Monthly Archives: December 2017

Grapelive: Grape of the Year

Riesling XXX Rated: The Pleasure and Pain, Tension and Release!

The fetish of Riesling, it’s what turns on acid freaks and those that want a gripping almost sexual experience in white wine, both dry and sweeter styles offer that sensual thrill with the grape almost turning into a lurid with the raw nakedness of a Henry Miller novel! The fruitier opulent Riesling, like an Auslese give you the glorious beauty and curvy allure of a Scarlett Johansson, white the Trocken (dry) versions offer a more Penelope Cruz like performance, that heightened sensation like a leather riding crop on your skin, that pleasure and pain that make your senses come to life! Riesling gives that otherworldly intense tension and release, it is sex in the glass, it can be wild and forceful or Gisha like, softy, silk oily textural lingering on and on in graceful, but tinglingly vivid subservience. Riesling is like exploring your inner most fantasies it reveals everything without shame in an electric shock wave of elation. Your Riesling playlist should include Beethoven’s 9th, Depeche Mode’s Master and Servent, Mazzy Star’s Fade into You, The Divinyls’ Pleasure and Pain and Berlin’s Sex… All the while watching the erotic Vicky Cristina Barcelona!

Riesling without question is the Grape of the Year!

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 31, 2017

2013 Thierry Richoux Vigneron, Irancy Rouge, Red Burgundy, France.
The Irancy region is in essence the red Chablis, once disregarded is seeing some amazing wines come forth, like this Thierry Richoux Irancy Ac, plus Domaine de Beru, as well as others, these are wines of delicacy and detail, and they are as pure as it gets for Pinot Noir. Located just southwest of the fan shell of Chablis, Irancy is also known for it’s cherry trees, set on Kimmeridgian marls, along with some clay, loose gravel and brown limestone the region is home to Pinot Noir, though close by Saint-Bris has Burgundy’s only Sauvignon Blanc zone, plus there is some César (a local red grape), thought to be French Barbera, of which 10% is allowed in the Irancy reds. Tierry Richoux’s Irancy is believed to be 100% Pinot grown organically on clay and limestone, his parcel is southwest facing and allows ripe fruit and refined tannin, he ferments in tank and ages his AC Irancy for a year in stainless and a year in barrique, mostly used for this cuvee, it delivers the transparency and precision you’d expect with superb mineralite and vibrant acidity, though wonderfully textured in form. The 2013 is intriguing and lacy with bright energy and lengthy persistence showing wild roses, tangy strawberry, flinty stones and tart cherry at it’s core along with a mix of spice, herb and racy framboise. Lovely, light to medium bodied elegance, while still complex and rewarding, this shiny ruby hued Pinot from Richoux is a real Burgundy steal that over delivers. Imported by The Source Imports, it offers serious layers of quality for the price, this vintage is showing really well, making for a very pleasing experience and a happy surprise for the somewhat ho hum vintage. Drink over the next 3 to 7 years, this Irancy by Richoux gains with air with dramatic effect, it becomes quite the center piece of attention, best with lighter fare and simple cuisine, I’m now a big fan and can’t wait for the 2014 and 2015 vintages! This is a wine that truly reminds you of why you love Burgundy, it seduces with subtle brilliance and with slow burning foreplay.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 30, 2017

2016 Le Temps des Copains, Gamay “Sanctus” Love & Grapes Project, Vin de France, Loire Valley, France.
100% Gamay Noir, organic 18 year old vines, on gneiss soils from Benoît Landron of Domaine Landron-Chartier in the Coteaux d’Ancenis in the northern Loire, not far from Muscadet where Fred Niger of Domaine de L’Ecu is and where this unique wine is made as part of Fred’s Love & Grapes line of wines which are all partnership projects from organic growers across Europe with current offerings that include a white from Italy and a Syrah from the Rhone as well as this Gamay. Whole cluster fermented and macerated in amphora, with almost no sulfur, the Santus is one of the most unique (and expensive!) Gamay wines in the world. Utterly thrilling from start to finish, in a recent Cru Beaujolais tasting it completely blew away many famed versions, including Dutraive’s old vine Fleurie, with it’s charm, depth and energy it is clearly a special wine with sex appeal and remarkable character. Starting with pretty floral and mineral tones this dark fruited Gamay eases on to the palate with bright blueberry, morello cherry, tangy plum and dried citrus/red peachiness along with elements I would say come through as chalk/stone and baked tiles as well as an exciting array of spicy/sweet herb notes that includes cinnamon, star anise, roasted garden thyme and delicate pepper. Medium bodied, but with good density of mouth feel and serious impact, this Gamay is not stuff you’d soon forget, okay the price is a shocker, but it’s so cool I’d do it again, and I’d love to see how it ages. Imported by Floraison Selections, these Le Temps des Copains natural amphora aged collaboration wines from Fred Niger at Domaine de L’Ecu are worth searching out, plus L’Ecu’s Muscadet whites are some of the best of the region, plus don’t miss his own clay pot aged Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir offerings which are exceptional too! This Sanctus takes Gamay and Natural Wine to the next level.
($72 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 29, 2017

2015 Nanclares y Prieto Viticultores “Penapedre” Vino Tinto, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain.
From an old vine vineyard in the Mino slope in the Ribeiro Sacra, the wonderfully layered 2015 Penapedre from Silvia Prieto and Alberto Nanclares of Viticultores Nanclares y Prieto, more famous for their gorgeous Rias Baixas Albarino(s) who have added a couple of Mencia based reds to their impressive portfolio, and they are really alluring efforts, especially this one. The Penapedre is a co-planted and fermented blend of mostly Mencia 60% along with 30% of Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) along with 10% of mixed black (and maybe a bit of Godello white?) grapes from a 100 year old all organically farmed parcel at a 60 degree angle/slope set on classic granite soils, this vineyard is hand tended and picked in small baskets, it faces south and southwest to get the most of the Galician sun, and allowing ripe flavors and refined tannins. The 2015, from a warm and lush vintage, comes in at 13% natural alcohol, it also allowed whole cluster ferments in a large 4,000L chestnut wood open top fermenter with traditional foot stomp crushing, native yeasts and low sulfur were used here with lees aging in a mix of five used French large cask of 300L and 400L sizes for about a year before racking to stainless tank, it was unfined and unfiltered. This old school Mencia based old vine field blend starts with lovely earthy charm, lightly perfumed with dark floral tones, truffle and spices to go with black fruits that all lead to a medium full palate of wild plum, blackberry, mulberry, zesty currant and black cherry fruits, as well as cracked green peppercorns, forest mushroom, roasted herbs, crushed violets, flinty mineral and gravel, anise and subtle/faint oak shadings. This vibrant and velvety red has a northern Rhone feel and style, but still uniquely it’s own wine and terroir with it’s juicy acidity that is more Pinot like in textural delicacy and grace, while remaining seductively exotic and feral, it’s beautiful Ribeiro Sacra, it joins recent exciting Mencia driven wines from the region like Guimaro and Laura Lorenzo’s Daterra Viticultores that have been shinning a spotlight on this historic area, these are amazing wines that really deliver chills and thrills, especially for those that either are looking for something new or are lovers of Burgundy, Cru Beaujolais and Northern Rhone wines. This wine will be hard to find, imported by Jose Pastor Selections, I am grateful to have got a few from Vinopolis Wine Shop in Portland Oregon as it is almost impossible to find in my own state of California, as Nanclares is a secret Somm favorite and almost none finds it’s way to retail outlets! Silvia Prieto, since joining Alberto, has got their red wine project rocking and is a talent to follow, plus do not miss their Nanclares Albarino, which are glorious and wonderful whites, think Premier Cru Chablis meets Emmerich Knoll Gruner!
($49 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 28, 2017

2013 Cameron, Nebbiolo, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The beautiful and detailed Cameron Nebbiolo is denominated “Willamette Valley” because the wine is a blend of fruit from Clos Electrique, planted in 1993 (Dundee Hills AVA) and Foster Farms (Ribbon Ridge AVA) planted in 2000, and like John Paul’s Pinot it is a class act, even from a vintage that was a bit off from the regions standards, this is quite thrilling stuff. Cameron’s 2013 Nebbiolo weighs in at 12.6% alcohol which gives this wine a delicacy and brightness that reminds me of a Boca (Upper Piedmonte) or a an ultra fresh Langhe Nebbiolo with an easy textural mouth feel and subtle complexity showing brisk and racy red fruits and lengthy creaminess to start with a bit of grip and mineral notes. In terms of American Nebbiolo, this is lovely and varietal correct, it joins Palmina (Steve Clifton, ex-Brewer-Clifton) as true to the grape wines, but still uniquely stylistically their own creations. As the Cameron Nebbiolo opens, the tannins fill out and the fruit gets more refined, this red changes and evolves wonderfully in the glass revealing black cherry, wild plum and tangy raspberry layers along with a touch of bitter herb, balsamic and menthol hints as well as anise, saline stones and light spices. Day two even gets better with this Nebbiolo allowing dried flowers, rose oil and soft wood notes to blend in with grace, while things remain vibrant and focused, not much bigger than Cameron’s Pinot Noir, this is an intriguing Willamette offering that delivers a top notch performance, again it is worth mentioning that the vintage was very uneven in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, so given that, this stuff is just that much more a note worthy example, and I’ll be very excited to see how the 2014 is in comparison. There is a lot of things to admire here, even now, but I can imagine there will be some rewards in aging this 2013 Cameron Nebbiolo a few more years. Oregon’s Willamette Valley is more than a one trick pony, there’s so many exciting things coming out now it’s head spinning, besides the great Pinot Noirs, you are finding wonderful Gamay, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne, with John Paul of Cameron making this Nebbiolo and a Friuli inspired white blend as well. Cameron’s Pinots are legendary, this is a winery to follow, getting on his list is a great idea, the wines are not easy to find, but I was able to get a good sampling from Portland’s Vinopolis Wine Shop, including this Nebbiolo.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 27, 2017

2016 Bow & Arrow, Gamay, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Scott Frank’s Bow & Arrow Gamay is one of the best new world versions I’ve tried and I love the Loire inspiration of his wines in general, these are lively and energy filled offerings that include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir(s), Cabernet Franc, Melon (de Bourgogne), this Gamay and the Rhinestones, a wonderful blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, most from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Frank’s Portland based winery is without a question is a must try Oregon label, and especially try his Gamay stuff, with this 2016 he has hit a new level of quality and detail, it would be easy to believe this was a Cru Beaujolais with it’s Brouilly like intensity and earthy layered fruit and acidity that kicks in on the palate, and even though he is more Loire influenced, this catches your attention and put in a stellar performance when put in a lineup that included Dutraive’s old vine Fleurie! For the price, the quality is remarkable, with some of the other Oregon Gamay Noir(s) being almost twice the price, it’s pretty electric magenta/purple color thrills in the glass along with it’s earthy tones and floral/fruity essences filling the bouquet before a sharply focused palate of blackberry, blueberry, tart plum and subtle jolly rancher blue raspberry, along with hints of leather, anise, peppery cinnamon and walnut. The body is lithe and the Bow & Arrow Gamay feels taught and crisp, but ripe tannins and texture come out with air making for impressive impact, this is a joyous semi carbonic (traditional method) example and holds it’s own in mineral driven varietal purity, plus it rocks with food, pulling extra depth, earthy charm and complexity when it counts, I love this vintage!
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 26, 2017

2015 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Spatlese, Munsterer Dautenpflanzer, Nahe Germany.
Georg Rumpf’s concentrated and richly flavored Munsterer Dautenpflanzer Spatlese reveals the glories of the vintage and while deep and sweet on the palate there is wonderful vitality and balance in this beautiful Riesling, it was brilliant with both fiery Thai chili noodles and a more subtle curry on Christmas eve, as well as going nicely with the Holiday fare. Georg’s wines are hitting a groove right now, especially his 2015 and 2016 offerings, both vintages entrance and intrigue with the warm vintage wines of 2015 showing the sex appeal and density you’d expect and the 2016’s giving a masterful performance in delicacy and detail, it’s hard to pick between them to be honest, but this alluring 2015 Riesling Spatlese from the loess, quartzite and clay soils of Kapellenberg’s Munsterer Dautenpflanzer is pure seduction in the glass. This Riesling’s opulent palate unfolds with orange blossom, sweet lime, hints of seashore, wet shale and a touch of honey along with a core of white and yellow stone fruits, mineral tones and lemony quince. Layers of peach, apple and apricot come through with air as does a bit of flinty, dried tangy ginger while the body fills out with a certainly creaminess, though energy (crisp acidity) still pumps away keeping this stuff focused, it’s not heavy or cloying at all. Rumpf tries to used native yeasts on the fruity/sweeter wines with longer lees aging, all which with the attention of handwork in the vineyard add up to quality and authentic wines, especially with his Cru bottlings like this one. It’s hard to find better values in the Nahe than Kruger-Rumpf, I love this one, and Georg’s exotic and stylish Scheurebe in the Spatlese, as well as the fantastic Abtei Trocken, a wine that comes from an ultra steep site across the river from Bingen that has soils that mirror those over on the Rhein side in Rudesheimer Berg, it’s my secret dry favorite in the lineup, even though the GG’s are stunning too. When you want a bit of RS and need an option, I’d consider Kruger-Rumpf, they are quilt free wines, and they age with style too. Drink this pretty and dense Munsterer Dautenpflanzer Spatlese now or a decade or more from now, either way it will prove rewarding.
($26-28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of The Day December 25, 2017 – Merry Christmas

2016 Daterra Viticultores (Laura Lorenzo) “Camino de la Frontera” Vino Tinto, Arribes, Spain.
Grown along the Duero River across from Portugal Laura Lorenzo’s Daterra Camino de la Frontera is an old vine red blend that includes the rare local variety Juan Garcia (also known as Mouratón), co-planted and co-fermented with 70% Juan Garcia, 15% Tempranillo, 5% Bobal, 3% Rufete, 2% Mencia and 5% Bastardo from 100 to 130 year old vines close to Fermoselle. An area of Spain that is ancient and undiscovered, it’s remoteness seems to be it’s allure to Lorenzo, who is a vineyard whisperer and well regarded for bringing back wild, or lost historic vines and creating exciting wines. This a new wine for Lorenzo, and it’s a beauty with a wonderful mix of tangy fresh fruits and natural earthy elements with a lighter frame, though with firm tannins it is some what like a Nebbiolo in that way, while not tasting like anything I’ve ever tried making it gloriously new and riveting with every sip and aftertaste. The Camino de la Frontera follows Laura’s style allowing these ancient vines to speak in their own voices, with native yeast ferments in tank and with no manipulation and very low sulfur with the maceration(s) being extremely gentile, the wines are raised in well used French oak cask, usually 300L and 500L barrels. At 12.5% natural alcohol and with it’s medium body this delicately hued red is full of flavor, it starts with floral tones, moist earth, wild herbs and sour cherry, briar notes and racy red raspberry leading to a tart and velvety palate with plum, blueberry and cranberry fruits, along with grilled fennel/melted salty black licorice and zesty citrus rind, finishing with stony/gravelly elements, saddle leather, currant, heral tea spices and faint flower blossom. This wine gets more generous with food and time in the glass, bringing a riper profile forward and becomes more textural in mouth feel, Lorenzo is a huge talent and these wines already have an under ground following, imported by Jose Pastor Selections, even I have a terrible time finding them and I’ve been a fan since her wines even before she started her own label, in fact I had to buy bottles from Texas and New York, as they are almost nearly impossible to get in my home state of California! Laura specializes in Mencia and Godella based field blends from mostly old bush vines above the Sil River, on steep slopes of slate soil in the Ribeira Sacra, in the Galicia region of Spain, but she also does maybe the best Palomino I’ve tasted. You’ll need to be adventurous and search hard, but these wines by Laura Lorenzo’s Daterra Viticultores are fabulous and well worth the effort.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 24, 2017

2016 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Kabinett, Rüdesheimer Berg Kaisersteinfels, Terrassen, Grosse Lage, Rheingau Germany.
What a thrilling wine, don’t let that word Kabinett on the label fool you, this drinks drier than you’d think, this is pure full on Grand Cru Riesling here from one of Germany’s great vineyard sites, Rudesheimer Berg Kaisersteinfels on the steep slatey slopes, in the historic Terrassen (terraced plots), above the Rhein and one that has a deep personal meaning to mean, both that I’ve been there a few times and that I was there for this 2016 harvest. This Leitz Grosses Lage drinks wonderfully intense, it can remind a bit of Condrieu (white flowers) meets Chablis (steely classic stoniness) with a powerful acid backbone, extract and mineral infusion, while still being openly generous, pretty and off dry hedonistic in profile without being overtly sweet, this wine leaves no doubt that Kabinett level maybe the greatest over all wines of the vintage in 2016, and Johannes Leitz’s team nailed this one! At 9.5%, this lightly floral and aromatic Kaisersteinfels Kabinett drinks within a whisper of the GG version, and will certainly age fantastic, this is a wine to get by the case or more, it has this vineyard’s magic and wow factor with brilliant details and flows with flinty spice, yellow orchard fruits, lime and a touch of creamy textural sensuality. Obviously Leitz knew all along this was a special and spectacular wine with pedigree and seductive charisma, it was bottled in GG fashion with heavy glass and under cork, a sly way of saying yes this is a Kabinett, but trust us you’ll be blown away with what’s in here, and I without a doubt was thrilled and impressed. It may just be the deal of the vintage with it’s layers of green apple, lime, kiwi, wild peach, apricot and tangerine fruits, crunchy stones, wet shale, kumquat sorbet, rosewater, liquid quartz and crystalized ginger spice. This mouth filling and razor sharply focused Riesling has the vitality and vigor that impresses red wine drinkers, but allows marvelous flexibility in cuisine options, it will perform with classic holiday fare, though will excel with Asian fusion dishes too, and I’d be in heaven with this and just a plate of speck (smoked/cured ham) in simplistic bliss. This Leitz Kaisersteinfels Kabinett joins Selbach-Oster’s Ur-Alte Reben Zeltinger Feinherb, Spreitzer’s Alte Reben Feinherb and Kruger-Rumpf’s Abtei Erste Lage Trocken as my favorite German Riesling 2016 deals! These are stunningly great wines all under $30, especially this one, do not miss! The 2015 Leitz GG’s Schlossberg and Kaisersteinfels were two of my wines of year last year, and this Kaisersteinfels Kabinett is not far off, this is exceptional stuff that has a multi decade life ahead of it, though you won’t be amiss to drink it anytime.
($22-25 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 23, 2017

2015 Domaine d’Ouréa, Vacqueyras, Rhone Valley, France.
A blend from “Hautes Garrigues” and “Les Pendants” plots, Adrien Roustan’s beautiful Vacqueyras is a pure terroir wine with amazingly deep character that almost feels more like a Northern Rhone than a Southern Rhone with it’s vitality and freshness. Adrien’s wines are the kind of wines I could drink every day, I love this wine it has ripe fruit, but stylish life with layers of dark fruits, spice and subtle earthiness, it’s complex and intriguing, but with a simple, sensually pleasing unpretentiousness! Domaine d’Ouréa is practicing biodynamic and goes toward natural wines, though the young 29 year old Adrien Roustan studied in Burgundy, and his wines show a grace and elegance that stand out in a region re-finding it’s traditional roots and ancient soul, Roustan is a winemaker (Vigneron) to watch, his winery is on nine hectares of vines in Vacqueyras, but it’s his high-elevation Gigondas plots that were the inspiration for the domaine’s name, Ourea were the children of the Greek goddess Gaia, the Mother Earth. d’Ourea (the Ourea) became the gods of the mountains. The d’urea Vacqueyras is made from 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Carignan all organic and native yeast fermented, de-stemmed, in concrete/cement vats, no oak is used here on the reds, with this aged 18 months in the cement. The soils here shine through, with sandstone, yellow clay/marl limestone giving the density and purity of fruit, this Domaine d’Ourea 2015 also showing the vintage’s opulence and rich warm flavors, making this feel more like a full blown Chateauneuf-du-Pape with briar laced olallieberry, damson plum, mure and violette on the lush palate, balanced by a nice cut of acidity and contrasting savory/stony tones with dusty chalk, saline, black licorice/fennel and classic garrigue, that gives a lavender oil sweet/tanginess. The year was showy and it comes through with less bright peppery notes than is normal, but a faint leather and feral earthy elements keeps this beautiful Vacqueyras from being cloying or slutty, this is such a joyous Rhone red, it’s almost without fault and should drink well for years to come, imported by Floraison Selections in California, this and d’Ourea’s Gigondas are wines to look for, these are amazing wines for the money.
($29 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive