Monthly Archives: November 2017

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 30, 2017

2012 Weingut Dr. Loosen, Riesling Trocken, Grosses Gewachs Reserve, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Alte Reben, Mosel Germany.
Ernst Loosen is an innovator and a traditionalist, he is a constant force in the wine world, leading the charge for Germany’s great wines, both sweet and dry, but he has in recent years been a champion for education, especially highlighting the Dry Rieslings of the Mosel, mostly in America, trying to rewire our brains to understand the glories of this varietal and it’s history. His cause is just and his work relentless, he is joined in this mission by other great winemakers including Johannes Leitz, Wilhelm Weil, Philipp Witmann and Caroline Diel just to name a few, they are focused on showing the world that dry Riesling deserve their place at the table. Dr. Loosen is taking it to another level and stepping up his game with a new series of Grand Cru wines, a set Dry Rieslings from unique old vine plots that are native yeast fermented in large oak cask and aged 24 months on the lees, without batonage, this Dr. Loosen GGR collection now comprising the three distinct terroirs and the three finest sites of the estate — Wehlener Sonnenuhr (blue slate soil), Ürziger Würzgarten (red volcanic sandstone) and Erdener Prälat (red slate). I sat down with a panel of Riesling experts not long ago, including the Herr Dr. Loosen, and tasted many Grosses Gewachs from top estates, including this 2012 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Grosses Gewächs RESERVE Alte Reben, which I can tell is a very distinct wine, iconic even, I would compare it in some ways to Trimbach’s Clos St. Hune! The extended aging, 24 months in cask and 1 year in bottle, add to the refined nature of this 2012, which was a beautiful vintage and give this wine it’s soul, adding layers of texture and flavors, it’s extra Ruhe (rest in German) really delivers intensity and depth, while the natural acidity and slate driven mineral is not lost in the aging, in fact Loosen feels, surprisingly, that it is actually enhanced and my notes confirm this. Having been an early convert, I love these lees aged Rieslings, I’ve reviewed many gorgeous examples from von Winning and love the GG’s from Leitz, Spreitzer, Kruger-Rumpf, Diel and others. This 2012 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Grosses Gewächs RESERVE Alte Reben starts with rich details and vivid steely mineralite, gaining body and density of extract with air this is brilliant stuff and a worthy standard barer of this style of wine, it has got plenty to admire and structure to age with beautiful white flowers, brioche, wet rock, mixed herbs, flinty spices to go along with round green apple, apricot, melon/lime and kumquat fruits. This lengthy wine, finishing with smoky shale and sweet/tangy tangerine, is an excitingly vibrant dry Riesling that is pure class and is a no brainer for the Riesling enthusiast, it should prove to be a blue chip collectors item, rewarding anyone that wants a stellar wine to pull out of the cellar, drink anytime, though best guess on window would be from 2020 to 2030!
($60-75 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 29, 2017

2015 Joyce Vineyards, Grenache, Ventana Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
A wine that really delivers for the price, as do all of the new Joyce releases, this Ventana Vineyard Grenache 2015 from Russell Joyce is a full and deep Rhone style red that flows with lively pure Grenache fruit that fills out on the wide and ripe palate in a smooth and opulent fashion. Backed up with freshness, from natural acidity, mixed spices and light mineral tones this wine puts in a wonderful performance and is just coming out of it’s youthful shell, it reminds me of a Cotes Catalans (western Languedoc) or a Terra Alta Garnacha (north eastern Spain) with it’s rich texture, varietal focus, delicate floral elements and a dry port sexiness. Joyce’s new releases are an eye opening set of wines and show some the dynamism of the region and potential of this new generation of winemaking and winemakers in Monterey County, their new set of Pinots from the 2016 are gorgeous wines, especially the Gabilan, which looks to be legendary, certainly one of the best wines of the year, but their Cabernet, dry Riesling, steely Tondre Chardonnay, their Syrah and this Grenache should not be overlooked. In fact this Grenache followed that great Gabilan, and still it shined, it offers a full mouth of boysenberry, briar laced strawberry, cassis and morello cherry fruits gaining a nice plummy density without getting flabby or syrupy, lifted by pepper, cinnamon and subtle earthy/stoniness. Very polished and mildly tannic this should really continue to get better over the next 3 to 5 years in bottle, this dark seductive purple/garnet Joyce Ventana Vineyard Grenache gives a thrill for the buck, great also with flavorful cuisine and Holiday fare.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 28, 2017

nv Silwervis, Chenin Blanc “Smiley V2” Western Cape, South Africa.
Paardeberg mountain fruit forms the soul of Ryan Mostert’s, Silwervis winemaker, natural old vine non-vintage Chenin V2 Smiley, coming off 46 year old vines set on granite, with wines for this version were selected from four different vintages spanning 2013-2016. The wine is matured in a combination of seasoned oak, stainless steel and glass demijohn (like Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Reserve Le Cigare Blanc) with some of the lots being crafted similarly to what is found in the Jura (France) and the Sherry region of Jerez, Spain with some living under the flor! This wild Chenin, lightly clouded golden in color, is absolutely unique, without any additions of any kind, this really is a quirky white that shows purposely oxidative and maderized elements to go along with the your fresher components that kind of drives the palate crazy! It starts with a hint of leather, peach and stony elements with a touch of exotic Marsala before getting taught and vigorous on the palate with grilled citrus, quince, pear and white fig as well as light almond and wet rock. Light/medium in bodied with some dried fruit notes, this white is a great tapas wine with it’s subtle fino sherry and rainwater madeira meets Saumur character and I can imagine it with grilled sardines, salty small plates and especially sheep cheeses. This is cool earthy stuff that gains with air and food, it takes you on a walk of the wild side, and I can’t wait to try more of Ryan’s wines, drink this now.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 27, 2017

2014 Domaine de l’Écu, Cabernet Franc “Mephisto” Vin de France, Loire Valley, France.
The wild Fred Niger amphora raised Cabernet Franc Mephisto Rouge is a thrill ride of deep red flavors that takes your palate on journey to some dark and mysterious places, be afraid, very afraid, there’s no undoing of the magic that happens here, I adore this amazing expression of Cab Franc, it has a tremendous presence and purity, kind of like Breton or Olga Raffault Chinon meets COS or Foradori! Wow… Geezus! This energy filled red is mind blowing, all biodynamic Loire Franc, is gripping with ripe tannic structure, vivid acidity and striking mineralite to go with ultra lengthy fruit dynamism that entrances your senses! All natural, almost no sulfur, and with native yeast ferments, macerated and aged in clay pots (okay, I mean Ampforae) Fred’s Mesphisto is one of the best so called “Natural Wines” I’ve tasted, it shows a complexity that is hard to translate in mere words, but easily understood by Loire fans. Beautiful earthy character along with heightened detail define this unique red, it’s deep garnet color is complimented by layers of mulberry, tangy dark currant, morello cherry, plum and black raspberry fruits, hints of bell pepper, violets, sandalwood, raw leather and warm terra-cotta (or were those imagined?) as well as forest mushrooms and granite/stony elements. The finish goes on and on, this wine gives many a Bordeaux and Burgundy wine a run for the money, celebrate to funky weirdness and marvel at the class in the glass. Imported by Floraison Selections, Oakland California, don’t forget Fred Niger’s regular line of beautiful Muscadet, they are some of the best out there. This wine is fascinating and has sensual charm, it should age with utter enthusiasm and grace, I was left spellbound!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 26, 2017

2016 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Trocken, Ritsch, Grosses Gewachs, Mosel Germany.
Christopher Loewen is on a roll, his 2015 and 2016 wines are spectacular and he and the Loewen winery just got named Winery (Winemaker) of the Year in Germany by Stuart Pigott, one of the world’s most renown Riesling reviewers! One wine in particular has gained world attention, his 1896 Feinherb from Germany’s oldest Riesling vines, but another wine that really moved me at a preview tasting earlier this was Christopher’s exciting Kitsch GG from another historic vineyard that they got recently and have made a stunning dry wine that looks set to be an under the radar classic! The Thornich Ritsch Grosses Gewachs “Grand Cru” is on Grey Slate and is on the 2nd steepest vineyard in all of Europe and it’s terroir and intensity shows clearly in this 2016, it’s a brilliant and mineral driven Riesling with brisk detail and vibrant flavors, wow, I really love this wine’s electric energy and briny/steely character. This is a GG that will gain monumentally with age, Loewen, who farms organic now and is remarkably gifted in the cellar, has crafted a beautiful wine of finesse and dimension that will thrill edgy Chablis fans and acid freaks a like, it blitzes the palate with tangy citrus and white flowers as well as white peach, unripe tart apple and white cherry fruits along with sweet and sour herbs, rosewater, wet stone, leaning on salty shale and lingering tangerine/lime. This wine is loaded with dry extract and shows vivid form gaining density with air adding some lemony tones and melon layers, this is X factor wine of legendary class, this will be a Riesling that will reward the patient, drink from 2022 to 2032. It’s been an eye opening and fantastic few years from Loewen and the future looks even more promising, a huge congrats to Christopher and team, his latest set of wines are fabulous, don’t miss his basic estate bottlings and Kabinett offerings, they are incredible values.
($52 Est.) 93-95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 25, 2017

2015 Drew Family Cellars, Syrah, Ornbaun, Mendocino Ridge.
A blend of two vineyards, both on silty clay and loam soils, west of Anderson Valley, one Valenti Ranch at 1,350 feet up, planted to McDowell and Cote-Rotie Clones is just 6 miles from the Ocean and the other Perli Vineyard, which sits at 2,400 feet, is planted to Chave Selections (Hermitage Clones) with a few vines also planted to Grenache and Mourvedre (which also make tiny appearances in this wine) the Drew Ornbaun is 94% Syrah with 3% Grenache and 3% Mourvedre, with 20% whole cluster, crafted by Jason and Molly Drew at Drew Family Cellars is one of the best values in California wine! More Hermitage in style full and expanding, rather than an edgy Cornas, with rich detail and wonderful powerful intensity, with a palate that explodes with blueberry compote, currant jelly as well as damson plum, boysenberry, sweet violets and kirsch as well as stylish peppercorns, cedar, incense, new leather/game and black licorice. This sexy concentrated, but lively balanced 13.4 % alcohol dark purple/garnet hued Syrah is just spectacular in performance, with northern Rhone charm and vitality, as I’ve been saying, Jason Drew is making some of the best wines in the state and again his 2014 and 2015 Syrah and Pinots are mind-blowing in quality and are all thrilling to behold, without question these are some of my favorite wines of the year if not all time! This Ornbaun Syrah named after the local soils and influence by the cool climate, all Mendocino Ridge labeled wines must be from vines grown within 12 miles of the Pacific Ocean and be at least 1,200 feet above sea level, giving the riveting vigor and vivid flavors that make these wines stand out and shine. Drew’s wines are in the same league as Peay, Littorai, Radio-Coteau, Anthill Farms, Hirsch and Pax/Wind Gap, they should not be missed, especially his Morning Dew Ranch Pinot, it’s a Grand Cru class wine! I just love the Syrah bottlings from Drew and while they still under the radar compared to the Pinots, this native ferment, no new wood Drew Orbaum, can’t be beat for the money, drink this 2015 over the next 3 to 5 years, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the window stretches to a decade or more, it’s outstanding!
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 24, 2017

2015 Ingrid Groiss, Gruner Veltliner, Reserve, In Der Schablau, DAC Weinviertel, Austria.
Ingrid’s rich textured Gruner Reserve In Der Schablau 2015 is a gorgeous white wine that reveals another side of Austria’s signature varietal, grown on loess, sand and gravel soils in the town of Zeirsdorf within DAC Weinviertel north of Vienna, not far from Groiss’ hometown of Breitenwaida not far from the Czech Republic border. Brilliant in detail and energy this wonderful expression of Gruner Veltliner has a decedent mouth feel and an almost white Burgundy like class and grace, it’s shows a denser and riper side of Gruner that is sensual and seductively entertaining from start to finish, it’s more a Smaragd (a dry white that is at least 12.5%) with 13% alcohol it’s a deeper wine than you’d might expect. Groiss has gained a huge following in recent years and her wines impress for their natural balance and her passion for her terrior and it’s history which clearly shine through in these wines and if you’ve not discovered her wines yet, you should asap! With a hint of white flowers, saline, mineral and almond oil the 2015 Reserve In Der Schablau starts with crisp acidity, lemon/lime and quince before opening up and filling out on the wide palate, it was aged a full 10 months on the gross lees which adds to the dimension of this glorious Gruner, it gains with every second of time in the glass with it’s pale golden hue grabbing the light while light steely notes and spice provide a nice cut. There’s wild pear, hints of fig, clove as well in this white, which saw only stainless fermentation and aging after a gentile pressing of de-stemmed grapes using vineyard (native) yeasts and 8 hours of maceration on the skins that adds a touch of tannin and savory contrast to the opulent warm vintage fruit and the medium weight body. This is proving to be a great wine, coming from 50+ year old vines, and was a brilliant companion to my Thanksgiving feast, and for which I am very grateful, drink this lovely Gruner over the next 3 to 5 years.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 23, 2017

2016 Jean-Louis Dutraive-Grand Cour, Fleurie, Cru Beaujolais, France.
The non domaine (estate) Fleurie is from a high elevation plot of old vines set on granite, crafted using semi-carbonic ferments and whole cluster and with very low SO2, aged in neutral cask and tank, just like all his glorious estate bottlings. Dutraive’s 2016 Fleurie is at first very shy and almost austere, very different from his Domaine de la Grand Cour versions which are highly perfumed and expressive, but given time it starts to unfold with graceful and earthy layers of pure Gamay fruit, spice and mineral tones. This unfiltered Cru Beaujolais has a slightly cloudy ruby hue in the glass, best if decanted at this stage to get the aromatics awake, as the subtle floral notes are still hidden behind a more savory and feral tone that leads to a refined medium weight energy filled palate that includes wild raspberry, liquid strawberry, morello cherry and plum of restrained fruit essences as well as minty herbs, pecan shell, delicate leather and flinty stones. The mouth feel gains textural pleasure with air, but at first you get bright and juicy acidity that settles down nicely in this youthful wine, I personally think I caught this bottle in an awkward stage and that it should blossom in a couple of years in bottle when the fruit should become more present and the bouquet which is dull now (and this could also be from the shipping as I didn’t give it much time after receiving it) looks to be more seductive, that is my hope anyway, best to hold this one at least another year. I’m a huge fan of Dutraive, and while this is a fine example it doesn’t match the estate Fleurie(s) which I find as compelling as many Grand Cru Burgundies!
($34 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 22, 2017

2017 Caraccioli Cellars, Nouveau of Pinot Noir, Escolle Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
A great Thanksgiving wine, the new Pinot Nouveau from Scott Caraccioli, is bursting with fruity flavors and light spices, it’s a fun 100% estate grown single vineyard Nouveau that highlights the vintage’s potential and is a wonderful quaffer. A visit to Caraccioli’s Carmel tasting lounge proved very rewarding, getting a chance to sample this Pinot Nouveau and the latest set of bubbly, both of which are drinking luxurious and stylish, in particular the 2012 Brut Rose ($60 Est.) is a leesy beauty that Caraccioli should be very proud of, being the leader in méthode champenoise Monterey Sparkling Wine sits well with this winery! The 2017 Nouveau of Pinot Noir was carbonic fermented, with the tank layered with stacks of half whole cluster and half de-stemed whole berries, this takes the edge off on the palate allowing a more textured mouth feel and still giving that juicy pop you’d expect of a Nouveau, Caraccioli used all estate Escolle Vineyard 100% 777 Clone fruit, picked at 22 Brix, all of which adds up to quality in the glass and heightens the experience. The electric ruby hue leads the way before a hint of fresh picked roses, a subtle cotton candy and bubble gum note as well as a burst of maraschino cherry as well as pretty strawberry and raspberry fruits along with light cinnamon, rhubarb, apple skin and a cranberry tangy finish. With a faint sweet and sour flourish this is nicely balance version, a bit pricy yes, but forgiven somewhat for the very limited nature and uniqueness, get it while you can and drink it up quickly.
($30 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive