Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 31, 2018

2016 Mullineux, Old Vines White, Swartland, South Africa.
South Africa in recent years has seen an amazing change of generation and a rise in quality few could have guessed at, winemakers like Eben Sadie, Adi Badenhosrt and Andrea Mullineux, just to name a few, are now international super stars and remarkably some of their greatest wines are from white grapes, especially Chenin Blanc, with some wines eclipsing any wines from the Loire! Also too is a trend to make field blends, historic and or old vine vineyards which like early California site were planted to mixed varietals, both Sadie Family and Mullineux excelling in these wines, and while I’ve featured Sadie in recent years, this was my first chance to dig into Andrea’s offerings in a serious way and exploring her terroir/soil series was a thrill with her single varietal Syrah and Chenin on granite really impressing me, and while they are without question some of the most exciting wines from South Africa I’ve ever tried, I loved this old vine field blend white maybe best of all for it’s combination of complexity and value. Crafted from 62% Chenin Blanc, 15% Grenache Blanc, 11% Viognier, 8% Clairette Blanche and 4% Semillon Gris the 2016 Old Vine White from Mullineux (the husband and wife team of Chris and Andrea) starts with a sizzling tension and crisp focus only barley hinting at the rapture to come in the following minutes, it reveals slowly in an austere way it’s layers of tart peach, unripe apple, brisk lemony citrus and waxy unsweetened honey and dusty stones adding a straw note before opening to a medium bodied, textured and excitingly severe palate. With air more appears and this white gathers itself and seduces completely gaining white flowers, mineral/steely verve, clove/spice, wet river rock and melon, kiwi and almond oil. The wine is fermented using native yeasts and aged 11 months in French oak, about 20% of which are new, not that you notice at first, it’s only well into the bottle does the mouth feel turn richer and you pick up the wood and leesy side of things, the grapes, old vine Chenin along with the Mediterranean varieties come from vineyard parcels in different parts of the Swartland area with an amazing geological make up of soils including plots in the stony Shale and Schist of Kasteelberg, decomposed Granite in Paardeberg and the iron-rich hillsides west of Malmesbury, all of which shines through to make an outstanding world class white! This wine is the real deal to drink over the next 3 to 5 years, it is like if you took the best from Francois Chidane’s Montluis and Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc along with a little bit of Laura Lorenzo’s Erea de Vila Ribeira Sacra Godello blend, all awesome wines on their own, such is the nature of Mullineux’s class, don’t miss a chance at this or any of their wines!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 30, 2018

2016 Bedrock Wine Co., Heritage Red, Evangelho Vineyard, Contra Costa County.
Beautifully textured and ripely flavored the new Bedrock Evangelho Heritage is a refined Zin based red from own rooted vines that were planted in the 1890’s, it’s a juicy wine that has a sense of vintage influenced restraint and a it has a wonderfully long finish. The Bedrock owned Evengelho Vineyard is a historic site that is a California treasure with over a hundred and twenty years of tradition and producing high quality grapes, and the Contra Costa’s Evengelho family has been tending these vines since 1936, they are grown on the Delhi Sand (soils) of the San Joaquin River Delta, the sand helps give the vineyard it’s longevity and allows this site to keep producing beautiful and concentrated fruit, as highlighted by Morgan Twain-Peterson’s Bedrock Heritage Red. This version is close to 60% Zinfandel and 35% Mataro, with the remainder being a touch of Carignane, a little Palomino and maybe a few other varietals and comes in at 14.1%, which delivers an elegant performance on the palate with smooth layers of black raspberry, brambleberry, sweet plum and kirsch along with dark spring flowers, a subtle Mourvedre earthiness, grilled herbs, satiny tannins, anise and incense. There’s a surprising lift that keeps things exciting and provides this deeply purple/garnet hued and full bodied wine a grace and focus that makes it stand out. Twain-Peterson compares this to a southern Rhone red, and I certainly can see that, it reminds me a bit of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in style, but with it’s classic Zinfandel flavor profile, he raised this serious red in large French foudre after co-fermenting this wine by each block, it gains tremendously with air, dropping it’s simple hedonism for a more complex animal and revealing coveted detailing and mineral tones, it’s a wine to enjoy now with robust cuisine or aged another 5 to 10 years, it’s impressive by nature, especially if you give it time to show it’s full self, it’s a sleeper in Bedrock’s stellar lineup.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 29, 2018

2013 Theresa Eccher, Etna Rosso DOC “ER” Sicily, Italy.
This blend of Nerello Mascalese (80%) and Nerello Cappuccio (20%) from Theresa Eccher winery, by Daniela Conta (Theresa’s granddaughter) and her hus­band Andrea Panozzo is a classic and easy drinking Mount Etna red that highlights the volcano terroir with lovely spice, dusty earth and mineral charms to go with a medium body of bright red fruits. This wine was traditionally made with fermentation in stainless steel tank, temperature controlled, and raised in mostly in tank as well, though some get a little of used cask using old vines. Uniquely, Theresa Eccher winery, named after a historical figure from Trentino, sources wine from around Italy, with Conta and Panozzo putting together an interesting lineup that ranges from dry to sweet, from vineyards and regions they find intriguing without any ties to the region themselves, as well as a Lambrusco, as far as I can tell they started with Sicily in the 2011 vintage. While I normally try to review small estate wines, I really enjoyed this fairly dark Etna Rosso with a non working dinner and decided to dig into the producer, and while not much info is out there, the quality in the bottle shines and at $42 on a restaurant list it wasn’t an outrageous gouging and well worth the pleasure in the glass, especially with the wonderful seafood spaghetti nero at La Belena in Carmel by the Sea. The 2013 Theresa Eccher Etna Rosso DOC “ER” is silken with pretty mouth feel and delicacy on the palate, liken a fine Pinot Noir, it goes great with a variety of cuisine choices, it starts with flinty spices, dried flowers and tangy plummy notes which leads to a palate that gains with every sip adding cherry, raspberry, red pepper, minty anise and a touch of stony earth. The acidity is lifting, but silky and the sense of floral grace lingers on the finish, making for a friendly Sicilian red that hints at the exotic nature of the place, drink now.
($22-26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 28, 2018

2015 Domaine Collotte, Marsannay, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
Exploring value priced Burgundy using ends in huge disappointment, but sometimes you find a jewel and the wines of Philippe Collotte are just that, especially his old vine Marsannay, where there are 5 parcels of 50+ year old vines that make up his excellent super-value Marsannay Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, it way over delivers for the price. For the US market, Weygant Metzler has special cuvees, with all ultra sorted de-stemmed fruit, he bottles everything unfiltered per his imports request, it makes for an expressive and mineral driven Pinot Noir of wonderful delicacy, but with solid fruit intensity which forms it’s perception of depth flavors. While starting with classic Burgundy subtly and brightness things gain a darker feel with air allowing layers of black cherry, strawberry and earthy vine picked berries to come through on the medium bodied palate, the mouth feel and length are quite impressive for a wine of this price. Rose petals, chalk dust and cedar notes along with a mixed spice note add to the whole here, there’s no question this will surprise a few people, the vintage with it’s concentrated ripe profile certainly helped and the old vines give a charm that with put a smile on many a face, it did mine! Drink this Marsannay over the next 3 to 5 years, it’s a no guilt Burgundy to get by the case!
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 27, 2018

2015 Vincent Gaudry Vigneron, Sancerre Rouge “Les Garennes” Loire Valley, France.
The first domaine to be certified biodynamic in Sancerre, back in 2004, the Saury-en-Vaux based Vincent Gaudry has been a unique leader in natural style wines in the area, he also has a 90 year old plot of vines that delivers outstanding terroir quality with expressive depth and character, this is a winemaker to watch, if you haven’t had his wines. Vincent Gaudry’s Sancerre Rouge is a single parcel old vine Pinot Noir, made 100 % whole cluster from a massale selection, from his domaine’s 9 hectares of vineyards grown on the region’s three main soils that includes Terres Blanches, a clay-limestone or marl, and classic Silex, flint and stony (chalky), plus Caillottes, a rubble-like limestone that comes from weathered Kimmeridgian. The 2015 organic whole cluster, low sulfur, Sancerre Rouge is ripe and expressive in a way you rarely find in Pinot Noir’s from the Loire, it’s wine with sexy layers and Premier Cru quality depth and elegance with an amazing sense of live and length, with the stems perfect mated to the fruit intensity, this wine is insanely seductive with hedonistic layers of fruit, spice and mineral focus. It starts with a hint of spritzy lift before exploding on the palate with a mix of rose oil, black cherry, pomegranate, sweet basil leaf, cinnamon, wild plum, racy stemmy notes, flinty spices and delicate wood shadings. Things keep pumping along nicely and air brings a refined nature to things, while not missing a step or taking away from the thrill ride it takes you on, gaining a touch of minty herb, cedar and tangy strawberry and lingering on with a touch of blood orange zest, violet pastel, wet chalk and tart currant. This will be a fascinating wine to follow over the next 5 to 10 years, even though it’s youthful charm and flamboyance is impossible to resist, it is asking a lot not to enjoy now. This producer is all new to me, imported by Floraison Selections, but the secret is out now, don’t wait to find this wine!
($62 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 26, 2018

2016 Drew, Pinot Noir, Mid-Elevation, Mendocino Ridge.
For the third vintage in a row, Jason Drew just might be California’s best producer and wines are spectacular in delivery, substance and expressive with an amazing sense of controlled tension, these 2016’s are full of energy, precision and depth of fruit, without question they are some of my favorite wines (Syrah & Pinot), with this lovely value priced Mid Elevation an early star in the lineup. Mid-Elevation is an appellation blend of several sites in the Mendocino Ridge (85%) plus Anderson Valley (15%) that lie between 1,200-1,400 feet in elevation. Drew considers this zone their sweet spot within the coastal ridges for structured Pinot Noir(s) as they are closer to the fog-line which is typically at 900-1,000ft, allowing for opulent layers and brilliant acidity, it really makes the wine pop in the glass as this wine clearly shows. Five vineyards make up this cuvee, 50% Drew Estate, 12% Valenti Ranch, 12% Perli Vineyard, 12% Fashauer Vineyard and 15% Wendling Vineyard with a selection of Dijon and Heritage clones that include 667, 828, 115, Pommard, 943, Swan, and Rochioli, Jason then fermented with partial whole cluster, with 15% in this vintage, using native yeasts, then barrel aged in mostly used French oak (only 15% new) for about 11 months. Brilliant in detail and lift, the Mid-Elevation 2016 Pinot is bursting with flavor and dynamic transparency with a deep garnet/ruby hue in the glass showing a lovely floral tone and muted wood that leads to a medium weight palate of black cherry, tangy summer berries, pomegranate, purple plums, cran-apple and dark currant fruits along with a hint of orange/minty tea spices, pine pitch, mineral, light touches of wild mushrooms, cinnamon and flinty loam. This textured and youthful Pinot only previews the greatest of what we can look forward to in the single vineyard wines to come from Drew, this Mid-Elevation is a stupidly good value, it has complexity, beauty in fine and delicate focus, balanced brisk acidity and satiny tannins that form it’s structure, it shows a ripe and potent personality, but with a Burgundy like natural alcohol coming in at 13.4%, which belies it’s impact and presence in the glass. If you really want to taste California at it’s best, Drew is a must, the level of expression and class is off the charts, these are wines the rise above and are pure seduction, search them out! The 2016’s may not be as concentrated as 2013 or 2015, but they more than make up for that with their overall performance, they have a polish that allows early drinking, especially this one, but I see potential in mid term cellaring, drink between 2019-2026.
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 25, 2018

2016 M. & C. Lapierre, Morgon, Cuvee S, Cru Beaujolais, France.
The M. & C. Lapierre 2016 Morgon Cru Beaujolais “S” is the lightly sulfured version, made from organic grapes and natural winemaking techniques, it just has a tiny dose of S02 at bottling to preserve it, as opposed to the Cuvee N that is exclusively imported by Kermit Lynch in ultra small qualities, while this one is more readily available and safer for shipping/cellaring, both are glorious expressions of Morgon, in fact after trying both there s little if any real world difference except that the N feels slightly more raw with a more earthy tone and a touch more citrusy note, while the S has a more forward clarity of fruit, though as noted the difference is almost not worth mentioning, it’s just as a long time admirer of Lapierre I was extremely curious as to how both were performing. Lapierre’s dad Marcel was a leader in organic and natural wines and Mathieu and his sister Camille have carried on his legendary example with exceptional care in the vines and in the cellar, these are wines that have always shown what well crafted natural wine can be, they are pure, elegant and clean wines with an authentic and soulful expression of terroir and heritage, while still not taking themselves too seriously, adding a playful art to each wine, these are wines you drink with a sense of awe and with much laughter and a huge smile on your face! This is absolutely Gamay perfection, made whole cluster from 60 years old vines and aged in well used Burgundy barrels, with no adornments, juicy, but wonderful in balance, beautifully perfumed and texture showing fine silky tannins and energy. The 2016 delivers a rich vein of bright cherry, fruity/juicy strawberry and wild black plum notes, a hint of cedar/walnut, sweet star anise, dried basil, mineral tones and violette. With air some savory tones, earth, spice and mineral add to the complex detail come through with delicious subtly, there’s no wonder why these are so sought after, I love it. This is a Gamay wonderland, not as concentrated as 2015, but joyously lively and almost crisply refreshing, drink now.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 24, 2018

2014 Guillaume Gilles, Cornas, Northern Rhone, France.
One of the my favorite Syrah wines in the world, Guillaume Gilles Cornas, is a powerful and edgy red with wonderful depth and intensity, but with a certain polish and inner elegance that makes it stand out in a crowd of fine northern Rhone offerings. Guillaume Gilles, once a young vigneron resident in Cornas, is now one of the regions top talents, he trained under the famed Robert Michel and was Michel’s most loved protégé, not only did Robert Michel mentor the young Guillaume Gilles, he also leased his prime parcel in the Chaillot vineyard to him and provided his cave (with all its history and secrets!) when he retired in 2006. Gilles, like Thierry Allemand, it an ultra traditionalist in the cellar, he’s never even seen a destemmer! And he uses 100% whole cluster, only native yeasts, ferments in concrete vats and ages in old demi-muids, large used French oak casks, and bottles without fining or filtering. In Cornas, the best wines without question come from the old and best sites and Chaillot is just about the greatest parcel there is and Gilles hand tends his rows on the higher and steepest part, which tends to give the most concentration, tannin and an added dimension to the wines, his plot average 40 years old and while not certified his works in an organic way on the rocky granite, clay and limestone soils. It was great to finally meet Guillaume in person recently, when he was on a sales tour with Rosenthal Wine Merchants in San Francisco, and tasting his current lineup which included this 2014 Cornas, his top wine, as well as his rare Vin de France (100% Syrah) Les Peyrouses from vines just outside the legal Cornas zone on a flat galet (big round river stones) strewn site with sand and clay soils, it can also be labeled Cotes du Rhone, the same way A. Clape does. The 2014 vintage was not the region’s top years, but the Gilles Cornas is remarkably powerful and profound in the glass with an opaque purple/black/garnet hue and a vast array of terroir influences on the nose and palate with your senses getting a thrill of crushed violets, raw meat, peppercorns, mure and tapenade along with edgy black and blue fruits forming a core with firm tannins and a vivid stemmy nature. Gilles gives a long cool cuvaison to this wine, macerating up to 30 days and elevage (aging in cask) lasts 18 months, plus a year in bottle before shipping, he uses only a tiny amount of sulfur and the 2014 shows tremendous purity and vigor with a heightened lift of natural acidity, which adds a feel of energy and lightness to this brilliant wine, it just gets better with every sip adding blueberry, kirsch, lavender and salted black licorice to the layers on display here, wow, this is stellar and gripping stuff. I have been following this winery since the first US release and I am always impressed and intrigued by the wines, and considering the amount made and the quality, the Guillaume Gilles is a must have Syah, it delivers a performance that is world class, and while slightly austere there is a gorgeous subtle beauty that should unfold over time, even though it seems a bit hidden at the moment, amazing in detail and complexity, I can only imagine the greatness and flamboyance that the 2015 promises, but I would not pass up the chance to get this 2014, it’s simply awesome, drink over the next 5 to 15 years!
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 23, 2018

2016 Los Chuchaquis by Stirm Wine Co., Old Vine Mataro, San Benito County.
This wine is a part of a joint project lineup by Ryan Stirm, Andrew Paul Nelson and Jehan Hakimian that focuses on natural wines from interesting old vine sites. Chuchaqui is a Quechua word that literally means “without legs” and used colloquially in Ecuador to refer to someone who is “perpetually hungover”. The three initially connected through their joint love of Riesling and California’s historic vineyards, they brought the Chuchaqui dream of making their own idea of natural wine from California’s historic varieties to life in 2016. Inspired by some of the most successful European (think Occhipinti & Lapierre) and California natural wines, without the old hippy absolute dogma that led to dirty and funky wines that weren’t pleasant or stable, there is a clarity and action to detail here, though there has never, nor will there ever be, any commercial (industrial) yeast used at the winery, relying on native strains only and now new oak barrels, no additions or aggressive handling during production. Other than a minimal amount of S02 (sulfur) that was added to their Rosé, the wines are made without any sulfur and exclusively 100% organically grown grapes. To make this style of wine, and not end up with weirdness you need to have extreme cleanliness and top your barrels with a fanatic sense of purpose to make sure you don’t let volatile acidity run rampant and everything I’ve tried from Stirm shows to dedication and pride in hard work, especially in this old vine Mourvedre (Mataro) which shows wonderful purity and fresh form, it is joyous on the medium full palate and refined in texture and has juicy ripeness without harsh tannin and a long dry finish. The 2016 Chuchaqui Old Vine Mataro is vibrant, spicy and has a nice array of spice, mineral and earthy tones that you’d expect from this grape with layers of vivid black raspberry, plum and candied cherry fruit that come across at first as crisply focused, but gains density and firm structure with air which balances the up front expressiveness of this red, and even though it doesn’t quite get the full mouth feel or richness of a Bandol or some of the better and more complex Mourvedre offerings in the state, like Sandlasnds, Alban, Tablas Creek, Ian Brand, who’s Enz Vineyard version is one of my personal favorites as is Randall Grahm’s Old Telegram and or Ridge’s Lytton Springs single varietal bottling, to name a few I’ve loved recently as I really love this grape, while (This Chuchaqui) still being a fun and well made wine, and it really grew on me when it’s full presence come through in the glass. It’s dark garnet/purple color is exciting and when enjoyed with food it is allowed to deliver it’s best qualities which include hints of lavender, dusty stones, a touch of primary red peach and blood orange is the only hint at it’s naturalness as well as minty herb, anise, flinty/pepper and lingering cinnamon, cedar, dried flowers and tangy currant/mulberry. This wine shows lots of promise, it has a lot of admirable character and I’m excited to see where this label goes, I love Ryan’s own label Riesling, which is right up there with Tatomer and Joyce in a dry style, and I also liked their co-ferment nouveau field blend as well. Drink this old vine Mataro by Chuchaqui (Stirm Wine Co.) sooner v. later, it excels for it’s youthful charm and with no added sulfur you’ll need to be extra careful and keep it away from light and heat if you cellar it, best from 2018 to 2021, I think it has more than enough class, potential and style to surprise and hope to drink a few more bottles over the next few years.
($35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 22, 2018

2014 Domaine Bertrand et Axelle Machard de Gramont, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Lieu-Dit “Les Terraces de Vallerots” Red Burgundy, France.
Since taking over the family domaine in 2004 Axelle Machard de Gramont has converted to organic farming and gained a great reputation as a minimalist in the cellar making gorgeous and lively wines that seem softer in focus and more elegant, they highlight the delicacy of each terroir and make for wonderful drinking wines that offer classic profiles and are fantastic values, with this Lieu-Dit Vallerots being one of my favorites of her 2014 bottlings that I’ve tried. The vineyard, Axelle’s father Bertrand reterraced and planted in 2002 on a plot that had been abandoned since the late 1800s is now starting to realize it’s potential and this 2014 is a beauty with a complex array of pure Pinot Noir flavors and terroir influence, it’s a brightly lifted Burgundy that leans on pretty red cherry, wild plum and dusty raspberry, earthy beet root along with rose petals on the nose, plus an earthy seduction of mineral, spice and truffle notes before adding a darker element of racy currant and a faint touch leather on the silken palate. There’s plenty of density and richness of fruit in this textural Nuits-Saint-George, but it still remains remarkably light and energetic with nice acidity and almost haunting in length and detail, Axelle’s touch really is telling, especially as this wine opens and evolves with air and time, considering this from such young vines the finesse is even more impressive. Best to enjoy this tasty wine, imported by Paris Wine Company & Balanced Wine Selections, over the near future, maybe between 2019 and 2022.
($55 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive