Monthly Archives: January 2019

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 31, 2019

2011 J. Rochioli, Pinot Noir, River Block, Russian River Valley -photo grapelive

2011 J. Rochioli, Pinot Noir, River Block, Estate, Russian River Valley.
The remarkably fresh 2011 River Block estate grown Pinot from Rochioli, is at a great point right now, just now beginning to show a brick orange hue on the edges, while the palate has retained a youthful flourish and vivid floral perfume. The fruit is sweet and polished, framed by smoky wood and a deep rose petal aroma with some Grand Cru intensity that even now brings a touch of bacon fat and it still has some muscle, in fact it reminds me little of a Ann Gross Richebourg and a Elio Altare Barolo! Which in a way makes sense as both those wine are a touch oaky and the 2011 vintage was unusually cool throughout, highlighting brisk acidity, which has preserved this Rochioli River Block well, it’s a wonderfully drinking wine, with impressive mouth feel, that has intense palate impact and stunning length.

One of California’s top Crus, the Estate River Block Vineyard is set close to the Russian River, hence the name and benefits from a slightly cooler effect and while still warm for Pinot this spot has a stellar track record for great wines and this one starts out with it’s pedigree showing with lush textures, bright focus and expansive layers of dark fruits, and while it fades off a bit with air, it is drinking at its best right now. The color is vivid and shines in the glass with a dark garnet hue and it pumps out black cherry, plum and dark berry fruits along with the toasty wood, an array of brown spices, light mineral tones and dried violets, adding black tea and anise. The vintage markers still holding here, with some racy acidity helping curb the density of this wine, this is a year that goes up and down and is an out of character year for most producers in the region, but Rochioli’s River Block still possesses its historic personality and opulence with a serious presence. If you have 2011 Rochioli Pinots, it’s time to bust them and be sure to have a matching meal to experience them at their very best.
($100 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 30, 2019

2015 Château de Béru, Chablis “Côte aux Prêtres” -photo grapelive

2015 Château de Béru, Chablis “Côte aux Prêtres” White Burgundy, France.
One of the top natural wine producers in Burgundy the historic Chateau de Beru, which was originally founded over 400 years ago, is now run by the irrepressible and talented Athénaïs de Beru, a rising star in the region, and who shakes off tradition to craft many wildly unique bottlings, while still focusing on classic Chablis that showcase terroir. Working the vines using biodynamic certified methods and working in the cellar with pragmatic natural techniques Athénaïs has seduced the wine world with her stylish bottlings, and especially with this Chablis “Côte aux Prêtres” that saw added zero sulfur. Beru’s vines are in very stony plots with its terroir being formed during the Kimmeridgian era and is mainly composed of crushed limestone, hardened clay and marine fossils, from which Chablis gets its driving mineral steeliness and chalky flavors retaining intense acidity.

The 2015 Château de Béru Chablis Côte aux Prêtres, 100% Chardonnay comes from about 40 year old organic vines and is fermented using native yeasts and saw full Malos, raised in a combination of neutral French oak and stainless steel, with the elevate lasting a full 18 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered, again without the addition of sulfur.

The warm vintage 2015 starts nutty and mineral rich with a saline and phenolic austerity, but the palate sweetens somewhat and while slightly more Jura like than Chablis, this is a compelling wine with mixed stone fruit, citrus and granny smith apple fruits along with liquid mineral, almond oil, wet rock and leesy notes. Drink this sooner v. later I think to keep the freshness of flavors and energy. It’s a unique Chablis, not your average version, but after an hour it comes into it’s own, opening nicely and gaining in detail and length.

Athénaïs Beru does lots of fun things, some wild for this region, she makes a Syrah, an Orange wine, a wonderfully flavorful Irancy Rouge, one of my favorites, made from whole-cluster 100% Pinot Noir (without the legal Cesar), as well as an Amphora aged Chardonnay and even a Vermentino and Carignan, but it’s the Chablis offerings that is the beating heart of this estate, with their the monopole, lieu-dit (like this one)and Premier Crus being highly sought after.
($55 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 29, 2019

2016 Domaine la Garrigue, Cotes-du-Rhone “Cuvee Romaine” Rhone Valley -photo grapelive

2016 Domaine la Garrigue, Côtes du Rhône “Cuvée Romaine” Southern Rhone, France.
The Domaine La Garrigue, founded back in 1850, is run by the same same that started it, now overseen by the brothers Bernard, Maxime and Pierre, who are the fifth generation at this historic Rhone estate in Vacqueyras. This family run winery now has the talented Virginie Combe, a member of the 6th generation, is in charge of the winemaking with guidance from the famous Philippe Cambie, who is one of region’s most sought after consultant. Domaine La Garrigue, named for the aromatic shrub that is ever present in the area around Gigondas and Vacqueyras, is largest domaine in the appellation covering 83 hectares, and they farm mostly Grenache, but also have Mourvedre, Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache Blanc and Clairette vines on the three primary terroirs of Vacqueyras zone. The average age of their vines is about 50 years old, but also have some vines well over a century old on a mix of soils that have marl, of clay and limestone in stony parcels on rugged slopes at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail.

Deeply colored and flavored the 2016 Domaine la Garrigue is a dark purple/garnet in the glass, it gives off a heady perfume and has a dense palate of fresh boysenberry, plum and sweet cherries adding layers of spice, earth and creme de cassis along with black licorice, this is a very serious wine that not only delivers rich fruit detail, but has plenty of savory substance to back it up. Even with this thick glycerin mouth feel and it’s medium/full body, there is a freshness and vibrancy that keeps everything thrilling from start to finish, it’s impossible not to love this stuff.

The Cuvee Romaine is exclusively made from the US importer Eric Solomon (European Cellars) and is crafted from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, and is in fact a declassified Vacqueyras, made whole cluster and raised in 100% concrete vats. From sustainable plots, this blend was from mainly areas that had more clay over limestone with a gravel top soil, which brings out the expressive fruit and it was aged for just about 8 months, all from vines that are over 40 years old. It 2016 it had mainly Grenache and a touch higher percentage of Mourvedre and a small amount of Syrah and it shows incredible complexity and depth for a wine of this price, rivaling wine easily three or four times the price!
($15 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 28, 2019

2015 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Temperance Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley -photo grapelive

2015 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Temperance Hill Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Mark Vlossak, one Oregon’s legendary Pinot masters, is still putting out outstanding wines, and his single vineyard bottling are some of the greatest values in North American Pinot Noir, especially his Freedom Hill and (this) Temperance Hill offerings. Vlossak’s 2015 Temperance Hill Vineyard is from mostly old vine plots, with the East Block coming from vines planted back in 1984, while the Pumphouse Block is from 1995, with the young R parcel is the only outliner being from a planting in 2004, all which are set on weathered basalt soils, only about 1o miles northwest of Salem on a hilltop that is much cooler than most of the surrounding sites in this area.

This dark hued, garnet/ruby 2015 Temperance Hill from St. Innocent, which was 100% de-stemmed, was fermented in a combination of stainless and French oak fermentors with native yeast without SO2 and then raised in about 20% new French oak for 16 months, bottled unfined and all by gravity feed with no pumping, all to make a seriously pure and vivid example of Pinot Noir. Mission accomplished, as this is wonderfully fleshy and layer, with ripe fruit density, but sublimely fresh and vibrant with tons of energy showing a deep sense of place, allowing a heady perfume, spice and acidity to come through behind the core mix of black and red fruits. The palate seduces with dark roses, black cherry, plum and vine picked wild berries along with hints of Asian spices, dusty stones, light mineral tones, cedar and briar notes.

This Pinot is still youthful, as with most St. Innocent, it’s solid, it will gain with time in bottle, and it should age for another decade without much change, meaning no fall off, at all, so if you open this exceptional wine soon, decanting will allow a fuller opening, and be sure to plan an evening around it with a meal. Cuisine brings out so much more intensity, intrigue and elegance in this vintage and focuses the beautiful details and structure, this is fantastic stuff that gains with every minute of air and every bite of food allowing the tannins to melt into silk, while still holding it’s nerve. Drink this beautifully made Pinot Noir over the next 5 to 10 years, it is going to be rewarding over the long haul, even though it is close to sublime even now.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day JANUARY 27, 2019

2016 Saint Cosme, Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge, Rhone Valley, France -photo grapelive

2016 Saint Cosme, Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
One of my all time favorite go to wines for any occasion is Louis Barruol’s 100% Syrah Côtes-du-Rhône, it’s a Southern Rhone negociant bottling that uniquely favors Syrah over Grenache, but that is seriously quaffable and offers a depth that way over performs for the price. I loved the up scale version Deux Albion, but at this price, this wine is serious good and authentic in style with a touch of garrigue, anise, leather and is loaded with pure fruit, obviously from a great vintage in the Rhone, it will continue to please for many years, though I find it nearly perfect now and guiltless.

Barruol’s Saint Cosme Côtes-du-Rhône, comes from Vinsobres and the Villafranchian terraces of the Gard department, with limestone, sand, red clay and pebbly soils, it was partial whole cluster and partial de-stemmed which was fermented and raised in tank. The 2016 vintage, coming after a great 2015 is from smaller yields, ripe fruit, but with a touch more fresh acidity that should actually help make it stand out and age a little longer, if fact I love it right now. Barruol notes also, that he had have seen two vintages of such a high standard in succession (and I hear 2017 is just as good!). The 2016 may even prove to be better over time because yields were lower, as mentioned above, than in 2015. he adds, and it’s worth repeating many times that the Côtes-du-Rhône wine zones, especially Saint Cosme’s, are an extraordinary winemaking playground, and great for those who like quality at a value price. As the region combines old vines, magnificent terroirs, fairly low yields and an outstanding climate, as is perfectly clear here in (his) Saint Cosme Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge.

This 2016 version starts with a nose of spice, herbs, wild flowers, red berry and cassis before entering the medium/full palate with layers of boysenberry, sweet plum and kirsch along with garrigue, a hint of stems, peppercorns, melted salty, black licorice and lingering with tangy blueberry and a mix of lavender and violets, adding a touch of dusty/earth, embers and framboise. There is a ripe sense of tannin and grip that begs for food, but it’s wonderfully easy and hedonistic, it’s hard to imagine a better deal on such a tasty wine, drink this over the next year or two, and keep an eye out for the 2017 which just now available. This Cotes du Rhone, while all Syrah still has a feel of the warm southern Rhone and reflects the Mediterranean sun and influence, it’s impossible to sip on this wine without a huge grin ear to ear.
($15 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 26, 2019

2016 Eden Rift, Chardonnay, Terraces, Estate, Cienega Valley -photo grapelive

2016 Eden Rift, Chardonnay, Terraces Estate, Cienega Valley AVA, California.
Just down the road from the famous Calera and Mount Halan, Eden Rift is a new premium estate winery in the Cienega Valley, near the town of Hollister with unique terroir and soil conditions with this estate series Chardonnay coming from a terraced vineyard site that faces east on rocky calcareous soils. This property was one of California’s first wine estates, being founded and planted back in 1849 and has been cultivating wine grapes continuously ever since. Eden Rift is a new name for this estate, it was known as Pietra Santa until a new family purchased the property a few years back, sitting on the famous San Andreas Fault, it’s in a remote area, feeling a cool breeze from the pacific and located under the shadow of the Gavilan Mountain Range, which helps this warm terroir keep a sense of balance in the wines.

This winery has the potential to be something great and I really enjoyed this 2016 Terraces Estate Series Chardonnay, and I cannot wait to try the 2017 and 2018 vintages as they are looking like sublime years in terms of quality a major step up from the drought affected years of 2013 to 2016, I have the feeling after trying a few wines from Eden Rift the future looks extremely promising. That said, in a blind tasting of bUrgundy wines, this 2016 Terraces was a ringer that I had down as maybe an old vine Sant Veran or something close with a nice sense of balance, they made it from their Block T and it sits at about 1,500 feet up, this elevation helps this Chardonnay not get over heated or flabby and has an extended hang time for good flavor development. It was mostly native yeast ferment, coming at about 80% Indigenous and with about 20% using Montrachet yeasts, which add a reductive note, and it was all barrel fermented with 100% malo and 25% new, all French oak.

The winemaking team whole cluster pressed the Terraces Chardonnay and the let it settle cold for 24 hours before racking to barrel where it spent about 15 months aging sur lie before bottling in January of 2018. It’s medium/full is weight and has lots of extract and acidity to remain vibrant showing peach, apple and pear fruits at its core along with some lemon, honeysuckle and golden fig adding complexity along with a hint of clove and vanilla spiciness all in a polished fashion, not too oaky or buttery, but rather generous in mouth feel. With air this lightly golden/yellow Chardonnay adds hint of mandarin orange, honey/bee’s wax and nice chalky note, it was composed of four barrels only with two clones, 42% Chardonnay clone 4 and the rest clone 76 and came in at 14.2% alcohol that is really the only tell tale hint that it was from the new world, otherwise this is very traditional in style with a subtle richness, and it’s drinking quite impressively right now, and while a touch pricy, it is quality stuff and with only 100 cases out there it is worth a look.
($54 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 25, 2019

2015 Wind Gap by Pax Mahle, Syrah, Sonoma Coast -photo grapelive

2015 Wind Gap, by Pax Mahle, Syrah, Sonoma Coast.
The Wind Gap Sonoma Coast, is sourced from top sites, and in 2015 proprietor Pax Mahle (of Wind Gap and Pax Wines) did not bottle his Armaugh, Majik or Walker-Vine Hill vineyard designates, because of tiny yields in this drought vintage. The little fruit he was able to harvest off those sites ended up going into this, the appellation-level Syrah, under his Wind Gap label. Those conditions and Pax’s talent in the cellar all led to a purple/opaque, pefumed and full-bodied effort with classic Pax character, making for a much more serious version of this wine, which is not usually this deep or dense, it’s a sleeper wine that will be coveted by the Pax faithful and Syrah fans.

Pax himself adds, the palate shows the fruit of Nellessen immediately with subtle black pepper and silky concentrated fruit. It isn’t until later that you get the firm black fruit tannin and intense iron and game from the Armagh Vineyard and the smoky incense sexuality of the Majik Vineyard. With Wind Gap now fading away, with most wines now being put under the main Pax label, there are lots of retail outlets giving huge discounts, and I got this for the cost of an average Cotes du Rhone! Making it an even better value than its already reasonable release price, I suggest people search out these deals too! The other thing I’ll mention, if this is the entry level wine, be sure to get on to Pax’s upper level offerings, especially the upcoming 2015 Syrahs, like his Griffin’s Lair!

The fruit is outspoken here on this 2015 with ripe opulence and deep flavors, explosive on the palate with sweet plum, boysenberry, blueberry compote and juicy black cherry fruits along with loads of mouth filling texture, wild flowers, faint peppery notes and lingering creme de cassis and baking spices. With Pax’s reputation for gorgeous and balanced Syrah, I came to this one with high expectations, and I was not left wanting. At only 13.2% natural alcohol, this is really lovely stuff, vivid to the core and a wine that has years of life left, drink over the next 3 to 5 years or longer.
($24-36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 24, 2019

2015 Domaine Caroline Morey, Santenay Rouge “Le Chainey” -photo grapelive

2015 Domaine Caroline Morey, Santenay Rouge “Le Chainey” Cote de Beaune, France.
The historic Morey family has many famous names and domaines, almost too many to list, but Caroline Morey is one to search out, she’s the daughter of Jean-Marc Morey who retired in 2014 and gifted her a few prized vineyards and parcels to start her own label. It must also be noted Caroline is married to Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, one of Burgundy’s hottest winemakers and she shares many methods and with a shared approach to winemaking. So it’s going to be interesting to see where her wines get to quality wise, but if they follow what I found in the bottle here with her Santenay Le Chainey Rouge, then she is certainly going to be a star in her own right.

The 2015 is slightly reductive at first, but is utterly charming, lighter in form than expected from the vintage, gaining personality and grace every minute with air showing rose petal delicacy, a hint of smoke and layers of tangy red cherry, strawberry and tart red currant fruits along with a mix of tea spices, bramble and blood orange note all wrapped up in a lovely medium weight body and smooth palate with silken textures and mild acidity.

Her heirloom vineyards, throughout Chassagne and Santenay, give her an advantage of great fruit sources, usually especially challenging for a start up domaine in Burgundy, so she has hit the ground running and has some wonderful premier releases out that show considerable quality, precision and terroir focus. In the cellar Caroline echos her husband’s ethos with indigenous yeasts ferments and barrel aging in bigger barrels with the use of 350L casks, also in not stirring the lees to keep things more intensely vibrant, while still delivering textural richness, in particular in her white, but the reds are lovely too, as this one shows.

Caroline Morey is an all Cote de Beaune winery as she vinifies about 60% white wine and 40% red wine all from appellations in Santenay, Chassagne-Montrachet and Beaune, with her winemaking operations, along with Pierre Yves, who I assume is helping in crafting these wines, all done at a new purpose-built facility just on the outskirts of Chassagne. Coming from vines located in the southern sector of Santenay quite high on the slope adjoining 1er Cru Grand Clos Rousseau, the Santenay Le Chainey is 100% de-stemmed and the wine is aged in mostly used French oak with about 30% new barrels in 2015, which is pretty classic stuff, making for a pretty Pinot Noir with a lighter profile, but with ripe vintage character, it’s a wine that grows on you, no question.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 23, 2019

2017 Julien Sunier, Morgon, Cru Beaujolais, France -photo grapelive

2017 Julien Sunier, Morgon, Cru Beaujolais, France.
Natural wine star, Julien Sunier, who got his start working in the cellar at Christophe Roumier after which he made surf and winemaking pilgrimages to California and New Zealand before starting his domaine in Beaujolais, back in 2008, getting grapes from old-vine, hilltop parcels in the Cru villages of Fleurie, Morgon and Régnié. The Dijon born Sunier has shown a remarkable flair in his recent vintages, raising his talents to the level of many top estates here like Lapierre, Foillard, Thevenet and Dutraive, with a passion for organic viticulture and non intervention gentile winemaking that highlights each terroir and vintage, these are soulful expressions and racy wines.

This latest release of Sunier Morgan is at first bright, but takes on a dark profile with black violets, blackberry, tangy currant, sweet strawberry and plum fruit along with a touch of stemmy spice, wild herb, anise and dark wood notes all with that carbonic opulence, but with a chewy structure and a medium weight body. The 2017 vintage, is for me, the best yet from Sunier and his flagship wine is his Morgon with it’s three lieu-dit blend from Cote de Py, Corcellette and Charms, all ancient vine sites made famous especially by Jean Foillard, set on these granite soils. Sunier employed all natural carbonic fermentation using Indigenous yeast in concrete vats at low temperatures to keep intensity of the fruit and fresh detail before using his ancient Burgundy vertical press, racking to well used barrels or Futs where the Gamey is raised for 9 months before bottling, as per normal, unfined and unfiltered with exceptionally low sulfur.

While some reviewers have raised concerns for this vintage which was hit hard by hail, I have found the wines lively and minerally with a gripping sense of force, less earthy and feral as the 2016, but not as hedonistic and fruity as 2015, and I adore what I’ve tasted, again especially from Sunier, who must have really been careful in the vineyard and selective in the cellar, for me they are impressive in depth and personality. This fruit driven and floral wine takes on a more serious nature with air adding mineral tones, umami (savory) elements and length, it’s a seductively charming Gamay that lacks for nothing and has a true sense of place. Drink this is a wine that should get better over the next 2 to 3 years in bottle and have a window of a decade at least.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 22, 2019

2017 Domaine de la Bergerie, Anjou Rouge “La Cerisaie” Loire Valley -photo grapelive

2017 Domaine de la Bergerie, Anjou Rouge “La Cerisaie” by Yves Guegniard, Loire Valley, France.
Yves Guegniard’s Domaine de la Bergerie, a Loire Valley estate, lies on the terroirs of Anjou, at the eastern end of the Armorican massive. It sits on the schist bedrock of Anjou, and Bergerie’s vineyard site is about 36 hectares, benefiting from a mix of varied soils and from the mildness of the oceanic climate that allows a fresh style and an array of varietals from classic Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc to the rare local Grolleau, Plus as is the case in Anjou they have a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon as well, they craft Reds, Whites, Rosé and a lovely Sparkling Crémant de Loire. These value priced wines offer tons of personality, refinement and pleasure that, in a lighter and transparent way, highlight the region’s unique terroir. I’ve been following this Domaine for a few years now, and I adore all the wines from this estate, the are just pure examples and are quality offering with nice packaging, especially good is their Brut Crémant de Loire with it’s polished form, lively mousse and regal brioche notes, as well as this killer bargain Anjou Rouge, it’s a clean juicy wine without rough edges or harsh chewy tannin, focused more on expressive youthful fruit.

Yves along with his daughter Anne crafted this bright and quaffable Anjou Rouge from about 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is fresh in style and drinks easily with clean and vibrant detail, pretty floral tones and less aggressive green or bell pepper notes showing crushed violets, cinnamon stick, mineral and stony elements with a core of blackberry, plum and cherry fruits with that hint of tell tale Loire Valley Cabernet Franc grilled bell pepper, as well as a lingering racy currant and anise. The grapes were vinified de-stemmed and separate by varietal with about a 15 day maceration and primary ferment before being raised in tank or cuve for about 9 months, all to allow crisp detail and a sense of place to show through. This dark garnet hued La Cerisaie is styled in a way that allows early enjoyment, but with substance, it’s medium body and complexity makes for a wine that way over performs for the asking price, it’s great as Bistro or house red and it’s remarkably flexible in the same way a Cotes du Rhone or Beaujolais Villages are. This is a drink now Cab Franc from Domaine de la Bergerie, with soft tannins, it can be served with a slight chill for warm days or stand up to more robust cuisine too, it should age nicely as well, when it loses some of its fruit and gains a touch of earthiness, though best over the next 3 to 5 years.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive