Monthly Archives: February 2018

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 28, 2018

2016 Clos Sainte Magdeleine, Cassis Rose, Provence, France.
One of Provence’s most sought after producers, Clos Sainte Magdeleine crafts mostly Cassis Blanc (A blend of Marsanne, Ugni Blanc and Clairette mostly with a touch of Bourboulenc), but in recent years they have been getting lots of attention for their Rose, which is a modern Provence blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, 20% Mourvèdre which is a rival to the more famous pinks of Bandol and Domaine Tempier. Like Tempier, imported by Kermit Lynch, Clos Sainte Magdeleine is organic and very limited, for the Rose they used 100% de-stemmed fruit and quick cold fermentations to preserve intense freshness, all temperature controlled stainless cuves are employed, it’s racked off the lees early and doesn’t go through malos, it’s raised for under a year (in stainless) before bottling. The grapes come off the regions limestone and clay soils with the red grapes vines being between 10 and 40 years old, it close to the sea, so there is the saline and cool freshness the Mediterranean brings along with a ripe warm of this sunny South of France place. The Sack-Zafiropulos family has been making wine here for four generations, with Jonathan Sack now producing the wines in the beautiful awe inspiring little coastal port village (Cassis), the wines are huge hit with those that want authentic crisp wines of character and quality, they pair well with the local fish based cuisine and while a hit here in the states, largely because of Kermit’s tireless promotion of the region’s wines, though also these wines grab the attention of well to do travelers that adventure to Cassis and to Marseille, the biggest of the southern cities and one with it’s own seafood culture. This 2016 is just hitting it’s stride now, it’s brilliant and intense with a regal sense of austerity and restraint with dust strawberry, earthy watermelon and tart sour cherry along with a peppery/flinty spice, wet stones and saline, which gets your saliva glads pumping along, this is light and brisk, but with a sense of vinous/sensual texture while remaining filled with fresh charm, absolutely perfection in a dry pink, this is a terroir wine of distinction and purity that will drink for a few years.
($28-34 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 27, 2018

2014 Domaine Cedric Parpette, Cote-Rotie, Montmain, Rhone Valley, France.
This earthy Cote-Rotie is all de-stemmed 100% Syrah from a pedigreed old vine plot Montmain that used to be a part of Guigal’s La Torque (La La!) with Cedric Parpette going old school in style, crafting a slightly funky wine that shows intense inner brightness and layers of pure Northern Rhone Syrah flavors, though you’ll have to be patient as there is some rough edges to start and the bretty elements are rustic. With time and air the Parpette does clean up a bit allowing a deeper core of fruit to show through and while not beautiful, it does gather up itself in a charming fashion showing mix vine berries, tart cherry, plum and currant/mulberry fruits, wild lavender, peppercorns, tapenade and gamey/meaty notes. In a blind tasting I’d not likely guess Cote-Rotie, as this vintage has more horsey and blood/iron elements than I’d have expected, more like an old school Crozes to be honest. Much better with food, and without pre-expectations things perk up and while not a showy example there is an admirable depth and class to be found and enjoyed, though I’d say there should be a dinner involved to get the best out of this Syrah, no question. Parpette is now imported by Floraison Selections in California, adding a solid Cote-Rotie producer to their awesome lineup of natural and organic producers. I look forward to a riper vintage, and hopefully a bit of a more clean presentation, maybe 2015 will be a next level offering, but that said, this will have plenty of fans, drink in 3 to 5 years.
($50 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 26, 2018

2017 Poe Wines, Rose, Pinot Meunier/Pinot Noir, California.
Samantha Sheehan’s Poe Rose is a unique and flavorful dry pink with exquisite tangy fresh detail and delicacy with intense sour cherry and distilled strawberry as well as intriguing blueberry and quince notes to go along with bright watermelon and a zippy/citrusy bite making this a thrilling Summer wine. This crisp Rose is crafted with sourced grapes from Sonoma Mountain and Monterey County, it’s made up of Pinot Meunier, famous as a Champagne grape, but also now finding it’s way into dry reds and California bubbly, along with Pinot Noir, which here provides structured elegance and brisk focus, making for a fun rarity! With a bit of air there is some light floral notes as well as zesty gooseberry, it’s has lots of youthful energy and tight verve making it a great choice for picnics and or warm day sipping, though it will prove excellent with spicy cuisine and especially mussels in tomato and garlic broth. Sheehan, one cannot forget, makes wonderful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from single vineyard sites, I especially love her Manchester Ridge and Van Der Kamp bottlings and this Rose really makes me happy, drink it up, but don’t wait order quick as these sell out fast, and luck are those that are on her main mailing list, as she also makes a single varietal Pinot Meunier Rose as well!
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 25, 2018

2016 Le Temps des Copains, Syrah/Grenache “Pax” Love & Grapes Project, Vin de France.
Made by Frederic Niger of Domaine de L’Ecu in the Loire Valley, the Pax, part of his Love & Grapes Project under the Le Temps des Copains label is Rhone blend of 70% Syrah, 30% Grenache from Pierre Jauffret, of Châteauneuf du Pape. all biodynamic/organic grapes that are transported cold to Niger’s Muscadet winey, fermented in stainless steel tank, then aged in amphora with no sulfur additions. This is the most unique Chateauneuf du Pape I’ve ever seen or tried, no question, and I was thrilled to taste it, as I adore all of Fred’s Amphora raised stuff, especially his estate bottlings of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc! This 2016 Le Temps des Copains Pax is a beauty with an earthy and sensual mouth feel and layers of smooth dark fruits, bright spices, flora tones, mineral notes and a warm sense of terra-cotta. Lovely in texture with youthful firm details, it shows a mix of boysenberry, plum, tart currant, kirsch, leather, grilled fennel, lavender/violets, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and saline throughout and lingers with a tangy huckleberry and dusty tannins in this medium/full bodied garnet/purple hued red. After trying most of the available versions of the Le Temps des Copains Love & Grapes Project offerings, I am sold, these are wonderful wines, some of the best natural wines you’ll find and very serious in style, Fred Niger has teamed with like minded organic growers from Beaujolais to the Rhone, from the Italian Coast to the Loire Valley to create a niche, a little bit like Jean’Francois Ganevat has tried to do in the Jura, but maybe a bit more interesting and complex with the unique Amphora aging, they join COS in Sicily and Foradori in Alto Adige in their success in this segment. Again, I’m impressed with these and they have raised natural wines to a new level, imported by Floraison Selections, these Le Temps des Copains and Niger’s own Domaine de L’Ecu are brilliant and deserve your attention, search them out!
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Special Report: Five New Pinots to Explore

Grapelive Special Report: Five New Pinot Noir Offerings to Explore!

By Kerry Winslow,

2016 Rochioli, Pinot Noir, Estate, Russian River Valley.
This Estate is a blend of their many different vineyard sites, seventeen percent Little Hill, thirty-three percent Sweetwater, twenty percent West Block, twelve percent Big Hill, twelve percent East Block and six percent River Block. This full bodied wine possesses the typical Rochioli character and the Classic Russian River Valley charm. Aged in French oak for 15 months this 2016 isn’t as sweet/oak as the 2014 and 2015 wines were, in fact this beautifully detailed 2016 shows a beautiful balance and a certain level of restraint that is very appealing, though pure Rochioli through and through, it gives a sexy performance in the glass and should just get better still with more bottle age. The Estate Grown 2016 Pinot Noir starts with a sleek sweet smoky entry and flowery nose before popping on the palate with energy and bright detail, it’s mouth filling, but not heavy with pretty texture and lovely length showing pure Russian River fruit with black cherry, plum and spicy raspberry along with vanilla, blood orange, minty herb, tea notes and cola bean. It is vivid and vibrantly expressive Pinot Noir that lives up to it’s reputation and is wildly and riotously hedonistic, while still be well focused, after a day of being open it reveals a denser sensibility and rich, impressive still as the acidity holds and keeps things racy, it does not disappoint, best to hold for 3 or 5 years.
($62 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Morgan Winery, Pinot Noir, Tondre Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The single vineyard Morgan Pinots are incredibly textured and wonderfully expressive wines, these 2016’s especially, made by Sam Smith are gorgeous with lovely depth of character and generous on the palate, easy to love young, but with the stuffing and structure to age well for a decade with this Tondre Grapefield being my favorite at this stage, it’s gifted with racy flavors and a spicy intensity. Smith’s arrival has really given Morgan a kick up in quality and an added dimension to the complexity, the wines seem more finessed, less overt and with a great balance between open expressiveness and a drier feel on the palate, his whites are just as charming too, it’s great time to re-discover Dan Lee’s Morgan Winery, a Monterey classic, their latest set are maybe the best set I’ve tried from this label since Joe Davis’ days at Morgan. First of all, over the years I’ve been not enthusiastic about Tondre, so it is really saying something for me to like this one, I have been humbled and will have to eat a bit of crow here, as Morgan’s Tondre is the real deal, and this 2016 made from mix of clones including Pommard is damn good and very pretty with layers of dark fruit, chalky stoniness, herbs de provence and subtle oak shadings as well as an inner bouquet of liquid roses. The 2016 Tondre Grapefield starts with a sexy mix of smoky sweet oak, dark flowers, black cherry, brambly spices, minty herbs, mineral and a hint of forest floor earthiness, it’s a forward and opulent expression of Highlands that feels full and rounded, but with a lift of life with a fine cut of acidity and a touch of briar laced tension to keeps things interesting, it will be exciting to see how this one ages, it’s got a youthful fruitiness covering it’s natural tannin at this early stage of it’s journey, it will be one to watch/follow. As with all the limited or single vineyard wines, the grapes start with native yeast ferments and care sorting and de-stemming with cool macerations and gentile handling with a good dose of new French oak up to 50%, they usually see about 10 months to a year in barrel, all of which add up to a fine example of the region’s best qualities and character, right up there with Roar and Lucia!
($64 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2015 Cellars 33, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.
The Cellars 33 Pinot Sonoma Coast is a pretty example of California Pinot Noir with nice ripe flavors and smooth textures, only 175 cases were made, making it a small production value, it was crafted from two sites one off Westside Road in the Russian River Valley and Hummingbird Hill off Taylor Mountain, a cooler site that gets the Petaluma Gap breezes. Fresh, and medium bodied, John Fones make a treat in this 2016 vintage, this edition has blended from a barrel selection and only saw neutral French oak with modest alcohol, at 13.9%, it’s got a sweet cherry and plum palate with layers of spice, subtle floral tones and satiny textures. Opening up to round red fruits, this is one of the best editions of Cellars 33 to date and I really like the restraint and lovely softness to be found, it gathers some structure and depth with air, but it’s strength is it’s feeling of lightness. Cellars 33, based in San Francisco is a micro winery that turns out quality stuff, you’ll also want to check out their new Pinot Noir Rose, it’s a unique pink that gives full Pinot fruit expression and bright tangy detail, crafted from one of California’s most prized Santa Lucia Highlands Cru sites along with some Sonoma Coast fruit, this is the best yet for Fones Rose and will be a fun Spring bottle.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2016 Halcon Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County.
The incredibly perfumed Oppenlander Pinot Noir from Paul Gordon’s Halcon Vineyards, crafted by winemaker Scott Shapely (Of Roar) is a true cool climate wine of delicacy and length, coming off the clay rich soils of the ultra west Mendocino County, this hillside vineyard is dry farmed and own rooted with clone 115 plus a bit of Pommard, it’s a gorgeous and youthful expression that will certainly gain with time in bottle. Brilliant ruby/garnet with vivid magenta edges the 2016 Oppenlander shows fresh details and a touch of sweet/smoky oak with an intense floral range throughout along with a light/medium palate of earthy dark fruits, spice and mineral tones, it’s has lots of vitality and inner brightness filling the mouth with black cherry, plum, blueberry, rosewater, cinnamon stick and snappy herbs plus a hint of mocha. This has a bit of Morey-St.-Denis about it, it’s almost crazy pretty, but with a racy/edginess from the 35% whole cluster, it’s also a wine of silken class with a low natural alcohol refinement, this stuff gets much better with air, filling out with a lovely textural personality and even more layering as well as gaining a savory side to compliment it’s beautiful fruit and flowers opening. Halcon Vineyards really is rocking right now, all these new releases offer immense quality and drinking pleasures, with this native ferment Pinot Noir being one of the best, it saw just 20% new French oak and needed no adjustments for acids or PH, allowing this 120 case production, unfined and unfiltered wine to show it’s more pure form, best to give it about a year more in bottle to develop, best from 2020-2026.
($38 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2015 Theopolis Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
The Theopolis Vineyards Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir, which was over seen by the talented Ed Kurzman, who has made Freeman, August West and Roar wines, has plenty of stuffing and richness to impress with the vintage’s ripe concentration on display, but with smooth textures, soft tannins and a dense mouth feel, it’s easy to love and will be a wonderful early drinking Pinot. This cool climate wine has a poised feel, in fact it’s quite opulent and decedent with juicy red fruits and polished French oak on point with sweet raspberry, plum and black cherry fruits, wild flowers, vanilla, a hint of lavender and a touch of briar spiciness. While most known for their wildly good Petite Sirah, these Pinots are showing extremely well and should not be overlooked, Theodora Lee has really created a distinct set of wines and her winery is one to follow, each of this latest set of wines has a sense of grace and are full of California warm and up front flavors, immediately approachable and with a joyous hedonistic appeal. Only 110 cases were made of this ripe, 14.4% alcohol, native yeast ferment Pinot Noir, it is starting to hit it’s sweet spot, but should provide nice drinking pleasure for the next five plus years with ease.
($42 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 24, 2018

2017 Ian Brand “Le P’tit Paysan” Rosé, Pierre’s Pirouette, Central Coast.
The new release of Pierre’s Pirouette Rosé from Ian Brand’s P’tit Paysan is a very Corbières, it reminds me of the Kermit Lynch imported Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris a lot, it’s a bright dry pink that is vibrantly refreshing with a generous energetic palate of zesty fruits, spice and stoniness, this year saw a savvy Rhone varietal blend of 48% Grenache, 43% Mourvedre and 9% Cinsault making the cut here, and it’s wonderfully fresh, dry and very French in style. Brilliant in it’s delicacy and vitality with a pale kiss of pink the new P’tit Paysan Pierre’s Pirouette Rosé shines in the glass and thrills the palate with a classic brisk profile of pretty rose water, wet rocks and faint spices along with a core of sour cherry, racy citrus, strawberry and watermelon as well as a touch of seductive texture without any weight, it’s perfectly judged lingering with a touch of mouth watering acidity, chalk, dried Herbs de Provence and a Grenache (balanced fruitiness) heavy charm. There’s so much to like about this P’tit Paysan line from Ian Brand and team, these are exceptional values and serious wines, it’s hard to see another set of wines in this class for the price, they are enjoyable in every way and deliver total quality, complexity and playful fun, especially this wonderful pink wine that promises to be one of the bargains of the Summer.
($19 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 23, 2018

2015 Cameron Winery, Pinot Gris “Rouge de Gris” Orange Style Wine, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
In an ode to Radikon, John Paul has crafted an American orange wine that gives a new twist on an ancient style of skin contact wine from the Willamette Valley. Made for centuries in Georgia, this fashion of skin contact white has been revived in western Europe, especially in the remote northeast of of Italy, near the Slovenian border, in Friuli where you find the savory weirdly dry wines made by local legends like Gravner, Skerk and the mentioned Stanko Radikon, who Paul tributes this wine to, after his death in September of 2016. Stanko’s wine were the ultimate pursuit of naturalness, they are unique and often brilliantly complex, to achieve his goals and without the use of chemical additions he looked to the ancient Georgian techniques of long skin contact and amphora, though Radikon also uses neutral cask as well, as does this Cameron, extended time on the skins in white wines leads to intense dry palates with wildly savory notes and a yellow/orange/pinkish hues, (Pinot Gris is very dark skinned and gives a bit more intensity and pigment during maceration) it is believed the skins add extra protection against spoilage and added antioxidant benefit. In recent years many natural wine producers around the world have been experimenting with orange wines, some adding refinement and sophisticated class to the category, wines by Elisabetta Foradori, especially her classy and very pretty “Fuoripista” (also made of Pinot Grigio) and Frederic Niger (of Domaine de L’Ecu) come to mind. Otherwise it is a style that mainstream wine drinkers avoid like the plague, brave is the new world winemaker that tries to craft such weirdness, and with that we’ll explore John Paul’s version. First thing you’ll notice is the deep ruby reddish color, it’s like a light Pinot Noir in hue in the glass and the flavors are more pretty than raw with a slight savory element, it’s dry and crisp with a nice textural mouth feel leaning on tart cherry, strawberry and with the impression of red apple as well red peach, a touch of nectarine fruits, a light dusting of spices, earthy notes, grilled/dried citrus, mineral and saline infused wet stones. Some orange wines, while interesting are not easy to love or often  joyous to drink, but the Dundee Hills based Cameron’s medium bodied and ripely flavored Rouge de Gris is intriguing and very enjoyable, it can be used to great effect as an alternative to a serious Rose and will go well with a range of cuisine, and for those that have had and like Foradori’s skin contact Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige, then this will be an exciting wine to try too.
($33 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 22, 2018

2017 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Picpoul, Beeswax Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
The latest Bonny Doon Picpoul, the 2017 vintage, is a beautiful white wine, where the 2016 was refreshingly zippy, this version has the added benefit of textural charm and depth without losing it’s focus or verve, it takes California Picpoul to the next level with it’s vibrant citrus and white orchard fruits, mineral tones and beautiful mouth feel. Picpoul only has a few champions in the new world with Tablas Creek in Paso Robles (maybe the first) and Gramercy Cellars in Washington State being the best I’ve seen so far, but Randall Grahm’s version is absolutely great, maybe the best out there, it has the energy and zip of it’s old world cousins of Picpoul de Pinet in the Languedoc, though taking on it’s California personality in it’s best possible way, taking on a denser sense without being heavy and a more defined fruity palate while still being wonderfully brisk and dry. Picpoul is a fabulous food wine, it goes fantastically well with our local sea food and produce, it’s grape that also plays a minor role in some Chateauneuf du Pape Blancs, adding acidity and life to those marvelous wines. Randall’s 2017 Bonny Doon Vineyard Picoul has a bit of that old world character in it, it starts with pretty white flowers, salty stones, before opening up on the light to medium bodied palate that delivers a seamless array of white peach, wet shale, lime, kiwi and smooth green melon as well as a hint of spring garden herbs. This is a brilliant wine, with a Mediterranean like charisma or sensibility, it joins a vital selection of thrilling dry Alt-White varietal wines from Monterey County, like Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Riesling, Malvasia, Gruner Veltliner and Albarino, all of which are amazing values and offer distinct flavors that a give joyous Spring and Summer drinking experience. Bonny Doon’s white wines don’t get the the credit they deserve, they are serious bottlings and they deserve your attention, especially their amazing Le Cigare Blanc, in particular the Reserve, one of California’s great treasures, the 2014 is simply and utterly gorgeous, and this Picpoul, it’s a ridiculously good white wine that has a nice play between tension and lushness at a bargain price.
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 21, 2018

2017 Joyce Vineyards, Dry Riesling “Alluvial Fan” Monterey County.
One of Monterey’s most serious dry alternative whites, Russell Joyce’s Alluvial Fan Monterey County Dry Riesling is bursting with intensity, energy and vigor, I doubt many would guess where it’s from, it shows what careful farming and winemaking can do with this varietal in California, impressive for it’s exceptional mineral focus and savory tones, this 2017 is simply excellent and well made white wine that deserves your attention. Joyce recently showed off their 2017 Rose, 2017 Albarino and this vivid 2017 Dry Riesling, all of which I’ve tasted and rated outstanding, the vintage was looking good, but these certainly rise above the norm and look set to be stars this Spring and Summer, all are modern clean with vibrant brisk details without any hint of sweetness or opulence, these are austere wines that sizzle with acidity and stoniness, especially this Alluvial Fan Dry Riesling, which flows with precise and lean form, it’s crystalline and clear with loads of lime, sour peach, green melon and basil/herbal essences along with that bracing acid, mineral steely/racy grip and wet stones. This is pure and stingingly crisp Riesling, refreshing and full of lift, it’s got plenty of extract and picks up texture as it warms adding rosewater, a hint of bacon fat, saline/brine and white cherry notes, this is not your granny’s Riesling! Joyce’s whites including his Tondre Chardonnay give a nod to the classic old world versions, but are all California in personality and unique in style, the future of California whites is looking better and better, Joyce joins a new generation that are taking chances and making thrilling wines, this group includes Ian Brand (La Marea & Vocal), Tatomer, Arnot-Roberts, Scribe, Ryme, Stirm, Lepe, Wind Gap and others. Joyce’s Riesling is due out soon and so grab a dozen oysters and or spicy crab when you get it, it’s a mouth watering joy in the making.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 20, 2018

2010 Chateau La Vieille Cure, Red Bordeaux, Fronsac, Grand Vin de Bordeaux, France.
Wonderfully open, this Merlot based Bordeaux really over delivers for the price, it’s a true classic in styling from a great vintage, if you can find any of this stuff you’ll be well served to grab it up, I was wonderfully impressed with it’s depth and complexity as well as it’s round mouth feel and dark character. Grown on the chalk and clay, La Vieille Cure is mostly Merlot with a touch each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, all the grapes are de-stemmed and maceration lasts about a month before fermenting in stainless, then raised in barrel where it finishes malos. Fronsac in a vintage like 2010 is way under valued and while not as desirable as Pomerol, it’s a great place and terroir for structured Merlot wines, this La Vieille Cure is a beautiful example, it’s not a blockbuster or flashy wine, but a well crafted Claret that shows solid layers of ripe dark fruit, mineral and possesses opulent textural charm with deep color and flavors, leading with a cedary and floral bouquet with a palate of blackberry, mulberry/currant, blueberry, tobacco leaf, kirsch, sage/herb and faint graphite/loaminess. This wine has a nice tannic core, but graceful, giving pure detail and length, adding minty anise and dusty plum notes to the whole, framed by well judged oak shadings, things get even better with air as it gains a full bodied impact. What’s not to like? This is why we still love a good Bordeaux, especially a wine like this Chateau La Vieille Cure, and I’ll be interested in the 2014 and 2015 versions too, as the release price is only $24, this 2010 is a savvy cellar choice, it has plenty of life left in the tank, best from 2020 to 2025 easy, I really should have got more.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive