Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 30, 2018

2016 Kelley Fox Wines, Pinot Noir “Ahurani” Momtazi Vineyard, McMinnville, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
One of Oregon’s talented new generation of winemakers Kelley Fox has released her latest Ahurani Pinot Noir from the biodynamic vines at Momtazi Vineyard in the McMinnville AVA, it’s a beauty, and In 2016 (as in 2015) Fox used 100% whole cluster, and it’s produced from blocks on the top of the tallest hill of the vineyard. This block selection cuvee is remarkably fresh and vivid in a vintage that some found warm and even over ripe in places, it highlights both place, the all organic and bio vineyard and the elevation that keeps it’s cool climate acidity, with Kelley employing only used French Burgundy barriques to express the purity of fruit, and at 13% it’s as refined and bright as you’d want, wonderfully balanced. Fox, after long stints at Eyrie and Scott Paul wines, started her own winery with the 2007 vintage and has gained a stellar reputation ever since and is one of the region’s rising stars with absolutely star quality wines with this offering of Ahurani being an exceptional value in her lineup, this is a list to get on, no question! The ripe and warm year really allows the use of whole bunch and stems here and it shows that the total harmony found here in this gorgeously detailed Pinot, Fox’s wonderful touch and judgement are also on full display too, as there is the perfect amount of tension and stemmy thrill to go with the graceful and silky fruit, this is a wine that grabs your attention and seduces you with purity of flavor, texture, subtle perfume and dreamy length. The palate is surprisingly complex and mouth filling considering the restrained natural alcohol and this Ahurani retains an energy and acidity profile that is fresh and vibrant that provides an excellent stage to show the vivid layers of black cherry, pomegranate, wild plum and strawberry fruits, liquid mineral, a touch of earth, sweet/minty Thai basil/herbs, peppery cinnamon and a heady mix of floral elements and woodsy chanterelles. Air and time in the glass allows this youthful Pinot Noir to gain an even more intriguing and engaging charm, it’s color seems to become even more translucent and glowing with a bright ruby and garnet core adding a touch of rose petal, a cut of orange tea and lingers with a nice play of spice and sexy blue fruits on the aftertaste. This 2016 is easy to love even now, but I can really imagine things developing further over the next 2 or 3 years in bottle. I am absolutely blown away with this latest set of Kelley Fox wines, this not a label to miss, especially her Pinot Blanc and this Ahurani Pinot Noir!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 29, 2018

2015 Big Basin Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Alfaro Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Bradley Brown’s Big Basin is one of the stars of the Santa Cruz Mountains, specializing in estate Rhone style wines, in particular his Rattlesnake Rock Syrah, one of the state’s best Syrah wines, but he also does a collection of Pinot Noir(s) and one of the most interesting is his Alfaro Family Vineyard. Richard Alfaro’s vines produces full flavored grapes with low brix, his cool site in Corralitos is one of the prime spots in the southern zone of Santa Cruz Mountains set on a hillside set on sandy loams, it’s a place highly influenced my the Monterey Bay with chilling fog and a long growing season that allows for beautiful deep color and fruit, but with Burgundy like acidity and low natural alcohols. The Big Basin 2015 Alfaro Vineyard Pinot is a bold and nervy version with ripe fruit and intense stem inclusion spiciness, it was made with 100% whole cluster, a long cold soak, with it being hand punched, and using only indigenous yeasts. Barrel aged for 18 months in French oak barrels employing a minimalistic approach with natural malos in cask and only a tiny amount of sulphur was added once they were finished and the wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered, which is very old school and gives the wine a purity of form and a lot of youthful and stemmy punch. This has layers of deep Pinot fruit with heightened sensations throughout with the ripeness of vintage being muted by the intensity of the nervy spice and the whole cluster complexity with a full and gripping palate of black cherry, briar laced raspberry, blood orange, plum and cranberry fruits along with peppered liquid roses, minty/herb tea, cola bean, bitter lavender, a hint of loam, stony/earth and a touch of sweet smoky oak. Impressive and with riveting impact this is a wine that will thrill the fans of Henri Gouges (Nuits-Saint-Georges) and or those that want kinky stem infused character, it’s less a beautiful or pretty Pinot Noir, but rather a unique and intriguing example, though it should develop into a more joyous and rewarding wine after a few years in bottle. This is is wine that gives you a lot to think about and while not for the faint of heart it’s got a ton of personality and I should note it really excels with cuisine giving a glimpse of it’s future self and inner sex appeal, drink this one in 5 to 7 years for best results, it just could be magical at that point.
($60 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 28, 2018

2016 Hundred Suns, Pinot Noir “Old Eight Cut” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Grant Coulter, who has made wines at Beaux Freres since 2007, and Renée Saint-Amour’s Hundred Suns Wines (a reference to the growing season that lasts a hundred days between flowering and harvest) is an exciting new winery in the Willamette Valley. Coulter, who’s from Monterey California, made wines and worked harvests from California to Australia and finished his degree in enology at Fresno State before setting off to work in Oregon with Eric Hamacher at his Carlton Winemakers Studio. He’s talents were rewarded and he worked his way up from intern to head winemaker at Beaux Freres between 2007 and 2013, before starting Hundred Suns Wines with Saint-Amour, who herself has worked for the Carlton Winemakers Studio as well, with Grant currently being winemaker and director of the estate vineyards at Flaneur Wines. These wines are crafted in small lots with minimal winemaker guidance, the grapes once harvested, their fruit is sorted with a high percentage of whole cluster used. They believe that through the use of stems we can amplify the purity of their fruit or to, in their words, weave complex aromatics into the final cuvées. They use only natural or native yeasts and microbes to complete the (fermentation) cycle without added enzymes, additives or nutrients. Wines are aged in mostly seasoned used French oak, as well as very small amounts of new barriques and or uniquely terracotta amphora vessels.This cellar selection includes diverse vineyards from the Willamette Valley including the renowned Shea Vineyard in the Carlton-Yamhill County with these grapes being in a block on marine sediment and sandstone with a single clone, 777, the biodynamic Sequitur Vineyard owned by Mike Etzel of the famed Beaux Freres Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA at an elevation of 425 Feet with great exposures that face South East on marine sedimentary (Willakenzie series) soils planed to clones that include Chalone, 943 and Rochioli, and the dry farmed and organic Bednarik Vineyard in the Coast Range set on marine sedimentary soils with Pommard clone. According to Grant all of the wines for this cuvée were fermented using native yeasts with the final barrel selection for this blend was about 35% whole cluster, which gives this wine an open fruit presence and a nervy stems influence, and it was aged for 10 months in oak barrels with 90% being neutral French oak and about 10% of new wood that were from the remote Jura region of France. The “Old Eight Cut” cuvee is a gorgeous, expressive and exotic wine that starts out like Mathieu Lapierre’s Cru Morgon! It’s wildly intriguing and I the whole cluster teamed with the vintage’s ripe nature combines to give a semi-carbonic almost juicy Gamay like start before gaining it’s Pinot Noir core with air in the glass, bursting with energy and overt dark fruit along with dynamic spices and sexy stem influence, mineral tones and bright floral notes. This (One) Hundred Suns Pinot shows medium bodied palate reveals black berry, racy currant, plum and black cherry fruits, minty herbs, violets, rose oil, cedar and a dusting of pepper, cinnamon, cayenne and tea spices that all thrill in the mouth and lingers on the finish, this is awesome and exciting wine, very different from the style at Beaux Freres, but with the same level of quality in the glass. I got to briefly meet Grant at BFV back in 2008 near harvest and was told then he was a rising talent from the guys there and that stuck with me, so I’m happy to report those rumors were true then and now and this is a winery to keep an eye on and one you’ll want to join their mailing list, especially to get this wine, no question, it’s a great value that should drink well for 5 to 10 years.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 27, 2018

2015 Isole e Olena, Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
A deep and rich Chianti Classico by Isole e Olena that delivers a smooth and ripe palate showing layers of black and red fruits, a sense of vintage warm, fine tannins and an almost chocolate/lush textural mouth feel, this wine impresses for it’s impact and substance. Paolo De Marchi’s all estate grown Chianti Classico is flashy style giving the vintage a luxurious expression and a modern clean elegance. This is Chianti usually a blend of about 80% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 5% Syrah and shows a pure Tuscan focus in character in it’s profile, even though it is really dark in color and exotic in the glass with a crimson/garnet color. The Sangiovese drives the wine with blackberries, cherry, plum and anise as well as hints of sweet tobacco, minty herb, cedar and vanilla, it feels and flows seamlessly and has excellent length adding spice, dried flowers and mocha notes. This Isole e Olena drinks bigger and broader than expected, it even comes across like a more expensive wine, maybe a Super Tuscan, it certainly doesn’t shy away from it’s opulence, but it does offer a surprising degree of balance, and while subtle, the acidity gives a sense of energy that helps provide a platform for the complexity to shine through and keeps the full body from being overt or flabby. This wine with it’s power deserves a robust meal to compliment it’s distinct presence, it should provide wonderful drinking pleasure for many years to come, drink from 2018 to 2025.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 26, 2018

2017 Kelley Fox Wines, Pinot Blanc, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Coast Range, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This impressive white, 100% Pinot Blanc, from Kelley Fox reveals elegant white Burgundy character and finesse, it comes from one of Oregon’s most prized vineyards, Freedom Hill, a site revered for Pinot Noir with many famous wines being made from this site’s grapes, but in recent vintages the Pinot Blanc from here has really shined, especially this one! Planted back in 1982, Freedom Hill is one of the top vineyards in the Willamette Valley set into the coastal range, which is cooler, but with great exposures making for wonderfully complex Pinot Noir(s) like those of Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent and Ken Wright, but it also has some of America’s best Pinot Blanc vines too and Kelley Fox just released her exciting version. In the past few years, I think Pinot Blanc has taken over as Oregon’s best single varietal white wine, with the wines of the mentioned Ken Wright and John Paul’s at Cameron Winery convincing me of such, so I was thrilled to get a few bottles of Fox’s 2017 to taste, and I was not disappointed, this is a glorious example, full of personality, energy and depth of flavors. Kelley Fox’s Pinot Blanc from Freedom Hill Vineyard in Dallas (bordering the Eola-Hills A.V.A.) was planted, owned and is farmed by the legendary growers, the Dusschee family. The soil here is Bellpine, a marine sedimentary silt, clay and loam that is very well-drained which helps with concentration and depth. This is (a) true, as mentioned, 100% Pinot Blanc, with absolutely no Auxerrois in this bottling, and it was produced much the same way as one would produce a fine white Burgundy style Chardonnay, as it was whole cluster-pressed after picking, then It was settled in tank for a couple of days before racking to neutral (no new) Burgundy oak barrels (of 228L size). The Fox Pinot Blanc fermented completely in these barrels un-inoculated, meaning it was allowed to finish with full malos and to full dryness for a medium/full bodied wine with textural pleasure and rich detail, while still preserving enough natural acidity to be vibrant and mineral driven with a crisp focus. Beautifully detailed and textural throughout the palate unfolds with layers of apple, peach and lemon fruits along with hints of fig, vanilla, a hint of dried herbs, white citrus blossoms, honeycomb and wet stones, making for an opulent wine that excels with air in the glass, it’s light golden/yellow hue adding a visual highlight and all the while staying focused, classy stuff this. I have been tasting through the latest set of Kelley Fox’s offerings and these are truly great wines, this Pinot Blanc is one of her best, but don’t miss out on her thrilling whole cluster Ahurani Pinot Noir 2016 either, both gorgeously expressive and outstanding values, absolutely world class.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 25, 2018

2017 Domaine Serol, Gamay, Cote Roannaise “Eclat de Granite” Loire Valley, France.
Stephane Serol is making some compelling wines from his upper Loire Cote Roannaise estate from Saint Romain clone Gamay, these are wines that defy regional landscapes and should be almost considered a iconic individual appellation or maybe considered a lost Cru Beaujolais on par with Morgon or Cote de Brouilly! Especially this 2017 Eclat de Granite which is plush and expressive much in the same way Dutraive, Lapierre, Sunier, Thivin, Chanrion and Thevenet are with plenty of intense Cote Roannaise mountain tannin and structure. Minerally detailed, this beautifully clear Serol Gamay has a deep sense of varietal, place and remote wildness, Stephane has captured his place in the bottle to near perfection. Vivid purple, magenta and ruby/garnet in the glass the Eclat de Granite is bursting with vibrancy and dark flavors showing flinty spices, herbs, violets and walnut complexities to go along with a core of blackberry, blue plum and bing cherry fruit, adding a touch of grenadine, straw and tart blood orange as well as a faint trace of stony/earthiness in an absolutely balanced wine that really delivers exceptional quality. One of the best vintages from Serol, it combines a lovely and graceful medium bodied palate and a flowing almost seamless stream of Gamay flavors, textural pleasure and a vivacious personality, easy to love from start to finish. Serol, who’s Domaine sits at high elevation not too far from the Loire’s source at the Massif Central, has some 80 year old vines and is the fifth generation to farm and make wine up here, he and his wife Carine have made this wild almost forgotten land a serious place to search out. Stephane employed partial whole cluster and traditional fermentation with his 2017 Eclat de Granite and raised it in a combination of neutral cask and tank, again to add live, grip and sense of place and while non carbonic it has a pop of juicy fruit and some nervy coil from the limited use of stems, this is almost impossible for Gamay lovers to resist and Burgundy fans will also grudging and maybe secretly adore this stuff as they do with producers like Foillard! Serol works all organic and is almost finished converting to full biodynamic practices in the vineyards and in the cellar and uses ultra low sulfur, rather than niche him as a natural winemaker, I’d say he is committed to his land and passionate in everything he does, drink his 2017 Eclat de Granite over the next 3 to 5 years, if not longer.
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 24, 2018

2016 Domaine Font Sarade, Vacqueyras, Les Hauts de la Ponche, Rhone Valley, France.
The Domaine Font Sarade wines are crafted by the father and daughter team of Bernard and Claire Burle and they have done a masterful job of their Les Hauts de la Ponche Vacqueyras 2016, a stunning wine from a stunning vintage, made from 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 25% Mourvedre. I’ve been wanting to try the wines from this small Domaine for a few years, so I’m glad I got my hands on some of this stuff, especially as 2016 is looking like a rockstar vintage, making this particularly good timing. The Burle’s are traditional in their winemaking and are looking to translate individual Lieu-Dits and showcase their unique terroirs, they make a few Cotes-du-Rhone(s), Ventoux, a Rose, Cru Gigondas and Vacqueyras from family owned and farmed vines. The 2016 Font Sarade Vacqueyras is 100% de-stemmed and is fermented and aged in cement vats for absolute purity and allows for the clay and limestone soils to shine through, and with such a vintage as 2016 you get a massively appealing wine, rich in flavor, detail and life, coming in at a full 14.5% natural alcohol this has as much impact as a Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, but at a tiny fraction of the price, making it a steal! This 2016 is grapey fresh at first, with air it gains a deeper almost chocolatey density with an appealing dark purple and garnet hue in the glass, it’s un-endowed by anything except fruit purity and terroir influences with layers of crushed violets, minty herbs, lavender and black currant, boysenberry and radiant kirsch, adding pepper, dusty plum, anise and tart strawberry with air, in an impressive, youthful and compact wine. The freshness combined with perfect ripeness makes this an outrageously good Vacqueyras that while tight expands on the medium/full palate, while the natural tannin keeps everything focused and well structured, this will be an intriguing wine to follow over the next 5 to 10 years, and while I usually like a bit of stem complexity, this wine seems to lack for nothing. It’s hard to imagine not to get a case or two, but harder to imagine not drinking as fast as you can either, this is everything you ever want from this region and more, I say get as much as you can, while you can!
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 23, 2018

2016 Vietti, Barbera d’Asti DOC “Tre Vigne” Piedmonte, Italy.
One of the most reliable and delicious red wines on earth, the Vietti Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne never disappoints with a energy filled palate and a rush of dark fruits it’s one of the best values around. 2016 is turning out to be a thrilling year in Piedmonte for reds especially with sublime Dolcetto(s) and Barbera(s) like this Vietti, it’s deep and ripe in flavor and fresh with exciting acidity. Luca Currado makes some of the best wines in Italy, known for his fantastic Cru Barolo(s), he also, along with Giorgio Rivetti and Giuseppe Vajra does exceptional Barbera as well, these are wines that have raised the Barbera game in recent years. Vietti is a storied winery that dates back to the early years of the 20th Century when it was founded by Mario Vietti, who started bottling wines for himself and focused the family business on the grapes of the region. The biggest rise at Vietti was after World War II when Alfredo Currado, who married into the Vietti family by way of Luciana Vietti, in 1952 starting making wines from single vineyard sources, this was a new idea in Piedmonte’s Barolo zone, he was one of the first to vinify from Cru plots in famous sites such as as Brunate, Rocche and Villero, and he “cru-designated” the wines, also he helped save the local Roero white grape Arneis from extinction, and was later known as the “Father of Arneis”! The Vietti wines come mostly from the Castiglione Falletto vineyards, in the heart of the Barolo zone, these are soulful and remarkable wines that show their terroir and character of sandy-calcareous soil that highlight this area and that gives them unique tannic spine, but with beauty in the nose and lovely elegant details. That said this Vietti comes from the Asti zone with a bit more granite and marl that heightens the perfume and sense of lightness that gives a feline and feminine sensation to the wine with the grapes coming from vineyards in Agliano Terme and several other villages in the hills around Barbaresco.The Tre Vigne Barbera d’Asti is crafted with a cold maceration in stainless steel tank, then Luca fermented the musts for approximately 2 weeks, with gentile daily pumping overs, after which he leaves the wine for an extra week of maceration, then it is racked over to oak for malolactic conversation and raised in a combination of large cask, barriques and stainless barrels for a full 18 months. This makes for a rich and opulent mouth feel and this 2016 while lively, is warm and smooth on the medium/full palate with satiny layers of black cherry, blackberry, juicy plum and spicy/sweet currants in a darkly purple and ruby edged red. Building density as it gets air, this wine is certainly impression in form and delivers a stylish charm that you don’t often see in a wine in this price class adding a vibrant array of secondary elements that includes light wood notes, a mix of florals, mineral tones, a touch of earth and a hint of sweet and sour herbs. I could drink this stuff every day and it’s brilliant with robust cuisine and makes simple dishes shine, it’s a flexible wine that also is absolutely perfect with Fall flavors and Holiday fare, drink often.
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 22, 2018

2016 Weingut Von Schubert-Maximin Grünhauser, Riesling Kabinett, Abtsberg, Mosel, Germany.
The beautiful Kabinett Abtsberg 2016 is a crystal clean and mineral driven Riesling that while off dry and generous has a dry feel and complexity of flavors that make it far more serious than you’d expect. Brilliant layers of classic green apple, lime and peach fruits along with hints of earth, wet slate and a touch of tropical essences all come through on the vivid light/medium palate, this wine really impresses for it’s detail and quality in the glass. The Maximin Grünhaus estate lies at the foot of a long steep south-facing slope on the left bank of the Ruwer river, about two kilometres before it joins the Mosel. The history of this place shines through in the wines and I am always intrigued to hear about it’s past, the estate belongs to the Von Schubert family and is divided into three separate but contiguous vineyards: the Abtsberg, the Herrenberg, and the Bruderberg. According to the winery, each of these vineyards has its own distinct micro-climate, gradient and soil composition, differences in terroir which explain the unique character of the wines made at Grünhaus. The Abtsberg wines harvested from this vineyard were originally destined for the table of the Abbot (or Abt) of the Abbey of St Maximin. The site covers 14 hectares, parts of which have been planted with vines for over a thousand years, set on blue Devonian slate and the hillside runs south-east to south-west, achieving a gradient (slope angel) of nearly 70%. These Abtsberg wines, again according to the estate, are characterized by a finely structured subtle minerality, a racy acidity, generous fruit and great delicacy, of which I totally agree, especially with this Kabinett by Maximin Grünhaus, and they are also amongst the longest lived Rieslings of the region. Stefan Kraml took charge of viticulture and viniculture at Grünhaus. Since that time, the wines of the estate have benefited from his uncompromisingly high standards, the Grünhaus cuverie is sited conveniently close to the vineyards so that harvested grapes can be delivered to the press within a matter of minutes. Grünhaus employs a natural clarifying overnight via sedimentation, then the musts are brought to an optimal fermentation temperature, and fermented with naturally occurring wild yeasts (Sponti) in classic large oak casks (Fuder casks) or in some cases using small stainless steel tanks. These techniques promote optimal development of mineral intensity and fruit purity from the Abtsberg slate soils and ensures the longevity of their Rieslings. Neither the must nor the finished wine are fined and uniquely in the last two years most all the the oak for the barrels has come from the estate’s own forests, and the barrels are crafted by a local cooper, everything done here is to highlight their terroir. I love these wines, they are not flashy or overt, but oh so pleasing and stylish, they are like drinking in history, enjoy the Abtsberg Kabinett over the next 5 to 10 years.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Happy #GrenacheDay 2018 Special California Grenache

2017 Sheldon Wines, Grenache, Luc’s Vineyard, Sonoma County.
It’s tradition for me to dig out a bottle of Sheldon Grenache to celebrate #grenacheday, and today, well September 21st, 2018, I had to change it up as I have drunk all of my old vintages of it, can you hear the tears? So, I opened a new release sample from Dylan and Tobe Sheldon, owners of this small “micro” winery based in Santa Rosa, it being the upcoming 2017 Luc’s Vineyard Grenache from a tiny hillside vineyard in the new Fountaingrove AVA, just south of the Russian River Valley region, with cool Pacific influences and a interesting mix of soils and exposures. Dylan is an evangelist for Grenache and has been since the late nineties and has crafted small versions of his own since about 2003, in fact he made wine at Chateau de Saint-Cosme in Gigondas on his honeymoon, with his wife Tobe, under the famed Louis Barruol! This 2017 was whole cluster, that was very gently bladder pressed on a part Champagne style cycle, a fraction schedule with only two barrels made. The maceration was classic with a lots of hand working and there is some youthful gripping extract, while the texture is round and medium bodied with fine acidity and remarkably delicate in detail and flavor. The aromatics are incredible and you can whiff this stuff from miles away, with a heady mix of deep floral tones, spice and anise coming from the glass before leading to a vivid and vibrant palate of mouth watering layers of tangy red currant, garden strawberry, plum and peppered raspberry that is much more subtle than you expected from the nose in this glimmering garnet/ruby colored 100% Grenache. Crushed lilacs, dried lavender, minty herb and melted black licorice all make fleeting appearances in the back ground along with a touch of iron, dusty pomegranate and briar/savory elements that make this a racy wine, it’s not a wine that isn’t overtly ripe or fruity, but one that should gain from another few years in bottle, it will add a more generous nature over time. Grenache in California tends to be it’s best with either longer elevage and or extra time in the cellar, and this one clearly only hints at it’s potential, as nice as it is now, there’s much more to come.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive