Portland Oregon for having such a good range of her wines, I know I’ll be ordering more, the style is brisk and sharp with loads of inner energy and delicacy of form, but with good dry extract and depth of flavor. Impressively austere in an age of over the top fruitiness, Agathe’s Distelberg is very lifted and tangy fresh with clear and transparent focus and intensity, grown on pink sandstone this Riesling reminds me of trocken (dry) Muller-Catoir (Riesling) from the Pfalz (also on sandstone) over the border in Germany in some ways with it’s chalky/stony elements and it’s lean profile. The nose is still shy at this point with citrus, saline, loam and faint rose water start things here before a light bodied palate of lime, white peach, spring melon, unripe apple, earthy loam and verbena as well as wet rock, briny/salty oyster shell and lemongrass. Picks up a bit of tangerine, tart apricot and spicy chamomile with air, but stays racy with lots of verve from fine acidity that pumps from start to finish in this great value single vineyard wine. Agatha Bursin has been making wine since 2000 and is proving herself to be a huge talent, and is an exciting small producer in the Alsace region, she tends and farms by hand and uses organic methods as well as leaning towards biodynamic treatments in the vines, as far as I can tell she is a traditionally minded winemaker and cares deeply for terroir expression in her lovely wine(s). This 2016 Distelberg Riesling is a soulful and wonderful with food, I really enjoyed it with sushi, but it would great also with oysters, mussels and clams and or cheeses, cured meats or as a aperitif even, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 24, 2017

2015 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Franc, Bates Ranch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Grown on the dust reds soils of Bates Ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains Ian Brand’s latest release of Cabernet Franc reveals itself as a sexy California version of this varietal with layers of flavors that are neither Bordeaux or Loire in inner resemblance, but offers a bit of each to the whole in this beautiful wine from one of Monterey’s huge talents. The 2015 I. Brand & Family Winery Cabernet Franc Bates Ranch Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains starts with a deep garnet/red hue in the glass with a bouquet that shines with crushed violets/lilacs, green peppercorns, incense and earthy/leather notes along with a kiss of sweet/smoky oak before a medium/firm palate of black cherry, plum, red vine picked berries and a touch of crabapple fruit as well as minty herb, faint bell pepper, straw, iron dust/stoniness and anise. Still youthfully sharp and focused with juicy acidity this forceful wine has hidden reserves of depth and power, but unfolds delicately and with almost St.-Emillon charm and grace, it’s sweet ripe natural offset by it’s intensity and ridged tannin that somehow doesn’t over shadow the supple textured mouth feel and poise! Bright and lingering with an alluring sense of being and place this Cab Franc is a perfect bookend for Ian Brand’s more Chinon like Bayly Ranch Paicines, San Benito version of the same grape, it is hard to favor one over the other, though stylistically this one is prettier at this early stage, certainly I would want both around and I myself will get a few of each to see how they age. Brand is something of a vineyard whisperer and pays serious attention to dirt, as in soils, and his understand winemaking allows for terroir to be the driving force behind his wines, I am in awe of his Cabernet Franc(s), his Monte Bello Road Cabernet Sauvignon and his almost sold out old vine Mourvedre. Also, he is making quite a name for himself in the geeky world of Grenache and his latest old vine Besson Vineyard is must for Grenache/Garnacha freaks! With tiny production numbers, well below a hundred cases of each version Ian’s Cab Francs are get now bottings and you’ll need to track them down, now available direct through their Carmel Valley tasting room (831-359-9834) they should prove rewarding to the patient, best from 2018 to 2025, maybe longer, I intend to find out.
($38 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 23, 2017

2014 Pandol, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills.
Wow, this is getting better each time I taste it, Jenny Pandol killed it in 2014 with her fabulous Rita’s Crown (made with clones 777 and 115) Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir that has gained so much in the last few months that it is way beyond my own high expectations, it’s sweet and stylish palate has filled out without losing any of it’s fantastic energy and vitality! Only 200 Cases were made of this stunning vintage and at 13.4% this might be the best balanced of her last few vintages, it is singing right now with dusty rose petals, vibrant red fruits and clear mineralite and complex layers, it’s silky texture is heavenly and it’s lifted lively acidity gives a thoughtful peakiness, while remaining satiny smooth. The bright ruby/garnet hue is enticing as are the aromatics of wilted roses, Asian spices and pretty cherry cola that lead you to a full flavored palate of black cherry, plum and wild raspberry fruits along with strawberry liqueur, nutmeg, sweet fig and light toasty oak shadings, as well as a burst of blood orange, earth and tea spices. Lingering blue and red fruits, anise and saline add to the complexity found here, this is gorgeous and amazingly delicate/textured stuff! After almost ten vintages, this talented winemaker looks to be calling it quits to start a new adventure in her life, I wish her well and want her to know she’ll be missed in the wine world, she started by making small lots of Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot, from top sites like the Schultze Family Vineyards (Windy Oaks Estate) and Alfaro Family Vineyards, before moving to Ventura and sourcing from Rita’s Crown, next to Sea Smoke, in the Sta. Rita Hills, as well as doing a Carneros bottling in between. Limited amounts of 2012 Carneros as well as 2013 Sta. Rita Hills are now being re-released too, both very good and drinking well right now. This 2014 is her (Jenny Pandol) ending on a high note, thank you Jenny for such beautiful and soulful wines, I suggest heading to her website at and getting this one before it’s gone, it looks set to be a rewarding wine for years to come, best from 2018 to 2026. (Note: This wine was tasted and reviewed before it’s release here at, and this review 10/23/17 was from two recently sourced bottles, and needed an updated comment, as the wine has got so much better it deserved a new/fresh look)
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 22, 2017

2015 Francesco Brigatti, Vespolina “Maria” Colline Novaresi, Northern Piedmonte, Italy.
Vesplina is a rare native grape to the Northern Piedmonte and is usually found in field blends in the Ghemme, Bramaterra and Boca zones of the Colline Novaresi and usually a small part player in reds that feature Nebbiolo and Barbera. Vespolina is like Ruche without the heavenly floral intensity, it makes for an interesting solo grape wine that has a similar feel to Nebbiolo, but lighter and brighter, though in a vintage like 2013 and 2015 it can be a bit more ripe and dense, as this beautiful version by Francesco Brigatti, this is a stylish and natural wine that is absolutely pure and delicious. Grown on sandy soils over clay, Brigatti’s Vespolina shows fine detail and fruity richness, it’s certainly full in flavors without holes anywhere on the medium bodied palate that shows brandied cherries, plum, minty herbs, light stoniness and mineral as well as spicy raspberry, cinnamon stick, basil/anise and finishes crispy/peppery with lingering kirsch and potpourri. Brigatti, is a new star of the Alto Piedmonte (A region that is on fire right now with a stunning array of wines) and his wines, the ones I’ve tasted so far have been brilliant efforts, and this one is a steal, it’s a high quality red that thrills and stays focused and brisk, there’s no wood used at all here, this is as mentioned just a briskly pure Vespolina, stainless tank fermented and aged, 7 months, it picks up terroir/earthy notes with air, but keeps the tangy fruit pumping throughout, best with food and slightly rustic cuisine, drink over the next 2 to 3 years.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive