Monthly Archives: August 2018

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 11, 2018

2013 Domaine de L’Ecu, Melon de Bourgogne “Carpe Diem” Vin de France, Sans Soufre, Loire Valley, France.
Fred Niger’s most exclusive white from his world renown Domaine de L’Ecu is his Carpe Diem, it’s basically a special version of his estate grown Muscadet, being 100% Melon de Bourgogne, but raised for 15 months in amphora, plus with an extra year of aging in bottle before release with no sulfur added. It’s a leesy and rich wine with incredible textural presence in the glass and while opulent in mouth feel it remains true to terroir and varietal with loads of saline and oyster shell notes and crisp apple fruit on the multi layered palate. Everything starts with a mix of aromas that includes white flowers, grilled citrus, chalk dust and a hint of natural funkiness before opening up to quince, that mentioned apple, kumquat and melon fruits as well as a touch roof tiles, dried herbs and almond oil in a glycerin pack expression of Melon. This is a wine for the geeky wine enthusiast, it will thrill the natural wine crowd and those that typically love Jura stuff, as it reminds me a bit of an aged Savagnin. Fred’s basic or classique Muscadet is one of the world’s great value whites and his soil separated versions are like Premier Cru wines, this is a must try estate in the Loire Valley, he’s also killing it with these unique clay pot raised wines, especially his Cabernet Franc(s) and the gorgeous whole cluster Ange Pinot Noir, which is one of my favorite wines! While maybe not to everyone’s taste this Carpe Diem by Domaine de L’Ecu, imported by Floraison Selections, is a rare and intellectual wine that is wonderfully weird that leaves me in utter fascination.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 10, 2018

2014 Thibaud Boudignon, Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France.
With a cult like following, the wines of Thibaud Boudignon are almost impossible to find on wine shop shelves, so it was a thrill to get a chance to try this release of his Anjou Blanc, a wonderfully dry expression of Chenin Blanc from the Loire’s Anjou region. In the past I have admire Boudignon’s crisply brisk Rosé of Cabernet Franc and his severe/svelte Savennieres, which is a completely different animal to this lovely, almost generous and sexy Anjou Blanc, which is wonderfully textured and with amazing detail and length. The charismatic and talent Thibaud Boudignon is all biodynamic and uses only native (indigenous) yeasts for his whites and no malo, but with this one he does use about 30% new oak with 350L and 700L barrels, all crafted from 100% Chenin Blanc from 35 year old vines set on shallow soils comprised of grey schist and rhyolite (volcanic) that give these wines they unique character and profile which is very different from areas like Vouvray and Montlouis. The 2014 Anjou Blanc is at first lush, textural and direct, rather forward, surprisingly frankly, but with air this wine’s true core and depth is revealed with complex layers emerging and with a more spicy and mineral toned element taking a bigger role, while pretty peach, pear and white fig plays lead on the palate along with unsweetened honey, citrus blossoms and earthy gooseberry take a lesser part. The glycerin level is significant and hedonistic, especially given the vintage, this is a joyously full expression of Chenin that makes a serious impact, in many ways like a Premier Cru white Burgundy, such is the feel and class found here, you can certainly understand why it is so hard to get!
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 9, 2018-Throwback Thursday Re-Visit

2012 Rochioli, Pinot Noir, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.
One of California’s most famous classic Pinot Noir producers, Rochioli is a Russian River legend and still one of America’s finest estates with their Pinots being some of the world’s most sought after wines. Joe Rochioli Sr, with his small family, from a small village just outside of Lucca, migrated to America in 1911, seeking a better life. The Rochioli’s were one of many Italian families that arrived in New York, that made their way across the country, and settled in Northern California, and with hard work and some luck ended up on a 125-acre ranch in the Russian River Valley nearby Healdsburg, it was called Fenton Acres. Fenton Acres, is the same location where Rochioli Vineyards is today, though back in 1934 it had just a tiny vineyard, now grapes make up most of the estate and the winery is on site, next to the family home now run by Tom Rochioli, who’s dad in 1959 planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc mostly. It was early in the 1970’s that the Rochioli’s put in Pinot Noir and sold it to some great winemakers, like Davis Bynum and Bert Williams of Williams Selyem, it wasn’t until 1983 that changed the name from Fenton Acres to Rochioli Vineyards and started to make their own wines with 1987 being their first estate release. The rest is history as they say, now there is a long waiting list to get their prized Pinots, sometimes customers must wait a decade to get an offer letter. The 2012 Russian River Pinot is a bold and luxurious wine with graceful textures and classic details with black cherry, raspberry and plum fruits, baking spices, cola bean and wilted rose petals, it’s a wine entering it’s prime and with subtle maturity.
It was great to go back and check in on these older vintage Rochioli bottles, I have been holding on to, this 2012 Estate Grown Pinot Noir is drinking glorious right now, the color is fresh and the depth of complexity truly remarkable, it has fully resolved it’s oak and has gained in all dimensions, it’s a pretty and satiny Pinot that certainly thrills in the glass, drink now.
($68 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 8, 2018

n.v. Christophe Mignon, Brut Nature Champagne, France.
One of Champagne’s many new generation of natural/biodynamic winegrowers, Christophe Mignon is one of my favorite grower producers and his latest Brut Nature is a gorgeous sparkler, it comes from a blend of 2013 and 2014 vintages with no dosage. Christophe Mignon is an absolute Pinot Meunier specialist, he comes from a long line of family farmers in the Le-Mesnil-le-Huttier area, just 13 miles west of Epernay, he owns and farms 6.3 hectares of vines that were planted by his great-grandparents and are spread among thirty tiny organic parcels set on deep clay and chalky Tuffeaux soils, between the villages of Le Breuil and Festigny (where his cellar is) in the Vallee de la Marne. These terroir suits the Meunier and allows for complex ripe flavors, which makes it easier for him to use almost non dosage on all of his dry offerings, and these are beautiful and detailed Champagnes with finesse, elegance and yeasty brioche notes that are not severe in style, they are wonderfully pleasing examples and shows Pinot Meunier at it’s finest. Mignon is guided by holistic farming and follows the lunar cycle in working the vines and in the cellar, he ferments in temperature controlled epoxy lined vats, each terroir parcel is vilified separately at each’s sites perfect ripeness in a fermentation that lasts up to 30 days with this Brut Nature being aged 24 months in bottle, raised with lees, and as mentioned with no dosage. This bottling was disgorged on April 18, 2017, 100% Pinot Meunier and is drinking great right now with lovely white flowers, subtle red berry aromas and toasty notes along with layers of lemon, golden figs, hazelnut and white cherry elements all lifted by vital acidity and a luxurious, but vigorous mousse that delivers a divine textural or vinous mouth feel and lingering finish. This is brilliant grower fizz with a perfectly balanced sense of density/body and vibrancy, it finishes with a grip of dry extract making this an enthusiast all Meunier bubbly that is sublime with cuisine, but also opulent and easy to love on it’s own, very impressive again from Christophe Mignon.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 7, 2018

2017 Bold Wines, Rosé of Grenache, Paso Robles/San Luis Obispo, Central Coast.
The Bold wines label is part of a new Monterey project founded in 2014 under the Touchstone winery , established by Christopher Miller MS, the ex Spago somm, who originally had the late Peter Figge overseeing the wines before turning to Miguel Lepe to handle the cellar. They are getting ready to release a new set of wines and get their tasting room going, that will be in the Carmel Valley Village in the old Figge location across from Roux, and I had a chance to chat with Miguel and taste their upcoming Rosé, which was sourced mainly from Paso Robles as they work on securing long term local vineyard options. They are doing three tiers of wines with Touchstone being wines that will focus on Bordeaux varietals, Seabold being single vineyard Burgundy style wines and with Bold being regional or village style wines with a set that includes a dry Riesling, a Pinot Noir, a Chardonnay and this richly flavored and crowd pleasing Grenache Rosé. Interestingly, the Rosé is made with 82% Grenache Noir, 12% Roussanne and about 6% of other grapes to add complexity and vibrancy, again it’s enough from Paso Robles to be labeled as such, but a tiny amount also came from San Luis Obispo, it was picked to be Rosé and was direct pressed with 4 hours of skin contact to release it’s beautiful vivid pink hue, fermented in stainless and raised in a combo of stainless steel tank and with a portion in neutral French barrels. The mouth feel and fullness is surprising, it’s a lush style, but at 13.4% it’s not overtly sweet or heavy, it shows a forward jolly ranger that makes a first impact on the palate, though it then settles into a much more subtle wine with hints of sour cherry, watermelon, racy peach and adds a a touch of wet stones, snappy spices and distilled floral tones. This is a beach wine and one that will refresh any robust meal, it was noted by a fellow taster it would be great with fried chicken, certainly it will appeal to most dry Rosé fans that like upfront fruit, it is more Tavel than Provence in style, in fact it is more like a Rosado from Rioja, it’s similar to Muga’s version, drink up! The Bold wines should be available very soon, keep your eyes out for them, plus check out Miguel’s own Lepe Cellars wines, these are exciting new additions to the Monterey wine scene and fun stuff.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 6, 2018

2012 Big Basin Vineyards, Grizzly, Syrah/Grenache, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Bradley Brown’s Big Basin Vineyards is one of the Santa Cruz Mountains best producers of Rhone style wines and his latest set of wines show why, there make up an awesome lineup of wines, which now also include a top notch selection of Pinot Noirs nd Chardonnays from sourced fruit. Brown’s Rattlesnake Rock Syrah is his top bottling and his signature wine, it is as great as ever, but I was happily surprised by two other bottlings that might otherwise go missed, the Coast View Vineyard Chardonnay, with it’s glorious Puligny-Montrachet like character and class, truly a great Chard and the estate grown Grizzy red, in this case the 2012, made from primarily Grenache, though in this vineyard it had a big dose of Syrah, it’s a stylish effort that I couldn’t help, but be mesmerized by! I have tasted this wine on what I believe now are three occasions, this last time in a blind Rhone tasting, where it really stood out and showed really well, earning high praise from almost all of us industry tasters on a night when some heroic stuff was unleashed. The deeply colored, from the Syrah, Grizzy 2012 is a California wine first and foremost, but still with enough earthy/savory elements as to give the impression of the old world in the glass, especially in a lineup of ripe Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras, it’s a wonderful and impressive wine that is reaching a good drinking window, and while not a cheap wine, it offers some solid bang for the buck. Brown’s home estate is all certified organic and he uses mostly traditional minimalist winemaking methods in the cellar, employing native yeasts and using partial whole cluster with the wines seeing longer macerations and longer elevage in French oak casks with some barrique and a few large barrels, all done the highlight the site and showcase the purity of these wines. The 2012 Grizzy, made from 65% Alban clone field selection and 35% Syrah Alban clone field selection, grown on a mix of clay loams, ancient mudstone and with a core of sandstone underpinning is at about 1,300 feet of elevation and faces almost directly south, mostly from Big Basin’s Homestead Block a parcel that sits just below the Rattlesnake Rock Vineyard and was planted in 2007. The Grenache focused Grizzly is lifted and more aromatic with the Syrah added and lovely violets and dark floral tones enhance the bouquet while the juicy fruit driven Grenache fills the palate with loads of rich and flavorful fruit giving a sense of density while staying remarkably detailed and focused, it shows a depth of form that is joyous to behold. There is a ray of earth and spice and a hint of nervy stems that adds vigor and intensity to the layers of dark fruit that unfold with blackberry, boysenberry, plum, strawberry and cassis that fill the mouth in a textured attack. Hints of framboise, cedar, minty anise and fresh cracked pepper come through in the background along with a subtle oak note and a faint whiff of truffle/game that keeps things intriguing from start to finish, this s a class act to be admired, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years.
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 5, 2018

2015 Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
The deep garnet and purple Crozes 2015 from Graillot is a brilliant wine, punching way above it’s price class, it’s ripe per the vintage, but with exceptional purity of place, balance and intensity. This whole cluster Syrah is already drinking fantastically well, even in it’s fresh youthful form and looks set to be a classic year for Graillot, in fact both the Alain Graillot, over seen now by his son Maxime, as well as Maxime’s own Domaine des Lises both are wonderful examples, with the Graillot being a bit more dense, serious and a bit Cornas like in presence, while the Domaine des Lises is just a touch lighter and more perfumed, this was a striking difference when tasted blind recently. Graillot, who began his Domaine in 1985, owns 50 acres of 30-year-old Crozes-Hermitage vines, which are worked all organically, they are set upon a mostly flat alluvial plain between the Rhône and Isère rivers, in well-draining soils consisting of sand, gravel, and broken rocks. The wine is crafted using hand harvested clusters that are carefully sorted for the quality of the grapes and stems, fermented, as mentioned all whole cluster and raised in used Burgundy barriques, normally 1 to 3 year old barrels to provide just the right amount of refinement, he ferments with native yeasts and in concrete, everything is done with precise focus and the wines always show this region in it’s best light, this is absolutely true in this 2015 version, which is as awesome as it gets. A big thank you to Sam Smith, winemaker at Morgan Winery in Monterey, as well as making his own line of wines, who has been to Graillot and has been inspired by them, which slows in his fine Syrah offerings (check out his Samuel Louis Smith Sunstone Terraces Syrah and his Morgan Double L Syrah) as well, for sharing this bottle from his personal cellar, as part of blind Rhone Valley tasting, it was one of the best of the night, certainly the overall winner in Syrah. The palate is packed with layers of violets, graphite/flint stone, minty herb, earth and peppercorns with a core of blackberry, boysenberry, plum and blueberry fruit adding a touch of cassis, game and nervy stems with time in the glass, this is righteous stuff Ferris, and a soulful wine that seduces and charms from start to finish. It would be hard to resist drinking this Crozes up as fast as I can, but look for some extra rewards with patient cellaring, another 5 to 10 years easy!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 4, 2018

2017 Domaine Tempier, Bandol Rosé, Provence, France.
Lulu’s pink wine is one of the world great treats and become to some, me included, the right of passage into Summer, the Domaine Tempier has a reputation for being the absolute best Rosé, and it certainly is one of the most sought after and fought over. Lulu Peyraud is the matriarch of Domaine Tempier, she is legendary and her estate’s red wines can easily age with the elite Bordeaux that litter the top cellars of the rich and famous, it was her husband, Lucien, who help push through the AOC status for this unique terroir back in the late thirties and early forties and championed Mourvèdre here, making it the main grape. Lulu herself was a renown chef and sought to bring Provencal cuisine to the world, she has entertained the likes of Alice Waters and Julia Child, inspiring everyone she met. While these days I might go for the Clos Cibonne Tibouren Cotes de Provence Rosé Cuvee Speciale des Vignettes,  it’s hard not to love the much hyped, again by me as well, Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé with it’s inviting color and mouth filling palate that skirts the fine line between hedonistic density of form and lively refreshment to perfection with gorgeous texture and sharp detail, this 2017 is everything you’d expect from this famous estate. Farmed all biodynamic and from this spectacularly picturesque sea side region it France’s Provence, the Domaine Tempier Rosé is made from mostly Mourvèdre of course and grown on clay and limestone soils overlooking the blue Mediterranean, the vines and cellar are over seen by the talented Daniel Ravier, as well as Lulu’s sons taking over, with Jean-Marie sharing in the management of the domaine as well as helping in the winemaking, and with François working in the vineyards. The Rosé is crafted from 55% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache Noir and 20% Cinsault, pretty much the recipe these days here, it is from mainly 20 year old vines, and made by using 50% saignée and 50% done direct press (with early picks), it is all malolactic fermentation, which adds that sensation of a full body and opulence, while being raised 50% in stainless steel vats and 50% in concrete tanks for about 7 months allowing for more complexity and refinement upon release. There is great precision and attention to detail in the production of Tempier’s Rosé, it is a luxurious and vivid pink showing bright watermelon, strawberry, tart cherry and vibrant grapefruit layers, it has a fine mineral tone and hints at savory, with faint herbs and briar spice, while the nose is beautiful with rosewater and wet stones leading the way, this is as promised something ultra special, especially true this vintage. No one ever should pass up a chance to have this wine, it is without doubt Summer in the glass, drink up.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 3, 2018

2012 Chateau de la Gardine, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
This old school Chateauneuf by Chateau de la Gardine was the almost unrivaled star of a Rhone blind tasting that featured more than a few stars from the region, even in a mediocre vintage, it was strutting it’s stuff with the best, a gorgeous wine and a stellar performance for a winery and wine that gets often overlooked. The estate, in the hands of Gaston Brunel, a famous négociant, who acquired the Château de la Gardine in Châteauneuf du Pape in 1945 brought the property to it’s current fame now is run by his two sons, Patrick and Maxime with the help of their wives Eve and Maryse and their children Marie-Odile and Philippe, that later getting more and more involved and seemingly bringing an era of heightened quality and expectations, while the mentioned Eve Brunel directs the winemaking itself. The Château de la Gardine estate spreads over some 52 ha of vineyards 90% red grapes and a tiny amount of white and is uniquely set within a forested area. The terroir here is varied with some bits having the classic galets, the large river stones, along with limestone, sand and clay structures helping make these wines complex, well built and with a finessed elegance, with vines, farmed using organic methods, that average between 40 to 60 years of age. The winemaking is simple and traditional and in this red 65% Grenache Noir, 15% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah and 5% Muscardin was used, all de-stemmed and from all hand harvested fruit that was sorted with extreme care, the Syrah got several picks to balance the wine and add to the aromatics, it was fermented in stainless steel and raised 60% in vat and 40% in 1 to 6 year old barrique for up to 14 months. The 2012 is surprisingly perfumed with a lovely dark flowers, violet led floral attack along with hints of dusty spices and cherry confit leading to a full bodied, but graceful palate of boysenberry, plum, strawberry and dense kirsch with added touches of salted licorice, wild mint, pepper, earthy stones, graphite, cedar and incense. The texture, fine ripe tannins and lift really play amazing roles here giving this Chateauneuf it’s charm and old world character, it paired well with homemade spicy lamb meatballs and was sublime on it’s own, it might just be peaking right now, it is hard to see why you’d wait longer, but it should live nicely for another 5 years.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 2, 2018

2016 Gulfi, Rossojbleo, Terre Siciliane IGT, Sicily, Italy.
The all organic Gulfi Rossojbleo is a solid effort and great introduction to Gulfi’s Nero d’Avola wines, it’s a lighter and fresher expression of terroir and grape, showing vibrant acidity from limestone-rich soils of the south eastern side of Sicily removed from the volcanic influences. Gulfi has many vine parcels, both near Vittoria as well as on Mount Etna as well all of which are Biodynamic and vinified with minimal intervention to highlight purity and a sense of place, with this basic 100% Nero d’Avola cuvee that is all stainless steel fermentation and aging from non-irrigated southwest facing vineyard located 450 metres above sea level. This Rossojbleo Nero d’Avola comes a cru is grown at close to 450 meters up in the Hyblaean mountains in southeast Sicily. The nearby forests help to maintain a cooler climate and prolong the maturation period. The vineyard produces tiny yields, according to the winery, it’s less than 1kg (about 2 pounds) of fruit per vine with a planting density of 8,900 vines per hectare. The soil is rich in clay with limestone sediments, perfect for making fruit forward and elegant wines, and this Gulfi Rossojbleo is just that with a silky texture, medium body and layers of cherry rich retails with light spices, mineral tones and hints of dried herbs it flows smoothly across the generous palate with a sense of place and restraint. Sicily is one of the world’s most exciting places and while Etna, where Gulfi has some great stuff as well, gets the headlines, everywhere it seems on the island is making thrilling and unique wines, without question it is the golden age of wine from Sicily. This Nero d’Avola is a killer value and easy to love with it’s pretty delicate floral notes, earthy charm and it’s unfolding red fruits, including wild raspberry, strawberry, plum and the mentioned core of cherry make it a great budget choice for something interesting and entertaining, especially with simple and rustic cuisine. Look for Gulfi, they have a great variety to choice from, with a range that has an array of local grapes from Frappato to Nerello Mascalese.
($16 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive