Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 30, 2019

2018 Sheldon Wines, Syrah, Luc’s Vineyard, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County -photo grapelive

2018 Sheldon Wines, Syrah, Luc’s Vineyard, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County.
The upcoming 2018 Syrah from Sheldon Wines is one of their most intriguingly wild creations to date with gorgeous aromatics and an amazing play between wonderfully ripe and pure fruit juiciness and raw grip in a serious wine that achieves zen like harmony without any oak influences. This dark and seductive Syrah has an outrageous personality and a heavenly liquid violets and blackberries perfume and an ass kick of spices that burst from the glass, it is like if you took a Fleurie and mixed it with Crozes-Hermitage-Hermitage! Sometimes winemaker Dylan Sheldon reminds me of a young Randall Grahm, where you think either this guy is either brilliant or has a screw loose, but the wine somehow opens the doors of perception and everything becomes clear, and this Syrah is crazy good. Layers of black and blue fruits race at you on the medium full palate with incredible intensity, but with a sense of lightness and with vivid transparency showing plum, boysenberry, tangy blueberry and sweet kirsch notes as well as incense, camphor, muddled basil/mint, rosemary/sage, cinnamon stick and pepper. This is a wine perfectly suited for robust cuisine on the playful side, it is thrilling with a slight chill and served with BBQ, lamb kabobs, earthy mushroom dishes or just burgers. This zippy garnet/purple Syrah fills out with air and gains texture in the mouth, gaining lots of style and providing an entertaining and ever changing personality. Sheldon’s latest set of wines are stunning and especially their 2018 stuff show amazing class and delicacy, don’t miss the Sangiovese and this one barrel limited release Syrah.

So, Dylan picked his grapes for his Cote-Rotie inspired Syrah from a tiny home, hillside, vineyard in Sonoma County’s Fountaingrove called Luc’s Vineyard and he did a full native carbonic, whole cluster fermentation for eight days before pressing the Syrah into a stainless barrel that had freshly squeezed Viognier skins to finish primary which lasted an extra week, then the wine was racked off to a clean well used neutral French barrel for three months, where it completes malos, before being transferred back to stainless to settle for bottling unfined and unfiltered. This early bottling of the young wine was to preserve the bright freshness and the heightened, Viognier infused bouquet array, that is on display in this expressive Syrah. I look forward to seeing the evolution of flavors in this vintage, Dylan notes he was looking for the resulting dynamic liaison between the savoy aspect of the whole cluster and stems, the intense fruit driven nature of the carbonic maceration effect and the delicate floral aromatics offered by the Viognier (skins) of which I too taste here, it is a thrill ride in the glass. Sheldon often refers of himself as the cuvee of lunatic, artist, mad scientist and lover and you can really see that in his wine, and certainly this one is the essence of all that is in his living soul, and I for one couldn’t help but love it. This Syrah is uniquely Sheldon, though those that enjoy Pax, Ryme, Andrew Murray and or Arnot-Roberts to name a few, will enjoy this wine, and it looks to be a vintage to enjoy in its youth.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 29, 2019

2018 Weingut E & M Berger, Gruner Veltliner, Niederösterreich, Austria -winery label

2018 Weingut E & M Berger, Gruner Veltliner, Niederösterreich, Austria.
Erich Berger’s 2018 wines are next level stuff with many outstanding highlights to choice from and I was thrilled with his exceptional 2018 Ried Spiegel Kremstal DAC Riesling as well as this basic one liter Gruner bottling, its a wine that should never be overlooked and this vintage is an absolute gem, which I think is his best version to date. This wonderfully quaffable dry 2018 GruVee is immaculately made, gloriously pure and highly entertaining with crisp detailing and expressive fruit, it punches way above its price point. Under Erich, E & M Berger, as Terry Thiese, his importer, notes, the winery has implemented methods, such as organic farming, to produce wines that are focused on terroir and varietal character, and while always highlighted as a value producer, the game has changed here and the wines are certainly the winners as well as those that pop the tops of these latest wines. Berger’s white grapes come from steep terraced sites in the eastern section of the Kremstal region, not far from the blue Danube River to the west of Vienna on classic loess soils.

In the cellar, Erich Berger does everything to preserve and focus of vitality and freshness, he uses only ultra clean practices with his Gruner, Riesling and Muskateller only seeing selected cultured yeasts and temperature controlled stainless steel fermentations and aging, nothing fancy, but highly effective for transparency and clarity of form. It was great to see Erich, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and completely humble, and taste his latest releases, and as mentioned they all impress for their no pretense quality, in particular this one. The 2018, Take Me To Your Liter, pop top Gruner has a classic array of fruity flavors and steely mineral with a light to medium body showing lemon/lime, white peach, a whiff of jasmine, wet stone, white pepper, a touch of tropical essences, almond oil and bitter herbs. Easy and poundable, the basic Berger Gruner is an awesome party, picnic, think 4th of July, BBQ and or a fine weeknight table wine tat goes great with grilled veggies, artichokes, and oysters. Buying this stuff by the case is a killer deal and a no brainer for the warm Summer days ahead, even in the bigger (liter) bottle, you’ll be surprised how fast they go!
($16 Est. 1L) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 28, 2019

2018 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Trocken “Abtei 1937” Erstes Gewächs, Bingerbrücker Abtei im Ruppertsberg, Nahe Germany (new label) -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Trocken “Abtei 1937” Erstes Gewächs, Bingerbrücker Abtei im Ruppertsberg, Nahe Germany.
The 2018 barrel sample of Kruger-Rumpf’s Abtei 1937 was stunningly gorgeous with brilliant details, ripe extract density, vivid mineral tones and vibrant acidity showing a purity and vitality of youth, but with the complexity and length of its old vine material. Georg Rumpf has crafted a Trocken beauty here with layers of delicacy and substance, this juice is on par with almost any GG, making it an incredible value already, be sure to book your allocation of this ultra limited bottling from Terry These and importer Skurnik Wines, you will not be disappointed, I know I will be hustling to get some myself. The regular Abtei offering is one of my new favorite Nahe Rieslings and while I love all the latest Kruger-Rumpf wines, especially from the Grosse Lage: Münsterer Dautenpflänzer, Münsterer im Pitterberg and Dorsheimer Burgberg, as well as exotic Rumpf’s Scheurebe plus their off dry Kabinett, Feinherb and wonderfully balanced Spatlese(s) I have become obsessed with the Bingerbrücker Abtei im Ruppertsberg vineyard and wines. This ’18 starts with subtle aromatic charm with orange blossom, rosewater, flinty stones, salt lick and quinces before thrilling the palate with energy and white peach, tangerine, lime intensity, verbena, mint tea and tart green apple. This light/medium dry Riesling is brisk and racy, at first but gains depth and builds with air in the glass adding some leesy texture, it is totally thrilling and will only get better with bottle age. Terry Theise adds that, Kuger-Rumpf’s vineyards are farmed sustainably; bees are kept nearby to facilitate pollination and aid in overall bio-diversity. Periodically sheep are allowed to roam the vines helping to control underbrush. All vineyards are hand harvested to ensure that only optimally ripe grapes are selected. Stefan believed that “you can’t improve wine in the cellar, only make it worse…” and Georg has continued his cellar work with this philosophy in mind, which to me shows in wines like this fantastic Abtei.

The impossibly steep Kruger-Rumpf Abtei Cru, the northern most vineyard in the Nahe, which is on the outskirts of Bingen, was once an Abbey owned plot, across the Rhein from Rudesheimer Berg and is almost a mirror image soil wise to Schlossberg with a beautiful southern exposure. While still just a Premier Cru, this might be the best kept secret of the Nahe, making for a wine with Grosses Gewachs intensity and quality, and the Rumpf put a lot of blood sweat and tears into working this amazing site set on phyllite, which is essentially mica slate, all with organic methods and only handworking of the vines, do to the severity of the slope. For the first time, Kruger-Rumpf are doing a single block wine from this vineyard from vines that date back to 1937, the vineyards oldest and steepest section, and it is an amazing wine from a vintage to looks to be one of best in years. The dry Abtei 1937 Riesling, coming from these 81 year old vines was all done with native yeasts or Sponti, spontanous fermentation in over 30 years old Stückfässern (German 1200L oak casks) with full yeast contact, lees aged, until the following June, nines months after harvest. After walking this site at harvest in 2016 and tasting the grapes here I was convinced Georg Rumpf had a magical piece of land for exceptional single vineyard dry Riesling, and this 2018 is the best yet, this is special stuff from a special terroir and years from now I believe people with talk about the wines from Abtei the same way as (we do of) other much more famous places, like Carl Loewen’s Maximin Herrenberg 1896, Johannes Leitz’s Kaisersteinfels Terraces, Wittmann’s Morstein and the Carl Von Schubert Maximin Grunhauser Abtsberg to name a few. There are some glorious wines coming from Germany’s 2018 vintage, with Spreitzer, Schlossgut Diel, Carl Loewen, Von Winning, Kunstler, Selbach-Oster and Georg Breuer all showing samples of greatness in a recent trade tasting in San Francisco, and along with them Kruger-Rumpf shined, be sure to keep an eyer out for them all, in particular this 2018 Abtei 1937 Trocken.
($45 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 27, 2019

2018 I. Brand & Family, Pinot Gris, Eden Rift Vineyards, Cienega Valley, San Benito County -photo grapelive

2018 I. Brand & Family, Pinot Gris, Eden Rift Vineyards, Cienega Valley, San Benito County.
The skin contact Pinot Gris from Ian Brand is an orange wine that seems inspired by the Italian legends Gravner, Zidarich and Radikon, but it reminds me more of Elisabetta Foradori’s version, her Fuoripista, from Alto Adige with a bright amber hue in the glass and beautifully expressive fruit, not as funky or savory as you might think. Coming from the low yielding terraces at Eden Rift in Cienega Valley, not far from Calera in San Benito County, Brand’s Pinot Gris is wonderfully textural and charming on the palate with juicy peach, red apple skin, citrus and passion fruit leading the way along with a touch of mineral, mountain herb, orange zest, clove, a hint of apple better and wet chalk. A great alternative to Rosé this is a wine of body and goes with bigger array of cuisine, it is a great way to explore “Orange” style wines, it is much more comfy for new comers to this style of wines. The skin macerated and fermented Pinot Gris is dry, but lush, making it great with outdoor dinning including grilled chicken, picnic foods as well as hardy sea food dishes, especially cajun spiced salmon, just to name a few things that would suit this interesting wine.

Done in what is called a Romato style for the coppery color in the finished wine, Ian allowed for a significant amount of skin contact and since Pinot Gris has much more pigment than true white grapes, I mean, if you see Pinot Gris/Grigio (grey) at harvest time the grapes themselves are almost as dark as its cousin Pinot Noir, hence the amount of color in the wine. In fact there are some version that are literally as ruby hued as Pinot Noir, in recent years Cameron winery has done a Ramato this style, as well as a darker red version called Rouge Gris, but Brand’s is light amber orangey and very smooth. Served chilled it is an exotic bottle of wine that is more flexible than most, easy to quaff and not too weird to enjoy many glasses unlike some more rustic things like those from the Republic of Georgia which can be very beefy and aggressive, and more of a niche wine. This limited release will go fast, so if you are Orange curious you’ll need to act quickly to get this one, otherwise be sure to check out Ian’s other new offerings, in particular his latest Cab Franc, his Escolle Chardonnay, the La Marea “Alt-Cut” vineyard yeast ferment Albarino and the old vine Mourvedre from the Enz Vineyard before it sells out.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 26, 2019

2016 Phelps Creek Vineyards, Pinot Noir “Cuvee Alexandrine” Columbia Gorge, Oregon -photo grapelive

2016 Phelps Creek Vineyards, Pinot Noir “Cuvee Alexandrine” Columbia Gorge, Oregon.
One of Oregon’s best kept secrets, Phelps Creek Vineyards in the Columbia Gorge makes one of the state’s most compelling Pinot Noirs and their 2016 is a gorgeous wine with wonderfully delicacy and beauty that dances on the palate and lingers on and on, this is a not to miss vintage. Made by the Gevrey-Chambertin vigneron Alexandrine Roy of the famous Domaine Marc Roy for the Morus family who’s property is located on the picturesque hillsides above the Hood River and is perfect for cool climate varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Bob Morus’ small family winery has a talented crew, obviously with the quality you find in the glass and while Roy is exceptionally gifted she can’t be there full time as she makes her wines in Burgundy, she has long time Gorge guru Bill Swain and Ira Kreft to lead full time at Phelps Creek, both are UC Davis alums and fit perfectly in the fold here. That said, this special Cuvee Alexandrine, is all about what Roy brings to the winery and in the glass it drinks as brilliant and as elegant as her Gevrey bottlings, especially in this 2016 version.

The highly aromatic and lacy 2016 Cuvee Alexandrine is crafted in Alexandrine Roy’s signature style, with the fourth generation Burgundian winemaker’s best hand picked lots, it is a barrel selection of what the winery calls the finest of their native yeast fermented estate barrels and the ruby and bright crimson hued new release is full of flavor that rides in on a medium bodied frame. This warm year gave the purest of fruit with racy red cherries, vine picked raspberry, plum and wild strawberry layers that feel silken in the mouth with pretty floral tones and graceful mouth feel, while still being vibrant and lively. There’s a seductive and evocative sense of earthiness, minerallity and density that thrills and it adds a mix of Asian spice, chanterelle, cinnamon, a touch of sweet toasty oak and rose hip tea. I have been a fan of this Cuvee for many vintages, but this looks set to be the best yet and compares well with Cameron, Brick House and other elite Oregon offerings and even Phelps Creek’s regular estate stuff is well worth searching out, and as noted in prior reviews their Chardonnay is absolutely brilliant. The lightly reduced and slightly smoky 2016 Cuvee Alexandrine Pinot will gain with bottle age, best guess window looks to be between 5 to 7 years, even though it is sublime now, especially with matching cuisine.
($56 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 25, 2019

2007 Weingut Kunstler, Riesling Trocken, Hochheim Holle VDP Erstes Gewächs, Rheingau Germany -photo grapelive

2007 Weingut Kunstler, Riesling Trocken, Hochheim Holle VDP Erstes Gewächs, Rheingau Germany.
The gorgeous 2007 Kunstler Hochheim Holle, technically a GG (Grosses Gewächs), is drinking fantastic and has taken on a Montrachet level of class and distinction, it is stunning stuff from Gunter Kunstler and a wine that while showing the purity of terroir, but transcends grape perceptions! Kunstler, who’s family has been involved in winemaking since 1648, is one of Rheingau’s greatest producers based at the confluence of the Main and Rhein rivers in the “Hoch” sub zone, which along with Rudesheim one of the most historic winemaking villages in Germany. This area takes heroic farming effort to overcome the humid conditions to produce crystalline dry Rieslings without Botrytis and Kunstler is working these amazing sites with organic practices and his wines are some of the most elegant and monumental dry wines in Europe, this is especially true here in his 2007 Hochheim Holle, which is showing unbelievable finesse and a dreamy textural mouth feel. This Grand Cru vineyard, Holle, is set on a dense/hardened clay and Marl, which gives the core yellow fruits and subtle minerallity and allows a seductive perfume and refined acidity to shine through, and with this wine, Gunter employed a gentle hand, allowing gravity to settle the must at cool temperatures using a special yeast strain that brings out the delicacy in the Riesling grown here. Aged in Stuckfass and or stainless depending on the vintage, Kunstler’s wines are a reflection of the year and always show fabulous detail and focus with this 2007 showing a touch of wood with a toasty creme brûlée note. This wine would provide joyous companionship to hedonistic cuisine choices, in particular, lobster and sweet crab dishes as well, but can easily go with traditional German fare, it’s richness of form and opulent character make this a thrill in the glass no matter what you pair it with.

Imported by Riesling guru Terry Theise at Skurnik Wines, Gunter Künstler’s family winery founded in Hochheim am Main, in 1965 by Gunter’s father Franz, and In 1992 Gunter took over the estate, and in 1994 the estate was admitted to the VDP, and since has become the most iconic grower of the “Hoch” zone. Kunstler success really took off under Gunter in recent times, but as noted by Theise, back in 17th century England the term ‘Hock’ was used to describe all Rhinegau wines. At that time, in fact, these wines were much more famous than Mosel wines and were in some cases much more expensive than some of the finest Bordeaux including the First Growths! When our third US President Thomas Jefferson visited Germany in 1788 he described and noted in his writings Rheingau Riesling as “small and delicate Rhysslin (his spelling of Riesling) which grows only from Hochheim to Rudesheim”. He was so impressed with the quality that he found here, he took 100 cuttings of Rheingau Riesling back to Monticello. Kunstler has a vast collection of Cru plots from Hochheim to Assmannshausen, where he has an amazing parcel in the fabled Hollenberg Vineyard where he gets some his Pinot Noir, and Gunter has some Rudesheimer Berg vines in Rottland and Schlossberg which are serve and intense with slate vigor, as well as some quartzite influenced Drachenstein, making his lineup one of the most intriguing and varied lineup in the world. With layers of lemon curd, peach, kumquat, dried pineapple, crisp apple and quinces the 2007 Holle has a remarkably complex and full palate with added dimension and sublime length, this lightly golden dry Rieslings also has lime blossom, rosewater, chamomile, brioche and saline infused wet stones. Everything is immaculate and seamless with the ripe fruit held together with Riesling’s natural acidity and extract, this beauty will age another 15 to 20 years easy, even though it is close to perfection as is.
($80+ Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 24, 2019

2016 Domaine Saint Damien, Gigondas “La Louisiane” Vieilles Vignes, Southern Rhone Red, France -photo grapelive

2016 Domaine Saint Damien, Gigondas “La Louisiane” Vieilles Vignes, Southern Rhone Red, France.
The awesome 2016 La Louisiane old vine cuvee from Saint-Damien is an intensely dark purply Rhone blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, plus a 5% remaining balance of Cinsault and Syrahwith amazing depth and complex, while still being wonderfully easy to drink, a hallmark of this vintage. Layered with blackberry/raspberry, boysenberry, plum and pomegranate fruits and a sweet nose of lilac and roses flows across the palate with hints of kirsch, anise, garrigue (lavender/sage) and a touch of exotic spices. This beauty of a Gigondas is from all organic vines set on sandy clay and red old alluvium soils with broken cailloux (round rocks) strewn throughout which shows in the lovely color, density and depth here and these vines, primary Grenache over 70 years old, this parcel was planted in 1942, give this wine ripe tannin and age worthy structure. With air the Gigondas La Louisiane gains a meaty power with sanguine, leather and peppery elements adding some soulful charm to this fantastic year’s silken and expressive fruit. Saint-Damien does three Gigondas, the normal and two single parcel wines of which this La Louisiane is from their oldest Grenache blocks, they also do a Gigondas Rosé, which is mostly Cinsault, two Côtes-du-Rhône(s) one Syrah based and one Grenache based, both of with are insanely good, like Saint Cosme and they also do a unique Vin de Pays Rouge made from two rare grapes, it’s 50% Caladoc, 50% Marselan, Marselan is a red French wine grape variety, found it the south of France as well as in Italy and Uruguay that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.and the exceptionally rare Caladoc that is a crossing of Grenache and Malbec, created by Paul Truel, who also bred the Marselan, in 1958.

One of the great values of the Southern Rhone, Domaine Saint-Damien, run by Joel, and his son Romain Saurel, is an old school traditional producer of top Gigondas, the winery is named after St. Damien, who was an early Christian saint considered the patron saint of doctors. There was a chapel to his honor in the tiny hamlet of La Baumette, just outside the village of Gigondas, where Joel Saurel has his cellars and lives, hence the name his family used for the domaine. The Saurel’s, with Romain now much more involved in the winemaking, keep things simple in the cellar trying to focus on the terroir and the vineyards, use traditional techniques, and with this wine used native yeast vinification with maceration lasting for about 6 weeks in concrete vats, with regular pump overs before racking to large foudre where it was aged just over a year. They really put a lot of attention to detail in the vineyards so they can pick a bit later without losing the energy of the wine which they bottle unfined and unfiltered, and while full bodied and richly textured it has superb balance and rustic charms with mineral/stone and earthy elements adding a contrast to the opulent fruit. This 2016 gets better and better in the glass, it’s a wine that expresses everything that it can and has that extra bit more that puts it in that special place among wines a level of greatness that is not pretentious, but magical, especially if you are a Grenache lover! Drink this glorious vintage for the next 10 to 15 years, though as mentioned it is hard to resist even now!
($36 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive; Wine of the Day June 23, 2019

2017 Masseria Li Veli, Susumaniello, IGT Rosso, Salento, Italy -photo grapelive

2017 Masseria Li Veli, Susumaniello, IGT Rosso, Salento, Italy.
The 2017 Susmaniello from Li Veli is extraordinarily rich and decedent on the palate with an opulent array of dense red fruits that at first sniff make you think it will be lighter and more tangy than it is in the mouth and the cedary wood notes add sense of power to this red from the Salento region. Lightly floral and minty this intriguing wine feels full in mouth with candied red cherry, plum, dried cranberry, red peach flesh and spicy raspberry fruits along with a touch of crushed rock, baking spices and mineral tones. This year is more weighty than my prior experiences with this wine, but with air it really comes alive and gives a solid all around performance in the glass, gaining sharper detail and taking on a dark fruit tone, more boysenberry and loses the first impression of baby fat and juiciness. This is always a fun wine to show off, as almost no one has ever heard of Susmaniello, and it’s far from just a curiosity, as it gives a lot of interesting character and is great with most Italian regional cuisines, including pasta dishes of course.

Askos is the name that Falvo family, the owners of Masseria Li Veli gave their project of rediscovery and selection of ancient Apulian grape varieties, like Susumaniello, that had almost gone extinct. Wines are produced by using exclusively these indigenous varietals, cultivated in their most suitable terroirs according the traditional methods. We have chosen a Greek “Askos” an ancient Decanter as a symbol of the wine making, a practice that in Puglia was started by the ancient Greeks. The Li Veli Susumaniello was aged for 9 months in a combination of 500 liter and 225 liter barrels, and while oak raised and toasty sweet, it remains fresh and vibrant with some savory elements, a streak of mineral, sweet and sour notes and a light earthiness. Believed to have been brought to Apulia in ancient times little is really known of this grape’s origins and if there is anyway else where it is still grown, so Li Vela’s Askos project certainly looks to have saved Susumaniello for the world, and tasting this wine is an experience into the region’s past, and its future.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 22, 2019

2016 Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder, Silvaner Trocken, Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl VDP Erste Lage, Franken Germany -photo grapelive

2016 Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder, Silvaner Trocken, Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl VDP Erste Lage, Franken Germany.
The 2016 dry Silvaner from Schmitt’s Kinder (like Schmitt’s Children or Kids) is lovely and complex white with bright acid intensity, but also with great extract and textural quality highlighting the Premier Cru terroir of Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl Vineyard site above the Main. While long considered a regal grape in Germany, Silvaner (Sylvaner) or Gruner Silvaner as it is officially known, but its history is still kind of a mystery as is its up and down place in the heart of Germany’s producers and wine drinkers and it is thought to have migrated from eastern Europe, maybe Transylvania, hence the name and is first recorded in Germany as far back as 1659. I have been a fan of this grape for decades and have followed it mainly in the form of Alsace’s Domaine Weinbach, but in recent years I have enjoyed the Franken and Rheingau versions greatly, like those of Rudolph May and Weingut Leitz’s Alte Reben from vines near Rudesheim. Famed Master of Wine and wine critic Jancis Robinson believes Silvaner is one of Germany’s few white wine grapes that seems obviously most at home producing dry rather than fruitier styles of wine, and so could be said to be particularly in tune with current tastes among wine drinkers in Germany, to which I tend to agree, lucky too as these Franken bottles are terrible for export shippers!

Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder is a nine generation family estate in the state of Franconia, on the Main River, in Germany that was originally established back in 1712 and grows a selection of traditional varietals including Pinot Noir, Mueller-Thurgau, Riesling, Scheurebe and Rieslaner, plus rarities Bacchus and Kerner, which are very popular in Franconia, as well as its signature grape Silvaner, which is native to western Germany, though grown in Alsace, where since 2006 it can be a Grand Cru, Alto Adige in the Dolomites as well as in the new world including California, in fact Silvaner has been in California longer than Zinfandel, first planted in the state in 1850 at the Scribe Farm in Sonoma by the Dresel family. Way too often Silvaner gets overlooked and is misunderstood, it is a noble varietal and while exceptional in some cases in Alsace, notably at Domaine Weinbach, it may actually grow best and make for much greater wine in Franken. This region, in Southern Germany, is a much under valued region, that turns out some amazing dry premier cru and grand cru, Erste Lage and Grosses Gewachs wines mostly made from Silvaner, though there is both Riesling and Pinot Noir as well, and Schmitt’s Kinder is one of most interesting producers. Franken wines usually are bottled and sold in a uniquely shaped bottle, called a Bocksbeutel, a vessel that is not without controversy as it is terrible for wine stores to rack, but is ultra traditional in the region and has somehow survived in the modern world with it’s round, flat body and a short neck for over 250 years.

This version, the Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl “Sun Chair” Trocken VDP Erste Lage comes from steep hillside vineyard that are farmed to organic practices and everything is done by hand to ensure quality and perfect ripening of the grapes with Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder employing Inox (stainless steel, temperature controlled tanks) and classic large cask for fermentation and aging, though in recent years they have added a few French barriques to the mix. Franken is heavily influenced by its combination of soils with mostly weathered sandstone and fossilized limestone which adds to the density and depth found in the wines, along with fresh acidity and mineral tones and this adds to Sonnenstuhl’s southern exposure, ripening the grapes to richness, but with complexity and focus, as delivered in this 2016 dry Silvaner. Imported to the US by Rudi Wiest, Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder are not easy to find, but very much worth the effort to find and drink, this Silvaner goes great with smoked trout and easily pairs with artichoke and asparagus, which is not always easy.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 21, 2019

2015 Bruno Giacosa, Nebbiolo d’Alba, Piedmonte, Italy -photo grapelive

2015 Bruno Giacosa, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Bruno Giacosa’s polished village wine, the Nebbiolo d’Alba is one of the most stylish and well made red from Piedmonte in its price class, it really is as close as you can get to the cliche “baby Barolo” without sounding like an idiot, with it’s depth and structure proving the point. Made from classic terroirs with southwest exposures, in the villages of Monteu Roero, Santo Stefano Roero and Vezza d’Alba, coming from 25 to 30 year old vines on the marl/limestone, sand and hardened clay soils, all of which provides the rich concentration and the pretty layers, especially in this warm vintage 2015, making it more ripe in detail and with great fruit expression, even in its youth. There’s a lot to love here with its subtle bouquet of roses, dark red fruits, spice and cedar that leads to a medium to full bodied palate of black cherry, damson plum, tangy currant and reduced strawberry fruits along with a mix of sweet French oak, minty herb, black salted licorice, new leather, mineral/iron, dried lavender and a hint of sandalwood. This vintage, as per normal, saw about 14 months in French oak after a stainless steel fermentation including a cool two week maceration, to highlight clarity and done in a more modern style, delivering an elegant Nebbiolo with a regal mouth feel and it’s luxurious in glass.

The late Bruno Giacosa, one of Italy’s greatest ever producers, died just last year (in January of 2018) was an Italian wine hero who was from the village Neive in the Langhe region most famous for his Nebbiolo and more so for Barolo. Today his daughter Bruna, who has taken over produces a number of Barbaresco and Barolo wines, as well as bottlings of Arneis, Barbera, Dolcetto and a sparkling wine, all up to the legendary Rocche del Falletto Barolo and the equally famous Santo Stefano(s) Barbaresco. Bruna, working with his longtime enologist and protegé, Dante Scaglione, has continued her father’s important work. Her commitment, according to Rare Wine Co. a direct importer of classic wines, is a guarantee, that the Giacosa name on a bottle of Barolo or Barbaresco denotes both the highest quality and true vineyard expression, I myself think of Giacosa as the Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, with their Barolo and Barbaresco comparing well with Vogüé’s Musigny and Bonnes Mares Grand Cru. I consider myself lucky to have tasted with Bruna at a tasting in San Francisco, and enjoyed her Tre Bicchieri (winning) 2004 Riserva Santo Stefano, it was an experience I won’t forget. While the regular Nebbiolo doesn’t rise to the greatness of Giacosa’s elite bottlings, it certainly offers a glimpse and it is a very rewarding Piedmonte that is well worth the price and a savvy choice for Nebbiolo lovers to drink over the next 5 to 10 years.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive