Monthly Archives: October 2018

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 12, 2018

2016 Saint-Cosme, Saint-Joseph Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
The 2016’s from Saint-Cosme are vigorous and meaty wines that will certainly be considered classics with deep layers and tons of character, I was especially impressed with the negotiant Saint-Joseph bottling which has a powerful profile and thrilling fruit, this is not a vintage to go light on for the Northern Rhone! Starting with tight red fruits and gamey nose this 100% Syrah slowly unveils allowing it’s Saint-Joseph elegance to come out from hiding with pretty crushed violets, cedar and minty herbs lifting from the glass after a good deal of swirling, the camphor and graphite fade into the background letting some more dark fruits emerge as well. Layered and rich, while still being firm, this Saint-Cosme Saint-Joseph Rouge flows more completely with air, it delivers a full palate of damson plum, blueberry, marionberry and kirsch as well as the earthy leather/meaty tone mentioned at the top, along with hints of wild lavender, anise, flinty stones and youthful ripe tannin. According to winemaker Louis Barruol, their Saint Cosme Saint-Joseph is produced from 100% Sérine clone, it’s an ancient and local variety of the Syrah grape, that has unique and different characteristics from newer Syrah selections. Noting that it is more oval in shape, with loose bunches that has lots of space that allows more air though and around the clusters, Barruol adds he thinks this results in a more aromatic wine. The Saint-Joseph is sourced from parcels in the climat Malleval (zone) in the northern part of the region closer to Condrieu. The wine is made from 70% de-stemmed grapes with 30% whole clusters, it’s then fermented with indigenous yeasts, and raised in 20% new 228-liter French oak barrels. All of which adds up to a serious Northern Rhone Syrah, maybe slightly less pretty than the 2014 and 2015 vintages, it has potential to be more age worthy and while earthy, almost more Crozes like, it should gain it’s aromatic heights in a few more years in bottle, best to enjoy this with more robust cuisine in the meantime.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 11, 2018

2017 Domaine Rimbert, Saint-Chinian Rouge “Les Travers de Marceau” Languedoc Sud de France.
Jean-Marie Rimbert aka the Carignan-Man or Carignaniste is one of the herbs of the Carignan grape and one of the Languedoc’s top winegrowers, his winemaking style leaning towards lightness and purity of varietal expression and terroir focused with no flashy oak, especially in this Saint-Chinian Rouge Les Travers de Marceau which is 100% organic and 100% tank raised using a cuvee blend of mostly, of course, Carignan along with Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre. Filled to the brim with purple/black fruits of which the hue in the glass matches perfectly and with a heady mix of spice, herb, dried flowers, iron and licorice. The expression of wild plum, blueberry, boysenberry, loganberry and candied cherry is impossible not to fall for here, this is really juicy and joyous country wine that gains some complexity, rustic charm and crunchy mineral notes with air, it’s an exceptional value. This is delightful stuff, dark and spicy in the glass with great fruit presence on the palate, it’s a wine that plays well with varied cuisines and easily goes with the change of seasons, drink over the next couple of years, but especially now.
($19 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 10, 2018

Grapelive Wine of the Day

October 10, 2018

2017 Samuel Louis Smith, Pinot Noir, Albatross Ridge Vineyard, Monterey County.
Sam Smith is one of Monterey’s new stars, coming from the Santa Barbara area and having made wines at Margerum he now crafts the wines and is the head winemaker at Morgan Winery where he has really raised the game at this longtime area classic, as well as producing a fine set of wines under his own label. Monterey’s new generation of winemakers are taking it to the next level and certainly Smith is a great addition to this group, he joins Jeff Pisoni of Pisoni Estate and Lucia Vineyards, Scott Shapely of Roar, Ian Brand, I. Brand & Family Winery and Russell Joyce of Joyce Wine Company, just to name a few of the local talents, that have pushed the region to new heights. The 2017 vintage is another level all together for this area, the early tastings I’ve done have revealed amazing quality and Sam’s upcoming releases are outstanding, especially this terrific Carmel Valley grown Albatross Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir, it looks set to be one of the best wines of vintage! I’ve tasted almost every Carmel Valley wine over the years, being a native to the area, and I gotta say this 2017 Albatross Ridge, while still an infant and young, shows a depth and complexity that is almost beyond all my expectations, it’s going to blow some minds! This vineyard, owned by the Bowlus Family, set on an ancient seabed, these south facing hillsides only six miles from the Pacific only gets tiny yields, most often less than a ton an acre, is an extreme site wind swept and with rocky chalky soils that is a challenge to farm, but can produce brilliant fruit in the right vintage as Sam’s 2017 proves. Smith took a brave decision to push the envelope with the winemaking, closing to employ about 30% whole cluster, which can prove tricky here, but was rewarded with much greater complexity, texture and heightened aromatics as well as really making the fruit pop. The one third new oak adds a level of luxury that balances the stem tension and savory tones as well as the cool climate acidity without over shadowing the delicate nature of the flavors that are a hallmark of this vineyard. I was lucky enough to sit down with Sam and taste this upcoming release along with his 2017 Sandstone Terrace Santa Cruz Mountains Syrah, both these wines absolutely rock and will be must have Monterey Bay influenced offerings and while I enjoyed his 2016 bottlings these are huge leaps up in quality and style, especially this 2017 Albatross Ridge Pinot. Gorgeous in detail and form with sexy mouth feel and energy it delivers tons of terroir personality and purity showing beautiful fruit layers of black cherry, tart plum, wild strawberry and a hint of grenadine as well as a hint of blueberry, plus a sense of dark roses, a burst of blood orange, tea spice, subtle oak toast with a faint vanilla, cinnamon and chalk notes coming in focus with air. Can’t wait to see how this wine progresses in bottle, seriously awesome stuff even in it’s youthful stage it has massive potential, I think Pinot fans will want to get on Sam’s mailing list ASAP! Drink this from 2020 to 2028, if you can be patient, if not there is no reason I can fault to enjoy it upon release, which looks like to be around Christmas time, don’t miss it.
($44 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 9, 2018

2015 Thierry Germain-Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur-Champigny, La Marginale, Loire Valley Red, France.
Intensely concentrated and mineral toned, the gorgeous Thierry Germain La Marginale Saumur-Champgny 2015 coats the palate with dark fruits and a perfect about of pure Cabernet Franc bell pepper, spice and earthiness. Impressive mouth feel, bigger than you’d expect with thick layers of black currant, cherry, plum and vine picked red berries this Saumur-Champigny is a stunner, wonderfully open and warm on the full bodied palate. Germain’s story is a unique one, he relocated to the Loire from Bordeaux in the early 1990s, and soon fell under the spell and influence of his spiritual father, the late Charly Foucault of the famous Clos Rougeard. Thierry would ultimately convert his entire domaine to biodynamic viticulture following the leading lights of the region. Imported by Kermit Lynch, Thierry Germain is one of the leaders in the Loire’s organic movement and his Domaine Des Roches Neuves, with vineyards that are planted in the Saumur (Blanc) for Chenin and Saumur-Champigny (Rouge) Cabernet Franc, has gained world renowned acclaim and is one of the poster child(s) example(s) of success in biodynamic wine growing in France, like Nicolas Joly, but more especially for his reds, like this one. According to Kermit Lynch, Thierry harvests on the relatively early side to preserve fresh, vibrant fruit, even though I always find his wines ripe and perfumed, his goal is to produce Cabernet Franc with purity, finesse, and drinkability, while avoiding rusticity, vegetal or weedy character, and harsh/rough tannins, and with this 2015 La Marginale, mission accomplished. This beautifully deep and dark garnet hued wine comes of a tiny parcel of 45 year old vines set on clay and Turonien Supérieur limestone, it’s only made in great vintages, is crafted from 100% de-stemmed fruit and fermented in foudre (large oak cask) with light pumpovers and then aged in a wide range of oak, most all used, from barrique to huge cask for almost two years. The layers include blackberry, red currant, black cherry and dark plum fruits, minty herb, violets, sandalwood/cedar, tobacco, a light bell pepper tone and chalky stones. Everything feels warm and round in the mouth and almost luxurious, but there is a nice purity of terroir that shines through with a touch of savory integrity. I love the rich textural presence here, this cuvee is something special, it can age for another decade, but is very compelling now.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 8, 2018

2017 Julien Sunier, Fleurie, Cru Beaujolais, France.
Wonderfully expressive the 2017 Julien Sunier Fleurie is a beauty with tons of terroir and varietal character showing the soil and heightened perfume you find in this distinct Cru, this is a vintage of amazing purity and delicate details with bright acidity and dark fruits, much more interesting than some of the awkward 2016 versions, this is a year to get Sunier! The surfing fanatic and Dijon-born Julien Sunier started his wine adventure by working in the famed Christophe Roumier’s vineyards and cellar near Chambolle-Musigny in Burgundy, before riding waves and making wine from New Zealand to California before finding a home in France’s Beaujolais region. Seemingly influenced by a new generation of winemakers in the region, Sunier’s wines have a similar appeal to those of Lapierre, Foillard, Dutraive and others that are working in natural/organic methods with almost no intervention or additions using most ancient parcels of Gamay, he uses carbonic maceration and ages in used ex-Burgundy barrels. Julien spent five years managing a large negociant in Beaujolais, he spent time with growers in all of the 10 Cru Beaujolais villages getting an real appreciation for these amazing sites. He credits this work with providing him with insights, passion of place and an invaluable understanding of the various micro-climates and micro terroirs throughout the region. The 2017 Fleurie by Sunier is crafted using indigenous yeast fermentation(s) in concrete vats, whole cluster/carbonic, at low temperatures then slowly pressed after the must is dry using an old Burgundy press, after which the wine was raised in 300L Futs (neutral French oak casks) for just less than year. The Sunier Fleurie comes from a high elevation parcel on a steep slope that was planted back in the 1960’s set on the Cru Fleurie zone’s signature pink granite soils which gives the wine it’s deep perfume and sharp details as well as it’s mineral tones, with this 2017 really highlighting this site’s unique character. Bright and fresh this Fleurie pushes out juicy blackberry, cherry, plum, strawberry fruits and liquid floral elements with a nice bite of acidity, herbal notes and a stony flinty chalky sense. Lovely Gamay from start to finish, lingering with a hint of violetette, walnut and racy currant, this light to medium bodied wine offers more than expected and is remarkably pleasing, Sunier’s 2017’s are very alluring offerings, especially this one, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 7, 2018

2004 Bodega Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Rioja Reserva, Spain.
Unbelievably dreamy, refined and old world at it’s best the 2004 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva is silky and lightly earthy with mature elegance, it gave a Margaux like performance recently. I only wish I had more now, though I hear the 2005 is even better still! One of the great wines of Europe, this Rioja has a nice play between it’s old school rustic nature and extended aging polish with ultra fine tannins showing layers of black cherry, mulberry, currant, mission fig, caramel and sandalwood as well as a hint of leather, cedar and chanterelles. Warm and almost creamy with a whisper of tannins on the medium/full palate the 2004 is ripe and lush in feel, but still with an underlying bullet proof structure that will see this go on another decade without much overall change. Interestingly this wine comes across subdued and passive when tasted on it’s own, but absolutely magical when explored with cuisine, it has that same sense of purpose and charm that you find with an older Burgundy or Bordeaux, it really gains in style and turns on the personality with food, becoming more lively and expressive. Vina Tondonia was founded in 1877, with 141 years of winemaking over four generations of the López de Heredia family crafting majestic and age worthy wines here, especially these long wood raised Tempranillo based Reservas, plus their long oak aged white made from Viura and Malvasia, which somehow even after 6 to 10 years in cask seem intensely fresh. The 2004 Vina Tondonia Reserva is made from Tempranillo (75%), Garnacho (Garnacha/Grenache) (15%), Graciano and Mazuelo (10%), all from their estate vineyards and was aged in oak for 6 years with racking twice a year then rested in bottle for almost another 7 years before release. The 2004 is really in a good place, picking up dried flowers, kirsch and vanilla that linger along with the glycerin textural nature that leaves an opulent aftertaste, again as mentioned have with food to get things rolling here, I imagine it would be great with duck breast, a lamb shank, prime rib as well as hard cheeses and hearty/thick stews.
($33 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 6, 2018

2015 Evening Land Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Seven Springs Estate, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The wonderfully textured and elegant Seven Springs Pinot Noir by Evening Land stands out for it’s mouth feel and delicacy of flavors, it shows far more subtly than I would have expected, it’s a wine that grows on you over time, you pick up more and more with each sip and every minute. After about half an hour I seriously got a huge smile coming back to this 2015 Seven Springs, it truly elevated it’s presence in the glass to a level and character of a Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin, reminding me of Gerard Raphet quite a bit with it’s dark fruits, mineral notes and Burgundy like silky sexiness. Evening Land under Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman has seen this winery smooth out it’s style, making less flashy wines and pushing for more graceful wines and focusing on terroir, they are joined by Ben DiCristina, who is doing the day to day winemaking, with himself coming from a background at Sine Qua Non, like Maggie Harrison of Oregon’s Antica Terra and Oregon’s J. K. Carriere, a little known label making great Willamette Pinots. The historic Seven Springs vineyard was planted by Oregon wine pioneer Al MacDonald back in 1984, it sits on an east-facing slope, protected from the heat in the Van Duzer gap, set on the distinct iron-rich and rocky, volcanic soils of the Eola-Amity Hills, it’s a Cru site that shows it’s pedigree in this Pinot perfectly. As the winery puts it, this wine is vineyard made, it’s built around a core of own-rooted, old vine Pommard and Wädenswil clones that give a classic Oregon profile here along with that nod to the Cote de Nuits with a background of earthy and savory elements. Beautiful and lengthy this 2015 enjoys a slow wake up call unfolding in it’s own time to reveal layers of blackberry, plum and a sold core of black cherry along with an inner perfume, not overt, of rose petals as well as a mix of red spices, bitter herb, tea, wild mushrooms, anise and a touch of smoky oak, all delivered with a satiny seamless ease. This is a wine to take your time with, be seduced over a long meal with friends, it’s got a lot of pleasure to offer, especially with cuisine and it drinks with more maturity than I would have expected from it’s age, which is not unwelcome at all, it’s a bonus! I think there is more to come over the next 3 to 5 years too, best from 2020 to 2025.
($33-45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 5, 2018

2017 Joyce Wine Company, Pinot Noir, Gabilan, Monterey County.
One of the best wines coming out of Monterey County, the Joyce Gabilan Pinot is an exotic and gorgeous offering coming from a special site that is nick-named the “Danny’s Vineyard” it is farmed by the Franscioni brothers, called by the family as such in honor of their late father, it’s located on the higher east side of the Salinas Valley, subjected to the strong marine influence cooling from of the Monterey Bay. Set on decomposed granite and limestone soils, similar to Chalone, and getting great exposure making for a generous and ripe Pinot, but with lifting vitality, allowing for more whole cluster which adds to the wonderful complexity. This 2017 Gabilan shows warm red fruits, spice and nervy tension that comes from the partial stem inclusion, this medium/full bodied Pinot is textured, lively and perfumed holding it’s own against some elite company in the top end of California Pinot Noir. Russell Joyce and his team have been kicking at the door of the big time in recent years and will this set of 2017 wines they have arrived in the top echelon of producers joining the likes of Morgan, Pisoni (Lucia) and Roar at the pinnacle of the small producers making small lots of Pinot Noir in Monterey. Even better still is the quality to price ration, especially with their single vineyard Pinot bottlings, like this Gabilan, this is a wine that will happily surprise serious Pinot fans. The detailing here is fantastic, it’s a wine of clarity and personality with textural and focused palate that has refined silkiness, mineral tones and a lively punch of acidity. With layers of black raspberry, plum, pomegranate fruit aiding to a core of cherry and strawberry as well as sweet rose petals, savory herbs, tea spices and delicate wood notes. The bright ruby and garnet color hints at the dreamy quality to come and the exciting array of flavors mouth and lingering aftertaste are seducing. Joyce used mostly used French oak aging here and 40% whole cluster fermentation, employing gentile extraction and just under a year in barrel before bottling to keep things pure and fresh, this Gabilan is utterly compelling, impressive and distinct, it’s not to be missed, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 4, 2018

2015 Avaler Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County.
Avaler is collaboration between two friends, Dylan Sheldon of Sheldon Wines and Jon Phillips of Inspiration Vineyards and is a label focused on small lot value wines like this Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon that shows lots of vintage ripe flavors and richness. The Avaler Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Gallaway Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley Ava and was fermented in open-top fermenters and aged for about two years in a combination of mostly used casks with some limited new European oak and a touch of new French barriques that adds a touch of class and a creamy, smoky sweet toastiness. While the 2014 was a bit lighter in frame and darker in profile, this 2015 reveals a fuller character, though with the same 14.3% natural alcohol, and is loaded with Sonoma style red fruits and gives an opulent mouth feel with thick sweet tannin, glycerin and a full body lushness. This wine offers an exceptional value and purity of varietal, it’s 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and delivers on it’s promise of quality and depth that starts with it’s deep color in the glass and inviting bouquet of floral tones, cassis and vanilla bean, it shows layers of blackberry, plum, raspberry, currant jelly and cherry fruits along with a touch of sage, anise, pipe tobacco, cedar and mocha. There is a lot to admire here, especially given the modest price, and the hand-crafted winemaking, it’s packed with expressive fruit and is pretty and generous on the palate with a long refined finish, it is mouth filling, pleasing and picks up even more with robust cuisine, in particular grilled meats, steak and wild mushroom dishes. Easy to love young, this Avaler Cabernet is a fun Fall offering, but has the grip and structure to age a 3 to 5 years with ease, in fact I might want to hide a bottle or two for a while longer, as it has the potential to reward some patience.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 3, 2018

2016 Halcon Vineyards, Syrah, Alturas, Halcon Estate Vineyard,Yorkville Highlands.
Paul Gordon’s Halcon Alturas Syrah has become one of the state’s best wines and is one of the great values in California wine, it’s a gorgeous example of cool climate Syrah and this 2016 version is exceptional with classic Cote-Rotie style. According to Gordon, the Halcón Syrah was picked October 8th, with an average of just 1.3 tons per acre harvested, these tiny yields help explain this wine’s concentration and depth. The Alturas, like Cote-Rotie, includes about 4% co-fermented Viognier in this vintage, with the Syrah coming from various parcels of the Halcón vineyard, which is planted to predominately the Chave (Hermitage clone) selection. As with all the Halcón wines, there was no inoculation for primary nor secondary fermentation, using all native yeasts, Paul adds “We slightly increased the level of whole-cluster to 50% (compared to 40% in 2015) and used 20% new oak in the form of a single 500L French puncheon” with the winery making only 250 cases of this beautiful wine that were unfined and unfiltered, coming in at 13.5% natural alcohol, making for a dark and intriguing wine that has fine balance. The ’16 Alturas is really a continuation of the style that was wonderfully executed by the talented Scott Shapely, their consulting winemaker, who also does Roar. Gordon noted he was struck how close their Yorkville Highlands weather was to the (very classical) ’16 Cote Rotie year, though a low yielding year for Halcon due to a cold May. The Alturas starts with a mix of blue fruits, violets, cassis and stemmy spiciness with a lovely purple/black core color that reflects a deep garnet around the edges in the glass. The body fills out on the palate getting very full in the mouth, there is a sense of impact and opulence that is very seductive, though everything stays focused and this 2016 has plenty of energy to keep it fresh. The impressive depth of layers includes blackberries, boysenberry, plum and currant fruits along with additional elements of peppercorns, licorice, a hint of wild herbs as well as a hint of caramel, kirsch and mineral notes. Even with the high level of whole cluster and stems, this vintage is wine of sublime elegance and length and makes for a good contrast to their Elevación, their new 100% Syrah, 100% whole cluster cuvee, both of which are very sexy wines, they both look forward to long term rewarding drinking, a good decade at least.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive