Monthly Archives: December 2018

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 31, 2018

2008 Arcadian, Syrah, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands -photo grapelive

2008 Arcadian, Syrah, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Joe Davis was one of the first to realize the potential of Syrah in the Santa Lucia Highlands and crafted wonderful versions from the then owned Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, which sadly now does not exist as the Syrah block was ripped out during a transition period at Talbott making this wine maybe the very last of it’s kind. Davis, one of the Highlands pioneers when he worked as a winemaker at Monterey’s Morgan Winery under Dan Lee, created his own label Arcadian in the early nineties, focused on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah all from the SLH, before moving south to the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria region and adding wines from there to his lineup. Davis was one of the first to utilize Gary Pisoni’s fruit and one of first to use Garys’ Vineyard too, so his wines were previews of the future when they came out, in fact as Talbott became more and more mainstream, his Arcadian versions of Sleepy Hollow became the best wines from this famed site on the western end of the SLH with it’s sandy loams and marine influenced climate. The Aracadian wines are made in classic or traditional style, Joe adds, his fermentation(s) occurs in small open-topped wooden vats, then the grapes are pigeaged (foot treaded) 3 to 5 times daily to further extract color, tannin and richness and then they are pressed when sugar levels reach 1 to 2. The wine completes malos (secondary fermentation) in barrel, with elevage in a combination of new and older  French oak, and bottled without fining and filtration. Davis also loves to cellar age his wines for many years before release, so while this Syrah is from the 2008 vintage, it is his current release! At a decade old this Sleepy Hollow Syrah from Arcadian has now a full sense of purpose and maturity, though still vivid and vibrantly alive with layers of earthy fruits, dried flowers, mocha and savory spices, it shows black cherry, blueberry, loganberry and a bit of stewed plum, which allowing for its age is right where it should be, but in fact with air it regroups its youth and expressive best adding boysenberry, cracked pepper, tarragon, lavender oil and a hint of violets along with some fig paste, leather, sassafras, pipe tobacco and barrel notes, not unlike old school Cote-Rotie wines. After almost an hour of air thing hit a perfect spot with this red and its tannins turn to silk and the mouth feel is more like a smooth Pinot Noir becoming a very elegant and polished example of central coast Syrah and a very likable wine. I personally don’t think there is too much more to come here, but it seems to be in a great place now, it could age another few years, Davis has done himself proud here, enjoy it now, this can be had through the Arcadian website. It’s fun to look back and look forward to what Monterey has been and where it is going, and with Syrah from the Santa Lucia Highlands, while Joe Davis was one of the early leaders here, we now have a great many of stunning versions like those from Jeff Pisoni at Pisoni Vineyards, his wife Bibiana who makes her Cattleya, Roar, Big Basin who made a version from KW Ranch, Wrath too, Morgan’s Double L Estate Vineyard by Sam Smith who is revitalizing Dan Lee’s Morgan, and especially Russell Joyce’s SLH Syrah from the Tondre Grapefield to name a few! it’s great to taste history in the glass, better yet when it is a dark garnet and purple, and clearly see the future ahead, which is looking great and very exciting.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 30, 2018

2014 Scott Paul Wines, Pinot Noir “La Paulee Cuvee” Willamette Valley Oregon -photo grapelive

2014 Scott Paul Wines, Pinot Noir, La Paulee Cuvee, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Originally made for a special La Paulee celebration, this Scott Paul is now available at $18, which is less than half price through multiple outlets, the original winery price was $39, and this Kelley Fox made 2014 version is a steal with a generous and elegant focus and easy to love personality that is much more sedate than Kelley’s own lineup which seem much more thrilling, but not as easy as this polished and silky La Paulee Cuvee from Scott Paul. The 2014 La Paulee is very silky and flows seamlessly across the medium bodied palate with loads of red cherry, plum and cranberry fruits, light spices, cola bean, subtle toasty oak and a nice streak of mineral, ripe tannin and sweet floral tones which is a rose petal array in the nose. The dark crimson and ruby hue is very pretty in the glass and this Pinot Noir never puts a foot wrong, it’s very lovely from start to finish and with lots of admirable quality in the glass. Fox at Scott Paul, as the winery puts it, is a bottling that was selection of superior lots from our blocks of Maresh and Nysa Vineyards in the Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge and Azana Vineyards on the Chehalem Mountains that was aged in all neutral French oak barrels. Still fresh and focused, it will drink very nicely for another 3 to 5 years with graceful ease, and at this price it is more than worth it, stocking up is not a bad idea. Scott Paul is now crafted by Ian Burch, since Fox has left to concentrate on her own label, and he was mentored by famed Dominique Lafon when he was at Seven Springs, so there is a lot of excitement for the upcoming wines, so keep an eye out for this winery.
($18-39 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 29, 2018

2015 Ceritas, Chardonnay, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains -photo grapelive

2015 Ceritas, Chardonnay, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
John Raytek, winemaker and his wife Phoebe’s Ceritas is one of the most celebrated modern Chardonnay producers in California and their 2015 Trout Gulch Vineyard from the south Santa Cruz Mountains is one of the most sought after in his impressive lineup, it is a wonderfully textured and mineral driven wine with purity of fruit and terroir influenced character, it is a serious Chardonnay that proves why this is one of the hottest lists to get on. Raytek didn’t appear out of nowhere, he was part of the team at Rhys, he adds he is a self-described old world vigneron, who cultivates wines in the vineyard first, by implementing a traditional (old school) winemaking approach in the winery, always considering the grapes’ experience on the vines as a guide to their treatment in the cellar. He also notes, that winemaking techniques continuously reinforce his belief that often, it is more important to know what not to do, than what to do when it comes to his wines, and so far he’s done little wrong. While known as a Chardonnay specialist, he also does some great Pinot Noir and awesome Pinot Noir, especially the Ceritas bottlings from the Sonoma Coast. Phoebe meanwhile is the farmer of the couple and oversees the vineyard sites to get the best out of their plots, parcels and grapes from the selected growers they use on these limited production wines. The cooly brisk, but textured 2015 came from tiny yields at Trout Gulch where it gave the Ceritas Chardonnay wonderfully layered fruit and a very Burgundy like restrained low alcohol, coming in at a remarkable 12.5%, while still having an impressive concentrated palate and complex detailing. Ceritas’ southern most vineyard, Trout Gulch is located a mere 3.5 miles from the ocean, sitting at about 750 feet above sea level near the hamlet of Aptos, just south of the city of Santa Cruz very much influenced by the deep Monterey Bay and the bitterly cold Pacific Ocean, in the southern Santa Cruz Mountains, just northwest of Corralitos. This unique vineyard site was planted back in 1980, with a selection of old Wente clone Chardonnay and Mount Eden Pinot Noir vines and is carefully tended to by winemaker/vigneron Richard Alfaro of Alfaro Family Vineyard, who also makes a version under his own label, as does all-stars Jamie Kutch and Arnot Roberts, all which has brought considerable fame and attention to this out the way spot. With oceanic sandy soils and a touch of hardened clay with exceptional draining helps send the vines deep into ancient seabed marine derived sub-soils that add to taste of chalk and mineral in the wines. Trout Gulch is cut out of a coastal redwood forest which allows temperatures here to stay cooler than the surrounding area, giving a special micro-climate that expresses itself in the wines, especially in Raytek’s examples, like this one with it’s crisp pear, apple and citrus fruits, wet stone and bitter melon in a Chardonnay that has a generous mouth feel, but with a tight steely frame with delicate wood notes and lime blossom perfume, gaining a sensation of honeycomb, clarified cream and clove spices when it get air in the glass. This 2015 is elegant, though expressive and has a touch of chalk and saline which again reminds me of Burgundy, as does the hint of hazelnut and precise and lifting acidity. Ceritas is almost all mailing list only and very limited, but the extra effort and searching is rewarded when you get a bottle or two!
($60-65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 28, 2018

2016 Domaine Barat Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons -photo grapelive

2016 Domaine Barat, Chablis, Vaillons Premier Cru, White Burgundy, France.
The fortunes of the Chablis region have been hit with hail and frost in recent years, so finding an exceptionally good bottle at a fair price seems difficult these days, but this Domaine Barat Premier Cru Vaillons hits the spot with a core of mineral intensity and crisp detail, while still having a sense of richness and texture, it’s a huge upgrade over their Chablis AC which is flabby in comparison. This Cru is set on south facing slopes with ancient Kimmeridgian limestone soils and Portlandian marls that formed millions of years ago in the Jurassic era, which give this wine it’s driving terroir character and mineral focused personality with a steely/flinty briskness and vibrant green apple, pear and zesty citrus fruits in a finely tuned white wine that opens to an elegant mouth feel, while never losing its energy. The Vaillons comes from 50-60 year old vines and the native yeast fermentation takes place on the lees in temperature controlled vats in this all stainless steel Chablis, all the grapes are hand harvested and gently pressed on this classy white and only a light fining takes place after an extended lees aging in tank, before bottling to keep it clear and vividly fresh. Barat is a steady producer, very traditional and while not thrilling always puts out a solid lineup with this Premier Cru Vaillons my favorite, especially for the price, drink over the next 2 or 3 years, it’s an impressive and transparent Chardonnay for those that like a stony crisp version.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 27, 2018

2017 Niepoort Lagar de Baixo, Baga, Bairrada DOC Portugal -photo grapelive

2017 Niepoort, Baga, Lagar de Baixo, Bairrada D.O.C., Portugal.
The exceptionally pure and almost Cru Beaujolais (think Fleurie) like Baga Lagar de Baixo by Dirk Nierpoort, best known for his Port wines, is a wonderfully fresh dry red wine of delicate detail and brisk intensity, from mostly old vines in the Bairrada region. This light ruby hued Lagar de Baixo is from estate vineyards with a vine age of almost 50 years, these head trained vines are grown on sandy soils over calcareous clay which allows good fruit density, but with really low natural alcohol, in this case well under 12% making it a lovely bright quaffer. Mostly carbonic maceration with stainless steel with cool and a quick fermentation with a longer elevage in tank and neutral large casks all to keep its vivid flavors and fresh crispness with tangy red fruits, light earthy notes, floral tones in a light to medium bodied wine that highlights the terroir and the character of this grape, which is gloriously intriguing. This 2017 is so bright and pure it pops in the glass, something like Gamay or a lighter Mencia in feel with red cherry, juicy plum and tart raspberry fruits along with zippy detail, delicate floral elements, mineral and spices all of which make you want to put a slight chill on this one and enjoy it outdoors, picnics and paellas sound just about right and or with lighter meals. Drink this delightful brisk ruby hued wine over the next 2 or 3 years, though I suggest sooner vs. later as I love the vivid freshness it has right now. Niepoort has a great lineup of still wines, some that rival Burgundy in complexity and class, they are not wines to overlook, and while this light red is not all that serious, it is utterly delicious.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 26, 2018

2017 Weingut Korrell, Riesling Trocken “Paradies” Monopol, Nahe -photo grapelive

2017 Weingut Korrell Johanneshof, Riesling Trocken, Monopol “Paradies” Nahe Germany.
The radiant and graceful Korrell Paradies Trocken leads with expressive pure apple tones impresses for it’s elegance and subtle character, it’s a wine of great poise and delicacy, especially admirable for such a young Riesling. The monopole estate vineyard, Paradies, is the oldest single site Korrell has and is the flagship wine from winemaker Martin Korrell, it comes from his family’s vines that are set on limestone and clay soils in Bad Kreuznach area of the Nahe region. The Paradies Riesling Trocken is a gorgeous white of depth and precise winemaking that takes advantage of this unique site in the Nahe. This wine is the heart and soul of Korrell and it is product of it’s unique climat,or terroir, it sees more sunshine and the limestone allows for serious concentration, while retaining acidity, though there is always great attention paid to pick dates to finely tune this signature bottling to place and vintage. Korrell mixes some traditional stainless fermentations with some native yeast and barrel ferments to craft his wines and the Paradies shows a beautiful leesy finesse that reminds me a bit of the Von Winning GG’s, with a long time on the lees adding a beautiful glycerin density to this gorgeous dry Riesling. Coming off Korrel’s incredible Riesling Cup win for his Von den Grossen Lagen (Grand Crus) Riesling Trocken, I was absolutely thrilled to be able to try this wine, and found this particular wine just as intriguing. Martin focuses on preserving heightened aromatics and crisp mineral tones, while allowing the mouth feel and depth to shine through, it is an amazing accomplishment to get it all right, and Korrell deserves his time in the limelight, this is complex and glorious stuff. Layers of that green apple, peach, mixed fresh citrus and melon fruits are lifted by liquid rock, steely mineral and faint perfume of white flowers along with a silkiness of mouth feel, while still delightfully crisp, delivering an exciting energy filled performance. This is a winery that about to break out and join some elite company, in fact they are riding high after winning, as mentioned, the famous Riesling Cup award with their unique multi (Grand) cru Von den Grossen Lagen Trocken Riesling, and this wine is just extra proof there is real quality here! The lightly golden hued and generously textured Paradies will age well, it’s full of charm, class and potential, best to let this one have another 3 to 5 years, though it certainly is delicious right now.
($n/a- 19 Euro in Germany) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 25, 2018-Merry Christmas

2017 Diatom by Greg Brewer, Chardonnay Hilliard Bruce Vineyard -photo grapelive

2017 Diatom, Chardonnay, Hilliard Bruce Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Greg Brewer’s Diatom 2017 Hilliard Bruce Vineyard is all Chardonnay clone 96, sourced from a steep, ultra cool climate north facing slope on the western border of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA that makes for an acid and mineral intense version that almost has Raveneau like presence in the glass, but with a touch more generosity on the palate, more perfumed with citrus blossom rather than hazel nut, impressive non the less. The severe ocean winds influence the land, Brewer notes, adding that the sand and gravel characterize the soil profile that transmits purply into this vibrantly expressive Chardonnay from one of California top winemakers and Chard masters, who’s best known for his efforts at his Brewer Clifton and his work at Melville Estate. I love all these 2017’s, but this Hilliard Bruce Vineyard shows a beautiful harmony between the bright minerality of site with the rounder mouthfeel characterized by this clone. Brewer’s approach to Diatom is to dig down to the purest form of Chardonnay he can, I like to think of it as a zen like focus that captures the grape in a vacuum, with the fermentations down at very low temperature in small stainless-steel tanks, or Innox, coupled with inhibited malo-lactic, so no cream or butter distractions, and short hose transit ensure precision and ultra sharp detail. This is wildly amusing and intellectually intriguing Chardonnay with ripe flavors, but with steely crispness, at 14.5% natural alcohol there is mouth feel and expansion on the vibrantly electric palate with fresh citrus, green melon and white peach notes along with wet stones, liquid mineral and tart herb, lemongrass, quince and hint grapefruit zest. The wine rounds out with warm and time in the glass revealing a touch of honeysuckle and lime. Ultra pale, clean almost devoid of color except for a faint greenish gold, the Diatom Hilliard Bruce Vineyard 2017 is an awesome if not super geeky Chardonnay that takes its style to the extreme, beware this is polar opposite to mainstream barrel aged Chard, and as I curious and adventurous wine professional I find it massively exciting and thrilling, though best with briny dishes, white fish, mussels, claims and especially oysters, drink over the 2 to 5 years.
($36 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 24, 2018

2016 Saint Cosme, Crozes-Hermitage AC, Nothern Rhone, France -photo grapelive

2016 Saint Cosme, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
Louis Barruol’s Saint Cosme, most famous for his Gigondas, negociant series is one of the great values in the wine world, and especially his northern Rhone lineup impresses, with his Crozes-Hermitage always a stand out, and this 2016 is no exception with the vintage’s amazing combination of power and poise showing a deep character, but with a lovely freshness of detail and inner energy. Barruol’s deep/dark purple/garnet hued Crozes-Hermitage is 100% Serine clone (a local and an ancient variety of Syrah) that is 100% destemmed fruit coming off main sites in the extraordinary hillsides around the villages within Crozes, Larnage, Gervans and Erôme lie vineyard plots set of sand/clay over granite soils. This vintage was aged in 20% new French oak with the rest being put in 1 and 2 times used cask, with the Syrah seeing about a year of elevage before bottling, unfiltered, making for a rich, ripe and vivid Crozes-Hermitage Rouge with a pure and earthy Syrah personality and a classic regional terroir core and character with a loaded palate of black and blue fruit, spice and savory elements with a raw tannic grip as well as the vintage’s nice acidity that gives this wine a exciting kick in the ass! Barruol notes that his growers and in particular where he buys his grapes for this wine, in Tenay, Habrard and Batits, set behind Hermitage hill itself, with the oldest vines having the ability to produce wines that can compete with Hermitage! I do not doubt that and you can feel their presence in vintages such as this, no question, again this wine is an absolute steal for the price. The Saint Cosme 2016 Crozes surprises for the width and textural feel with beautiful layers of blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry, damson plum and black cherry/kirsch fruits along with light camphor/embers, violets, mission fig, cinnamon, black licorice, creme de cassis, peppercorns, and a hint of crushed rock and leather. There is a lot going on here, and the finish is exceptionally lengthy and smooth, again it has serious palate impact, while still fresh in details, at 13% natural alcohol, it is medium/full in body, perfectly weighted, and I can see it getting better over the next 3 to 5 years too, very impressive, it’s a Syrah that delivers on its promises. Delicious stuff, give air or decant for best results, but absolutely magic when paired with rustic/robust cuisine, drink this Crozes over the next 5 to 10 years.
($26 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 23, 2018

2014 Forman Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley -photo grapelive

2014 Forman, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
Ric Forman’s 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is a big Napa Valley wine, but with the vintage’s fresher style, sharp detail and potential for extended cellar aging, it absolutely thrills from start to finish, making one of his best efforts in years, I like it much better than 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013 editions, somewhat a sleeper year overall I adore this one with its wonderful play between opulence and vibrant form. Mainstream media types have gone crazy for the ultra luxurious, fat chocolate style Cabs, especially loving the 2013 and 2015 vintages, and while Forman excelled in those years too, I still am much more excited by the complexity and inner energy found in the best 2014’s like those of Corison, Corra by Celia Welch, Chappellet and this Forman, ask me in 15 to 20 if I’m proved right, but I think they are more intriguing than the more heralded 2013’s, so we’ll see. Ric Forman credits Bordeaux as being the biggest influence on his wines and style, though you can’t hide, especially in the last decade the explosive ripe quality of Napa fruit, so the touch Forman has is even more impressive, as like his inspiration he crafts wines of elegance and unending layers with a sense of soul, life and restraint. Like the top cellars in Bordeaux, Forman uses the most advanced equipment while using traditional hand harvested fruit, that is cared for with gentle techniques, it is also quickly done, with the grapes processed within 30 minutes of picking. Ultra selection of berries on the clusters, with rigorous hand sorting, the fruit is gently de-stemmed in a French Delta de-stemmer and transported, intact whole berry, for fermentations in small 2-4 ton temperature controlled stainless steel fermentors. Cold primary and maceration lasts for 3-4 weeks to get all the extraction of color and complexity of the skins, while malos happen in the barrels and the wine is aged for almost years, with no pump racking periodically done and a light egg white fining being done, also a la Bordeaux. Forman’s blend usually comes out something like 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest being close to 5-6% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 5-6% Petit Verdot all coming off Ric’s own vines in Saint Helena, 100% off the estate owned and farmed Grande Roche Vineyard with the finished wine getting about 75% new oak. This 2014 flows with pretty perfume and delicate toasty sweetness on the nose with acacia flowers, vanilla, mocha and black fruits while the palate gains depth and feel with every sip, evolving into layers of blackberry, creme de cassis (currant cored), plum and cheery along with a touch of cedary wood, tobacco spiciness and hints of licorice, sage and unsweetened cocao, before a lengthy finish that reveals the oak in a graceful way along with an echo of the vanilla/mocha. After time in the glass you feel the expressive purity of fruit and the wine gains a sense of integration and class, while filling out and delivering a full bodied palate impact, this is worthy of it’s hype and reputation, and why Napa is a force in the wine world, excellent and finessed stuff.
($120 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 22, 2018

2016 Domaine Equis (Maxime Graillot) “Equinoxe” Crozes-Hermitage -photo grapelive

2016 Equis, Crozes-Hermitage “Equinoxe” Northern Rhone, France.
Maxime Graillot’s Equis Equinoxe Crozes-Hermitage is one of the best values in pure terroir driven northern Rhone Syrah out there, it’s a lighter framed version, but still with great detail and varietal pleasures. The 2016 vintage is especially fun in the glass with vibrant energy and a lovely purple/garnet hue showing fresh blackberry, blueberry, plum, racy currant and tangy cherry fruits, a hint of camphor/graphite, minty herb, anisette, mineral/stone and ripe tannins along with a burst of juicy/fresh acidity. This edition is almost crisp in nature, but opens to a creamy medium weight wine with air, this shouldn’t be judged with an ultra serious eye, but rather enjoyed for it’s quaffable personality, it’s like a Beaujolais-Villages vs. Cru Beaujolais in a way, it’s brightness and barely medium weight frame make is a relaxed Syrah, while displaying all the right elements and a touch of class. Maxime uses organic grapes from sandy granite hillside vines, mostly younger here, and he de-stems 90 to 100% depending on the vintage and raises the 100% in used Burgundy barrels, usually bought from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti when available, much like Jean Foillard does for his famous Morgon Cote de Py. While not a full on natural wine guy, Maxime Graillot understood that organic and bio farming were the best route for himself, he trained under his very famous father Allain Graillot from a young age and in 2004 decided to split his time between his father’s domaine and establishing his cellar and small estate. Being a local kid, he knew where the best parcels in the Rhône’s Crozes zone, and in Saint-Joseph, were to be had, and he purchased a few tiny plots in the village of Beaumont-Monteux, just south of his pop Alain’s plots in La Chene Vert. He has converted the previously conventionally farmed vineyards to organics, making sure to soils were hand tended with great care allowing the roots to dig deeper into the gravel, which brings out concentration and terroir complexity and he banned the use of herbicides, relying on holistic treatments. His top Cru wines under Domaine des Lises and Domaine Equis are incredible wines, deeper in style, more heady and age worthy, but it’s hard to resist this joyful meant to drink young Equinoxe, it’s a wine that excites for its value and expressive style. The 2016 is going fast off the shelf and lists, so don’t wait, though the newly released 2017 shouldn’t be any less delicious!
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive