2016 Domaine Weinbach, Riesling, Schlossberg Grand Cru, Vin d’Alsace, France.
The 2016 Grand Cru Schlossberg by Domaine Wenbach is a gorgeous wine, it has always been a favorite of mine and this vintage really shines with fresh intensity and an inner beauty which unfolds with precise details and graceful textures. Domaine Weinbach, one of Alsace’s great estates, was originally founded by the Order of Capuchin monks back in 1612, property was a walled in and self contained site making some of the best wine in the region. The “Clos des Capuchins” is the vineyard that surrounds the domaine, it sits directly below the prestigious Schlossberg Cru (the first terroir in Alsace to receive the status of Grand Cru), along with the Grand Cru Furstentum (known for Gewürztraminer and as well as to the adjacent Altenbourg Cru (known for Pinot Gris) vineyard that rises above the Weinbach clos. The domaine is in the heart of Kayserberg’s hills and valleys one of the most picturesque places in Europe. The grapes used in this bottling come from the highest plots of the famous grand cru, making for a ripe, but steely dry wine with good fresh acidity and with an underlying power, Weinbach thrived in 2016 as did the Alsace region, it’s a vintage that offers classic Alsace quality and wonderfully balanced wines, especially this lovely dry Schlossberg Riesling with it’s pretty golden color in the glass and it’s liquid rose petal bouquet. Layers of nectarine, pithy apricot, lemon/lime, quince and tropical notes all come through on this fine Riesling, gaining spicy details and stoniness with air that adds some balanced savory elements to the core of yellow fruits. Look for a richer palate with a very more years in bottle, even though I am smitten with the vibrancy and vigor it shows right now, drink now and or over the next 5 to 10 years.
($46 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
N.V. Mousse Fils, Les Vignes de Mon Village, Blanc de Meunier, Brut Champagne, Vallee de la Marne, France.
One of my Champagnes is the Mousse, especially their Les Vignes de Mon Village 100% Pinot Meunier, which is wonderfully expressive and full of round mineral driven grace with it’s own unique character and style that highlights it’s terroir and it’s single varietal flavors. This batch was from 50% 2014 and 50% 2015 with a 24 month en triage on the lees and went through full malos from vines in the Cuisles zone, and it was aged exclusively in stainless steel vats. Cedric Mousse is the twelfth generation here and the Mousse name has graced Champagne labels since 1923, he has himself made wines in California and Bordeaux working at Freemark Abby in Napa Valley and Chateau Trocard in Pomerol, before returning to Champagne to take over the family house in around 2004, and very quickly he was invited to join the Special Club for his efforts and he has brought a more organic approach to the farming, with no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers to give the vines a more health environment. The Champagnes by Mousse are always vivid and vibrant with a steely charm and a gorgeous textural mouth feel, they are elegant offerings of Meunier. This bottling, imported by the famed Terry Theise, is an excellent bubbly with crisp detail and a creamy mousse with small beading bubbles that are subtle, but luxurious with a liquid mineral element to go with a dense palate of lemon, green apple, golden fig, stone fruit-white cherry, wet rock, hazelnut and delicate yeasty bread dough/brioche note. This smoothly focused Champagne is my perfect #ChampagneDay pick and drinks great right now!
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2017 Samuel Louis Smith, Syrah “Sandstone Terrace” Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Samuel Louis Smith Sandstone Terrace Syrah from the Santa Cruz Mountains is an awesomely beautiful wine with a heady bouquet of crushed violets, lilacs and spicy black fruits that leads to a fantastically textured, but lively medium full palate of boysenberry, blueberry compote, peppered raspberry, plum and kirsch along with licorice, minty herb (partial whole cluster?) and cedary notes, it’s a cool climate Syrah of Saint-Joseph class if not Cote-Rotie, it’s an ultra impressive effort. Sam Smith, ex Margerum and the head winemaker at Monterey’s Morgan Winery is one of the most intriguing talents in the Monterey Bay, south Santa Cruz Mountains and central coast, seemingly to have come out of nowhere, he’s one of areas top new talents and these 2017’s are his best yet, they include a Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay, this Syrah and his gorgeous Albatross Ridge Pinot Pinot (click here) which I recently reviewed. This deeply colored wine is almost opaque with purple/garnet hues in the glass is wonderfully inviting and while refined and seamless it has plenty of extract, structure and acidity to be a stunning companion with cuisine with a tannin profile that firmly frames the fruit, and gets even more interesting with air and in particular with food adding a touch of game, camphor and cassis. Syrah lovers should not miss this one, it looks to released before this Holiday season and since it will be limited you might want to pre-order or get on Smith’s mailing list, you’ll not be disappointed, and it’s a killer deal for the quality, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, and more than likely much longer though it will be hard to not drink it now.
($33 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2016 Cima Collina, Pinot Noir, Righetti Vineyard, Edna Valley.
Annette Hoff’s Righetti Vineyard Pinot Noir is an absolute stunner with exotic whole cluster perfume and spicy intensity, it just might be Cima Collina’s best wine to date! Cima Collina produces artisan wines from small Monterey vineyards, plus a bit of estate wines from Carmel Valley along with a couple of super limited bottlings from select parcel outside the region, like this Edna Valley offering from the Righetti Vineyard that is planted to an interesting selection of California Pinot Noir clones including Calera and Swan as well as some 943 and 115. Hoff joined Cima Collina in 2004 helping start the winery from scratch after worldwide winemaking stints most notably in New Zealand and in Napa, where she helped make some outstanding Pinots at Saintsbury. Annette’s wines have always had personality and a certain raw boldness since starting her Monterey and Carmel Valley collections, some of that was a reflection of the area and some was a bit of her own character showing through, but she has crafted a gorgeous and polished wine here with this one, though still with lots of powerful nature, vitality and low intervention. This 2016 Righetti from Cima Collina is almost like an expressive Grenache at first with a burst of floral tones, racy red fruits, peppery spice and grenadine before getting into it’s Pinot fruits with a core of black cherry, strawberry and plum coming alive on the overt and expressive medium bodied palate, adding cinnamon, earthy stems, anise tea and a hint of French oak. Righetti Ranch, just east of the town of San Luis Obispo, dates back to 1890 and has been in the current family for generations, and getting into the vineyard scene recently, and seemingly inspired by the Talley family. Their ranch has always been known for producing world class avocados, although now they have vines with about fifty acres planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. I’m told the soils here are unique and differ from any other vineyard in the Edna Valley zone and the elevation is also a bit higher than others in the region, it produces wines of deep color and complexities with a low pH and good acidity for aging and balance, and it is in no doubt here with Cima Collina’s version. Brilliant in it’s garnet and ruby color and sexy in verve and lingering with rose petals, dried sage/lavender and pomegranate, this is well judged and intriguing Pinot to search out, it’s going to be a tough get unless you join the Cima list, but it is a good time to discover or re-discover this small winery and visit their Carmel Valley Village tasting room.
($56 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Trocken, Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck, Katerloch, VDP Grosse Lage, Rheingau Germany.
The beautiful golden hued 2012 Leitz Rosie Trocken, a GG by another name, is drinking absolutely gorgeous with tons of fruit, mineral and extract in an ultra dry and crisp style with a hint of maturity and mouth feeling complexity. More open than the Schlossberg and Kaisersteinfels Crus the Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck shows expressive yellow peach, candid lemon peel, tropical notes, wilted roses and lime blossom along with elements of verbena, chamomile, faint petrol/flint, wet stone and green apple. The Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck cru sits above Rudesheim and the Rhein River on mostly reddish soils with lots of weathered slate it’s a site that gets plenty of sun and is very generous in flavors making for elegant and round wines, there’s more opulence here than it’s Berg siblings, but they always age well and have fine structures. With air a saline and savory side comes out to contrast against the fruity essences that bursts from the glass and the textural presence gives a serious palate impact, while the brisk acidity holds everything to together perfectly, this is a wonderful dry Riesling that thrills and is brilliant with cuisine in the same way as a Premier Cru Chablis, but with a more exotic personality. Leitz now labels this bottling a Grosses Gewachs under VDP rules and the 2015 and 2016 are current releases, I reviewed the 2015 about a year ago, still available to view here at grapelive.com and I rated it at 94+ Points, while the 2011 and 2012 might be hard to find they are great deals if you find them, especially this 2012 which continues to get better and impress more with age. Johannes Leitz’s latest releases are some of his best young wines across the board with something to love in each price class and style, from classic Spatlese and Kabinett to the drier stuff all of these wines make an impression and provide purity and terroir driven character, in particular check out Leitz’s Dragonstone, the Magic Mountain and these Trocken bottlings, like this one, along with the Erste Lage Drachenstein and the GG’s!
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2016 Castello di Verduno, Langhe Nebbiolo, Piemonte, Italy.
The bright and menthol laced Castello di Verduno Langhe Nebbiolo opens nicely to reveal tangy cherry (cherry drop) and plum fruits along with fresh mineral and vibrant acidity with hints of dried lavender, anise and blood orange. This fresh style Nebbiolo doesn’t scream baby Barolo, but you can see the family resemblance and this Piedmont red is easy to enjoy, best to enjoy with food though with it’s acid and tannin. Air brings out more fruit and a nice chalky detail with hints of raspberry and spicy elements with more perfume showing up too adding some rose petal to the overall joyous nature here. Maybe it’s unfair to expect a little more, especially at the price, but this Barolo producer has been picked to be a breakout star in the next few vintages, so it is too easy to fall to those expectations, though this wine is perfectly respectable and drinks very well. Mario Andrion, winemaker at Castello di Verduno is making some great wines and the family Burlotto has great holdings in most of the best Nebbiolo zones including of course Barolo and Barbaresco, with the grapes for this wine being grown in a vineyard located in the Verduno, Boscatto area, plus a selection of Nebbiolo that comes from Faset and Rabaja-bass in the Barbaresco zone. The Langhe Nebbiolo is a 100% tank raised wine with a cool 11 day maceration and a 9 months aging in stainless steel, they add a short period of bottle time before release, but everything is done to make for a fresh expression of varietal, and that is clearly evident in the results. Drink this pure Nebbiolo over the next 3 to 5 years, it’s well worth looking for, it has a lot of personality and subtle charms, and if you are in search of a more serious wine check out their Barolo or Barbaresco bottlings.
($22 Eat.) 90 Points, grapelive
2015 Arterberry Maresh, Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Arterberry Maresh 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot is classic in style and with wonderful purity showing a deep color and the region’s exotic red spiciness to go along with the vintage’s ripe and opulent character. Winemaker and vigneron Jim Maresh is one of the newer stars on the Oregon wine scene crafting wines in the Dundee Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. According to the winery, Jim Maresh has selected sites of predominantly old-vine, own-rooted and non-irrigated Pinot Noir (as well as Chardonnay) vines, which are farmed for the Arterberry Maresh wines along with a little bit of estate wine made from his own Maresh Vineyard as well, all set on southern facing hillsides with the regions signature Jory (Volcanic) soils. The area is result of thousands of years of volcanic uplift, flood and and erosion, which has given the Dundee Hills a beautiful landscape with lovely forests and iron rich red dirt, which adds to the unique character of the wines. In 2008, Martha Maresh and Steve Mikami began construction on the Powell Hill Winery. Named after the original pioneer family who farmed the land, the winery now sits at the highest point of Maresh Vineyard with an amazing view to the Cascades, and it was completed in time for the 2011 vintage. Jim founded his label in 2005 and has been getting a lot of buzz for his minimalist and light touch, he uses 100% de-stemmed fruit fermented in 1¼ ton lots, this style in the winery allows the intrinsic character of the wine to blossom with purity and life. According to Maresh the passive temperature management ensures spontaneous fermentation proceeds and it is monitored and guided by sensory analysis, gentle extraction techniques and low peak temperatures. Immediately upon reaching dryness, the lots are gently pressed in a half-ton wood bladder press and settle 2-4 weeks before being transferred to 5%-10% new French Oak barrels for 14-18 months. This 2015 delivers elegant layers of black cherry, plum and dark currant fruits on a medium/full palate that has silken mouth feel and lots of length, but with a studied sense of inner brightness with good acidity and mixed spices including red pepper, mineral notes, aromatic herbs, cedar, delicate oak notes and cinnamon. It gains detail and structure with air, as well as revealing floral elements both in the nose and the finish, lovely stuff and a great value in quality for well balanced Oregon Pinot Noir, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($24-30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2016 Weingut Von Schubert-Maximin Grunhauser, Riesling Feinherb, Monopol, Mosel, Germany.
It’s impossible not to love this beautiful dry style Riesling from Maximin Grunhaus, it is bursting with energy and slate driven terroir with Ruwer character and exceptional purity. This stuff is such a great value with a light/medium palate of mineral intensity showing lime, green apple, tart apricot, grapefruit and lemongrass along with salty wet stone, flinty spices and a delicate floral perfume. Riesling Monopol is a unique cuvée, which is close to dry and comes from mostly old vines belonging to the Von Schubert family at Maximin Grunhaus, with a bulk coming from their famed Herrenberg Cru, a site benefits from deep soils with good water retention, over a base of red Devonian slate and the Abtsberg, where the subsoil is blue Devonian slate and the hillside runs south-east to south-west, achieving a gradient of up to a staggering 70% slope above the Ruwer river. Crisp with just a hint of generous residual sugar the Maximin Grunhauser Monopol delivers a fine performance in the glass with it’s pale and bright golden/green hue and goes wonderfully with Asian cuisine as well as more traditional fare gaining a touch of earth and verbena with certain foods, it’s great to enjoy now, but can be aged for many years.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2016 Waxwing Wine Cellars, Syrah, Flocchini Vineyard, Petaluma Gap AVA, Sonoma County.
Another small batch beauty from Scott Sisemore of Waxwing Wine Cellars, the Petaluma Gap Flocchini Vineyard Syrah shows an open-knit ripe character with opulent California fruit purity and a nicely balanced lower alcohol style. Sisemore has been sourcing from this site for about five vintages now, with promising results and this 2016 is the best effort to date, the Flocchini family had traditionally run dairy cows on the property, but planted a portion of their property to grapes in 2002, including some blocks of Syrah with clones that include Noir and 877. Once part of the greater Sonoma Coast appellation , the Flocchini is now part of the new Petaluma Gap AVA (growing region) which is fast becoming known for producing balanced, delicious cool climate Syrah as well as a classic area for rich and deeply flavored Pinot Noir. The vineyard is located along Old Lakeville Road southeast of the old town of Petaluma, and the section Scott takes is on a gentle west facing slope above the Petaluma River with great afternoon sun exposure and cool breezes making for a longer growing season that helps with concentration and complex flavors. The dark and almost opaque Flocchini Syrah by Waxwing shows dense layers of fruit with blackberry, raspberry, plum and thick cherry compote along with black fig, wild flowers, sweet oak notes and light spices, it’s beautifully textured and rich in body with refined tannins that makes for a serious and forward wine to be enjoyed even now and for the next five years.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Maurice Schoech, Riesling, Sonnenberg, Vin d’Alsace, France.
I have tried a few older vintages of Schoech and have always admired the brightness and purity in the wines, but this 2015 seems a step up in terms of quality and depth of flavors, this Sonnenberg Riesling is beautiful, mineral driven and crisply focused dry wine that is electric in the glass. The Domaine Maurice Schoech is run by Maurice’s sons Jean-Léon and Sebastien Schoech and the modern family estate was founded in 1971 on the edge of the village of Ammerschwihr, though their roots go back as far as 1650 in the region and they have many ancient records and artifacts from their history on display at their cellar. The Riesling Sonnenberg is sourced from a collection of old-vine parcels that are planted to massale selections of regional Riesling clones on a south-facing granite slope in the Sonnenberg lieu-dit making for an intense and ripe dry wine of precision with sharp detailing and a real kick of vibrant acidity, it feels at first light and lithe, but gains presence in the glass, though always svelte and not showy with any flab at all, it keeps it’s laser focus throughout, impressive and crafted with studied finesse. Schoech also makes a Grand Cru field blend, like Marcel Deiss as well as doing one of the of best Pinot Auxerrois bottlings I’ve ever had, this is a winery to check out. This 2015 Sonnenberg Riesling was whole berry pressed and fermented with native yeasts, aged on the lees and raised in stainless steel vats for 12 months without fining and with low sulfur. Schoech is converting to all organic and about half of their holdings have been certified, and all their vines are hand harvested and worked with great attention to the environment and their wines have great and vivid energy. Layers of lime, crisp white rose, flinty wet stones and peach lead the way here along with a steely core of citrus and stone fruits as well as a touch of chamomile, kumquat and lemongrass. This pretty Vin d’Alsace Riesling is zippy and refreshing and subtle in style, but rewards the palate and slowly seduces, showing it’s charms especially well with cuisine, it also should age well too, drink it over the coming decade.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive