Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 31, 2019

2017 Jim Barry Wines, Assyrtiko, Clare Valley, Australia -photo grapelive

2017 Jim Barry Wines, Assyrtiko, Clare Valley, Australia.
While Australia is a hotbed of varietals and do everything from Verdejo to Muscat and Syrah (Shiraz) to Gamay, Jim Barry Wines, which was founded back in 1959, is the first and only Aussie winery to plant and make Assyrtiko, the unique Greek grape that is more at home on the Island of Santorini than Clare Valley. Peter and his wife Sue Barry holidayed on Santorini in 2006 and they feel in love with the vibrant flavors and crisp mineral driven charm of the wines made from this grape and thought it might be a good choice in their local climate and with the help of Yiannis Argyros of Argyros Winery and a return trip to Greece, Barry finally got his selected cuttings in 2008. It wasn’t an overnight process, especially since the two mother Assyrtiko vines had to be quarantined for two years before Barry could get plants in the ground, but after much headaches and with the help of Yalumba Winery’s nursery got his vineyard block done at his Lodge Hill Vineyard, which is more famous for Shiraz and Riesling, and Peter made his first tiny experiment batch of dry Assyrtiko in 2014. After proving to be a success, this rare and unique wine is now in limited production, and I got a chance to try some of the first to be exported, this 2017 Jim Barry Clare Valley Assyrtiko is a vivid and richly flavored version of this grape with brilliant layering and balance, while a bit fuller than most Greek editions, it rinds me of some of the more serious Santorini wines, like the fabulous Santo Wines Winery and Domaine Sigalas. Like Vermentino, I think Assyrtiko would also do well in California too, and the Jim Barry version gives an incredible insight on how well this grape can do in the new world.

Interesting, Peter Barry, with a nod to tradition, has trained the Assyritiko vines using the Kouloura method which is done on Santorini to prevent the vines from being threaded by winds and to preserve moisture, since the vines are dry farmed on the Island’s volcanic and sandy soils. In Greece, on Santorini, Assyrtiko vines can date back almost four hundred years, since Phylloxera never got here, and they may be some of the oldest European vines. Barry’s Assyrtiko is grown on the iron rich classic Terra Rossa red topsoil over limestone and his wine transmits this with a medium weighted and smooth palate and earthy mineral notes, while still delivering loads of brisk acidity and with 12.5% natural alcohol, making for a beautiful white that has a range of vibrant stone and citrus fruits and a lush textural feel in the mouth. The Lodge Hill Vineyard, also has loam, clay and even some broken slate which is great for their Riesling, and looks to have provided the Assyrtiko it’s freshness and steely charm, which Barry highlighted with the winemaking too, with stainless steel and temperature controlled fermentations with limited lees contact. The 2017 Assyrtiko shows a growing maturity of form and finesse with a pretty pale straw color and subtle floral, orange blossom perfume with a nice saline and stony character showing meyer lemon, green melon, green apple and apricot fruits along with a touch of herb, wet chalk rock and a touch of flinty spice. I love this stuff, for those that want something very different, but impressive, this is a fun choice for Summer cuisine, especially fleshy fish dishes, but can go with everything from Sushi to roast Chicken, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 30, 2019

2018 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Vin Gris de Cigare, California -photo grapelive

2018 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Vin Gris de Cigare, California.
The beautifully pale 2018 Dry Rosé by Bonny Doon, the Vin Gris de Cigare is a fabulous Summer wine with wonderful tension, detail and stylish texture, it is much more serious than its price would suggest, highlighting the thought and care behind the making of it and the stellar vintage. Randall Grahm’s pink wines are some of the best wines you can find anywhere and this vintage and version is damn near perfect and drinks with precision and pleasure crafted from a unique selection of grapes that includes a final cepage of 38.5% Grenache, 30.5% Grenache Blanc, 12.5% Carignane, 10% Cinsaut 6% Mourvèdre, 2% Picpoul and 0.5% Vermentino! Grahm used a variety of vineyards to achieve the success and distinct profile found here, with mostly Monterey County in the Arroyo Seco AVA, plus Contra Costa for the Carignane as well as the central valley, where he got the older vine Cinsault. This combination allows for great intensity of flavors, and while a touch riper than most years it retains good acidity and has impeccable balance, this is a Rosé that really rivals the best of the French, that provided the inspiration. Randall employed a cold fermentation and raised the red grapes after a few hours of skin contact and intriguingly he lees aged the Vin Gris de Cigare and even used bâtonnage, the stirring of the dead yeast cells and sediment (lees), to add textural creaminess.
While, mostly know for his Cigare Volant, his signature Chateauneuf du Pape Rhone Red Blend, Randall does an exquisite and varied range of wines, including examples of sparkling wines all the way to sweet things and with lots of stuff in between, this this lovely Vin Gris.

There is a lot going on here on the fine palate with a superb array of layering in this 2018 Vin de Gris, it delivers a masterful performance and it’s a wine that is easy to love, and it is highly quaffable, but it is also a wine that has depth and complexity. The flavors are a mix of bright and warm fruits, showing sour cherry, pink citrus, red peach, watermelon, squeezed currant and strawberry along with touches of spice, liquid mineral, stones and rosewater. The wine opens with air, it gains mouth filling viscosity, but stays crisp, saliva inducing and stony, again there is a well judged play between weighty sensations and zesty vigor and vitality. I have been thrilled with the latest wines by Grahm and his team at Bonny Doon, especially his whites, which are largely unknown, except by his rabid fans, savvy wine drinkers should search them out, especially his Le Cigare Blanc Réserve “en bonbonne” (Grenache Blanc/Roussanne) that is outrageously good, one of California’s best Rhone style whites, but don’t miss Bonny Doon’s Picpoul either. There is some exciting new wines coming from Bonny Doon and a visit to their tasting room, in Davenport, California, just north of Santa Cruz, should be on list of things you need to do this Summer. In the meantime, grab a bunch of the 2018 Vin Gris, it is a perfect warm day and sunset wine that plays well with food, pairing well with lots of cuisine choices and holds up to spicy dishes as well as picnic fare, enjoy now, though it actually has structure to aged for a few years.
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 29, 2019

2016 Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Tuscany, Italy -photo grapelive

2016 Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Tuscany, Italy.
The Donatella Cinelli Colombini estate Casato Prime Donne is a Montalcino winery that is entirely run by women and the wines show their strength and passion in every bottle, these are beautiful wines and while of their top Brunello is their signature wine, I was incredibly impressed by their baby Brunello, the 2016 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso di Montalcino. The wine estate dates back to earth part of the twentieth century, but really the re-birth and modern label began recently and quite quickly it made a splash with a great string of Bunellos that are getting and better with each vintage as they complete their re-planting and fine tune their style. The wines here at Donatella Cinelli Colombini are clean, authentic and lush with a deep garnet hue in the glass, these are polished and finessed examples of the region, and this one expresses it all in grand style. This is a winery to follow and while modern in focus Donatella Cinelli Colombini, run by Donatella and her daughter Violante Gardini, makes wines that are true to their terroir.

Made from 100% Sngiovese Grosso (Brunello Clone) the Rosso di Montalcino by Donatella Cinelli Colombini was aged a year in oak barrel allowing for the wine shine through with purity of the fruit and giving a gorgeous picture of the warm vintage in the bottle. The 2016 Rosso is full bodied and luxurious in texture with the grapes natural acidity and tannins playing a subtle role keeping things vivid and fresh, lifting the dark and rich flavors up and provides a solid base structure in this Tuscan classic. It is opulently layered in the mouth with black cherry, strawberry, plum and mulberry fruits along with grilled fennel, sandalwood, dried lavender, cigar wrapper, delicate mineral tones and cedary wood. There is a lot to love here and it is a really good value for what you get, in fact this Rosso really compares well with many higher end true Brunello(s), it stands out and delivers a very worthy performance and goes great with tuscan cuisine as well as simple and rustic dishes, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($34 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 28, 2019

2015 Corison, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley -photo grapelive

2015 Corison, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
Cathy Corison’s 2015 Cabernet lineup is a spectacular set of wines with her Kronos and Sunbasket rising to utter greatness, but do not overlook her regular Napa Valley bottling which is seriously brilliant stuff and not far off her elite top two offerings, it just might be the best Napa Cab for the money out there. Corison’s career and successes are legendary and she really is living history, making some of the best wines of the moment, all crafted with authentic charm and hand crafted precision, these are gorgeously proportioned Cabernet Sauvignon(s) with vivid detail, luxurious in texture, though with solid tannin and well judged acidity and wood use. Cathy’s Cabernet Sauvignon makes for a powerful wine, especially this 2015, but she likes to put it, she has found that brilliant, intersection of power and elegance showing a deep sense of place and while warm and ripe she has found a remarkable balance in her wine, this is a 20 or 30 year wine, but one that can be drunk young with thrilling results. Knowing most of the job is in the vineyards, Corison invests 90% of her time to the vines and works as natural as possible and is dedicated to sustainable practices, with Kronos and Sunbasket being organic, while as known for her non-interventionist approach in the cellar, allowing the grapes purity to be the focus of her attention. Corison’s main wine, has been and is a classic, made since 1987, the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has been sourced from three benchland vineyards located between Rutherford and St. Helena, all on gravelly loams made from an alluvial fan formed from the Mayacamas range to the west.

These soils make Napa Valley and are the underpinning of what makes Cabernet so great here giving the wines their depth, complexity and the velvety mouth feel and Corison’s 2015 shows wonderful concentration, a heady dark floral perfume and intense inky color in the glass. Remembering 2015 was a severe drought year and bared a tiny crop, some which was caused by a cold snap during the flowering that limited the number of clusters, then August brought heat that speeded up the harvest to a record early pick in Napa, so it took Corison’s deft touch and gentile winemaking to achieve the phenomenal results she got here, this is a Cathy wine that delivers a stunning performance. I always find a hidden sensation of the exotic in the Corison Cab, and the 2015 does not disappoint with a hint of dry port (without alcohol heat) and crushed violets before opening up on the full bodied palate to black currant, blackberry, blueberry and surprisingly bright cherry fruit along with savory tones, loamy earth, tobacco, sage, black licorice, wild mint and mineral notes, in a gripping and forceful wine that adds plum, creme de cassis, smoky vanilla and a cinnamon(y) spicy bite. Aged 20 months in small Bordeaux barrels, the 2015 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet gets better and better with every sip, it’s a bottle that you do not want to find empty on the table, it goes great with food, in particular with hard cheeses and lots of protein rich dishes, and while I was a huge fan of the 2014, this one is every bit as good and maybe just a bit more sexy.
($95 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 27, 2019

2017 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon -photo grapelive

2017 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
One of the legends of Oregon winemaking along with Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent, Doug Tunnell of Brick House, Mike Etzel of Beaux Freres and now of Sequitur, Ken Wright and Steve Doerner of Cristom, John Paul at Cameron Winery in the Dundee Hills is making some of the most impressive wines of his career, be sure not to miss these latest wines, especially the ultra bargain 2017 Willamette Valley cuvee! This vintage is fresher than the last couple, but full of flavor and depth, Paul notes “The 2017 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir has all the fullness and richness you expect from Dijon clones.” of which I agree and then some, this is a dark almost meaty wine with tons of personality. It truly amazes me you can get this much wine for the price, this is a killer value! If this Cameron bottling is this good, then I can’t wait to try the upper level Cru and Single Vineyard offerings from 2017.

The 2017 Cameron Willamette Valley Pinot shows a slight reduction at the start that reminds you of Nuits-St.-Georges, but with time and swirls it blows off to reveal violets, cassis, a touch of leather along with a sense of spicy berry fruit before opening up on the palate with black cherry, plum and glazed strawberry fruits as well as a touch of smoke, flinty mineral, anise and subtle wood notes. Coming off estate vineyards mostly, included Clos Electrique and Abbey Ridge, plus some of the grapes were sourced from White Oak Vineyard, mainly of which are Jory soils and as with nearly everything Cameron uses, the vines are non irrigated (dry famed) and farmed with organic, holistic and Salmon safe methods. In the winery, John Paul uses all native yeast fermentations and the wine is raised in Barrel at least 18 months, and even though this is his “Bourgogne Rouge” style or entry level Pinot, it is also exceptional in detail and age-worthy.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 26, 2019

2015 Domaine Jean Fournier, Marsannay “Clos du Roy” Red Burgundy, France -photo grapelive

2015 Domaine Jean Fournier, Marsannay “Clos du Roy” Red Burgundy, France.
Dark, earthy, reductive and brambly at first the 2015 Jean Founier single Lieu-Dit Marsannay Rouge Clos du Roy slowly opens up on the medium bodied palate and turns into a lovely and slightly rustic Burgundy that given time in the glass delivers a very competent performance, that for the price makes it a stellar value. After the graphite and barnyard notes dim, there is plenty to get excited about here with satiny layers of black cherry, mulberry, plum and spicy vine picked raspberry fruits, mineral tones, tea notes, wilted rose petals and zesty red citrus that adds pop. This is certainly not a Pinot Noir you want to drink without matching cuisine, it really needs help to show it’s depth, food is a must here, but that said, with that right paring you get handed a beautiful wine and it transforms in personality to the point of elation.

From a very successful and dense vintage, Jean Fournier’s Marsannay from the prestigious Lieu-Dit of Clos du Roy delivers a performance that would make you believe this was from a more famous zone in Burgundy, such is the form, density and intensity. Clearly winemaker Laurent Fournier is at the forefront of elevating Marsannay as a wine and as a community, with this 2015 he certainly seems to have accomplished some of that mission. Fournier’s current holdings cover just over 17 hectares of vines with many ranging between 20 and 70 years old and covering the some of Marsannay’s most lauded and coveted sites, including this parcel plot in Clos du Roy, all of which are old clone massale selections. This is an old school style that needs the right setting, but is seriously good and this is a winery to follow, especially in good years and given the time and age to reveal its inner beauty.
($40 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 25, 2019

2016 Quinta do Pinto, Vinhas do Lasso Branco, Arinto/Fernão Pires, Colheita Selecionada, Alenquer DOC, Portugal -photo grapelive

2016 Quinta do Pinto, Vinhas do Lasso Branco, Arinto/Fernão Pires, Colheita Selecionada, Alenquer DOC, Portugal.
The Vinhas do Lasso by Quinto do Pinto is an all native yeast fermented white blend of 50% Arinto, one of Portugal’s most interesting and structured white grapes and 50% Fernão Pires, one of the rarest, also known as Maria Gomes, and prized for its spicy and exotic aromatics. Grown on the cool Atlantic west coast in the greater Lisbon or Lisboa area, the “Lasso” shows a bright character and crisp intensity with a slightly tropical note, saline freshness and mineral charm. Quinta do Pinto, like many Rhone style whites uses traditional cement vats for both fermentation and aging on this Lasso which allows purity in flavors and a lovely textural quality in this stylish white. The 2016 is a very pretty wine with a mix of citrus, including tangerine and lemon/lime, white flowers, peach and hints of mango as well as a layer of spices along with a touch of wet stones. The natural acidity adds life and vitality here in this Lasso, making for a steely crisp white that goes great with shellfish and is a great Summer sipper with loads of style and refreshment.

As noted by their US importer, Banville Wine Merchants (Winebow), Quinta do Pinto is a family-owned estate located just north of the coastal Portuguese capital of Lisbon, and was originally established in the 17th Century, though risen in more recent times while it has been owned by the Cardoso-Pinto family, who took over the estate about a 100 years ago. The Cardoso-Pinto’s are dedicated to a more natural approach in the vineyard and in the cellar, working sustainably, they believe in respect for terroir and minimal intervention in (their) winemaking. The influenced by the cool Ocean and the climate the wine have a vibrant and elegant profile. Soils here are Jurassic clay and limestone, and the Quinta do Pinto wines are crafted from only local varietals that include Touriga Nacional and Arinto, among others, and aged solely in concrete. This are honest and authentic wines, especially the Vinhas do Lasso Branco, which is much more serious than one would imagine (for the ridiculous price) and more interesting than most Vinho Verde, enjoy this beauty with seafoods and over the next 3 to 5 years.
($15 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 24, 2019

2015 Ca’ Del Baio, Barbaresco DOCG “Vallegrande” Piedmonte, Italy -photo grapelive

2015 Ca’ Del Baio, Barbaresco DOCG “Vallegrande” Piedmonte, Italy.
I’ve been thrilled with the 2015 Barbarescos of Ca’ Del Baio with both the Autinbej and this full bodied Vallegrande are beautiful Nebbiolo wines that can be enjoyed in their youth and look like good and savvy choices for mid term aging in the cellar. The impressive Vallegrande delivers a smooth and almost flamboyant performance in the glass with silky ripe fruit and polished tannins that seem a hallmark of the vintage. As noted in my review of the sister wine, the Autinbej, Giulio Grasso’s Ca’ del Baio, was founded back in the early 1920’s, but didn’t start making wine under their own label until about 15 years ago, having previously sold their grapes to the famous coop, Produttori del Barbaresco. Ca’ Del Baio is an eco friendly estate in Treiso, in the Langhe hills near the border of Neive and close to Barbaresco itself, and quickly becoming a star in the region making a range of fine Barbaresco(s) as well as Langhe varietal wines. The Ca’ Del Baio wines are great values and pair well with regional cuisine and more robust and or rustic dishes, in particular I suggest searching out these two Barbaresco(s).

The lush and full flavored 2015 Vallegrande Barbaresco comes in at 15% which seems at first heady, but with it’s serious mouth feel and palate impact it still all works well with lovely texture, perfume and structure as well as good natural acidity giving balance and keeping the details fresh. Classic flavors cascade across the palate with racy cherry, plum, strawberry, tangy dried orange rind and sweet red currant fruits that are contrasted by savory elements with hints of game, wild mushrooms, earth and black licorice, adding rose petal and fresh picked mint with air. This Barbaresco was fermented with native yeasts and was traditionally crafted with maceration on the skins from 9 to 15 days in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures to preserve aromatics and fresh detail before aging for 24 months in large Slavonian oak barrels (boti), which was followed by bottle aging for almost 6 months. Grasso’s Barbaresco vines are between 25 and 40 years old and grown on the region’s classic gray marl, limestone, and sandy soils, on east facing slopes that helps with ripening, while still allowing purity of terroir to shine through in these wines, Ca’ Del Baio is a winery to stock up on, especially in a vintage like this.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 23, 2019

2005 Domaine du Vieux Chateau-Daniel-Etienne Defaix, Chablis, Les Lys, Premier Cru White Burgundy, France -photo grapelive

2005 Domaine du Vieux Chateau-Daniel-Etienne Defaix, Chablis, Les Lys, Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
Daniel-Etienne Defaix, who uniquely cellar ages his wines before release, continues this long family tradition of wine growing, which has been working the vines around Chablis since the 1500s, and now he manages 26 hectares planted exclusively to Chardonnay, which most all there vines in a selection of Premier Crus. Defaix, a natural minded vigneron, who’s family is from Avallon, not far from Chablis, with his ancestor Etienne-Paul Defaix moving the family into Chablis during the eighteenth century, he uses largely self taught methods to craft his wines with ideas passed down and learned from his own experiences. His severe selections of grapes and his long fermentations highlight his deft and gentile touch in the cellar, which shows here in his latest release of Les Lys from the 2005 vintage, it is a gorgeous Chablis with incredible texture, mineral notes, remarkable lively character from this warm vintage and polished depth. This 2005 gives a subtle floral perfume, hints liquid rock, clarified cream, apple, pear and lemon preserves as well as wet stone (chalk), acacia honey, hazelnut and lingering fleshiness of form, it is a seamless Chardonnay of great class and detail.

The Chablis 1er Cru Les Lys comes from a monopole plot known as “Clos du Roi” and the average age of the vines is close to 45 years on a sloping hillsides that have a near perfect southwest exposure that allows warm ripe flavors and richness, while the Kimmeridgian (limestone) soils give fabulous structure, acidity and minerallity. Daniel Defaix ferments, 100% de-stemmed grapes, in stainless steel tank, using 100% natural yeasts, at cold temps, which takes close to three weeks and then the wine is rested almost three years on the lees, again in stainless (only) and goes through natural malos, then racked again back to stainless tanks to aged up to ten years before bottling! The results are amazing and this 2005, which shows the benefits of that regime and the age delivers a great performance in the glass with a sexy layered mouth feel and secondary elements beginning to shine through. The “Les Lys” Premier Cru vineyard, part of the Vaillons, is located on the left bank of the Serein River, overlooking the villages of Chablis and Milly, making for an intriguing terroir, one of the most rare in the series of Premier Crus from Chablis and with a stony personality, but with a softer tone than some of neighboring sites, in particularly this Defaix version, it is wonderfully elegant, especially now.
($54 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine Of The Day May 22, 2019

2016 Uphold Wines by Ryme Cellars, Red Wine, Lot 01, California -photo grapelive

2016 Uphold Wines by Ryme Cellars, Red Wine, Lot 01, California.
Megan and Ryan Glaab of Ryme Cellars in Geyersville have created a second label Uphold Wines that are their way of giving back and all profits are donated to social causes and for the protection of equal rights, so here is a chance to drink some seriously fun and delicious handcrafted wine for the greater good of your fellow humans. The 2016 Uphold Red from Lot 01 is reportedly all Carignan, a grape the Ryme gang does exceptionally well and for the price, it is a killer little wine with a lovely quaffable personality and with crunchy fresh dark fruited profile. This Rhone (one of the Chateauneuf varietals) and Languedoc grape, found in Corbieres, Minervois and Gigondas wines, has been in the state for over a hundred years and old vine versions are easily as delicious and serious as Zinfandel, and can be found in many field blends from Heritage Vineyards.

Carignan or Carignane (as you sometimes see in California) is a grape on the rise and you are seeing many quality examples out there, especially from Pax, Ridge Vineyards, Martha Stoumen, Sandlands, The Princess and the Peasant, Broc Cellars and of course Ryan and Megan’s own Ryme Cellars, all must try versions of this varietal, just to highlight a few. The Uphold Red Lot 01 is juicy with loads of blue fruits and light spices showing layers of black raspberry, plum, blueberry and cherry fruits adding a touch of cinnamon, cedar and minty herbs. Everything seems easy, but substantial with a touch of rustic charm, this is super smashable and will be great with BBQ and hard sheep cheeses. Uphold is solid wine for a great cause, enjoy this over the next 2 to 3 years and be sure to check out the latest Ryme offerings, in particular, look for their Vermentino(s) and Aglianico, as well as the Ryme Carignan!
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive