Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 16, 2018

2013 Ceritas, Chardonnay, Charles Heintz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
Ceritas, the husband and wife duo of John Raytek and Phoebe Bass are a tiny mailing list only winery crafting amazing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from selected cool sites in California’s north coast and Santa Cruz Mountains, (Ceritas also does a tiny amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, though I’ve not been able to try it yet) with John Raytek (Formerly of cult producer Rhys) crafting these small lot wines. Ceritas, like Aubert, Failla and Arnot-Roberts, goes for terroir expression and makes lovely vineyard designated wines, and Raytek’s light touch in the cellar highlights delicacy and lively accents, this being especially true here in this beautiful and vivid Charles Heintz Vineyard 2013 Chardonnay, it’s really an impressive effort with crisp detail and lightness of layering, while still having personality and palate impact. The first impression is one of briskness, white flowers and mixed citrus with hints of marmalade and vital spices, mineral and wet river rocks, though it gains a bit of weight with air and texturally it flows with a certain Chardonnay purity and creaminess, it was masterfully judged, at 13.6%, and the sweetness of the French oak is subtle and adds to the whole experience. Fine apple, pear and white peach fruits along with a touch of hazelnut, key-lime, minty herb, vanilla and lemon zest round out the whole making for an energy filled and delightful wine that adds a hint of chalk and quince the longer it’s in the glass. Vigorous and thought provoking this Ceritas is a class act, I have without a doubt enjoyed their Chardonnay as much as any in California, and while this one stands out, I also really recommend their Richard Alfaro farmed Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains bottling, it is a crisper and earthier style, in the more Burgundy paradigm, these are awesome wines.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 15, 2018

2012 Guido Platinetti, Ghemme DOCG “Vigna Ronco al Maso” Alto Langhe, Piedmonte, Italy.
Andrea Fontana’s Guido Platinetti, named for his grandfather, has been crafting beautiful Nebbiolo for the last 25 years and continues his impressive run with his beautiful and wonderfully textured Ghemme DOCG grown in the northern part of Piedmonte that has been getting so much buzz for the quality and value of their Nebbiolo based reds in recent years, these are wines, especially Fontana’s Ghemme, that rival the more famous Barbaresco and Barolo. This 2012 really reminds me of mineral driven, pretty and textural Barbaresco with it’s lovely bright fruit, clear transparency and pedigreed length, this Platinetti Ghemme is performing with complexity and grace showing off ripe fruit, silken tannins and refined acidity giving a full range of red fruits, earthy spice and sexy floral tones, all brought out by the unique terroir of ancient glacial deposits with granite, quartz, clay and iron rich stones. A light and elegant touch with a minimalist approach in the cellar, Fontana makes pure and energy filled wines, and this one shows off red raspberry, damson plum and kirsch along with a touch of savory/stony elements, sweet currant and saline notes with lingering rose petal, anise and forest floor, gaining with air, this is a sultry vintage, subtle seduction from the mouth feel and ease of use completes this 2012, a vintage marked by classic profiles, but with less power and density than the 2010 or as fruity as either 2011 or 2013. Most everything I’ve tried from Guido Platinetti, imported by Balanced Wine Selections, has impressed and I really adore this one, which I rate as a superb value for Nebbiolo, it’s not a blockbuster or a cellar surprise, but it gives a lot for the money and a guilt free early drinking wine.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 14, 2018

2015 Fattorie Romeo del Castello, Nerello Mascalese “Allegracore” Etna Rosso DOC, Sicily Italy.
The surprisingly tart and fresh Allegracore by Chiara Vigo at Fattorie Romeo del Castello feels like a youthful village Burgundy and has an inner energy that belies the warm vintage, it’s spicy cherry notes and volcanic mineral/flinty elements make for a lovely, vibrant and delicate wine of remarkable rustic charm and length. Influenced by Salvo Foti, which you can tell (and taste) in this Nerello Mascalese based wine (it certainly has a bit of Nerello Cappucino in there too), Chiara Vigo has captured a soulful expression of Mount Etna, and while her upper scale (level) cuvees offer deeper concentration, this Allegracore gives a damn good performance for the price, it’s layers gain dramatically with air, as does it’s finessed texture, while still giving a seductive lightness and earthy impression on the rounded palate. Pleasing and bright it has poached cherry, plum and red pepper flake covered strawberry at it’s heart along with wet shale, dried roses, minty anise and bitter herbs. Lingering briar laced raspberry, tangy lavender, blood orange and kirschwasser add to the mix as well as a hint of truffle, sandalwood and leather all appear in the light to medium bodied red that shines pale ruby in the glass. Native ferments, with a gentile 12 day maceration the Allegracore sees only stainless steel in it’s making and aging, which highlights the vivid purity and zestiness allowing the natural acidity to lift this entry level bottling, that also hides the ripeness, since it comes in at 14.5%, where as you’d almost never guess the alcohol was above 13%, impressive in it’s focus and elegance, it’s a wine to enjoy over the next 3 to 5 years. Fattorie Romeo del Castello is imported by Louis/Dressner, same as Arianna Occhipinti, and is never easy to locate, but well worth searching out
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 13, 2018

2014 Domaine du Grapillon D’Or 1806, Gigondas, Rhone Valley Red, France.
The Grapillon D’Or estate, owned and run by the Chauvet family, is a traditional and one of the old school properties of Gigondas, making wines of character and authentic charms, less modern and more raw like, though deeply flavored, I’ve long been a fan of this winery, which in most years tastes close to a fine Chateauneuf du Pape. This 2014 gives an amazingly detailed performance, giving another reason to celebrate old world Grenache, delivering loads of pepper, leathery/earthy notes as well as dusty stones adding to the dense dark fruited core. The 2014 Domaine Grapillon D’Or 1806 starts with a dark berry fruit, meatiness, chalky stone as well as cracked peppercorns, with a deep garnet/red color in the glass, fresh in attack from the slightly cool vintage. The palate is full with a framboise/kirsch note leading to a sweet and savory mouthful of boysenberry, wild plum, strawberry and pomegranate fruits along with salted black licorice, lavender, all spice/herbs and gravel with touches of saline, currant jam and grilled meat. Everything unfolds in a sensual manner, darkly spicy and seductive, with no hint of wood or adornment, this is transparent and shows terroir purity, and the balance of earth, spice and fruit is near perfect, even in a less than perfect year, it’s bright and tangy, but sweet feeling, this is a delicious Rhone red wine. This vigorous Gigondas easily provides everything you’d want and maybe a bit more, drink over the next few years, best from 2019 to 2025 and maybe longer. Grapillon, founded in 1806, as the label makes clear, uses 100% destemmed grapes, 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah, ferments in tank and ages mostly in used barrels with about 25% of the cuvee raised in cement vats, with all the grapes coming from older vine sites on a mix of clay, sand and limestone soils. This is grippy and thrilling stuff again from Domaine du Grapillon D’Or, and while people will be lined around the block for their 2015, an obvious must have from a great vintage, I will enjoy this 2014 which is highly entertaining, stylish and impressive with it’s vital focus, robust nature and layered Grenache(y) decadence and joyous pleasure.
($33 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Win e of the Day January 12, 2018

2015 Comando G Viticultores, Garnacha “La Bruja de Rozas” Vino de Pueblo, Valle del Tietar, Sierra de Gredos, Spain.
Comando G is the collaboration label of Fernando García & Dani Landi (Daniel Gomez Jimenez-Landi) and focused on the Vinos de Madrid area of Gredos, a high elevation region that is now one of Spain’s hot spots for terroir driven Garnacha (Grenache) grown at close to 850 meters on sandy granite soils that give wonderful delicacy and intensity to the wines, and the Garcia/Landi Comando G offerings are some of the best, they certainly have a cult like following, and this village “La Bruja de Rozas” is a charmer with wonderful layering and detail. The La Bruja (The Witch) de Rozas is finessed with an almost pale ruby/garnet hue, but deep in flavor and complexity, Garcia and Landi (who has his own label) craft their Comando G Garnacha’s using biodynamic or organic grapes all hand harvested, with native yeast ferments and lengthy 30-60 day macerations before aging in large neutral French foudres, allowing 9 months on this wine. I tasted this wine along side the 2012 Landi, and while you can see the similarities and class of both, the Landi was lighter and more nuanced with it’s age, but this 2015 La Bruja is a bit more expressive, richer and forward, though with potential to gain in the mid term and it’s a stunner for the price, it’s easy to see why these guys are in such demand. Brilliant balance, purity, lower alcohol than most Spanish Garnacha, and lift from the soils and acidity give this wine it’s energy and soul, it’s starts with a mix of floral tones, earthy, kirsch and zesty spices with a core of black plum, cherry, strawberry and loganberry as well as a good saline and stony character along with pepper, lavender, light herbal notes, lingering on with pomegranate liqueur, leather and dried violets. This wine gets better with every sip and it’s not to be completely seduced by it’s graceful texture, ripe tannins and subtlety, imported by European Cellars (Eric Solomon) as is Landi’s own wine, this is great wine to start your exploration of Mentrida and the Sierra de Gredos (Vinos de Madrid) in the greater Castilla y Leon area of central Spain. Drink this lovely red now, and be sure to look for 4 Monos by Javier Garcia (Fernando’s brother) and Laura Robles (Imported by Jose Pastor) as well as this one, both impress for the price!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 11, 2018

2015 Domaine d’Ouréa, Gigondas, Rhone Valley, France.
Adrien Roustan’s Domaine d’Ourea 2015 Gigondas is about 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah that is from the highest part of the region, it’s all organic and native yeast fermented, mostly de-stemmed, in concrete vats, no oak is used here on his reds, with this Gigondas aged 18 months in the cement. This gorgeous Rhone red is bright and fresh from the high elevation, but vintage marked by it’s rich density and deep flavors, the Grenache liked the warm year most and shows tremendous purity and hedonism, this vintage is less black fruited than prior/cooler years releases, but still a thrill in the glass and the length here is amazing, this is a wine that will evolve and give even more complexity and pleasure in the years to come. The palate is brilliantly layered and while still showing a baby fat of sweet opulence with black raspberry, boysenberry, damson plum, candied cherry and racy currant fruits along with lavender, chalky stones, peppery spices, a bit of earth and strawberry liqueur. The textural feel is warm and round in the mouth, though there is still a subtle energy/vibrancy that lifts this full bodied Grenache based wine and gives it a rewarding structure and focus, this is a beauty and will only get better with time. I’m a huge fan of these wines from Roustan and Domaine d’Ourea, especially this Gigondas and his Vacqueyras, imported by Floraison Selections, they showcase terroir, elegance and give a certain realness that is refreshing, while being absolutely serious, they are nearly perfect and unique examples of potential greatness. Drink this awesome Gigondas over the next 5 to 10 years, it’s a sexy wine right now, but I think a bit of patience will pay off, best from 2020 to 2025+.
($38 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 10, 2018

2016 Halcon Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Bearwallow Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Paul Gordon’s Halcon Vineyards is most known for their estate high elevation Syrah and Rhone style wines, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t give their latest set of Pinot Noir(s) a look, especially this new Bearwallow, made by the talented Scott Shapely (Roar & Flywheel) it comes from a brand new star vineyard, owned by Rhys’ Kevin Harvey in the western most hills of the Anderson Valley. This all biodynamic Vineyard is a densely planted site sitting on sandstone, shale, quartz and schist soils, it’s an extreme place for vines, but the promise here is amazing, with Gordon getting 100% Swan Clone for this bottling and Shapely using native yeasts, 35% whole cluster, it saw a four day cold soak and a two week maceration/primary ferment then to tank to settle, before aging in 20% new Francois Freres barrels (elegant French oak) finishing up into bottle without finning or filtration. This beautiful and bright, light ruby hued 150 case Halcon Bearwallow is wonderfully charming, delicate and surprisingly lengthy for such a youthful Pinot Noir and I sincerely marveled at it’s graceful expression and class in the glass with it’s pretty layering of fruit and mineral character, it lingers on and on with tangy raspberry, morello cherry, snappy spices and herbs along with that kiss of vanilla from the wood, it gains impact and mouth feel with air adding a touch of briar, pepper, lavender and sweet strawberry essences along with faint wilted roses. At 12.7% this light/medium bodied effort is stunningly fine effort and a wine that slowly seduces, then turns on the sex appeal in a rush of pleasure, it’s still early days, but I can imagine sublime and rewarding drinking over the mid term, I hope to re-visit this one again and again, after 3 to 5 years!
($42 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 9, 2018

2016 Domaine de L’Ecu, Pinot Noir “Ange” Vin de France, Loire Valley, France.
Fred Niger’s Ecu estate in the heart of the Muscadet region in the cool Loire Valley is now a leader in the Natural Wine world, this wines take this category beyond the hippy movement it so recently was, and his line of Amphora raised stuff is way past the next level, especially this Ange, an organic/biodynamic no oak Pinot Noir that was ultra hand crafted with native yeasts, whole cluster and no sulfur added, with 10 months in the terra-cotta (Amphora) and bottled unfined and unfiltered. This cool climate, low alcohol, is under 12% and velvet like on the full flavored and perfumed palate with pure Pinot Noir class and clarity, there is no stinky funk to get through here, just gorgeous transparent layers of ruby/garnet hued awesomeness with dark cherry, blueberry, spiced cranberry and beautiful wild plum fruits as well as heady rose and lilac flowers, stemmy grippy elements, dried basil/rosemary, red pepper, bramble, subtle clay/stones, cinnamon and candied orange rind, garden mint and kirschwasser. Ecu has been chemical free since 1972 and certified biodynamic by Demeter since 1998, they are a leader in crafting terroir driven Muscadet with their dry Melon de Bourgogne wines each taking up distinct soil taste profiles, while in recent years Niger has been pushing the envelope in natural wine bottlings, many like this one, going for ancient technique with amphora and longer skin contact, which in most cases allows for almost zero sulfur, these wines both from his estate and some in collaboration with friends from vineyards in different regions are simply mind blowing. This Ange, is as it’s name suggests an angelic wine of remarkable inner energy and beauty, quite honestly this wine blows away any Premier Cru Burgundy in it’s price class, with extra air the stemmy goodness starts to get intense with a Cornas like spicy/savory edgy side coming through to balance the sweet incense/rose oil or it’s alluring inner perfume! Wine snobs need not apply, but I hope people get to try this lovely wine, imported by Floraison Selections, this is my third experience with this Ange, and the Ecu estate Cabernet Franc version “Mephisto” and each time has left me even more impressed, mic dropped.
($52 ESt.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 8, 2018

2015 Domaine Bertrand et Axelle Machard de Gramont, Bourgogne Rouge “Les Grands Chaillots” Burgundy, France.
This pretty and elegant Lieu Dit Les Grands Chaillots, is from Nuits-Saint-Georges, shows the lovely touch of Axelle Machard de Gramont, a new star in the region, and highlights the vintage’s charms with wonderfully textured fruit that is ripe, but with good taught precision. This is a flavorful and thoughtful Pinot Noir that can inspire a new generation of wine lovers to Burgundy, it presents a clear vision, easy to understand on the palate with graceful texture and delicate earthiness, it’s exceptional in it’s price class. The first impression is one of opulence, and quality, especially for the price and level of this wine, gaining greatly with air in the glass there is a lot to admire with radiant red fruits, light spicy notes, classy wood shadings and mineral tones. Layers of cherry, plum and raspberry lead here on the round and medium full palate, again impressive for a Bourgogne AC bottling, with hints of cranberry, English toffee, rose petal, briar, cola bean and faint forest mushroom along with a nice cut of acidity which keeps this Pinot alive and vibrant from start to finish. I had been looking for Domaine Bertrand et Axelle Machard de Gramond high and low for a while, so I was thrilled to that Paris Wine Company-Balanced Wine Selections are bringing this into the USA, they have a solid selection of 2014 and 2015’s in stock and while I’ll hand on to the Premier Cru(s) for many more years before I open them, I couldn’t resist popping a bottle of this entry level cuvee to see what was in store, and though it is drinking beautifully, it has a long life ahead too. Machard de Gramont is working organic, and going to practicing biodynamic from what I gather, and the wine shows a fine form of ripeness and energy, with Axelle using native yeasts and mostly used oak to craft her lineup, everything highlights her drive and passion towards purity and the individual terroirs of her plots in Nuits-Saint-Georges. The natural expressiveness of these 2015 are going to make them very attractive young, but the concentration and complexity are likely set to be them even better with age, I am in the opinion that even this one will be even more rewarding with 3 to 5 years of bottle age and best between 2026 to 2032, I’m so happy I got a few bottles, this is a great bargain and exciting Pinot.
($32-38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 7, 2018

2016 Olivier Riviere, Rioja “Rayos Uva” Vino Tinto, Spain.
Rioja’s newest star is a French transplant, Olivier Riviere, born just south of Bordeaux in the Cognac region, he’s studied in Saint-Emilion and made wine at top estates in France, including stints at biodynamic producers like Elian da Ros, a unique wine/winery of which I first tried a few years ago, as well as Domaine Leroy, the famous Burgundy! After a deal to open his winery in the south of France in Fitou fell through Riviere went to Spain, first to help Telmo Rodriguez of Remelluri convert to biodynamic, and now is a rising talent in Rioja with many organic parcels spread throughout the zone. His wines have caught the attention of critics far and wide for the ease of use, value and transparency of fruit, these are not showboats, but finessed and pretty wines that reflects the old school and natural approach he employs here. The lovely and lightly earthy Rayos Uva Vino Tinto is a blend of classic Rioja varietals with mainly Tempranillo, but also Graciano and Garnacha from 15 to 20 year old vines grown on alluvial soils, with mostly sand, gravel and a bit of ancient clay in Rioja Baja, it is meant to be a village wine with little oak influence. The native ferment Rayos Uva sees a combination of stainless tank, old foudre and cement vats (for 6-8 moths), everything to express purity of form and delicacy and this 2016 is brilliantly fresh, vibrant and with elegant texture, it may be light when compared to most Rioja it surprises for it’s layers and length with sweet black cherry, truffle and mixed floral tones as well as dusty spices, raspberry, tart currant, anise and Turkish fig. This Rioja offers a solid value and gives an impressive palate performance, this is a lot of wine for the price, keep your eyes out for Oliviere Riviere, imported by European Cellars (Eric Solomon) as this is going to be a winemaker to follow!
($16 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive